Interview with Justin Runge

Justin Runge, Lawrence, Kansas

Justin Runge

Justin Runge

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Alabama, and currently live with my wife in Lawrence. We both work for the university, and serve as editors for Parcel, which we publish in collaboration with the owner of a bookstore in town called The Raven. I love holiday movies, talk to my cat, only cook breakfast, adore Mark Strand, and miss Ray Bradbury.

How did you begin writing poetry?

From childhood, I considered myself a fiction writer. During my time as an undergraduate, though, I realized (with the guidance of some perceptive professors) that I was more concerned with language and sound than story. Winning an award at Wesleyan for a prose poem—when I'd submitted the piece as an essay—was the official epiphany. Prose poetry was a genre I'd never even considered. I dove in head-first at that point.

BNP Runge.jpg

Tell us about “History,” the poem that was selected for Best New Poets 2013.

For this poem, I set goals: to write a love poem objectively, a story molecularly, and an autobiography in which I barely featured. I also wanted to buck some obtuse tendencies, so I made sure that each detail felt naked, unworked. There's only one figurative moment in the poem, which feels like a small victory to me. 

What question do you wish I'd asked? 

I imagine you would've asked what my parents think of the piece—"History" was written about and for them. Here's what I'll say: I bet a lot of poets have parents that support their work, but don't always connect with it. This was an attempt to fold mine into my work in a way they could own. My mother got a hold of me after she read it and said, "You were listening!”

Visit Justin's official site or follow him on Twitter: @justinrunge.  Read "History" and 49 other poems selected by Brenda Shaughnessy by ordering Best New Poets 2013, available now.