Elizabeth Austen is the author of the poetry collection Every Dress a Decision(Blue Begonia Press, 2010) and the chapbooks The Girl Who Goes Alone(Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet (one of four winners of the 2010 Toadlily Press chapbook award and part of the quartet Sightline). She produces poetry-related programming for KUOW 94.9 and makes her living as a communications specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she also offers retreats and journaling workshops for the staff.
Jeannine Hall Gailey: Elizabeth, you're a professional interviewer for our local Seattle NPR station, KUOW, correct? What advice do you have for poets preparing for a radio interview?
Elizabeth Austen: Though I’m called a “literary producer,” I have the luxury of focusing exclusively on poetry for KUOW. I produce a weekly poetry segment, introducing a Pacific NW poet and his or her poem. I also do occasional interviews, and have had the pleasure of talking with poets including W.S. Merwin, Jane Hirshfield, Mark Doty, Eavan Boland and Chris Abani.
When preparing for a radio interview, I recommend listening to an example or two of your interviewer’s program, so that you’ll have a sense of what to expect in terms of tone and approach. Does this interviewer tend to ask more about craft and process, or about the backstory of the book or individual poems? Is the interviewer looking for anecdotes and stories? Does it seem like the interviewer has actually read the book?
I recommend that you spend some time thinking about what YOU want to say about your work. Very often, the person interviewing you will not have had time to read your book, and may or may not feel confident discussing poetry. What do you want to tell listeners about how you developed the collection, your personal connection to the subject matter, why and how you write, etc? Which poems will be a good introduction to the book, especially for someone who may not usually (or ever) read poetry? You’re essentially interviewer-proofing - Click here to keep reading this interview!