Neile Graham is Canadian by birth and inclination, but currently lives in Seattle. Her work has been published in Canada, the UK, and the US, as well as online. Her poetry collections are Seven Robins (1983), Spells for Clear Vision (1994) and Blood Memory (2000) as well as a poetry CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New (2007). She graduated from the University of Victoria’s (BA) and the University of Montana’s writing programs (MFA). She works as an academic counselor at the University of Washington and helps run the Clarion West Writers Workshop for writers of speculative fiction. Her works in progress include a collection of poems about her travels in Scotland and another about Scottish and Pacific Northwest folklore, and two adult and one young adult novels of mythic fiction.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
Not a specific one—I would say that I was strongly influenced by growing up on the B.C. coast, with close access to the beach and forest, which were my first inspirations.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I still am influenced by the natural world, but also by my city life, my interactions with friends, and my long love of folklore, as is apparent in this particular poem.
What is your writing process?
I start with an idea or a few lines that catch in my mind and I keep them there for a time period which can range from minutes to months—until I begin to worry that I will forget some part of it. Then I write down as complete a first draft as I can.
What is your revision/editing process?
I used to hate revising and now I love it as it matters to me more and more to get things right. Sometimes I’m happy with a third or fourth draft. One poem I revised for ten years before I could stop working on it. Every once in a while I write a first draft that only needs minor changes. Those are gifts and occasions to be treasured.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
I have written poetry since primary school. I can’t recall when I first started writing but still have some of my very early work. I started writing school assignments and then began writing for myself. I didn’t have a very good sense of craft, but learned a little from reading poetry and figuring out what seemed to me good and bad in pop lyrics.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
Fairy tale books and open ears.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Mostly that an ordinary person could do it.