An Interview with Veronica Golos

ROOTWORK is a collection of poems in the voices of John Brown and Mary Day Brown, white Abolitionists against slavery

By Teresa Dovalpage
Published on LatinoLA: May 4, 2015

An Interview with Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos is also the author of VOCABULARY OF SILENCE (Red Hen Press). Her first book, A BELL BURIED DEEP, co-winner of the 16th Annual Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press), was nominated for a 2004 Pushcart Prize by Edward Hirsch, and adapted for stage at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.

Golos is the poetry editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Harvard Divinity School), and co-editor of the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. She lives in Taos with her husband, author David P?®rez.

Q : What advice would you give to young people who want to become poets, or who already know they are poets but are unsure about what to do and where to take their writing?

A: First: Read, read, read! Sometimes new writers feel if they read other poets they will sound like them--but that's not a bad thing at all. If you want to become a poet, read poetry; if you are a poet and what to know the next step, read; Underline, mark your books up, copy in handwriting poems you love, write back to the poems that move you.

Go to poetry readings, listen to other poets, buy their books, speak to them.

Finally, write, write, write.

Learn the craft. Craft is an aid, to help you express what you need to say; it is a tool, use it.

If you want to send your poems out, first look at where your favorite poets sent their work; those journals you are reading. If you can, go to conferences, festivals. Especially those for young writers. But don't be in a great hurry to send your work out, to be published, work on your poems, find poet friends, have house salons where you read your work, read at open mics. There is a lot of room for polishing before you send out.

Q: What NOT to do if you want to be a poet?

A: Don't give up. Don't be in a hurry. Don't go it alone, form a group, look for mentors. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to read others work at your own readings. Don't be afraid of the great ones, copy their poems in your notebooks. Don't listen to negative advice.

Q: You just returned from a month-long tour. What effect does traveling have on your writing?

A: Well, I found it difficult to start on something new, while I was reading from, thinking about, and speaking about ROOTWORK. Because its basis is the historical period in America during slavery, I had to share information that placed some of the poems in context. For me, I like to do one thing, and try to do it well. So I was fixed on the book, on readings.

Q: Your book, ROOTWORK was just published by 3:A Taos Press. Why did you choose to use the epistolary form? How difficult or easy was it to capture the many voices that appear in it?

A: ROOTWORK is a collection of poems in the voices of John Brown and Mary Day Brown, white Abolitionists against slavery in the 19th Century America. John Brown is well known, with many books written about him; his wife, Mary Day Brown is not so known. After two years of research, I found the restrained voice of the 19th Century very enabling. Letter writing was the means of communication then. I felt that to retain the common language meant that I had to understand the syntax, the movement of words, the tone. It was a good challenge. But, there were things I wanted to say, that wouldn't be said by either of these two historical figures; so I wrote what I term "ghost poems" and "runaway" poems, in the voices of the enslaved peoples of the times.

I am in a restless conversation with American history; especially the roots of America: slavery of African peoples, and the constant effect we feel today.

To find out more about Veronica Golos visit https://veronicagolos.wordpress.com/

About Teresa Dovalpage:
Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana, Cuba and now lives in New Mexico. She is the author of eight novels and several short story collections. She writes in English and Spanish.
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