Yemassee Interview: 5 Questions with Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling's "Jane Dark Speaks of Culpability" appeared in Issue 23.2.

1. How would you describe your journey as a poet?

Though I’m only 31, it’s been a long journey! I started sending out my work when I was 16 years old. I received over eighty rejections before I had anything accepted, but that was a blessing, because it helped me to learn the literary marketplace. Even as a teenager, I loved poetry, and nothing could stop me.  In that respect, not much has changed.

2. What kind of poems/poets are you most drawn to?

I love poems that are incredibly dense and intricate, as these are the ones that lend themselves to multiple careful readings. I’m thinking in particular of Kathleen Peirce’s books – The Ardors, Mercy, and The Oval Hour – as well as Lisa Olstein’s gorgeous chapbook from Essay Press and, of course, Joshua Clover’s incredible prose poems.

3. Has there been a particular something (idea/image/phrase/quote/obsession) knocking around in your head lately?

Yes! I once dated a guy and we would play this game called “Memory or dream?” So one of us would describe something, and the other person’s task was to distinguish whether it was something remembered, or part of a dreamscape. In the last days of our relationship, I was told that I had more trouble with the game than any of the other women. If this doesn’t become a poem, I should be voted off the island right now.

4. Can you talk about your poem “Jane Dark Speaks of Culpability” and how it came to be?

I’d wanted to write persona poems for quite awhile, as I’ve long admired the work of Kara Candito (whose books are populated by femme fatales) and Juliana Baggott’s lovely collection, Lizzie Borden in Love. Once I started with persona poems, I couldn’t stop. What’s great about them is that the invented character allows one to say things that one could never say in one’s own voice. I’m a nice Midwestern girl, so it was fun to inhabit a persona that’s fierce, ruthless, and also a husband stealer. You can read more Jane Dark poems in my forthcoming book, DARK HORSE, which will be published by C&R Press in 2017.

5. If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow poets, what would it be?

Give back to your community. Review books, volunteer as a reader or an editor, organize panels, and go to people’s readings. Literary citizenship is almost as important as the work itself. With the new administration, it’s more crucial than ever before to be an advocate for writers and books that you love.


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty-seven books of poetry, most recently Ghost / Landscape (with John Gallaher; BlazeVox Books, 2016) and the forthcoming Dark Horse (C&R Press, 2017). Her awards include three residencies at Yaddo, where she has held the Martha Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet, as well as a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, a Fundacion Valparaiso Fellowship, and three residencies at the American Academy in Rome. She is the recipient of grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund. Her poems appear in New American Writing, The Mid-American Review, Poetry International, Passages North, Nimrod, and many other magazines. She has published essays in Agni, The Gettysburg Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Iowa Review, The Literary Review, Descant, and elsewhere. She is Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly and Grants Specialist at Black Ocean. She divides her time between the United States and Europe.

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