Wendy DeGroat–Interview

Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?

All of the above. A comfy chair reupholstered in dusky plum is my usual spot in the lifting dark of early morning (often with a solar Luci Candle or a real candle flickering) but I also write in the living room, in the car, outdoors, and on-the-go. I carry a small notebook with me nearly all the time (something poet Claribel Alegría calls a “seed book”) so I can jot down images, ideas, phrases, and metaphors—and if words begin to flow, I stand in the current with my nets open as long as I can regardless of where I am.

What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?

I write on paper and revise on a laptop. On the go, I prefer a Moleskine or Shinola notebook with blank pages. At home, I’m partial to a large spiral-bound sketchbook with a hard cover and thick blank pages. My favorite pens are Pilot P-500 extra fine black pens.

What is your routine for writing?

Writing is how I begin most weekdays and some weekend days—preferably with pen to paper before I’m fully awake. Coffee can wait. I revise in the afternoon or evening.

How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was a kid, maybe seven or eight, and wrote off and on for years. However, it was when I attended a workshop with Holly Near in 2009 about the arts and social change that I committed to become a better poet. I read, studied, and practiced for a few years, then when I sensed I had plateaued, I started working with mentors.

Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?

I write for everyday people: cooks, waitresses, teachers, gardeners, insurance underwriters. I want to write poems that people carry with them. My granddad carried a poem tucked in his wallet for years, one he’d cut out of the newspaper. I remember watching his slender fingers gently coax its tattered edges open each time he’d pull it out to read it to me.

What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?

Our marvelous, terrible, joyful, difficult world inspires me, as does the amazing work of other poets and writers. When I’m blocked, it’s usually because I’ve been indoors too long, so I get outside and walk, preferably alone in the woods.

What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?

I’m a librarian too, so other than the word-nerd answers of reading and research (online and in dusty archives), I enjoy meandering conversations with my wife and our friends, walking, hiking, flatwater kayaking, and dabbling in visual arts like nature journaling and linocut.

What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Although I rejoice in those times when poems arrive unbidden and flow from my pen, I also revel in the challenge of revision and find great satisfaction in those a-ha moments when you cut or rearrange or restructure and suddenly the poem springs from the page.

What is your advice to aspiring writers?

For poets in particular, read contemporary poets. You may adore Dickinson or Neruda, but read the work of poets you could still share a coffee or beer with, even if you don’t think you’ll ever get that opportunity.

Check out Wendy’s work in Volume 3, Issue 2.

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