Genevieve Hartman is a poet based in upstate New York. She graduated from Houghton College with a BA in English and Adolescence Education, where she was the head editor of The Lanthorn. She recently interned with BOA Editions in Rochester and currently serves as a content manager for the Adroit Journal and a poetry reader for the VIDA Review. Besides poetry, she loves calligraphy, piano, teaching, plants, and making Korean food.

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Maria Esquinca: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Gena Hartman: I graduated from Houghton College in May of 2019 with my B.A. in Adolescence Education and English. I’m a certified 7-12 English Language Arts teacher, and currently I substitute teach full-time alongside my roles as Content Manager at Adroit and Poetry Reader for the VIDA Review. Beyond that, I like to cook, do calligraphy, play piano, try to keep my plants alive through the long Western New York winter, and of course, add to the collection of books that’s threatening to topple my bookshelves.

ME: What drew you to Adroit?

GH: I was particularly impressed with Adroit’s focus on young writers. Since I am trained as a teacher and work with students, it’s really nice to know that magazines like Adroit are investing in our next generation of readers and writers, providing opportunities for publication, internships, and readerships. Since joining the staff at Adroit, I’m really impressed by how it works to keep young people incorporated into the every-day life of the journal.

ME: What does a typical day for the “content manager” of Adroit look like? How is this similar or different from your previous internship with BOA editions?

GH: The content manager position is a quite a bit less time-consuming than my internship at BOA, so it is less like a daily schedule and more like a weekly one. Weeks with check-ins will be more crazy, as coordinating with the busy schedules of twelve interns can be quite a job. At BOA, I spent a lot of time proofreading and working with shipping, publicity, and award submissions, whereas the content manager position is more about developing goals and communicating information in order to keep the ball rolling on the three projects we are currently working on.

ME: How do you balance this position with your other responsibilities?

GH: I was a classic overachiever during my undergrad, so I learned to balance a lot of different moving parts at once—schoolwork, lit. mag. editor, two jobs, social life. Now that I work as a substitute teacher, I have a much lighter schedule, and often I have down time when I can get my own work done for Adroit and VIDA. It’s usually pretty easy, with some multitasking, to keep my work schedule to a consistent 8-3 to match the school day. That way, I can make sure to have time for myself.

ME: Is it difficult to make time to write? Do you have a writing schedule?

GH: Admittedly, I am not the most disciplined writer—though I am working on becoming more so—so this is a hard question to answer. The short answer is that yes, it is difficult to make a consistent writing schedule. The longer answer is that my writing productivity is really influenced by how much time I have to read and think critically and spend time outdoors. Some days, I’ll begin work on 3-4 different poems, and other times I’ll go for days with only a few small edits on pre-existing poems. Because so much of what I write about is rooted in moments and thoughts and experiences, if I don’t have the time and space to be pursuing and pondering those things, I’ll spend less time writing. During that time, I will usually focus more on editing and deciding if poetic ideas are worth following up on. Some of my most productive moments take place while driving on the highway and while sitting in church services, because these are places that have require you to sit still and pay attention, and often are inspiring and thought-provoking, whether because of the words of a speaker or the natural beauty of the landscape.

Mary Oliver has an essay, “Of Power and Time,” where she talks about creative drive and schedules and following the writing spirit where it leads, and I feel what she’s talking about on a spiritual level. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend!

ME: What would you say to other writers who are thinking of working for a press or a lit. mag. or journal?

GH: I’d say, absolutely go for it! If you get the opportunity to work in any form of publishing, you’ll learn so much about the industry and as a writer. I have been both editor and intern, and on either side, you get the chance to dive into writing in a totally different way than being the writer. I cannot recommend it enough!

ME: I know you mentioned you’re in the midst of applying for MFA programs, why do you want to pursue an MFA?

GH: My reasoning behind applying to MFA programs is that it feels like the most viable option—I know that writing is how I process and make sense of the world, and I want to learn to do that with more discipline and skill. An MFA program will provide me with a strong writing community, as well as a stepping stone towards more writing opportunities in the future.

ME: What is your poetry like? What topics do you tend to write about?

GH: For me, poetry is exploration. My relationships with family and friends, interactions with the natural world, my Korean American-ness, and my questions about spirituality all play a big role in my writing. I try to give each of my poems some kind of peacefulness, even the ones that ask big questions without good answers, because in the end, if we aren’t trying to figure out how to live in peace, what else do we have? I want to write about care, about trying to remain gentle in a world that is hostile, and about slowing down to appreciate small moments. When I write, I try to find a balance between writing about topics and moments that I think may resonate with readers, and writing the things that I have inside me to write. I think that a lot of this focus on exploration and learning is because I’m still young and I still have so much to figure out about being an open-minded and humble person, but I think it’s also something that I’ll keep writing about forever.

ME: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who are the writers that inspire you?

GH: Mary Oliver is my favorite poet—her work never fails to offer a fresh perspective for me. I deeply appreciate the reverence, attention to detail, and kindness with which she writes, and I hope that my writing emulates a fraction of the spirit that her writing does. Other poets I enjoy and find inspiring are Naomi Shihab Nye, Wendell Berry, Jane Kenyon, Chen Chen, and Jim Harrison. Berry, Kenyon, and Harrison all write about humans and their connection to the earth, and how that influences our connection to each other. Nye and Chen’s work (both are BOA authors who I discovered before my internship at BOA) deal with questions of racial tension and cultural violence, peering into family drama, conflict in the Middle East, and what it means to live beside other people and disagree with them. One of my favorite lines by Chen, from “Poplar Street” in Poetry, sums up everything I’ve been trying to say: “I’m trying out this thing where questions about love & forgiveness / are a form of work I’d rather not do alone.”

ME: Do you have any advice for emerging writers?

GH: I think it’s first of all important to do the work and write—whether it’s an all-consuming, every-day kind of writing or a once-in-a-while kind of deal, you are better for having written something. The quality, the feedback, the publishing, all come later, if ever (they don’t need to!), but you have to get it down. Starting out as a middle/high school teacher (who has met a lot of English and Reading teachers), I can say with pretty fair confidence that if you’re a student and you express interest in writing, your teachers will be amazing resources and will back you 100%.

Another piece of advice that I would give (to myself included) is to diligently work to balance between humility and confidence in your ability. While it’s important to not get too cocky, especially in a competitive world like the literary world, it’s equally important to know that you are worthy of the title “writer.” You are not going to be the best writer in the world by telling everyone that you are, but if you don’t have faith in your own skill as a writer, you won’t write well.

Finally, be patient with yourself. It takes a long time, as most good things do.

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Maria Esquinca
Maria Esquinca

Maria Esquinca is an MFA candidate at the University of Miami. She is the winner of the 2018 Alfred Boas Poetry Prize, judged by Victoria Chang. Her poetry has appeared in The Florida Review, Scalawag magazine, The Acentos Review and is forthcoming from Glass: A Journal of Poetry. A fronteriza, she was born in Ciudad Juárez, México and grew up in El Paso, Texas. You can find her on Twitter @m_esquinca.

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