Interview with Micah Chatterton

Micah Chatterton, Riverside, CA    

Micah Chatterton

Micah Chatterton

Tell us a little about yourself.    

I think a lot, too much, about how old someone was when the world first discovered them, usually as a way to make myself feel bad, or give myself more time. Michelangelo got his first commission at 17. Jack Gilbert published his first book at 37. Jesus broke out at 33.

I had an amazing son, Ezra, at 16, was married and divorced by 21, got my MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside by 25. Ezra was diagnosed with a brain tumor by 10, fought hard and passed away at 12, when I was 28. I began therapy at 29, married Ezra's fifth-grade teacher, Jenny, by 31, and at 32 had a second son, Samuel, who is now one. And amazing.

How did you begin writing poetry?

I began desperately writing poetry in high school to impress girls, or a single girl, because it had worked for Val Kilmer in The Doors.

I've been writing and drawing for as long as I can remember, and always assumed I'd be an artist one day, with stories and poems on the side. I double majored in fine arts and creative writing as an undergraduate. But along the way I had to choose one love to try to carve a livelihood out of. Writing seemed the more practical, with poetry being the most painterly and least practical genre I could devote my life to. 

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

I write something, not always a poem, whenever I spread a portion of Ezra's ashes. Sometimes I spread ashes to commemorate some event in my life now I wish he'd been able to share, or some wonderful place he'll never see. I also try to spread them in places that were meaningful to him in his life. The moment and place of this poem, driving my son to camp with such hope for the week and life ahead of him, as much at peace with his illness as we could be, is a memory I felt needed to be marked with ashes. The poem came after. 

Read “Now, Someday” and 49 other poems selected by Brenda Shaughnessy by ordering Best New Poets 2013, available now.