Thursday, April 28, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Carrie Etter

Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter lived for thirteen years in southern California before moving to England in 2001. She has published three collections of poetry, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), winner of the London New Poetry Award, Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society. She also edited the anthology, Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010) and Linda Lamus's posthumous collection, A Crater the Size of Calcutta (Mulfran, 2015). She is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I suppose my first book made me feel credible as a poet. In my first two books, I fled the autobiographical; since then, I try to employ innovative techniques for handling such material.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I wrote my first poem outside of school at eleven. I was also writing stories--I'm not really sure which came first.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My writing tends to come quickly, then I revise, revise, revise. In my books, I have lines crossed out, words changed--the process never ends.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
My first two books are collections of poems with threads of ideas running through them, while my third is much more cohesive as a project. The book I'm working on now (my fourth) is similarly driven by a main idea or rather a complex of them.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love doing readings. Poetry is a communicative act as well as a form of art, and I relish the sense that something that felt very specific to my own consciousness is being understood by others.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I'm interested in the ways texts always exceed the author's intentions. My ongoing manuscript's first section asks how our relationship to home as place and climate change can motivate us to care more for the environment.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I feel a responsibility to address social issues in my writing, but I wouldn't prescribe for other writers. 

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I haven't had that much involvement from my editors, but I would like more--from the right editor. Is that statement inherently contradictory?

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
I think writing critical prose about poetry helps me articulate my ideas about it more clearly in my teaching. I tend to take a long time over reviews, though, and am considering setting them aside indefinitely for the sake of focus on the (more) creative work.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I don't have a routine, but I become antsy and frustrated if too much time passes without writing. 

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I don't stall much, but find it's helpful to read as widely as possible across genres and styles.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Raw corn (I'm from Illinois)

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Film is an influence--its techniques for conveying ideas and emotions. I also think my viewing of film montages has been important for some of the montage-style long poems in my new manuscript.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
The list is terribly long. I'll pick three at random: Iain M. Banks, Peter Reading, and Cole Swensen.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I enjoy reading speculative fiction, especially young adult (and so without the hard science), and would love to publish a YA speculative novel. I also have a manuscript of haiku and senryu I'd like to publish someday, The Broken Kite, either as a chapbook or a full-length book.

I'm also tempted to learn paragliding.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I think because of the pleasure I take in both the arts and in working with others, arts administration might have been a good alternate career. When I was finishing my PhD and living in Walthamstow, I fantasized about getting a job at the William Morris Museum.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I was never very good at team sports and had various stomach problems in childhood that led to lots of time away from school: perhaps that made me feel like an outsider. Many writers I know feel like outsiders. 

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I admired Margaret Atwood's short story collection, Stone Atlas, and can't remember the last great film I saw, so I'll recommend a few favourites: The Whale Rider, Spirited Away and The Wild Bunch. The first two share a theme of girls' empowerment.

20 - What are you currently working on?

The Weather in Normal is the manuscript in progress. In its current form, it has three sections: the first focuses on the effects of climate change in Illinois, my home state; the second brings together literal and figurative (in terms of family) weather in my experience growing up in Normal, Illinois; and the third is an imaginative revisiting of my family home.

I have another manuscript on the side, Grief's Alphabet, on the loss of my mother, who was my closest friend, and ideas for a book tentatively titled Transatlantica exploring the different effects of climate change on the environments of Britain and the US and the way the debates about climate change differ in my two countries.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;


Stacie Eirich said...

Carrie - I am amazed at how large and small the world is at the same time. I didn't imagine, as I was blog-hopping for inspiration -- that I'd stumble onto another poet/writer/teacher from Normal, Il. It is also my home -- images and smells of rows of corn will always bring memories rushing in. I lived there for 27 years, though in the last 10+ years I've moved south, eventually landing in the swamplands of Louisiana. Reading your interview makes me long for home, and I'm now inspired to write about it -- and I do hope to read your work on Normal and ISU, as well as your poems. I must admit that living and writing in England is a dream of mine, so I do feel a bit of envy that you are! We'll never quite lose the pull of the corn, and the Illinois seasons, though, will we? Thanks for the interview, Rob. Hope to connect with you in the future, Carrie -- happy writing. Stacie

Carrie Etter said...

Hi, Stacie. Small world indeed! I have poems about the local area in my forthcoming collection, but none specific to ISU as I didn't study there. Maybe I should write a poem about the quad or Milner LIbrary, though, where I spent so much time in my teenage years! Best wishes with your writing!