with Erica Abbott:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Erica: I started writing poetry (outside of more than just a class assignment) in my high school poetry club. The advisor who ran the club was such a huge influence in my poetry journey and though I only got to be part of it for one year, it left such a lasting impression on me. Members of the club would write together after school every week and explore new forms and poets. The poetic influence that sticks out the most to me is Mary Oliver. Her poem “The Poet With His Face In His Hands” was the first one I read as part of “entry” into the club and “Wild Geese” was another one I read early on. Her work, and the teacher/advisor that first taught it to me, had such an impact on me.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Erica: My biggest poetic influences today are those I’ve learned from—poets I’ve taken writing workshops/courses with. Sierra DeMulder, Megan Falley, Andrea Gibson, Sabrina Benaim, Kelly Grace Thomas, Katie Manning, Todd Dillard, Jon Sands, and so many others. And every single one of those people led to the discovery of even more beautiful voices within the community. Their words and their teachings made me want to continue learning and writing as much as possible.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
I grew up in the greater Philadelphia area and while I’m not sure I could pinpoint anything specific as influencing my writing, I know it has. Even back in high school when I was more focused on creating visual art, it was incredible being so close to museums and getting to visit them for trips and such. Even being within just a couple hours of New York City has been a huge influence for me because how can you not be inspired by that city? But, locally, even the press who published my first chapbook is Philly-based so I absolutely feel such a creative connection there and I can’t wait to start exploring more in-person events and meetups as things start opening up.
Travels away from home have also definitely been a contributing influence on my writing. Several trips that I’ve taken have inspired pieces, especially ones I’ve written in workshops and continue to refine. The one time (so far) that I’ve traveled internationally was to Guatemala and that was absolutely a big influence. I wrote in a journal every night there and the whole experience really helped expand my worldview and influenced my creativity. With all the places I still hope to go to someday, I can’t wait to see how travel continues to influence me.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?
Erica: My chapbook Self-Portrait as a Sinking Ship, which came out at the end of last year. It’s my first collection of poetry and receiving the news last summer that it was being published was such a dream come true. It’s very much focused on my mental health and a lot of dark spots that had occurred in the previous few years and the positives/moments of light that kept me from being swallowed by everything. It definitely speaks to where I was personally a lot, but I think anyone can still find themselves within the words and I’m very grateful when people tell me that they found so much meaning in a poem and saw their own experience in it as well.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I think it really all goes back to my high school poetry club (and the teachers that made me really love poetry in the first place). I don’t feel as though I’d be the poet I am today without that early influence. When I got back into reading poetry more often in 2017, the writing also came with it and I knew I wanted to keep learning and growing.
There was also a particularly inspirational point when I went to an Andrea Gibson show a month before everything shut down and their poetry just moved me so much. I really think that ultimately led me to take the first step with writing courses/workshops during the pandemic—the first of which was centered on spoken word. It’s always funny how the seemingly small things can ultimately lead to such meaningful connection and opportunity.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Erica: I love theatre so usually, it would be going to see a show in either Philly or NYC. Of course, I haven’t had the chance to do that in over a year with the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Other than that, I like watching TV, especially anything Disney, reading, and getting out and exploring the city when I have the chance.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Erica: I’ve got work forthcoming in Serotonin, FERAL, Chaotic Merge, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Jupiter Review. Some of my most recently published work can be found in Gnashing Teeth Publishing, The Dillydoun Review, Sledgehammer Lit, and Selcouth Station. I’ve also been doing some writing for Write or Die Tribe.
Q8: What is a favorite lines/stanza from a poem of yours or others?
From my poem “St. Ends, Patron Saint of Endings”: “Yesterday, I found the other half of a plastic “Best Friends” heart necklace, the one with the broken silver chain, that we gifted to each other all those years ago - the side I kept reads: st ends And I think how very fitting it is to be the patron saint of endings. Q9: Who has helped you most with writing? Erica: My parents and my fiancé Dan. They’re the ones who have read first drafts, told me if something in a poem doesn’t make sense, read (and re-read) my manuscript before it was published, shown up to every reading I’ve done. They’re my biggest supporters and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do any of it without them. Links: https://pondersavant.com/2020/11/20/cocoa-poetry-by-erica-abbott/ https://ericaabbott.wordpress.com/poetry/ https://thepoetryquestion.com/2021/02/08/tpq5-erica-abbott/ https://thepoetryquestion.com/2021/02/10/review-self-portrait-as-a-sinking-ship-erica-abbot-toho-publishing/