May 2–8, 2022
Kate Meadows uses poetry as a way to confront objects and experiment with momentary perception. She studied literature and art history at the University of North Carolina and after graduating moved to Brooklyn in 2020. She has worked on public programming for nonprofits such as Poets House and the Monira Foundation and now serves as the associate editor of the hospitality-focused literary magazine 86 Logic. Her own work can be found online in Scalawag and Southern Cultures. This past fall, she was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Natalie Eilbert’s MFA Application Bootcamp.
My woman is
the heavy-thumbed milkmaid
who kneads out the knot
in my neck each night. By rote,
I do not have to ask her for it.
Her gesture lives
in the punched-out
rosette of her elbow,
the working groove
of its opposite crook.
Nightly, she does this,
my frantic little woman.
She hands me a glass to suckle
the cramp, lathers white
the day-old wound,
doomed by that kind of
Whatever I do, I do not
shake her and the blind
right out of her knuckles.
My woman’s hands are a soft hook.
Her face is the lit dome
that I look up
and out through.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I wrote it in August of 2020 after spending a month isolating in the North Carolina mountains. It’s one of those poems that I blurted out all at once, and the meaning filtered in later. I think it’s about the fine line between self-coddling and self-care.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been writing a collection of essay pieces for a Substack called Vanishing Acts, which sort of unpack social dynamics in New York City and the obsessions induced by loss. It’s fun to come at prose from a poetry angle, where you don’t know what you’re doing and can bend the rules without knowing it.
What’s a good day for you?
Mondays are divine. It’s my Sunday, and mornings are slow, with time to read and make a little breakfast and ease into the day. I meet with the editors at 86 Logic in the afternoons and usually wind up grabbing dinner or drinks with a friend. It’s a perfect balance of busy and not-busy, where routine can easily slip into spontaneity. I love a day where I feel like I’m out in the city and moving in time with it.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
My mom’s van. And total whim. I graduated during the pandemic and had been living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for almost fifteen years, and felt like I needed to see somewhere else as the world was conceivably ending. Rent was cheap then and I made the leap. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so glad I stuck with it.
Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?
I just moved to Clinton Hill from Bushwick a few weeks ago. All of the trees are blossoming white in front of the brownstones and the look of it just takes my breath away. I love the churches, the Biggie murals, the bakeries on every corner. I have a soft spot for Bushwick, of course—but it had been quiet and locked down when I moved there two winters ago, and it’s nice to start over in a neighborhood that already feels so alive, to get to know something that feels utterly new.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.
Last summer I stumbled on a flea market on DeKalb that happened to be infested with kittens. They appeared from nowhere—first one, and then two, and then like five more appeared between racks of $1 tees. They attacked my shoelaces. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still get really excited when I see a bodega cat.
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
I think a poetry community is people who remind you that you’re supposed to be writing. It hasn’t been easy to navigate that outside of the structure of my undergraduate creative writing program, especially during a pandemic, but online workshops through Brooklyn Poets and the 92Y have been a beautiful resource. I’ve been lucky enough to grab coffee in person with some incredible poets and “talk shop.” Poets have so much they can learn from one another, and I hope to keep building that community here.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Hart Crane and Paul Auster have been influences since college, and I can’t forget to mention Auden.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
Michael McFee was my first poetry teacher at UNC and he red-sharpied my earliest messes into tight, lyrical things that might be considered actual poems. I owe him everything for that. More recently, I’ve taken classes with Natalie Eilbert and Maya C. Popa that have helped me navigate shifts in style and totally rethink the revision process.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
A stanza in Flowers of Evil that went:
Rubens, garden of idleness watered by oblivion,
Where quick flesh pillows the impotence of deams,
Where life’s affluence writhes in eddying abandon
Like air in the air, or water in streams.
I’ve been obsessed with ekphrastic poetry for the past few months. In this poem, “Beacons,” Baudelaire stitches together impressions of a dozen different artists—the same ones you might catch a glimpse of walking around the Met. It’s fun to recall each and see how he captures their tone. The rhythm of the last line really stuck with me. David Paul did a brilliant job translating it.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
Lunch Poems! I’ve read a few pieces here and there over the years but haven’t gotten around to giving Frank O’Hara the time of day. Since I’ve been spending my lunch breaks walking around lower Manhattan, it feels more relevant than ever and I definitely need to pick up a copy soon.
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?
I used to be such a stickler for finishing a book once I started it, even if I wasn’t enjoying it. I liked the feeling of completion. Now I’m much looser and will read in random bursts according to mood. It’s nice to put together a little syllabus for yourself based on whatever is tickling your curiosity! I’m addicted to used bookstores, and I think that’s a good way to discover the next read on accident. Books do have to be physical for me to really satisfy that materialistic drive, adding them to my bookshelf to gaze at later, you know. I love note-taking, especially in the margins. I like to write my name and the year I’m reading it in the inside cover.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
I really want to delve more into ekphrasis and use poems to respond to particular works of art. I’m working as an assistant in a gallery now, and I think it’d be great to create pieces that could discover some unexpected narrative—or maybe music—in some of the conceptual / minimalist pieces we have showing now.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Caffè Reggio in Greenwich Village! A cool ambiance and access to both caffeine and alcohol, especially late at night, is delightful. There’s also a garden at St. Luke in the Fields, near the Hudson River, that was my favorite spot to read last summer. And I’ll mention the Rose Main Reading Room at NYPL by Bryant Park as well!
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
Molasses Books on Hart St has coffee, wine, good music, candlelight and a great selection of books—what more could you ask for? I used to live only a few blocks away. Now I’m getting to know Fort Greene Park. It has such a fascinating history and I want to make it a point to explore every foot.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate this fractured clasp of imagining,
And what I cleave to, you have already left from,
For every trajectory I trace in me as good could be double-traced in you.
If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.
fading fast and still a coffin-dodger.
nothing left to rob.
Conversions of sin,
scratched quick with an inked-out pen.
Summer rain litters without love,
the coffee left cold amid alleys in Brooklyn,
shrugging pale and pearl-less, it was never a Biggie.
A flock of pigeons bursting over the eaves of the building, when the sky turns pink and you’re watching it from your fire escape. The tinkle of an ice cream truck to mark the first real day of spring. A mariachi band on the corner, a five-year-old acrobatting on the train, a million tender scenes that pass you by if you’re not paying attention. Sensory overload in the best way. Why anywhere else?