Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Emily Warn is the founding editor of Poetry Foundation and was its editor-in-chief from 2005-2010. She has published five collections of poetry, including three books: The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996) and Shadow Architect (2008), all from Copper Canyon Press. Her essays and poems appear widely, including in Poetry, Bookforum, Blackbird, Parabola, The Seattle Times, The Writers’ Almanac, The Bloomsbury Review, The Stranger, and the National Book Critics Circle blog.
Emily currently teaches at Hugo House in Seattle and was a creative writing professor at Lynchburg College and The Bush School. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and now divides her time between Seattle and Twisp, Washington.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER?
In my 20’s, I literally had no way to be in the world. I was a wilderness fanatic who believed automobiles should be banished and that making money was evil. (I still believe that about our current choices for both of them.) I fell in love with poetry because it gave me a way to live with and write about contradictions, my extreme emotional life, and vying passion for nature and God. Wilderness and religion have remained my primary subject matter. I hope that my poems help people experience the invisible relation between language and the world, and among all beings.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
My latest book is Shadow Architect, an investigation of the Hebrew alphabet that began as a collaboration between me and the Pacific Northwest visual artist Dennis Evans.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I work at Impact Hub, a co-working space in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square district. Basically, it’s an intentional work community where individuals and organizations (in this case social entrepreneurs and nonprofits) can collaborate, share ideas and resources, and break out of the isolation that many remote workers and individual artists feel. In the building, there are large, open areas with desks and computer monitors, nooks and crannies, “phone booths,” conference rooms, a recording studio, and even a room where you can take a nap!
I love it because it helps me be more disciplined. Every day I take the bus to my job—writing—and have people to hang out with when I want.
WHEN DO YOU WORK?
I write first thing every morning, exercise, then take the bus or walk downtown to my “office.”
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I write voluminously in my notebooks, then compose poems by re-reading my notebooks from the previous month. I look for passages on the same topic, or written in a similar tone, and glue them together into collage poems that make sense.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
Apart from eating, loving, gardening, walking, and rowing, it’s the only thing that makes me happy. I hope readers connect to something in my poems, and I believe writing them requires that I stay connected to where and who and what I connect with every day.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Love and grief. Esther from the Torah has been my companion for 30 years. I have a cabin on 50 acres on the East Slope of the Cascades through which runs the Twisp River. All but 5 of 50 acres is in a conservation easement because the land is of critical importance to salmon, neo-tropical song birds, and oxygen. My connection to this place inspires me to write most of my poems.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
WHAT IS YOUR VISION AS A WORD ARTIST OR BOOK INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL?
To create imaginary spaces in which people can dwell, whether philosophically, imaginatively, or emotionally.
WHICH FEMALE WRITER WOULD YOU LOVE TO HEAR MORE FROM?
WHICH FEMALE WRITER YOU LIKE TO SEE FEATURED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Emily Warn!
— Nicole Melanson
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