A poet's job is twofold, says Megan Williams: first to observe and question the world around you, then to express those questions in a distilled, succinct selection of words.
"We all use language," Williams says. "What poets do is use that everyday material of language, and they twist it and turn it on its head. We question the very foundation of how we communicate."
April is National Poetry Month. It's a chance to remind us that there's a way to express feelings and ideas other than on Twitter or Facebook.
Williams arrived in the wilds of Caldwell from her childhood home in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2004. It seemed like an exotic adventure, but she didn't know how the direction of her creative life would change at the College of Idaho.
She took a poetry workshop during her sophomore year that changed her perspective on writing. After receiving her master's of fine arts in creative writing and poetry in 2010 from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she returned to Boise to write and make her presence known.
"I feel that things can get done here," Williams says. "Boise and the Treasure Valley are this open canvas and you can still make an impact that can be noticed. There aren't these monoliths of tradition overshadowing everything. You can stand out."
Williams founded Ghosts & Projectors, a poetry reading series that seeks to offer a forum for the different voices of the Treasure Valley's poets during her Boise City Artist in Residence fellowship in 2011.
She's published more than 20 poems in magazines and literary journals and now teaches part time at the College of Idaho. Williams was one of the finalists for the position of Boise City Poet Laureate this year, along with Adrian Kien, Kim Philley and College of Idaho poetry professor Diane Raptosh, who introduced Williams to the art form. Raptosh holds the position as Boise's first Poet Laureate.
Q: Why poetry?
A: I always wrote poetry - well I wrote songs as a little girl - but I didn't know any poets or what to read. When I started working with it in college, I didn't know I would come to define myself as a poet. My focus shifted to poetry because it's what I enjoyed the most. It's also where I felt the most encouraged and most able to express what I had to say.
Q: What's the poetry scene in Boise like?
A: It's fairly diverse here. As compared to New York City, where so many separate scenes can exist simultaneously because there's the space for it there. Here, the scene is fragmented in terms of poets who are affiliated with BSU's MFA program, poets who aren't, and the slam poets. Yet, we all exist in the same space.
It's part of Ghosts & Projectors' mission to offer more opportunity for interaction between these groups. I think it brings poets together, although there also is more opportunity now with other organizations, like the Cabin, too.
Q: Why the name Ghosts & Projectors?
A: I wanted something that had to do with my own work and that would speak to the greater issues as a metaphor. It comes from a poem I wrote called "Self Portrait with Ghosts and Projectors." I feel that poets always are present in their own work, as either a ghost or a projector. By that I mean we're projecting ourselves into our own work or we inhabit it with our translucent presence.
Q: How do you feel your work fits into Boise's poetry community?
A: I initially felt overshadowed by the scene here. There was a lot of experimental work going on (playing with form and content) and the work being read at BSU's MFA program wasn't the same as at my MFA program, but it's interesting. My work has grown and adjusted - that's a weird word to use - but it has grown in response to the poets around me here.
I'm trying to create a perspective that is frank and honest and calls into question the assumptions that are made about the poet or the poet's role.
Q: How do you approach your writing?
A: I approach text in two different ways. I have poems just appear in my head, and I'm like, 'Crap, I'm having a poem,' and I need to stop and write it down or record it. Those seem to come out fairly whole and need very little work. I have Google docs on my phone and that helps.
I have others that come out of moments. I'll hear something, or something catches my eye, and I'm like, 'I want that.' Then I'll take the time to piece those elements together and craft something. That process takes a lot more time and patience.
Q: Which poems are you the happiest with in the end?
A: Funny, but it's usually the ones that just happen - not always but usually.
Q: What are you writing now?
A: I'm all about finding time to write. I've run into the terrible coincidence. I've been taking jobs that 'allow me to be a writer.' I've been a caretaker, I work in the service industry, I teach adjunct at College of Idaho. I was thinking that if I have those jobs, as opposed to a full-time job, I would have time to write. But I have so many (jobs), I don't have time to write. I guess that's the artist's dilemma.
Q: What's next for Ghosts & Projectors?
A: I'm organizing a fundraiser so I can keep it going. I'm working with the idea of creating a poetry brothel, where you can go and have one-on-one poetry readings for a small fee. It's not about sexual poems; it's about the intimate experience of having a poem read to you. Poets have volunteered their time and I'm looking for a space. I've had a few places turn me down. You mention the word brothel and they get nervous.