Thursday, March 9, 2023 7:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. CST in-store and on-line:
In-Store: 5501 N. Lamar #A-105, Austin, Texas 78751 (masks required)
Zoom Event Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bookwoman-2nd-thursday-poetry-reading-and-open-mic-featuring-katie-hoerth-tickets-536611097237
Hoerth is the author of five poetry collections, including Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (Texas Review Press, 2022), The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue (Angelina River Press, 2018), Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014), and The Garden Uprooted (Slough Press, 2012). She is the recipient of the 2021 Poetry of the Plains Prize from North Dakota State University Press and the 2015 Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters for the best book of poetry in Texas. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines including Literary Imagination (Oxford University Press), Valparaiso Review, and I-70. She is an assistant professor at Lamar University and editor of Lamar University Literary Press.
CH: What is your first memory of poetry? Where would you say your love affair with poetry began?
KH: I had my very first poetry reading when I was in high school, and since then, I was hooked! My art teacher organized an “art evening” event where we decorated the school lobby with our artwork and set a stage for open mic poetry. We even served little coffee drinks too. I felt very sophisticated! Back then, I mostly just wrote angsty poetry about being a teenager as a means for sharing these feelings with my friends. I didn’t really know that poetry was a thing living people did until this art event, and from there on, I knew I wanted to keep writing.
CH: When did you start thinking of yourself as a writer? As a poet?
KH: I always tell my students that you should see yourself as a writer once you’ve written a poem that makes you feel. I don’t think I followed my own advice though when I was younger. Publication is what made me feel like I was a “real” poet. My first publication was my university’s undergraduate literary journal, Gallery, so I’d say once I saw my poem in print, it started to feel more “real” to me.
CH: What inspired you to pursue a career in academics? How has teaching influenced your work as a poet? What are some things you’ve learned from your students?
KH: Poetry is my first love, and teaching is my second. I’m so fortunate that every day, I get to do the two things I love most. My professors influenced me to want to give to others what they had given to me—a realization of my poetic voice. I wanted to do that for others. I write alongside my students and participate in their workshops, so they keep me on my toes.
My students at Lamar are AMAZING. I love them so much. This past fall, I was teaching a group of graduate students, and what struck me is that they were so very KIND to one another. I saw in them the power of kindness to nurture the poetic voice. So it was an invaluable reminder for me.
CH: In addition to your teaching responsibilities, you’re also the poetry editor for Lamar University Literary Press—yet you’ve managed to publish five full-length collections of poetry over the last eleven years. What is your writing practice like? How do you create the room necessary for your own work?
KH: I go through seasons in my writing where sometimes I’m wildly prolific, and sometimes I’m letting the creative brain rest and focus on other things like teaching or editing or life. I also know myself. I know that mornings are the best times for me to write. Summers are typically times when I’m able to get a lot of creative work done as well. If I’m not writing in the midst of a busy semester or when I have a big publishing project on my hands, I don’t beat myself up about it! I know I’ll get back to writing when I have the time and creative brainspace for it.
CH: Your website mentions that your poetry is informed by “Revisionist Mythmaking and New Formalism.” Your book The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue is certainly grounded in the former. Tell us a little about your take on mythmaking in poetry.
KH: Revisionist mythmaking is re-imagining the myths, stories, and legends that make up our cultural discourse. Our identities are made up of stories—whether it’s Biblical stories we might have learned in Sunday school or the fairy tales our parents told us growing up. I became interested in the way that stories influence and reflect our identities. Eve is absolutely my muse. My first book was entirely re-imagining Eve’s story in contemporary south Texas, which is where I’m from. I wanted Eve’s story to be one of empowerment, so I thought of the different perspectives from which to tell her story. I’ve also gotten really into classical mythology, retelling the stories of the goddesses, along with folk tales from Texas legends.
CH: I understand your life has long been rooted in south Texas. How has your view of that landscape changed over time? What is one of your favorite things about south Texas?
KH: I grew up in McAllen, Texas and spent much of my adult life in Edinburg, Texas as well. I love the Rio Grande Valley and will always consider it my home. It’s such a unique landscape—a place where ecosystems merge, which results in this amazing biodiversity. However, if you’ve been to the valley lately, you’ll see how fast it’s urbanizing! The strip malls and neighborhoods have all but snuffed out much of the original scrub forests.
My favorite thing about south Texas is the birds. It’s part of this flyway that millions of migratory birds pass through it every year. Living away from the valley has made me realize how magical it is, with its green parrots flocking in the trees, the chachalacas singing in the palm trees, and flocks of more grackles than anyone could dare count ascent on the HEB parking lots. I thought all of this was normal until I left, but there is no other place like it!
CH: The title and cover of your new collection, Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (Texas Review Press, 2022), makes me think not only of “traditional” industrial areas like Texas’ “golden triangle,” but also ones developed recently with the advent of fracking, like the oil and gas fields of south Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale. Please tell us a little about this book and the spark that started the collection.
KH: Yes! There are poems in this collection about all corners of Texas. That’s because just about all of Texas is affected, in one way or another, by the petrochemical industries. I live and teach in the Golden Triangle, so many of the poems are about the industrialization of the region and how it’s both a blessing and a curse. The poem also chronicles the impact of natural disasters and climate change on Texas. I moved to Beaumont just a week before Hurricane Harvey hit, so I was baptized in the flood water so to speak! I learned quickly what it meant, in a very real sense, to live and survive in southeast Texas. So the book is about my experience in Harvey told from an ecofeminist perspective. I also wrote a lot of sonnets in that book because I love sonnets!
CH: You have another collection, Borderlands Mujeres, coming out (or just out) from Stephen F. Austin University Press, and I understand it’s a bilingual collaboration. Please tell us about this collection.
KH: I’m so excited for this book to be released. I’ve been working with two amazing women on it—Corine McCormack Whittemore and Julieta Corpus. Corine is a graphic designer and artist, and her artwork inspired the entire collection. She takes photographs of cultural landscapes in the valley, and after seeing her artwork, I asked if she would mind if I wrote some poetry about them. Then, we asked my friend, Julieta, to join the project and write responses in her native Spanish. It’s a collaborative collection that explores womanhood in the borderlands. It hasn’t been published yet—we’ve run into some challenges with our publisher and the difficulties of printing colored artwork in a book. But we’re working on it and hope to have the book out soon.
CH: You’ve published poetry collections with a variety of presses, from small press to university-affiliate. What do you look for when you are trying to place a manuscript? What advice would you give to poets who are looking to publish their first full-length collection?
KH: The first question I ask myself when I’m thinking to submit to a publisher is whether or not I admire the other books that publisher has recently put out. So my best advice is to read voraciously, find the publisher who is putting out books you love and books like yours, and submit there. Also, don’t be discouraged by rejection. Persistence is so important in this field. Always keep growing, keep improving your manuscript, keep submitting, and keep reading. If you stick with it long enough, and doggedly enough, you will find success.
CH: The job of English professor comes with a lot of required reading. What do you read for fun?
KH: Lately, I’ve become a big fan of audiobooks! That way, I can rest my eyes or do something active while I’m “reading” for leisure. I’m currently reading Demon Copperhead, a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that re-imagines Dicken’s David Copperfield in contemporary Appalachia. I love novels that can read like poetry, and this is one of those. It’s beautiful and tragic all at once.