What’s your name and where are you from?
Michele Battiste originally from upstate New York and a current denizen of Colorado’s Front Range.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
Since 5th grade. I started with a class assignment to write a poem called “Box Marked Summer.” My poem was awful, but I didn’t realize it. So I wrote another awful poem. Then another. I wrote awful poems for years. It took me a while to figure poetry out.
Who are some of your influences?
I like to think of myself as the love child Getrude Stein and Ovid never had. When I was a baby poet, I read a lot of Samuel Ace, Maggie Estep, Sandra Cisneros, Linda Gregg, Langston Hughes, Albert Goldbarth, Anne Sexton, and Lyn Lifshin. Current poets blowing my mind are Camille Dungy, Katie Jean Shinkle, Layli Long Soldier, Camille Guthrie, Erika Meitner, Marcela Sulak, Tess Taylor, Ada Limon, Leslie Anne Mcilroy.
What is your book about?
Primarily, it’s a book of sorrows. The opening sequence is about an imaginary town called Ruination, which is the (dis)location of grief. Next to Ruination is a river, and on the other side of the river is an unnamed town that could be anyone’s hometown. Something happened in the river.
Where did you get the idea?
My friend Sara Marshall (also a great poet) posted a picture of a blood moon on social media and labeled it Ruination. And I thought, that’s where I am right now. Under the blood moon. In Ruination.
How long did it take you to finish it?
The earliest poems are from nine years ago.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
I have two other full-length collections: Uprising (2014) and Ink for an Odd Cartography (2009), both from Black Lawrence Press. I also have several chapbooks. The most recent is Left: Letters to Strangers from Grey Book Press.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
My exes. My mother-in-law. My high-school friend Jim Kopta, who was one brilliant and creative and mad son-of-a-bitch. He died young. A really old waitress who wore plastic barrettes in her hair. The man who murdered my mother-in-law.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
In the town of Ruination, there is an underground labyrinth where children play. They often disappear for days. There’s one picture in a photography exhibit that captures a child emerging from the labyrinth.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
Revise. And read Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town.
What’s the worst?
Revise. Anything that makes me feel guilty for not writing.
Where can we buy your book?
All the usual suspects: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, etc. If someone wants to trade or barter, they can get in touch with me through my website: www.michelebattiste.net. Or ask your public library to purchase it, and then you can read it for free!
Michele Battiste is the author of three poetry collections and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Rumpus, Memorious, and Mid-American Review, among others. Michele has taught poetry workshops for Wichita State University, the Prison Arts Program in Hutchinson, KS, Gotham Writers’ Workshops, and the national writing program Teen Ink. A finalist for the National Poetry Series, she has received grants and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, AWP, the Center for the American West, the Jerome Foundation, and the NY State Senate. She lives in Colorado where she raises money to save the planet.