5 Burning Questions with Rachel E. Hicks

Rachel E. Hicks is one of our featured writers at our September 10th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

All the examples that first came to mind were assignments for school—limericks, haiku, and the like. I suppose it took me a long time to give myself permission to write creatively, to play with words. I do remember one poem I wrote in either eighth or ninth grade, an epistolary poem to a loved one who had died—except that I hadn’t lost anyone I’d loved yet. I must have needed to explore what that might feel like.

How many drafts = done?

Most of my poems go through between five and ten drafts. I sit on them for a long time, coming back to them fresh after days, weeks, months, sometimes years. I revise until there is a sense that the poem is ready to head out; there is no magic or formula for this. I know if I held onto my poems and didn’t send them out, I would probably never stop revising them. Even after they’re published, I still sometimes want to keep tweaking them.

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

I’m going to have to go with favorite book-of-the-moment…too many all-time favorites. I’ve been doing a deep dive into the life and work of Czeslaw Milosz this year and have been feasting on his Selected Poems: 1931–2004. In the anthology A Book of Luminous Things, Milosz curated international poems he felt embodied his view that “poetry is…on the side of being and against nothingness.”

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

Beauty and truth in good poetry knock me flat. What logical sense does it make that a moment of deep beauty—in a line of verse, for example—is enough for the soul, is so mysteriously healing? I’ve read poetry that somehow balances the scales when all does not seem right with the world. I’m not sure how it does that. I get excited when I read that kind of poetry, or when something that I’ve written flares out at someone in that way.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

Singular. This word helps me be attentive to the person (or moment) in front of me, whether in real life or on the page. Paying attention helps me to wonder (as in awe). The word singular reminds me not to pre-judge, but to look for what is unique in a person, character, or situation.

Lately I’ve been reading Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays, The Givenness of Things. As a result, I’m enjoying exploring the word (and concept of) ontology. I’m not into abstract metaphysics, but, like Robinson, I believe there is meaning to being—to the things that are. I agree with her that there are some “givens” we can grasp and intuit based on who we are as humans. As a writer, I’m curious about being and meaning and how they are related.

Bonus question: what is one thing you would eradicate if you had the power to eradicate just one thing in this world.  [can you tell my favorite word is eradicate?]



Rachel E. Hicks’s poetry has appeared in Little Patuxent Review, Welter, St. Katherine Review, Gulf Stream, and other journals. She won the 2019 Briar Cliff Review annual fiction contest, and her poems have been finalists in other poetry contests. A global nomad who has lived in seven countries, she explores themes of displacement, worldview, and connection in her writing. Some of her favorite things: scooters, Sichuan food, and hiking. Find her online at rachelehicks.com.

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