S71 Contributor Interviews: Ruth Williams

4 mins read

IMG_3459What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

I am drawn to writing and reading poetry in part because it allows me to look intensely at the world around me and to consider with conscious attention my relation to it. This attention isn’t something our daily life cultivates, so poetry becomes a meaningful way of slowing down, looking closely. Poetry is also a genre that maintains a wonderful duality: it can be intensely personal, derived so completely from the interiors of my own mind, and yet, when I put a poem out in the world, it takes on meaning for others in ways I can’t predict.

How does this published piece fit in with the larger thematic concerns that you see in your overall work?

I’m interested in the body and its various weights, both literal and figurative; in other words, I often find myself drawn to describing how physical experience informs our sense of self. But, in this particular poem, I’m also sort of acknowledging the perils of reading into things too much, i.e. you notice more of the marks the world leaves on you, you “make more of than you should,” giving greater weight to things you might be better off ignoring.

What are you influenced by?

I love reading and am particularly drawn to women’s writing. I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about women’s writing that engages with issues of social justice; though “Import” doesn’t likely pull from that bag of influence, I think my sense of the power of writing, its ability to challenge and change people’s mindsets, derives from my admiration for the work of poets such as Martha Collins, Claudia Rankine, Anne Sexton, Juliana Spahr, and Cathy Park Hong.

What does your typical writing schedule look like? What aspects of working do you look forward to? What aspects frustrate you?

While I would like to be a writer who writes every day, I don’t. As a professor, I do spend a lot of time talking about words of all varieties, so even though teaching and administrative stuff can leave me brain dead at the end of the day, it also keeps me intellectually active. That said, I do regularly challenge myself to writing “streaks” where I write every day during school breaks when I more time and energy. These are particularly productive periods for me and often result in a lot of work that I then revise. Revising isn’t something I enjoy—it’s easy to get frustrated when the quality of your own works disappoints you greatly—but, at the same time, I love when revision leads you to a place where things click and a poem’s shape comes into focus.

For fun, if you could pick one meal that matches the piece we published, what would it be and why?

A big pile of your favorite candy that—even though you know better—you eat and eat until you feel sick.

RUTH WILLIAMS is the author of Flatlands (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming 2018) and Conveyance (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Her poetry has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, jubilat, Pleiades and Third Coast among others. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at William Jewell College and an Editor for Bear Review.