by Mary Frances Cavallaro
Chestnut Hill resident Charlotte Boulay, 36, was able to find some time over the course of seven years to write her poetry and publish her first book, despite her busy schedule.
Though always being an avid reader, Boulay began writing poetry in high school. She was involved in her high school’s literary magazine and went on to study poetry at St. Lawrence University. Later, she attended the University of Michigan to further her study in poetry and received her MFA in 2005.
After years of hard work, Boulay managed to get her first book of poems published. “Foxes on the Trampoline” was released this past April from Ecco Press/HarperCollins. Boulay commented, “This book was a long time in the writing — seven years, approximately, because poetry comes slowly to me, or I come slowly to it. Also, I have been working full-time since graduate school in addition to trying to be a poet, sometimes teaching, sometimes editing and now as a grant writer at The Franklin Institute.”
(The offbeat book title came to Boulay because of a YouTube video of two foxes bouncing on a backyard trampoline that has been seen by many millions of people. In the book’s title poem, the foxes “find the ground so suddenly springy.”)
Reviews of the book have been overwhelmingly positive. For example, a review in the March 31 issue of Publishers Weekly this year stated in part: “Boulay’s debut collection artfully negotiates the interplay between the natural and man-made worlds, presenting a lyric speaker searching for an authentic position in her contemporary surroundings. The very human issues of want, lack and desire litter these nature obsessed pages.”
The genesis of Boulay’s book, you might say, was when one of her poems was published in the New Yorker magazine, no mean feat, and was luckily noticed by an editor who wanted to see a book manuscript and eventually offered her the chance of a lifetime — to get her book published. She stated, “This is a ridiculously lucky way to get a book published, but I think we prepare ourselves for luck to find us by working hard.”
“Foxes on the Trampoline” may be Boulay’s first published book, but over the last 10 years her poems have appeared in journals, magazines, websites and newspapers such as Slate, the Boston Review, The Pinch, the New Yorker, Crazyhorse, Cleaver Magazine and the Beloit Poetry Journal. Not only is her poetry published, but she has also written several book reviews for Fiction Writers Review, an online literary journal for which she is an editor-at-large.
There are many reasons why one may begin writing poetry, although money is definitely not one of them. Some may have a teacher, family member or author to inspire them, while others may simply write for therapy and relaxation. When asked her reason for writing poetry, Boulay responded, “I’m not sure I have an inspiration. Writing for me has always been an essential part of how I process and make sense of the world. I was lucky to have a series of wonderful writing teachers from elementary school on through college and grad school, and my parents have always been utterly supportive and encouraging. That’s not easy when your kid announces her devotion to a path as shaky and financially unrewarding as poetry!”
When asked if she had a favorite quote, Boulay stated, “I really love the quote that is the epigraph of my book. It’s by painter Cy Twombly. He said, ‘You’ve got enough. And if there’s something I didn’t say, you could make it up.’ He says this quote at the end of a long interview about his own work in a book of his paintings. I like it because I think it speaks to the impossibility of really being able to represent yourself fully, and at the same time it’s a great answer to the larger metaphysical question of how much is enough, in any sense. We can never have it, and we always have it, because we make it up as we go along. It’s really hard to remember this, though, I so I love the way he says it as a toss-off at the end of an interview, as if it’s something everyone would think of.”
A native of Boston, Boulay moved to New Jersey in 2010 for her husband’s job as a professor with the College of New Jersey, and in the following year they moved to Chestnut Hill. When asked about her future, Boulay commented, “I don’t know where this career in poetry is going, but it’s very rewarding to have the book out in the world.”
You can purchase “Foxes on the Trampoline” by Charlotte Boulay at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in West Mt. Airy or online at Powells or Amazon. You can also visit her website: charlotteboulay.com, where she posts events such as locations for readings, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow Charlotte Boulay @starrykick on Twitter.