Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?
I had the most wonderful English/Creative Writing teacher (shout-out to Rose Cullis, also a writer!), but oddly my memory is blanking on poems that we read for school! But I loved looking for poems online. I would copy and paste all my favourites in a Word document, and then periodically post them to my tumblr (RIP). Lots of Marty McConnell, Dorianne Laux, and Dorothea Grossman. As for a particular poem that I loved when I was a teenager, "Scheherazade" by Richard Siken comes to mind!
When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?
I remember first writing poetry when I was 10 years old. I assembled a collection of rhyming poems I wrote into a 3-ring binder for a class project - my first "book!" It was called "The Poetic Plump Pig," and featured a titular poem with - you guessed it - poetic and plump pig who loved writing poetry. I did the illustrations, too! I remember opening and snapping the binder rings together as I added each page; so satisfying!
I don't think I really started thinking of myself as a poet until I was about 21. I was doing my undergrad in Screenwriting, and found myself slowly gravitating away from scripts, and towards poetry as a way to channel my ideas and feelings. Even then, I was pretty shy to label myself as a poet, and still am! I like blending and playing with genre and style, so I often struggle with categories.
What do you think a poet’s “job” is?
This is a great question, and I've been chewing on it for a while! I don't think a poet has a "job" - but if they're looking for a motive, or a purpose, I would recommend approaching poetry as a way of seeing, and being looked at. Having control over the gaze, how people perceive you - or do not perceive you - can be very freeing and powerful.
Another "purpose" of a poet that I would recommend would be to write for themselves. When I first started writing poetry, I struggled to find my own "voice," mostly because I was caught up thinking about who I was writing for, and wanting to both please and sound like everybody - which is impossible! But once I started writing more truthfully, I felt happier and more fulfilled, both during the writing process itself and sharing my work afterwards.
If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?
My poem "Internet Safety" was inspired by growing up online in the early 2000s, and using anonymity not only as a protection mechanism, but as an outlet to transform and reinvent myself in a virtual space - for better or worse. I have a lot of nostalgia for that era of internet culture! It felt more private, and yet more freeing - I really felt like I could be(come) whoever I wanted to be.
If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?
I'm a Libra, don't make me choose! Kidding - there are so many I love, but right now I'll choose this excerpt from Citizen by Claudia Rankine. I love her everyday, yet striking and memorable imagery; how she uses restraint to run free.