Fresh Featured January Poet: Francine Hendrickson

Francine Hendrickson sent some poems to us back in July, with a little note to say she was a semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry, but had otherwise been unpublished at that point. Well, I loved her work – and some of it was showcased on a weekly Fresh post  back in September – enough to ask her about her writing process and post three more of her poems. Here Francine talks about loving all the words, why she writes, and how 2016 is going so far…

KG: How long have you been writing?

FH: I wrote short stories for fun when I was a kid, and I wrote my first poem when I was twelve. Writing was always an outlet for me. When I was sixteen I went to an intensive summer writing program, and that experience solidified that writing was what I wanted to do with my life.

KG: Do you ever write anything other than poetry?

FH: I am in grad school for writing right now, which has given me more confidence in writing fiction and nonfiction. I am having a lot of fun with that, and learning a lot. But I really love playwriting. I did a monologue reading years ago through Urban Word NYC, and that program inspired me to take playwriting courses in college. I fell in love with it. Coming to playwriting as a poet has been amazing. I definitely want to continue writing plays, and focus on that genre more seriously in the next few years.

Love Poem for No One

Look how we fit dawn
in a bath tub. I’m in
love with the crevices
of you because this part
is small. Easy to fall into and
easy to crawl out of.

This is the part where I have
nightmares of boulders falling
on me and love is the sound of
my crushed body, but these are
not nightmares. These are just

This is the part where I
wake up to you holding
a pebble over my head, throwing it
out the window in the rain
I found this in your shoe
And you are confused when
I flinch.

You are throwing away
every thing I’ve taken
here with me. Easily. Small.
Laughing. Wanting to hold
my hand the whole time and
stay. And stay. And stay and stay
and stay and stay and stay.

This is the part where I run so fast
I can’t taste the dirt in my sweat. I
don’t want to know what grows here.
None of this ever even happened.

KG: Do you have any favourite poets, or other wordsmiths of any kind, who have influenced your life as a writer?

FH: My favorite poets lately have been Louise Glück, Sharon Olds, and Frank Stanford. I have a lot of respect for the work that Louise Glück and Sharon Olds have given the world of contemporary poetry, especially as women within that world. And Stanford is just ridiculous, I never get tired of reading his poems. Also, María Irene Fornés is my favorite playwright, she was writing queer feminist plays in the 60’s and 70’s, and her work has done so much for me.

KG: What is your favourite word? And do you have a least favourite word?

FH: Ah so many words. My top three lately would be rattling, rupture, and thicket. Having a least favorite word usually stems from the sound of the word, the texture of it leaving your mouth is just unbearable. But even the fact that this reaction to a word is possible, really thrills the nerd within me, so I don’t have a least favorite. I love all the words.

A Photograph on Fire
After Silvia Curbelo

Say it isn’t real.
Say you never spend six hours
making him a picture book.
Say you don’t memorize the outline
of his face while he’s sleeping. Say eyes
are not mirrors, and memory is just
land that has not yet been covered in

Say you don’t pick his wiry hair
off your forearm the next day,
and you never spent seven
years here.

Children make picture books.
Outer-space isn’t real. The only planet
you’ve ever been on is already
dead. All the people who tell
you how horrible the world is
are speaking about themselves.

The only difference between now
and then: No one can hurt you
and say that you liked it.
Except you.

Set your baby pictures
on fire. You never had
a shot at childhood.

KG: What tends to inspire your writing the most?

FH: So much. Poetry itself has done so much for me, it has saved my life really. I write a lot for healing; the healing I get by sharing my story, and the hope that it will help others. I use poetry as a platform to address issues that have severely impacted my life, such as gender equality, mental illness, and existing in the world as a survivor. I think poetry holds the potential for narratives of oppressed people to be heard, and I am inspired by anyone who is doing the work to make that happen. To have any sort of role in that, is an honor, and it keeps me writing. I write for the many poets I am lucky enough to call my friends, I write for the youth I mentor, I write for my fellow students and my professor, my family, all of the people in my life who have believed in me and who believe that writing is transformative, these people inspire me.

Water Weight

Sometimes when people see you drowning
they will offer you cups of water from the places
they learned to swim from. Never mind buoyancy.
Memorize statistics on evaporation. This is not
the sort of sadness you can move through.

If you need somewhere to stay,
stay here. Go backwards. Learn
how to say the word “uncomfortable”
in forty different languages
until everyone around you feels it.
There is music in you that only
certain mouths can speak.

Do not make lists of ways
to leave. Stay here until the birthmarks
on your body shift into your eyes.
No one is born unrecognizable.
Become it.

KG: And finally – did you have any writing goals or resolutions for 2016? How have those been going so far?

FH: I started off the new year doing a 30/30 (write a poem a day for 30 days) with a dear friend of mine, which is helping me process some difficult things I faced in 2015. I have a resolution to do a submission every Sunday for the year 2016, that is not shaping up so well. But as long as I continue to make writing a priority this year, and use it to pursue awesome opportunities, I will be happy.

From where I’m standing, it looks like anything Francine pursues is going to be awesome! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading her poems and insights as much as I have.

If you are an emerging or unpublished poet, and would also like to submit work for a weekly Fresh spot (every Thursday), and/or put yourself forward for our monthly poetry profile Fresh: Featured, you can find out how right here.


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