“Where I’m from” and “Poetry 101”
Both your poems “Poetry 101” and “Where I’m From ” are quite different. Where do you most often find your inspiration for writing?
“I most often find inspiration from my life and the people around me. When I’m not feeling naturally inspired, I turn to writing prompts, newspaper articles, formal poetry, or simply staring out the window. I find that writing mimetics also helps me to get out of my comfort zone, challenge my craft, and expand my voice.”
In your poem “Poetry 101,” you depict the different lessons poets experience throughout such a class. Was poetry writing a skill that’s always come easy to you, or do you feel such creativity can be learned?
“This is such a hard question. I’ve learned a lot from workshops, craft talks, conferences, and reading other poets. I think I learned to intuitively write poetry by reading a lot of poetry while growing up. But poetry is more than skill to me. It’s a way of seeing the world, of piecing together experience and language to communicate intense emotion or experience. I’ve had mentors who guided me in how to look at the world, how to pause to really notice things, but I had to open myself to those experiences, to the difficult emotions, to the things I don’t always want to see in the mirror in order to create work that resonates with others. Sometimes writing is easy. More often than not, it’s hard.”
As a Midwest publication, Portage Magazine highly values the idea of the American Midwest. What would you say is distinctly Midwest about your submissions to us?
“I grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio, the product of farmers and hill people, so I’m drawn to rural Midwestern imagery. Both poems rely heavily on the natural world and how it shapes us and our experiences. I write a lot about family which is very important to us Midwesterners. I also write in very plain language. I don’t use million-dollar words or try to be overly intellectual in my poetry. I want my poetry to be accessible to everyone, including (and maybe even especially) those who think they don’t like poetry.”
Poetry is a very popular industry, and poets are subjected to a lot of judgement. What are some tools you use when handling rejection or criticism?
“Rejection is always hard, especially if I get a slew of rejections in a row. I let myself feel disappointed and frustrated. Complaining to my husband and eating chocolate helps. I keep a list of my poetry and fiction acceptances (mostly in case I need them for a bio or book), but I’ll look at my list of acceptances to remind myself that I have had work published and will have it published again. I also remind myself that there are poems by other poets that don’t resonate with me and it’s ok if my work doesn’t resonate with every single person who reads it. A few years ago a friend of mine told me that her writing group has a goal of 100 rejections a year which encouraged me to send out as many packets of poems as I can. While sometimes this backfires and I get 3 rejections in the same afternoon, sometimes I will get a rejection followed by an acceptance which softens the blow of the rejection. Ultimately, I just keep dusting myself off and sending my work out again until it gets accepted.”
Lacie Semenovich is the author of a chapbook, Legacies (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in B O D Y, Nixes Mate Review, Misfit Magazine, Shrew Literary Magazine, and other journals. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio.