Interview with Danielle Susi, by Jeff Handy

Published: Vol. II, Issue I
Date of Interview: July 6th, 2014

Can you describe your typical creative process? Do you feel like your poems are most often the result of your channeling a muse, or do you begin a poem through sheer will?

My process ranges so wildly with each poem and project. Sometimes an image or emotion is so strong the work essentially writes itself, but often I’m drawing a combination of influential images together. I like using non-literary books for reference and inspiration. Like lately I've been obsessing over Johannes Itten’s The Elements of Color and loving that sort of technical language that fits so nicely with really beautiful poetic imagery. Other times I know the impact I want a larger project or manuscript to have and I try to write toward that.

Where do you write? Do you favor a particular ambiance while youre writing?

I can write basically anywhere and I try to write often, even if it’s not full poems. I’m not one of those people who wakes up at 5 am to put my daily lines in. I take a lot of notes throughout the day and then finally when my brain says “okay, you have something here,” then I can really take the time to craft something, even if it takes a couple of weeks to make it happen. I do like to listen to music when I write. Kanye West and Earl Sweatshirt are really good to listen to when I’m trying to keep rhythm in the poem and Lorde and Fiona Apple are linguistically inspiring when my vocabulary fails me.

When and why did you begin taking writing seriously?

I think I was probably 19 when I started being really serious about my work. The work was very rudimentary then, but I was taking creative writing classes with some incredible professors and writing and editing for the independent newspaper at my college. I was dedicated to it. When I started publishing and had that moment when I realized that other people liked my work too that made me work even harder for it.

How did education play a role in your development as a writer?

Like I said, I am so truly lucky to have had amazing mentors and professors not only in the MFA program I am currently enrolled in at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but in my undergrad at Quinnipiac University. I probably owe my writing career to my massively talented undergrad advisor Ken Cormier. He was so patient with me and introduced me to an entirely new way of thinking and writing. That said, Jason Koo, Amy England, and Janet Desaulniers have all played such an important role in my development as a writer. I so admire Jason’s work and his dedication to advancing the culture of poetry, and Amy and Janet were so instrumental in the development of my first manuscript.

What are you working on now?

I just finished polishing my first manuscript, which is a mix of short fiction and poetry and I’ve been busy sending that out to presses. This manuscript is so important to me. I really feel like it’s a different kind of project and, in my opinion, examines loss in such a powerful way. At the same time, I’ve been working on the next collection, which focuses largely on aesthetics and the body. Additionally, I’ve been planning a broadside collaboration with the really awesome editors at Meekling Press.

Whose work interests you right now? What poets or presses are putting out work that you find exciting?

There are so many poets doing incredible, strange, beautiful things right now. My dear friend Simone Muench is just miles ahead of everyone conceptually. Her new book Wolf Centos is coming out in August and from what I’ve read of those poems they definitely won’t disappoint. Other poets I’m interested in right now include Bianca Stone, Dan Magers, Jamaal May, Hadara Bar-Nadav, and Kendra DeColo. As far as non-poets go Amelia Gray, Lindsay Hunter, and Roxane Gay are so fricken impressive. Featherproof Books will always impress me with the range of styles and writers they put out. I own the majority of the titles they’ve published over the years. Saturnalia also puts out incredibly haunting, well-designed books of poetry.

What, in your opinion, is the state of contemporary American poetry right now? Where is it headed?

I love how many poets are breaking form or take liberties with traditional form or creating an entirely new form. I’m also really into collaborative books and I think there should be even more than that. I see this thing happening in the poetry community where it’s become a hip occupation again and rule-breakers are leading that pack, I think. Organizations like Brooklyn Poets, Poets House, and Literary Death Match are making literature cool again and I’m grateful to be a part of that era.