Alum Kristin Brace

2007 Alumnae Kristin Brace is a poet and author of two chapbooks and a full-length collection. Her most recent publication, Toward the Wild Abundance, was selected for the 2018 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. Her work draws inspiration from nature, visual art, family history, dreams and memory. She lives in West Michigan, and references to the region appear frequently in her work.

Kristin joins Shea Tuttle in returning to campus on September 28th at 7 pm in Winants to read and connect with students as a part of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. Both Tuttle and Brace are Hope College alumni. Jack Ridl, the namesake of the Visiting Writers Series program, was an influential professor in Tuttle’s education and reviewed Brace’s collection Toward the Wild Abundance. The two authors have a strong connection to the college as well as a shared attitude of humility and attention to detail in their writing.

JRVWS intern Claire Buck (’22) interviewed Kristin in preparation for her visit to campus.

When you begin the process of crafting a poem, what part of it tends to come to you first? An image? A line? An idea about the form? 

I often catch hold of a line, in which case the poem’s voice or musicality tend to drive the writing. Other times a more nebulous mood or idea is trying to take a more definite shape and I find myself writing my way towards it. Sometimes this is as simple as writing about my surroundings to allow the poem to find its footing. Often, I’ll end up cutting much of this preliminary writing. But I write slowly and listen closely, which perhaps leads to the images I create often surprising me or resonating in some way that ends up serving the poem. 

When you write, do you work in drafts or do you revise as you go? How do you intuit when a poem is “done” or at least ready to send out into the world? 

Working in drafts allows me freedom to write without judgement and without trying to force the poem in a direction it doesn’t want to go. I find that my truest writing makes it onto the page when I am in a flow state, generating work that I’m excited enough about to then move on to revision. Occasionally a poem never feels finished. When it does, I feel a sense of satisfaction with the various elements of the poem: the images, word choice, and pacing all work together to serve the poem’s overall vision.  

Are there poems you write that are only for you? Conversely, do you ever write poems that are aimed at a particular person or kind of reader?

I write the poems that I need to write. After I feel that the poem is complete, I decide if I’d like to send it out into the world or if it’s already served its purpose in the act of being written. I don’t find myself writing for a particular kind of person, though it makes sense that someone interested in the types of themes I deal with might gravitate towards my poems. On the other hand, I would be thrilled to know of someone with a very different worldview or aesthetic from my own being moved by something I write.

How did you go about making decisions around the order and organization of the poems in your most recent collection? 

The process was both intuitive and methodical. I considered factors such as a poem’s speaker, its themes and imagery, and how each poem begins, ends, and appears on the page. I asked myself how the poems speak to or echo one another, how their meaning or mood alters in the wake of the previous poem. Poems in a collection are like people within a community or individual ingredients in a meal: context is everything. 

In addition to the entire collection having an arc, I also wanted each section within the book to have a satisfying shape. A helpful technique that I began as a Hope College writing student is to print out the entire manuscript and physically move the pages around, either spreading them out on the floor or taping them to the wall. I can catch small edits more easily this way as well.

What’s a poem that resonated with you recently?

I’ll bend the question a little and say that I’ve been dipping back into Laura Kasischke’s Space, in Chains. The poems are smart and strange, gorgeous and haunting. 

What advice would you offer young writers, especially young poets?

Your writing life will go through many seasons. Accept these changes and be gentle with yourself, while knowing that no one but you will protect your writing time. Read widely and deeply. Write about what matters to you. Pay attention. Look closer. 

Kristin Brace will join the Visiting Writers Series on September 28th at 7:00pm in Winants Auditorium.

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