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“I felt that if I ignored that sign from God, I’d be self-defeating,” Goodyear recalls. “It emboldened me.” So she submitted 10 poems to Alice Quinn, the magazine’s poetry editor. The wait for a response was excruciating. “Being so exposed, it felt like a year.” But just a few weeks later, Goodyear arrived home to a message from Remnick: “I’ve got some poems from a very gifted writer,” said the voice on her answering machine. “I’m going to take two of them.” Her first poem was published in the magazine shortly after 9/11.
Given poetry’s relatively narrow audience, it helps to have The New Yorker’s seal of approval. “It’s not a genre that likes prodigies. It’s not like fiction that way,” Goodyear says. “It’s fine to be 60 and finishing your first [poetry] book.”
But the 28-year-old Goodyear didn’t want to wait until then. And after being rejected by nearly 10 publishers, “Honey and Junk,” her first book of poetry, will be published by Norton this month. Many of the poems in the book are about how the world can be disrupted by a sudden loss, how everything suddenly seems portentous.
“For a period while I was working on some of the poems in the book, I was much more aware of the precariousness of our relationships and the fragility of being human,” Goodyear says. Still, “Honey and Junk” is rife with black humor. “It’s about their tone,” she adds. “Trying to rescue terrible situations with a sense of humor.”
In January, Goodyear moved to Los Angeles, where she continues to contribute poetry and long-form nonfiction to the magazine as well as edit such writers as Hilton Als, Caitlin Flanagan and Francine du Plessix Gray. Adjusting her work to a sunny place where she’s “essentially very happy” has been easier than she expected. The poems she’s been writing have been less personal and somewhat more satirical.