Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.


Today we are speaking with Regina Napolitano, a poet and teacher from Oakland, CA. She is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry at the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in Hot Pink Magazine


1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?

I am a first year graduate student in the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, completing my Master of Fine Arts in poetry. I was thrilled to be admitted to a fully funded M.F.A. program, as it is extremely competitive. I think the acceptance rate for the Writer's Workshop is something like 2.5%. Getting into Iowa was the biggest miracle of my life. I was previously a high school English teacher, so I am very grateful for the time this degree grants to focus on reading and writing. Most people do not have the privilege to pursue their art, and before coming here I did not have the time or energy I needed to pursue mine.
2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?

My recent poems are trying to lean into weirdness and away from understanding. A few weeks ago, some friends and I (who are also all poets in the workshop) performed an anti-music performance art piece and I realized how powerful it felt to present art that was not asking to be understood. I've been writing poems that I lovingly refer to as incomprehensible prose poems. I find that writing in prose helps me generate ideas, rant, and collage concepts together. A lot of the content that recurs is about the banality of trash and violence, about social and personal expectations, loneliness, and being in love with the world despite all the garbage and pain. I just wrote a poem about the first snowfall of this winter. I'm from California and I was awestruck by the whiteness pervading every surface. I really loved the earth that day. The message I am trying to present in all my writing is to find a way to love the world and stay alive while also being honest about all the depravities.

3. Do you have a daily writing routine?

I do not have a daily writing routine. Sometimes, like with the snowfall poem, I can feel the idea just vibrating in my body and I know I need to sit down and write. But more often, I write because I have some free time which doesn't really occur at regular intervals. I write often during my T.A. office hours. I take a lot of walks. Most days I get 10,000 steps. I find that walking provides a lot of ideas, from things I observe about the world or people I pass, or an idea or question that coalesces in my mind while walking. Something about the movement of the legs is activating for the brain. Less often, I get really good ideas from dreams. I also keep a journal which I find helps my poetry practice, sometimes I steal lines from my journal entries for poems. I write in part because it is an excellent coping mechanism. It helps me regulate my emotions while also helping to identify how I am feeling and why.

4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I just started the novel, Tell Me I'm Worthless by Alison Rumfit. It's the last book on my syllabus for a horror novel seminar I'm taking in the Writer's Workshop. I'm also reading the poetry collection, what is amazing by Heather Christle and On Community by Casey Plette, which is an essay. A lot of my reading this semester has been for class, though I usually also enjoy it. I'm trying to read more poetry collections to inspire my own work.

5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I was born and raised in Oakland, CA. Oakland is a complicated place- it is as beautiful as it is brutal. Something I miss dearly about it is its diversity- in food, people, language. You can eat Korean food at 1am and get an excellent bagel at 7am then go get a banh mi at 1pm. I also miss the water. I miss looking at the ocean, at the bay, at Lake Merritt, the man-made lake in the center of Oakland. The way the sun reflects against it at different times of day. The motion. The changes, algae blooms and garbage. I once saw a shopping cart in the lake, a night heron resting atop it. Cars have also fallen in on occasion.




Thank you so much for talking with us today, Regina!