Betsy Housten’s poems, “How to Make a Girl Gang: A Mad Libs Poem,” “Cento With Multiple Euphemisms,” and “Meanwhile in the Murdered TV Lesbian Afterlife” appeared in Issue 16 of Sundog Lit. Betsy is a queer writer and massage therapist who earned her MFA at the University of New Orleans and makes her home in Brooklyn. Her writing appears in Autostraddle, Rogue Agent, The Hunger, Lunch, Bone & Ink Press, Little Red Tarot, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.
Tell us a little about your writing process (from the first word to the last edit).
I swear by Jericho Brown’s wise advice to put a new draft away for 30 days before allowing yourself to look at it again. I’m a very nitpicky editor, and I can fuss at a poem until it’s within an inch of its poor life, but I find it’s much easier to spot what truly needs to be fixed if the poem’s allowed to breathe and settle on its own for a while before I take a hatchet to it.
Describe the last thing you read in five words.
JVN fierce hilarious memoir, hunny.
Coffee, tea, or neither?
BUT FIRST, COFFEE! I’ve happily given up lots of things – alcohol, meat, sugar, you name it – but you’ll take my coffee mug over my dead body.
Physical books or e-books?
Physical, 10/10. My mom’s a librarian, so I grew up loving books I can hold in my hand. I’ve given e-books a go, but it feels weird and wrong to page through a book on my laptop and I just can’t. I love a library book more than most things in this world. Before the pandemic I’d go to the library weekly, picking up holds and returning what I’d finished, and I have been known to yell about the importance of libraries to anyone who will listen (though of course they have lots of digital services too). I don’t buy books often, but several of my treasured possessions are autographed copies of beloved titles (Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, Ellen Miller’s Like Being Killed, and Erika Lopez’s They Call Me Mad Dog). Also, my cat loves to lay on top of my books; there’s an entire section on my website of photos of her doing so. Screens are for watching. Books are for reading. The end.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been tooling with a chapbook-length manuscript ever since I finished my MFA last summer. My goal was to shop it around this year, but it keeps changing, and it’s hard to know when to stop adding new poems and restructuring the whole dang thing. Maybe I’ll just be working on it for a few years and it’ll wind up turning into a proper first collection. Who’s to say?
Any recommendations for readers, i.e. books, movies, television, art, anything under the sun?
My favorite podcast in the whole world is Alice Isn’t Dead: spooky, poetic and queer.