First Book Questionnaire: Betsy Wheeler | March 8, 2013.
1. Where are you now?
I live in Northampton, MA—where the coffee is strong and the women are stronger.
2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?
My first book of poems, Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room, just came out last April, and it’s been a real trip sending it out into the world and going on the road with it a little bit, a gift to see it coming to life physically and aloud. Meanwhile I’ve been working slowly but steadily on new poems—they’re very short and strange, representative of both my attention span and my creative constitution; and also taking a stab at some lyric essay writing—it’s mostly bad so far, and I’m both frustrated and fascinated by the writing of prose. I feel like writing poetry is a delicate process in which I’m dwelling in a state of awe and discovery, it feels like communion (not in a religious sense) with some piece of myself and humanity, and a communication of that experience that I can’t otherwise articulate. But the process, for me, of writing prose feels so different, it feels more like a wrestling match—sweatier, uncomfortable and more painful. Nevertheless, it’s something I can’t not try. I’m also about to embark on a new project for a Shape & Nature Press who has invited me to write what I guess could be called ambulatory and occasional verse. I’m pretty excited about the concept behind the project, and I really want to tell you about it, but I’m also a bit superstitious about discussing projects I haven’t finished yet, so I’m going to keep it mum for now.
3. Where do you write?
I used to only write in public—coffee shops, parks, libraries, bars—but these days I exclusively write at home, usually in my study. My friend Francesca gave me a gorgeous blue chair with silver thread shot through. I write in notebooks (yellow legal pad, to be specific) in that chair. Then I move to the typewriter (white, college ruled loose leaf), and back and forth in drafts from there. I’ve recently discovered the delightful luxury of having TWO DESKS in my study. One large one for business, freelance, and other work, and another small simple wooden desk (a family antique) that holds my typewriter for writing poems and letters (though my correspondence has lapsed pathetically in the last years). While I fancy myself a liquid being, I find that my creativity and productivity best thrives in compartments. This desk for bills and computer work; this desk for poems and light.
4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?
I just finished Megan Daum’s collection of essays My Misspent Youth. I know I’m late to the party on that one, but I’m grateful to have stumbled upon it. Brilliant humor, humility, pure delight. Before that, Eula Biss’ collection of essays Notes from No Man’s Land. Last best book of poetry I read: Thunderbird by Dorothea Lasky. Before that, Peter Gizzi’s Threshold Songs. Before that, Janaka Stucky’s The World Will Deny It For You.
5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?
Also late to the party on this one, but I’m a new found fan of Lana Turner Journal.
6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?
7. What are you looking forward to?
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Betsy Wheeler is the author of the poetry collection Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room and Start Here, a poetry chapbook. Her poems have appeared in notnostrums, Bat City Review, Forklift Ohio, The Journal, Octopus, and elsewhere. From 2005-2007, she served as the Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University. She is editor of the limited-edition poetry chapbook publisher Pilot Books, and Managing Director of the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Visit her website or read a poem.