In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Paige Riehl
1. Tell us about your poems in Volume 20. How did they come to be?
Both of my poems in this issue stem from contemplating the complexities of international adoption and examining my position of privilege within that system. While we were in the middle of a years-long adoption process, people would often ask my husband and me what made us choose international adoption. “International Adoption Story: It Didn’t Begin” emerged from how I feel when I try to answer that layered and complex question. Similarly, “Adoption: Becoming the Verbs” is my effort to convey the controversy surrounding international adoption and to illustrate how multiple emotions, such as love, gratitude, guilt, and failure mingle and co-exist.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
I grew up in a town of 400 people, which meant there was no community library to feed my book hunger—except for the school’s tiny library, which was one small room. I asked for books for every holiday and birthday, rereading everything. I read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton 17 times. Loving to read made me become a writer. I love the smell of a new book, the way a poem can turn my world sideways, the pleasure in playing with language. What else is like it?
3. How has writing shaped your life?
It would be shorter to answer how it hasn’t shaped my life! Writing is a challenge and a joy. The Twin Cities offers such a supportive writing community, and I’m grateful for it and my many talented writer-friends. Writing seeps in to my life professionally and personally—I teach it, I am the Poetry Editor for Midway Journal, I mentor in the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop program, I’m in two writing groups, and more. I’m grateful for the amazing people and experiences writing has brought into my life.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
I read fiction and poetry constantly, so I’d say whatever I’m currently reading is what’s immediately inspirational. During the last couple of weeks, that would be Louise Erdrich’s novel, Future Home of the Living God; E.J. Koh’s poetry in A Lesser Love; Melody S. Gee’s poetry in The Dead in Daylight; Charles Baxter’s short story collection, There’s Something I Want You to Do; and Emily Fridlund’s novel History of Wolves.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
Terrapin Books accepted and published my full-length poetry collection titled Suspension this year, and I couldn’t be happier. I continue to work on new poems, many of which are inspired by the ongoing political upheaval. I’ve also just completed a middle-grade fiction book called Macaw Island, which I envision as the first in a series of six books featuring the same group of children. Each book will focus on a different, current environmental or social issue.