Brookline poet Anne Champion

Brookline poet Anne Champion

Brookline poet Anne Champion read from her first collection, Reluctant Mistress, on Friday, May 24th at 7:00PM at the Brookline Booksmith.

Reluctant Mistress is brimming with intense tales of love, passion, disappointment, indifference, and betrayal. Mary Stone Dockery said of Champion, “Her poems curse, cry, nibble, and flirt through a profound investigation into love’s many shapes.”

I spoke to Champion by phone last week to ask her about her influences, how she approached writing the book, and if she is ever nervous about what people will say about her very raw, honest verse.

Brookline Hub: When did you first start writing poetry? What interested you in the form?

Anne Champion: I started writing poetry in college. I had been writing short stories since I was ten years old but I was going through some emotional things in college and I was finding it hard to write stories. My professor said, “You’re not a short-story writer, you’re a poet.” I went on to graduate school to get my MFA in poetry. The degree wasn’t about money but about the passion I have for the craft. The student loans make me sad, but the experience was worth it. I was part of a community of poets and attention was paid to my work.

BH: Did you have an idea for the theme of the book and then wrote the poems to fit that theme, or did the poems you were writing just naturally coalesce into Reluctant Mistress?

AC: I noticed two themes coming out of the poems in my final thesis: Love, sexuality and ambivalence, which are included in Reluctant Mistress, and grief and loss. My next book will be poems of grief and loss.

BH: What poets have influenced your work?

AC: When I first started reading Sylvia Plath I thought poetry needed to be objective. But reading Plath I realized you could write about rage, you could write that you hate your parents…poetry was an exploration of the self.

I got the chance to study under poet Sharon Olds (winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), which was amazing. I like Louise Glück, Sandra Cisneros, Anne Sexton…the contemporary poets.

BH: What is the most difficult part of writing a poem?

AC: Starting a poem isn’t hard. Usually a line or an image comes to me, some idea announces itself. So the first draft is easy. But I find revision to be the hardest part. I spend months revising a poem. Revising is like being a surgeon: one wrong move can ruin the poem—it’s that delicate. That’s why the saying, “a poem is never finished, its just abandoned” is true.

BH: There are many allusions in your poetry to the supernatural, to astrology, tarot, even an Ouija Board. Why?

AC: I’ve always been fascinated with the supernatural: vampires, werewolves, and witches. I loved the movie Interview with a Vampire and I watch True Blood. I think all of that seeps into my poetry. Kids play with the supernatural because they are looking for spiritual answers and guidance. They’re hoping there is more out there than themselves.

BH: Your poems are very honest and raw, with themes like adultery, descriptions of sexual activity, etc. Are you at all nervous about the reception they’ll receive? If so, as a writer, how do you overcome that fear?

AC: I’m more nervous about what my family members will think! My grandpa is reading this…and my father! I don’t get nervous about what the public will think because a poet’s honesty is fulfilling for readers. Honesty in poetry is valued and embraced.

BH: How long have you lived in Brookline? What do you like most about this town?

AC: I’ve lived here seven years. Brookline feels like a suburb but it’s also close to the city. You have Coolidge Corner with all the restaurants and shops, but it’s not a party every night. My friends who live in Allston complain about the noise. As a writer I need quiet and solitude and I get that in Brookline.

–By Jennifer Campaniolo