Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts and two poetry chapbooks, Double Life and Panic & Joy. She teaches at Chatham University, where she is poetry editor of The Fourth River. She was recently a writer-in-residence in Iceland at the Gullkistan Center for Creativity.
TCR: “You Wouldn’t Do It” contains an unexpected mix of images. How did you make sure it would still read as a cohesive poem?
Heather McNaugher: My poems tend to tell a story in a fairly linear order; I just follow what happened, or how I experienced what happened. So, the images can be fairly far-fetched, I guess, held together by the sequence of events.
TCR: What difficulties did you overcome in writing a poem that navigates intimacy and its struggles?
HM: I don’t know how to write another kind of poem. In fact, thank you, because now when someone asks me the dreaded, “What kind of poetry do you write?” I can say, “I write about intimacy and its struggles.”
TCR: Tell us about the choice to have one long stanza rather than break this poem up.
HM: Well, in my mind / memory there was no break in the action. And no room to breathe. In a good way.
TCR: How does teaching influence your writing?
HM: I would not write if it were not for my students and, frankly, the publish-or perish-environment I’m in. That is to say, I require external pressure to actually sit down and write. Once I’m there I usually can’t stop. But, having my students expect and deserve good work from me, writing with them in workshop, rooting for one another at readings, and generally cultivating together our mutual writing lives—what a blessing. I can’t think of a better life. More and more of my poems, I hope, reflect this in some way.
TCR: Who have you been excited to publish in The Fourth River?
HM: Sara Watson and Lisa Summe. Also, pretty much every poet in the next issue, for which we just picked some of the strongest, most delightful and surprising stuff yet. Stay tuned!
TCR: What’s your next project?
HM: Right now, my new manuscript is making the rounds through various publishers, waiting on someone to slap a cover and ISBN on it to make it a book. It was a finalist for the Philip Levine Prize so I’m optimistic. Otherwise, more poems about intimacy and its struggles!