I may have met Chloe Miller on my first day as an adjunct at George Mason University. If not the first day, then a day soon after. Immediately, we connected because we were both writers supporting our writing by teaching. We had coffee, shared teaching triumphs and travails (probably more travails than triumphs), and became friends. She’s one of those people and one of those poets who makes me feel like I’m just been pulled close. I haven’t seen her in a long time, and I miss her. This interview makes me pulls me closer to her again, and I’m sure you will feel the same. Be sure to order pre-order her chapbook, even if you don’t love poetry. You won’t be sorry. Now, I give you my friend, Chloe.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Unrest, a poetry chapbook, will be published by Finishing Line Press in January 2013. Some of these poems began when I was a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence College and some are much newer. Their focus on loss is the connecting thread throughout.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I am pretty sure I wrote my first poem one summer when I was about six. As an only child, I was pestering my father one summer morning to “play.” He was trying to read the newspaper and told me to go do something. I asked what and he said something like, “go write a poem.” And I did. While I suppose he said that because it was a quiet activity, he’s always been happy to hear me read my work when I share it with him.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
My practice is substantially more chaotic than I’d like it to be. Instead of answering that I write every day for X hours at the same time under a blooming tree, I squeeze it in between teaching and other jobs. That said, my schedule is fairly flexible, and I can arrange to have large chunks of time here and there to focus on writing and revising.
4. Who are you reading now?
I just finished reading Justin Torres’ We the Animals and Gary Jackson’s Missing You, Metropolis. I heard them both read at the Bread Loaf conference this summer and was blown away.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
I often return to Jane Hirshfield’s poetry because of its beauty and apparent simplicity.
Mark Strand was one of the first poets I ever read and I really enjoy his work. The sparseness in his work offers a place for the reader.
Peter Ho Davies’ short story, “How to be an Expatriate”, from Equal Love, is one of my favorites. I spent four years living abroad, and he perfectly captures the experience of living between places (and he does so, interestingly, in the second person.)
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I don’t think that my poetry has a “writing platform.” I’m drawn to (obsessed by?) certain themes, like loss and food as metaphor, but I’m not sure that’s a platform.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
That’s a tough one. As an adjunct professor and freelancer, my days are quite varied. In general, I wake up early and start by answering emails. And then I’ll work through my to-do list of various projects, including writing, revising and submitting. I’ll usually work in a long walk or yoga, and some cooking, all of which are great pre-writing activities for me.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
While traveling in Delphi, Greece, I sat down and handwrote in a journal under an olive tree. The wind was blowing, the sun shining and my husband was nearby. I was facing the sea. Add in a comfortable seat, writing surface, maybe a dish of savory treats, and I’d be set.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
When my husband and I first started dating, I shared some poems with him. I had just drafted a new poem – I’m not even sure what it was about – and he told me what he thought didn’t work. At first I was crushed and mad that a political scientist had the gall to critique my work. But then I realized that I had finally met a man who would take me seriously and honor my work by helping me to figure out how to improve it. And that’s what a good critique is, ultimately. It’s hard to find.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Write. And write some more. And then read. And read some more. Repeat.
Chloe Yelena Miller’s poetry chapbook, Unrest, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Chloe teaches writing online at Fairleigh Dickinson University, George Mason University and privately, and leads writing workshops at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. Contact her and read some of her work at www.chloeyelenamiller.blogspot.com.