Rae Hoffman Jager’s piece “Spite as an American Value” appears in Midwestern Gothic‘s Summer 2018 issue, out now.
What’s your connection to the Midwest, and how has the region influenced your writing?
I was born and raised in the Midwest, but I don’t think of myself as a “Midwestern Poet.” With that being said, the Midwestern cities I have lived in have influenced my work and perhaps even my language in certain ways—but overall, I think other qualities influence my work more, like the time I am living in, the Jewish culture I was raised in, my gender identity, and the art I enjoy.
What do you think is the most compelling aspect of the Midwest?
It’s incredible just how far you can drive through the Midwest without leaving it. I once fell asleep in Kansas (on a long road trip from Kansas to Arizona) and woke up eight hours later in Kansas still. If I had to choose what was most compelling about the Midwest, I’d say the Ohio River—how it was a symbol for those seeking freedom and how at the same time, storms sometimes don’t cross over it.
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?
Woof. This is a big question! I am afraid when I write about memories, they come out only a version of the truth. I am convinced there is no way to revisit a memory accurately, so instead, when I am writing about my own childhood/city/memories, I focus on the minute details in the hopes that the overall gesture is true.
Discuss your writing process — inspirations, ideal environments, how you deal with writer’s block.
I don’t have a space designated for writing; however, the places I have been most prolific are very loud, too tiny coffee shops, this old man’s house my dad is friends with who invented the ceramic magnet (his house is a haunted old tutor house, decorated like it’s 1965), and right after I’ve had a dream. I deal with writer’s block by crying and reading. One is definitely more effective than the other.
How can you tell when a piece of writing is finished?
I think this question is as hard to answer as “How can you tell when you’re an adult?” Each poem is its own little universe that needs balance. Sometimes it never finds that—sometimes it finds that balance on the second edit.
Who is your favorite author (fiction writer or poet), and what draws you to their work?
Dean Young forever and always for how he masters humor, surprise, and magic.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on a book about football, violence, birth, and America. That sounds really complicated and ambitious. I’m in way over my head.
Where can we find more information about you?
You can follow me on Twitter and my website. www.raehoffmanjager.com