If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Bob Hicok. I think I’d ask him what he likes to eat. But I’d definitely include lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
When I first began writing, I was most scared of the critic in my mind. I got over that by giving myself permission to write anything I wanted to, even if it was lousy, literarily.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
I have several favorite poets right now: Rumi, W. S. Merwin, Brenda Hillman, John Ashbery, Bob Hicok, Zbigniew Herbert, among others.
What books are on your nightstand?
The Soul of Rumi translated by Coleman Barks, Migration by W. S. Merwin, This Clumsy Living by Bob Hicok, Practical Water by Brenda Hillman, Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan, Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The question mark because I’m so curious and I like to open the door to many possible and impossible answers.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
I went to a backwater high school where English classes were very dull and no books were assigned.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
A book of reproductions of art.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
Listen to your inner voice and don’t tell it what to do.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing poetry brings me peace. Writing something like an essay or filling out an application exhausts me.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking reputation is more important than doing the writing.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Being required to write in a certain way.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. There are plenty of poets who write from reason rather than emotion.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am friends with many, many SF Bay Area poets and belong to two active poetry critiquing groups that have helped me be a good editor of my own work. A few of these poets are Melissa Kwasny, Rusty Morrison, Carol Dorf, Tobey Hiller, Charles and Gail Entrekin and Ramsay Breslin.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Both, but I find I am most inspired by playing around with different forms, and by using a variety of what Richard Hugo called ‘triggers.’
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It was instrumental in helping me to think of writing in a given form until I had a complete manuscript, before moving on to another form or type of content.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Buying a computer, and buying books of art reproductions.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I don’t recall not knowing that.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
Continuing to regularly write poems that my poetry-group friends respond to positively; getting poems accepted for publication a few times a year; occasionally having a book come out and getting good feedback on it.
What’s the best way to market your books?
Up until now, it has been via readings, and word of mouth in my literary community.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I write persona poems from several different points of view; I don’t have trouble doing that.
What did you edit out of this book?”
Within the project of ekphrasis that was the practice of this book, I edited out any poems I’d written that didn’t ‘light a fire.’
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’d be a botanist.
Grace Marie Grafton's poetry collection LENS is available wherever books are sold (and right here!).