Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Poet Julia Bloch


Julia Bloch, 2017 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to poet Julia Bloch (2017) whose lyric and prose poems blend the personal and the political to, she says, “negotiate tensions between individual forms of expression and webs of social meaning.” Bloch’s forthcoming book, The Soft Forms, utilizes prose poems to imitate the complexity of memory and desire by creating variable breaks across each page and phrases that often interlock but sometimes swerve away from one another, mimicking the way time skips and lingers. The author of Valley Fever (2015) and Letters to Kelly Clarkson (2012), Bloch serves as director of the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania. In March 2018, Bloch will be in residence at the This Takes Time collaborative artists' space in Point Arena, on the Mendocino Coast of California, where she will be working on her fourth book of poetry.

Julia Bloch Q&A: Content Block 1

How did you become an artist? Is there a particular experience that drove you to this choice?

I come from a family of musicians, so I’m lucky to feel at home in art and art making. I grew up surrounded by music and writing and going to performances, galleries, chamber music parties, and I always wrote—first plays and stories, and then poetry—even while studying and doing other things, including a philosophy degree and social-justice organizing and work in publishing. I became most serious about the practice of poetry after college, when I was living in San Francisco. I encountered the exuberant activist urgencies of a range of queer performance and poetry scenes, and that is where I became educated in the ways poetry can peel apart the layers of meaning in language that shapes us, language that we can question in powerful ways if we look and read and write more closely and fiercely.

What is your daily art-making routine?

My best routines take place in early morning—I think best early, before dawn even, when there’s a certain kind of alertness. When I’m devoting long days to a project, that will mean fairly extensive stretches of reading and writing punctuated by running and food and coffee. On days taken up with my day job, it’s about snatching mental corners in which to write: I’ll write alongside my students in class, or on the bus, or in between meetings, mostly in a notebook but sometimes on the screen, and much of that writing looks like annotating or note-taking as I find language in texts I want to grab onto, enter into dialogue with, read up on later.

Julia Bloch Q&A: Content Block 2

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