May 28

An Interview with Emily Alta Hockaday

Em & Cordie

Blot Lit Reviews is thrilled to have Emily Alta Hockaday featured in today’s interview. Not only a superb poet, as recognized in Lyle Carating’s review of What We Love and Will Not Give Up, but she is also dedicated to the writing community–which we love. We hope you enjoy what Emily has to share.

Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your art.

It is impossible to keep New York out of my writing. There is constant stimulation living in such a crowded, diverse space, and most of my poems speak to this kind of life. Specific neighborhoods and landmarks make it into my poems regularly. I just moved to a relatively quiet neighborhood in Queens whose boundary is delineated by a string of graveyards, and my street, in particular, dead ends into a graveyard. So it’s no surprise that lately my poetry has been on the more morbid side; exploring the practical side of death.

Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?

Echoing the last question, place probably has the biggest impact on my poetry. I have a series of Fire Island poems written while I was staying out there that explore the ecology of the island, and the impact of man on our environment. I also, like many poets, am influenced by my family and tend to write about them a fair amount.

As far as revision goes, though, my writing group has the most impact. Hearing their work certainly influences me as well.

How do you generate new ideas for your work?

If I don’t have anything going—a series or work-in-progress—I am a big fan of seeking out writing prompts or pulling a book off the shelf and choosing a line to respond to. I also find a lot of inspiration in the news. Specifically news in science and technology.

When have you been most satisfied with your work?

It’s hard to ever really feel satisfied, but I guess maybe the first time I read something aloud is when I feel the most satisfied. Then I start all the second-guessing.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

I’m lucky to belong to part of a writing group, and often they help me decide when a piece is finished, or at least help steer me to the place a piece needs to be. I also tend not to be someone who over-revises. Sometimes a piece is finished because I get bored with looking at it.

What has been your biggest failure and what − if any − lessons were learned?

I might be using a selective memory here, but I can’t think of any great failures. Lots of small ones, maybe.

Tell us about your commitment to the writing community. Outside of your work, what else do you have going on? Or what do you see starting up in your future?

In addition to the aforementioned writing group, of which I’ve been a part since graduating from NYU’s MFA program in 2009, I also cohost a reading series with poet Monica Wendel. Our readings spotlight one press each event and feature local writers who’ve published with them. In the past we’ve featured Spoon River Poetry Review, Dancing Girl Press, Cleaver, Alice James Books, Newtown Literary, and others.

I’m fortunate to have a day job in the publishing community; I work as Assistant Editor for two science fiction magazines—Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. The Associate Editor for our company’s mystery fiction magazines, Jackie Sherbow, and I have led our magazines’ participation in the Brooklyn Book Festival for the past four years; this is a fantastic literary event in the New York area and attracts countless writers and publishers.

What is your biggest pet peeve with the writing community, trends, etc. today?

My biggest pet peeve is probably a common one. The lack of representation of female and female identified writers is not only discouraging but also kind of absurd. I can’t help but look at the disparity and think: Is it still the nineteen-fifties?

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a few projects at the moment; two small chapbooks that are quite different. One is a little silly and involves bar haikus, and the other is a series of poems exploring Ophelia of Hamlet. I’m also in the seemingly never-ending process of organizing a full length collection. That manuscript changes every time I write a new poem. (Some day I’ll just have to say: This is done!) Quiet recently I’ve also started working on a longer piece of fiction.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I am in the middle of the Patternist series by Octavia Butler and am really enjoying it. She’s one of the greats. I also just received Alina Gregorian’s chapbook of poetry, Navigational Clouds, just out from Monk Books, which I am digging into as well. I subscribe to the New Yorker and try to keep up to date with that, but it’s a daunting task and I’m pretty far behind at the moment.


Blotterature would like to thank Emily Hockaday for giving her time and allowing us to review her work. To find out more about what Emily is up to visit her website at http://www.emilyhockaday.com.

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  1. Blot Lit Reviews: What We Love And Will Not Give Up by Emily Alta Hockaday » Blotterature

    […] An Interview with Emily Alta Hockaday » […]

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