Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kelle Groom

Kelle Groom is a poet and memoirist. She is the author of three poetry collections: Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press, 2010); Luckily (Anhinga, 2006); and Underwater City (University Press of Florida, 2004). Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2010, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Poetry, among others, and has received special mention in the Pushcart Prize 2010 and Best American Non-Required Reading 2007 anthologies.

From a Q & A about her new memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl:

It seems as though this book has probably existed in some form or another in your head for a long time. Was finally getting it all down on paper an act of therapy for you, or were the events of your life something you had to come to terms with personally before you could write this memoir?

I kept journals, from before my son was born, throughout my active alcoholism, and well into sobriety. Even in the journals, I wouldn't call it therapy—I had a sense of myself as a writer. Other than a brief childhood interest in becoming an archeologist, I'd always wanted to be a writer. The journal writing often felt as if it was saving my life, not as therapeutic exercise, but as writing practice—that even in the darkest, craziest confusion, I could write. The chapter, "The Last Time I Saw Her" began as a story I wrote for an undergraduate creative writing class in 1984, a year after the events in the story. From the beginning, I knew that the only way to have an understanding, to know what had happened, would be to write it. What drives the memoir is my not having come to terms with the events of my life. It's the hunger to know and to understand that set the book in motion. In 2006, when I put aside my journals and began writing this memoir from the beginning, I believed that the writing of it would take me to my son. That I would find him in whatever way was possible. I was also able to see my younger self as a character, with the clarity and compassion I would offer any stranger. It was crucial to the writing, and I could also feel how that care for her/my younger self and the discoveries I made were changing me as I wrote. The writing of the book also catalyzed the visit to my son's parents. I'd been unable to make that trip for 27 years, unable to even pick up the phone.

Since you have been sharing your story, have you found that others have opened up about personal experiences involving alcoholism, adoption, or the loss of a child at a young age?

Yes, it's been really great that others connect to my story and have talked and written to me about their own. While some stories are directly related to the subjects that I write about, others aren't specific to alcoholism or adoption. People have...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl.

Writers Read: Kelle Groom.

--Marshal Zeringue