Earlier this year I took a class on fairytale poetry, and, soon after, happened to read UnexplainedFevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey, a poetry collection that explores different fairytales through persona. Having just learned how difficult it is to write a good fairytale poem, I was captivated by this book. This week I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Gailey, and that is what I have to share with you today!
JHG: I’ve been typing poems into a computer since I was six years old, using my Dad’s old TRS-80. My handwriting is so atrocious that if I write something on a scrap of paper I usually can’t read it afterwards or figure out what I was trying to say.
I also advise my poetry students to read widely – short fiction, novels, memoirs, creative non-fiction, plays. I often find inspiration from scientific historical documents and short fiction, myself.
JHG: I read all the genres, but I think I like poetry the most because it is the most like a piece of visual art – you have to make an art work out of thoughts, ideas, images and sound that stays in the mind of a reader. It’s a challenge! Also, it lends itself well to people with short attention spans.
4) If you could switch places with any other poet, dead or alive, who would it be?
JHG: Louise Gluck has always had a great shoe collection, and she wrote a poem about a fancy cheese shop that she lives close to. That sounds like a good life to me! But seriously, I wouldn’t switch places – I love the time and place I live in, as apocalyptic and doom-bringing as the headlines seem. I mean, has there ever been a better time for women writers who write about comic book heroines, embittered fairy tale characters, and robots?
5) If you could choose one book to have never been written, what would it be?
JHG: If I’m being snarky, maybe Twilight. But seriously, every creation is someone’s baby. Why stamp something out?
6) What is the best advice you’ve ever received about writing?
JHG: Maybe something about “doing what you’re doing, but take it even further.” I think taking your own tendencies, obsessions, and styles to extremes almost always leads to more interesting risks.
7) What is the worst advice you’ve ever received about writing?
JHG: Write what you know. Sooo boring. Write what you want to know. Do some research, use your imagination. Don’t limit yourself – that’s how we end up with so many boring books each year, because someone was told “write what you know.”
8) So, your latest book, Unexplained Fevers, is your third book. What has your journey to publication been like?
JHG: It’s had its ups and downs. The publisher of my second book, She Returns to the Floating World, Kitsune Books, was going to publish Unexplained Fevers originally. I had art work, blurbs, the manuscript edited, everything ready. But the editor and publisher, Anne Petty, got very sick, closed the press, and sadly, recently passed away. It was a blow both emotionally (she was a wonderful person, presence and a real mover-and-shaker among the speculative literary community) and mentally to figure out what to do next. I sent the book out to a few publishers – including one I’d heard about in a tweet from Margaret Atwood, of all people, an Irish small publisher called New Binary Press – and the editor wrote back to say they would like to publish it. I actually had a couple of offers from really nice small presses for this third book, which was really encouraging. I’m happy I went with New Binary Press – and soon they’ll be putting out an e-book of Unexplained Fevers as well!
10) Would you be willing to share a poem or link to a poem from Unexplained Fevers?
You’re not lost in some magic wood,
and that blood on your hands isn’t from an innocent stag
at all. Princess, remember to fill your pockets
with more than bread crumbs, and
if you can’t sleep don’t blame the legumes
beneath the sheets. One look at that glass coffin
they’ve set up for you should tell you
everything you need to know about their intentions.
Remember a lot of girls end up dismembered, and
every briar rose has its thorn.
Forget the sword and magic stone,
forget enchantments and focus on the profit margin,
the hard line. Read the subtext.