What recurs in your poetry?

Animals, the prefix “un”, kitchens, cupboards, fields, foundations, dogs, women.


Do you listen to music when you write?

Sometimes. Andrew Bird, opera, Neko Case, Band of Horses.


Do you imagine a reader when you write poetry? What are they like?

They are like me, with better powers of concentration.

What do you think is a misconception people have about poetry?

That poetry is a coded language and if you break the code, you will understand the poem. That the meaning in a poem is being deliberately hidden from you and the poet is giving you clues to figure it out and you have to be really good at reading poetry to get the clues.


So you think poetry should be accessible?

I like poetry as it is. I am not very good at talking about poetry from a critical standpoint, or even in a smarty-pants poet kind of way. Most writing about poetry leaves me scratching my head. I prefer reading a poem to reading something about a poem any day!


What was the last book about poetry you read?

Madness, Rack and Honey by Mary Ruefle. I’m still reading it and it’s fabulous.


I think you are contradicting what you said in the previous question.

I know, isn’t it great? Mary writes things like ” I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say… but now I know I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.” I love that.


What’s your favorite book of poetry?

Probably Houseboat Days by John Ashbery, although I haven’t read it in a very long time.


What’s your favorite book of poetry that you have read recently?

The Stranger Manual by Catie Rosemurgy


What inspires you?

The small press section at Powell’s. Pie. Project Runway.


What dis-inspires you?

I don’t think that’s a word.


I know, but come on, it’s me you’re talking to.

People who take themselves too seriously. People who don’t take themselves seriously enough.


Project Runway?

They have very little time to make something beautiful, and they pull it off every week! I love how when the judges don’t like something, they say, “it’s just sad” and all the judges act like they know exactly what they mean. I love that there’s this whole language for talking about fashion that everyone on the show seems familiar with, and I love Tim Gunn just telling everyone to buck up and make it work!


Do you write from personal experience?

I write from a place that enjoys the challenge of trying to talk about the world in a way that is more satisfying to me than how it’s talked about in all the other places I encounter words.


Your poetry chapbook, She Preferred to Read the Knives, was just published by Dancing Girl Press. What do you like about the chapbook form?

They’re unassuming but they pack a punch.

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SUSAN DENNING’s work has appeared in Filter, New York Quarterly, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. Her chapbook, She Preferred to Read The Knives, is available from Dancing Girl Press. She edited the online magazine Caffeine Destiny for 13 years, and is one of the editors of the anthology Alive At The Center: Contemporary Poems from the Pacific Northwest. She was born in Southern California but has spent most of her life in Oregon. She lives in Portland, where she teaches writing and works at Literary Arts, a literary nonprofit.

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