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10 Questions for Laura Paul Watson

First, it will feel like surprise. Like the edge of something
unconsidered: a glass let go; an open palm;
how cold a mouth can be and still say
still say
okay.  —from "Love & Hypothermia,"
in Summer 2017 (Vol. 58, Issue 2)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
The first poem I wrote was in the fifth grade, published on pink paper as part of an elementary school showcase of creative writing. I can’t say it was good, but I remember the thrill of comparing the crown of a live oak to a floret of broccoli. The first poem I recall writing, earnestly, as an adult was a pre-cursor to “Love & Hypothermia.” It’s taken a few years, and a few attempts at the subject, to feel like I’ve got it right.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Donald Justice; Claudia Emerson, especially her collection, Late Wife; Elizabeth Bishop, both her poems and her letters. I feel like everyone we read changes our writing in one way or another, but these are the poets I find myself returning to.

What other professions have you worked in?
I work as a builder and general contractor with my husband in Denver. Of all the work I’ve done since graduate school, this has been the most challenging and most rewarding. Plus, there are a lot of great metaphors in construction.

What did you want to be when you were young?
Mostly, I wanted to be Mia Hamm. After that, a marine biologist. I grew up on the northeast coast of Florida and the ocean and its inlets were the woods beyond the woods.

What inspired you to write this piece?
This poem was inspired, quite literally, by the coincidence of love and hypothermia, both of which came as bit of a surprise.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I tend to draw a lot on the natural world, especially the foothills of Colorado and the rich bugginess of northeast Florida.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?  
I like to write early and to keep a poem or a line going throughout the day. It also seems to work out well if I work on a poem, then go for a run. Working on the poem as I go helps me through both the poem and the run.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
I have two great readers: my husband and my friend and poet Heikki Huotari. They approach a poem much differently than I do, and I appreciate their generosity as readers and the frankness and helpfulness of their critique.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Music, the piano. I’ll steal a line from Jane Austen, “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

What are you working on currently?
I just returned from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop in Gambier, Ohio, and I feel like I want to work on everything all at once. More specifically, I’m hoping to fill out a piece I began there that is a series of curses.

LAURA PAUL WATSON lives and writes in Pine, CO. She is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida. When not writing poetry, she works as a general contractor, remodeling and building new homes in the Denver area. Her work has also appeared in the Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, and Meridian, among others.

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