Poetry Interview Questions

by Dr Davis on December 29, 2011

One of my poems was published in a book collection from Diversion Press. The anthology is called People Poetry. The blog that will eventually be publishing excerpts of the interviews from all the poets in the collection has some other interesting posts.

What inspires you to write poetry?
I write poetry because I have a lot of things going on in my brain and it helps me to get them out. I also write because I want to transcribe the world I see around me.

What is a measure of success as a poet?
A poet is a success if they write. Many people refuse to write because they feel they cannot write perfectly. No one will ever write perfectly if they don’t write.
Obviously success can be measured in other ways, publications, readings, positions as poet laureate, etc, but the first success of a poet is to write poetry.

Who are some of your favorite poets?
James Weldon Johnson is one of my favorite poets. He writes in such a conversational and yet poetic way. My favorite of his poems is “The Creation.”
Langston Hughes is also one of my favorite poets. His “A Dream Deferred” is so rich with images and so surprising.
I also like Eugene Field’s “Jest Fore Christmas” about a boy who’s as “good as he can be” in order to fool Santa into bringing him toys. The folksy language reminds me of my grandparents.
I enjoy reading Beowulf and Judith, two Old English poems written over a thousand years ago.
Poems I enjoy include:
“Trees” by Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
“I’d Rather See a Sermon” by Edgar Guest
“Jenny Kissed Me” by Leigh Hunt
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 where he discusses how much he loves his wife, even though her hair is wires and her breath rank.
Galway Kinnell’s “After Making Love, We Hear Footsteps” –You can hear him read his poem at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlqpoo6ChRQ.
“When I Consider” by John Milton
“Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
“Wild Gratitude” by Ed Hirsch
“Father William” by Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson
“Ragged Flag” by Johnny Cash
“The Destruction of Sennacherib” by Lord Byron
“If” by Rudyard Kipling

What about this poem (the one published) was special to you or led you to write it?
The poem is “Time.”
I wrote this poem as a mother with two toddlers, busy all the time, but not getting anything done. It made me think about time and the way we as humans think and talk about time. So I wrote the poem as a way to illustrate the different views of time.

What makes a poem “good”?

For me a poem is good if I can read it and it resonates with my experience or if it is so different, yet believable, that I feel I have been transported. I don’t mind poems that are difficult to read, that are long, or that are very unusual, but the poem itself has to speak to some universal truth–big or tiny–that shows the humanness of us all.

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
Write. Write. Write. I wrote poetry for ten years before anyone read something I had written and said it was good. But that was okay because I wasn’t necessarily writing for other people; I was writing for myself.
As time went on and more people liked my poetry, it felt nice, but I still write the poetry for me. And sometimes I send it off for publication so that other people can read it too.
If you want to write and get published, write all the time and take poetry workshops. They may hurt your feelings, but they will help your writing.
And live your life fully. Get out and do something different. Stretch your boundaries. You can write better if you have lived well.

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