Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Habitual Poet: Ann E. Michael

Installment #5

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The Habitual Poet is an ongoing series of contributor interviews. If you are a Poemeleon contributor and would like to participate copy & paste the Q's from below and e-mail your answers to: editor@poemeleon.org.

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Q: Where do you prefer to get your books?

From my friends, and from small independent bookstores...though I admit to the occasional Amazon habit.

Q: How many poetry books do you think you own, and what percentage of these have you actually read?

700 or so and still rising , and I have read them all. Every year I cull a few, though.

Q: When, where and how do you usually read? (i.e. at bedtime under the covers, cover to cover, etc.)

Whenever time permits and reading material is handy. Cover to cover for novels, non-stop; cover to cover in brief intervals for CNF and factual texts; as for poetry collections, it depends.

Q: What books of poetry have you read this month?

Sonata for Rain by Rebecca Gonzalez; the collected/selected poems of both Marilyn Nelson and Molly Peacock; Kim Bridgford's In the Extreme; Red Mud by Patricia Goodrich. Probably others.

Q: What other books/magazines/backs of cereal boxes have you read recently?

Life cereal. Texts on grammar. A history of Ancient Greece. Various and sundry. The New Yorker, I guess--mostly for Roz Chast.

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Q: When, where, how do you write, and why?(i.e. at dusk on a dock, longhand in a notebook, because...)

Longhand in a notebook, because that's what's worked for me since I was 12. Often on my back porch, at odd times of day (though mornings are most fruitful). I've learned to do revisions on the computer, but I still do considerable re-working with a pen. Hammock is good, if ony I had time for said. Used to work in a treehouse.

Q: How many first drafts do you think you complete in a week? A month?

Are we really counting? Two to 12 a week, average. Lots of them are crap.

Q: How long do you wait before revising a poem?

Immediately or up to ten years later. Whenever I see the glaring need.

Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?


Q: Have you ever given up an invitation so you could stay home and write?

You get invitations?

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Q: What is your system for sending out work?

It's a lousy 'system,' and I don' t recommend it. Which is to say I don't have my act together in this particular arena.

Q: What have you more recently received: a rejection notice or an acceptance? Was it what you expected?

Actually, I got an acceptance most recently, but before that I got a really nice rejection from the Hudson Review. Which I expected (the rejection, not the encouraging niceness of it).

Q: Where do you generally publish: online, in print, or a mix, and do you have a preference?

Both, but I am a book Luddite and always prefer print out of a contrary spirit of anachronism.

Q: What is the worst (or weirdest, or best) experience you’ve had with a journal/magazine/press & its editor(s)? (No names, please!)

Long ago. Not really worth relating now....

Q: Have you ever received any fan (or hate) mail? If so, what was that like?

It's a nice surprise when someone bothers to let you know your work is appreciated. Please send more fan mail.

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Practical considerations:

Q: What is your day job, and how does it affect your writing?

I'm Writing Coordinator at a private college and do a good deal of tutoring, and I teach classes in developmental writing. Hey, it works for Kay Ryan.

Q: How does your significant other’s occupation affect your writing life?


Q: Have there been periods in your life when you couldn't write?

Not too many. It was kind of tough when I had two kids under the age of two.

Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?

See my submissions 'system.'

Q: Have you ever suffered (or made someone else suffer) in the name of your art? (i.e. picked up your kids late from school

so you could finish a poem, forgone lunch to buy a book, left a relationship because the other person just didn't understand, etc.)

If that's how you define "suffering"... uh, probably.

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Random nonsense:

Q: Do you have any superhuman abilities? (i.e. can you tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue, or write a double sestina with both hands tied behind your back?)

In my own little private world, I have many such abilities. They don't make much truck with the practical realities, however. I'm a pretty decent Boggle player, but not a superhuman one.

Q: You write a scathing poem about your mother and she learns about it. You:

a.) Move to South America and leave no forwarding address
b.) Delete the poem and insist it never existed
c.) Show it to her (she’s already written you out of the will anyway)
d.) Do none of the above; instead you: Explain that it was the speaker of the poem (persona) who wrote the poem and it has nothing to do with my actual mother. By the way, I can't imagine writing a scathing poem about my mother.

Q: If the best medical specialists in the world told you that if you didn’t give up your poetry habit today you would die in six months, would you get your affairs in order or would you leave that up to your family?

Geez. I'd leave it to my family so I could write about my impending doom.

Q: If you could be a vowel, which one would you be and why?

Y, because it changes attitudes. And because Y is another question in itself.

Q: Finally write a couplet for a collaborative ghazal using the following kaafiyaa and radif: “said the poet”.

Beloved, we are as two gazelles in starlight," said the poet.
The moon raised up her veil but would not wed the poet.


Poet, essayist, librettist, and educator Ann E. Michael lives in eastern Pennsylvania, where she’s writing coordinator and teacher at DeSales University. She is a past recipient of a PA Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and the author of three chapbooks, including More than Shelter and The Minor Fauna.

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