Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jeannine Hall Gailey

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these fiction writers you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

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Jeannine Hall Gailey

served as second poetlaureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of four previous books of poetry: Becomingthe Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World,Unexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’sDaughter

The Interview

1. What inspired you  to write poetry?

I’ve been writing poetry since about the fifth grade. I started memorizing poetry before I started writing it – I learned from my mom’s college textbook (she was in college at that time) and found the magic in writers like T.S. Eliot, Louis Simpson, and E.E. Cummings. Reading poetry has always been fun for me, and I want people who read my poems to have fun, too.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

As the previous answer indicated, my mom definitely encouraged me to read the same poetry she was reading for her college classes, and my fifth grade teacher also encouraged me to read Carl Sandburg and Emily Dickinson.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I think I was surprised when I started reading poets that were still alive, like Dorianne Laux, Lucille Clifton, and Rita Dove – it made me aware of more female poets and poets of color that I had seen when I was a kid. Discovering Plath – who I found very funny – was a discovery – and here’s another surprising thing – one of the best things that happened to my writing was taking a post-modern theory class in my twenties. It sounds boring, but it opened my eyes to a variety of ways to read and see poetry – and a new way to write poetry.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I tend to write late at night – between midnight and 3 AM. I’m very much a night owl. I tend to get inspired on the fly, so I carry around a notebook to doctor’s offices, running errands, even the grocery store, to make sure I can jot down inspiring lines and work on them later. I keep revising poems even after they’re published – even, sometimes, after they’re published in books.

5. What motivates you to write?

A love of poetry? A desire to put something out in the world from my own quirky point of view.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’ve been writing 1-2 poems a week pretty steadily for many years. My MS has slowed down my reading and reviewing; it makes reading more difficult, and copyediting harder – but actually composing poetry seems about the same.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I think that the idea that poetry can be funny and the idea that persona can be a way to retell stories in a new and surprising way both came from what I read when I was younger.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Some of my favorite writers are writers that write very differently than me. I love Margaret Atwood – she’s the queen of the unlikable and unreliable female narrator, in both poetry and prose. I like Matthea Harvey’s charm and unlimited imagination and playfulness with language. I love Dana Levin’s thoughtful philosophies that always come through in her poetry. Rita Dove is not only a great persona poet, she made me think about form in a different way. I love Ilya Kaminsky’s passion and Jericho Brown’s emotional deftness.

9. Why do you write?

I wanted to hear more voices like mine. I wanted to hear from the women on the other side of the story. I wanted to create women characters in poetry that might have been ignored or overlooked, or perhaps miscast as villainesses. I wanted to have some fun with poetry, but also, say something that might not have been said before in that exact same way.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I started writing almost every day when I was ten. I started submitting my work when I was nineteen, and I expected to collect a shoebox full of rejections on the way to getting published. (Yes, when we had paper rejections, we sometimes taped them to the wall, or kept them in photo albums or shoeboxes.) I expected to learn more as I got older, to read a lot, that I would become a better writer as I got older and read more and studied more – I always thought “being a writer” was a process. I still think so!

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I am shopping around my sixth poetry book, “Flare,” about the year and a half time when I was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, then six months later, multiple sclerosis. I’m also halfway in to a new manuscript that contains witchery, politics, and apocalypses.

2 thoughts on “Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jeannine Hall Gailey

  1. Totally agree with what you say about Margaret Attwood’s unreliable female narrators. And love the cover of your book! Must have! Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Fighting Back Against SAD with Penguins and Holiday Scenes, A Poet Interview with Wombwell Rainbow, and More Cancer Tests and Poetry Lessons from Plath @ Webbish6

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