August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
Interview with Carrie Etter by Chelsea Stringer.
1. What made you want to become a poet?
I didn’t think about it like that–I began writing poetry outside school at the age of 11 and publishing it at 14. I never felt as though there were a decision or a choice.
2. How did you start writing?
I learned poetry at school, then at 11, camping with my family, I wrote a poem about the lake in my journal.
3. Did you find it hard to show people your poetry when starting out?
I started just by reading my work to my mother, who was wholly appreciative, and joined a local writers’ group when I was 15. I was eager to hear others’ responses to the work.
4. Which other poet/s inspire you?
Many poets inspire me: John Ashbery and Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson and Lyn Hejinian-the list goes on and on.
5. Do you stick to a specific process when writing? If so, has that changed throughout the time you have been writing?
Sometimes I sit down with an idea and write a whole draft of a poem; other times I just get down an idea or a line and come back to it later. Often an idea lingers in my mind for at least weeks before it coalesces into the language or form of a poem.
6. Do you think strong emotion is needed in poetry?
I think strong feeling and strong intellect are jointly needed.
7. Have you used made up words in your poetry? If so, do you think it added considerable impact?
This isn’t something I’ve done much of, as I find the English language so rich as it is.
8. How do you avoid clichés?
If they manage to reach the page, I cut them out at once. I don’t allow anything that sounds clichéd or hackneyed–I must find my own words for it. Otherwise it can’t be good poetry.
9. Do you find that people misinterpret your poems? If so, does this annoy you?
As long as people’s interpretations are based on what I gave them in the text itself, I’m happy to hear the possibilities different readers find. I find my ultimate inability to control the text’s meaning exciting, thrilling even.
10. What’s your favourite poetic form to read and write?
I’m especially fond of haiku, sonnets, pantoums and prose poems; these days I write mostly the latter.
11. Do you think that your education influences your writing style?
I think my education improved my thinking and that in turn improved my writing.
12. How did you get your work published and heard? Did you find this was different in the UK to America?
My mother took an adult ed creative writing class, and one day she brought home from the library a book called Writer’s Market. It had a section on poetry, and I began by sending my poems to the magazines listed there. Later I discovered the literary magazines at the university library and began reading and sending to them.
13. Do the public receive your poetry differently in America to the UK and vice versa?
I have more of a sense of a public in the UK because there are more readings and fewer outlets for publication–it’s a smaller world. I really don’t know how I’m “received” in America–I doubt my work is as well-known as that word suggests. After all, I’ve only published two books of poetry, and both have UK publishers.
14. Do you think having moved to the UK your poetry has changed? Either the topics you write about or your style of writing.
My style of writing became more palpable to me when I moved to the UK, because it seemed more distinct from the styles I found and read. That sense of difference made it easier for me to grasp what my style was and refine it (a word I prefer to voice).
15. How do you support yourself financially so that you can write?
I have a .7 appointment as senior lecturer in creative writing at Bath Spa University. I love teaching. I also get paid for much of my writing, both poems and reviews, and enjoy giving readings.
16. How do you know that your poem is finished?
I don’t. I have a sense of satisfaction, that the poem has achieved what I was striving for, and/or that there’s nothing more I can do to improve the poem, before I consider it completed. I don’t know if a poem’s ever really finished as long as I’m living.
17. Do you publish every poem you have written?
Absolutely not. I write many poems that never leave my computer or journal, and a good number of the poems I publish don’t make it into books. I have a certain standard for a poem for magazine publication and an even higher one for book publication. I hope never to publish a true Collected Poems–it’d be so uneven.
18. What do you enjoy most about being a poet?
The answer is two things: the act of creation and the act of sharing that creation and sensing its reception and hopefully appreciation.
19. Do you have any regrets as a writer?
I regret wasted time, but I understand the how and the why I’ve wasted time at certain intervals, and the understanding eases the regret.
20. Do you think poetry is a dying art?
Not at all. I see it practiced in so many different ways, by so many different people, that it seems thriving to me.
21. Why do you think poetry is important?
It is life’s crucible, by means of language.
22. Would you recommend that someone choose to become a poet?
If you’re going to be a poet, it isn’t a choice. You simply must do it–you feel utterly compelled.