A Talk With One of Our Own

I sat down with Emily “Em” Ramser, on behalf of The Salemite to discuss the release of her upcoming book, “I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me”, which will be published by Weasel Press in February 2015. We talked about writing preferences, alien dolphins, and loss of nerve sensation.


SALEMITE: What is the story behind the title for your latest book, “I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me”?

RAMSER: The title comes from my own medical history. In the Spring of 2014, I was diagnosed with Small Fiber Neuropathy, which is basically, the way I describe it, is that your body falls asleep and you can’t wake it up and it just hurts all the time. It’s [usually] in your hands, your feet, your legs. It’s like caterpillars crawling across your skin. More recently, this past Fall, the Neurologists were unsure if I actually had Small Fiber Neuropathy or not. They thought it could be rather that my body attacks itself when it gets stressed out, which is helpful when you’re a college student. So this body of work came from that idea of being in pain constantly.

SALEMITE: How would you describe your writing style? I’ve read your first book, “Toast”, and the titles and the writing are very different from what you’ve done in your second book.

RAMSER: I think the style of my work kind of changes depending on the subject matter I’m working with. For me, with “Toast”, the poems were a little more out there because I was working on writing something every day and so I ended up with random poems about random things because that’s just how it ended up working out. When you’re

sitting there at 11 o’clock at night and you’re like…‘Oh! I could write about that!’ and end up with a poem about alien dolphins, which I have in Toast. With “I Forgot,” it was more limited so I didn’t have a bunch of books that talked about vaginas, though I would like to do that project at some point. But the ones that I worked with were a lot of older works like Plato, Keats, and so I pulled out from there what I could and ended up being a completely different route from what I normally write, which has helped to push my style and change it in ways. I think

Cover of Ramser's latest book, I Forgot How To Write When They Diagnosed Me.

Cover of Ramser’s latest book, I Forgot How To Write When They Diagnosed Me.

the blackout lent itself to a more conservative style just because the works I was using were more conservative. I do want to do more experimental work with experimental writers. I would love to pull some together with beat poetry. I think that would be really interesting. I want to write more poems about vaginas, to be honest. It seems to be really popular with my readers. It’s really interesting and no one writes about it, so I want to write about it.

SALEMITE: Speaking of blackout poetry, can you explain exactly what that is and how you got into it?

RAMSER: Blackout poetry is called by many different names. You’ve got redacted poetry, erasure, blackout, found poetry. More or less, it’s finding a poem in a page. The page existed, but the poem didn’t exist until you looked at that page and found it. You use different materials to make it, like, in my book, I used a mixture of Sharpie, India ink, acrylic, and tempera paint, and I blackout, or cover up the words on the page that aren’t pertinent to the poem I’m writing. I’m taking someone else’s work and making it into something new.

SALEMITE: Any advice for aspiring writers, poets, and others?

RAMSER: Write. That’s the best I can give to anyone is to write. Write all the time, write every day. Whether [you write] a single word, it’s better than nothing. The more you write, the better you get. It’s the same as playing a musical instrument. You need to practice.

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