We're honored to feature new poetry by Terri Linn Davis in Issue Three of Orson's Review. Issue Three of Orson's Review was published on September 24th, 2019.
We're also very fortunate for the time Terri took to chat with us about the poet’s journey. Check out the discussion below.
*The following interview involves Orson's Publishing (OP) and Terri Linn Davis (TLD).
OP: How did your journey with the written word begin?
TLD: I’ve always been interested in the written word. I remember lying in my mother’s bed one night when I was four years old and watching her read a novel in the dim light thrown off from the dusty lamp on her nightstand table. I was amazed at how she could read without saying the words out loud. I’d always ask her how she did it, and I can still hear her saying, “Terri, you ask me that all the time.” I’ve always written. Often without intention. There’s probably a hundred unfinished diaries floating in the ether. I went back to finish my degree in 2015, and that’s when I took introduction to poetry. I had never even read poetry before that class, but I’ve been hooked ever since.
OP: Is being a poet your primary occupation?
TLD: No, but I’d love to make writing and teaching my primary occupation. Right now I’m an MFA student at Southern Connecticut State University, and I receive a stipend for being a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the English Department. I’ve also worked as a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2010.
OP: What about these poems are you most proud?
TLD: The thing that I’m most proud about with these six poems is their honesty. I strive to choose the right lines that convey my feelings and thoughts about each subject—even if it’s uncomfortable.
OP: Tell us about your writing process. Do you approach all pieces of writing in the same way?
TLD: Some poems come way easier than others. For some poems, I feel this intense urge to talk about a specific subject, and when I sit down to write, the words flow right out of me and the poem is basically done in one sitting with very few significant revisions afterwards. Other times I sit down, stare at the screen, start writing, delete, start writing, delete some more, and then I figure out what I want to write about somewhere along the line in that process. I always have an open document in my phone that’s got a million “seed” ideas for stories, poems, or future projects. I’m very serious about writing ideas down as inspiration strikes, because I never remember them (at least in great detail) later. Revision is an integral part of my writing process too. Some poem revisions are shockingly different than my first drafts; my poem “How to Disown your Grandmother” was one of those.
OP: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that impacted your writing?
TLD: I have wanted to be a million different things: a zookeeper, a novelist, a physical therapist. A psychic once told my dad that he would have two daughters, and she said that one was going to be a nurse and the other was going to be a teacher. My younger sister just graduated nursing school, so I think that means my fate is cemented. I guess me coming back to my dad’s psychic story to answer this question shows that my family—their histories and stories—is what has really impacted my writing.
OP: Tell us about the biggest sacrifice you’ve made while pursuing writing.
TLD: The biggest sacrifice I have made is time. Time and effort away from more tangible endeavours.
OP: How many books do you read in a year?
TLD: I read a lot for my MFA program. I’ve read about 15 novels so far since January. I read at least two poems a day. I read flash fiction, short stories, non-fiction—whatever I can get my hands on. My favorite this year has been George Saunders’s novel Lincoln in the Bardo. I also bought a bunch of literary classics like Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations, because I’ve never read them before, and I feel like it’d build character; those are slow going.
OP: Do you attend poetry readings? If so, tell us about the best one you’ve ever attended—what made it so good?
TLD: I have attended a lot of poetry readings at my university, but I’ve only attended one outside of that. A goal of mine this year is to attend as many as I can. My favorite poetry reading was a monthly reading held at my university for undergraduates. My son who was 6 at the time came with me, because I was going to sign up for open mic. I read a poem about his asthma, and he got so excited after I read it, that he walked through the rather large crowd of people in the audience and came up front to see me. Everyone started clapping for him, and it was really adorable.
OP: What do you want most out of your literary community?
TLD: What I want most out of my literary community is to be a part of it. I want to be accepted, and I want to belong. A huge fear of mine is to stop writing, because life got in the way. I figure if I’m a part of my literary community both locally and nationally, then that sense of urgency I feel right now for writing won’t disappear.
OP: Do you believe that an MFA is crucial to success as a poet today?
TLD: I don’t believe that an MFA is crucial to success as a poet, because there have been many great poets that have no degrees at all in English, but I don’t believe that I would be anywhere near where I am today if I didn’t have the guidance, feedback, and camaraderie in passion that I have received from my program.
OP: What do you cross your fingers for as a poet?
TLD: I cross my fingers that my poems will get read, I cross my fingers that they will strike a chord with the reader, and I cross my fingers that I will continue to get better as a poet.
OP: Where do you see your journey with the written word going?
TLD: I see my journey with the written word continuing in many forms throughout my life. I used to think that writing was something someone else got to do. Not me. I see myself expanding into different genres for a challenge, and I see myself getting more and more involved in the literary community. I would love to teach, be an editor—just be involved with writing in any way I can. Also, I’d love to be famous. No big deal.
Terri Linn Davis is an MFA student at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the recipient of the Jack and Annie Smith Poets and Painters Award (2018). Her poems appear in Folio, Ghost City Review andPersephone's Daughters Literary Magazine. She lives in Milford, Connecticut with her partner, Adam, and their two sons. You can find her on Twitter @TerriLinnDavis or on her website terrilinndavis.com
Be sure to check out Terri Linn’s poetry in Issue Three of Orson’s Review.