Laurie Rachkus Uttich’s first full length collection, Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt, is the first book the press is publishing in 2022. Her book is now available for pre-order at the sale price of $10! Snag your copy today! We asked her a few questions so we could get to know her a little bit!
How long did it take you to write Somewhere, a Woman Lowers the Hem of Her Skirt? What was your process for pulling it together?
Um, a decade or so? I’ve always loved reading poetry and I’ve always written, but I didn’t start trying to seriously write poetry until I was in my early 40s. A few years later, when my parents were dying, I only wrote poetry. I couldn’t sustain the energy needed for the longer essays or stories I wrote before then, I couldn’t finish anything. But then I fell in love with writing poetry. What a rush it is to wrap up an emotion, throw it on the floor, and slam the door on your way out.
Once I felt like I had a “body” of work, I printed out everything and spent the weekend with my friend, Debbie Piercefield, who spread them all out over her living room floor and gave them a shape and a narrative. After that I passed it on to other writer friends who gifted me with their time with suggestions. I’ll always remember when Ryan Skaryd came over with color-coded post-Its and crystals and told me the ones that worked and didn’t. But I still kept messing with the collection, asking the poems who they wanted to sit next to and if they were saying the same things. I’d probably still be doing it if I wasn’t afraid of annoying everyone putting together! At some point, you have to stop second-guessing yourself and just call it done.
What’s a favorite poem from the collection? Why?
“Mattel, in their Infinite Wisdom, Decided Sally Ride Would Want Makeup” has a special place for me. I was 15 when Dr. Ride became the first female astronaut in space, and I cheered for this woman who broke into a male-dominated field. A few years ago, I saw a series of Twitter posts that were celebrating NASA’s history. One of them had this quote from Dr. Ride: “NASA, in their infinite wisdom, decided I would want makeup in space,” and it included a photo of the makeup kit they put together for her, even though she never wore makeup. Everything mentioned in this poem happened and I enjoy the historical aspect of it.
What’s your writing routine look like? How has the pandemic changed it?
When we were quarantined, I told myself that I’d write more and really use the extra time, but I wrote less. I’m a person who needs a routine and it is possible, for me, to have too much time. I’ll always “do it later.” But I’m back on track now and tend to write early in the morning or late in the evening. I also take Katie Riegel’s mini-online writing workshops that give me deadlines and encouragement. Often, I write with friends for longer blocks of time and just try to generate a lot of first drafts. If I go too long without writing, I get itchy.
Who are your favorite poets?
There are so many! And there are lots of exciting new voices that blow me away. But here’s an abbreviated list of poets I read over and over again: Lucille Clifton, Denise Duhamel, Jack Gilbert, Joy Harjo, Tony Hoagland, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sharon Olds, Marge Piercy, Sylvia Plath, Lia Purpura, Claudia Rankine, Adrienne Rich, and David Wojahn. I also love the work of my friends who are poets, but I know they’d roll their eyes if I included their names here.
What are you reading right now?
I just started The Thing About Florida: Exploring a Misunderstood State by Tyler Gillespie. It’s a collection of essays and it’s hilarious and tender and full of things I didn’t know about the state I’ve lived in for the last 19 years.
What’s your favorite non-writing activity?
I love to be outdoors, but especially the beach. It’s my church. I love to walk and hike anywhere that’s beautiful and I find most places outside beautiful.
What is one good thing that came out of the pandemic for you? (We hope to one day not ask this question but sadly, it still applies!)
Virtual happy hours! I know I’m supposed to hate Zoom—and it’s not fun to teach that way—but it’s been so great to reconnect with people all over the world.