Dalton Day is fresh off of the heels of releasing the poetry collection Spooky Action at a Distance. Distributed back in the Spring through Spork Press, this is Day's second full-length collection (along with a quartet of chapbooks) and is made up of riveting couplets, all of which contain the same, cohesive title. Day's poems often blend humor with moving confessions, wild digressions, and infectious energy. The book is full of memorable lines like "Proportionately speaking, I dwell in // great piles of petals." and "It's easy to // refer to November as the man we / won't stop carrying, so that's what // I'm going to do." After reading through this whirlwind of a collection, I spoke with the author (and pre-school teacher) about science fiction, structure, voice, The Mask, the Curiosity rover, and what to expect down the road.
How has 2018 been treating you?
2018 is like riding in the passenger seat of an ambulance. Also, the fact that I’m starting this interview with a literal simile I NEED to calm down.
Spooky Action at a Distance has been out in the world for three months. Does it still feel new to you?
Idk, kinda? These poems have been written for a MINUTE, so my feelings toward them are very kids-in-college-coming-home-to-do-laundry. But seeing book itself, an actual, physical object still feels very new and strange and yet somehow constant(?), in that I sometimes just pick it up and hold it for a minute, before putting it down to nap. Both me and the book take naps, then wake up cranky, is what I’m saying.
When I typed in your book title, I found myself reading articles about Einstein and physics. You explain it at the beginning of the book, but can you elaborate a bit further with this title choice?
I read this headline a few years ago that said SORRY EINSTEIN, QUANTUM MECHANICS SUGGESTS SPOOKY ACTION IS REAL. First of all, I loved how passive aggressive it was to my boy Albert. Second, I immediately used that as a title for a poem. (I was going to send you the poem, too, but upon reading it some four years after writing and suddenly hearing sirens with no source, I decided not to. As far as editors go, hindsight is like, Miss Trunchbull??) Anyway, some time after that I was writing the poems that would become SAAAD, but without titles, because titles give me anxieté. But the poems were about grief and the-reaching-towards-what-was-once-there-but-is-no-longer that comes with it, and when I came upon that old title of mine and did some LIGHT research into what Spooky Action at a Distance was, I realized I had a title, and that [prayer hands] I only needed one.
In regards to quantum entanglement, do you believe these poems all mesh/overlap/connect with one another?
Yes. I do this super cute thing where I write the same poem again and again and again but with different words because the only thing I know how to do is try.
Along with the title, the book also features holograms, satellites, photosynthesis, and Apollo 11. Have you always had a fascination with science / sci-fi?
When I was a kid I was planning on becoming an astronaut—wait, have you seen the ~film~ Rocketman?? Big poetic inspiration, anyway—until I realized that my frail, birdlike body would NEVER be strong enough to survive…any aspect of space exploration??? But I loved space and science and Star Wars sooooo much. STILL DO!!! I’m obsessed. The “Oops I Did It Again” video??? Ray Bradbury??? If I spend longer than .2 seconds thinking about the Curiosity Rover I’m done for the day. Ugh! All this to say, my fascination / heart belong to human possibility.
What was the process like writing these poems? Did you always know they'd be couplets? Did you always know they'd all have the same titles?
I wrote these poems at the same time I was writing another poetic sequence. In many ways they are companion pieces but in many ways they are not. These poems are more structured, more associative, less direct in how they say “I miss you.” I needed both.
I haven't read any of your other collections (I will!), but would you say this style/voice is found throughout your work, or is this particular collection different than the others?
A phrase that kept coming up when I was in poetry workshops, with both poems from this book and not, was “implied logic.” I like it, but I have no idea what it means. So maybe this voice is just running around no matter what I write!! I love that voice a lot, I trust the way she sees the world. But I’m just a very manic person, with a lot of mood swings, so idk. I just want to be able to sit still for a second!!
You've released collection of prose poems through Bottlecap Press while SAAAD is made up of couplets. How do you approach a blank page? How does the poem find its form?
I write constantly. I write very instinctively and very fast, revising as I go. A poem’s form, for me, typically hinges on what my obsessive visual anxiety is calling for. Sometimes I need the block of a prose poem. They’re so satisfying and grounding to look at, aren’t they? But sometimes I need a poem to look like a staircase one might attempt to do a musical number on only to stumble and fall at the very end in front of EVERYBODY.
What's the rest of the year looking like for you? What have you been working on?
I’m sending out a new book to publishers, one that I am very proud of but would LOVE to have some distance (spooky or otherwise, I’m not picky!!) from. I’m tired of writing grief poems! I’ve been working on some new poems that have been very enjoyable for me to write, and have only begun to let people read them. I also want to write a big thing, a genre-fluid thing about place and identity that’s also funny and yet somehow not the most extra thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t know how to write this big thing! One day!
Outside of your own work, who/what have you been reading recently?
Omg, we love a list moment!
01.) Sum of Every Lost Ship, Allison Titus
02.) American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin, Terrance Hayes
03.) Birds of America, Lorrie Moore
04.) When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen
05.) Made for Love, Alissa Nutting
07.) “Lines to a Depressed Friend,” Frank O’Hara
For this ongoing author interview series, I'm asking for everyone to present a writing prompt. It can be one that you craft out of thin air, it can be one you created a while ago, or it can be one you adore from an outside source that was passed down to you.
Put on one of your favorite albums and then sit down to write. Immediately give up and dance instead. Let me know what happens next.
I have to ask: The Mask. What does the movie mean to you, what character do you relate to, what's your favorite scene, what does your mask look like, LET'S TALK MASK!
The Mask was my FAVORITE movie as a kid. I was (and am) very manic a lot of the time and seeing that character was a real "that's like me!!!" moment, so I obv relate to the main character in that sense, but my fav is the landlady for SURE. Love her!!! My favorite scene is in the club after the Mask gets shot & he's in that dude's arms going through all those famous movie death scenes. [stops typing to watch that scene] BEN IT'S LITERALLY SO FUNNY I CAN'T. As for my mask?? Probably looks something similar to Lady Gaga in that Kermit dress:
Lastly, do you have any advice for writers/poets working on their craft?
I’m a pre-school teacher, and what I’ve learned is that any kid at any time is a better writer than I’ll ever be. What a relief!!
Any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
I am not dead / I am not wise!