Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés – Hannah Stephenson

— a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim

Hannah Stephenson

1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?

Maybe other poets will agree with me about their own work—my favorite of my own changes often. Recently, I’ve been happy with “Fraction” (because it was inspired by a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel!). When I read my work aloud, I like to read some of the longer, weirder ones (for instance, there is one called “Suddenly, Pasta Salad”). My favorite poem of all-time is Robert Creeley’s “The Language. 

2. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

I am definitely writing TO someone (not sure if that is the same thing as FOR someone). I am always speaking to my reader. Blogging my poems has helped me locate my reader. I don’t mean this literally, necessarily. But I do mean that I imagine sitting across a small table with someone, speaking to them pretty intensely and closely. That person is always shifting. Sometimes they are blurry, a collage of a few people (I think of how faces look blurred out on TV to protect identities), but sometimes they are clear. I am writing because I have something to say to my reader. And I really care about them/you.

3. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

I am a firm believer in making my own inspiration happen. And most of the time, inspiration is tough work! Moments of magical and sparkly inspiration occur very rarely (but they do happen). It’s because of the work that we can be ready for them. A beautiful moment of clarity can happen to us, so we better keep our beautiful-moment-of-clarity-muscles limber. 

4. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

Oh, yes! I absolutely love reading work by other writers. Recently, I’ve shared works by Carol Ann Duffy, Zachary Schomburg, and Bob Hicok. It’s so fun to be able to focus on sharing the words of others. I like opening readings with poems by others because it clearly defines the purpose of the reading—we’re here to take delight in words!—and it can remove some of the anxiety and self-consciousness we sometimes feel while reading. 

5. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

I found some poems I wrote when I was 16. They are embarrassing, but I still see pieces of myself in them. At that age, I would describe my voice as GIDDY-OVERJOYED-THE-WORLD-IS-WONDERFUL!!! When I wrote poems six or seven years ago, or even at the beginning of The Storialist (in 2008), my voice sounds tentative and unfocused (but excited because I’d realized poems didn’t have to be about me). I remember asking myself, “Is this a poem? How do I know if it’s a poem?” Now, my voice sounds much stronger in my head, and I give myself permission to write whatever I’d like, however I’d like. It’s my poem, and I’ll write how I want to (you know, like that Lesley Gore song!). Now, my poems are sprinkled up and down the giddiness spectrum (with ENTHUSIASTIC RAPTURE! on one end, and ONE DAY THE WORLD WILL END, AND THAT IS OK on the other.). 

6. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Endless coffee. And a Luna bar (I teach an 8 AM class…no time to be fancy during the week). But on the weekend, an omelet with tomato, mushroom, spinach, and cheddar cheese. And many baked goods have distinctly breakfast-like qualities (if there’s oatmeal in it, or cinnamon, or bananas, or berries, or if it can be dipped in coffee) that allow me to think of them as wholesome breakfast options. 


Hannah Stephenson is a poet, editor, instructor, and singer-songwriter living in Columbus, Ohio. Hannah earned her M.A. in English from The Ohio State University in 2006, and her poems have appeared recently in places like Contrary, MAYDAY, qarrtsiluni, Huffington Post, The Nervous Breakdown, and Fiddleblack. She is the founder of Paging Columbus!, a literary arts monthly event series. You can visit her daily poetry site, The Storialist, at or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
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