Amber Rambharose, founder of Forthcoming Poets, talked to TellTell about why she started the site and what she's working on in her own writing. Why did you decide to start Forthcoming Poets?
I decided to start Forthcoming Poets because I was out of school and thirsty for some inspiration. While I was a student, visiting writers would come in for “shop talks” on craft, process, and poetry in general, and these talks always left me excited to write. I wanted to recreate that experience for people who are passionate about poetry but lack the support system of a writing group, a workshop, or a physical literary community. I also wanted Forthcoming Poets readers to see that being a writer is not a “one size fits all” career. Not everyone strikes gold during an MFA program. Not everyone gets his or her first manuscript picked up. There are a thousand different ways to be successful and I want to share that with people everywhere.
In your first issue, you interviewed Kelly Davio and Rebecca Hazelton. How did you pick your interviewees?
I chose poets I was acquainted with whose work I greatly admired. I was very nervous about “cold calling” poets before the blog was established so reaching out to poets I knew through networking made those first few steps a little less painless. Of course, they’re both absolutely brilliant writers who are doing innovative things with poetry.
What is the weirdest poetry-related advice you've ever heard or received? (I modified this interview question from your site).
“Stop trying to hard.” This was the weirdest because it is the opposite of what I’m driven to do as a writer and because it worked so well.
Why do you think it's important to provide a space where you can interview poets?
I don’t think there should be a hierarchy in the poetry world and I wanted to break down barriers with Forthcoming Poets. When writers would visit my university, I would be too afraid to ask questions about their work. In retrospect, that was ridiculous and I missed a huge opportunity to learn a lot about my craft. Getting a chance to peer into the brain of the person behind the brilliant line breaks and the heartbreaking verse is, for me, just as beautiful as experiencing the art they create.
Who are five of your favorite contemporary poets?
In no particular order: Traci Brimhall, Eduardo Corral, Lauren Berry, Emilia Phillips, and Kerri Webster.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a lot of fiction right now, actually. It’s informing my poetry in a huge way because I tend to gallop towards rhetorical abstractions and images that conceal what I’m actually trying to say. Reading fiction helps ground me in the language of the real. I’m currently pouring over the short story collections of Joe Meno and Aimee Bender.
What are you currently working on in your own writing? What is the title of the last story or poem you wrote?
In my own writing, I’m working on consistency. I work in fits and starts – an idea strikes, I do a ton of drafting and research, and then it sort of fades out. Right now, I’m working on finishing up my first chapbook and getting it ready to send out. The title of the last poem I wrote was “Lies I Told My Sister.”
What do you hope the next few months will look like for Forthcoming Poets. Are there any poets you are dying to interview? Are there any poets you are afraid to interview?
I’m very excited about the next few months! I’m trying to nail down a publishing schedule so the blog doesn’t go too hard in these early days and then fizzle out. I’ve currently got interviews lined up with Roger Reeves, Cathy Parker Hong, Eduardo Corral, and Sean Thomas Dougherty. Now that I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with queries, if I’m excited about a poet, I just reach out to them and hopefully they respond. So far, that’s worked well. As far as fear…there’s always an initial lurch in the stomach after I send an email, but since the interviews are done via correspondence, there isn’t much to be afraid of.
Can you talk to us about what a day-in-the-life is like for Amber?
A day in my life is pretty varied. One great thing about living in Chicago is that I get to do a lot of different things. I work as a reading tutor, a photographer’s assistant, and at a talent management agency. On any given day I could be in the office, on a shoot, or holed up in a coffee shop trying to scrawl out a poem. The only thing that doesn’t change from day to day is that I try to dwell in poetry at least a little bit–whether that’s reading or writing depends on my schedule.