Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We love how your characterization of the Undertaker is so clear despite a smile being the only nod to his appearance. What mythos did you draw from when coming up with him as a character?

Dayna Hodge Lynch: I focused on the smile to illustrate how some of the physical remembrances get lost in grief. Everything can be a blur besides that one thing that stands out. Usually, a smile is seen as endearing or genuine but I wanted the Undertaker to personify all the sinister smiles of pity while experiencing grief. Grief is isolating. Grief is an otherworldly experience. Fellow Grievers, I see you.

RR: The enjambment drives the poem forward, and we’re interested in how it bolsters the palpable distance between the speaker and their loved ones. Was enjambment a primary focus while writing this piece, or did it come afterward in the editing process?

DHL: Exactly! The enjambment serves to separate the speaker and their loved ones physically. It acts as a barrier between this world and the next. Enjambment was always the primary focus. I wanted to write the first draft with that focus. The poem was originally two stanzas longer. The editing helped to solidify the push of the enjambment. 

RR: Black and queer identity often go hand in hand, and there can be so much rage found there. How do you temper that rage into such emphatic poems? 

DHL: Rage and anger are beautiful emotions that do not get the deserved recognition. Rage can help you move forward as a motivation. I have marginalized identities that some people don’t want visible. Visibility is essential. Having a place in this world with your voice being recognized leads to revolution. Being Black and queer is a blessinga divine representation of love. Letting the poems speak for what they need. This poem is a quiet rage, but a beautiful, grief-filled, quiet rage.

RR: You’ve spent much of your time in North Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana, both such hubs for southern culture. How has your time in those places impacted your writing style? 

DHL: Being born and raised in North Carolina is an honor. Being able to live and experience New Orleans is also an honor. Both taught me to love, aspects of myself, and to trust my style. North Carolina taught me how to speak to hard topics, technical training, and trust my speaker. New Orleans gave me the community, exploration, and freedom that I had been searching for throughout my life and taught me how to put that spirit into the poems.

RR: Is New Orleans as haunted as they say and, if so, do you have any stories to share?

DHL: New Orleans is a spiritual hub. So everyone I know pretty much has some type of story. Being the oldest city, especially in the French Quarter, I’m sure there are some stories that I could share…I’d say you have to go.


Read “Friends with the Undertaker” by Dayna Hodge Lynch in Issue 11.1.