Interview: Kristy Bowen

KristyBowenKristy Bowen’s work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Stolen Island, Yew Journal, Projectile, Requited, Diagram and Delirious Hem. She is the author of several longer and shorter written (and occasionally visual) endeavors, including the full-length projects major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications, 2015), girl show (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013), in the bird museum (Dusie Press, 2008) and the fever almanac (Ghost Road Press, 2006). You can find her online at

TCJWW: What was the inspiration for The Shared Properties of Water and Stars?

Bowen: I was working on a couple of projects simultaneously that were meant to be sort of novels toward in prose fragments. I’d been wanting for awhile to write a book in sort of old school story problems and suddenly those two desires merged with a sort of braided narrative effect. I was generally inspired by a number of things—the stiflingness of suburban life, closed shutters, public vs. private. Also the way nature seems to creep around the edges of that seemingly tidy life and occasionally invites itself inside.

TCJWW: The way you created the worlds for each of these characters was so vivid and personal, yet there are no names for these people, why is that?

Bowen: As I was working on the book, they became less individual people and more archetypes. It seemed important that they could be stand-in for any blonde girl in any suburb, any unhappy marriage, any curious boy. That this story could be the story of anyone, anywhere. Even the houses and the neighborhood itself is just a nonspecific sort of world they inhabit. It was very different from my other books and projects where I’ve created a very specific and detailed sense of place (either historically or locale-based).

TCJWW: What is your writing process like? What motivates you to write, and what helps you capture your ideas to pen and paper?

Bowen: I’m a scribbler and spend much of the time writing things in notebooks or on stray catalog cards (my day job is in a library). When I sit down to do the more serious part of “writing,” much of it is sort of assembling the notes and fragments into the framework of something coherent. I’ve become much less of a mission driven writer over the years, someone who sits down to write a specific poems about x or y, and more of a collagist who puts pieces of things together and what I get is what I get. I have any number of various projects going at one time and gear the poems to any one of those (or sometimes get something entirely new). It’s become much more like play than work these days. If I get something worthwhile, I’ve succeeded, if it’s nothing, then it gets filed away and repurposed down the road.

TCJWW: Are there forms of writing that you wish to experiment with, that you have not used yet?

Bowen: For a while, I was straying from lineated poems, so my recent efforts are dipping my toes back into regular verse. I’m still very drawn to novelistic projects, things that have a larger span and narrative. I don’t quite think I have the endurance for a full-on novel, but I like to think in terms of such spaciousness. The poetry book that reads like a novel (whether verse or prose or everything in between).

TCJWW: What advice would you give to writers who want to start writing, but don’t know quite when or how to start?

Bowen: It probably sounds cliché and often repeated, but reading your contemporaries is huge. Also, finding and building your audience (and your support system of journals and presses) once you feel you have work that is ready for the world. It’s mostly a matter of seeking out places publishing and people reading the sort of work that you write, wherever they are and whoever they are.

TCJWW: Are there any new projects you are currently working on?

Bowen: As I mentioned, I have any number of things on the stove at any given time. Right now there are a series of Atomic energy poems that I’m working on in conjunction with a series of collages I did last year. There is also a longer, more novel-like entity based around creepy roadside motels and ghosts that I’m working on from time to time.

TCJWW: What authors have inspired you to write?

Bowen: I went through a huge Sylvia Plath/Anne Sexton stage in my 20’s, but also a huge TS Eliot phase (I credit The Wasteland for teaching me what was possible in poetry). There are many other classics: Mina Loy, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker. Also contemporaries who I read again and again to get me writing: Olena Kalytiak Davis, Danielle Pafunda, Mary Ann Samyn, Larissa Spzorluk, also many of the poets I’ve published through dancing girl press. (I always joke that I spend so much time with my hands in other people’s work that some of it just inevitably rubs off).

TCJWW: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

Bowen: I always feel like I’ve accomplished much more as an editor/publisher than as a writer (if we’re talking scope and influence). But then I suppose the writing itself is the accomplishment, the way it develops and changes and perhaps the fact that I still (amidst day jobs and editorial works) find time to be writing at all. And I’m tremendously lucky to have the stability to do so, a roof over my head, a desk, a comfy bed. It’s an exchange system, I suppose—the things you have to do to earn the time to do the thing you most want to do.

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