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Hannah Nathanson


We were thrilled to spend time catching up with poet & JBWC alum Hannah Nathanson, who recently released her first chapbook, Alternative Universes, with Bone & Ink Press. (Hooray, Hannah!) Hannah graduated from City Honors in 2018; she now studies English, global culture, and creative writing at Binghamton University. She will also be leading a workshop at as a teaching artist at JBWC—later this month, on geography and ghosts.

What led you to be a writer?

I’ve always been interested in storytelling! I used to ask family members to write things down for me before I knew how to read or write myself. I started writing poetry as a kind of emotional outlet when I was in the horribly awkward liminality of middle school. I think today my relationship with writing is a type of marriage between the two origins. I still write as a personal outlet and find writing to be a very intimate activity, but I also find much inspiration and collaboration in my communities.

Who are some of your influences as a writer, and what writing & other art do you find yourself turning to most often?

I find the work of Olivia Gatwood to be extremely inspiring. She captures girlhood in a very honest and raw way that has spoken to me since I was quite young. Her newest book, Life of the Party, has been a crutch for me during quarantine, as has her podcast, SAY MORE, with Melissa Lozada-Oliva. At the risk of sounding like a total fangirl, I also consistently turn back to Taylor Swift’s discography, specifically the album Red. The sound and words are extremely comforting and definitely have affected my relationship with lyricism. I’m also blessed to have extremely talented people surrounding me, whose chapbooks and zines are some of my most prized possessions. It’s a wonderful thing to see your art influence your peers and vice versa.

Tell us a little about your chapbook.AlternativeUniverses

Alternative Universes is an emotive and imaginative collection, each poem offering a universe slightly different from ours. It’s written in three parts, which—despite feeling tonally different—parallel each other. My favorite part of the chapbook is hearing different interpretations of the pieces. As much as the words mean to me, they’re intended to create a space for the reader to move into and make their own for a little while.

I have decided to donate half of my personal proceeds from the chapbook, split evenly between Black Trans Femmes in the Arts (BFTA), a collective dedicated for creating art spaces for Black trans people, and Black Love Resists in the Rusts, an organization dedicated to working with organizers of color in Buffalo. Essentially, I have decided to donate proceeds from my first chapbook to the communities that have helped shape me and my poems: the arts community and the community of my hometown.

What’s next for your writing & artistic endeavors?

I’m co-directing a play called Stupid Fucking Bird through my university in the fall! The show will be done in some virtual form that we are still fleshing out. Despite the new challenges that COVID-19 presents us with, I’m very excited to be doing something collaborative and creative next semester. In addition to the already multi-media art that is theater, we also plan to involve students with interests in film and visual art on our production staff.

In terms of writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time hiking this summer and am trying to write either during or directly after each hike. I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in nature.

What is one of your favorite Just Buffalo memories/experiences?

I recently helped plan a JBWC virtual alumni event where we asked this same question. As all the people I used to write with after school every Tuesday and Thursday recalled the great memories we had, it became really hard to pinpoint a favorite.

However, I often recall this one workshop we did about sleeping and meditation as part of the writing process. At one point in the workshop, some of my friends and I laid down on the stage in a huge, comfy group hug. My memory often returns to that moment of safety and community. In creating a welcoming atmosphere for youth to share their thoughts on important topics and their writing which feels so deeply personal, especially as a teenager, the Writing Center has also fostered these true and meaningful relationships and memories that I am extremely grateful for.