Spring 2016 Issue: Meet Laura Walker
May 1st, when BACKWORDS Press releases its Spring 2016 Issue, is just two weeks away! This time, we’ve been working behind the scenes with our poets, and a few select designers, to bring to life these poems in a way that we haven’t before – BACKWORDS Press is expanding our artistic vision and we can’t wait to show you.
Until then, please enjoy this final interview with one of our three new poets:
Laura Walker (laura-walker.com) is the author of story (Apogee Press, forthcoming), Follow–Haswed (Apogee Press, 2012), bird book (Shearsman Books, 2011), rimertown/ an atlas (UC Press, 2008), and swarm lure (Battery Press, 2004), and the chapbook bird book (Albion Books, 2010). She has taught poetry at San Francisco State University, University of San Francisco, and UC Berkeley Extension. She lives in Berkeley with one spouse, one cat, two sons, five chickens, and 30,000 bees.
BACKWORDS Press: How do you begin a poem?
Laura Walker: Almost always by writing my way in. I know many poets who hear individual lines when they’re out and about and need to stop and get them down, or who have lines arrive in a dream, and I’m jealous. But I just have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and start writing without thinking, following associations of sound or image—free writing—then read back to see if anything interesting happened while I wasn’t looking. And if so, I start to build on that, which for me is the fun part. I’m not so great at getting words on the page, but I find the process of radical revision incredibly compelling and even joyful.
BACKWORDS Press: How long have you been writing?
LW: I wrote poems in elementary school and high school, shifted to fiction in college, and then stopped altogether for many years afterwards. When I realized I really needed to write, I first went back to fiction, but I found image and fragment moved me, and narrative mostly didn’t, except in fragments. Most of the fiction workshop feedback I received was along the lines of “This is poetry, not fiction,” and so I took a wonderful poetry class from the amazing Ed Smallfield, and the way he taught poetry was like finally coming home. And I’m so grateful.
BACKWORDS Press: Which poets do you continually go back to?
LW: Way too many to name, but I’ll name a few anyway: Kathleen Fraser, Cole Swensen, Myung Mi Kim, Anne Carson, Bhanu Kapil, Brian Teare.
BACKWORDS Press: Why Backwords Press? What made you want to submit?
LW: I thought the idea—of putting small poems out into the social world, this way of getting poetry into public/physical space and into our conversations —was just amazing. It was one of those things that’s so perfect, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. But it took the particular and combined genius of the three of you to actually make it happen. Again, I’m grateful.
BACKWORDS Press: Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other Social Media platforms? How does this affect your writing, community?
LW: I have a very anemic Facebook presence. I’m a rather stalwart introvert, and that seems to extend to social media as well; I love the idea of being connected online but find it pretty daunting in practice. But maybe that will change when my kids are older or I have more energy and attention to spare.
BACKWORDS Press: Anything else you like our readers to know about you or your work?
LW: I have a new book of poetry coming out any day now from Apogee Press, called story. It’s as close as I’ll get to writing a novel, which isn’t very close at all—but it does grapple with narrative in a new way for me. You can find more about story at Apogee Press or laura-walker.com.
Walker’s poem, from “genesis,” is one of three new and original poems featured by working writers in the Spring 2016 Issue. The entire Issue is currently available on pre-sale on our website, the text and design of the poems will be released officially on May 1st, 2016.
Be sure and check out the previous interviews with the two other Spring 2016 poets, Armin Tolentino and Lourdes Figueroa.