Interview with Erin Hoover

Erin Hoover, Tallahassee, Florida

Erin Hoover

Erin Hoover

Tell us about yourself.

I'm in Florida State University's PhD Program for Creative Writing, and I have an MFA from University of Oregon, but I'm not your traditional graduate student. I had a gap of seven years between finishing my MFA and deciding to get a PhD, and in that time, I worked as a public relations director in New York City. I was often writing in someone else's voice in that job, publishing articles without my own byline. It's a small miracle that I was able to continue to write my own poetry during that time. With a friend from my MFA program, I started a literary arts organization called Late Night Library dedicated to promoting talented writers early in their careers. I know how hard it is to exist in that space, to keep writing when you wonder if you will ever be read, when you are fighting to keep your own voice alive. Late Night Library has continued without me, but I've started working for The Southeast Review and for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. I really believe that the communities we create as writers (and especially as poets) are what keep us going. 

How did you begin writing poetry?

When I first tried writing poetry in high school, I just immediately knew that the thought process that goes into creating a poemthat mindset you have to get into, seeing unusual connections, recreating and in a way reshaping experiencewas something I needed to continue to explore. I started carrying around printouts of poems in my pockets (other people's poems, but also new drafts of mine), and taking them out to read when no one was looking. I felt such pleasure in the transport that poetry allowed me in those moments. Nothing else I was occupied with at the time did that for me.

Tell us about “On the Origin of Species,” which was selected for Best New Poets 2013.

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"On the Origin of Species" is inspired by the notion of women's choices. As I've come through my 20s and early 30s, I've thought a lot about the false binary of family and career, the idea that women are supposed to "choose" anything independent of all of these other concerns. There's the hard fact of your own reproductive biology and then the money you are trying to make just to keep on living that you might trade for something like freezing your eggs. And then there's this weird kernel of self-destructiveness that I think that all people feel in some small way, subverting every other impulse. The poem touches on all of these different economies, and its central metaphor is about opportunity cost. For women especially, I think there's this idea of being "unfit" if you don't have a child, no matter what else you've done. 

What question do you wish I'd asked? 

What are your goals for your own poetry?

In the earlier question, I talked about the pleasure poetry has given me. But I also think something happens on the path to becoming a poet where you realize it's real work, and perhaps it would be easier for everyone, especially you, if you just stopped writing poetry. So I'm confused when poetry as pigeonholed as "this little thing we do," or when people get academic degrees in poetry and then pursue something else entirely. I think that if you're going to write poetry, you have to ratchet up the stakes as far as you can, because honestly, no one will care if you don't write anything ever again. If my poems aren't the absolute best I can produce, if it doesn't cost me something essential to make them, why would I expect a reader to want to read them? Occasionally I think I write poems that live up to their promise, and "On the Origin of Species" is one I would put in that category, for myself.

Visit Erin on Facebook.  Read “On the Origin of Species” and 49 other poems selected by Brenda Shaughnessy by ordering Best New Poets 2013, available now.