with Rachael Ikins:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Rachael: I started writing poetry around age 6 or 7. My father read me psalms from the Bible as well as poems from The Little Pocket Book of Verse given to all members of the military when I was small at bedtime. At the same time my first grade teacher, Miss Mahoney was putting short poems on the blackboard for us to copy to learn to print. It was inevitable that I write my own, the first two of which I can still recite.
Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?
Rachael: My biggest influence today in a person is probably as she always has been, Marge Piercy. Patricia Smith has a big impact on me as well as Almeta Whitis in terms of how to deliver my poems at readings.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?
Rachael: I was born and raised at the head of Skaneateles lake in NY ‘s Fingerlakes region. We spent 8 weeks every summer and many weekends at our camp 10 miles out. Running 60 acres of woods and intimacy with nature plus a mom and grandmother who helped me hunt for faeries indelibly touched my creative soul and it is there the poet really was born. An honorarium in a castle in Lismore Ireland to study with many famous authors and to read evenings urged me to keep at it.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Rachael: My most meaningful work to date is my book Just Two Girls which makes a stand for LGBTQ community in its non binary poetry as well as For Kate which is about love, loss and grief. The past year since Covid I have been accepted into multiple themed anthologies to do with climate change. More recently still I have begun a body of work since the murder of George Floyd. I used to think of myself as just someone who “wrote pretty pictures” but as I have grown I have become an activist for the issues above. Poetry can reach people in ways other things do not.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Rachael: I always knew I wanted to be a poet/artist. I had to battle my family and a therapist to prove it. It is what I was born. The only relative who saw this was my beloved grandfather who nurtured it in me until he died when I was 13.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Rachael: My favorite things to do that are not writing include photography and making visual art, working on renovating my house, gardening, biking, walks with my dogs, streaming movies, reading and cooking. To name a few.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Rachael: My upcoming release this Fall is new for me. It is the first in a four book series of a young reader chapter book series titled, “A Piglet for David.” Unlike my other books which use my own artwork, I hired a professional illustrator and she did a fabulous job. It is aimed at ages 8-11 when children read competently for themselves and has fewer pictures. I used to live with potbellied pigs and my college degree is in Child and Family studies so research and background came easily. No photos or links yet but Clare Songbirds Publishing House is releasing the book.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
Rachael: A favorite line is an old one, “I carry the earth on my back. My heart hurts with this heaviness.” Because while I wrote it in the ‘90s, here we are gripped by climate change and damage we’ve done to our planet. Writing isn’t enough. Its a gift to use as advocacy, too. Or can be. Songs, “Nothing Compares to You” Sinead O’Conner. “Respect” Aretha Franklin.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Rachael: The person who helped me most with my writing, and there are several who appeared at crucial crossroads, was Elizabeth Patton my eighth grade English teacher. Tish Dickinson library director and leader of my first writing group, Canastota Writers. Candi and Arthur Ramer who hosted my first feature reading and art gallery exhibits. Late in the game the last three showed me I am a professional regardless of education or lack of family support. Especially Tish’s unflagging enthusiasm and support has made all the difference.
I should add I have published at least 9 books with 3 publishers, Foothills Publishing, Finishing Line Press and Clare Songbirds Publishing. Each publisher has created opportunities and offered suport ie. The chance to go to Ireland was through Leah Maines and for their support and belief in my writing I have much gratitude. Leah in particular checks in with opportunities of various sorts and has done through the years.