An Interview With Poet Katie Gertz

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 (, but the owner focused on other things, so I didn’t get to continue with that.
Oh — I do write a lot on Quora (, 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!
The River
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.