Thank You Poet Kelle Grace Gaddis!
Q1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I learned to read at age three and have been writing since age four. I still have the first book I created in kindergarten, a work of fiction about twenty pages long on the topic of alien abduction. My father, a jazz musician turned chiropractor and mother, a painter turned housewife, were proud of my early reading and writing skills and have been supportive of my literary career.
I have always found journaling important. I’ve kept journals for 47 of my 52 years until 2012 when Facebook came into my life and I began keeping an open journal there. I consider my daily posts on Facebook an ongoing literary project without a fixed end date.
Further back, I studied acting and playwriting at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. I wrote and produced three plays in Seattle during the era of New City Theater’s Writing & Directing Festivals in the 90’s. My play, Club Anywhere, earned me the prize of a two-week run at New City.
Shortly after my playwriting successes my fiancé, Chris Sorten, died in a motorcycle accident. I moved to Asia, living in Japan and Korea, for three years in a state of unprecedented intoxication offset only by my love of meditation. After coming to terms Chris’s passing, something I write about in my long poem “Polishing A Gem On The Surface Of the Sea,” I left Asia for Ireland, where I lived for a year and half before moving to England for another year. While in the British Isles, I travelled all over Europe exploring France and Spain most often. During my travels I kept journals and mainly wrote poetry and short stories. When not working in a pub, I’d read poetry on Grafton Street in Ireland or in Piccadilly Square in England earning enough tips from tourists to keep a roof over my head. It was a fun time filled with laughter and the company of other artists and adventurers.
When I returned to the USA I started a Cultural, Literature and Arts degree from the University of Washington. It was a hard transition. I wasn’t accustomed to staying put and, during one particularly restless period, I left the program and went to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Guatemala, Belize, as well as around the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Eventually, I grew tired of drinking, surfing, and travel and returned to university to complete my education. I earned a BA in Culture, Literature, and Arts in 2012 and, the following fall, I started a Creative Writing MFA at UW. I graduated in 2014 with the highest GPA in my class.
While studying at the University of Washington I wrote and hosted “The Arts & Music Hour” on UWAVE Radio. My day job, as a nationally known psychic, also kept me in the public sphere. I’ve twice been a guest on CBS Radio’s “The Psychic Next Door,” in 2010 and 2012. I was also a guest on “Darkness Radio With Dave Schrader,” in 2014. Earlier, I was guest speaker on the Ghost Adventurer’s TV show during their Seattle Event in 2011. And, I’ve also participated in The Northwest Women’s Expo and, further back, The Women of Wisdom Conferences.
In many ways my life is a paradox. I lived wildly by anyone’s standards following a string of emotional challenges in my youth, yet, all the while I was also studying meditation and devouring self-help books until I’d acquired a level of spiritual mastery that continues to expand with each year of my life. It’s all taught me that the more one lives, the more one knows and pain and joy are great teachers.
Everything I’ve ever done has made me a better writer. I am one that was born to write but who didn’t submit work for publication until quite late. I sent my first poem off in 2004 and won third place in Poetry.org’s National Poetry contest. After that I wrote but didn’t submit work again until 2010 when my poem “Tulalip” was published in Clamor Literary Journal. Since then, I’ve been published fairly frequently. As you know, Yellow Chair Press published My Myths in December of 2016. Other recent publishing credits include Dispatches Editions prestigious anthology Resist Much / Obey Little, Vending Machine Press’s Very Fine Writing, The Till’s annual Till Chapbook, Goldfish Press’s Five Willows Poetry Review, Crisis Chronicles Press’s Hessler Street Fair Anthology, International’s LOLX, Brightly Press’s Shake The Tree Anthology, M.L. Johnson’s anthology Moonlight Dreamers of the Yellow Haze, BlazeVOX in BlazeVOX15, Tyler Malone’s Magazine The New Independents, Juliet Cooke’s Thirteen Myna Birds Journal, Kristen Scott’s Knot Literary Magazine, Janice Lee’s Entropy Journal, Writing For Peace Journal’s Dove Tales: The Nature Edition and Blackmail Press’s Black Mail Press Edition 37, and elsewhere. I’ve authored three chapbooks It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was, Visions Of, and American Discard. I am also honored to be one of 4Culture’s “Poetry on the Buses” contest winners in 2015 and 2017.
Q2. Why is poetry important?
I’m a spiritual person. Not to scare anyone away when I say that, I’m not a glycerin-eyed religious sort. Nothing fake, that’s different. When I say, “spiritual” I mean I’m one with an intense desire to be real and to become more, to understand why I’m here. Poetry is pivotal to this facet of my life because I believe poetry to be the language of my soul much as literary fiction is the language of my spirit.
Q3. How does a poem begin for you, with an idea, a form or an image?
It varies but I’d say that more often than not I get the entire idea at once. Ideas often come from my memory and imagination, sometimes from being witness to an event. Actually, now that I think of it, my work my answer is C) All of the above. Thank you for asking me this question. It was good to consider.
Q4. Where is your favorite place to write and why? I have an antique chair that I sit in. its thick moss-colored cushions and wooden arms and its excessive stiffness, helps keep me on task. It isn’t comfortable at all. I must have been a nun or monk in a past life to enjoy the suffering it produces. When my writing chair becomes too much for me, after eight to ten hours of writing, I’ll retreat to my bed and prop up in luxury. I always edit my work in luxury because editing is its own brand of suffering. I should note that I am both kidding and not kidding in this answer. My writing chair is a torture device and my bed is fab, but I do not believe suffering is a good thing or essential to writing. There is plenty of suffering in the world, nobody needs more, the chair is a habit that I’m looking to replace with something better for my body. I should note that when I’m away from home I find I can write anywhere; no special seating required.
Q5. What is the relationship between your speaking voice and your written voice?
Hmm, that’s a tough question. I believe I sound the same but it’s possible I’m more direct when I write. When writing I also get to say how things really are rather than give the socially accepted answers that put non-writers on edge. Writing allows an engagement with the essence of things that one can rarely get away with in conversation.
Q6. What are your thoughts about social media and poetry? Do you think it helps the poet or hinders the poet?
I love Facebook. I live a significant portion of my life online, about an hour a day, it’s helped me connect to other writers and find resources to submit my work. I barely use Twitter and can’t even recall if I opened an Instagram account or not but Facebook and I are close. Sure, it’s time-consuming but I get enough out of it to find it worth my while. I’m listed as Kelle Grace Gaddis on Facebook. I accept all friend requests from writers and readers if anyone that reads this would like to join me there.
Q7. What is the best advice you have for other poets?
Read poetry, go to readings, talk to other poets, and most of all write and submit your work. It’s also important to learn to take criticism and be willing to change and grow.
Q8. What do you see in the future for poets, do you believe that poetry will regain its strength over time?
I believe we are in a new age of poetry. When the world presents difficulty people are forced to find their voices and define what they think, feel, and believe. I anticipate poetry and all other literary forms to enjoy a massive revival in the days ahead.
Q9. Why did you start blogging?
My first blog was against mass incarceration when I was getting my BA at UW. I started it because I consider privately owned prisons modern slavery. I would like to see greater justice in our world for minorities and people born in poverty since they are the one’s our nation locks up.
My second blog, kellegracegaddis.com ran for about ten years. I recently took it down and began compiling the entries for a self-help book. The essays from the book will be in it. My writer’s page doesn’t have an active blog because I’m using Facebook as a platform for an ongoing art project. It is the only “blog” I have at this time.
Q10. Do you have any blogging tips?
Write every day. If you are going to miss a day tell people when you’ll be back. People have little patience for inconsistency. If you want them to come back to your blog again and again write often and keep them informed.
Q11. Who is your favorite poet? And why?
I can’t pick one favorite but I can quickly whip through my faves. I’ve always loved Sylvia Plath and E.E. Cummings, however, since they are from another century I would like to add a couple of modern favorites that also happen to be friends of mine, CA Conrad and Tammy Robacker. I can hear these writer’s soul’s speaking in their work and that is what draws me to them. I hope they would say the same of me if asked, well, actually, I guess they have in a way. CA Conrad wrote praise for My Myths book jacket and read with me at The Jewel Box Theater in Seattle and, my new friend, Tammy Robacker has recently invited me to read with her at her Seattle book launch for Villain Songs in June.
Q12. What, if any, groups or organizations are you a member of?
I’m a member of Hugo House and PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association) and, in my heart I belong to writers of a certain mindset such as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, both brave free-thinkers from The Lost Generation. I also relate to The Beat Generation’s Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg for similar reasons. My contemporaries in what I’ve decided to call The Transcendent Generation are CA Conrad, Tammy Robacker, and Deborah Woodard and all other writers that are able to care beyond themselves. And, as my moniker suggests, I stand with all poets that transcend their personal darkness to create works that transform the literary landscape of our time. I don’t mean this as a boast but rather as a stance and purpose. Thank you for interviewing me!