Yemassee Interview: 5 Questions with Marielle Prince

Marielle Prince's "So Dear Did This Stranger Become" was the Winner of our 2016 Poetry Prize and appeared in Issue 23.2.

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

Journey sounds so arduous! If anything, poetry is the walking stick, not the road. My mom says I spoke my first poem when I was two; it's entered my personal mythos. I process my experiences by writing them—I've always journaled, made lists, kept records. Poems seem like a miraculous byproduct of that kind of accounting.

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

Aching ones.

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

Roadside churches

4. Can you talk about your prize-winning poem “So Dear Did This Stranger Become” and how it came to be?

This poem has been with me for a long time—I wrote it over 10 years ago and revised it a couple times a year until about a year ago. I am so delighted that the Yemassee staff and Catie Rosemurgy saw something special in it! The basic image of an enlivened statue alone in a garden was there from the first draft, and it has always involved some element of formal experimentation (its first title was "exceptions to the 10 basic sentence patterns"). But over time it has taken many different shapes and taken on many different meanings and taken in many infusions of influence (Prosper Mérimée! Italo Calvino! Ovid!)—too many to talk about coherently. I would be remiss not to mention that the title is stolen. It's a line from Emily Dickinson's "Master Letters"—a phrase that she crossed out. Her scraps are precious.

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

You're probably already doing it right. Everybody has their own way.


Prince received her MFA from the University of Virginia and has done stints as managing editor of Bull City Press, poetry editor of Meridian, and count intern for VIDA. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Spoon River Poetry Review, Lumina, 32 Poems, Waccamaw, and The Greensboro Review, among others.

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