Heather Hughes earned an MLA in foreign literature from Harvard University Extension and an MFA from Lesley University. She’s a multifarious creative professional; poet, blogger, publishing professional, student, and teacher – this artist has much to offer us! She’s originally from Miami, but now she also calls metro Boston home and if forced to choose, she’s more of a cat than a dog. Her work has recently appeared in Vinyl Poetry, Split Rock Review, Mass Poetry, Jai-Alai Magazine, Columbia Review, and Berkeley Poetry Review… just to name a few! – Find her online: birdmaddgirl.com
[Me] Poet, blogger, content contributor, publishing professional, teacher – You’re a great many things! Is your professional diversity out of necessity or by design (or both).
[Heather] I think it's mostly by temperament … So, I guess that’s by both design and necessity. I need a lot of balls in the air, to sort of keep myself rolling and keep myself relatively sane. I tend to like a lot of stability in my financial / work-life. I also tend to get involved in a lot of smaller projects: I've been a yoga teacher – I stopped doing that because it wasn’t a thing I was putting enough time into, any longer. I fairly recently, in the past two years, started doing letterpress printing – which I love . So, that's a big part of what I'm up to, more recently. I've “off and on” done a lot of blogging, and I'm wanting to get back into that ... but it's a time thing ... I need a 9 day week!
[Me] “9 day week” –Yes, I'll second that!
[Heather] Because I want to do all the things!
[Me] Absolutely, absolutely – well as artists, we have all these propensities and often, when we put all our attention in basket #1., the others shout "hey, what about me", from the dark, in their corners.
[Heather] Pretty much, yeah! That sort of cross-disciplinary activity is productive for me. When I did my MFA, that was explicitly part of the program. And something I really enjoyed about it, was that one of the things we were asked to do, for core credit, was something outside your genre: “Get out of your genre box! Go do the other thing over there...” – there was a lot of freedom!
[Me] Content contribution, Prose, blogging, poetry, etc… as a writer, would you agree that these are all tributaries of the same river?
[Heather] They're all related, in that, they all become part of doing the work. But tributaries of the same river... I'm not totally sure... one of the reasons why I like doing the letterpress work, is that it's very physical. So I have to pay attention in a different kind of way than the way I’m paying attention when sitting down to work on a poem and, switching that attention up is, for me, a very productive thing. So, if you want to talk about the source of a river, then yeah, (gesturing) it's probably way up here in the mountains, but as you get down into the plains – we get the Delta effect.
[Me] But, do you see them influencing each other, so for example: does letterpress have an effect on your prose?
[Heather] It doesn't have much of an effect on my prose, I don't think. Though it may start to have an effect on my poetry (at some point) cause I might start to think in terms of: “Oh... that would be really hard to typeset” & “Don't create on that white space, you're a Terrible Person!“ Hasn't done that yet, so it's not a direct influence in that way.
[Me] I’d like to talk briefly about your blog. In your most recent post, you said you were pleased to be getting back to: “off-the-cuff” writing. Can you discuss the function that blog writing serves for you, as a writer?
[Heather] There are sort of two things that I'm thinking about with regard to getting back to blogging. One of them is this thing I started out talking about, which is the, “off-the-cuff writing” –which– for me, is a lot about letting myself have a space, publicly, for the messy thoughts about having a “writing life” – that I have all the time! It often feels like these conversations happen in the corner. Many of us do have all these overlapping fears, concerns, worries, and anxieties… they’re not sort of talked about often in a written, concrete way. So, I'm interested in charting, like: “So am I always going to feel this anxious about my writing life? Does it get better? – I don't know.
[Me] So, you're kind of touching down on what academia is neglecting to acknowledge?
[Heather] Well, I think that there's a lot of vulnerability involved. It's a big risk to be vulnerable in that way, and it seems to me that what a lot of people do to have a writing life & writing career, is to talk themselves and their peers into having confidence. And I think as writers, also, we pour a lot of that vulnerability into the work. So it's hard to have any left over to talk about in the open and, in these other spaces… So I'm interested in doing both! I mean, there are people who do this, but it feels like the culture, at large, is to not be vulnerable, to be like: “no, I got this!” I'm interested in what happens when you say, “no, I don't got this... but I'm doing it”
[Me] Which Is refreshing to hear from my perspective because I'm looking at, you know, the rest of my life from the stage of 22 years old... looking at grad school, to know that there are writers out there who’re interested in piercing the veil and talking about the more “human” aspect of a very daring craft!
[Heather] It’s a long haul. And again, I think most people do have these conversations, but they're not as frequently coming into more disseminated space – they're happening in more closed environments.
What a wonderful opportunity it was, interviewing this poet! Due it its length, this is merely the first installment. Stay watchful for when I post the next sections and, as always thanks for reading!