“A Forest Almost,” which Countryman describes as autobiographical as the poems make up moments and scenes from her life, is already the winner of the Subito Press Poetry Prize, and is also a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’sDi Castagnola Award.
Countryman, now an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, began writing poetry in the seventh and eighth grades at Oak Knoll when she realized it offered her a window to peer outside at the world around her.
“Rather than talking about my life as a story with a beginning, middle and end, the poems take an elliptical approach, moving around among different angles of vision and different points in time, and moving in and out of metaphor,” she said.
Countryman said she first began writing poems on a type writer at home and would bring the poems with her to school.
“I liked how small poems could be, how easy to hide and to share,” she said. “I liked how a poem could give me a way of describing a moment, and how I could understand little bits and pieces of my life by writing little poems.”
As for her future work, Countryman said she hopes that her poetry will continue to evolve.
“There will always be new things to respond to and to describe, and things that haven’t yet been said,” she said. “Right now, I’m working on poems that respond to what’s happening to our environment.”
She said writing poems about such a large topic is new, but an endeavor she hopes she will still able to tie together with her own life experiences and memories.
“As a result, the new poems often shift in and out — sometimes images are shown very closely and sometimes the poems zoom out to a wide lens,” she said.
Her poems have already appeared (or will shortly) in Poetry magazine, American Poetry Review, AGNI (Boston University’s literary magazine), The Kenyon Review, The Volta online poetry site, Boston Review and The Offing literary magazine.
She is also the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony.
Countryman earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Maryland, as well as a doctorate from the University of Houston, where she served as poetry editor for Gulf Coast.
She resides with her husband, Samuel Amadon, in Columbia, South Carolina. She also serves as coeditor with Amadon of the University of South Carolina’s poetry journal Oversound.
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