Rappahannock Review Contributor Spotlight: Interview with
The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: The jump from stanzas three and four, between “breathe” and “underwater”, is almost like a dive. Did this aspect of the poem have to be edited in, or did it naturally flow (no pun intended)?
Bobby Bolt: I’m glad you noticed this! The poem was originally one stanza, and I was writing it at a time when I used a lot of couplets in my poems. I decided to use the image of a Galileo thermometer in a later draft of the poem, and thought the idea of individual vessels moving in a larger container would be best represented by the current form. I decided to break on “breathe” to “underwater” from that idea of one sinking without any certainty of when they might rise again.
RR: Was the comparison between sex and earthquakes a difficult metaphor for you, or would you say that once you began the poem it all flowed organically?
BB: I would say this comparison was more organic, though I wasn’t sure how it would work because I came to it rather quickly. Earthquakes usually seem far away to most people from Illinois (my home state and current residence), but it’s often overlooked how close we sit in Springfield to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, whose fault line passes through Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois. Most earthquake activity in my memory occurred at night while I was asleep and the moments of sex in the poem come from a very real experience I had with a roommate of mine a few years ago while trying to sleep (you can infer the rest, I’m sure). We laugh about it now, and he has told me how much he enjoys its presentation in the poem.
RR: Your use of language is quite powerful. Does your word choice involve an involved planning process, or does your diction emerge more organically?
BB: I hold tightly to the belief that language has a life of its own, and often resists our control which we sometimes see when we struggle with the syntax of a line or group of lines in a poem. I try to let a first or second draft land on the page without much scrutiny so I can find the ground between what the poem wants to do and what I intended for it. A lot of my poems are conceptualized out of one line I imagine or phrase I hear, and I try to move forward from there. Saying that, once I think I have an idea of a more complete draft, I go to my pocket Oxford English Dictionary (which I doubt fits in anyone’s pocket) because I am fascinated with etymology and the story of words. That, paired with consulting some favorite collections, is where more intense planning in the work begins.
RR: What books or collections are you reading right now?
BB: Next to me now is Dean Young’s Shock by Shock and Barbara Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End. The latter has been especially rewarding for me, as I tend to focus on closure in my work and it’s myriad possibilities. Additionally, I finished a fiction collaboration between Carol Guess and Kelly Magee earlier this week called With Animal, which I would absolutely recommend to anyone with an interest in magical realism and short fiction.
RR: Tell us about your writing process. For example, do you prefer pen to paper, using a laptop, an iPhone?
BB: As far as my iPhone is concerned, I use Notes for writing little lines I think of and have gotten a lot of use from the Dragon Dictation app, which lets me yell whatever I might want to write into my phone when I don’t have the time or space to really write anything. I prefer pen and paper for a (very early) first draft, and then organize those thoughts on my laptop, which is where all my poems stay for any further drafts. I find Word lets me have a lot more control over the vision of a poem, but I usually keep at least two notebooks nearby for whenever I could need them.
Bobby Bolt’s work in Issue 3.3: