Epiphany: William Trevor began his adult life as a sculptor and later described his writing as chipping away at a block of marble. Are you a chipper or a builder? In other words, do you chip away at a block of writing, or are you more methodical, building up the block brick by brick?
Strummer Hoffston: I’m deeply committed to not knowing what kind of writer I am. I rely on spontaneity and my habits change constantly. In that way I hope I’m evading stale, pat poems. Writing poetry is pleasurable but also grueling and exasperating. I almost always start with less information than I need—and I suppose this makes me a builder. But I can also dismantle what I bring to the page—chipping at, perhaps, a murky idea that I’ve decided is worth communicating.
What was your first publication?
Two poems in Salt Hill.
Five books you are reading or thinking about now?
Mark Levine’s Travels of Marco; Stephen Dunn’s Loosestrife; Tomas Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven; Kenneth Rexroth’s Complete Poems; and Osip Mandelstam’s 50 Poems.
If you had to inhabit a fictional world, what would it be (i.e., the environment of which novel or short story or poem)?
Anything Mark Strand! Sleeping With One Eye Open, The Accident, Keeping Things Whole—all the early stuff. The Unusual Arrival of a Mysterious Letter. From the Long Sad Party. I Had Been a Polar Explorer. The list is endless.
Most interesting day job you've had (from the perspective of a writer)?
I worked as an assistant to my poetry professor from NYU, Mark Rudman, for over ten years. I typed dictation for several of his books which was a profound experience for a young poet in terms of improving cognition and the quality of my work. We also spent hours fawning over his beloved pet turtle, T.
Narrative poems? Elegies? Odes? Which do you prefer to write?
One sentence of advice regarding writing?
Don’t overthink it: don’t correct and edit as you write.
Your title: was it your first choice?
In a nutshell, what are you working on now?
My MFA thesis, which will become my first book.
What's an interview question you've never been asked that you wish had been?
Can you explain why the Rolling Stones are superior to the Beatles?
Strummer Hoffston is a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is pursuing her mfa. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Salt Hill, Per Contra, frankmatter, and Across the Margin.