April 26, 2014

Interview w/ Poet Rose Mary Boehm

1.  When did you start writing poetry and why?
Apparently my first ‘poem’ was set to song (by me) when I was three (smile). Being German born and -raised, this happened in the German language, of course. Later, still in German, I wrote much angst and melancholy, mostly in rhyme. But I also did funny. After 15 years of living in London, I felt secure enough in my new language to write prose again. I took me another 10 years to feel I had the right to write poetry in English, because by then my mother tongue needed crutches from lack of use.   Poetry has a way of writing itself. I like that, but, of course, craft has to hone spontaneity.  I am passionate about language and ‘the word’, about ‘painting’ a scene, capturing those between the-line moments, and hopefully—almost like an impressionist painter—daubing my whitepage with words in order to then stand back and see the whole as it comes together.

2.  What is your writing process?
The technical part: I use the computer which allows me to correct easily, to change my mind, to replace one word with the other, see the poem emerge, swap stanzas, rearrange line breaks, to put a poem on the shelf, TO DELETE(!)… the computer has opened a new world for the way I work.

3.  Which poets throughout time have influenced your writing?
Again, coming from another language one brings a can of different worms to the process of creation with words. With every language you learn a different way of thinking, culture, obsessions, predilections, religion, prejudices, habits. Through time? It’s a looong list, among which stand out perhaps Tucholsky, Kästner, Morgenstern, Enzensberger, Plath, Thomas, Eliot and, of course, Blake & co… and here, in order not to fill three pages, I leave out more recent poets I admire tremendously as in Collins, Frost, Stevens, Cummings, Sandburg, etc…  There are also many present-day young and not so young poets who have not as yet achieved the fame they deserve who also rank very highly on my list.

4.  What do you consider your poetic style to be?
I really don’t know how to answer this question, since I don’t belong to a particular poetic group. I ‘do’ lyrical, speculative, political, even funny, whatever takes my fancy; and I tend to imagine that my style adapts to each subject matter. I mainly write free verse, but I have dabbled in form and rhyme, especially when I am ‘playing’.

5.  What topics do you tend to write about?
Anything and everything, but somehow Peru, where I live, gets a regular look in, as well as Germany during WWII when/where I was a child.

6.   What advice would you give to a novice poet? 
Read poetry. The classics, the romantics, the beatniks, whoever is out there now doing different stuff. Like a student of the fine arts, read and emulate, get the feel of what ‘they’ did, how they did it, what were their tools, what’s in their ‘trick’ box to make a poem memorable. Then let go and bravely swim away.  And: poetry is NOT ‘letting it all hang out’.  It’s that as well, but it’s not enough. Having confessed, you need to craft your confession and make a reader wanting to join you on your journey.  Listen to others, seek critique, cut your favourite lines (not always).

7.  What advice would you offer to someone who is frustrated because his/her work is constantly being rejected by journals he/she submits to?
Join a workshop. Ask those whose work you respect and trust for an honest opinion regarding your writing. If these persons confirm that you’re on the right path, submit, submit, submit and never mind the rejections. You’ll break the vicious circle eventually. But do yourself a favour: read the magazine/journal to which you’re submitting before doing so in order to suss out what they want. Don’t send a lyrical poem about spring to a magazine specializing in hard-hitting political commentary. 

8.  What is your ultimate goal as a poet?  Are there any specific awards or prizes you strive for?
It is nice to see one’s work recognized—of course it is. However, first of all I write for myself, then I would like my work to be read to share the experience. But one thing is writing and being read (and the satisfaction of being published), another it ‘striving’ for recognition. I am sure it would be welcome were it ever to happen, but totally unnecessary for my satisfaction and delight in a successful (as far as I am concerned) poem.  


  1. She's a wonderful writer and I enjoyed this interview muchly.

  2. Really enjoyed this interview.

    Thanks Rose Mary.