Wisconsin Poet Laureate Karla Huston will be in residence this month at Write On. While here, she will teach “Memory Writes,” a poetry workshop, on Monday, August 20, 1 – 4 pm at the Sister Bay Library. Maggie Peterman, who usually writes our profiles, took a much-needed break to enjoy summer in Door County. I had the opportunity to chat with Karla about her tenure as Poet Laureate and her upcoming visit to Write On.
Jerod Santek: You have served as Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate since 2017. What has been your most rewarding experience? What has been the greatest challenge?
Karla Huston: This question allows me to reflect as my term winds down and a new Wisconsin Poet Laureate takes the reins in January. Of course, meeting those people in the state from Bayfield to Washington Island to Monticello and places between has been so rewarding. To see how many people read, write, and care about poetry is just wonderful. As well, to meet those folks who see the arts as important in Wisconsin is equally rewarding. The most fulfilling experiences have been to bring poetry to those with memory impairments. After my visit last November, the Chilton Library Memory Café program now includes poetry writing each month!
Perhaps the greatest challenge has been to say “no” to some invitations. The WPL can’t be everywhere at once—that and finding time to nurture my own writing.
JS: What writer and/or book has most influenced your own writing and why?
KH: It’s important, as a writer, to be widely read. I read a lot of poems, books and anthologies. There have been so many influences. For example, I learned to write narrative poems and how to use assonance from reading Dorianne Laux’s books. I learned how to write a single metaphor poem from reading Ted Kooser. The best teacher is the poet whose work you most admire.
JS: What project will you be focusing on while you’re in residence at Write On?
KH: I will focus on pulling poems for a possible collection or chapbook. I need to see what I have and how it might fit together. I will also work on new poems and The Big R! Revision of those poems I started and which haven’t gone anywhere—yet.
JS: What can people taking your workshop expect to learn.
KH: I’m hoping they’ll learn to mine their own memories for new poems. Memory is kind of tricky thing—we’re never sure what is true or misremembered. Or maybe it’s a story told so many times that the story becomes the memory. As well, poets are notorious liars, so a memory doesn’t need to be exact. It can be created! “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” says Emily Dickinson.
JS: What advice do you give to aspiring writers?
KH: Read, write, read write, read write. Repeat. Read, write, read write, read write. Repeat.
JS: What are you currently reading?
KH: Right now, I’m reading Washington Spies by Alexander Rose and Ted Kooser’s Kindest Regards: New and Selected. (Copper Canyon Press). I have too many books on my stack of to reads. As usual!