Interview With Poet Amy Pence, Part 1 & Giveaway

Amy Pence, the author of The Decadent Lovely — which is published by Main Street Rag and which I reviewed last week — is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and teacher.  She graduated from Denison University and from the University of Arizona with an MFA.  In addition to The Decadent Lovely, she has authored a chapbook, Skin’s Dark Night (2River Press), and her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines.

Part one of our interview will introduce her more fully and explore why she chose certain text excerpts for her collection.  Part two of the interview will be available tomorrow, June 7, so stay tuned for that.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

If there is a crowded room eager to hang onto my every word, I must be an impostor, channeling Jane Fonda or Roshi Joan Halifax (either would be cool), or I’m having a nightmare.  I do teach (no surprise: college English), but often not to a crowded room.  I think I’m good at leading small workshops and I’ve done so with a wonderful group in the Atlanta area over the years.  (More on that later).  I’m a mom to a fifteen-year-old, who is quite amazing…To talk more about myself in answer to this question reminds me of Don Draper in the episode of Mad Men when he tries to side-step the question (I’m from the Midwest; we don’t talk about these things) and then he comes off like an asshole in the article!

What was it about “Learning From Las Vegas” and “The Art of Loving” that prompted you to include excerpts from them in The Decadent Lovely?

Thank you for this question.  That The Decadent Lovely is my first published collection came as a surprise (it’s really my third poetry manuscript).  But for many years I’ve appreciated and reread the dense and interesting language and mulled over the preposterous premise of Learning from Las Vegas. Should architecture really look like Las Vegas casinos?  Let’s hope not.  I also knew that one day I would write a book about the one vaguely interesting thing about me: that I grew up in the New Orleans French Quarter and Las Vegas.  I didn’t know that the poems would come out as a kind of necessity during my mother’s illness with lung cancer and her death about eight months later.  The book, I realized, framed the poems.  While cleaning her house, I came across The Art of Loving and her marginalia in the book (when she wrote the notes and underlined the book I will never know).  I read it eight months after her death and it was frustrating and sad and an act of discovery.  I could mourn her and celebrate her and be angry with her and well, love her, as I wrote the last poem in the book.  When I completed it—in my courtyard garden—a hummingbird—meaningful to my mother and me—hovered close to my face.  Thanks, mom, I said to that little whirring thing.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

Well, see, I’ve already mentioned Emily Dickinson (because I’m obsessed!) and I’ve written a couple of essays, many ED-inspired poems and am working on a novel about her. She’s obsession-material for me and many, many others, as I’ve found. I tend to burrow into a person’s life story; I used to read bios on film stars such as Bette Davis and Louise Brooks because there’s such a public/personal split that I find fascinating. Currently, I am very into Jane Fonda. Other obsessions seem to just crop up in my poems and well, we don’t really want to ferret those out, do we?

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I run, but there are so many triathletes and marathoners out there that my 5k to 10k jaunts sound paltry—I run fast to get it over with.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

I seldom have writer’s block because of my writing space (see the next answer), but I suffer from writer’s distraction (see previous answer). Puttering around in the garden and house can be fruitful or just a time suck. Often I have to turn the internet off or I’ve ended up web-surfing so far away from my original search that it’s head-spinning (huh? how did I get here?). In terms of pumping myself up and a quasi-food that keeps me inspired: copious amounts of coffee with cream. I’m ashamed to say how much—except to use the word “copious.”

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

Right now I’m listening to the Philip Glass Radio on Pandora. Chamber music (with lots of cellos) is also good. I have to be wary of Philip Glass though—I’ll be writing and suddenly I feel like Nicole Kidman wearing her Virginia Woolf nose in The Hours. And then it’s all stream-of-consciousness. (Just kidding).

Thanks for answering these questions, Amy. You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear what Amy says about poetry’s “elitism,” friendships, writing spaces, and her current projects.

For the giveaway, I have 1 copy for a US/Canada reader:

To Enter, comment on this post with either a question for Amy or something you enjoyed about the interview.

For a second entry, blog, tweet, or Facebook this interview and leave a link in the comments.

For a third chance to win, enter on tomorrow’s interview (link is not live until June 7).

Deadline June 22, 2011, at 11:59PM EST


  1. Wonderful interview! Love Emily Dickinson. Her work is amazing. 🙂
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    [email protected]

  2. Brittany Gale says




    • Thank you for your responses! Great to hear from other Emily Dickinson fans–I’ll use a dash here to recall & honor her–
      And of marginalia– the poem I refer to in my book is an elegy to what we lose, our notes in books will increasingly disappear as we go digital–

      • Seems like there are a number of Emily Dickinson fans out there, including myself. I’d be eager to read a novel about her. Why not, there are so many novels about Jane Austen or her characters these days!

  3. Brittany Gale says

    I’m also a huge Dickinson fan 😀 Thanks for the giveaway


  4. a wonderful interview…i, too, enjoy the work of emily dickinson 🙂

  5. Ooh, lovely interview — I can’t wait for part 2. So Ms Pence’s mother is write-in-the-book-er — is she? I can’t, no matter how much I love a book, but I had a very close friend who lived to borrow books with scribbles in the margins. She enjoyed the experience of reading the marginalia as much as the actual text.

    As a copious drinker of coffee with copious amounts of cream, I had to smile at that! 😉

    Thanks to both of you for this!

    • I really love reading what people write in the margins of books. I think its so interesting to see what people were thinking at the time they were reading.

  6. I love that she’s obsessed with Emily Dickinson, who is, as you know, my favorite poet! I’ve added this giveaway to my sidebar.


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