The Landing: An Interview Series seeks to gain insight into the diverse creative processes of some of our favorite writers with the hopes that we can inspire others through this sharing. Each quarter we will highlight one previously published poem in a short interview.
Dalton Day is the author of the collections Actual Cloud (Saló Press) and Exit Pursued (Plays Inverse), as well as a recipient of a James A. Michener fellowship. His poems have been featured in The Offing, Columbia Poetry Review, & PANK, among others. Currently, he is an MFA candidate in the New Writers Project at UT Austin.
A poem creates a dialogue between its text and its reader, one in which, while the writer has participated by writing the poem, they are not usually privy to hearing the reply. Here you invite us into a personal conversation between the speaker and an unnamed intimate, allowing us to deliberately eavesdrop, and complicating the network of exchange. What conversation were you hoping to have with your reader, and how did you set out to lay down the groundwork for that conversation?
I’m not sure I wanted to have a conversation with anyone reading. Reading the poem now, it feels more honest to think of it as an invitation for anyone to eavesdrop. It’s like hearing someone talk on the phone. Kind of annoying, right? But fun to listen to.
This poem moves down the page in a very fluid, almost lithe manner, but does not seem to follow one specific linebreak rule. What was your method of determining when to use line breaks? Did you listen for the break or visualize it?
Visualize. I always visualize. I’ve no idea how to do it otherwise. I wish I could make music.
Like the poems in To Breathe I'm Too Thin, the speaker in “An Understanding” incorporates a natural element into the self, in this case a destructive wind vortex, in order to reach back outwards. This “outwards”, as in much of your work, is directed at an ambiguous "you". What are you reaching for, and what are you bringing in?
There’s that Mark Strand poem where he writes “In a field / I am the absence / of field.” I’m reaching for some kind of contentment or agreement with my own absence of field by calling it a body. Can you imagine? Having a body?
What am I trying to bring in? More field.
You used a very limited amount of words to write “An Understanding,” often reusing the same few, and yet this poem is both dynamic and requires an engaged reader. What advice do you have for poets when employing a limited vocabulary in their work?
I love repetition. I love watching a word change its spelling without changing its spelling. I say your name, I say your name again.
It’s not repeating yourself if nobody heard you the first time.