Kimberly Casey’s first collection of poetry, Where the Water Begins, will be published in September 2021, the press’ third book. You can pre-order a copy of her book for only $10! She answered a few questions so we could get to know her.
How long did it take you to write Where the Water Begins? What was your process for pulling it together?
The bulk of Where the Water Begins was written during my two-year MFA program at Pacific University. My advisors, Kwame Davis, Ellen Bass, Mahtem Shiferraw, and Droianne Laux, were vibrant guiding lights in helping me navigate the process of building a manuscript while embracing the vulnerability that process required, and I am forever grateful for their wisdom.
Pulling the poems together was a very physical process for me. I needed to see the work all laid out. I had titles on Post-It notes stuck to the back of my office door that I would arrange and rearrange. Once I had a strong scaffolding, I printed every poem I wanted to include and laid them all out on the ground, again rearranging. I wanted to see how the poems looked on the page, how they spoke to each other, and how they built off one another. Grief is not linear, so I didn’t want to follow a linear narrative, but with the water theme, I wanted the work to flow smoothly.
What’s a favorite poem from the collection? Why?
It’s so difficult to pick a favorite!! I love them all, I love the poems that didn’t even make it into the manuscript as well, because they all taught me something or helped me get the project where I needed it to be. I think the poem, I Am Asking How Late is Too Late, grew the most through the revision process and brought to light a lot of personal realizations for me as the poem developed, so it will always have a special place in m y heart.
I also find the poem, Funeral Cards, to be incredibly important to me as it names the losses and honors the people in my life I’ve lost that I still carry with me and think of every day. The poem Through the Algae Bloom feels like a deep, calming breath for me, so that is also a favorite to go back to, within the context of the manuscript and in general.
What’s your writing routine look like? How has the pandemic changed it?
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the MFA program at Pacific University during the pandemic. The low residency model was already helpful during normal times, but with the pandemic I was able to continue the program without too many hiccups, and it was incredible to have a constant motivator to remind me to make time for my art when the world felt too overwhelming. My writing routine has always been really messy, writing in spurts of motivation or when I have the time. Pacific changed that for me and helped me learn to prioritize my writing, and that has continued after I graduated in January. I also have an amazing group of peers from the program who help keep me motivated and writing in one way or another – thank you to Melissa, Sarah, Therese, Eileen, and Zac!
Who are you favorite poets?
The list is ever growing! Is it too cheesy to say first and foremost the entire poetry staff at Pacific University? Beyond that, Anne Sexton, Patricia Smith, Ashley M. Jones, Malena Morling, Danez Smtih, Mary Ruefle, and Hieu Minh-Nguyen to name a few.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Shrapnel Maps by Philip Metres and it was spectacular.
What’s been the hardest thing about the pandemic for you?
I’ve had a lot of personal obstacles in the last year, on top of the pandemic – we all have, and it’s just exacerbated the stress. My mental health suffered terribly early on in the pandemic. Even though I was working throughout the pandemic and going in-person to my job, it was still an incredibly isolating experience. My normal outlets were no longer available to me, and my support systems weren’t as accessible. The literary arts nonprofit I run had to go on hiatus, and that was a huge blow because that’s my community, those people have my heart and know how to lift each other up. When that went away, it was hard to find anything to come close to that feeling of support. Luckily, we’ve been able to return to having some small monthly online events, and hopefully will get back to safely being in-person again soon!
What was one good thing that came out of the pandemic for you?
A restructuring of priorities, namely making myself a top priority. No matter how many times I tell other people that self-care isn’t selfish, and that selfish is not a even bad word, I had a hard time taking that advice to heart. I’ve always been a busybody, and I struggle with anxiety and depression. The pandemic forced me to slow down, to evaluate what I need in order to feel good in my mind and my body and my heart, and make that a priority – no questions asked and no shame. I still struggle but I feel like I have a much better understanding on how to care for myself more completely.