Based in Queens, Emily Hockaday is the author of five chapbooks and another full collection forthcoming in 2023; and her work has been featured in NPR’s RadioLab. Emily Hockaday’s first full-length collection of poetry—Naming the Ghost—was published in September 2022 by Cornerstone Press. In Naming The Ghost, a woman who loses her father and becomes a new mother now has to deal with a ghost that haunts her home. As the speaker learns more about the ghost, she realizes that it is something more—it is her grief and chronic illness manifested in another form. Heartfelt and forthright, this collection navigates important questions of health, life, and new parenthood, giving way to “otherworldly, yet grounded” poems (Jared Harél).
Her second collection, In a Body, is forthcoming October 2023 from Small Harbor Publishing. Emily lives in Queens and writes about the Queens landscape frequently in her poems. She is the author of five chapbooks, most recently Beach Vocabulary from Red Bird Chaps. Her ‘zine titled Name this Body was published in August 2022 by Queens publisher Thrash Press, containing poems from her forthcoming manuscript. Emily’s poems appear in numerous print and online journals as well as a selection of anthologies. You can find her on the web at www.emilyhockaday.com and tweeting @E_Hockaday. She just read with Poets of Queens at QED in Astoria on Sunday, October 16 and will follow that up with a reading at the Queens Botanical Garden on Saturday, November 5th at 3 pm.
NB: Other than the amazing diversity, what do you love most about living in Queens?
EH: Hmm, that is tough both because the diversity is so much of what makes Queens amazing and also because I love almost everything about Queens! If I have to narrow it down, I would say the easy access to wonderful cultural institutions as well as gorgeous natural spaces. We love being able to visit the Queens Museum, the New York Hall of Science, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Forest Park, Alley Pond Park, the Queens Farm Museum, and the Queens Botanical Gardens. There is never a day in Queens without having to choose from at least three amazing activities happening at the same time.
NB: What are some of your favorite places to be inspired in Queens?
EH: I have been writing a lot of eco-poetry lately and have been really inspired by the wild green spaces we have here. As I mentioned above, I love visiting Forest Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—these parks always spark my curiosity. There are really fascinating ecosystems here in the city that I love thinking and writing about.
NB: What advice do you have for readers who are hoping to publish their writing?
EH: Find a poetry workshop! Nothing is better for accountability, inspiration, and production than having a deadline and a support system that will help you smooth and edit your pieces. I would also say: make a practice of submitting. Try to send out a few pieces for submission every week, and be prepared for rejections. They are an integral part of publishing. Everyone gets rejected most of the time—just keep submitting and think of it as a numbers game.
NB: How important is daily practice as a writer?
EH: This really depends on each writer. I go through spurts of daily writing where I’ll commit to monthly practices of writing a poem every day, as I feel motivated and ready to do so. Sometimes I’ll do that for a few months in a row, and other times I’ll take months off to work on editing and submitting. I think the important thing is that each writer find the groove that works best for them and try to make that a routine.
NB: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? What is something you wish you knew a decade ago?
EH: I received great advice from Sharon Olds during a writing workshop at NYU, and that was to go ahead and write sentimentality into poems and perhaps even go too far with it—you can always weed it out later, but it’s really hard to inject emotion into a poem that doesn’t have any. I was terrified of being too sentimental at the time and it was making it hard for me to write, so that advice was really helpful for me.
I would love to tell past-me to just keep chipping away and not worry so much!
NB: Who are some of your favorite poets or writers with a Queens connection?
EH: There are so many incredible Queens writers! I’m a big fan of Olena Jennings, who translates, writes original poetry, and also runs the Poets of Queens writing series. She’s a huge part of the Queens literary community! Christine Kandic Torres just came out with her novel The Girls in Queens this past July, which is such a quintessentially Queens book. I’m also a huge fan of Jackie Sherbow, poet and publisher at Thrash Press, and Jared Harél, whose gorgeous collection Go Because I Love You is available at Queens bookshop Kew & Willow. Kimiko Hahn is an incredible force with a stunning repertoire of poetry. Sokunthary Svay has written poetry as well as opera! Sherese Francis writes beautiful poetry and is also busy engaging the community with writing events, workshops, and art. I feel like I could go on forever! Queens is really literature-rich.
NB: What are your favorite venues to read poetry in Queens?
EH: I recently read at Kew & Willow bookshop with poet Sarah Sala, and that was a great experience! I loved the atmosphere and support from the owners. I have read at QED quite a few times—(most recently) with Poets of Queens on October 16—and always have a great experience there. I haven’t read there, but I love hearing poems at the Maple Grove Cemetery reading series.
NB: Why do you love writing about Queens’ landscape in your poems?
EH: As I mentioned above, I have been focusing a lot on eco-poetry, and Queens is the ecosystem I’m in! My next collection, In a Body (Harbor Editions, October 2023), looks to the natural world for answers and peace around chronic illness. In that book I examine plant, animal, fungal, and even geological bodies as metaphor and also literally to understand how they work.
That said, the urban landscape of Queens shows up a lot in my current book, Naming the Ghost (Cornerstone Press, September 2022). In there you’ll find the above-ground J line, raccoons shuffling from dumpsters to the edges of Forest Park, windows of large co-op buildings, Woodhaven Boulevard, and other instances of the landscape humans have made here.
NB: Tell us about your current book, Naming the Ghost—how did this project come to be?
EH: This project appeared to me during one of my poem-a-day binges. I was dealing with a lot at the time—the loss of my father, parenting a one-year-old, and the onset of an as-then-unknown chronic illness. Suddenly I started writing about my life in a semiautobiographical manner—with a haunting! The ghost was the mechanism I needed to tell this really difficult story about healing and the anxiety that comes on that journey toward healing.
NB: Do you have any events or projects coming up that you’d like to promote? Your answer to this question helps with our production schedule.
EH: Yes! I’ll be holding my official “launch party” at the Queens Botanical Garden on Saturday, November 5th at 3 pm. There will be drinks and snacks provided at the Botanical Garden event.
This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.
Leave a Reply