When I was little, my dad and I listened to Animal Farm in the car as if it were a fable. He read me chapters from The Lord of the Rings before bed. I don’t remember being scared of what I heard. The amount of times his turbulent behavior would push me to seek comfort in books, and eventually, through writing my own stories, poems, and essays, makes this beginning ironic, but still a gift.
As an avid reader and extreme introvert, I took one creative writing class in high school and did not turn back. At Denison University, I wanted to write fiction because the first real writers I met at Denison wrote fiction, though all my stories were about myself. I saw this as a failure—I was unimaginative, self-centered. My life wasn’t art. I tried to write spare, obscure poems and felt unfulfilled. When I wrote essays that delved into pain from which I needed to heal, I was told the forms I used were too non-traditional. I left Denison knowing I wanted to continue writing, but I doubted I knew the right way to say what I needed to say.
While I earned my MFA at OSU, I learned the value of writing about the self. Poems became the avenue through which I attempted to say the unsayable. They were a place of power and control that I could not find elsewhere in my life; I was believed and trusted by readers as they were held witness to the narratives I chose to reveal to them. As poetry editor of The Journal, OSU’s literary magazine, I had the privilege of guiding the hard and necessary truths in other writers’ poems out into the world.
Now, outside of academia, I don’t write as often as I would like, and I miss working and learning within a circle of writers and editors. I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to work for Sundress. I cannot wait to connect with a new literary community, and to continue learning and creating space for the voices we need to hear from most of all.
Emmalee Hagarman earned her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University, where she served as poetry editor of The Journal. Recently, her work was selected by Kenyatta Rogers to receive the Academy of American Poets Award/Arthur Rense Prize, and also selected by Ruth Awad to receive the Helen Earnhart Harley Fellowship in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Waxwing, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Laurel Review, among others.