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Intermittent Visitors: Lynn Domina

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 poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Daily, The Louisville Review, and many other periodicals. She currently lives in the western Catskill region of New York.

 

1. What is your writing process?

My writing desk is in my study on the second floor of our house; it faces our backyard, looking out onto a few trees and the birdfeeder. I stare out at the birds for a while. If I’m beginning a new poem, I write several lines, which I invariably cross out later; it’s usually stanza two or three that becomes the beginning of the poem I actually write, rather than the opening I’d written of the poem I’d thought I was going to write. I don’t write well in snatches; I do best when I have at least a couple of hours to devote to what I’m working on, though I can get good work done if I have only one hour. Having access to this amount of uninterrupted writing time is a luxury, I know, and it is possible only because I have one daughter who is now a young adult, a spouse who thoroughly respects that need, and a job that pays me enough so that I don’t constantly have to worry about income.

 

2. What’s some writing advice you’ve received, that works for you?

Many many years ago, Margaret Atwood was visiting at the University of Alabama, where I was working on an M.F.A. She looked at a few of my poems and remarked, “You have mercy on your characters.” That’s not exactly advice, but it’s a comment I’ve taken to heart. I always aim to approach my material with compassion.

 

3. Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your book?

Framed in Silence began with one poem, “Birds of the Air.” At the time I wrote it, I didn’t realize it would become part of a series, called “Creation Sequence” in the book. I then wrote a poem for each of the significant moments in the creation story in Genesis, so there’s a poem about mammals, sea monsters, plants, human beings, sabbath, etc. That series was really fun to work on; it felt like an exuberant approach to a story many of us know well.  

 

4. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?

I’ve made choices that have limited some of my options—I didn’t become a high-powered attorney or stock broker, for example, because I knew my devotion would always be elsewhere. So I don’t have an enormous income, although now I do have a stable and more than adequate income. But none of those choices has ever felt like a sacrifice. On the contrary, I’m grateful I’ve had the freedom to live out my vocation as a poet.

 

5. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?

I’m one of those people who often doesn’t know what I think until I write it—or I’ve come to many new understandings about what I really believe by watching what emerges from my pen. That’s the interesting part for me. If I already knew what I was going to write, I wouldn’t feel much interest in writing it, and certainly no drive to write it.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.
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