Interview with Meg Day

Meg Day, Salt Lake City, Utah

Meg Day

Meg Day

Tell us a little about yourself.

This morning I went for a run in a cemetery. The weather’s turned and running keeps me from getting too sad when there’s less sunshine to soak up. I don’t particularly enjoy running, but there is something about a cemetery—the regularity of the headstones, maybe, or the constant tension between the excessive number of inhabitants and the overwhelming vacancy of the placethat makes running seem altogether bearable. My dog was with me, which I kind of doubt is legal in cemeteries now that I think of it, but we don’t really go anywhere without each other these days. She’ll be seven this year, which is like being in your late forties in dog years, and she’s a little creaky in the knees, a little slow heading uphill. She’s the only one I like to have around when I write poems; she’s quiet and she makes soft pig noises in her sleep and she always agrees that the second title is likely better than the first.

How did you begin writing poetry?

I was in undergrad when I started writing poems with consistency and attention. I can remember reading a lot as a child and recall writing a poem (my first?) in elementary school about a caterpillar and a kite. While I edited my high school’s literary journal and wrote poems in creative writing classes, I spent the majority of my education focused on how I could get to college and then, once in college, how I could direct my studies toward making a living. For the first two years of undergrad, I studied neuropsychobiology through the university’s Department of Human Development; I figured that if I couldn’t make a living being creative, I would make a living studying creativity in the brain. After I took Eileen Myles’s Intro to Poetry class, all of that kind of fell apart. Performing poems in ASL, though, came a lot earlier and a lot easier to me. Because Deaf culture includes such an emphasis on literature and storytellingand I had rich, rich relationships within Deaf culture as an undergrad in San DiegoI had a lot of encouragement when I was finally like, uh, I’m not gonna be a scientist, at least not the kind that makes money.

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Tell us about “Taker of the Temperature, Keeper of the Hope Chest,” the poem that was selected for Best New Poets 2013.

“Taker of the Temperature, Keeper of the Hope Chest” takes its title from a line in Buddy Wakefield’s poem “Guitar Repair Woman.” I was in a workshop at Utah last year and the sestina assignment was looming and I kept listening to this poem by Buddy trying to figure out how to teach it to my students as a page poem and then as a poem to be read aloud without totally severing the connection and aspects of both textual and corporeal performativity. We’d been working on scansion and I had my students try to scan from just the audio: so many crinkly foreheads, so many earnest ears. We all wrote poems that included a line of Buddy’s that day, and this is a much later draft of mine. When I was a little more green in terms of poetry, I hated on form pretty bad because I couldn’t find an access point. I listened to hip hop and spoken word and then there was THE SONNET and THE SESTINA, all hoity toity like they can be. It took me a long time to find the meter of hip hop within different forms and after I found it, I kind of lost my mind. I love this poem not because it’s a sestina, but because it’s a narrative one that has managed to retain my voice. That’s a first for me.

What question do you wish I’d asked? 

What am I working on right now? I’m doing a lot of revision work, truthfully. But the big excitement, actually, is the sprout of a fresh crown of sonnets that has begun to preoccupy me while I run in cemeteries and run between teaching classes and meander through the produce aisle. I had a dream a while back about the ponies of Chincoteague, which led me down a Wikipedia black hole and kickstarted a mild obsession with Sonora Webster and her diving horse, Red Lips. I re-watched Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken recently and while I was kind of devastated to find that it is much cheesier than my remembrance of it, the nonfiction life of Sonora Webster continued to fascinate. I’ve never finished a crown of sonnets before, so I’m a little giddy that it’s coming together.

Visit Meg on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or on her website. Read “Taker of the Temperature, Keeper of the Hope Chest” and 49 other poems selected by Brenda Shaughnessy by ordering Best New Poets 2013, available now.