Oyster River Pages: Who are the writers who have made you who you are?
KB Ballentine: Every writer I have ever read has made me who I am. We first learn to enjoy reading, then we learn to imitate, then we discover our own voice. Some of my favorite writers are Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver, Ron Rash, Bill Brown. Really, anyone who makes me reflect and that list would be a lot longer.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
KB: There is no way to answer this question completely. An only child who married an only child then divorced, becoming a Christian, moving to Tennessee, choosing a small college
rather than a large university, choosing to pursue higher degrees, a long-term relationship, a
second marriage, becoming a teacher for a southern Appalachian system that has a 90%
poverty rate, writing through all of life’s ups and downs… I have to look through all these
lenses to understand my worldview. And these are just the large, general categories!
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
KB: Probably Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance has certainly been an eye-opener; having dinner
and talking with Nikky Finney; exploring the Natchez Trace from end to end. All of these
recent events feel like they’ve made an impact that will come out in my work.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word? Why?
KB: My least favorite word is “retard.” People use this word disparagingly, and it makes me
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created? (line, image, story, etc.)
KB: I think I’m most proud of a poem called “I abandon you each evening” because that is the poem that highlights a turn and, hopefully, a growth in my writing as far as subject matter
and especially form.
ORP: What do you want to read more of in the world?
KB: I would like to see more kindness and thoughtfulness in the world. I’m tired of people
”beating each other up” for no reason.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
KB: I hope I pay if forward by helping writers who come to me, just as I have been aided by
other poets/writers. I help give a voice to people as the host of an Open Mic which meets
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
KB: Ireland and Scotland have most shaped me.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
KB: Second Skin.
KB Ballentine has a M.A. in Writing and a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry. Her latest collection, The Perfume of Leaving, was awarded the 2016 Blue Light Press Book Award. Her work also appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-First Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). Find her work here.