Questions with...Karen Kelsay
Hi, it's Arielle and we're back with 10 Questions with...! We're
very pleased to have Karen Kelsay answering our questions this
month. Karen is a three time Pushcart Prize nominee and the author
of five chapbooks. We hope you enjoy
reading Karen's perspectives on the poetry scene.
1. What or who gives you inspiration and
When I find a new poet I like, I try to read as much of
their work as I can. That usually inspires me to write
something of my own. Lately I have been reading more
formal poetry than free verse, but I enjoy both.
I get a little stressed waiting on submissions to
magazines I've never been published in before. Each year
I make a list of about 4 journals where I would really
like to see my poetry appear—when I'm waiting for those
replies I can get quite antsy.
2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a
secret desire for something else, like spelunking?
I never entertained writing poetry until a few years
ago. I'm one of those people who likes to start projects
and then never completes anything. My cupboards are
filled with needlepoint canvases, kids dresses,
embroidery, all of it unfinished. It was a total
surprise to everyone (myself included), that I have had
five years of intense interest in poetry.
3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there
been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that
Almost any type of poetry award makes me happy, and I
hope those little writing perks will continue to
swoonify me for a long time to come. I've received three
Pushcart nominations in the past two years. Each one has
motivated me, and encouraged me to try and improve.
4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what
else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?
I have two cats—unfortunately they hate each other. It
takes a lot of door shutting and opening all day long,
so they won't freak out in the hallways. But they make
me feel warm and fuzzy.
I also love the beach. My family had a boat when I was
young, and most of my weekends were spent fishing and
rowing around in my little dinghy—trying to gaff
starfish from dock pilings. Luckily, I only live a few
miles from the ocean and my husband and I attempt go
5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your
Poetry that prompts me to write is a valuable resource
to me. Because I switch back and forth from free verse
to form, I have a mixed group of poets that I admire. I
come across a lot of talent because I edit a poetry
magazine—Lately I have been reading these poets:
Annabelle Moseley, Peter Austin and Wendy Sloan,
Jennifer Reeser and Michael Burch.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and
I've never received a Best of the Net award, I'm sure I
would love that. If I had to choose, it would probably
be a Pushcart. I haven't decided which is best, they
both are fine by me.
7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and
what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?
One of the first poems I fell in love with was written
by the Irish poet, Katharine Hinkson, Sheep and Lambs.
It's very simply written, and it taught me that poems
don't have to be complex to reach people. Clever words
don't necessarily make an emotional impact.
In spending time with my 85 year-old mother the other
day, I realized that as a young adult she had memorized
many poems, including “The Raven.” Although she never
recited them in public, I was her captive audience in
car. I think it must have made an impression on me. I
didn't realize until years later, that I enjoyed the
poetry as well.
I just finished reading Kevin Heaton's new chapbook,
which due out next year.
I thought it was a wonderful collection of poems—I guess
he is my favorite writer at the moment.
8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to
traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and
potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you
Personally, I like both...but I guess I lean toward
print magazines. It's nice to sit down and read a book
or journal, let it sit on the table each night and
reopen it at one's leisure. Browsing the internet gives
me more access to new work, and if I like it I can
always order the book.
9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five
I see myself as a more established writer of formal
poetry, someone with a consistent and recognizable
style. I also want to crank out some decent free verse
whenever the mood strikes me. This month I had two books
published, one by Punkin House and the other by
Fortunate Childe Publications. I hope to build on that
and keep the momentum going so I can have collections
published every few years.
10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?
A delicious poem includes all the senses, twists the gut
a little and leaves the reader with a pleasant
Issue: December 2011
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