Five Questions with Rachel Zucker / by Washington Square

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Rachel Zucker is the author of nine books, most recently, a double collection of poetry and prose, The Pedestrians, and a memoir, MOTHERs. She teaches poetry at NYU and lives in New York City. She is currently working on a series of lectures about poetry for the Bagley Wright Lecture Series. 

Rachel is also fully responsible for making me fall in love with long poems.

You can read poems from her most recent collection here and here.  

                                                                                                                    — Alisha Kaplan

 

1. What was the first book you loved?

I'm not sure which book I loved first as I have very few memories of my life before age 12. As a young reader I remember reading all of Madeline L'Engle's books, many of Ray Bradbury's books and lots of sad books like Flowers for Algernon, Number The Stars, A Summer to Die. I liked sad books. 

One of the things I have loved most about being a parent is reading to my kids—reading picture books and chapter books to my boys that I must have been read as a child or that I know I didn't read. The world of children's literature is rich and deep and wonderful. It's a strange and glorious thing (and sometimes supremely annoying) when a kid falls in love with a book and wants you to read it over and over and over. Right now I'm reading The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill to my 8 year old son. I'm loving the book, and, if I do say so myself, I do some very funny accents.

 

2. What was the last thing you hated?

The attack on Paris. 

 

3. What were you like at fifteen?

I was in love. My life revolved around my boyfriend, being an athlete (field hockey and basketball), and being a dedicated (nerdy) student. This was a welcome and radical departure from who I'd been from ages 10 to 14: depressed, existentially despairing, serious, whiney, miserable, totally isolated.

 

4. Worst writing advice you've ever heard? 

All writing advice can be bad when given to the wrong person or by the wrong person or in the wrong way or at the wrong time. In fact, it's possible that all writing advice is terrible except this: "keep going." Certainly the clichés are crap: "Write what you know." "Show don't tell." "Develop a thick hide." No, no, no. Shut up idiots. Other than "keep going" my favorite advice is "Work hard and be kind (to yourself and others)." 

 

5. You love long poems. What's your favorite short poem?

There are many short poems I love. Here is one, by Margaret Atwood:

You Fit Into Me

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

What else?

 

6. That's it!