Interview with Hajara Quinn, the IPRC’s Social Media / Communications Associate

Congrats on being the IPRC’s new Social Media/Communications Associate!

Hajara Quinn

To start, as an editor at one of the most acclaimed and social media savvy small presses in the country, Octopus Books, how important do you think social media is nowadaysin terms of artistic promotion and exposure? In your opinion are there certain social media do’s and don’ts?

Social media can be a great place to have a pep rally. And a pep rally you can invite more people to. I wouldn’t go so far as to make any claims in the direction of social media making or breaking it. But my experience with Octopus Books and our online presence is that it can be a way of putting a friendly face and singular voice to our name. Sometimes it comes down to how publicly you want to be with your excitement. And to what extent you can maintain a sense of excitement for what you’re promoting without becoming formulaic or sounding like a coupon or salesperson with a stale pitch. Each social media platform is its own genre, and there’s something satisfying about navigating the conventions and formal constraints and then working against them. On the other hand, there’s something kind of deflating about approaching it like a machine for driving likes and shares. That clinical approach to social media is so bizarre and strange to me.

I know that you have a fairly long history with the IPRC—you attend a writing group at the studio space every week, as a reader, curator and attendee you’ve been involved in multiple readings at the IPRC and you’ve also taken some of the classes that the IPRC offers every month. When compared with others arts organizations in the PDX area, what makes the IPRC stand out in your opinion? What does it offer youthat other organizations do not?

What’s really incredible about the IPRC is that it embodies the whole cycle of creation, from the act of writing to production to the event or reading itself. It celebrates both process and product in equal measure,and I think that really sets it apart from other arts organizations. I first became familiar with the IPRC through poetry readings. But other people are familiar with the IPRC because of its letterpresses, or maybebecause of its vast zine collection. It’s amazing to me that you can go from writing drafts of a zine or chapbook, to workshopping it in a class, to laying it out using InDesign on the computers here or on the letterpresses to binding it to having a reading or release party with twinkle lights and a good sound system and big garage doors that open onto good urban sounds like motorcycles and trains. All in the same place. The whole spectrum of learning and making and sharing—it’s an inclusive and amazing organization, and it means something different to everyone. It contains multitudes.

The IPRC has a Tumblr/Facebook page/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter/YouTube channel and we also host a podcast. All that being said, do youhave a favorite social media outlet? If so why do you favor it? And are there any social media outlets that you think are simply not worth the time? Why?

Facebook for its handy event calendar, Twitter for its punchlines & Patricia Lockwood’s sexts, and Instagram for its succulents and selfies.

You’re also an amazing poet, one that recently received a coveted fellowship from our friends at Literary Arts. You furthermore hold an MFA in poetry from Cornell University. I’m curious how you started writing poetry and why you continue writingit—as an art form, why poetry? As both an editor and writer, why do you have the investment in the form that you do?

There’s just no other way! It’s irresistible and willful—it goes its own way, it goes the way of all the good stuff like images, figurative language, and feelings all of those things colliding in its simultaneity. I know there are a lot of us who feel this, so I won’t keep rambling on. But another answer is that I don’t have any knack for plot. I used to have this experience when I was younger, of being asked on a bus or ina waiting room what the book I was reading was “about”, and it was sobaffling and terrifying to me— this feeling of dread would wash over me while I stammered and tried to account for what I was experiencing, I felt like I must be really bad at reading. I just didn’t really know at the time how to engage a stranger about what Virginia Woolf’s The Waves was “about”. And it was around that time, in high school, that I found the first books of poetry that I loved. And that was what I’d been looking for. And then I relaxed, and have been relaxing ever since.

Finally, with regards to your own role at the IPRC and the organization as a whole, what do you envision for the IPRC in 2015? Where do you hope the organization heads next?

There are a couple of areas of growth right now that are hugely exciting, including the IPRC podcast and 1001, the Certificate Program’s inaugural print journal of poetry, prose and comics. So I think that’s one start to a shiny new year. I’m also thinking of this past fall and all of the creative electricity surrounding the workshop and filmscreening put on by Le Cagibi, the screenprinting collective from France. Nationally and internationally, the IPRC has so many kindred organizations and I think there’s a lot of room in the future of the IPRC to make more of these connections and host artists and travel and have more of these kinds of creative interchanges.

Thank you Haji—we’re so glad to have you at the IPRC!

Hajara Quinn lives in Portland OR. She is an assistant editor for Octopus Books and the author of the chapbook Unnaysayer. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Banango Street, The Volta, Nightblock and Sixth Finch. She is the recipient of a 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship.