When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
Growing up, we had a shelf in our den full of beautiful old books that had been in the family for a long time. Like most book nerds, I loved opening them gently, turning their pages, and of course taking in that old book smell. But then I started reading them, and one in particular. It was James Whitcomb Riley’s Afterwhiles. For most of fifth and sixth grade, I returned to it every day for one poem, called “A Scrawl.” I just loved it. In sixth grade I started writing my own poetry. Funnily though, it took me a very long time to encounter contemporary poetry. It wasn’t until I was an undergrad that I knew people still wrote poems. I took a writing class and was assigned Sharon Olds’ The Gold Cell. That was a shock, to say the least. Of course, the best shock ever.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
Only in the past year or so do I really have a writing routine. I try to get up a couple of hours before I need to work so that I can write in the morning. And “writing” at that time can mean reading poetry, drafting new poems, working on old ones, or reading things I’ll find inspiring, like Astronomy Magazine or flipping through a coffee table book of paintings. If I’m reading, I always try to draft something or other on what it is that day, but it also seeps into my writing later. For a long time I resisted having a set time to write every day, but I realized I just had to suck it up, because it’s too easy to let it fall through the cracks, and too upsetting when it does.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
My poems come from a lot of different places. From images, from phrases, yes. I work with a poet (Alice Kociemba) who makes a distinction between “head” and “heart” poems, and my poems are very much heart poems. My poems aren’t always entirely straight forward, but they are never coming from a place with the goal of making someone think. I love poems that evoke a feeling, a sense—to me, the beauty of a poem is making you, in one small page, feel something that you wouldn’t have felt that day, something that someone else has felt.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
Poets would be Sharon Olds, Eavan Boland, Natasha Trethewey, Mary Oliver, Rumi, Walt Whitman. But also Louise Erdrich, Geraldine Brooks, Megan Marshall, Louisa May Alcott, Mary Shelley. And the faculty of UNH’s MFA program, Mekeel McBride, David Rivard, and Charles Simic, had a huge impact on my writing and on the way I think about and revise a poem.