July 17–23, 2023
Hannah Schoettmer’s writing has appeared in the Louisville Review, Glass, Softblow, the Shore and elsewhere. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination and fellowships and support for her writing from the University of Southern California and the Seattle Opera, among others. She is the author of Body Panopticon (Bottlecap Features, 2022), and teaches or has taught at Hugo House and Junior High LA. She lives in Los Angeles. Last year, she was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Carlie Hoffman’s workshop “The Excruciating.”
Her warm wet body in the sink. Red
parts. Hair. The sidewalks in the
warehouse district slick with what
rose up from the sewers when the
rains lasted well into July. A sprig
of lavender floating atop the seven
dollar latte I hand over the counter
to the man wearing a BabyBjörn.
My hands wet with syrup. My hands
in the sink washing out a blender sticky
with strawberry puree. Hair. Not like
mine. White hair that sticks to her scalp.
I cut her yellow fingernails in the kitchen
and find a tiny moon in my scrambled eggs.
Hair. Walking home from work three
boys in a car lean out and shout my name.
Or mama. Squirt me with a water gun
full of piss when I crouch a little lower
to the pavement. I come home smelling
like hand sanitizer. The bathroom ceiling
light drips gray water in a beatnik
percussion. I strip naked and leave my
clothes on the tile. I get into the shower. Hair.
In the drain. I tug at it but it fights back.
I pull and pull it out of the drain. It writhes
like a caterpillar. I drop it in the tub and come
back with scissors. I cut it and it bleeds.
Her hair is white like her father’s.
I wash it with blue dish soap. With a wet
endless mouth wide open, she cries.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I wrote this poem in a sort of trance (I’m pretty sure I was in a Starbucks) and it’s stayed in basically the same form after a couple editorial passes and a lot of time languishing in my Google Drive. I’m still in the phase of life where a pregnancy announcement feels more scary than hopeful (I’m twenty-one!) and watching people I knew in middle and high school posting ultrasound pictures kinda freaks me out. This piece was me being with that fear and those feelings.
What are you working on right now?
A manuscript that’s in a sort of sketchy idea phase. Like, early enough that I’m still insecure in the idea and feel awkward talking about it. I’m trying to puke the whole thing out as fast as possible so I can just edit it, which I find much easier than having to generate.
I want to get more into fiction writing, but I have commitment issues when it comes to finishing pieces. I have a couple I’m chugging away on. Also, reading as much as I can.
What’s a good day for you?
Waking up early without an alarm, then gym. It’s in the seventies. Come back and water the garden if it’s summer. Then breakfast and coffee followed by a few hours of work. Ideally, convince somebody to drive me to Malibu (I can drive, I just don’t like to) and go swimming at one of the state beaches. Realistically, go for a walk in my neighborhood. Read something after. Cook a semi-elaborate dinner and have a small group of close friends over. Watch a movie that I haven’t seen before and crochet until it ends.
Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?
I’m writing this from Seoul, where I’m spending the summer, but home is currently split between Seattle (where my family is) and LA (where I am most of the time). I moved for school and have lived in LA for going on three years. Like the Aprils, hate the reliance on cars. I’ve moved around a lot, and LA reminds me of everywhere. But even though nothing about the city is super novel to me, it does fit together in new ways. Which I guess could be said about any new place, but I like how LA fits together, even if the city can overwhelm me at times. I also like how close it is to water.
Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.
I’ve been to New York once, for a weekend three years ago, and I blew through Brooklyn without even realizing where I was. I’m awful at geography. Best Brooklyn memory is tied to my friend getting sick on the sidewalk during a night out and dropping her phone. We didn’t realize until getting back home, and she was not in any shape to retrieve it herself. I took Ubers there and back to get it—best moment of the weekend was the pure shock when I managed to find the phone sitting in a gutter. Thought I was chasing wild geese. I also liked the quieter part of the night and looking out the car window.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that where you live? Why or why not?
I think my poetry community consists mostly of non-poets. People who tell so much truth without meaning to. A lot of my writing has come from somebody saying something that hits like a punch to the jaw, or somebody doing something beautiful.
I want to meet more poets and be around poets more consistently, but that time will come.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Audre Lorde, Hart Crane, the other usual suspects.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
Brittany Cavallaro was my poetry teacher in high school and she’s really the one that led me to water. I thought of myself as a fiction writer for the longest time, since I read fiction all my life growing up and wasn’t nearly as exposed to other genres. I didn’t take poetry super seriously as a medium before meeting her and wasn’t familiar with contemporary poetry at all. She loaned me a bunch of books that quickly brought my indifference to an end.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
Kea Wilson’s novel We Eat Our Own is excellent. It had been sitting on my TBR list for years and finally getting my hands on a copy was an event that demanded celebration. The book also demands celebration. After I finished, I told my mom to read it and gave my copy to her. Also was very impressed with Jessica Lee Richardson’s It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides. I’m usually not the most voracious short fiction reader, but this collection nabbed me.
Poetry-wise, I just reread Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic and remain impressed.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
Richard Siken’s Crush has gotta be at the top of my personal “I can’t believe you haven’t read this, Hannah, be ashamed of yourself!” pile. But really, there are too many to name.
Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?
With poetry, I’m usually reading like four or five at a time and tend to read one until I feel like I need to stop and think. Then I switch to another collection and rotate through them all slowly. Same with short story / essay collections, but only one or two at a time. With novels and nonfiction, I tend to just power through.
I’m a big underliner, and I love loaning out books and encouraging other people to underline too. I like seeing how people’s brains work. I also tend to take notes in the margins that are, upon looking back, oftentimes completely incomprehensible. When reading sufficiently dense texts or theory, I’ll take notes.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
I dislike how solitary poetry can be, and I’d really like to try something like a sonnet crown or some other linked form as a collaborative effort with another (or several other) poet(s). Ideally someone that has, like, a super different perspective and vibe from me.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
I usually have the most success writing in coffeeshops and libraries. I rotate through coffeeshops—I love anonymity too much to become a regular anywhere.
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
Personal favorite has gotta be Brooklyn Poets Zoom class waiting rooms.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate new reminders,
And what I eat you also eat
For everything made by me as good enough, I try to give to you.
Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I?