Trying to get the verbs right: David Interviews Megan Snyder-Camp

David Siew Hii, our editorial fellow in poetry for issue 72.2, interviewed every poet in the issue. To better center their voices, they removed their questions, giving them more space to talk about poetry and life. The document that follows is a curated, compressed version of that conversation. Read Megan’s poem “V.”


In Seattle, it’s actually sunny here. So, it’s like normal spring here. Which is weird.

I do feel nervous talking about poems written from my experience as a foster parent, knowing how few poets and poetry readers are familiar with or impacted by the system, and how little of what I have been a part of is mine to talk about. I feel protective of the stories, the particularities, and so even when I talk about it here, I find myself erasing the specific, shielding her, and myself, ourselves. I rewrote this poem many times, trying to map or make a path, wanting to catch any light along that path.

This poem started out as an abecedarian. That layer is completely gone from it but maybe you can still feel my desire to restart, restart, to find a feasible clearing for where and who we were.

I started this poem five years ago, on the eighth birthday of the child who was our first foster placement, who had recently left our home after only two months, when we couldn’t sustain the placement. I won’t try here to explain the coupling of shame and grief, nor will I trace out her path since. But every year around her birthday, for these five years, I returned to editing this poem, as we continued fostering, sometimes knowing where she was, sometimes not.

Revising and re-entering the poem, and within it the expanse of our shared time, unhurried now, became a means for me of keeping going, a counter-path to what the system allows and doesn’t allow, decides and refuses. I have been grateful to get to return again and again to the same page, to reenter the span of time we shared, while knowing that for her, that time was one small chapter in her life.

For me, a lot of writing about fostering has been trying to get the verbs right, trying to find a verb that can hold a couple layers at once because those layers can—do—contradict each other. The language—the verbs—for what I was and am doing, what exactly to call this, for myself, for her, and also for our non-fostering friends and family, to whom her absence seemed completely invisible, or quickly forgotten. I started the poem wanting to find a way to keep going, to frame my grief and my love for her in a way that might make sense, or if it didn’t make sense, might at least be true.

It was important to me to close the poem turning towards her. To make space for her joy—she recently had another birthday, she’s a teenager now—and not only my own grief.

For further reading, Megan recommends:

How to Carry Water, by Lucille Clifton, edited by Aracelis Girmay

Displeasures of the Table by Martha Ronk

Bad Boats by Laura Jensen

Megan Snyder-Camp is the author of three books of poetry: The Forest of Sure Things (Tupelo, 2010), Wintering (Tupelo, 2016), and The Gunnywolf (Bear Star, 2016). She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from Bread Loaf, Djerassi, the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, and the 4Culture Foundation. Her work has also appears in Ecotone, the Antioch Review, The Hopper, the Southern Review, the Sewanee Review, Field, and elsewhere. She lives in Seattle.