Q: Do you have any super secret rituals that help your writing process?
A: I don’t know whether it’s a ritual, but I try to take my writing notebook everywhere with me. And it’s got to be one notebook, until it’s entirely used up–cell phone will work in a pinch, if I’ve totally spaced on the notebook. But it’s important to me to go through that physical process of putting pen to paper. I like having a tangible record of the thoughts filtering through my head.
Q: What parts of your writing have you put the most focus on?
A: Sound, I would say. Sound and rhythm didn’t matter much to me when I first started writing, but over time I realized they really helped to shape the tone and landscape of the poem, both on the page and when read aloud. I guess I came to realize that without sound, poems are just collections of meaningful thoughts–valid, yes, but lacking what makes a poem a poem (to me, at least).
Q: If this poem were a cake, what kind would it be?
A: It would not taste very nice. There may be maggots.
Q: When did you first become serious about writing? Do you have other artistic talents?
A: This is a funny one. I’m not sure what it means to be ‘serious’ about writing. Is it when you can say “I am a writer?”–that took a really long time for me. And I still feel oddly like a fraud when I say it, I guess because I’m not Stephen King. Or something. Writing was just always something I did. I was always entertained and happy if I had a pen in my hand. It wasn’t until my second year of undergrad that it occurred to me to even take a writing class. So that either means I’ve always been very serious about it, or that I never will be.
Q: A lot of people talk about MFA factories churning out carbon copy writers. What are your thoughts on authenticity and integrity in writing in such a competitive field?
A: Oh boy. I’m not sure. I have conflicting feelings about the MFA, for sure–I mean I think all higher education, particularly when it deals with a creative pursuit–has a tendency to homogenize its students based, if nothing else, on the homogenization of the faculty at many of these institutions, and in the world of academia in general. If we have a storied institution with primarily straight white men teaching, who lean on the straight white male canon of literature, and push for the theoretical artistic ideals upheld by other straight white men…well, obviously that’s going to quash unique, original voices. Some institutions claim to be open to ‘experimental’ work, but what they really mean is ‘experimental within the existing status quo’. What’s truly experimental is allowing the historically silenced to speak for themselves. I think a lot of MFA programs, and perhaps the world of literature in general, struggles with this (I’m optimistic, though–I do believe it’s improving!)
As for authenticity and integrity…I’m not sure. I’d never want to tell another writer that they’re a shitty person for selling out, for writing to trend, for writing to formula. The idea of the penniless and idealistic artist, who cares only for her work, is a romantic one…but not very practical. I’d sell out in a heartbeat–I’ve been trying to write the next Twilight for years. I always rant about how I could totally do it if I wanted to, you guys, like wow, it’s not even that hard, ha ha sparkling vampires. What about a LEPRECHAUN who can GLOW IN THE DARK, amirite? I’d be happy to sacrifice a bit of artistic integrity for financial security. Maybe that’s not the cool thing to say. But regardless, I’m out of luck: turns out it is actually quite difficult to write Twilight. You’ll be waiting a while for the erotic tale of Seamus O’Sexy, the remarkably short investment banker with a penchant for breakfast cereal, who awkward file clerk Jolie Everpleasant can’t stop dreaming about…
Kia Groom is founding editor of Quaint Magazine. Her work has been published in Overland, Westerly,Cordite, and Going Down Swinging, and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Judith Wright Poetry Prize. She can be found online at kiagroom.com, and tweets @whodreamedit.