1. What drew you to write poetry?
"I wrote some as a kid, but I always thought I was going to be a novelist. I still have an interest in novels, but my world was opened more to poetry when I interned for two semesters with the journal Mid-American Review. Getting to read poetry submissions along with working with the poetry MFA candidates as an undergrad student really shaped my journey with poetry. I’m only on my third year of actively writing and publishing, and I’m only now starting to find my own voice I think."
2. When did you call yourself a poet?
"I actually called myself a poet pretty early on. I believe it was after I had my first two or three poems come out my senior year of undergrad that I finally added “poet” to my Twitter bio. I felt self-conscious about it because I wasn’t that experienced, and I was in my school’s literature major, not its creative writing major. In some ways, it felt like overstepping. But I knew that that feeling was always going to be there as a writer, so I needed to go ahead and claim the title, as I encourage everyone else to do, too. You have to be your biggest supporter and advocate."
3. How do you draft poems? Do you use a computer, or do you write them by hand?
"I stress myself out with drafting honestly. I always go into a poem wanting to write as polished of a draft as I can. I still revise, but I always want the draft to be really solid. It’s such unnecessary pressure that I put on myself, but my brain just… does it. I draft on my computer and have actually just recently switched from drafting in Word to using Google Docs. I also often have Wikipedia pulled up while I’m drafting for easy reference when writing about certain words, topics, etc."
4. What role does music play in your writing process?
"I love this question! I always have music on while I write. Sometimes I’ll turn on music that shares a mood/vibe with the poem I want to write to help get my head in that zone, but sometimes I’ll just have my favorite music shuffling in the background and that always helps keep me centered, too. One thing I love is that sometimes I’ll hear a word in a song while I’m writing and I’ll say, “Ooh! Okay, that’s a word I haven’t used in a poem. I’m gonna use that word today.” In this way, I think listening to music helps keep my language from getting too repetitive."
5. When do you know your poem is done?
"Do we ever know? Joking aside, one of the first things I often do when going into a poem is deciding how it’s going to end, whether that’s generating the actual closing line(s) or just having a general idea. Then, I work toward that ending. Sometimes I reach that ending and am very pleased with how the poem unfurls, but sometimes I reach it and am either not emotionally fulfilled with it or don’t think it’s earned its ending. So I think for me it’s really a combination of getting to its ending in a satisfying way and existing as something that fulfills me personally."
6. Fairy tales interest you. When did you realize you wanted to include some of that magic into your own work?
"I love this question so much, because fairy tales really are my whole life. I always loved fairy tales, and that love was tattooed into me (and onto me because I have the show’s name on my arm) with the show Once Upon a Time, which aired from my freshman year of high school until my junior year of undergrad—very formative years for me. Thus, when I began writing more seriously, I knew that I had to use that passion in my work. The trick then has been learning how to create fairy magic in my poems and stories without them being too cliché, too overdone, or even too optimistic. I want them to be my own unique form of fairy magic that has a darker edge at times. I call myself a fairy, and I always lovingly call my boyfriend a mermaid, so we really live in this fairy world, and it only makes sense to me for me to translate that into my work."
7. What other writing project(s) would you like to take on?
"I have a couple of fiction projects that I want to work on that all generally revolve around queer fairy tales, but I also want to get into creative nonfiction, which I’ve never written before. I even joke that I would love to write a memoir about falling in love during the pandemic. My boyfriend and I live on opposite sides of the U.S. but found out we have very interesting mutual connections. We met in person right before the pandemic began, and navigating that evolving relationship from over two thousand miles apart during lockdowns and everything else has been so challenging. But it’s really our mutual connections and other wild—I would argue fated—things that make me want to write about us. For example, we found out that we lived half of a mile from each other as kids but then didn’t meet until we were 23 and living so far apart. It’s wild. "
8. What do you hope people take away from your writing?
"Like Once Upon a Time with me, I really hope people can take hope from my writing. Even my poems that have the darker edge I talked about have a sense of hope to them because that’s something that’s really important to me. I also really want people to take magic from my work. And I don’t mean fantastical magic, but rather the magic of the everyday. As an adult, after I hadn’t been able to while growing up for various reasons, I made the conscious decision to try to enjoy the little things, take things for what they are, and find the magic in the things I love. Baking is one of my favorite passions, and I truly find it magical. The way the science works in baking is fascinating to me. I want everyone to find their baking, their hope, their magic."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"While I can’t think of one specific piece of advice off the top of my head, I will say this: Writing advice is just that. It’s advice, not something anyone needs to listen to. When people offer advice, they are only offering what they find helps them. It’s subjective. You can try new things from advice you’re given or read online, but don’t hold yourself to it and measure your writing or worth to the criteria established by writing advice. It’s really about finding your own style, approach, and process. I only say this because I think we hold writing advice to a high standard a lot of the time, especially when it comes from established writers, but what works for one writer may not work for another. I think good advice to follow is to have fun while writing and to write in a way that doesn’t harm others. That seems like the best rule of thumb to me."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"Thank you for such thoughtful questions! I love this. My first thought was to say baking, but I have been talking about that on Instagram forever, so I think I’ll have to say my passion for the Pokemon series. I used to hide my love for it growing up because it wasn’t “cool.” My peers didn’t understand my love for it, and my parents thought it was weird that I was still playing the games as a high schooler. Well, here I am at 24 still enjoying the series! I grew up with it and have adored it since I was a kid, and that sort of attachment doesn’t die just because you’re a little older. Over the last 2 years especially, I have started talking about it more online, which has oddly felt very freeing because it’s something I’m so passionate about."
Hear Preston read his poem "spinning wheels are so out of style."
Preston Smith (he/him) is an MA candidate in literature at Wright State University. He is an editor for Periwinkle Literary Journal, and his debut chapbook Red Rover, Red Lover released from Roaring Junior Press in early 2020. He can be found on Twitter (and Instagram!) tweeting about his cats, baking, and fairy tales. His poems appear in Black Bough, Nightingale & Sparrow, and Pink Plastic House, among others.