Interview with Emily Pettit

photo-34Emily Pettit is the new publisher at jubilat, an editor at Factory Hollow Press, a teacher of poetry at Flying Object, and writer of the acclaimed book of poetry Goat in the Snow. Editor Scott Stewart had the wonderful opportunity to interview her.

Scott Stewart: I was at AWP Boston this year and I saw two people debating about something. Then I saw in their hands your book, Goat in the Snow. Do you feel the book has been received well critically? And how, as a writer, do you prepare for criticism?

Emily Pettit: I believe I have been very lucky to have many people, any people, care about my book. I think that considering the small number of people that read poetry, one must remember that one is lucky to have anyone reading one’s book. I don’t know how one prepares for criticism. I do know that if one is publicly sharing one’s work then criticism is something that might be encountered. Everyday there are so many things to encounter. I have so many things on my mind as to make it impossible to dwell too long on whether or not someone doesn’t like my poetry. I want people to like my poetry and therefore I do care when someone doesn’t, but that hurt is something I hope not to hold.

SS: You spoke just now about how so many things are on your mind. I’m curious how your creative process works. Where does a poem start for you?

EP: The way I like to have a poem start for me, is when I have a line in my head that I keep hearing. This line is likely a line that I want to end a poem with. Everyday I write down lines. If I’m lucky, I start thinking about one of these lines and seeing it at work with other lines I have written.

SS: Many of your poems in Goat in the Snow had hilarious, almost absurd moments. I would compare them to moments when a person interacts with modern art and they become confused or perplexed by what they are experiencing. I don’t want to talk about point or meaning here, but could you elaborate on the use of humor in your poems?

EP: I’m glad you found moments in my poems hilarious. Having a sense of humor is how to survive consciousness. I think. People who make me laugh make my life better. Make my life possible. Humor is connected to the imagination. I need humor. That a reader might find humor in my work makes me think I have done something right. For me humor is connected to the imagination and to hope.

SS: Beautifully said! I’m curious how Goat in the Snow came into being. I noticed that you have a chapbook entitled HOW that many of the poems appeared in previously. Was it a natural progression from chapbook to full-length book of poetry? Or were there hiccups along the way?

EP: The poems in the chapbook HOW are poems that were excerpted from the Goat in the Snow manuscript. I submitted to and was a finalist for the Octopus Books 2009 book contest and Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina of Octopus books asked me if I would put together a chapbook of poems from Goat in the Snow, poems with HOW to titles. So in this case, I suppose there was a progression from book to chapbook.

SS: How interesting, quite the opposite of what I had thought. Which do you find consumes your time more: being an editor, a publisher, a teacher, or a poet? And how do you find time for all of these creative adventures?

EP: I have been doing all of these things for a number of years now and throughout these years I have found that my time has been consumed more heavily by different roles at different times. Teaching is the role that ultimately most consumes my time. Recently I have found I do not know how to find time for everything I want to do. I am trying to figure out how to accept that I cannot find time for everything I want to do. Not all at once. Some people can do many many things all at once. I’m afraid I am learning that I am not someone who can. There can be and often are wonderful ways that these roles can inform one another and strengthen one’s ideas regarding the work each respective role is doing. I hope to keep juggling these roles, but I am also hoping to improve my juggling abilities and take time to occasionally stop juggling.

SS: I’m curious about what’s happening at Flying Object. Could you talk about the collaborative process and the going-ons at Flying Object?

EP: A great deal is going on at Flying Object! Looking at this month’s calendar, Flying Object is very busy as usual hosting readings, concerts, workshops, and the work of writers and artists and musicians all over.

I teach a poetry workshop at Flying Object that is currently in session and feel very lucky to once a week be meeting at Flying Object with wonderful writers–who are writing amazing things and reading amazing things and generously discussing and sharing these things.

Factory Hollow Press a publishing division of Flying Object is thrilled and honored to have just put out new books of poems–MOODS by Rachel B. Glaser and SIGN YOU WERE MISTAKEN by Seth Landman. These books are remarkable books. The poems in these books get in your mind and emotions and make them stronger and braver and brighter. FHP has also recently put out a fantastic chapbooks by Heather Christle, Margot Douaihy, Corwin Ericson, & Bianca Stone.

The Flying Object website does a great job showcasing what is going on at Flying Object, it is full of wonderful things to find! Such as Dara Wier’s incredible series Inside Undivided or notnostrums 7or news about Flying Object initiatives!

There is collaboration of all sorts taking place! My brother, Guy Pettit, the director of Flying Object, the inventor of Flying Object, is doing extraordinary amounts of work to connect artists of all kinds through this space and the work this space makes.

SS: Wonderful! Sounds like a tremendous number of things are happening at The Flying Object. As a closing question, do you have any advice for aspiring poets trying to put their poetry into the world?

EP: If one feels compelled to share one’s work, one should. There are endless opportunities to do this. All over people are at work putting poetry into the world.

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