Thursday, January 5, 2023

An Interview with Ohio Poet Stephanie Kendrick

Stephanie Kendrick, Athens County Ohio 2023 Poet Laureate

An Interview with Ohio Poet Stephanie Kendrick

Sincere congratulations to Stephanie Kendrick for being selected as the 2023 Athens County Ohio Poet Laureate! Her poetry is recommended reading. 

Welcome, Stephanie!

GM: Congratulations on your new role as Athens County Ohio Poet Laureate! What are your plans as Poet Laureate to promote poetry in 2023?
SK: Thank you Gina! I am so excited for this opportunity. I have been promoting poets for years now since I started a virtual open mic in 2020 that ran through the first half of 2022. I started this open mic with Kari Gunter-Seymour (our very own Ohio State Poet Laureate) and it was a very successful journey. We featured poets from all over the world, including a poet from New Zealand! Using the Poet Laureate platform, I will continue this venture by hosting a monthly open mic here in Athens County. I have partnered with Ellie, the owner of Athens Uncorked. Starting March 8th, community members of all ages can join us at Uncorked every 2nd Wednesday of the month to share poetry, music and stories at 6:30pm. I will also continue publication of my free print newsletter Periodical Poetry. Issue 8 is currently in circulation (as of 1/5/2023) and if you haven’t picked up a copy around town, you can visit to read it digitally. Of course there are so many more poetry projects I have up my sleeve. I have spoken with the chair of the Albany Harvest Festival and plan to have a pop-up poetry tent there for children, and hope to conduct a pawpaw themed poetry workshop at the 2023 Pawpaw Festival. I am really excited to see what other opportunities open up this year. I’m ready to spread poetry all over the place.

GM: We are excited to support you in your endeavors! Can you share a poem from your newest poetry collection?
SK: Of course...

Closed Road Ahead
The road is crumbling in the center
of town, promises of a sinkhole
elate the children, propel them
to chatter of the center of Earth,
mysteries that widen their eyes—
tiny, globed galaxies lightyears away.
They have always been warned
stars sting to the touch, all we are
was already in space anyway. So
they race to the center of town
and dance
in the soup-bowl asphalt, hungry
for everything in the whole world
to prove to everyone else
that even down here
is just as empty,
and just as vast.

GM: Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. At what age did you begin writing poetry?
SK: Honestly, I don’t really know. I’ve been writing compulsively since I was a little girl—6 or 7. I can remember the first time I entered a library. I was 5—a kindergartner at Symmes Valley Elementary school. I’m sure it’s smaller than I remember but I just froze in time and looked around at what seems like (in my memory) a Beauty and the Beast castle-caliber library. I couldn’t read enough of Amelia Bedelia and Pippi Longstocking, but also could not wait to venture over to the adult section and get my hands on those too. It was truly love at first sight. It was the closest experience to finding a soulmate that I think I have ever had. Poetry became an extension of the impulse to write as a coping tool. My childhood and adolescent years were not easy and calm. Writing was a processing tool and a way to step into alternative worlds for a bit—and it still plays that role for me. I always kept several journals and wrote the occasional love poem or angst-fueled poem along with recounting my inner thoughts, writing short one-woman plays that I would act in my bedroom, and embarrassing song lyrics. In 2014, after a particularly challenging period in my life, I began writing poetry more seriously. Some pieces were published in Ohio University’s literary magazine, and I went on to submit to the Women of Appalachia Project where I met Kari-Gunter Seymour, and then joined some serious writer’s workshops. The rest has just been a whirlwind.

GM: Who is your favorite poet?
SK: Oh gosh what a question. I will give you names, but first I have to say this is impossible. It truly depends on what mood I’m in—what I NEED from the poetry. Just like sometimes my favorite band is Sleater Kinney and sometimes it’s Regina Spektor and sometimes it’s Jason Isbell. If we’re asking which poet is my “The Beatles”…I guess I would say Margaret Atwood. I often come back to her as a favorite author in general because she really opened me up to what the various genres have capacity to do. My husband gifted me Dearly recently and I drank it up. I love how direct Atwood’s poetry is…like she’s not playing any games but she still hides enough from you to make sure that you have a little fun. Lately, I’ve been intent on learning about my place and responsibility in society as a white woman and have appreciated the work done by Claudia Rankine, a phenomenal poet, that’s helping me understand more and more. And I cannot go without mentioning Morgan Parker as a poet who just empowers me to the core, but has also put in the work to educate through her poetry.

GM: What are you currently writing?
SK: I am in a group that challenges its members to post a poem a day, and I have found that I am fixated on the same topics that I have been fixated on for the last four years: my mother and my community—both muses in their own ways. After reading a wonderfully easy suburban-horror novel this fall, I’ve also been working on a short horror piece. This will be the first time I’ve ventured toward fiction since undergrad. I wasn’t very good at it then, but I’m having fun.

GM: I've been to poetry groups where they rewrite poetry (and I leave the group right away as I believe poetry should be original and intellectual property is just that). What are your thoughts about rewriting other people's poems?
SK: Interesting. I haven’t thought about this before. My immediate thought is this: as an exercise it’s fine. If you’re doing it with the intention to publish in any format, I find it problematic. But if you’re rewriting to hone your own craft or have some fun, fine. I also think that the owner of the work should know that it’s being done. I would not be interested in doing this, with what little I know of the practice.

GM: How do you maintain thoughts and ideas for future poems?
SK: As soon as an idea pops in my head I must get it on paper immediately. My brain won’t hold onto those things long. I’ve written some poems completely in my head (like Transcendence from In Any of These Towns) because I will be driving and think of a line that I can’t write down. So I have to repeat it over and over in my head. Then I add another line but must repeat those lines in my head, so I don’t lose them. Fifteen miles later I have a poem in my head that I need to get on paper as soon as the car stops. This has manifested in my having random notebooks all over my home, or random texts that I have sent to myself with a line of so of nonsense. This isn’t the best method of organization but it’s kind of nice to find one of these notebooks after a few months and have a fresh perspective on an old thought.

GM: When you're not writing poetry, what do you like to do for fun?
SK: Well, I’m NOT writing poetry most of the time, so I do need plenty of activities to take up that time. I love to spend time with my husband and our son. We hike often, see movies, and travel. I train jiu-jitsu at One Academy and I’m involved with a lot of local organizations. Public service is a passion of mine. And sometimes I just need some down-time on my couch. I love a good Real Housewives binge-session.

GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
1. I edit and publish a print newsletter called Periodical Poetry. that is distributed around Athens and digitally. It’s completely free.
2.   I am a Councilwoman for the Village of Albany.
3.   I serve on the Friends of Athens CASA/GAL Board, and the Native Foods Education Organization Board.
4.   I am on the Pawpaw Fest Committee as the Admissions/Front Gate/Sponsorship Coordinator.
5.   I have a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
6.   I completed a Master of Social Sciences at Ohio University during the pandemic.
7.   I work at the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities as the Major Unusual Incident Compliance Coordinator (it’s the longest title I have ever had.)
8.   I have 14 tattoos.
9.   I play the clarinet and have been lazily trying to learn acoustic guitar.
10.    I love to collect pottery.

Connect with Stephanie:
Athens Poet Laureate Facebook Page:

1 comment:

Bonnie Proudfoot said...

Gina and Stephanie, great questions here, and such great answers too! thanks for posting this!

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