"Be Present" An Interview with Claire Scott

An Interview with Claire Scott

Welcome! Once again, we have the pleasure of sitting down with frequent HWP Contributor Claire Scott. Joining Palimpsest (2017) and Revenants (2019), Rugs Roll Up Behind Each Step (2020) is Claire's third work of poetry to be featured in our annual literary journal From the Depths. Three additional works are showcased in the pages of SPLASH!: An Unlikely Best Seller, Portrait of My Family as a Potted Plant, and Wings.


Do you recall the first poem that really spoke to you or sparked your interest in writing your own?
As a child, I was given a copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved The Land of Counterpane, My Shadow, and The Lamplighter. I think it was then that I fell in love with poetry, but it was only much later that I dared to dream of writing.

How long did it take you to find your voice in your poetry? Do you look back on your early writing and see the ways in which you have grown as a writer?
I think my voice changes in each phase of my life. As I look back on my first book, Waiting to be Called, I find that now I would write many of the poems differently. I hope that is a good sign! I now try to write with more metaphor and more focus on diction and rhythm. I also experiment more with different ways of writing a poem. Many times the poem I start with is not the poem that wants to be heard. I think a poem is like a song on a musical staff.

My poems start with seeds, some watered by life and some by imagination.

—Claire Scott

We’d love to know more about your process for writing poetry. Do you sit down to write on a schedule, or rush for a pen and paper when an idea strikes?
I keep small pads all over the house and jot down words, phrases, ideas. Then I spread the pieces of paper out to see what grabs me. Often I find a theme in the fragments, and that will be the beginning of a poem. I also read some poems before I start writing. I do try to keep a schedule, life permitting. I like to write after my morning meditation when the house is quiet and again (if possible) before making supper. I like writing when the light slants. I find setting aside a time each day to write keeps me writing, even if it is just scribbles on a page that will end up in the trash.

Do you find your poetry driven more by truth or fiction? How much personal experience makes its way into your writing?
My poems start with seeds, some watered by life and some by imagination. Some closer and some further from reality, whatever that means. I think memory itself is an act of imagination. In general, I would say my writing is pretty personal.

What advice do you have for the self-conscious aspiring poet?
Keep reading all kinds of poetry. And write every day you can. Be sure to protect your writing time and not give it away too easily. Don't be too hard on yourself. Write for the pleasure of writing. Just to put words on a page is a triumph.

Writing is already a fairly solitary endeavor. How would you say the pandemic has affected you as a writer?
The pandemic has definitely cast darkness over my writing. A period of isolation from friends and family, particularly grandchildren. It has also put me in a place of deep introspection. My dreams are more chaotic, unstable, as is my poetry. I think, in some way, it has freed up my writing.

When you’re not writing poetry, what might we find you doing?
Meditating, taking long walks, listening to Bach, playing with grandchildren—not during COVID—and spending time with friends. My husband and I take a Zoom yoga class each day and spend as much time together as possible. We have been streaming classical concerts and watching wonderful theatre and film. I also like cooking and gardening. Cooking during Covid has been a fun challenge.

What are you reading right now?
I am reading Galway Kinnell's New and Selected Poems, Kwame Dawes' Nebraska, and Jericho Brown's The New Testament. I am also reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart and 7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Barrett.

What words do you live by? Do you have a personal motto?
Be present. I think that pretty much sums up how I want to be in this lifetime.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don't despair. Don't compare. Be yourself and write every day. Read as much poetry as you can—from all ages. Take classes from good teachers. Be in a writing group if possible. Have fun!

Lightning Round with


Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam, and The Healing Muse, among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

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