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Q&A with Poetry Contributor Jared Harél

Jared Harél is the author of Go Because I Love You (Diode Editions, 2018). He’s been awarded the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from American Poetry Review, as well as the William Matthews Poetry Prize from Asheville Poetry Review. He lives with his wife and two kids in Queens, NY.

Jared's poem "The Lives of Ex-Girlfriends" will appear in the Spring 2018 issue of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, April 1, for special savings and discounts.

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"The Lives of Ex-Girlfriends" is from Go Because I Love You, out this spring from Diode Editions. How does this piece, with its soft retrospection and considered images, fit into the larger manuscript?

First off, thank you for inviting me to do this and talk poems with you! In putting together this collection, I found my work returning to this theme of arrivals and departures, of who we care for and how we stay. I think even the book title, Go because I love you, exists in this intersection of love and loss, temptation and desire.

My poem “The Lives of Ex-Girlfriends” speaks directly to these tensions as well. At one point in the poem, while the speaker is reminiscing about past girlfriends and whatnot, he remembers that any minute now, his wife will be returning, and so the past and present begin to collide. The ‘What If’ game can be deliciously enticing, though by the end of the poem, I hope a sense of gratitude (and perhaps even relief) filters through. The speaker understands how truly lucky he is.

Many of the poems in this manuscript deal with intimacy and domesticity, solitude and love. What can you tell us about your process? How does poetry fit into your daily life?

Well, the vast majority of the poems in my collection were written after my daughter—now five years old—was born. This is another way of saying that most of the poems were created in the small pockets of time that life with small children affords. While I’m really fortunate to have a supportive partner and extended family and so on, I rarely have those wide-open, ‘nothing-to-do-but-write’ kind of days anymore.

I think this reality has made me a more economical and time-efficient writer. When my kids were really young, I used to edit poems in my head while pushing a stroller, or revise while cradling them for naps. I also have a bad habit of writing while driving, which is not safe, and which I do not recommend.

Of course, the other outcome of this sort of daily existence is that family (domesticity, my kids) shows up everywhere in my work. In any case, I think my natural inclination as a writer is to gravitate towards interiors—the personal—and to use that as the vantage point by which to write about the larger world.

In addition to writing poetry and teaching, you play the drums. How does music figure into your relationship with writing?

Though there are aspects to drumming, like rhythm and beat, that certainly inform my poems, what I enjoy and appreciate most about being a drummer is how different it is from writing. The creative writing process, at least for me, is a pretty solitary and quiet pursuit. I don’t write to music, chain-smoke, talk to myself or anything like that. I have a stack of books near me, and I mostly read. Then every once in a while, if things are going well, I’ll write something down. Basically, that’s it. It would not be entertaining to watch me write a poem.

Drumming, on the other hand, is so social and physical. I show up with my sticks and cymbal bag, and together with my band (Flyin’ J & the Ghostrobber), we craft songs, work on changes, play gigs, and so on. I generally don’t write the song-lyrics, and so my job is to lay down a foundation for the rest of my band build on. It’s a much more active, collaborative endeavor.

The flip-side is that being in a band requires a real reliance on others, especially as a drummer. I’ve been in bands that broke up right when things were starting to get going, or right after our album was released. As a writer, I have autonomy over my own creative process. Whether I write every day or never write again is entirely up to me. There’s pressure in that, but it’s also very rewarding.

What projects have you been working on recently?

My poetry collection came out this spring, so I’m in that stage of writing without really worrying what connections are being made, or interweaving themes. I’m just trying to produce. It’s funny, but when Diode Editions accepted my book for publication, I had this bizarre, irrational sensation that all my poems had been taken away from me. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it had the positive effect of bringing me back to the writing desk immediately. I had no poems left, and I wanted some! In general, I find that nothing inspires production quite like panic. So happily, I'm writing poems and working on my second full-length poetry collection.

Musically, my band and I have been playing shows out and around NYC. We have one EP available online, and are going to try to record another EP in the next year or so.