Loom Press Interviews Kate Hanson Foster

In her interview with Loom Press, author Kate Hanson Foster talks about her collection Mid Drift, her evolution as a writer, motherhood, and her current manuscript:

How distanced were you from the events and experiences described in the poems of Mid Drift, such as the poem "Riverwalk," for instance? Were you still living in Lowell when you wrote the bulk of these poems?

Foster: At the time Mid Drift was written, I was a UMass Lowell graduate living in Lowell and on my third apartment. I lived in Lowell for the entire duration of my twenties, so you could say Lowell was the backdrop of what I consider a very impressionable period of my life. In the early 2000s Lowell was gaining the reputation as a burgeoning artist community—but to me, it still had the sensation of a ghost town. I became fascinated with the essence of Lowell’s emptiness, this sort of dormant omnipresence in mill buildings, dirty side streets, and of course, the mighty Merrimack. It is lonely, but palpable company, the city of Lowell—and it is in those moments you might believe the city belongs to you only. I know that lifetime residents of Lowell will scoff at me for saying that. I’m not a Lowell native—but no matter what anyone says, in those 10 years, as a young woman walking alone along the Riverwalk, slipping in and out of dark bars, or standing on an empty downtown sidewalk on a Saturday afternoon—I truly felt like Lowell was mine then, and I was always writing about it.

Later, when I pursued an MFA in poetry, part of the thesis requirement was to create a book-length compilation of work. I started to shape my poems to create a more holistic vision of what I wanted Mid Drift to be. How close am I to the events described in this book? I guess that all depends on your definition of closeness. All the events are true, but poetry affords a certain amount of ambiguity and mystique that permits the writer to step in and out of events to create an inexplicable wallop. That’s not a technical term ha ha—just an effect I’m always striving towards. Sometimes I channel my inner self in the book, sometimes I write in the voice of my mother, father or grandmother, and some poems are meant to be read as a collective voice—a culmination of all the characters that appear within the book. The first poem, “Prayer” is a good example of this. The description of the Riverwalk and lines such as “I drink too much,” “I’m in love with a lunatic,” “I’ve come here because I don’t expect to be found”— I had a lot of people in mind for whom I felt I was speaking for. A lot went down on the Rverwalk in those years—one of the more traumatizing events being the suicide of my friend who hanged himself off the Aiken Street Bridge in June of 2003.

I felt like that time in my life exposed me to many harsh realities—death, sickness, infidelity, homelessness, prostitution, etc. It all had an enormous impact on my sense of spirituality. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Igmar Berman’s film, Winter Light, but there is a clip where the pastor named Tomas has trouble coming to terms with God’s silence. In one scene he says, “Every time I confronted God with the realities I witnessed, he turned into something ugly and revolting. A spider god, a monster, so I fled from the light, clutching my image to myself in the dark.” Like a good poem, this scene has the power to make you shift in your seat and meditate on an image that disturbs and awakens you at the same time. And so my goal for Mid Drift was to embrace the ugly “spider god,” accept the silence, and allow myself to interpret the inexpressible on my own terms. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it all connects with Lowell, a city that, like God, is the object of a one-sided relationship. These two voids are constantly intertwining and shape the narrative of Mid Drift. The poems are essentially a lyrical coping strategy—a way to make the confrontation of the ugly and the silent to be a moment that can be savored. Ultimately, the simple act of existing can be a beautiful, exhilarating thing, especially if you are certain no one is watching. Many people ask me questions about the backstory of Mid Drift and I keep a thin veil over the poems because if it was going to be a book that relayed the realness and ugliness of everyday life—that reality is that we all have our secrets, and we don’t have to tell them.

Interviewer: How often do you sit down to write? Did writing change for you once you had children?

Foster: Things are a lot different for me now as a writer and a mom of three. I no longer live in Lowell, but I’m close enough that I can visit often. It’s harder to find the time to write but I find my schedule can be resilient when I really want to get something done.

Interviewer: Are you working on anything in particular at the moment?

Foster: I have a new manuscript that I’m working on—it abandons the grittiness of Mid Drift and is more focused on human nature in animal terms—in other words, motherhood. I changed a lot after having children, mostly due to debilitating postpartum depression and anxiety. Mental illness is the dominant theme in this new manuscript, but if there is one lingering thought, it is that I am still meditating on the idea of “God’s silence.” A person can really come to know oneself when they are aware that something is missing, whether it is the concept of God or losing the sense of self. Silence can simply be the moment that exists on the other end of suffering—an exactness, or maybe just veneration—so all I’ve been doing now is my best to try to respond to that in words.

To learn more about Kate Hanson Foster or to order Mid Drift, visit <loompress.com>.

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