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Q&A with Poetry Competition Winner Anna Gibbs

September 22, 2015

Guest Judge Joshua Bennett was wowed with Poetry Winner Anna Gibbs’ piece, ‘wool.’ Of her prize-winning work, Joshua said, “‘wool’ is a fantastic poem, with breathtaking moments throughout.” In our Q&A with Anna, we learn more about her process of writing this poem and the rules she set for herself to give 'wool' its unique structure. She also has some sage advice for writers who might be weary to delve into the craft of poetry. Read on to get to know one of your fellow writers a little better.


What inspired you to write this piece?

I wrote this poem at my kitchen table this summer. I was putting some of my old poems in a little book for my dad’s birthday and decided to add a couple of new poems. I don’t usually put myself on the spot to write a poem; I tend to write just when I get a particular idea. So it was hard to come up with something.

Ultimately, this poem came from a place of worry, the knowledge that in loving something or someone you can be both filled up and torn down.  Anything good comes with the risk of its loss; anything hoped for comes with the risk of its falling through. Writing this poem was my way of making sense of the contradiction that exists between good and bad, and to recognize that living in the middle of it is just life.

What was your reaction to Guest Judge Joshua Bennett's commentary?

His commentary was incredible. It’s amazing to see what other people see in your poetry. Others’ interpretations of your words actually adds to them. Knowing that something I wrote some summer afternoon can later resonate with such a wonderful poet as Joshua Bennett is so gratifying. I checked out his performance at the White House and realized that I had seen the video before without realizing who he was! His poem is beautiful—it gives me goosebumps.

Your poem contains very vivid imagery. What were some of the challenges of choosing the right words to illustrate the images in your head?

The hardest part of choosing the right words is choosing new words. I’m constantly getting stuck in clichés and tired metaphors. It’s hard to shake those off and search for something new. Once I came up with the image of this walk towards the speaker’s house, I had to work at describing what I saw in my head in a way that would catch the reader’s eye, rather than result in them briefly skimming through.

Your poem has a very unique rhythm and structure. Why did you decide to use this format?

I prefer writing free verse poetry, but I actually created some rules for myself while writing this poem! In my high school English class, we had learned about a type of poem that uses the same five words as the ending of the five lines in every single stanza. When I sat down to write this poem, I picked five words (home, grass, pass, original, sketch) and decided to challenge myself with a similar structure. This was my main guideline. It helped to create a natural rhythm to the poem. Looking back, I like how the constraint of the structure is juxtaposed with the lack of control in the speaker’s life.

Which poets inspire you most and why?

I feel bad saying this, but I don’t have any particular poet that I am more knowledgeable about than another. I have many individual poems that I love, and thus I am inspired by their poets. I most recently enjoyed Mark Doty’s “A Display of Mackerel” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” I also admire all spoken word poets; spoken word reaches you in a way that words on a page just can’t.

What advice do you have for a fellow writer who maybe be nervous to delve into the poetry world?

People are scared of poetry because they assume that poetry can be either right or wrong. But what I love about poetry is that there is no wrong answer. As Gusteau says to Remy in Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook!” Anyone can write poetry. If perfect rhyme is your comfort zone, try experimenting with free verse. Rhyming is great, but it can be restrictive of ideas and images you want to create. And don’t be too concerned with the final product—the writing of the poem is the best part by far.


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