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Linda Simoni-Wastila: Poet Interview

2014 April PAD Challenge countdown: 6. I hope you're getting excited, because I am!

Linda Simoni-Wastila

Linda Simoni-Wastila

Linda Simoni-Wastila writes from Baltimore, where she also professes, mothers, and gives a damn. You can find her poems and prose at Smokelong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Scissors and Spackle, MiCrow, The Sun, Blue Five Notebook, The Poet’s Market 2013, Hoot, Connotation Press, Baker’s Dozen, Camroc Press Review, Right Hand Pointing, Every Day Poetry, Every Day Fiction, Tattoo Highway, and Nanoism, among others. Senior Fiction Editor at JMWW, she slogs one word at a time towards her MA in Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins and her current novel-in-progress. In between sentences, when she can’t sleep, she blogs at http://linda-leftbrainwrite.blogspot.

Here is Linda's Top 25 poem:

Hotdogs on the Grill, by Linda Simoni-Wastila

When I saw you
by the hundred year oak
talking to her
your hands lively
the air filled
with smoke
a thread
kindled thin
beneath my ribs.

I turned the hotdogs
on the grill,
charred.

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Where are you located?

Geographically, I write from the greater Baltimore area, but my heart belongs to New England and, sometimes, when I miss the warmth, North Carolina. These are the places I came of age, the places that formed who I am today. The essence of place figures in much of my work, and the settings, culture, and people of New England and the South provide rich context. That said, Maryland is growing on me, especially Baltimore—the city’s grittiness and grime, and even its graces, provide great fodder for my poems and stories.

Writing-wise, I write many genres. Poetry is only one facet of my writing life. Most of my writing time focuses on novels—there is something about creating characters and putting them into motion in unique worlds that captivates me. I also write short fictions, many of which are sketches or ideas for novels. April is the month prose gets put aside and I focus on the poem. April is a special time for my writing life.

Who are your favorite poets?

Sharon Olds has an amazing capacity to render the ugly into something beautiful. She writes a lot of pain—physical and emotional—and those are the domains I tend to write about. Her sense of word choice, her ability to find the telling detail, astounds me. I learn so much from reading her work. William Carlos Williams is a huge influence on my work—the sparse form, the repetition, and, again, the telling detail. There are amazing poets who participate in the April PAD and the November Challenge who I enjoy and learn from. And yourself, of course—your poems capture nuances of family life that I appreciate.

As a reader, what do you like most in poems?

I like lean poems, ones that use few words well. I also like poems with endings that make me pause, make me wonder, make me read back to the beginning and go ‘ah.’ Most of all, a poem must be elegant and have an armature, be it meter or rhythm or structure, invisible at the surface but noticed when read. This is not to say I prefer poems with ‘hard’ structures, such as sonnets, rondeaus, or villanelles--because I don’t. But great poems feel complete, feel contained, have an innate musicality to them. Hard to describe, but when the container is missing, I know it.

What were your goals for the 2013 April PAD Challenge?

This past April was a tough time for me. I had a lot going on, not good stuff, and many mornings I could not focus on much beyond getting out of bed and going through the motions of the day. My goal in April was to write a poem a day—nothing more, nothing less. That was my only goal. Writing the daily poem pretty much kept me sane, kept me tethered.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on my third novel and hope to have a first draft finished in the next six months or so. Another project is a chapbook of short prose and poems, Love, Life, and Other Devastations. For this, I’m reading through the 150-plus poems I have written over the past five April PAD Challenges for suitable material. It’s fun to see my growth as a poet, and to revisit—and revise—poems that feel like old friends.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World's Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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