Getting to know Leah Poole Osowski and her new book hover over her

Available now from The Kent State University Press

Leah Poole Osowski grew up in Natick and Brewster, Massachusetts. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her first book "hover over her" (Kent State University Press 2016) won the 2015 Wick Poetry Prize, chosen by Adrian Matejka. Her poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Poetry Northwest, Salamander, and Sixth Finch, among others.

Leah Poole Osowski grew up in Natick and Brewster, Massachusetts. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her first book "hover over her" (Kent State University Press 2016) won the 2015 Wick Poetry Prize, chosen by Adrian Matejka. Her poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Poetry Northwest, Salamander, and Sixth Finch, among others.

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I can't pinpoint, only speculate. I read a lot growing up, but also spent much of my time drawing and journaling obsessively. In high school the writing sometimes broke into the experimental so maybe that's where playing with language began. I covered my bedroom window in dry erase marker quotes from Romeo and Juliet and spent every Wednesday night in the darkroom at a local art museum, developing black and white portraits. In college I took a creative writing class as an elective and was immediately drawn to the intrigue of surprising images. I'm fascinated with the connectivity of the arts so I think it's natural to move from one medium into another.

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write? 
My momentum exists in the morning, with coffee, at home, but I'm not entirely committed to that. I always start with reading, preferably new books of poetry. As the language starts circulating between my ears that's where inspiration sets in. I write on the notes app of my iPhone freely without any thoughts toward form, and after a month or so of accumulating beginnings I'll bring them into word documents and see what form they want to take on the page, revising as I go. But the word "routine" is not a part of this formula—I find poetry elusive but try to make myself available if it feels like visiting, or rather, possessing. 

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
An image or a line, although I struggle with first lines. Often they're just used as cliffs and I find they don't fit the whole of the poem in the end. But once the writing starts the poem is born from the language. I believe in the magic of intention-less writing.

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
A professor introduced me to Rilke's Duino Elegies in undergrad and I was swept. But I tend to gravitate towards contemporary writers. C.D. Wright puts me in a trance and Anne Carson blows my mind.

Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? etc.
I love the word hover and all its definitions. While brainstorming titles I realized that over and her already existed within the letters and that was it—it had sold itself. There's a lot of "hers" in this book and I like to imagine them air bound, but also lingering and unfortunately irresolute. There seems to be an examination of the female gender in the book, born from growing up as a shy girl. Personas are inhabited and explored as a way of finding comfort within my skin and perhaps seeking strength within a demeanor I felt as a setback. But the book came together organically. I'd been writing poems for 2 1/2 years in grad school before I laid them all out on a table and realized they were having a conversation of which I was unaware. It's amazing how the subconscious mind manipulates output. From there, I'd remove poems as I wrote new ones every few months, stopping for contest deadlines.

Read a sample poem from hover over her:

Their occurrence

 

We came in folded bodies in inner tubes
roll downing lawns      

                           We came calf-bruised
as fell chestnuts                hair clover full          Bled white

         like milkweeds
                                                           Coughing up cotton bolls

We came damp as nightcrawlers
                               our restless creek mouths

staining rooms with waterlines    and mellow babbles

We came when we weren’t looking

We came to ask you to stay         to never not arrive

Our cricket hearts            have that ascending effect
                                                         on aural landscapes

But what do you call a crescendo
that never breaks

We came to keep climbing         blister heavy handed
        to take the air
                                  from evaporate

       knock some solid into squander

We came as proof of life
                                            and we’re holding it   
                                                                                     plum-heavy
to your ear or lips or eyes
                                                you decide