PERSONALITIES: Personal experience, mum’s library influenced the poet |
Ever since she was able to write, former Vernon resident Emily Alta Hockaday has been composing poetry. Now based in Queens, she released her first full-length poetry book, “Naming the Ghost,” which premiered September 22.
Born in Hartford, Hockaday grew up in Vernon, graduating from Rockville High School in 2003, then heading to college at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
“I got a bachelor’s degree in theater and then got my MFA in creative writing at NYU and graduated there in 2009,” she said.
Her career didn’t go to acting, but she became the editor of two science fiction publications, “Asimov’s Science Fiction” and “Analog Science Fiction and Fact.”
“They’re two sci-fi magazines that publish short stories, short stories, and novels,” Hockaday said.
“I’ve always had a passion for writing and poetry,” she says. “Honestly, I can’t even tell you when I started getting into it. I have little poetry books that I wrote when I was 6 and 7 years old. They are ridiculous and so embarrassing, but I was already very fascinated by that.
The fascination, she said, came from her mother, who had studied literature at university and had volumes of books and poetry in her home.
“Once I started getting a little older and interested in poets like Nikki Giovanni and Edna St. Vincent Millay, I could just go to my mom’s library and she had their collections,” he said. she declared.
Another major influence, Hockaday said, was an anthology of feminist poetry called “No More Masks.”
“It was nice to see strong feminist poetesses,” she said. “They were extremely edgy poems. The poet Alta is in there. His stuff is R-rated and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s how I feel.’ I didn’t know you could write that kind of thing, like you can write about anything. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
Hockaday describes his own style of poetry as “free verse”.
Although her book “Naming the Ghost” is a collection of poems, there is a narrative embedded within.
The poems were written separately, but they tell a story and they are roughly the continuation of each other.
“It could be read as one long poem, but I also hope the poems stand on their own and can be enjoyed piecemeal,” she said. “There is a narrative arc in the poems. It starts at one place and moves in chronological order.
“The poems follow a new mother who began to be haunted by a ghost about a year after her father died,” she said.
The story is loosely autobiographical, she says. Her father died of ALS a few months before the birth of her daughter, now 5 years old.
“About a year after his death, around the birthday, a chronic illness started to show up in my body and it was very alarming to me because after watching what my father went through, my mind flown into worst-case scenarios,” she said. “The symptoms were alarming, like pain and fatigue, and it was the pain that woke me up at night. It was very alarming to me.
Hockaday said she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
It’s not pleasant, but it’s a fairly mild chronic condition and there is treatment,” she said. “At the time I was at my wit’s end trying to figure out what was going on with me and being a parent and also dealing with grief and then also a bit of guilt because now I was very concerned about my own mortality. It’s all part of it. In the book, a literal ghost begins to haunt the speaker of the poems, then begins to take shape and interact with the family and appear at various points in their lives.
Hockaday will take her book home to Vernon, where she will have a reading at the Rockville Public Library on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
“That same day, I will be visiting Rockville High School and chatting, reading, book signing, and also chatting and leading a writing guest with the high school students who are in the creative writing program,” he said. she declared.
Not one to rest on their laurels, Hockaday has a second collection slated for release in October 2023.
“I’ve written a lot about science,” she says. “For the past five years or so, I’ve been very inspired by science. I’ve written a lot about ecology and environmentalism and obviously literal writings and then metaphors of course as well.
His study of science inspired his next book, “In a Body.”
“It’s very focused on plant bodies, fungal bodies, animal bodies and human bodies and where all of those bodies are in relation to each other and the ecosystem and how they can communicate and how they interact with their environment,” she said.
Until then, she will be promoting “Naming Ghost”.
“I think there’s a lot people can see in the book,” she said. “I guess what I want the most is for readers to feel seen by him. I want people who are struggling to get a diagnosis to read this book and feel that their struggle and anxiety was valid and got better. produced.
“I want them to feel seen by him. I want people who mourn the loss of someone to see themselves in the poems and feel seen by them. New parents might also see themselves in these poems, because the parenting can be very difficult even without these other additional complications,” she said.