Tête-à-Tête: Trish Hopkinson
The Wise Owl has a friendly chat with Trish Hopkinson, a poet and literary arts advocate. Hopkinson is co-founder and director of Rock Canyon Poets, a regional poetry group which put together two anthologies: ‘Orogeny’, a collection of Rock Canyon Poets work; and ‘Inspired’, a collection from the community poetry writing workshop she teaches every year with support from Utah Humanities. She also co-founded Provo Poetry in 2015 to feature Utah poets in Poemball vending machines with locations in Provo and Salt Lake City. In addition, Hopkinson is a board member of the International Women’s Guild and curates Poetry Happens, a monthly feature on KRCL’s ‘RadioACTive.’ Her poetry has been published in several magazines and journals, including ‘Sugar House Review’, ‘Glass Poetry Press’, and ‘The Penn Review’; her third chapbook ‘Footnote’ was published in 2017, and her most recent e-chapbook ‘Almost Famous’ was published in 2019. Hopkinson happily answers to labels such as atheist, feminist, and empty nester; and enjoys traveling, live music, wine tasting, and craft beer. Most importantly, she encourages growth of small presses and literary journals that offer a free platform for upcoming poets and writers, by posting submission calls regularly on her blog, focusing specifically on markets that don't require a submission fee and/or pay writers for their work. The blog also features editor interviews and guest posts by journal editors.
Trish Hopkinson was Semi-finalist for Harbor Edition’s Laureate Prize for ‘A Godless Ascends’ (April 2021), Finalist in the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize for ‘Bone Music’ (Sept. 2020), nominated for Pushcart prize for her poem ‘Dragonfly Daughter’, received Honourable Mention for the Wishing Jewel Prize (Green Linden Press) for ‘A Godless Ascends’, in January 2021, among others. You can find her online at SelfishPoet.com and provisionally in Colorado.
Thank you, Trish, for talking to The Wise Owl.
Q: I would like to start by complimenting you on the work you are doing to promote the study and writing of poetry as a serious art form. Our readers would be interested in knowing what inspired you to write poetry and become a literary arts advocate?
A: Thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity! I’ve been reading and writing poetry since I was very young and have always been inspired by words. My mother tells people I was born with a pen in my hand. The more I learned about and studied poetry, the more I noticed that people don’t recognize the value of literary arts, so I do everything I can to support literary artists and to get the word out that what we do has meaning.
Q: You are a co-founder and director of Rock Canyon Poets, a regional poetry group which put together two poetry anthologies: Orogeny and Inspired. Please tell us a little about why you established this poetry group in 2014.
A. I didn’t start getting serious about publishing until I finished my degree in 2013 and several fellow students and I had been attending open mics locally to share our work. We realized we really missed the class workshops we had at the university, so we started a workshop group and Rock Canyon Poets began!
Q: I am very intrigued by the concept of Poemball vending machines. Your idea of featuring poemball vending machine poets through Provo Poetry, is extremely interesting and novel. How and why did this idea come to you as far back as in 2015?
A: The co-founder, Marianne Hales Harding and I met at one of the open mics mentioned above. She had started ‘Speak for Yourself’ open mic around the time I graduated, and I often attended. She had a large gumball machine at the café where the open mics were held and was talking about how she had another machine and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I asked if it would take capsules, not just gumballs, she said yes and the idea for promoting local, living poets via a vending machine was born.
Q: Your blog is a godsend for small non-commercial presses and literary journals/magazines as well as poets looking for tips on submission, submission strategies, self-publication tips etc. What made you set up this blog?
A: When I first started looking for places to send my work, I did a lot of research online and needed some way to track the resources and information I found. So, I started sharing them on my blog and on social media. It was obvious there was a need for the information, and I needed it myself. Over time I learned more, met many writers and editors online and in person, and it just grew from there.
Q: I went through your poetry collections, ‘Almost Famous’ as well as ‘Footnote.’ They both feature beautiful poetry but are distinct. ‘Almost famous’ talks about simple things like the pain of losing a dog to a ‘murderous tow truck’ or telling a daughter that ‘love evolves from practice-like rolling upon pointe shoes.’ The ‘Footnote’, on the other hand is cloaked in the language of literary greats like Poe or Joyce and pays a tribute to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg or rockstar Janis Joplin. Please share with the readers the creative process that went into putting together these vastly different compilations.
A: First, thank you so much for reading my work. ‘Footnote’ really happened by accident. I was teaching a community poetry writing workshop on response poetry, so as I was writing the lesson, I looked back at my own poems for examples to share with the class. What I discovered is that I have a lot of response poems, so I pulled them together in a collection and started submitting it. I feel very fortunate that Lithic Press accepted it and created such a beautiful book from my poems.
‘Almost Famous’ came from personal poems based on my own life, some of which had been published and some had not. It felt like time to complete that segment of my writing and have it published. Yavanika Press does such great work, so I was excited when they offered to publish it in an online chapbook. I think it’s important to have your work in both print and online to increase visibility and your reader base.
Q: Tell us a little about the work you do as a member of International Women’s Guild.
A: I work with other board members and members of the guild to put together their poetry programming in the spring and fall—we’re calling it Poetry Palooza. I use my network to bring instructors and poets to either teach classes, participate in panels, or read and share their work. We’ve just started planning the third Poetry Palooza for this fall, which will include a kick-off panel, several Friday Free Writes, more in-depth poetry classes and workshops, and more.
Q: Our readers would be keen to know if you are working on a fresh poetry collection. When would the book hit the bookstores?
A: I’m currently submitting my first full-length poetry book ‘A Godless Ascends’ in hopes of winning a contest or print publication. Otherwise, I’m just writing poems from time to time and not planning for anything specific at the moment. Collections seem to happen organically, rather than me purposely writing for a collection.
Q: Your website has detailed tips for poets. If you were to give some quick tips to our upcoming poets on how to hone their craft and find avenues for publication, what would they be?
A: Be open to feedback, be patient, read the work of living poets, and decide what’s most important to you with your work—then focus on what will get you there.
Q: How do you envisage the future of poetry in a day and age when the younger generation is more geared towards visual & performing art forms that earn them quick ‘likes’ and views.
A: The younger generation also have a greater visibility into the challenges humanity faces globally, and they need forms of self-expression, ways to share their stories, and to gain empathy from the stories of others. If anything, I think this just makes poetry even more important. Young poets, such as Amanda Gorman, are doing amazing work to demonstrate how necessary our words are. The louder we can be about the importance of poetry, the better—I like to say, “Get loud about it!” Weave poetry into your daily conversations with family, friends, and co-workers. Attend poetry events in-person and online. Review books. Support other poets whenever and however you can.
Thank you so much Trish, for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl. We wish you success in all your creative and artistic pursuits and hope that with your efforts, poetry as a serious art form will become less niche and more widely accepted among readers.