Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: We are curious as to how you chose the title, “Dancing in the Cobwebs,” as it is a powerful line from your poem that presents a captivating image. Does this line have a deeper meaning that led to your decision to make it the title?

Dom Fonce: “Dancing in the Cobwebs” is the title poem for my upcoming chapbook, so I was very careful when considering its potential meaning. Ultimately, the reader is free to take away whatever they want from the image, but I have my own interpretations. I think we associate cobwebs with the dirty, neglected, and dark corners of a space. I’ve always separated the images of the spider web and cobweb, with the cobweb being much older and no longer inhabited by a spider. The juxtaposition of the cobweb symbolism with the joyous and carefree image of dancing creates curiosity for me. Especially considering that the subjects in this poem, and the chapbook as a whole, are children, I associate dancing with play and making the best out of a bad environment.

RR: We are moved by the reflection on the loss of innocence in the poem, and how the children stumble upon this moment by mimicking adults in their lives, in particular their grandfather. What inspired you to write about this theme?

DF: Largely, this is the theme explored in the chapbook as a whole. The work is semi-autobiographical. My sister and I spent full summers at our grandfather’s house in Ohio. Unfortunately, the area was hit very hard by the opioid epidemic, and we were around many addicts and dealers from a young age. The book, however, takes some creative liberties—in particular, it depicts the grandfather figure as malevolent, which, though he was flawed, was not how our real grandfather treated us.

In many ways, the children acted more like adults than the adults did in this environment. So, the mimicry is very concerning in retrospect. Overall, I think the poem tackles loss of innocence because this space is where we lost our innocence.

RR: How do you approach writing about heavy topics such as grief, as you do in your work? Do you find that writing about these themes helps you process them?

DF: Without a doubt, poetry has been my outlet for coping with grief. It is a necessary mechanism for me. I think my life could’ve gone in many destructive directions in 2015 when my father died. Instead, thankfully, I was able to come to terms with his loss through my writing. It’s hard to articulate what writing—especially emotional writing—does to our minds. I talk about this idea a lot with my students. Writing out the problem is the opposite of repressing it and, because the words are etched out in front of you, the writing process allows for better reflection than even conversation.

RR: We understand you are co-founder and Editor in Chief of the literary journal Volney Road Review. What inspired you to start this journal? When choosing pieces, what kind of work do you gravitate towards?

DF: Unfortunately, I have stepped down as Editor in Chief of VRR this year, but the mag is still going strong with N.P. Stokes taking over. We originally started the journal as undergrads. We noticed a lot of the work from our peers had a very strong sense of place, so we curated work from them for our first issue. Then, when we opened submissions to the world, we were flooded with thousands of pieces.

I think Youngstown is a truly odd place where all its writers cannot help but write about it. The lore is just so expansive and complex. We wanted to add another platform for publication in the area, especially highlighting local talent through interviews and showcased work.

Although I am no longer choosing pieces for the mag, I previously chose poems based on their balance of technical craftsmanship, unique turns of phrase, and strength, yet subtlety of sentiment. If the poem utilized a strong sense of place, it got bonus points.

I always like to walk away from a poem feeling curious about it, but never completely lost. My favorite poem, and a great example of what I mean, is “On Wanting to Tell [ ] about a Girl Eating Fisheyes” by Mary Szybist.

Side note: VRR’s current submission period ends on February 1st.

RR: What upcoming projects should our readers be looking out for from you?

DF: My next chapbook, Dancing in the Cobwebs, is set to be published by Finishing Line Press in fall of 2022. In the meantime, I am working on more poems which will hopefully culminate into my MFA thesis, which I plan to be my first full-length manuscript. Hopefully this manuscript will make its appearance in the world within the next few years.

Dom Fonce’s work in Issue 9.1: 

“Dancing in the Cobwebs”