Thursday, March 10, 2022 7:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
BookWoman is delighted to present Ann Hudson, author of the chapbook Glow, released as the first title from Next Page Press in 2021. Hudson is also the author of The Armillary Sphere (Ohio University Press, 2006), winner of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, Orion, Crab Orchard Review, Colorado Review, North American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, SWWIM, and elsewhere. She is a senior editor for RHINO, and teaches at a Montessori school in Evanston, Illinois.
CH: What is your first recollection of poetry? When did you first begin to experiment with writing?
AH: I can remember walking down my sunlit street reading a book of Frost’s poems – not sure where I got it from or why I seemed to do so much reading while walking those days – but it wasn’t a very high-quality book and the spine broke easily. The book broke open to “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and eventually I noticed the poem on the opposite page, “For Once, Then, Something.” That was the first poem I consciously memorized, walking up and down my street.
I’d long had an interest in writing, but it was something private. In high school I began writing out in the open, in part because it was something to keep me occupied through my loneliness. Everyone around me seemed to have this friendship thing figured out, and I often sat alone, so pulling out a notebook kept me from feeling mortified about that. Later, later, I found things to say.
CH: What draws you to poetry as an expressive medium? When did you first begin to think of yourself as a poet?
AH: I’ve never had a knack or interest in building narrative – I admire those who do, but I think more in image, word, rhythm: the small, intense building blocks of poems. Toward the end of high school I was thinking more along those lines, and by college I was curious about writing workshops. I couldn’t get enough of them.
CH: I understand your full-length collection, The Armillary Sphere (Ohio State University Press, 2006), was selected for the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. Please tell us a little about this book.
AH: Like many first books, it was written over a long period of time, with a huge variety of influences. I’d been submitting that manuscript in one form or another for ten years, though by the time it got picked up, it bore only faint resemblance to the manuscript in its earliest form. I’d been sending it out so long it was a huge shock when it actually was selected.
CH: Congratulations on the publication of Glow (Next Page Press, 2021). How did this collection come about? What prompted you toward its subject?
AH: Sheer accident. I spent a summer researching some family history, and as part of the project brought my family to Ottawa, Illinois where I encountered the story of the Radium Girls. Marie Curie had been on my radar for several years before that, and when I started to investigate the two at once, I found myself writing more and more poems about radium and its ripple effects in the world. You can read a little more about all this in an essay I wrote for Naoko Fujimoto.
CH: I love the way the poems of Glow are sequenced. Tell us a little about your process in selecting and sequencing these poems.
AH: Originally most of these poems were in a full-length collection I was writing about my father, but they are so different in tone and scope they got lost in the larger manuscript. I eventually pulled them out. Once I saw the poems on their own I recognized their particular energy; the voices had more resonance. It was a female-centric collection, which also seemed important to give more space to.
CH: I’m always intrigued to read poetry in conversation with science. The poems of Glow certainly fit in this category, and from its title, I suspect the same might be said of the poems of The Armillary Sphere. How do you see the relationship between science and poetry?
AH: My father was a scientist; as I was growing up I thought of him as vastly different from me, but as it turns out I think we have some similar ways we investigate the world. Science and poetry rely on close observation, pattern recognition, linguistic precision, and associative thought. I suppose it’s only natural that my writing has a lot of scientific influence, both in subject matter and also in approach.
CH: How would you describe your development as a writer between the publications of The Armillary Sphere and Glow?
AH: The core of The Armillary Sphere was written in my 20s, whereas I wrote many of the Glow poems nearly 20 years later. My father was ill and dying at that point, which cast those poems in a different light for me. I was not only a different writer, but in a very different point in my life. Since The Armillary Sphere was written I have raised children, changed jobs, moved… a lot of water under that bridge, I guess. With all those life changes has also come a shift in the way I write. I don’t have the kind of time I once had. Eavan Boland described having a notebook open on the ironing board so she could jot down lines while she pressed clothes – I think about that often.
CH: I understand you are a senior editor at RHINO. How has working in this capacity shaped your own work?
AH: I have so much admiration for the people who submit work to our journal. Whenever I’m feeling lazy about my own writing, I think about all the writers who are submitting through our portal, and I sit myself right back down at my desk to work. And work can mean a huge variety of things: submitting, revising, drafting, reading, daydreaming, doodling.
I take my work at RHINO very seriously – I enjoy reading submissions and I’m impressed with the variation, talent, and inventiveness of the work we see. It’s heartening and inspiring, and while we can’t accept every poem we admire, I’m so grateful to be able to read it.
CH: When you are looking for inspiration, where do you turn?
AH: I’m also a Montessori teacher, work that I dearly love, work which keeps me moving, engaged with people, and communicating on a steady basis. (It also has a lot to do with observation, precision, pattern recognition, and association.) So after a full day of teaching I like to come home and take the needle off the record for a bit. I need quiet and space. Walking, reading, writing, doodling, working on a crossword puzzle, or solitary tasks like that can fill that space.
I do read a fair amount of non-fiction, and I’m particularly interested in science. I like the names for things, I like to understand how things work. On the other hand, I don’t have a good memory for science – I need to read things over and over. And I read as much poetry as I can get my hands on. I have very smart, talented, and generous friends, and I’m always asking them what I should be reading next.
CH: What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?
AH: I tend to read many books at once. I’ve just finished Carrie Fountain’s marvelous book The Life. I’ve got African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song (ed. Kevin Young) on my desk that I read in regularly, as well as the Franklin edition of Emily Dickinson; she’s a beloved and consistent favorite. Waiting in the wings: Terrance Hayes’ To Float in the Space Between; Darren C. Demaree’s a child walks in the dark, Katie Peterson’s Life in a Field, and Garous Abdolmalekian’s Lean Against This Late Hour. I tend to keep a shopping cart open at Bookshop and then treat myself to books when I can.