I had a year when I was in graduate school where actually the effort was to write and publish enough work online that could bury the work that I was embarrassed by. It’s so funny, the things we come to regret or take on a stale flavor with time are the things that really do stay the longest and God forbid if it’s something that really prompts a backlash that’s really when you’re haunted. On the other hand you see excellent work become something you continue to return to, too.
SA: You mentioned you’ll be publishing an emerging writer alongside a bestselling author. Traditionally the little magazine is a space for an emerging space is to gain entrance into a wider world. Other than ‘don’t publish too early’ what are some of the things that you think emerging writers should be thinking about in terms of best practices?
SJ: One bit of advice I would give and perhaps not the nicest thing to say: I don’t think people read enough. I really don’t. I think a lot of emerging writers are writing more than they’re reading and I think it should be the other way around. And so if you in that moment in your early career where you’re starting to think about these prestigious literary journals and you want to be in them without really knowing why. Why do you want the New Yorker to publish your poem? is a question that you should have to ask yourself at some point. I think people need to read. Read aggressively. I’m always telling people to read five poems for every one poem you write. Five stories for every story you write. You start to see this republic that you are now a citizen of, that you are attempting to enter and exist in. I think one way that emerging writers are so vulnerable are these blinders. You’re clueless.
I have a poem about kudzu in Prelude to Bruise. When I set out to write it, I remember thinking I was the first person in the world, a poet from the South, to write a damn poem about kudzu. You look and find hundreds and hundreds of really great poems about kudzu from decades and decades ago. You’re not new. That’s something that emerging writers have to make a sense of.