This week, we are thrilled to feature the very talented Alicia Hoffman. She is the author of Railroad Phoenix and two of her poems, This Haunting We Know and Elegy, were featured on Dying Dahlia in January 2017. Learn what inspires her, what her writing process looks like and more!
What inspires you the most?
When I was writing Railroad Phoenix, what inspired me most was landscape, and how landscape and nostalgia for that lost landscape created in me sensory experiences that I needed to explore on the page. Images associated with the landscape of a lost youth prompted me to explore those images in many ways throughout the book. Depending on how one looks at it, I am either blessed or cursed with a good memory, and I used many of those memories of my time as a child to ground the poems.
Who are your favorite women writers?
This is such a tough question. I just finished reading Ada Limon’s Dead Bright Things. I am still floored by the beauty; the vivid, unexpected, overwhelming, joyous truth-blasts of those poems. Also, I am lucky enough to live in Rochester, New York, home to so many incredible women writers I admire. Sarah Freligh, author of Sad Math, was the first to recommend Limon’s book. (Thanks, Sarah!) Rachel McKibbens, whose book BLUD came out recently through Copper Canyon Press, is another writer who consistently floors me with her powerful work. Carol McMahon, another Rochester poet I only got to know when we both showed up across the country in Washington State to complete our MFA at the Rainier Writing Workshop, renders beautiful and haunting poems, too.
What does your writing process look like?
My “day job” is teaching high school English, so no, I do not write every day. Most days, I am grading, reading essays, and creating lesson plans. However, there is a part of my brain that is always thinking of poems, even if my writing process is less process right now and more whimsy. Lately, I’ve been getting fixated by specific words and phrases that turn into ideas for poems: dissimulation, fallibility, desiderata, vox humana. But reading poetry also helps to inspire my own writing. Over the summer, when I have a long stretch of time to write and no student assignments to grade, I challenge myself to write a draft of a poem every day for at least two months. That way, I always have drafts to work with, too.
What advice do you have for fellow women writers?
Don’t make the mistake that publishing equals success. If I am writing, I am a writer. That is what I try to tell myself these days. Over the past few years, I’ve had to battle those familiar feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. The usual: too many rejections, too many poems not “good enough.” Good enough for what? For whom? I’ve lately gotten away from submitting poems to journals. Don’t get me wrong, I still occasionally send work out, but what is important is not whether that work gets accepted. It’s whether I continue to read, to write, to interrogate what I find important to explore on the page. To do the work is the work. It is enough.
What are you currently working on?
Right now, I am slowly, and I mean snail-pace, sloth-like slow, attempting to gather around 60 poems into a semblance of a collection. These are all poems I wrote after Railroad Phoenix, and many interrogate some idea of what it means to be a human animal on this strange planet of ours. I am toying with calling the collection Animal.