Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chapbook Chat: Trish Hopkinson Discusses Footnote

cover image of Footnote by Trish Hopkinson

Author: Trish Hopkinson

PublisherLithic Press
Publication date: 2017

Waiting Around by Trish Hopkinson
                         after "Walking Around" by Pablo Neruda

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness—
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.

originally appeared in Voicemail Poems
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Author photo of Trish Hopkinson
photo credit: Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Chagrin River Review; and her third chapbook is forthcoming from Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at

Author Facebook page:


Author blog:

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[This interview was conducted via email in June 2017.]

Please tell us a little bit about Footnote.

TH: Footnote is my first official chapbook published by a real press! It’s a collection of response poems as homage to some of my favorite artists. Most of the poems have been published in literary magazines over the last few years, and I’m honored to have them all put together in such a striking way by Lithic Press.

How did you arrive at the title?

TH: Originally, the title was the same as the final poem “Footnote to a Footnote.” When Lithic began working on a design for the cover, they suggested simply Footnote, which was perfect, since each poem in the collection indeed includes a footnote in reference to the original artwork that inspired the poem.

You mentioned that your chapbook contains response poems—poems inspired by other artists, whether poets, writers, or filmmakers. When you brought up “by other artists,” the first thing I thought of was ekphrastic poetry. While the common understanding of ekphrasis is poetry in response to visual art, in a 2008 essay “Notes on Ekphrasis” by Alfred Corn, he mentions that poetry in response to “works of music, cinema, or choreography might also qualify as instances of ekphrasis.” Do you consider some of the poems in Footnote to be ekphrastic?

TH: While I think that most of these poems are closer to the tradition of response poetry or found poetry, in which poems are written to respond to another text or artist’s work, I do think some of these poems are ekphrastic, specifically the poems in response to films. For example, “From Her to Eternity” is a poem that encompasses not only the story of the Win Wenders and Peter Handke’s film Wings of Desire but its origins in Rilke’s Duino Elegies—and even the soundtrack, with lyrics from Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s song as the title of the poem. There’s definitely some gray area within all of these definitions.

Tell us a bit about your writing process in forming a response. What techniques did you use? For example, did you write replies to a poem in a call and response sort of way, use a part of the poem as an epigraph, imitate or echo the forms of a poem, etc. “Waiting Around,” the poem at the beginning of this interview, is after Pablo Neruda. Tell us a bit about how the poem is “after” Neruda.

TH: “Waiting Around” is a great example of one way to approach response poetry. One way to respond to a poem is to write your own version from a different perspective, line by line or stanza by stanza. For “Waiting Around,” I responded line by line to Neruda’s poem “Walking Around” using a female speaker, rather than the original male speaker. Another one of my favorite approaches to found poems is to take the original poem, reverse the order of the lines (the last line first, the first line last), and then do an erasure. This technique has a tendency to reverse the meaning from the original to something opposing within the newly created poem. I used this technique in “Reconstructed Happiness,” which is in response to “I am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. His original poem is quite somber, while the result of the erasure in reverse has an uplifting, empowering feel.

In a 2011 essay “Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript,” April Ossmann writes “[T]he biggest mystery to emerging and sometimes even established poets is how to effectively order a poetry manuscript.” How did you order Footnote? Was it something you had in mind early in the writing process, for example or did you write the poems with a strategy in mind? What were some of your considerations?

TH: Honestly, I think selecting and ordering poems for a poetry book manuscript is the most challenging part of the process. These poems were written over a few years, and after teaching a community poetry writing workshop on response poetry, I realized I had quite a few response poems. So in this case, the collection was a surprise waiting for me in already completed work. I gathered them together, printed them out, and tried to order them in such a way that each poem connected in some way to the one that followed, while also paying attention to starting and ending with one of my favorite pieces. It never hurts to start strong and end strong. Once the collection was accepted by Lithic Press, there was some tweaking to the order to flow smoothly page wise (two-page poems on facing pages, etc.) and I swapped out a couple of the poems for stronger poems during the editing. It’s hardly an exact science, and the order of any collection will often be affected by the theme, style, variety of format, white space, and physical limitations of the book itself. I’ve ordered the poems for a few anthologies as Editor-in-Chief for Orogeny, and it’s interesting to see how poems from several different poets often connect into a final collection. That said, it’s never easy, but can be fun and surprising.

What is one of your favorite poems in the book, or one that is important to you? Why is it a favorite (or important)? How did it come to be?

TH: There are several poems in this collection that I love, mostly because they are a reflection of some other artwork that is important to me, but there is one that stands out and has a more personal meaning. “In a Room Made of Poetry” is a found poem based on the tradition of cento poetry and consists of several complete lines from Laura Hamblin’s book The Eyes of a Flounder. Hamblin is a dear friend and was one of my poetry professors during my undergrad at Utah Valley University. She introduced me to many of the poets featured in my book, including Neruda and Rilke, and her classes were where I learned so much about how to deeply appreciate not only the poetry of others, but other art as well. I was thrilled when Lithic chose a portion of this same poem as part of the cover design, which to me, became a dedication to her. The timing couldn’t have been better; she is retiring and teaching her last poetry class this summer when Footnote is being released.

In a Room Made of Poetry

Think how loss pulls language from us until
it swallows everything,
like undiagnosed cancer,
the accumulated past—
less eye, less mouth, less heart.
We had, not much—
thin coffee, thin socks. Here you can
wait, with desire, with
roots exposed
for an open womb. That heart-balm
as hope. The raw
bent—a bowl of fruit
in a language I never knew . . .
without tails, crosses of ts. The autonomous dot of a
blackness answers, There are only ifs.

Source: Hamblin, Laura. The Eyes of a Flounder.
(originally published in The Found Poetry Review: Issue 8)

Please tell us a bit about your use of found poetry in the chapbook.

TH: As a lover of all things words, found poetry is not just a way to respond to another text but it’s often word play as well. There are many different techniques that can be used to “find” a new poem in an existing text. I mentioned one above, erasure, which is also often referred to as “blackout poetry,” and even when doing an erasure, I often like to apply other methods to change it up a bit. Another fun approach is to sort the words by length and then create what’s called a “snowball” poem by ordering specifically selected words from shortest to longest. My poem “Strange Verses” employs this technique to create a set of reverse snowball poems from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The result was pretty cool—I ended up with four columns/stanzas that can be read in many different directions and angles.

The Found Poetry Review has this quote by Anne Dillard about found poetry:
By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.
 In the found poems in the chapbook, did you find yourself ‘doubling’ the original text’s context in one or more of them? If so how? If not, what relationship do you see between the original text and the poem(s)?

TH: I think so. The way I often describe this to others is as a “palimpsest,” in which the original text is erased/removed and a new text is written in its place while still leaving remnants of the original. In this sense, I think it is a form of doubling, or a way to contribute to the larger conversation in which we as writers participate. Response poetry is my way of communicating with both the original texts and the reader.

Sometimes, I nerd out on this whole poetry/writing thing a bit much and well, thinking through these responses resulted in my creation of this Venn diagram:

Found poetry venn diagram

I imagine the topics that you responded to varied widely. Even so, did you find yourself coming back to the same handful of themes, despite what it was you were responding to? I’m thinking of writer obsessions, perhaps in grand themes like love or death, or even images or words. For example, I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that dust, particles, dots, and related sorts of things pop up frequently in my writing. Tony Hoagland, in his book Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft (p82), wrote “In the work of a good poet, it is usually possible to discern one or two characteristic emotional zones in which he thrives: melancholy, rage, pity, vengeful rationality, seduction.” How did those obsessions reveal themselves to you? Did you find yourself surrendering to it? 

TH: Since this book was sort of a surprise collection based on the discovery that I tend to respond to other poets/art in my writing, the only other theme I think often emerges is one of feminism. I think that most of these poems reflect my feminist slant to poetry in general.

What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?

Most of the poems were previously published and felt finished. One that still felt incomplete was a Plath response poem entitled “Daddies.” I have reworked and reformatted the poem several times and toward the end of the editing process, I dug in hard and finally was able to revise the poem into what I feel is a finished state. (At least for now.) Once I sent that poem off, it did feel like the final edits were complete and the book was ready to be sent to print

What are you working on now?

TH: I’m aiming toward a full-length collection someday, but I feel like I need much more material before pulling together a new collection. I’ve tried piecing a few different projects together with poems I’ve written in the last couple of years, and there’s just not a nice, organic set making itself visible to me. Ultimately, I need to write many more poems to help my next collection materialize. Other than that, I’m always working on my poetry blog, which has become such an important part of my interaction with the larger poetry community. My blog was also a surprise and started as just a way to keep track of poetry resources, submission calls, etc. I started sharing it on social media and found there was definitely a need. Since October of 2014, my blog following has continued to grow and I’ve been honored by the turn out! It’s been a pleasure to interact with fellow poets, writers, editors, artists, etc. who are all looking for an easy way to access and share information. Sometimes, the things we never intend to create become the greatest of gifts.

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