This interview is part of a series between our contributors and Outreach and Interviews Editor Brian Kornell.
Lynn Domina is the author of two collections of poetry, Framed in Silence and Corporal Works, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her recent work appears in The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Arts & Letters, and many other periodicals.
Lynn’s villanelle “My Search for an Original Sin” appears in Issue 4.
Brian Kornell: What draws you to write poetry?
Lynn Domina: The magic of language, how the right words can recreate an experience or create a new experience for both reader and writer. When my niece was learning to read, she was just amazed—“I read the words, and there are pictures in my mind,” she said. I want to create those pictures and the emotional responses to them.
BK: If you could collaborate on a piece with another writer/artist, who would it be and why?
Queen Esther Holding The Evidence of Haman’s Guilt
LD: This is a hard question. There are lots of writers I’d love to have dinner or coffee with—Chaucer for his humor, Denise Levertov for her wisdom, Frederick Douglass for his integrity. But if I were to collaborate on a project, I’d probably go with a visual artist because the visual arts stimulate my imagination in ways I can seldom predict. My second collection of poetry, Framed in Silence, has a whole section inspired by Edward Hicks’ peaceable kingdom paintings. So I suppose I have already collaborated with him, though since he’s been dead for a couple of centuries, it wasn’t a direct collaboration.
I’m currently intrigued with Dorothea Lange’s photographs and might write some poetic responses to them eventually, and I’ve also been similarly intrigued with Edward Hopper. Among living artists, I’d choose to work with Lilian Broca, who creates stunning mosaics. You can see her series interpreting Queen Esther and other figures here: http://www.lilianbroca.com. Her work provides so much to think about, not only in terms of content but also in terms of form and materials.
BK: Is there any advice you wish you would have been given when you first started writing?
LD: Learn all elements of your craft as thoroughly as you can. One of my early teachers really emphasized imagery and metaphor, and that helped me understand the possibilities of language. So I focused on those aspects of poetry for several years. But it took me a long time to pay equal attention to the sounds of English and to think about the function of the line. I really appreciate contemporary free verse poets who can exploit opportunities the line provides to augment the literal meaning of the poem. I also get frustrated when I read poetry where the line simply reproduces the grammatical unit.
BK: What are you reading now?
LD: In terms of poetry, I’m reading Seam by Tarfia Faizullah and I Watched You Disappear by Anya Krugovoy Silver, both really good collections that I’ll be reviewing on my blog soon. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in some novels this summer maybe Anita Diamant’s new one, The Boston Girl.. And I always like to recommend a provocative mixed-genre book by Deborah Miranda, Bad Indians.