Elliot Greenbaum: When did you begin composing?
Katie Gertz: Well, I recently went through my old journals and found some halfway-decent poetry I wrote in middle school, so I guess that’s when I started. I didn’t think I was any good, though, and I didn’t find writing particularly interesting or helpful back then.
Elliot: You use forms, such as the Sonnet or Villanelle. How do these forms assist you with your themes?
Katie: The reason I write with forms is kind of a funny story!
I had a huge crush on a friend, but for various reasons, I waited three years after high school to ask her out. She turned me down, but she wanted to be closer friends, and she wrote me a sonnet.
When I came home from college for that summer break, in 2014, I was really curious about that sonnet, of course! So when we spent time together, she started teaching me different forms and giving me advice.
I don’t know if I write the way she does because she taught me or because we’re just similar, but we both like to use structure as a way to put our thoughts in order. Sure, we could leave them running wild, but putting wild thoughts into a structure is like a puzzle. You have to be clever, which is fun, and you‘re forced to figure out what absolutely needs to be said vs what’s not so important, which is therapeutic.
Elliot: What inspires you to write poetry?
Katie: Let me go update my spreadsheet…
Approximately 50% of my poems are about mental illness, whether that’s my own or other people’s. Something like 40% are about romance. Some of those include both topics.
Like I said, I write mostly to put my thoughts in order, and those two things are usually responsible for getting me mixed up and emotional.
Elliot: Please tell us a bit about your background, where you grew up, college studies.
Katie: I pretty much grew up in the Barnes and Noble where we meet! All my friends liked to read. We would ride our bikes there/here, and spend most of the day lounging on sofas in the wonderful air-conditioning.
I went to Middleton High School, which is north of Ybor (22nd and Osborne). Right now, I’m on medical leave from MIT, where I’m studying architecture with a minor in mechanical engineering. For my thesis, I’m testing whether a scale model of 3D-printed blocks behaves the same way as a brick structure.
Elliot: Do you write in other forms; such as, fiction, memoir, or non fiction?
Katie: Not yet. I wrote a blog post (https://www.kingdombusinessentertainment.com/theblog/prelude), but the owner focused on other things, so I didn’t get to continue with that.
Oh — I do write a lot on Quora (https://www.quora.com/profile/Katie-Gertz?share=f818272f&srid=3bzSL), which is a question-and-answer site. They named me one of their Top Writers for 2018!
Elliot: Please share one of your poems.
Katie: Let’s see…I usually keep up with reading them to y’all.
This one is probably my favorite, because my a cappella group actually sang my arrangement of it at our concert before I came home. There’s a video if you follow the link! It’s also one of the ones I wrote with my friend that first summer. Plus, if I sang it, you might not have caught all the words!
Tried to sing her away from the river, but she’s still on the shore.
She turned around, but she said: What’d you do that for?
I asked: How long you been here? She said: I lost track.
I told her: Well, I’m just tryin’ to bring you back.
There’s a whole wide world out there shinin’ green and blue.
She said: I don’t belong there, oh and you know that’s true.
I said: I’ve been here once before, but that’s a long time past.
If the river is your home, maybe I’ve found home at last.
She said: this ain’t your home, dear; your place is in the sun.
I said: It’s been rainin’ lately, and darlin’ you’re the only one.
She said: this is where my ship comes in, so here I’ll stay.
Look, I ain’t your Valentine; I’m not made that way.
I said: I’m not tryin’ to make you love me; I’m just tryin’ to set you free.
She laughed: You lost before you started; that battle’s long been done for me.
And so I left her whistlin’ on the dock where her nightmare ship was moored.
Tried to sing her away from the river, ah, but she’s still on the shore.
River, river, I thought I was gonna set her free.
River, river, ah, but she told me to leave her be.