Contributor Spotlight: Robert Young

March 28th, 2017

Robert Young’s piece “11 Useless Kitchen Appliances: Crock Pots” appears in Midwestern Gothic Winter 2017, out now.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

My connection to the Midwest is something that’s deeply ingrained in my character, but also something I’ve only recently begun thinking about. I’ve spent my whole life here: born and raised in Fort Wayne, IN, went to college in Muncie, IN, never going far. As I talk with writers and people who come from other parts of the country, I find myself seeing the ways that place and hometown inform personality more and more. The Midwest, like anywhere, is more than just a place. It’s a spirit. It’s a character and a personality unto itself, and when you spend as much time as I have in a single place, in seeps into you. I think the Midwest has made me and my writing more subdued, quiet on the outside, but with a lot going on under the surface, which I think is emblematic of the region as a whole.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

I think what interests me most about the Midwest is how undefined the region is. All the states are so different in a variety of subtle ways, and yet they get lumped together so often. Heck, it seems like sometimes there’s debate about which states can even be considered Midwestern.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

I think that I, like many other writers, use locations from my youth or my memories as settings for my writing—a friend’s basements, a small wooded area near my parent’s house, an airport, etc. Sometimes you visit a place and you just got to write a poem about it, or set a flash piece there. As I said earlier, I think places are characters unto themselves with their own personalities. I think, beyond just setting a story in a particular place, I strive to have the personality of a that place shine through.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

I always always listen to music when I’m writing. I like having a melody that I can lose myself in. I try and just write loose and let words flow once I get in the groove, and music can help me get there. Sometimes, when I’m really blocked, I’ll write a poem using only words that appear in the songs I’m listening too—pick a word out of a song, skip to another song, pick out another word or two, or a phrase even. At that point I’ve got a line or two to work with and I go stream of consciousness from there. In terms of writing environment, I don’t have an ideal place, but I do need to be alone.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

Nothing’s ever really finished, but I think I consider something finished when I’ve done so many drafts and worked on something so much that I’m sick of looking at it. You can drive yourself crazy with editing, especially if you’re like me and you worry over the finite details endlessly. At some point you need to just stop, look at your piece, and decide that it’s good enough.

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

This question is something I agonize over, and the answer can change from week to week. Off the top of my head: I’ve always loved Kurt Vonnegut, fellow Hoosier, but in terms of poets I love Sharon Olds’ The Gold Cell, Rilke’s The Duino Elegies, and have recently gotten into Emily Dickinson. I also like a lot of genre fiction as well, stuff like Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Ursala Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven or The Left Hand of Darkness, etc.

What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a chapbook manuscript. It’s going to be a collection of poetry, prose-poetry, and flash fiction with unifying plot and character. I’ve also got some flash fiction forthcoming in The Evansville Review.

Where can we find more information about you?

I’m active on Twitter (@rjyoung1174), which is where you can also find a link to my website. I’ll also be at AWP 2017 so maybe I’ll see you there.

Keith Lesmeister interviewed by FOLIO

Keith Lesmeister, whose collection We Could’ve Been Happy Here is forthcoming from MG Press in May, was recently interviewed by FOLIO Lit Journal:

Many of my stories start with an observation or a line of dialogue I’ve observed between unsuspecting couples or groups of people…In terms of research, I try to practice what I mention in my creative writing courses, which is to pay attention to what’s around you–what startles you into some unexpected contemplation? what strikes you as horrifying or beautiful or both? That observation–that closely observed life–is the best kind of research for understanding our environment and human behavior.

Read the full interview here.

Preorder your copy of We Could’ve Been Happy Here here.

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Midwest in Photos: Sparkler

“When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.” – Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves.

Photo by: Michael Dorlac

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John McCarthy Interviewed by Fear No Lit

John McCarthy, whose debut poetry collection Ghost County was published last year, was recently interviewed by Fear No Lit for their “Fail Better” interview series:

I think the stage was a symbol of the urgency and the desire to write something down, write it all down. It wasn’t until later that I realized the more particularly and specifically you write about something, the more universal its appeal will be. It’s easy to say things like “Show, don’t tell…” but I think it’s a much more complex process to actually internalize what that means. It’s important to learn how to parallel those details with an emotion or idea that is significant to someone besides oneself.

Read the full interview here.

Shop for Ghost County here.

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Interview: Amit Majmudar

Amit MajmudarMidwestern Gothic staffer Kristina Perkins talked with author Amit Majmudar about his collection Dothead, the connection between medicine and writing, the purpose of form in poetry and more.

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Kristina Perkins: What is your connection to the Midwest?

Amit Majmudar: I have lived here most of my life. I was born in New York City but we moved to West Union, a small town in Ohio, when I was a few months old. After that, we went north to Cleveland, where my first memories take place. I have also lived in Rootstown, Ohio, and Canton, Ohio, before moving to Columbus. For a brief period (one and a half years) we moved to India, where I did 2nd and 3rd grade.

KP: You grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, but spent time with your parents in India. How does your sense of place — and, with it, your sense of belonging — inform your writing?

AM: Sometimes I don’t know if I really have a sense of place anymore. Or rather my only real place is among books, in a library. Wherever I go, I feel like I exist in a bubble. Last December, I visited India again, and every care was taken to insulate me from the environment. Air conditioning, cars, fancy hotels, plane trips even within India to avoid the rails. So the experience was very much designed to avoid the squalor and heat and poverty and life as Indians actually live it. And truth be told, I kind of preferred it that way.

Here in America, yes, I feel at home in suburban Ohio, but that may be because it impinges so little on my inner life. I have a circuit between work and home (and the internal world, of language and imagination) that could be transplanted anywhere that has a stable civil society, paved roads, decent neighborhoods, and no hurricanes….

Or so I tell myself. As soon as you toss me among lit-clique Manhattanites or frenetically materialist SoCal types, suddenly I realize I am a Midwesterner through and through. There have been times I find my voice taking on a drawl in such company, and I start engaging all sortsa contractions and idiomatic expressions.

KP: A prolific and versatile writer, you’ve published numerous novels, poetry collections, literary essays, and nonfiction works. How do you navigate such an extensive repertoire? Do you find yourself gravitating toward one mode at a time, or do you work with them all simultaneously? What compels you to explore new genres?

AM: I don’t overthink this issue. That is probably the key. I simply think there is an optimized form for any given literary effect. Some of these are obvious, like go to prose fiction for an extended story, or go to poetry for a brief impressionistic piece, or go to essayistic prose to make a point you already have in your head. Then within this, there are endless decisions that can be made, endless decisions of strategy. I mess around with all forms simultaneously, though sometimes I hunker down on one to gain momentum.

Dothead

KP: You practice diagnostic radiology full-time near your home in Dublin, Ohio. Your newest collection, Dothead, in part explores the relationship between your professions, including poems titled “Radiology,” “Stem Cells,” and “Neuroscience.” While you’ve previously said that you see medicine and writing as connected through their pursuit of pattern, how do you feel these fields influence one another — if at all?

AM: Probably the science influences the writing at the level of meaning. That is, I don’t do well writing (or reading) poetry that doesn’t mean anything. As soon as I get the sense that a writer isn’t trying to communicate with me, that the language is simply there to be admired for its own sake, the poem becomes a mere amuse-bouche, empty verbal calories, and my interest shuts down. I think it’s best that my poetry and fiction don’t influence radiology reports too much. Malpractice lawyers make unforgiving literary critics. Too much use of poetic license can get your medical one revoked.

KP: The poems in Dothead are as diverse in form as they are in subject matter — your collection includes prose poems, free-verse poems, rhyming poems, and a shaped poem. What, for you, is the purpose of form in poetry? How does the form you choose contribute to the meaning of that poem?

AM: I write a lot of prose, so for me, form sets poetry apart from prose. (Though as you mention, I transgress this principle at will; the longest poem in Dothead is a prose poem.) Increasingly I think the ideal poem is one that can be reprinted as prose, and the reader will know exactly where the linebreaks go, because the form and music are so profoundly and structurally inextricable. That IS its nature. This isn’t true of much great poetry, I know. (Shakespeare’s earliest printers sometimes mixed up and printed his verse passages as prose in early folios of Lear and Hamlet). But it’s a nice guiding principle. A lot of times, forms say things implicitly, like the volta of a sonnet, which says, “but then again…” Or a form can add sharpness and point, like with the heroic couplet. Or stripping your verse of punctuation can make things look/feel a little urgently slapdash or breathless. I play a great deal with such effects.

KP: You’re currently in the middle of a two-year term as the first Poet Laureate of Ohio. How has this job differed from your previous professional experiences with writing? What has surprised you the most about the job?

AM: I don’t have any prior professional experiences with writing. What has surprised me most is the level of interest from the press about this post. I would have never imagined that Ohio naming a state poet laureate would be, from a newspaper or magazine’s perspective, “a story.” But it turned out to be that way.

KP: Given your versatility as a writer, do you have a favorite writing form — or, perhaps, genre — to read? How have the books you’ve read influenced what and how you write?

AM: I prefer to read poetry and nonfiction. For some reason fiction bores me when I sit and read it (in most cases), so I mostly audiobook that. I like to audiobook enormous nonfiction tomes I’d never get through on my own. Also Tolstoy; I’ve never actually READ Anna Karenina or War and Peace, only audiobooked them. That holds true of much of the world’s greatest (and longest) fiction; some day I’ll try to audiobook Infinite Jest, so I can hang with the cool kids. I never audiobook poetry.

KP: What’s next for you?

AM: I’m superstitious! I don’t want to jinx myself because I have some large-scale stuff in the offing…You will, hopefully, see for yourself over the next few years!

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Amit Majmudar is Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. His most recent collection is Dothead (Knopf, 2016).

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Beyond the Lake Prize: “Then I Will No Longer Be Me, But The Forest” by Elsa Nekola

We asked the winners of the 2016 Lake Prize (featured in our Winter 2017 issue) about their work and the inspiration behind their stories. Read about all of the fiction finalists and the poetry finalists.

Fiction honorable mention Elsa Nekola discusses her story “Then I Will No Longer Be Me, But The Forest.”

Elsa Nekola: Setting is very important to me. I often start with a setting rather than any kind of idea for a plot. I don’t know that I’ll always write this way, but it’s what I’ve been doing (unconsciously) for a while. The characters tend to emerge from the setting – I think, what kind of people would be hanging around this lake town or this farm? Who lives in this house tucked back in the woods and what are they doing – why do they live here, was there a particular industry they worked for that would be unique to this place? I wanted to write a winter story set on Lake Superior, and Marit was the character I came up with – and with characters comes their memories, their ancestors. I also strive to write pieces that maintain a certain mood throughout, though this is very challenging. “Then I Will No Longer Be Me, but the Forest” seems to be carried by a mood – a somber winter mood – more than anything else. I tend to write in scenes rather than in any sort of linear fashion. I don’t think this is particularly efficient, but it’s mostly what I know how to do at this point in my writing life. With this story, the common thread seems to be The Lake. I wanted Lake Superior to permeate everything – it is as close to the characters as a family member, and it is always there, haunting them and reminding them of its power, its unpredictability. Marit appears to be a quiet, stoic, perhaps emotionally challenged character – but underneath that, I think there’s a desire for power within her, too – a desire to be seen by her mother, and by her sister’s doctor; a desire to regain some sort of control over the house.

There is a little novel called The True Deceiver, by the Finnish-Swedish writer Tove Jansson (who is known for creating the Moomintrolls), which probably influenced my piece in Midwestern Gothic, though I read it a few years before I wrote the story. Reading Jansson, I am struck by how much her Finnish and Swedish characters remind me of people in the Upper Midwest – which is, perhaps, not surprising, considering the demographics of people who settled near Lake Superior in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Jansson also wrote short stories, my favorite of which is “The Squirrel,” about a woman isolated on an island who becomes obsessed with a squirrel – it’s an interesting study of character psychology, isolation, and human interaction with landscape. In my own work, I’m interested in exploring the lives of characters, particularly women, who are geographically isolated – and as Midwesterners know, the winter season can add to this feeling of entrapment, isolation, and desperation, but there’s also this anticipation of what comes after, of renewal. That’s part of what I wanted to convey through Marit and her family in the Upper Peninsula.

Purchase a copy of the Winter 2017 issue of Midwestern Gothic.

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Elsa NekolaElsa Nekola is a writer from Wisconsin. She currently lives in Oxford, MS. Her work has been featured in Rosebud Magazine.

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Contributor Spotlight: Stephanie Kilen

Stephanie Kilen’s story “To Have and To Hold” appears in Midwestern Gothic Winter 2017, out now.

What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?

I’ve lived in Milwaukee, WI my entire life. Though I have longed to escape winter and broaden my experiences, the area holds me in a tight, freshly-laundered, big-bosomed embrace. The earnestness and niceness we are known for can also smother and bind, and this is the tension I like to explore in my writing.

What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?

We wear our humility like a badge. We are proud of our work ethic, but play down our success. We let our niceness eat at us from the inside. And our climate ranges over 100 degrees. We are a culture and people firmly planted in dichotomy, which, to underline the point, betrays our seeming simplicity.

How do your experiences or memories of specific places—such as where you grew up, or a place you’ve visited that you can’t get out of your head—play a role in your writing?

West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee, where I grew up, is a blue-collar town full of corner taps and basement rec room bars. My childhood is a blur of stale beer smell, ash trays and cloth cigarette cases, vinyl bar stools, the heavy South-side Milwaukee accent, beef jerky, pickles and the occasional full-sized candy bar. When I was young, I could only wade through the senses of these scenes. As an adult and a writer, I’m trying to envision the lives and stories of the people who gathered there. I imagined the narrator of “To Have and To Hold” telling the story at a bar stool with a Schlitz tap and a cigarette.

Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.

Most of my stories ideas come from asking the question “What oddness could shake up this nice Midwestern woman’s life?” The answer has been a gadget that’s an arm, clowns, stripper boots and voluntary imprisonment. I usually start from a place of whimsy and write toward a dark place, and it’s hard to keep humor out of that journey. I spend a lot of time thinking and trying to find a voice before I actually sit down to write, so when I do, it often flows fairly strongly at first. But as the current slows, I just keep asking myself, “And then what happens?” focusing just on the next small gesture. When I get really stuck, I end up taking my laptop to a bar. My editor voice is kept busy blocking out what is going on around me, and when I need inspiration, there’s always plenty of eavesdropping to be had.

How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?

When I can read a piece and feel like someone else wrote it, like I can seamlessly travel along with the main character and see everything about the story like one of my own memories, when none of my sentences bug me, then I let it sit for a few months. Anything that is still not quite right rises up when I take a look at it again and then, maybe, it’s “finished.”

Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?

I love the way Michael Ondaatje uses a sort of literary synesthesia in his descriptions. Every day I’m trying to write emotion as Anthony Doerr does in his short stories. He’s so good at capturing the nuance of our experiences that lies between the standards of happy, sad, anger, grief. And I’m crazy about contemporary, female, magical realists like Amy Hempel, Amiee Bender, Kellie Wells, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, etc. If your brain is wired a certain way, that oddness that is called “magical” is just part of reality.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to finish up a novel I’ve been working on for a few years. It’s speculative lit and very different from everything else I write.

Where can we find more information about you?

My website is http://www.stephkilen.com and I use my Twitter account as a morning writing exercise, tweeting my dream recaps @sekilen

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Beyond the Lake Prize: “A Powerful Weapon” by Steve Henn

We asked the winners of the 2016 Lake Prize (featured in our Winter 2017 issue) about their work and the inspiration behind their stories. Read about all of the fiction finalists and the poetry finalists.

Poetry runner-up Steve Henn discusses his piece “A Powerful Weapon.”

Steve Henn: My friend Anna was telling me about getting into embroidery. Somehow this turned into a conversation about chucking hankies at people. Which turned into the idea of a gun that shoots hankies embroidered with compliments at people. It’s sort of the polar opposite of “I want to put a hole in your face.” I see you, life is hard, we’re all stressed – but you’re appreciated. I really need to find an engineer to make the thing. Know any?

Purchase a copy of the Winter 2017 issue of Midwestern Gothic.

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Steve Henn is the author of 2 collections from NYQ Books, Unacknowledged Legislations and And God Said: Let there be Evolution! His 3rd, Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year, will be released this school year from Wolfson Press. He wants to acknowledge that the boy in the poem is an actual person, though not someone he knew well, who died by turning his father’s handgun on himself. Steve thinks it’s a bad idea to keep guns in the house, though he knows for many in the Midwest and in his home state of Indiana, this is not a popular opinion. He couldn’t’ve written his poem without slightly misinterpreting a conversation with his friend Anna and thanks her for the inspiration. Links to books and recordings can be found at www.therealstevehenn.com.

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Midwest in Photos: Foxcraft

“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Photo by: Scott Hardin

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Interview: Gretchen Marquette

Gretchen MarquetteMidwestern Gothic staffer Megan Valley talked with poet Gretchen Marquette about May Day, how being a working writer influences her teaching, the coexistence of grief and beauty and more.

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Megan Valley: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Gretchen Marquette: Well, first and foremost, I’ve lived most of my life here. I grew up in eastern Wisconsin, and slowly moved farther west every few years after I turned eighteen.

I remember the first time I felt like the entire region was “home.” I had lived for a summer in Washington. I’d thought I might stay permanently, but one summer was enough for me – I was eager to get “back east” as people there would say.

On the drive home, there was one night when I stopped in Glendive, Montana and couldn’t find a hotel room (the band Nickelback was in town) so I slept in my car. In the morning, I went to a diner for breakfast, and on the way in, I saw a newspaper box; the front page of the paper announced the 35-W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I was horrified, and felt, in that moment, so lonely, to be that far from home, where something terrible had happened. What was strange though, was the relief I felt later, when I crossed the border into the Dakotas – it already felt like home, even though I still had so far to go before anything became familiar in the true sense.

I’ve had people from elsewhere lead me to believe they think it’s “cute” to be from the Midwest, but I’m proud of it. I like my accent, and I like some of things I have in common with other Midwesterners. And Minneapolis in particular has such a great literary community; ending up in this city was such a lucky break.

MV: How has becoming an instructor influenced how you view your own writing process?

GM: One thing I like about being an instructor is that I get to keep learning. It’s true to some extent that teachers “take” their own classes, and so I’m always thinking (and reading) as both a student and as a teacher.

I’m an adjunct, so I teach many different classes at several different schools. This means that I have lots of different experiences, not just as a teacher, but as a thinker and writer too. When I’m teaching creative writing in the BFA at Hamline, for example, there is a lot of great discussion about craft and form. Listening to my students talk helps me think about my work (and all creative work), both in terms of how it’s made, and how it works, but also in terms of how it finds an audience.

Other classes have their own benefits. I’m teaching composition this semester at Anoka Ramsey Community College, north of the Twin Cities. I’m also working on a collection of essays. The essay collection is tough, because I’m in the early stages, and my inner critic is convinced I’m taking a great idea and royally screwing it up.

During our first unit, my comp students and I read Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” and talked about the barriers to getting that first draft (the “down” draft) done. During that in-class discussion I realized something I should have realized years ago, which is that the book I imagine in my head always falls short of my expectations, because the first time I see it, it’s in its first draft, and the books that I’m holding it up to, hopefully as peers, have made it through many drafts, and have seen an editor’s attention, etc. It’s such a simple concept, but honestly, it didn’t stick for me until the discussion with my students this fall. They were struggling with writing their personal essays in exactly the same way I was struggling. It’s a good example of how, in a lot of ways, being a working writer makes me a more empathetic writing teacher, and being a writing teacher makes me a more productive writer.

may day

MV: What unites all the poems in May Day, your debut collection?

GM: I think it’s tension. How grief and beauty exist simultaneously, but don’t cancel each other out. They pull on each other, but neither is powerful enough to eliminate the other. It was a very difficult time for me, when I was writing those poems. For a long time, I was alone and disoriented in a hostile psychological forest; it’s not an exaggeration to say that I was literally in danger. But I found my way out, and I also found ways to enjoy certain moments, even when I was lost. I think the path that leads out is visible in the book. I hope so anyway. It’s why the book is May Day and not Mayday. Taken collectively, the poems in May Day understand that grief isn’t strong enough to destroy beauty.

MV: Many of your poems center on two main themes: the end of a relationship and your brother serving in the military. How do your relationships shape your poetry?

GM: I like to spend a lot of time alone, but my relationships are ultimately what give my life meaning. It’s why my book is dedicated to my sister, and to my friends. It’s for all my friends – all those people who helped me find my way during a bad time, people whose lives I got to take part in, and who taught me about unconditional love for the first time.

I take all of my roles seriously – as a teacher, a poet, etc., but I am especially serious about my role as a friend, and as a sister, and when I’m in a relationship, I take my role as a partner seriously too. Whatever we lift up in our daily lives is going to appear in our work – I’m sure that’s why we’re talking about this!

MV: How do you decide which poems make it into a collection and how to organize them?

GM: This is one of the situations when I talk about how lucky I am to have such an amazing editor like Jeff Shotts. Because it’s easy for me to take a huge selection of poems and weed out the ones that can’t do their own heavy lifting, or the ones that are saying the same thing that another poem is already saying, and saying better. But ultimately, there is still culling to be done, and that’s when I struggle. At that point, I really value the opinion of my editor, and of a few close friends who know my work well.

Organizing is different. I look for poems that are talking to each other more directly, and then I think about how they might benefit from sitting together, or how they might be louder if they have to shout at each other across the span of the whole book. I also like to think about each section having its own arc (either emotionally, or thematically). Sometimes I’m at a loss, though, and when that happens, I go back to the people I trust. I step into that role for others too – I love working as an editor, and I value other people’s eyes on my work.

MV: What do you read in between writing projects?

GM: It’s interesting that you phrased the question this way, because I read a lot more when I’m not actively working on something. I tend to go in phases of heavy reading/almost no writing, and then heavy writing/almost no reading. In general it’s non-fiction that inspires me most – articles, essays, etc, on a variety of topics that have nothing to do with poetry, though craft books are always helpful when I don’t feel like reading or writing. I keep track of a lot of what I learn through writing in my reader’s notebook, so that when I’m ready to write, I have a record of it.

When I’m not writing, I read a lot of poetry. All through graduate school, I read almost nothing but poetry. I’m slowly finding my way back to prose, particularly fiction. It’s such a relief to find a good book. While I was travelling this summer, I read The Great House by Nicole Krauss, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, The Meadow by James Galvin, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and I remembered how grounding and stabilizing it is to be in the middle of a book, and how comforting even its physical presence can be.

MV: How do you know when a poem is done?

GM: I think there’s two kinds of “done.” The first kind is knowing when to stop writing, because the first draft has said everything that needs to be said. I think it’s a gut feeling, and that’s probably the easy part. And then, in revision, you have to know when a poem has become its best. Personally, I know that I have an issue with burying my ending lines in the middle of poems, so sometimes I have to unbury them. Sometimes I have to chip a shorter poem out of a much longer poem, and sometimes I have to find the poem in a block of prose. For the most part, I still think it comes down to a gut feeling. For me, revision is such a pleasure that when it stops being so, I know I’m done. And at that point, if the poem still doesn’t work, I usually put it away. Some of them never resurface, but some do. I’ve figured out over the years that I don’t revise as much as other people do. I like to write fast, and revise while the poem is still warm. It’s a bad sign for me if I have to labor over something, though I know other poets much better than I who spend months working on a piece. There are probably as many ways to revise as there are writers.

MV: What’s next for you?

GM: I did some travelling last summer – it was the first time in my life that I’ve had the opportunity to be on the go, and I loved it. It was the best thing for my work, and for my heart and mind too. So I’m hoping that I’ll have a chance to do some more travelling in the next year.

I’m also working on two new projects. One is another book of poems. I’m starting to understand what its spine is, and I’m happy that many of those poems are already finding homes out in the world. They feel, to me, like sibling poems to the poems in May Day. Hopefully older, wiser siblings. We’ll see.

The other project is the book of essays I mentioned earlier. Last summer, I did an interview with Kaveh Akbar for his website, Divedapper. While he and I were talking, I realized that I was preoccupied with some specific questions. In the days that followed, I saw that I already had a lot of prose writing that orbited around those questions – how do we commit to living our lives when our lives don’t look the way we thought they would? How do we live good lives when even good lives are hard? What role does pleasure play in happiness? I want to write a book that starts to answer some of those questions. I hope that I have the time and energy to get a draft of it done by next year at this time.

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Gretchen Marquette’s work has appeared in places such as Harper’s, Poetry Magazine, Tri-Quarterly, Tin House, and the Paris Review. She is a 2014 recipient of an Emerging Writer’s Grant from the Loft Literary Center, and her first book, May Day, was released from Graywolf Press in 2016. She currently lives in the Powderhorn neighborhood in south Minneapolis.

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