What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and eventually graduated from my hometown University of Notre Dame, where my father’s served as the subject librarian of philosophy and theology since the ’80s. Both my parents are originally from the Northeast but moved to the Great Lakes region in middle school—my dad’s old stomping grounds being Chicago, my mom’s being East Lansing—so it certainly feels like home.
Favorite places or features of the region?
The lakes are still a magical place to me, no matter how much my friends from the coasts tease me for calling Lake Michigan “the beach.” There’s something about the stillness, the forgottenness—the unmapped waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula, the dilapidated barns of backwoods Illinois—that’s simultaneously nostalgic and apocalyptic, a past and future that can lie down together in the same overgrown field, happy to be flown over by the rest of the world.
What is your favorite season of the year?
Especially now that I live in the South, I’d have to say the season I miss most is autumn. In Louisiana, the heat persists until Halloween, and the foliage just slowly turns from green to brown; it’s tragically anticlimactic. I find myself reminiscing every year about the veritable rainbow of leaves that spanned a single city block back home.
Has the Midwest been an influence or inspiration for your work, and if so, how?
I never considered myself a writer concerned much with place until recently, but now I see the indelible mark both Michiana and Louisiana have left on my work. As a burgeoning writer, I didn’t want my voice to be limited by region or other obvious markers of cultural context, but now the notion of avoiding it seems laughable. In fact, even before my first book, Giving Godhead (Delete Press, 2017), garnered any attention, I was forced to confront the fact that my experience of fundamentalist Christianity (on which the book is based) is primarily a flyover state problem. A lot of my peers in graduate school who were raised in more liberal communities didn’t get all the biblical allusions, so I had to admit my target audience fell closer to my Midwestern roots.
Pencil, pen, typewriter, computer?
When a line comes to me out of the blue, I’ll take whatever I can get: pen and paper, the notepad function on my phone, eyeliner on exposed skin—anything. But I’m not afraid to say that when it comes to putting all those lines together into a finished piece, I’ve fully converted to the computer format. In short, I don’t like to see any of the poem’s original fervor lost in translation, so I’d rather cut out the middleman and put the original fervor straight on the page than secretly know its true life is as a crayon scrawl on a neighbor’s wall.
What’s the best job you’ve ever had?
The best job I’ve ever had may very well be the one I have now, as managing editor of an industry trade magazine. The actual writing I do for work is quite dry, but I find plenty of time to write creatively on breaks, and the process of building a 100-plus-page publication from scratch every month on a 9-5 schedule satisfies my Type A cravings for organization and control like nothing else.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
For my personal disposition, teaching composition in graduate school might be the worst job I’ve ever had. Teaching poetry was a whole different animal, which I deeply enjoyed, but it turns out that on top of my social and performance anxiety, I’m simply not that good an actor—the students could tell I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter, and I fear it was contagious.
What do you do in your free time?
With a full-time job and any semblance of a social life, I tend to think of writing as my go-to free-time activity, but lately I’ve also been making an effort to cook, do yoga, and bask in the Louisiana sun whenever I can. I also routinely watch horror and dystopian sci-fi for writerly inspiration, which may connect some dots for new readers of my work.
Favorite music or musician?
I’d describe my musical taste as lo-fi progressive/psychedelic indie-folk, with a dash of punk thrown in from adolescence. Current obsessions include Parquet Courts, Midlake, Fruit Bats, and Pavement (may the ’90s never die).
Favorite food or beverage?
Diner-style breakfast food is one of the few things I still feel near-religious reverence for. It’s hard to find outside national chains in the South, so I suppose that’s another telltale sign of Midwestern nostalgia.
Do you have a pet?
Yes, I am the proud house-servant of a very fluffy and affectionate gray and white cat with a name that can only be categorized as pop culture stream of consciousness: Catherine Stevie Nicola Tesla. I grew up with cats in Indiana, so upon moving down South, I came to miss their perfect complement to an introvert’s existence, and got Catherine (then simply “Cat Stevens”) from a friend shortly after graduating from LSU in 2015.
What’s on your radar now? Current projects?
I’m currently scoping out potential press-homes for two full-length poetry projects:
- The Mother Wart, an autobiographical meditation on motherhood, childbirth, infancy, and female sexuality; and
- Metamortuary, a modern-day reimagining of Ovid’s Metamorphoses highlighting uniquely postmodern transformation narratives.
I’m also working on releasing a 7-inch record of poetry recordings with the founding editor of Fine Print, Christopher Payne, who’s also enlisted me to start editing for the publication this year.