Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer: Ruth Ellen Kocher

Welcome to this week’s edition of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer, an interview series inspired by the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. Here, our staff asks writers the burning questions we have always wondered. Today, we feature Ruth Ellen Kocher. Kocher is the author of Third Voice and will read at Virginia Tech (Shanks 370/380) on September 22 at 3pm as a part of the Speakeasy Reading Series.


What is your go-to pen(cil)? A keyboard. I don’t romanticize the mechanics of writing. If I have to write, I want a fine-point, black, gel tip. I am often happy to find one that seems wonderful but eventually it disappoints so – I won’t give any one writing utensil the privilege of being my “go-to.” They’re all heartbreakers.

Most beautiful word in all the world: Kiss…it’s hardly a word. Mostly just a sound. It’s beautiful in many languages: beso, musu, bico, umma, ki-su.

Alter ego: Heroically, Storm from Marvel Comics. Realistically, the project-girl who lives inside my head and says all of the impolite, uncivil things in the confines of my imagination that I stifle in the outside-world.

What’s for dinner? Steak, fresh tomatoes off the vine, and corn on the cob. Last bit of summer…

What’re you reading? For my essay project I’m reading Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography and his Notes on the State of Virginia (again and again), The N Word by Jabari Asim, and White Trash: The 400 Year Old History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. I also became a dean this year so I’m reading The Rise and Fall of Faculty Governance by Larry G. Gerber and How Universities Work by John V. Lombardi. Occasionally I dip into Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

Who is your most-recent writer crush? Khadija Queen, but I think that’s by design. She’s irresistible.

Song lyrics stuck in your head, go: For the whole of 2017 thus far I’ve obsessed with an EP by David Lang called Just (after Song of Songs). It’s operatic, simple, and beautiful: Just your mouth. Just your love. Just your anointing oils. Just your name. Just your chambers. Just your love.

You’re a new edition to the Crayola box. Congratulations. What is your new name? Post-colonial Yellow

What are you putting off? Renewing my car registration. It expired in April.

What was the last gift you gave someone? I bought my (new) sister a coffee mug for her birthday with an inspirational quote on it. She digs that kind of stuff.

What were you like as a college or graduate student? Anyone else you’d ask would say I was “carefree” and even “fun” but in actuality I was often depressed and faking it. As an undergrad I was lost which means I was only focused on surviving… I didn’t realize that the onset of adulthood is directly related to the level of monetary support you receive from your family. I grew up fast and found myself among lots of people aggressively attached to childhood. As a graduate student I was found which means I was finally focused on succeeding. I had cancer twice before I graduated with my BA so I felt I needed to get to work since my future wasn’t guaranteed.

Here’s your free ticket. Where are we going? Peru, but I need two tickets.

Optional doodle. I have this nifty Apple pen that I use with my iPad (Is that an alternative answer for #1?) so I can doodle in color now… Recently I was considering all the curatorial potential of various entities in my university system relative to the art museum and how they all might interact with one another:

Ruth - Optional Doodle


Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of Third Voice (Tupelo Press, 2016), Ending in Planes (Noemi Press, 2014), Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (Sheep Meadow Press, 2014), domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press, 2013), Dorset Prize winner and the 2014 PEN/Open Book Award, One Girl Babylon (New Issues Press, 2003) Green Rose Prize winner, When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering (New Issues Press, 2002), and Desdemona’s Fire (Lotus Press 1999) Naomi Long Madgett Prize winner. Her poems appear in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poets, Black Nature, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, An Anthology for Creative Writers: The Garden of Forking Paths, IOU: New Writing On Money, New Bones: Contemporary Black Writing in America. She has been awarded fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and Yaddo. She is a Contributing Editor at Poets & Writers Magazine and and Professor of English at the University of Colorado where she teaches Poetry, Poetics, and Literature.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s