Poet Interview #2: Catherine Zickgraf

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

I was homeschooled from elementary to middle school, so my first writing teacher was my sharply-intelligent and creative mother. I knew from childhood I’m living a poem and I’m the poet. By age 14, I learned from the traumatic stress of placing my first son for adoption that writing is healing, and I have the right to heal. I was meant to be a mother. Now my husband and I have two more sons, and my firstborn is in our lives—my four men and I are truly family. I homeschool my autistic youngest, reading poetry with him, watching his creativity grow. I see a benevolent cycle. My favorite poets are Alysia Harris, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Eminem.

2. How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

My poetry is idea, diction, and musicality. I start with a piece of these things and build the castle over time. I save organized ideas. “Hum” is from my second chapbook, Soul Full of Eye—almost submittable as a manuscript. The concept came from a Myspace friend’s 2007 message to me describing her schizophrenic hallucinations. I found the file last year, and the book happened.

My idea of what poetry is has certainly changed. Any poem can exist for a tremendous number of reasons. I use words concisely to meditate and grow, to stir others’ emotions and connect with them, to give voice to the voiceless, to prophesy, encourage, and educate, to make art from sadness, to celebrate the mind’s complexity.

3. Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

Social media has connected me to three dozen cities where I’ve performed my work, including Madrid, Spain, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I read and critique some social media poetry when asked to do so. Also, you can find me easily by the handle czickgraf.

4. Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

Every Thursday for two years, I’ve shared my week’s writing with an audience at Augusta, Georgia’s MAD Open Mic. I host, giving and getting encouragement.

And I have a group of Myspace poet friends who critique me skillfully, unafraid to hurt my feelings. I have learned much from them. I learn something from everything.

5. What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Watch performance poetry on Youtube. Check me out at Youtube.com/czickgraf.

Read to grow. Check out what the small presses are publishing by going to DUOTROPE.com, the database of thousands of literary magazines, journals, anthologies, and contests. (Google my published writing!)

Research and submit. Your best shot at acceptance is to submit the right poem to the right press.

Use strong verbs! I have craft and submission lessons in my notes at FB.com/czickgraf. Feel free to stop by.

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