Friday, January 22, 2010

The Habitual Poet: Grace Marie Grafton

Installment #18

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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:

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Q: Where do you prefer to get your books?

The library.

Q: How many poetry books do you think you own, and what percentage of these have you actually read?
Between 100-200. I’ve read parts of all.

Q: When, where and how do you usually read?(i.e. at bedtime under the covers, cover to cover, etc.)
Off and on, all day every day, in the kitchen, in my bed/workroom, at work, usually in bits and pieces, only novels cover to cover.

Q: What books of poetry have you read this month?
I’ve read in: Lorca’s Collected Poems, Merwin’s Book of Fables, the current copy of Edgz, The Penguin Book of Sonnets, Bin Ramke’s Tendril.

Q: What other books/magazines/backs of cereal boxes have you read recently?
The SF Chronicle, C. Myss’ The Anatomy of the Spirit, Benioff’s City of Thieves, Hazzard’s Transit of Venus. Almost every day I look at various books of art.


Q: When, where, how do you write, and why?(i.e. at dusk on a dock, longhand in a notebook, because...)
I write almost every morning during my meditation because I’m “empty” and can “hear” the poem come in. I write in a notebook, longhand because the sound and action of the pen soothes and encourages my mind.

Q: How many first drafts do you think you complete in a week? A month?
Three or four per week, so ten or twelve per month.

Q: How long do you wait before revising a poem?
Three to twelve months because I need to emotionally separate from the poem to critique it.

Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?
I don’t know when a poem is done. Is it ever done?

Q. Have you ever given up an invitation so you could stay home and write?
There are many times I prefer to write alone than to socialize.


Q: What is your system for sending out work?
I don’t know if I’d call my submissions process a system; it’s sporadic. I send out more in the summer because I’m not teaching. I try to familiarize myself with a publication’s bent before I send, and when I send, I keep track on index cards.

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

I received an acceptance yesterday and it was expected. However, this past week, I’ve received four rejections and I can’t say I didn’t expect them.

Q: Where do you generally publish: online, in print, or a mix, and do you have a preference?
I have poems in print and online. I like both. With print, I have it in hand and can muddle through the pages, at breakfast for instance. Plus it’s easier for me to read on paper. Online I like because more of my friends (fans?) can easily access the work. I can more easily and cheaply find out an editor’s preferences online.

Q: What is the worst (or weirdest, or best) experience you’ve had with a journal/magazine/press & its editor(s)? (No names, please!)
The responses I like best are when editors include a comment about what they like about my poems; that’s happened infrequently. Once I got a phone call from an editor who said my work was “astounding.” I floated on that a few days. I have a lot of trouble with the “dropped into the void” rejections when I never hear back at all. Snarl.

Q: Have you ever received any fan (or hate) mail? If so, what was that like?
I get the most positive feedback from readings I give. This past year I got an interesting query via email. A professor who had set up a course composed of poems to art contacted me in regard to my ekphrastic book which he was using in his course!

Practical considerations:

Q: What is your day job, and how does it affect your writing?
I teach kids to write poetry and it enhances my own writing. Kids’ responses to poetry are always fresh. Keeps me on my poetic toes, coming up with inspiring lessons for them. Encourages me to be playful in my own poems. The down side is that I often spend a lot more time on others’ creative process than I do on my own.

Q: How does your significant other’s occupation affect your writing life?
It helps to support me, so I don’t have to teach full time.

Q: Have there been periods in your life when you couldn't write?
From the time I left university, through the years I taught high school then had two babies, I did no creative writing. When my kids were both in school, I began seriously writing poetry and fiction. I’ve written consistently since then.

Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?
I’d call my daily life a poetry budget. When I began writing, I also returned to teaching, but only half-time so I’d have time to write. My budget is to endure making a poverty level income.

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.)
I guess I could say I’ve made myself and my kids “suffer” economically so I could write. We’ve never gone hungry or cold but I could have made lot more money had I worked full time or in a different profession.

Random nonsense:

Q: Do you have any superhuman abilities? (i.e. can you tie a cherry stem in a knot20with your tongue, or write a double sestina with both hands tied behind your back?)
I think all my abilities are astounding because I am human.

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:
I’d probably tell her she was free to read the poem but she wouldn’t like it and why not read these other two I’ve written that she would like? My mom was pretty good at avoiding what she thought she wouldn’t like.

Q: If the best medical specialists in the world told you that20if 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?
If I were going to die in six months, why would I stop writing (joyful) to attend to petty details (annoying and boring) that my kids could also ignore should they so choose?

Q: If you could be a vowel, which one would you be and why?
I’d be an “I” because it is often in the middle, but frequently, when at the beginning or end, it significantly alters the meaning of the word.

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

A drink of water is not a crow’s blather.
A crow’s blather will pave the way to heaven, said the poet.


Grace Marie Grafton’s poetry won first prize in the annual Bellingham Review contest, was a finalist for NIMROD’s Pablo Neruda Prize, and was twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook, Zero, won the Poetic Matrix Press contest. Her book, Visiting Sisters, was published by Coracle Books. Poems recently appear in The Modern Review, Ur*vox, good foot, Spoon River Poetry Review, and may be viewed at (also under G. M.Grafton).

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