Elisa Rowe

What is most important to your writing process?

Doubt and wonder, equally. 

What about you comes across most in your writing?

Maybe my sensitivity? To emotions, experiences, objects, how my senses process the world and the way it shapes me in big and small ways.

What are you obsessed with right now and why? (a book, movie, music, etc…)

Dinosaurs! Birthday cake ice cream! The Boston Mayoral and City Council Election!


JD Debris

What is most important to your writing process?

I recently made the joke that my life more or less looks like Caravaggio’s “Saint Jerome Writing,” if Saint Jerome had diamond earrings and a fade. Look at the painting, you’ll notice Saint Jerome has several books open. I tend to write the same way, in conversation with whatever I’m reading, and by “conversation,” I mean an actual back and forth—read a page, write a page. Or, to get a little closer to statistical accuracy, read fifty, write ten. Notice Saint Jerome is using a skull as a paperweight. Always got to keep death on the mind, as in the code of the samurai. The stakes are always high enough to spark adrenaline: it’s always words versus oblivion.

What about you comes across most in your writing?

Well, I don’t have a great perspective on this, being inside it. But I want to say a twin sense of fun and danger. A two-headed snake, both heads snapping at each other. One is just playing around, sparring, and the other is actually trying to rip its twin’s head off. You don’t always know which is which. I’ve been thinking about something Richard Wright said about writing Native Son—he had so much fun writing it that he really didn’t give a damn what the public response was. If you’re familiar with Native Son, you know it’s a pretty dark book. So there’s something dissonant about picturing Richard Wright having a ball at his writing desk while he trawls the depths. But I think of Wright’s example often—not that I’ve made total, or even partial, sense of it yet. Plus, I think of a passage from this Roberto Bolaño short story, “Anne Moore’s Life,” where two characters are laughing hysterically, but they’re not sure what they’re laughing about, maybe just about the fact that they’re still alive. That’s the double-edged sense I’m trying to get across.

What are you obsessed with right now and why? (a book, movie, music, etc…)

I used to use the word “obsession,” well, obsessively, but I try to avoid it now. I’d rather not pathologize joy. Regardless, I keep going back to the seashore, probably because it’s both ephemeral and permanent. Either that or I’m just a bum. There’s a stanza from Derek Walcott’s Omeros where he says something along the lines of “the sea never changes its meter.” Borges, talking about Jesus, says the totality of His life’s writings were just a few words written on the sand. I think I never get sick of bossa nova because it breathes at wave-speed. People look out at the sea and see apparitions, see the divine. In Brazil, Aparecida, a vision of the Black Virgin Mary, appeared to three fishermen. In Angola, there’s the goddess Kianda, who is the protector of fishermen, and you throw clothes and food in the water as offerings. In Ancient Greece, there was the goddess Delfina, who saved a wandering musician from murderous pirates and brought Apollo safe to shore. Anyway, I’ve been swimming laps in cold Massachusetts saltwater and reading a lot. The sea is history, Walcott said, and reading is like talking to the dead.


Marie Ungar

What is most important to your writing process?

That I write the poem as soon as inspiration strikes. Or, if a line comes to me at an inopportune time, that I hold onto it: I’ve spent multi-hour drives repeating the same few lines to myself again and again, trying to write as much of the poem as possible in my head. I keep a notepad next to my bed so I can jot things down in the middle of the night without turning on the light—though more often than not, these don’t seem as fruitful in the morning. Also, reading peers’ work is the most inspiring thing. As a younger poet, there’s something much more tangible about reading an incredible poem by the person sitting next to me in workshop than a poem I love just as much by an established writer.

What about you comes across most in your writing?

That’s such a tough one. I would like to think something that comes across is my desire to preserve, interrogate, and kind of live indefinitely in moments and feelings that are important to me, and that I would like it to be possible for others to live in these moments with me.

What are you obsessed with right now and why? (a book, movie, music, etc…)

Oh, there’s so much. My friend Tawanda Mulalu has a fantastic chapbook, Nearness, coming out in December, with a full length version, Please Make Me Pretty, I Don’t Want to Die, soon to follow in 2022. It’s my favorite collection I’ve read all year, and I really want to tell everyone I meet who loves poetry to be on the lookout for it. More generally, there’s a number of individual poems I return to each time I need to feel touched by something—”Peanut Butter” by Eileen Myles, “Meditation at Lagunitas” by Robert Hass, “Pyramid Scheme” by Hera Lindsay Bird, and “What the Living Do” by Marie Howe, to name a few. I think most of my favorite poems are either desperately reaching toward something or basking in the glow of something they can’t quite explain. In either case, There’s a sense of desperation to communicate, paired with a direct, confessional voice I hope to emulate. I’ve been rereading the essay “How It Feels” by Jenny Zhang a lot lately—an essay about the vulnerability of writing poetry and feeling emotions—and it captures aspects of this desperation to communicate so well in both its subject matter and execution. One not-yet-realized goal of mine is to experiment more with form; Alyssa Moore has these two incredible visual poems in POETRY that I often pull up on my computer and stare at, that really broadened my vision of how poetry can be constructed. There’s so much going on in them, you never feel like you’ve figured it all out. They defy a linear reading and capture an entire creative process in a single moment in such a clever way. Aside from poetry, I’m often listening to The Mountain Goats. John Darnielle has always been a paragon of lyric-based storytelling to me. I think musical lyrics don’t often translate well directly into poetry and vice versa, but they share a large range of sensibilities, and his music has played such a big role in shaping any drop of poetic sensibility I have.


Talia Franks

What is most important to your writing process?

The idea. Once I have something to write about I find it pretty easy to run away with and play around with, either as a poem or in the form of prose. But coming up with a good idea, something worth writing about, that’s the important part. You can have all the skill at putting words together in the world, but if the core of the piece, the heart of the work, is empty? Then you have nothing worth reading or listening to.

What about you comes across most in your writing?

I’m not entirely certain, because the thing about interpreting one’s own work is that the lens is inherently flawed — we see what we want to see. There’s a quote from Doctor Who that I like, that says something along the lines of that we never know the truth of our own lives because we are too busy living them from the inside. I think that, if anything, what comes across in my writing is that I tend to conceptualize things in a way that is complex and has an emotional depth that is at times hard to convey in simple prose. Or at least that is what I aim to do. Perhaps it is the opposite. Who knows, really?

What are you obsessed with right now and why? (a book, movie, music, etc…)

Currently the Marvel Cinematic Universe is attempting to tear my heart into tiny shreds with What If…? which is its latest television series at the time of answering this question. I’m absolutely devastated by the most recent string of episodes which I feel like were specifically engineered to get maximum amounts of tears from people. I’m obsessed with it because Marvel has me in its clutches, I watch all the movies and TV shows and read comics like a fiend. The new Shang-Chi movie was so good I can’t hardly wait to see it again & I’m counting down the days until it drops on Disney+.