Writing as Reclamation: Interview With Kate Foley, Author of “The Bird Hours”

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Kate Foley is a 23 year-old writer living in Easton, Pennsylvania. Recognized by the Academy of American Poets, her work has been featured in publications such as The Legendary, Voicemail Poems, Thought Catalog, and more. She has performed in high school classrooms, speakeasies, slams, and anywhere with a microphone. “The Bird Hours” is her debut collection, published through Where Are You Press in May 2017. Kate is also the founder of Crooked Arrow Press. Passionate about spoken word, healing, and phone calls, she’s here to help however possible.

Learn more about this artist through an interview we conducted with her below!

When did you start writing? Was poetry your first form of expression? 

I’ve been writing since elementary school. I still quietly pride myself on placing 2nd in the regional competition of Reading Rainbow. But, in all seriousness, I started writing more regularly in early high school – your standard emo, teen-angst poems. Poetry was undoubtedly one of my first forms of self-expression. However, I was very creative visually from an early age – whether that be finger painting in art class or drawing cartoons on the bottom of coffee tables. I’ve always need an outlet.

Where do you find the strength to write about your experiences?

One of my mottos is that life is a lot easier when you don’t have any secrets. I hold tight to this belief in moments of doubt and fear. Ultimately, I find strength to write about my experience in the knowledge that writing’s a healing process for me. To find relief from pain through words is really nothing short of incredible.

Tell us about your journey writing The Bird Hours (i.e, difficulties and successes).

Writing The Bird Hours was a very cathartic experience. During the summer of 2016, I realized I had written enough poetry about my life to kind of piece it together into one collection. I felt like I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t attempt to publish it. The poems in my book document some of the most heartbreaking moments in my life. So, to actually write about these heartbreaking moments was, at times, draining for me. On the same token, a lot of the poems in my collection are about hope and recovery. Writing the hope-based poems was uplifting and empowering.

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Which poem was most necessary for you to include?

Probably No Rape Poems. I feel like there’s not enough conversation around the environment of spoken word events. I’ve been to so many open mics where abusive language is being thrown around. This language targets so many demographics and it seems unfair to have these micro-aggressions occurring in a space that is supposed to be a safe haven for artists. By including No Rape Poems, I was hoping to share my experience so that others who have undoubtedly felt the same would get some solidarity.

“No rape poems, we’ve heard them all before, we get it, his bearded voice crackles into a microphone and I feel flashbacks funnel through which is maybe why my sleep is all nightmared up and I feel this open mic close in on me and it’s so funny when the boys laugh at this beautiful, well-crafted rape joke as if my trauma is a trope and I am just another cliche […] ” -excerpt of No Rape Poems from The Bird Hours

How does it feel rediscovering yourself through a medium that is/ will be available to the public? Was that ever a factor in choosing what poems you wanted to include?

I do my best to not hold back. I’d love to say that I don’t care what other people think about me but it’s human nature to care. With that being said, I’m not really afraid of being judged because I know the benefit of putting my work out there is that a reader may find it personally helpful. That’s my real goal: to help others even if only in the smallest way possible.

You talk about your recovery from trauma, addiction, and mental illness. When writing the poems for “The Bird Hours”, did you ever feel as though you were revisiting these moments, or healing from them? Or both?

Writing the poems about trauma was definitely the most difficult experience for me when writing this book. I feel little shame about my bipolar or addiction. When it comes to sexual assault, I still feel a lot of self-blame and guilt surrounding it, which I think really speaks on the society that we live in. The poems focused on my trauma were healing when finished. However, in the process of writing them, I’d often zone out – being confronted so aggressively by my past. Although, what’s so great about the past is that it’s behind us. We aren’t obligated to relive it. That’s a true comfort for me.

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How did you take care of yourself throughout the writing process?

Self-care comes in so many forms. There were times during this process where I felt slow, lazy, and uninterested. So I had to give myself poetry timeouts. During these breaks, I’d smoke cigarettes, take walks, eat, do other necessary things. Showers are important. They’re not always easy, but important. I have a therapist. I tell my friends what’s really going on and where I’m at. I keep moving forward. Even if I’m struggling, I struggle forward.

What advice do you have for someone interested in publishing their own narratives? 

Google will be your new best friend. I suggest searching for online literary journals that cater to your community. Once you get a feel for how the publishing industry works, try branching out to print publishers if you have a book in mind. Aside from that, remember it’s okay to be nervous or afraid of being vulnerable on such a public platform. Your story is valid. Your voice is essential. Everyone’s on your team.

How did you go about booking places to feature/do book signings? What has that process been like?

I’ve been very blessed with an amazing group of poet friends in the tri-state area. They’ve really came through for me, helping me with venues and hooking me up with signings. When I want to perform somewhere without any of these connections, I will email the event coordinator with a standard email – explaining who I am, what I’m about, how we can help each other. It’s been a pure joy to organize shows, do features, and sign books. I’m beyond humbled to have the opportunity to do all of this.

What are your plans for the future in regards to your art?

I’m very much planning to publish a second collection. I’m, unfortunately, learning so much about grief that I think it would be a fitting theme. I’ve also recently started a publishing press called Crooked Arrow Press. Our inaugural issue, publishing in January, is following the theme of platonic love poems. I’m so excited about that project. Down the road, I’d like to do a fellowship somewhere abroad and explore visual art more thoroughly. I don’t want to limit myself creatively whatsoever. I’m super grateful for everything that’s happened and super thrilled to see what’s to come.

Check out Kate Foley on Facebook.

 

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