Thick With Conviction - A Poetry Journal
thick with conviction a poetry journal
 10 Questions with...Kristina Marie Darling


Kristina Marie Darling is a graduate of Washington University. Eight chapbooks of her work have been published, among them Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006), The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006), and Night Music (BlazeVox Books, 2008).  She has also reviewed books for The Boston Review, Modern Language Studies, New Letters, The Colorado Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, and other periodicals.  Recent awards include residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Centrum Foundation, and the Prairie Center of the Arts, as well as scholarships to attend the Squaw Valley Writers Conference and the Ropewalk Writers Retreat. 



1. What or who gives you inspiration and perspiration?

I'm most inspired when I'm reading poetry, or, better yet, when I'm taking someone else's poem apart to see what makes it tick. Most of the time, I approach my favorite books with larceny in my heart, looking for turns of phrase, technical maneuvers, and syntactical feats that I can apply to my own work. In many ways, I think that this fascination with how other writers succeed at their craft is what led me to become a reviewer. And this has become both source of both inspiration and anxiety. Reviewing is great because it exposes you to books you wouldn't normally know about, then makes you engage with them, and think critically about work that might not be like your own. But witnessing so many good poetry collection not get the attention they deserve, or seeing amazing books get undeservedly snarky reviews, makes me wonder about some people's open-mindedness toward work that's different from theirs. But for the most part, being a poetry reviewer has a been a great learning experience, one that's broadened my ideas about what's possible in my own poetry.

2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?

When I first started college, I wanted to be a rich, high-powered corporate lawyer. I really thought I was going to be litigating in a six-hundred dollar blazer and Prada shoes. Pretty soon, though, I found that my political science and government classes were immensely interesting, but not many pre-law students also write poems. Yes, there are some great lawyer poets writing today--like Simon Perchik, Evie Shockley, and Olena Kalytiak Davis--so it's not impossible to balance one's interests in law and literature. But as I became more serious about my poetry, I definitely wanted to find a sense of community with other writers and creative individuals. And I knew I wasn't going to find that studying for the bar exam!

3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been any that you're particularly swoon-y about that you've gotten?

I find that some accolades make me swoon a great deal more than others. While I won't be disappointed if I never win a Pulitzer or a National Book Award, one of my friends recently nicknamed me the "artist colony junkie." Much to my professors' dismay, I'm constantly asking them for recommendation letters for one residency program or another. But if you ask me, being picked to be part of a community of artists, scholars, and writers is much more significant than getting a prize that leaves you all alone with a blank Microsoft Word page at the end of the day.
In terms of really swoon-worthy awards, I was granted a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center for next summer. In fact, I'm still reeling over that one.

4. When you're not leaving your poetic footprint, what else in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?

Although I'm an avid reader, a dog lover, and a book critic, I enjoy traveling more than anything. As a young person, I never really had the opportunity to go anywhere outside of Missouri. Family vacations to Illinois might be the one exception. While I love the Midwest, there were definitely times I felt limited by not having experienced many other places, cultures, or ways of looking at the world. Theodore Roosevelt once said that travel is a form of education, and I'd have to agree.
Since I finished my bachelor's degree in 2007, I've found that my love for literature has opened up some opportunities to expand my horizons. I've been able to pursue artists residencies, funding to attend writing workshops, and presentations at academic conferences, all of which have taken me out of the Midwest. And there's nothing I love more than learning about different locales, their artistic traditions, and their histories. This summer alone, the time I've spent in Salem, New York and Squaw Valley, California has exposed me to poetry, sculpture, and a few lessons in ecology that I would have never known about if I'd just stayed in St. Louis.

5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?

I'm always drawn poets whose work is filled with exquisite visual imagery, but at the same time, I also like to see dazzling images grounded in the gritty details of everyday experience. This is a difficult balance to achieve in one piece, let alone an entire book or chapbook. But there are certainly some poets writing today who carry it off in remarkable, and often surprising, ways. With that said, Kristen Orser, Talia Reed, B.J. Love, Sarah Sloat, and Rachel Mallino definitely some of my favorites.

6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?

As a writer who works with both print and online journals, I definitely see "Best of the Net" as the more exciting and coveted of the two. While the Pushcart Prize Anthology publishes some great writing, the same prestigious print magazines and established poets and fiction writers are egregiously overrepresented year after year. The award tends to perpetuate an attitude that journals like The Kenyon Review, Triquarterly, and The Atlantic Monthly receive all the worthwhile submissions, and that those who take advantage of electronic publishing are somehow less deserving of recognition.
In my experience, the opposite is usually true. And it's great that awards like "Best of the Net" and "Best of the Web" are chipping away at people's perception of online media as somehow less valuable than print. They haven't been around long, but online journals are already giving voice to people who are willing to experiment, be unique, and take risks---qualities that are disappearing from a great deal of the work appearing in more traditional outlets. For me, the Pushcart Prize represents where the literary community has already been, whereas "Best of the Net" sees where poetry and fiction are headed. After reading the current issues of journals like Diagram, Wicked Alice, TWC, Sawbuck, and Coconut, who wouldn't want to be part of that?

7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?

When I was in high school, my English teacher assigned me "Eurydice," one of H.D.'s early Imagist poems. The piece is basically an autobiographical love lyric, which becomes something much more universal as the poet conflates her own experience with myth. I remember being fascinated by the poem's ability to transform an average broken heart into an intelligent, articulate, even philosophical meditation on love and loss. After that, I did a lot of writing that followed Ezra Pound's manifestos on Imagism while plagiarizing obscure Greco-Roman stories. It wasn't until I was in college that I was exposed to contemporary poetry. And although I still love the Imagists, I'm also fascinated by poets like Brenda Hillman, Sabra Loomis, Connie Voisine, and Lyn Hejinian. Loomis's sequence entitled "Babar," which is from her collection Rosetree, is my current poem of choice. I love that her work, like H.D.'s, creates its own myths, and with that, its own worlds.

8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?

I think print magazines will always have a presence in the literary world, but online poetry journals have certainly changed the way more traditional outlets operate. Years ago, many journals didn't even have web-sites, and you'd have to page through Writers Market for the submission guidelines. And it was impossible to subscribe or buy sample copies online. Nowadays, a print publication has to maintain some web presence in order to compete with the proliferation of internet-based writing that's become available. With that said, I've noticed that a lot of prestigious publications--like Agni, The Literary Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Boston Review--have been making material accessible to readers via the web through supplemental issues, which was something you didn't see a few years back. Things are definitely changing. And in that respect, net-based publications are on their way to becoming the mainstay of the literary community.
In terms of my own preferences as a reader, I'd have to say I like online magazines a lot more than print. The types of work I most enjoy reading--such as image-driven poetry, prose poems, flash fiction, and experimental prose--are all things that tend to be marginalized by more mainstream outlets. And I think it's great that net-based publications offer a forum for writers whose experimental genres are underrepresented in print journals.

9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in five years?

I'm getting ready to begin work toward a master's degree in philosophy, and after that I'm hoping to pursue a doctorate in English literature. Along the way, I definitely see my poems becoming a great deal less autobiographical. As I've been exposed to new ideas in both my undergraduate work in English and my M.A. in American Culture Studies, I've started to look beyond my own experiences for inspiration in my writing. And I think that using one's imagination can only be a good thing.

In terms of writing projects that I'm planning to complete, I definitely want to finish the full-length collection of prose poems that I've been working on, and then start seeking a home for it. An essay about my experiences at artist colonies is also in the works.

10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?

Start out with an assortment of tangible images. Make sure that they're evocative, a bit disconcerting, and lend themselves to multiple interpretations on the part of the reader. Sprinkle with a quirky adjectives. Adverbs should be used sparingly, if at all. Add narrative and stir.







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