A Conversation with Perugia’s Intern

Eleanor Walsh is completing a summer internship at Perugia Press, sponsored by the Houston Program at Amherst College. This is the first summer Perugia has been able to offer an internship as a partnership between Perugia and the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning at Amherst. Jean Blakeman, Perugia Press board member, conducted an interview with Eleanor about her experience as a Perugia intern and as a poet.

Eleanor Walsh at the Amherst College Bicentennial celebration

Q: How did you first encounter Perugia Press?

A: I was lucky enough to have Becky Olander, editor and director of Perugia, as my poetry professor at Amherst College last fall. Becky fostered such a warm, creative, inclusive classroom environment, and when she mentioned that she ran an independent feminist poetry press that was beginning to offer internships, it sounded almost too good to be true. Working for Perugia provided a great way to continue to be connected to the surrounding community, which has been an important part of my college experience. I also currently serve on the Amherst Cultural Council and love that work as well.

QWhat have you been involved with so far at the press?

A: Alongside the other summer intern, Sarah Waring, I’ve read through books Perugia has previously published, generated accompanying poetry prompts, and turned them into posts for @perugiapress on Instagram. Sarah and I also helped create a classroom guide for The Book Eaters by Carolina Hotchandani, winner of the 2023 Perugia Press Prize. Now, I’m reading submissions for the 2024 Perugia Press Prize contest, and I am in awe of all the talented writers who submit.

Q: What are some things that stay with you from the books you’ve been working with?

A: So, so much. When I’m reading through Perugia books, I keep my personal notebook close by in case I want to jot something down — all of the Perugia poets are incredibly inspiring. It is particularly moving to read so much poetry by women, whether or not they are writing directly about womanhood. Megan Peak’s Girldom and Lisbeth White’s American Sycamore are two books that come to mind because of the way they write about nature, womanhood, and ritual — three topics near and dear to my heart. 

QOther than being Perugia’s intern, tell us a bit about yourself.

A: I am a rising junior English major from Washington, DC, where I like to read books, hang out with my cat, and lie in the sun (with a book and my cat). At school I write in a variety of ways, explore the endlessly beautiful Western Massachusetts landscape, and laugh with my friends.

Eleanor’s cat, Honeycomb

Q: Do you have a favorite poet? Or a favorite poet of the moment?

A: Of the moment, Jenny George — I was actually introduced to her poem “Threshold Gods” in my poetry class with Becky. And every summer I think about the tiny gem of a poem that is “And the days are not full enough” by Ezra Pound.

Q: How do you see poetry fitting into your life as you move forward?

A: Most of my journaling and reflection comes in the form of poetry. But even if I’m not actively writing, I feel like poetry is all over my life, and it colors how I see the world — which I’m endlessly grateful for.

Editor’s note: It’s been such a pleasure to work with Eleanor Walsh this summera great match was made between Eleanor, Amherst College, and Perugia Press! Thanks to Jean Blakeman for conducting this interview, to the Loeb Center at Amherst for funding through the Charles Hamilton Houston Internship Program, to Kirun Kapur for facilitating the connection between the Loeb Center, Perugia, and the Amherst College Creative Writing Program, and to Eleanor for your inspired, careful, and attentive work this summer.