Francine Witte is the author of the poetry chapbooks Only, Not Only (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and First Rain (Pecan Grove Press, 2009), winner of the Pecan Grove Press competition, and the flash fiction chapbooks Cold June (Ropewalk Press), selected by Robert Olen Butler as the winner of the 2010 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award, and The Wind Twirls Everything (MuscleHead Press). Her latest poetry chapbook, Not All Fires Burn the Same, won the 2016 Slipstream chapbook contest. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She lives in New York City.
Were you driven or drawn to poetry? In other words, is your relationship to it passionate or practical? Please explain.
I have always loved writing poetry. When I was in second grade, I was writing song lyrics and later, much later, learned about craft, that is, imagery, metaphor, etc. There are several things that I love about poetry. I love how specifically language can be shaped and crafted. This goes back to your question – the craft part is the practical part. I love the passion of getting the emotion, but I equally enjoy “working” the poem. So it’s both. I also enjoy the aspect of poetry that can’t be explained. You can put everyday words on a page, but the specific combination you as the poet choose, creates a magic of what isn’t spoken. It’s very intoxicating.
The poems of yours I have read carry a strong emotional punch. "Dream Lover" and "Party, 1991," to name two. What are your main themes and concerns in your poetry?
The main theme in most of my poems is relationships. This comes in many forms--the relationships with lovers, family, and to the natural world. I am most interested in creating a true-sounding experience, even if it’s not fact. I write poetry and fiction, not memoir. So I like to take the essence of truths I have experienced and re-shape them. I also like to stretch the limit of language in that I want to say something in a way I have never heard it said before.
How has the winning of awards in your career influenced you, if at all, creatively speaking?
I have been very fortunate in the award-winning realm. I think it’s been a reinforcement, certainly, in that it does say that my poem or story stood out. It doesn’t make me write any differently. But I will say that sometimes I do write a poem or a flash fiction and it just works in a way that my other things don’t. Usually it’s a concept that is pretty original, and if that concept is executed successfully, then I believe it has a good chance at getting noticed in a contest.
Where do you see yourself now as a writer? What has changed most in your evolution as a poet and writer?
Right now, I’m pretty excited about my writing. I have my first full-length collection of poetry, Café Crazy, (Kelsay Books) due out soon, and I am writing a lot of flash fiction. I go to many poetry readings and that keeps my writing fairly fresh as I like to have new material to read. Facebook has also been great in terms of networking and exposure. I have had many opportunities to publish that I would not have had without FB.
I feel like I’m where I belong now, in terms of my writing. I am comfortable with the idea of having published a collection of poems, and would now like to have a full-length collection of my flash fiction stories published. Other than that, I will just keep growing as a writer in terms of perfecting craft, etc.