In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Emma Bolden

by Mar 5, 2019

1. Tell us about your poems in Volume 21, “My Boss Tells Me She Prays for Me” and “When I Say There Is Desire.” How did they come to be?

My Boss Tells Me She Prayers for Me” is actually a true story. I worked in her office as an assistant and spent most of my time at the receiving end of her rantings. At one point, she asked me to swear that our current president was the only person who can save the country. I got fired after two weeks. I’ve never been happier to lose a job.

I wrote “When I Say There Is Desire” as a way to describe – I hesitate to say “define,” as I don’t quite think that’s possible – how I experience desire as an asexual woman. It’s also a poem about extending the idea of desire to include a positive, passionate, intimate connection to the world outside of the bedroom and the home.

2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?

I find myself most excited when form and function meld to open up new possibilities on the page. I’m thinking of Tyehimba JessOlio, a book that struck with a lightning so brilliant it made me understand the word “awe” in a way I never have before. I find myself least excited when a piece of writing feels insincere, or when it feels as though the writer is holding back, afraid to take risks.

3. How does the current political climate influence your art or creative process?

It is impossible for me to write a poem that is not political now. When I was younger, the idea that poets shouldn’t write about current events if they want to get publish seemed ubiquitous. This is an incredibly dangerous idea. Whenever I write, I remember that silence is acquiescence. I approach the page with an intention to speak out, to resist, and to fight. The work I do seems small, but small actions put together can, I hope, make change.

4. Do you practice any other art forms? If so, do these influence your writing and/or creative process?

I started crocheting six years ago. It started out as a way to deal with severe chronic pain, but it’s developed into a meditative practice for me. It’s also helped me when it comes to problem solving; it’s as if working with my hands in this way has re-trained the way my brain approaches problems and mistakes.

5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?

The truth is that I never quite know exactly what I’m working on – I tend to follow my instincts and interests and then, after I’ve been doing that for a few months, I try to lean back and take the long view in the hopes of learning more about what I’ve been doing for all that time. I do have (I think I have?!) that long view of two things I’m working on: a memoir about my hysterectomy and a collection of poems about my love/hate/bless-your-heart relationship with the Deep South.



Visit Emma’s website and follow her on Twitter.

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