Music Bird : An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling, author of Night Songs

Night Songs is one of the first three poetry collections from Gold Wake Press (editor: J. Michael Wahlgren). Click through to read two sample poems from this debut release and a short interview with its author, Kristina Marie Darling.

from ‘The Homecoming’

Once he returned from a long trip and found dozens of dead canaries. They littered the terrace, his doorstep, every dirty windowsill, casting strange yellow light and tiny shadows. That night he tried to clear the cobblestones of their otherworldly debris, humming Dvorak and muttering to himself. A coffee pot rattled in the kitchen. Then he stopped, leaving feathers to drift in each corner, the old grey house still an homage to some other life.”

Let’s talk first about your decision to publish with Gold Wake Press. What first drew you to J. Michael Wahlgren and company? And how do you feel about Night Songs being one of the first releases from their new print arm?

For years, I’d submit my prose poems to elimae and receive very nice rejection letters.  When he didn’t use my work, the editor would sometimes suggest magazines that might be a better match, one of which was the online journal associated with Gold Wake Press.  This turned out to be the best rejection I ever got.

Over a period of three years, I published three e-chaps with J. Michael Wahlgren, and really enjoyed working with him on these small projects.  He offers insightful feedback, but still allows the author to retain a great deal of control over the finished product.  I knew early on that I’d welcome the opportunity to publish a longer collection with Gold Wake Press.

Although GWP is a fairly new publisher, they published two great poetry collections before mine:  Zachary C. Bush’s The Silence of Sickness and Donora Hillard’s Theology of the Body.  After reading these books, I felt really good about publishing Night Songs with the same press.  In addition to being engaging and formally innovative, The Silence of Sickness and Theology of the Body seemed to be geared at much the same audience I hoped to reach with my own poems.

The works collected in Night Songs are labeled in the acknowledgements as ‘poems’ but the first half of the book has a very distinct prose feel – full and connected sentences, beginning middle end structures, and no line breaks or other standard poetic formatting – what makes these ‘poems’ and not ‘micro-fictions’ or some other prose denomination?

Most of the fiction I’ve read seems to depend on plot to create momentum within the text.  Prose poems, on the other hand, often progress through associations between images.  That’s what makes the genre so exciting for me.  One isn’t confined to a traditional narrative structure and can allow images to illuminate and complicate one another.

This is exactly what I try to accomplish in the prose section of Night Songs.  I don’t feel like anything momentous happens in terms of plot, but the appearance of the most unremarkable object—like a broken viola, a pocket watch, or a handkerchief— can lead to a dramatic shift in the direction that the narrative takes.  For me, this is something that’s only possible in poetry.

There is much about orchestration and instrumentation in these poems – how important are the melodies in writing, the songs and notes and harmonies and derivatives in how we write either poetry or prose?

For both poetry and prose, I think that musicality is everything.  This is because the writer’s job is to instruct the reader in new ways of viewing the world, and more often than not, this includes seeing what’s beautiful about it. The literary artists that I admire most accomplish this through style, sound, and orchestration, rather than only through content.

While all the pieces collected in Night Songs have a nice linear feel, a drive, the book clearly moves from prose–poems in the opening to much more brokenly structured and gap–laden pieces in the latter half – I enjoyed all of them, but can you talk to us a little about your choice to divide the book in this manner and what you think it perhaps does in terms of flow or reading direction for the collection as a whole?

The transition from the first section of the book to the second is meant to be a little dramatic, but I hope that the reader will see that they’re complementary.  One of my former teachers, Peter Balakian, used to say that a poem is built on individual phrases and their rhythms.  When writing Night Songs, I saw the shift from dense, ornate prose pieces to lyric fragments as a return to the book’s most essential music, which is recovered only at the end of the collection.

Lastly, in terms of thematic approach, music and birds play an obvious role in this book – they are either pulled out and mentioned by name (or instrument) or in the background chirping songs or lending wonderfully imagistic ambiance – what do these birds and this music mean to you as a writer?

For me, birds have always represented two things.  The first is probably the same for most people—they’re  a symbol of freedom and possibility.  But they also evoke one’s attempts to understand oneself, and to make sense of one’s surroundings.  Just look into a bird’s eyes and you’ll see what I mean.  An observer can describe a finch or a canary with certainty until he or she reaches their glassy, impassible gaze.  What lies beyond it seems vast and unknowable.  That is, until the song begins.  As a bird sings, its music becomes a window into something that had previously been inaccessible.

In writing, song is almost always a starting point for self-discovery and understanding.   In this sense, birds and their music are an emblem for what I’m hoping to find in the creative process.

from ‘Appendix A: Collages & Found Texts’:

–A bird contents itself

with a certain series of notes

& such is called

a song brought out on parade.

It is found as an acoustic fact

that the whole of notes is divided

into a number of short flights

& these become

the music—

Check out Night Songs at Gold Wake Press. They are together a new force.

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4 thoughts on “Music Bird : An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling, author of Night Songs

  1. “An acoustic fact.” Very nice.

    Thanks for this, J.A. — sounds like an interesting book and a great new press.

  2. Yeah, you know, it always feels like a gamble to me to get into new presses when they only have a few titles, but I’m obviously glad when people take the chance (like people who supported Mud Luscious at the very beginning) and I am really impressed by the quality of this Darling’s poetry – I think this is the start to a really nice and clear aesthetic…

  3. Pingback: The Satisfaction of Incompleteness: A Conversation with Kristina Marie Darling « BIG OTHER

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