Interview with J. Hope Stein

What's better than poets discussing their crushes? Chili Cheese Fries, you say? Waterfalls? TLC? No. You are wrong. There is nothing better than poets discussing their crushes. Check out Poetry Crush and see what poets are saying about James Franco, e.e. cummings, Joanna Newsom, and Jack Gilbert. J. Hope Stein, the founder of Poetry Crush, gave us the inside scoop on her crushes and who crushes on her.

What caused you to start Poetry Crush?

It was extremely impulsive.  I didn't know I was doing it until I had already done it.  I had very bad insomnia and I launched eecattings.com and poetrycrush.com in the same night.

 eecattings.com is a domestic short- haired cat poet who sleeps 12-16 hours a day.  He writes on a typewriter and always writes in lowercase, because he can’t manage to hold the shift button with his paw and type at the same time.  This was just an inside joke going on around our house and I just wanted to see what it would look like on its feet.

With poetrycrush.com  -- While I couldn't sleep, I was looking up everything I could find about the poet Bill Knott and came across an interview he did.  He was asked what he thought his legacy would be and his answer was that he would have none -that no one would read him.  He's been an influence on me for a long time and that combined with not sleeping for a few days kind of made my mind explode so I wrote a little piece and posted it.  I also had a poem I had just written about Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath and I just posted that too & was like:  I guess I have a blog now.  Before that moment it never ever for one second occurred to me that I would have a blog of any kind.

How do you find the poets for Poetry Crush?  

They are usually people I meet along the way - People I've met at readings or at my MFA. Sometimes people write me.

 Who are the top 3 current poets you have a major crush on?

Alice Notley.  In 3D.

 When you were in high school, who was your biggest crush?

Well, by high school, I had already met my first love and was involved in a pretty all-encompassing relationship with the boy-next-door.  I was crazy about him.  It ended many years later, quite tragically, and I threw away all the letters he had ever written me in a trashcan on the corner of 22nd street and 7th Avenue.  But my parents are moving out of their house right now and they made me go through my box of stuff in the attic and my high school yearbook was in there and there’s a few pages that he wrote – basically a play-by-play, in his words, of everything that happened between us in high school.  And I was like I STILL have a debilitating crush on this person. There was something very comforting about that.

What would you do if James Franco asked you to prom?  

I would hook onto his elbow, walk out to the dance floor, ask the band to play some Springsteen and enjoy what would be an amusing night.

Do you think a crush can still be considered a crush if you are dating that person? Or once you start dating, does the "crush" become something else? In other words, is someone only a crush when you can't have them?

I think crushes are their own living energy and that they pass through us like the flu and they have different lifespans and that it all has very little to do with us. I also believe magic fairies conspire while we sleep to cast love spells on us.

 Have you played dream phone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVary7lyBq0) and if so, what are your thoughts on it?

I have never played this but it looks like a productive game.

How many poets have crushes on you?

Exactly 3 poets have a crush on me:  Not many people know this, but Robert Pinsky’s The Want Bone is about me.  (Sorry, Robbie!) And Frank Bidart’s Desire (sorry, Frankie!).

But it’s Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange being a poem in my eyes) whose pesky droog-ghost sweet-nothings me and gives me no sleep.

What are some of your favorite literary journals or presses?

Black Ocean, Copper Canyon, Verse, Ping Pong, Tarpaulin Sky, Poetry International, H-ng-m-n, Hyacinth Girl Press, Dancing Girl Press, Cleveland State, Alice James, Atlas Review, Future Poem, Octopus, Coconut, Poor Claudia. Ahsahta,  Birds LLC, Fence, Bloof, Coffee House Press & on & on.

 What are you currently working on in your own poems?

 I am writing a piece called “Prank Calls from Fish” and it’s written in an invented potty-mouthed fish slang.  So I am spending a great deal of time on linguistics at the moment. It’s basically a gang of very pissed off fish prank-calling humans.  This all began as a love poem –one of the first times my husband kissed me, he leaned me against a railing on the Hudson River and my cellphone fell out of my jacket pocket into the Hudson River and for years my friends would call and leave me voicemail messages from the fish who found my phone.  It started out as a love poem but it’s taken a violently environmental turn.  But anyway, I am just buried in onomatopoeia.