Poet Spotlight: Abby Hellauer

Abby Hellauer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence college at the hands of Marie Howe and Jeffrey McDaniel. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their cat who will steal your heart. Most days, Abby wants to wear flower crowns, collect seashells, or drink something with rum in it—like most mermaids do. Things like that make it easier to be a lady in this jungle town. 

How do you start a poem?
My poems usually start from the simplest places. People watching. A sweet smell when I'm walking up Lexington avenue to work. Remembering a nice moment with an old friend. Most often, I'll craft one line in my head, write that down, and revisit it when I have a quiet space. 


What does your process look like?
I write by hand first, do a lot of scratching out and thinking on the page. When I feel like I've given the poem enough bones, I'll type a draft and then let it marinate for a few days or a week before coming back to edit once again. 


At what point did you consider yourself a writer?
When artists I admired referred to me casually as a poet.


Which of your own poems is your favorite and why?
A poem I wrote my senior year of Sarah Lawrence for the people who helped me deal with grief inspired by a bunch of balloons, because it reminds me of the resilience of friendship. Or...the take a breath poem used for the last pelorus event. It's still fresh, but I sometime repeat to myself as sort of a mantra. Our reality is a scary one sometimes, and it's important to give thanks for the small things that keep us joyful. 

How do you know when a poem is not working, what do you do about it?
When I'm not having fun creating the words. I leave the page alone and let it have its space. Occasionally, I'll stumble upon things that I hated the process of making, and with fresh eyes, I'm able to puzzle it into a new body. 

How do you know when a poem is finished?
I wish I had the answer!

How do you accept critiques?
Depends on the delivery. If I feel like my voice is being compromised for another's personal taste, I'm grateful for your time but not interested in your judgement of my work. If it's apparent this outside perspective aims to make my work more clear or stronger, I prefer to have open dialogues and to see their process of editing my poems. 

What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
Finding the hours to dedicate solely to my craft. I work two jobs and I'm knee deep in the process of applying to M.Ed programs. 

What do you do when you’re facing a writer’s block?
Go for a walk. Have some coffee. Or watch Gilmore girls. Those things will always, without fail, clear my mind. 

Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing?
The idea of it, no. The process and the passion, absolutely. 

You can see Abby's work in the first issue of Pelorus Press.