Yemassee Interview: 5 Questions with Peter Hogan

Peter Hogan's "Comprehensive Appalachia" appeared in Issue 23.2.

1. How would you describe your journey as a poet?

I took a Creative Writing course in high school. That’s really where I started writing poems. When I took my first workshop in college, my work was demolished by the class. I’m thankful for that. It taught me image and language and rhythm and all the tiny things one picks up when they start to pay closer attention to the words on the page. I’m about in my third year of my MFA program, which is another way to say I feel like I’m just beginning my journey as a poet. There’s still so much I don’t know. I’m excited to learn and see where that knowledge takes me, if anywhere at all.

2. What kind of poems/poets are you most drawn to?

I’m a sucker for image, language, and tone, so most of the poetry I read tends to have those things at the forefront. I read mostly free verse. I’ve spent my entire life in the South, so poems that assert some sort of Southern or American identity have a special place in my heart. I like work that engages the reader, that attempts to assert or teach something, work that might push the boundaries of whatever came before it. I love Walt Whitman, cliché I know. But I also am a fan of Ezra Pound, Frank O’Hara, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mary Oliver. I love Tony Hoagland, D.A. Powell, Robert Reeves, Ada Limon, Natasha Tretheway.

3. Has there been a particular something (idea/image/phrase/quote/obsession) knocking around in your head lately?

Lately, I can’t get the idea of limerance out of my head. I learned the definition the other week: the insanity of love. I heard it and I was like “Huh, I know that feeling.” I also went through a small butcher obsession, as well snake handling church services and insects. I’ll latch onto random things or ideas I hear for a week or two, then move on to the next.

4. Can you talk about your poem “Comprehensive Appalachia” and how it came to be?

The poem centers on the idea of how much weight people carry around with them or collect over a lifetime. It looks completely different now then the first version, which is usually a good thing. The first version contained a hint of some of the Appalachian motif, but there was a whole lot of fine tuning that it needed. The poem went through at least two workshops and I tweaked it over a couple months before trying to send it out. The form of the poem ended up being a last minute decision, some form assertion that might help focus the ideas of the piece. Either way, the poem would never be like it is now without the help I received through workshop. Editing it over and over again until I was happy with it or sick of it, I’m not quite sure which one.

5. If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow poets, what would it be?

Read. I’ve met so many poets that say they love to write but hate to read. I don’t think one can exist, at least in its highest form, without the other. There is so much that has come before us. So many different words, images, rhythms, tones, things we as poets can use. Read poems you love. Read poems you hate. Just read them and try to take something to use or not use in your own work. Poetry, in my opinion, is about finding an identity on the page. I don’t think there’s any other way to do that than to read the people who tried to do it before you.

Peter Hogan is a first year MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Memphis. He is a past Genre Editor and current Senior Genre Editor at The Pinch Literary Journal. He has his first publication forthcoming in The Mulberry Fork Review.