Interview with Jennifer Martelli

Slowly but surely we’re getting all of our interviews posted. Today’s is with Jennifer Martelli, who gave us the poem “Picture of a Botched Abortion (from Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1971).”


Describe your work in 25 words or less.

I like to think of my work as a way of talking to the universe:  I’m telling a story and I hope that someone is listening.  I try to be as plain with my language as I can and to rely on syntax for the music.

Tell me about your poem “Picture of a Botched Abortion (from Our Bodies, Ourselves, 1971).”

“Botched Abortion” was about 16 years in the making!  I wrote a very different version, when my daughter was about 2 (she’s 18 now); it focused more on her in the bathtub, but it was her actual position that moved me.  The photo “Picture of a Botched Abortion” exists, as does the tragic subject.  I knew my original poem wasn’t complete, wasn’t true (in the emotional sense).  Anyway, it lay dormant for a long time until I found out the name of the woman in the photo.  In terms of the “design” of the poem, I have been writing in longer lines, and that form lent itself to the subject matter:  it allowed me to contain a very moving subject (moving to me).

What or who inspires you to write?

I never know what’s going to hit me!  I enjoy writing groups with prompts–sometimes they’re duds, but sometimes they give me a vehicle.  Usually, I’ll get obsessed with something–snake handling, Japanese theatre, paddle boarding–and images will weave their way into my work.

What authors have influenced you as a writer?

Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Jean Valentine, Marie Howe, Jane Kenyon, Mary Ruefle, Lucie Brock-Broido–these women enabled me to hear poetry in a very different way.

Do you have a blog/website? 

Not yet!  I’m going to try to set up a website!

Where can we read you next?

Sugared Water, Kindred Slippery Elm, Cactus Heart all have my stuff out now; Tar River Poetry, Right Hand Pointing, Burntdistrict, and Stoneboat will be out this year with some of my poems.

What are you working on right now? 

Right now, I’m sending my manuscript around and I’m working on a second one inspired by images from Asian Horror (The Ring, Pulse) and kabuki theatre.

Any advice for other writers?

I stayed away from writing for a long time–don’t do that!  Get with a great group of writers who are serious, loving and unmerciful!  Meet regularly and write!  And send your work out a lot–I made a vow to myself that I was going to submit weekly, if not daily.  Even when I’m rejected, someone read my work–it’s out in the atmosphere!

Anything else you’d like to say?

There are so many beautiful poetry venues out there now (like Bop Dead City)–it’s an exciting time to be writing and publishing!

About bopdeadcity

Bop Dead City is an independent, quarterly literary magazine. We are seeking new writers who have a great story to tell. Sound craftsmanship couldn't hurt either. All of our issues are available for purchase here on the site through Paypal. If you’d like to know more about what type of work we publish, reading a back issue would be the best way to do it. View all posts by bopdeadcity

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