Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Lisa Folkmire

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 poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Lisa Folkmire

Lisa Folkmire

is a poet and legal technical writer from Warren, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she studied poetry. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Mantle, Glass, Barren Magazine, Alegrarse, and Okay Donkey.

You can find all of her publications at lisafolkmire.com.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

On one hand, it was basic curriculum. I was in a creative writing class in college and the professor was a poet and he had us start with poetry, easy as that. I was mad because I really wanted to write out a story, but then I noticed that something different was happening when I wrote poetry. It wasn’t work at all, it was more of an uncovering. I realized that by writing poetry, I allowed a corner of my thought process that I initially thought was an obstacle to understanding thrive. Which is funny, because I have never felt more transparent than with my poetry.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My mother always found an annual book of children’s poetry for my siblings and I to read, but I guess the first non-rhyming original poetry was passed my way through English class. But it was always more of a benchmark than anything emphasized as worthwhile. I remember hating it, that no matter what we said the poets were getting at, we couldn’t seem to match the back of the book answers. I really didn’t see the point.

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

(See above.) TOTALLY unaware. I thought they were all out and buried since WWII. It was a rude awakening once I moved away to school and started taking real literature classes, like “hey those unsolvable riddles were really quite cool!”

4. What is your daily writing routine?

“Daily” is a stretch here because I believe in writing when I have writing ideas, but I do have a daily reading routine which usually feeds into a daily writing routine. I have this physical pile of books I call my “reading queue” that I get through before picking out a pile of new books to read from my backlog. If I’m reading and something hits me as an idea, I grab the journal and pen I always keep next to me and let my mind just ramble until I know I’m ready to type out what I’m thinking on the computer. Once I type, I read out loud what I wrote, and instantly start editing. I’ll return to this pretty obsessively for days until I know that I wrote something worth reading, which is when the peer review starts. Then I let the piece sort of incubate for a few weeks. If I’m still feeling like it has the energy it had when I first had to scribble it out, I send it out to journals. If it’s sitting dormant for me, I let it nap for a bit. Sometimes pieces just need to regain friction (as in be edited forever after) to be ready for the real world. Come to think of it, I’m probably more in tune with my writing than I am with a lot of my friendships. I just go with where my mind leads me the whole way through.

5. What motivates you to write?

I think other writers really push me. I read all of these fantastic books with fantastic worlds and I think “hey, I have this world here in my head and these characters won’t leave me alone” or “hey, that’s an experience I have trouble discussing too, but these images won’t leave it. I wonder what it would all look like if I spent time on it.” Maybe a need for brain vacancy is my real motivation!

6. What is your work ethic?

I have a decent work ethic. Like, it’s not the best, but it’s definitely not the worst. I am embracing the idea of letting myself breathe, and I’m learning it’s a fine balance between a break and keeping myself from pushing forward in my writing. But I think that the work that I write after a break is usually better than the work I do when I’m forcing myself to enjoy writing. When I’m in a writing phase, that’s all I’m doing, when I’m out of a writing phase, I’m just reading through my queue. I guess I am pretty devoted to the learning process, if anything.

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

I only remember the fiction that I read when I was young, which always had a girl with some magic powers or supreme quirkiness that she overcame. Some of this is coming through in my fiction, where the women are running the show and the men are kind of fading to the background. That and the animals were always providing some sort of knowledge in the books I read, which really comes through in my poetry. Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier) and Goose Girl (Shannon Hale), even Henry and Ribsy (Beverly Cleary) provided that type of “trust the animal instinct” thesis I often find in my poetry.

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

Ada Limón is at the top of my poetry list. She writes so beautifully about terribly unbeautiful situations that her poetry is both a wonderful lesson in writing and a guiding light in life. I read her and I feel okay with things, which is hard to do. I think everybody needs some Ada in their lives.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I can’t not. I have so many stories and poems buzzing around in my head all the time, it’s hard to believe that I can hold down a day job and an every day life (band member, Social Media Editor, podcaster, freelancer, fiancé, daughter, sister, dog pal—which is the biggest gift of all). I’m a walking daydream. I need to write.

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

Pick up a journal you love and a pen and have at it. Find a circle of readers you trust, beg for real critique, and read every day. Mix up genres. Don’t marry yourself to one. And get an animal who will nap by your side while you do it. I’m beginning to think that’s a requirement.

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

I always have my poems, which I expect to naturally grow as I go. They’re going to be something someday, I just know it, but for now I’m letting them talk amongst themselves as I slowly introduce them to new friends. I also have a bit of a fiction piece that’s brewing. I am letting my characters form it (it’s sort of Mrs. Dalloway in that it’s third person and the viewpoints swap between as the story unfolds) and it’s about climate change and family and that terrible point in young adulthood when you realize that you’re done growing up. There’s a lot more too it, I just haven’t gotten there yet. I guess all of my pieces are like a room of guests that are bringing out more about each other while they wait for dinner to start, and I’m the host, and I forgot to figure out what’s for dinner. Hopefully it’s something good.

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