The Next Big Thing Interview

(Thanks, Jeannine Hall Gailey, for inviting me to participate in this interview!

What is the title of your book?

Burn This House

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Burn This House is about reconceptualizing virtue and vice; in the world of these poems, the ominous lingers just beneath the surface, and the everyday is shot through with the fantastic.

(Hopefully that doesn’t sound like a moralistic book–it’s not, I hope, didactic in any way. But it is dark, curious, and even funny now and then.)

What genre does your book fall under?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I grew up in a curious way. My family was intensely religious, but their religious views were always changing, and we never stayed in any one church or branch of faith for all that long; our beliefs in my formative childhood years were always in flux, and in my young mind, I was quite confused and fearful. There was also a great deal of threat and dread associated with religious belief for me; as a kid, I was made aware that the “end times” were always upon us, and the apocalypse was just around the corner. Over time, my childhood terror grew into suspicion, and while I wasn’t free then to question my family’s beliefs, I did a great deal of observation and silent criticism. That internal critic finally found a voice in my poetry.

That’s not to say that all of these poems draw from my young battles with Christian belief, but they do all emerge from that same spirit of observation, of noting and finally commenting on something I feel I can’t stay quiet about.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

This book contains work that was written between 2007 and and 2010. Much of it was written when I was a student in the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA program in poetry.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I mentioned, much of this book draws from lived experience or from commentary about American religious culture. I hope I can say I was also influenced by the other poets I was reading at the time: Madeline DeFrees, Elizabeth Bishop, Weldon Kees, Vern Rutsala, Diana O’Hehir. But this book’s existence owes itself in large measure to my mentors, Carolyne Wright and David Wagoner, and to my writing partner, Tanya Chernov. Without those three and their generosity, wisdom and advice, the book would not be what it is today.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Burn This House will be published by Red Hen Press in March, 2013.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

What a tough question! Any books I could mention here would be purely aspirational comparisons. I would love to think I have Alicia Ostriker’s critical eye or Nickole Brown’s sensuous lines. Maybe one day, after much hard work, I will. Maybe I’ll put it this way: if you like my poems, you would probably also enjoy Melissa Stein’s beautiful book Rough Honey, or Anna Journey’s delicious If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

For a book that I’ve described as being so serious and critical, it’s actually lighthearted in some ways. There’s levity, there’s humor, there’s a guy who plays bagpipes on the top of his houseboat.

For more of The Next Big Thing, I’m inviting these fabulous writers to give their own answers at their blogs:

  • Tanya Chernov, whose memoir A Real Emotional Girl is new from Skyhorse Press.
  • T.Z. Hernandez, whose poetry collections Natural Takeover of Small Things (University of Arizona Press) and Culture of Flow (Monkey Puzzle Press) are coming soon.

Want to participate? Answer the questions on your blog and leave your link in a comment.

6 Replies to “The Next Big Thing Interview”

  1. I’ve had the chance to delight in Davio’s poems already at a couple of readings. Can’t wait to receive my copy hot off Red Hen Press. Great interview.

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