Rachel Zucker is the author of seven books, most recently, Home/Birth: a poemic (co-written with Arielle Greenberg) and Museum of Accidents. She lives in New York with her husband and their three sons. Currently she teaches at New York University and is studying to become a childbirth educator.
Tell us about your relationship to your art.
I started writing poetry in fifth grade. I had an amazing teacher, Mr. Sandomir, who gave us a poetry project that was pretty self-motivated and involved listening to Simon and Garfunkel with the lights off. It was a difficult time for me--my parents were splitting up and my grandmother died not to mention that I was a 12 year old girl--and poetry was a kind of haven. I'm not sure things have changed very much since then. I write about what I care about. I write because I feel the need.
What's a project (yours or another's) that has been exciting you lately?
I recently reread Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer. She is so fantastic. Totally blew me away again. Have you read her? Have you read that book? I highly recommend it. I'm going to reread The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters next!
Tell us a little of your motherhood journey
I wanted children for as long as I can remember. It was a very strong desire--physical, emotional--a need. I had my first child at 27, which is young by NY standards. My kids are 12 1/2, 11 and 4 1/2. It's a big spread. It's often chaotic. Someone always seems miserable. Someone is almost always laughing.
What are some crucial elements of your process? How has that changed since having children?
I have a hard time talking about my process except when I'm in the middle of something. I don't mean to be coy, I just can't see it, I have no perspective. Often I jot down notes. I try to write down my dreams. I read. Sometimes poems come out in spurts. Essays take FOREVER. Prose is difficult. Writing is difficult. I felt more committed when I had children. The thing that has really changed (for the worse in terms of my writing) is that three years ago my husband began to teach high school English. I find it very difficult to be a writer, a professor, the mother of three children and the wife of a high school teacher. The balance has shifted quite radically.
What are some of the ways your family and your art interact?
Well, I write about my family all the time. And, they limit my writing time. Really, my husband's job is the main problem.
Do you find your attitude towards your art might be different because of your parenting / has it changed since you became a parent?
No, not really. I'm a very stubborn person.
Are your children ever subjects in your art?
Often. Read any of my books.
What about promoting the arts with your own children--any fun projects to share?
Not sure exactly what you mean by promoting the arts? I love to give my kids great books, graphic novels, etc. I now let my oldest son pick out my music for me. I have taken my older boys to readings. My youngest is a real ham and talks all the time and couldn't sit through a reading.
How do you escape?
I just went away to my stepmother's weekend home for three nights and three days. It was bliss. I almost always go to AWP and away for a few 2-4 day trips a year. It's not easy on me or the kids or my husband but he is totally capable of taking care of things and it's very important for me to be away from them from time to time. It is difficult to coparent all the time and I end up doing way more than 50%. My husband supports my trips, encourages them (although doesn't always enjoy them). I'm very grateful to him for his support. He can be a pain in the neck but he really does support me in almost every way he can. I am constantly struggling to carve out time within my normal routine without having to GO AWAY. This is very difficult for me and I'm not succeeding at it very well lately. My happiest days in the past year were my week of jury duty. I'm not kidding. Five days of not being on call for my family -- I knew something isn't right when I almost started crying when jury duty was over.
What advice do you have for expectant mothers in your field?
Do whatever you need to do to stay sane. Do a good enough job and forgive yourself as much as possible. It sounds trite but more and more and more I believe in "happy mother, happy family." I'm not living that right this moment but I recognize that as my goal.