Rappahannock Review Poetry Editor: In “Taking My Son’s Temperature,” we love the emphasis and impact in the repetition of “okay” and some of the other voiced dialogue. Can you talk about how you developed the structure, voice, and repetition in the poem?
David G. Walker: I believe this poem came from an April poem-a-day challenge writing prompt that asked me to make one word the focal point. I chose “okay” because I see it as such a versatile word that is said so often in different contexts to mean so many different things. Once I pinned this word, I began thinking of what it means to all of us, what it means to me, what it will mean to my son – all these thoughts helped shape and move the lens of the poem. In terms of voice and repetition, I read this poem aloud a lot while writing and revising it. I don’t always do this, but it felt pretty essential with what I was trying to accomplish.
RR: We’re drawn in by the tactile and metaphorical imagery in the poem. How do you work to find a balance between the physical and the abstract?
DGW: I think it’s just that: work. I make a conscious effort in my poetry to not stray too far down one path or the other. If I find myself stuck in the “real world” for an entire poem, I’ll try to find places to elevate it with some abstraction. In that same vein, I don’t want to float out past the cosmos into utter philosophy; I’ll always look for something to pin us in reality. In this poem, this balance came naturally as I attempted to illustrate the anxiety and the very real steps taken to combat it.
RR: The poem suggests to us that you are a loving father, husband, and overall family-oriented individual. Has being a father changed your approach to writing in terms of subject or style?
DGW: Absolutely. When they tell you that parenthood will change your life, your own expectations of that change will always come up shorter than the reality. Once I was able to get back to writing after the birth of my son, my poetry evolved from strange, cuss-filled musings on playing corpses on TV shows to more grounded explorations of my role as a father and husband. It was a really weird shift, but I really embrace both eras of my writing and look forward to the next change – whatever comes.
RR: As a writer and a teacher, do you believe that these roles intertwine? Do you ever take inspiration from your students?
DGW: These roles certainly intertwine. While I am teaching and analyzing these rich texts from master craftspeople, I can’t help but absorb some of the techniques for my own writing. And even when I assign my students the task of producing their own creative work, their poems and stories help boost my love of literature and writing even more. I am probably in the best profession to help stoke my creative flames because I am immersed in inspiration every day.
RR: You’re the founding editor of Golden Walkman Magazine, which focuses solely on publishing work in an audio podcast format. Can you tell us more about that project?
DGW: This magazine has been an absolute labor of love of mine for years. My goal is to give the writer as much agency in presenting their work the way they want it to be experienced, which is why almost every piece is recited in the writer’s own voice. I also think the format allows for some unique opportunities like collaborating with musicians to showcase musical inspiration for writers or releasing an issue at any point during the week to publish work in response to a current event. I want Golden Walkman Magazine to be a place where any voice can be heard exactly as they’d like. Hopefully, we’re doing that in some way.
David G. Walker’s work in Issue 7.1: