The Habitual Poet: Jessie Carty
Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 10:20AM
Lalanii R. Grant in The Habitual Poet

Installment #57

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The Habitual Poet is an ongoing series of contributor interviews. If you are a Poemeleon contributor and would like to participate copy & paste the Q's from below and e-mail your answers to: 

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Q: Where do you prefer to get your books?

A: At poetry readings.  


Q: How many poetry books do you think you own, and what percentage of these have you actually read?

A: Ok since I am at home I had to go check . . . Rough estimate of 250 of which I have read 90% I’d say. Only have a few left in my pile I haven’t read yet.


Q: When, where and how do you usually read? (i.e. at bedtime under the covers, cover to cover, etc.)

A: I always have a book with me but usually I get to read in the few hours at night after dinner and before going to bed in my comfy living room chair. I tend to alternate between physical books and then reading some online lit mags on my iPhone.


Q: What books of poetry have you read this month?

A:  I finished “Tongue” by Rachel Flynn which was fantastic and I’m reading an anthology of International Poetry right now. I’m sure I finished more books than that, but it has been a busy month!


Q: What other books/magazines/backs of cereal boxes have you read recently?

A: Online I finished an issue of “Pedestal” most recently. In print I’m reading a Geisha memoir, another non-fiction book for a future review, and lots of student argument essays.


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Q: When, where, how do you write, and why?(i.e. at dusk on a dock, longhand in a notebook, because...)

A: I still start most of my poetry in a notebook that I keep with me. I, however, tend to work on prose on the computer first. I usually have about an hour at night to write a bit or sometimes in between classes.


Q: How many first drafts do you think you complete in a week? A month?

A: I think I still complete about 3 first drafts in a week and maybe closer to 15 by the time a month is over.


Q: How long do you wait before revising a poem?

A: Depends, but in general I like to let a poem sit in my notebook for a month before I type it up and really start tweaking it.


Q: When do you know a poem is “done”?

A: When I’m not longer changing anything as I read the poems back to myself from the computer screen.


Q: Have you ever given up an invitation so you could stay home and write?

A:  I don’t think so although I almost said no when my husband offered, almost 4 years ago now, to take on the burden of sole breadwinner for a while.


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Q: What is your system for sending out work?

A: As I revise work I keep it in a document called new/revise. Once I feel it is “done” I transfer it over to a Ready2Sub document. I also keep a spreadsheet of places I want to send my work to so I can just scroll down and find a place to send my work where I think it would fit (and which has an open reading period!)



Q: What have you more recently received: a rejection notice or an acceptance? Was it what you expected?

A: This week I had three rejects and two acceptances which is a pretty good percentage. I was a bit disappointed in the recent poetry rejection because it was for a local contest that I thought I might have a shot at placing in.



Q: Where do you generally publish: online, in print, or a mix, and do you have a preference?

A: I like both although I find I am publishing more online. There are still, however, a few specific print journals that I truly admire and subscribe to in which I continue to submit to.



Q: What is the worst (or weirdest, or best) experience you’ve had with a journal/magazine/press & its editor(s)? (No names, please!)

A: I stopped submitting work (and really stopped writing) for about 5 years around the year 2000 which was soon after receiving this note: Sometimes poems are only meant for the consumption of the writer and not other readers. That one hurt a bit, but I don’t think it is why I quit writing for a bit. I just needed a break.


Q: Have you ever received any fan (or hate) mail? If so, what was that like?

A: I have received some kind notes from readers, especially in regards to my first full-length collection. It never ceases to amaze me when someone takes the time to say thank you. It reminds me to do the same with writers whose work I also truly love.



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Practical considerations


Q: What is your day job, and how does it affect your writing?

A: Right now I am a PT (ha!) adjunct at a community college. It does reduce the amount of time I have to write, but I also find myself inspired by working with students so it hasn’t reduced that well.


Q: How does your significant other’s occupation affect your writing life?

A: It doesn’t. Thank goodness!


Q: Have there been periods in your life when you couldn't write?

A: I hinted at this above. I’ve had the normal “writer’s block” (although I don’t really believe in it; I think you need fallow periods), but I did step away from writing in my mid 20’s to focus on my then career, spouse etc. I didn’t think I “needed” to write anymore. I was wrong about that!


Q: Do you have a “poetry budget”?

A: Not at this point. I do like to put the limited amount of money I get for teaching poetry (and from selling a few books) into my PayPal account so I can then turn around and buy books easier online.


Q: Have you ever suffered (or made someone else suffer) in the name of your art? (i.e. picked up your kids late from school so you could finish a poem, forgone lunch to buy a book, left a relationship because the other person just didn't understand, etc.)

A: I hope I haven’t, but I was worried when my first poetry collection came out because there are some frank poems that address some very personal family issues. Everyone has been very open about it.


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Random nonsense


Q: Do you have any superhuman abilities? (i.e. can you tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue, or write a double sestina with both hands tied behind your back?)

A: I can cross my eyes at will.


Q: You write a scathing poem about your mother and she learns about it. You:

a.) Move to South America and leave no forwarding address

b.) Delete the poem and insist it never existed

c.) Show it to her (she’s already written you out of the will anyway)

d.) Do none of the above; instead you: _____

A: c.) Show it to her (she’s already written you out of the will anyway) I’d give anything to talk to my mother about my writing. She passed away when I was 17. She loved to read.


Q: If the best medical specialists in the world told you that if you didn’t give up your poetry habit today you would die in six months, would you get your affairs in order or would you leave that up to your family?

A:  The practical me would try to get things in order.



Q: If you could be a vowel, which one would you be and why?

A: I. As much as I hate to say it, I do still have a lot of I in my poetry (and this response). But, I’m not always writing about I as in me. Sometimes I mean I as in everyone else who has been through this same situation.


Q: Finally, what piece of advice would you most like to share with our readers? (This can be on writing, the writing life, or anything else...)

A: Read. Not just poetry, but anything you can get your hands on. But read, and support your other writers by reading their work. Being a writer/poet is being part of a community. I still consider myself to be a reader first.





Jessie Carty's writing has appeared in publications such as, MARGIE, decomP and Connotation Press. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks At the A & P Meridiem (Pudding House 2009) and The Wait of Atom (Folded Word 2009) as well as a full length poetry collection, Paper House (Folded Word 2010). Jessie teaches at RCCC in Concord, NC. She is also the photographer and editor for Referential Magazine.  She can be found around the web, especially at where she blogs about everything from housework to the act of blogging itself.


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