Contributor Spotlight: Emily Koehn

Emily Koehn photoEmily Koehn’s hybrid piece “Dear Daughter” is part of Issue 74 of the Bellingham Review. Subscribe or purchase a single issue through our Submittable page here.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

I heard a writer say she periodically forced herself to write about what she was avoiding writing about. Then, I wrote a poem about being a bikini contestant at age 16. From there, inspired by Claudia Rankine’s book, Citizen, and Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, both of which for me opened up new ways of approaching a subject through language, I turned it into a hybrid piece. In the end, it became a letter of sorts to my newborn daughter’s future self.

Tell us about your writing life.

Recently, my writing as a new mother has set my joy about this new life against my own darker memories and my anxieties about the world she’ll face.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

I grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a small southern gambling and spa town, which left me acutely shaped by place. I’ve moved a lot since then, but I still carry a sense of belonging or not belonging with me. My partner is a philosopher of perception, and living with someone focused on the senses and the mind bleeds into my work. I also love ballet, and its music and space affects how I connect to the space on a page.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

Be vulnerable. Focus on the transitions.

What is your favorite book?

I’ve recently returned to the poet C. D. Wright. In particular, her book, DeepStep Come Shining.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading two stunning books by writers living in St. Louis: francine j. harris’s poems, play dead, and Edward McPherson’s essays, The History Of The Future.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

I’m finishing a manuscript of poems, Contestant. It confronts what it means to be a contestant: how we see and judge, and how this occupies language. The book revolves around this hybrid piece, “Dear Daughter,” contestants, and conflict. Several poems focus on the memory of a childhood friend who was murdered while in college studying to be a dancer.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I am a licensed social worker.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

EMILY KOEHN’S poems appear or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Vinyl, Thrush, Tinderbox, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, CutBank, and other journals. Her work has been nominated for the Best New Poets series and two Pushcart Prizes. She grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, received her MFA from Purdue University, and currently lives in St. Louis.

Featured Image: by Nicole Abalde