GLVWG’s Michelle Meeh had an interview with Christine Stroud, Senior Editor of Autumn House Press. Christine will be taking pitches at the GLVWG “Write Stuff” Conference on Saturday, April 9. (Advance registration is required.)
Christine Stroud is originally from eastern North Carolina, but currently lives in Pittsburgh and works as the Associate Editor for Autumn House Press. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and a BA in Literature from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She has a chapbook, The Buried Return, released by Finishing Line Press. Her poem, “You Called the Night it Snowed in April,” was published in Ninth Letter’s first web edition and she received the Best Thesis in Poetry award for her manuscript, Brick Wall.
Michelle: What is it about poetry that resonates with you as a reader?
Christine: I’ve always loved the incisiveness of poetry. Even if a poem has long lines or spans for pages, I always find them acute because of the attention to language and structure. In a successful poem there’s a sense that after a great deal of thought, the poet found the right word. That being said, I love that despite poetry’s conciseness it’s also completely unrestricted—it can be fictional, it can be autobiographical, it can be both simultaneously. Even poems in very strict forms can be wildly imaginative and unconfined. A poem is a fun little puzzle, a quiet secret that pulls us in.
Michelle: As a writer, why is poetic expression so important?
Christine: The attention to language, for me, is the most vital aspect of poetry. We’re all talking and writing so much these days and I see that reflected in some of the literary work I read. Much of it is good, but lacks the love of language. I read very solid stories and poems that have interesting narratives or play with form, but the language falls completely flat. Poetic expression is important in keeping us focused on the necessity to connect with words, to push ourselves with language.
Michelle: What do you look for in a poem? In a fiction/nonfiction manuscript?
Christine: I look for something that takes me off guard—for work that displays a new way of engaging an idea or situation (This goes for all three genres). For instance, consider how many poems about nature have been written over the years. If you’re a contemporary poet you need to consider how to approach the subject in a fresh way. I come across a number of very well-written manuscripts that tell a story I’ve read before and don’t offer anything new to conversation.
Michelle: Not to restart the war, but how is southern poetry different from northern?
Christine: ((Ha, good question.))
Sometimes I’m not sure they really are that different in contemporary works except in evocation of place and the use of language/dialect. Other times I feel certain there’s a clear distinction. Even if we aren’t shaped by our culture (and I think we are), we’re responding to it.
I grew up in the South, but I’ve lived a large part of my adult life in Pennsylvania. At this point I don’t know if I would identify as a southern writer even though I write a great deal about my childhood there. Similarly, I don’t typically identify myself as a female writer even though I write about issues concerning gender.
Perhaps in the end, it really depends on the intent of the poet?