National Poetry Month: Interview with Lindsay Tigue

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April is an exciting time, the weather starts to get warmer, flowers are beginning to pop up everywhere, the stressful school year is coming to an end, and the entire month is dedicated to poetry. I spoke with MSU alum, Lindsay Tigue, about her experience as a poetry writer and her upcoming visit to the Spring Poetry Festival, being held at the RCAH auditorium in Snyder-Phillips Hall on April 20th.


Since graduating from MSU, what have you been up to regarding your poetry writing? Any projects, contributions, etc.?

When I graduated from MSU, I didn’t know I would actively pursue publishing my poetry. I had lined up a publishing internship and working in publishing was my career focus for a while. After my internship, I spent a school year teaching English in France and then I worked for three years at a literary publishing and educational nonprofit in Chicago called the Great Books Foundation. While working at Great Books, I began taking creative writing classes at night and got back into the writing I had done during my undergrad years. As an undergraduate, I took classes in all genres, but I began focusing on fiction. My teacher in Chicago encouraged me to apply to MFA programs and I did. In fiction. It wasn’t until I began my MFA at Iowa State and took a poetry class again that I started more seriously pursuing writing and publishing poems.

I still write fiction, but I decided to write a poetry collection for my MFA thesis. This thesis became my book System of Ghosts, which won the 2015 Iowa Poetry Prize and was just published by the University of Iowa Press (in April 2016).

The process of submitting a poetry collection to contests and presses can be long and disheartening and in the meantime, I also submitted poems to literary journals and had some published in places like the Hayden’s Ferry Review, Prairie Schooner, and Passages North. This was important to me because it was encouraging and helped give me the confidence to keep submitting my manuscript.

After I finished my MFA, I decided I wanted to continue my writing education and, applying with poetry, I gained admission as a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Georgia.


What has been the hardest part about transitioning from college to the “real world” in regards to your career field? What has been the most rewarding?

I think the hardest part about career paths in the arts and humanities is that these paths can look so different. That can also be very exciting. I had no idea I would find myself living in Ames, Iowa or Athens, Georgia or that I would spend time feeding goats at a writing residency in Tennessee (where I went last summer). All of these experiences are a part of my career path in the literary arts and education, but I could not have predicted them at all.


Pertaining to poetry, what do you love most about the genre? What do you struggle with?

I love poetry’s ability to play with the space of the page. I love its capacity to surprise the reader–with language, syntax or with a turn the poem makes.

I think I struggle with letting go of poems that aren’t working. I have friends who can toss out their unsuccessful drafts seemingly without a backwards glance, but I tend to keep mine around and return to them after some time has passed. I like to see if I can’t rescue the poem or re-enter it somehow. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.


Who are some of your favorite poets (alive or not) and why?

I knew this question was coming and I love it! But it’s so difficult because for every person I name, I am forgetting five others that I absolutely want to recommend to anyone and everyone. Here are some living, working poets whose work I currently love: Oliver Bendorf, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Nick Lantz, Ada Limón, Corey Van Landingham, Gale Marie Thompson, Tarfia Faizullah (who I see is also visiting MSU!), Traci Brimhall, Jennifer Chang, Shane McCrae. Without going into the “why” for each poet individually, I’ll just say that each of these poets (and others I love) really surprise me. These poets move toward places or thoughts I didn’t expect, but always knew (but didn’t know I knew).


For your April 20 visit for the Spring Poetry Festival, what are you hoping/planning to share with the audience? What do you hope they get out of it?

I am going to read from System of Ghosts as well as read some new poems I’ve been working on more recently. I am also going to be hosting a talk and discussion about incorporating facts and research into poetry writing. A lot of poetry I love seems to spring from a place of curiosity and I am going to talk about how that curiosity can be explored on the page.


Lastly, is there anything you wish people knew about the poetry world/what is your best advice to an aspiring poetry writer?

My advice to aspiring poets is to read lots and lots of poetry and write as much as you can. Set deadlines for yourself or join a writers’ group. Or just make plans to exchange writing with a friend. Once you’ve revised and worked on your poems, submit them! And submit them again! Be so, so persistent. Be more persistent than you might imagine.

To learn more about Lindsay and her upcoming April 20th visit at MSU, visit the event page for it on Facebook by searching “Spring Poetry Festival: Lindsay Tigue”.


Taylor Downs is a junior professional writing major from Kalamazoo, Mich. You will almost always find her with coffee in hand or spending far too much time on her phone texting or listening to music. She loves going out to eat, indulging in TV reruns, and spending time with her family and friends.