Interview With Poet Amy Pence, Part 2 & Giveaway

The Decadent Lovely, which I reviewed and is published by Main Street Rag, is a collection that strives to uncover the love beneath the grime, and Amy Pence‘s style ranges from the straight narrative to the more abstract.  If you missed part one of my interview with her, please head on over to learn more about her, the collection, and her obsessions.

Without further ado, we’ll take a look at her thoughts on writing, poetry’s accessibility, and more.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

Poetry is powerful in various ways and there’s a flavor for everyone, thankfully. For me, it’s the difference between poetry as a public performance with a strong social message and poetry as a private experience with the page about the interior event. I am personally most moved by the poem as artifact, as an involution of word, form, and sound. That was my first experience with poetry and the kind of poetry I am moved to write. I like familiarizing my students with poets and performance artists like Daniel Beaty and Patricia Smith to show and celebrate their successes, but the challenge as a teacher these days is to show that an Emily Dickinson poem (for instance) is not precious or flowery—it is a complex sonic creation that briefly but deeply can show us what it is to be human.

Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

I don’t think we have an obligation to dispel it (and it’s not always a myth). As I said, I like to bring my younger students into the world of poetry’s richness that they may have thought of as stuffy or inaccessible. Last night in class we lingered over Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Blackbird,” putting meaning aside to revel in the language and the modernist disjunctions. I don’t know if I inspired much rigorous thinking, but I try to do my small part in encouraging art appreciation as a value. It’s unfortunate that the word “elitist” has obscured what art can enact in the human.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I mentioned leading a workshop, and beginning about a decade ago, I’ve met with a small group off and on in Atlanta (hats off to Kiki, Gelia, Marianne, Sam, Sandi & Sunny). I like to set up themes and then we read relevant texts, write in-class, and workshop their poems. They know that they are teaching me as much as I “teach” them, yet they have the grace and generosity to pay me (hardly seems right). Two stellar writing books I return to again and again: Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches by Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser (amazing poets and generous friends who teach here in Carrollton at the University of West Georgia).

In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

I have two very close friends from graduate school (fiction writer Sue Stauffacher and poet Val Martinez) who are writers and I know—even with our ups and downs—we will always be friends. And I’ve met so many wonderful writers at conferences, writing residencies and here in Carrollton. But it’s not a prerequisite, and the writers that I know typically don’t “talk” writing. I have to say I like Facebook for the way I’ve reconnected with friends from my MFA program in graduate school (University of Arizona) and to see what a vast network of poets are posting (but then, it’s very distracting). Their little obsessions and conundrums sometimes crop up, and I find that interesting. I admire so many writers and enjoyed interviewing Barbara Kingsolver, Li-Young Lee, and Paul Guest (published in past issues of Poets & Writers). I hope to do more because I learn so much from the process.

Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

I’m extremely lucky to have my ideal writing space that I couldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago. But I dreamed it, and my husband sacrificed some beloved trees so we could add my writing space to his house when we married. I write in front of a large window that overlooks a hard wood forest of thousands of acres of rolling hills and creeks. I have a courtyard planted with my favorite flora (the fauna are the 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a dwarf bunny) in all seasons. My writing studio has windows on all four walls. Needless to say, I’d just sit here and write or just gaze into the distance if I could. But there’s that thing called a paycheck to pay for this fine mess.

What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

That Emily Dickinson novel, as mentioned earlier. It may take a lifetime. I’m not sure whose.

Thanks, Amy, for answering my questions.

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, spread the word about the interview on Twitter, your blog, and Facebook, and leave a link in the comments.

For a third chance to win, enter on yesterday’s interview.

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


  1. wonderful interview! love the peotry! nobody does peotry interviews or giveaways. authors need to be more a appreciated. 🙂 thanks for the giveaway!
    [email protected]

  2. Brittany Gale says

    Really enjoyed reading the second part of the interview. I love poetry and this seems to be the only site with poetry giveaways!


  3. I’d love to read that Emily Dickinson novel. Also, what a sweet husband to create her ideal writing space!


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