Sitting Down with Katy Miller, Flood Stage Poet
By Jenny Beatrice
When did you discover your passion for writing?
For a relatively middle-aged person, I am relatively new to calling myself a writer. My first passion was as a reader/fan of poetry. Mr. Stogesdill, my ninth grade history teacher read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to the class and I loved it. I realized I didn’t “get” half of it, but I felt so connected with that very ninth grade idea of “eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase.” After years of reading and loving Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Stevie Smith, John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, etc., I began writing poetry about five years ago with some idea about sharing my writing and improving it.
How would you define your style?
I will try anything as far as writing style and genre, but I also have a Midwestern sensibility. I am wary of anything that tries too hard to be fancy, so my syntax tends to be pretty straightforward. I hope that I gesture toward complex ideas and nuances of feeling and tension.
What was your first published work?
Bob Nazarene published a poem called The Death of Nobody in Margie Vol. Six. He published several poems of mine in 2008/2009. I will forever be grateful to him for his encouragement and friendship. I have also been published in the American Journal of Nursing , Pleiades, Margie, Natural Bridge, The Examined Life: the Literary Journal of the University of Iowa, Carver Medical College.
What’s your “day job”?
My son says, “Mom, you are a psycho. Therapist.” I really am a psychotherapist in private practice. I work with many people who are grieving, coping with illness or struggling with anxiety. I have facilitated poetry writing workshops for adults and teens focusing on poetry as a tool for emotional and spiritual healing. Also, my background is in home hospice and I am passionate about end-of-life care and educating people about hospice. I have been honored to help Dr. Mary Pat Henehan with her Spirituality and Social Work class at Washington University this fall.
Are you a native St. Louisan?
Yes, I am. I lived in Washington, D.C. from 1994 to 1999, but came back here for grad school, fell in love and got married. As is fitting for a St. Louisan, my husband and I have known one another since 6th grade.
What do you love about STL?
I love my Shrewsbury/Webster Groves neighborhood. I love the City Museum and Forest Park. I love the St. Louis Chess Club, especially because it’s one of the only places where my kids routinely play with kids of totally different backgrounds. Many times kids who don’t even speak the same language will be found playing chess together. I wish more of St. Louis offered this opportunity.
How are you involved in the local literary scene?
I belong to the St. Louis Poetry Center and have helped get a young friends group of the SLPC going – it’s called “Young and In the Way”. Jennifer Fandel, Kim Lozano and I work on this project together.
I try to attend Observable Readings at the Schlafly Bottleworks. My kids are little, so it’s hard to find many nights “out” for readings and supporting my fellow poets, but Richard Newman, Kristin Sharp and Dwight Bitikofer are some other folks who have great reading series. I think the community is pretty vibrant and open.
Any advice for writers looking to be published?
Don’t be afraid to talk with people and ask questions. Get mentors. Don’t hole up at your desk and be afraid. Be vulnerable. One poem is not YOU, so don’t hold so tight to it. Writing and being published have a lot to do with taking risks.