Featured Poet Interview: A.M. Hooft
This month's featured poet is A.M. Hooft, author of "Southern homecoming" and "The Great Edwards High Lesbian Epidemic." Read both here, then join us for a discussion about tension, intention, and steps poets must take to reckon with our own blindspots in 2020.
Jacqueline Boucher: Both of your poems read with a kind of breathlessness–“The Great Edwards High Lesbian Epidemic” reads like the kind of excited, fervent murmuring you might hear huddled behind the door of a locker. How do you set about creating that kind of tension and movement in your work?
A.M. Hooft: In poems like this, it was about hearing those voices that almost drown us out and then building up to the true voice that comes in more strongly at the end, much like the experience of any queer person trying to discover their identity and their individual voice in the world. For me, it is in these moments of tension, contrast, and movement within our lived experiences where poetry gives us a chance to speak back and say no, this is how it really is or can be, for me.
JB: Diction also plays a huge role in evoking a sense of place in these pieces, but the two are wildly different in terms of tone and style. Can you speak to the process of creating atmosphere through language?
AMH: I tend to lean toward a lot of imagery, even when my poems become more abstract. Making the language very specific and playing with meaning is one of my favorite parts of poetry. Using gerunds, punctuation between words (backslashes, dashes, or my favorite, parenthesis), or even combining words to create new ones are some of the techniques I’ve found allow us to own language and influence how a poem speaks to a reader beyond diction in a more straightforward sense.
JB: Right now, more than ever, poets are being given the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which our art interacts with the world around us, both in helpful and harmful ways. This is giving poets the opportunity to engage in tough conversations about ways we can do and be better. What has this process looked like for you as someone who is reengaging with poetry after a long break?
AMH: Poetry teaches me about the world more than any other medium. I tend to read from a pretty diverse list of poets, both classic and contemporary, not only because they are incredible writers, but because it also allows me to get a glimpse of their perspective on what is (or was) going on with the world. It makes me wish I had been made aware of the limits of the literary canon much sooner.
JB: What are you reading lately that excites you?
AMH: I’ve been looking for joy lately, so Ross Gay. He is the master of joy and finding it in the little things.
JB: What’s your favorite bone?
AMH: Ooooh, tough question. First off, I have to go with human skeleton over those of other animals. Of those, I find the often-overlooked bones of the wrist to be a marvel in the way they fit together. Triquetrum might be my favorite.
Want to get to spend some more time with A.M. Hooft's work? Check out Two Poems to read "Southern homecoming" and "The Great Edwards High Lesbian Epidemic"