Interview with Hannah Kallaker

We have recently published two poems by Hannah Kallaker, a recent college graduate who’s work is both fresh, quirky, and biting. We were curious about her work and her creative process as we rarely get authors so young, and so we conducted an interview with her in June, and are now sharing it with you!


1. Do you have any authors or influences that you feel inspire your work?

Not particularly, though I try to give my writing style variety. I like to experiment with what I do.

2. Who are you currently reading?

I’ve been reading “101 Days: A Baghdad Journal” by Åsne Seierstad, and I also recently (a month or two ago) finished reading Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”. I tend to hop between books, especially during the school year when there’s several assigned books to be read!

3. You’re a high school student (although just graduating, so congrats!) which makes you one of our youngest poets! Do you have any suggestions or tips for other young people hoping to write and publish poetry?

For the writing part, it helps to read up on what’s already out there, and then to explore different styles and forms! Who knows, maybe you’ll end up liking something you didn’t expect to like?

As for publishing, I believe being prepared with a portfolio is a good start! It doesn’t have to be terribly big, but having a varied body of work that you can pull from demonstrates your experience with the craft, and I’m sure that’s something publishers want to see!

4. Your style in the poem Sognare ad Occhi Aperti (Day Dream) is very classical, in it there are many allusions to themes/movements of the Renaissance. What was your inspiration there?

The idea behind the poem began when I thought about meshing two languages together in a single piece. At that point I hadn’t seen any other work that had done this (though I later read a poem that was in both English and Spanish. It was very well done!). The poem was meant to relate some of the emotions I was feeling about my foreign exchange the previous year, which was a very difficult and confusing period for me. The memory felt akin to a dream, so that’s what I tried to convey. The Italian phrases lend themselves well in setting the mood, and they roll off the tongue in a way that lets the poem flow.

5. In particular, compared to your other poem Western July, which is very short and succinct, do you find yourself drawn to or repelled by a particular style?

I like the looseness of free verse, as it gives me a lot of room to express myself, but I’m often drawn to styles conforming to iambic pentameter a/o poems employing a rhyme scheme. Having those “restrictions” does make it more of a challenge to write, but perhaps that’s the reason why I like them; it’s a clever puzzle for me to figure out.

6. In a world that is rapidly turning towards digitization and social media, where do you see the future of poetry being? What would you like to see more of in terms of opportunities for creative writing?

My hope is that the means to write and publish your own works will only become more accessible as the world moves in the direction of digital media, and that that will in turn take poetry and writing to new heights! There wasn’t much emphasis on creative writing throughout my school experience, but I’ve also noticed people my age beginning to take it back, to bring attention to the art. That’s the kind of movement I want to see continue, because the world should know that bland essays aren’t the only form of writing out there!

7. What tips do you have for other early writers for submitting and publishing work?

As I mentioned before, you should have a handful of your work (your portfolio) that you can use to showcase your skill and creativity to the publishers! Try submitting to several places if possible, and don’t be discouraged if your work doesn’t make the cut first round! See it as an opportunity to improve, because trust me, the only way you can go from there is forward and up!

8. Give us your favorite poem or short story!

I’m fond of war poetry, and In Flanders Fields by John McCrae strikes me as particularly vivid. It has a rhythm to it that I admire in poetry.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

9. Anything else you would like us to know, or anything to plug such as a social media account or personal website?

Keep those pens moving, and stay awesome!