Drop Everything and Write
An Interview with Davonna Thomas
Thank you for joining us for another Haunted Waters Press Featured Author Interview. In this series, we sit down with contributors to chat about their craft and explore the experiences that have shaped their writing.
Today's interview is with HWP Contributor Davonna Thomas. Davonna's work of poetry To Fresh Jen is showcased in the 2021 issue of From the Depths. Enjoy!
My mom read to me from all the Shel Silverstein collections when I was a little girl, so those poems (and illustrations) were formative. The more recent spark for me was a graduate Modern Poetry seminar. In particular, "The Second Coming" (Yeats) deeply moved and inspired me.
How long did it take you to find your voice in your poetry? Do you look back on your early writing and see the ways in which you have grown as a writer?
I'll let you know when I find it! I am in my infancy as a self-described "poet," so it is difficult to identify any growth. I will say this: at first, I was only comfortable writing poems in which I was the narrator, and the subject was a prior lived experience, and I have become more comfortable exploring other narrators and subjects/situations.
We’d love to know more about your process for writing poetry. Do you sit down to write on a schedule, or rush for a pen and paper when an idea strikes?
I know it's more romantic to use pen and paper, but the truth is that I open a new document on my computer when I get a nugget of an idea, due to the simple fact that, as a professor, I'm usually on my computer. I haven't had much luck scheduling a time to write; that said, I have trained myself to drop everything when an image or phrase pops into my head. I've learned the hard way that telling myself that I'll remember it later is a fallacy.
If an image or word or phrase or melody seems to keep looping in your mind or haunting you, that's a poem that's asking to be written.
Do you find your poetry driven more by truth or fiction? How much personal experience makes its way into your writing?
So far, my poetry is almost entirely driven by truth and personal experience. Only recently have I begun to explore other realms. I think it's natural to "write what you know," particularly early on, so I give myself permission to exist in that space for as long as it feels right.
What advice do you have for the self-conscious aspiring poet?
Don't wait for some invisible moment/sign that your work is "good enough" to put out there. Just do it. If an image or word or phrase or melody seems to keep looping in your mind or haunting you, that's a poem that's asking to be written. Drop everything and write it. In other words, make friends with the voice in your head.
Is there an under-the-radar poet you wish more people knew about?
I feel like this is a "how hip are you" test. I'm absolutely destined to fail that test, so instead, I'm going to name-drop a few of my colleagues: Deborah Doolittle, Eric Vithalani, and James Andersen. Check them out!
When you’re not writing poetry, what might we find you doing?
Well, there's that whole day job thing: I teach English and Education courses full-time at my local community college. You can also find me at town council and Rotary meetings and events. I serve on the board of a nonprofit organization (Sponsor Humanity), and I am on the Topsail Island sea turtle patrol. I founded a local dance fitness group called the Sneads Ferry Dance Collective. I hang around with my son, Cameron, and spend a lot of time driving him back and forth to all of his stuff. I love live music and all forms of entertainment; I've gone to Bonnaroo every year since 2007.
What are you reading right now?
I read a lot of high-quality children's picture books because I teach an early childhood literacy methods course. Rain Before Rainbows (Prasadam-Hall/Litchfield) is a beautiful work of bibliotherapy.
What words do you live by? Do you have a personal motto?
I struggle to stay present, so I like the DMB lyric "the future is no place to place your better days." Here's another one that I think is mine, but it's possible that I'm plagiarizing: If there are two ways to do something, and one way makes someone's life a little bit easier/better, do it that way.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just wing it and own it; that's whatever everyone else around you is doing.
Lightning Round with
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Davonna Thomas teaches writing at a community college on the coast of North Carolina, where she serves as an editor of their in-house creative writing magazine and chairs an annual storytelling event. Davonna enjoys looking for sea turtle tracks on Topsail Island early in the morning, witnessing hatches late at night, and relaxing at her home in Sneads Ferry with her constant companion, a Jack Russell named Dudley.
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