Interview: Ted Dodson (Featured Poet)

Interview by Poetry Editor Astrid Drew


IM: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself.

TD: I was born in Middleburg, Virginia. I lived there for most of my life. I went to Elon University, and that’s where I first really got into writing. I ended up changing my major from communications to creative writing. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I graduated from school.

IM: Who are your favorite writers, your major influences?

TD: Oh, lots and lots of people. The Black Mountain poets, it’s kind of hard to be an American writer right now and not find John Ashbury to be an influence of some sort. But also the teachers at my school: Julie Agoos, Lou Asekoff, Marjorie Wellish. They are the ones pushing me right now.

IM: Your question poems, such as “Question to the Cyclops” have unique line breaks and indentations. What was the reasoning behind this structure?

TD: I’m a strong believer that poems should not only be lyrical in the musical sense, but that the poem should also dance to the music. Usually most of my indents are intuitive; they guide the reading, especially if read out loud, for myself or readers. It also helps toward an interpretation as well. As far as the Cyclops poem is concerned, I consider that to be one of my favorite poems that I’ve ever written. I say that because whenever I read it, I get something new from it. I think that’s one of the features of the short poem (newness with each reading), because you can be very dense without trying to be, or rather, saying too much. And that’s another reason for the movement on the page – it’s to give the word more weight.

IM: Is there anything specific that you would like readers to draw from your poems?

TD: I think I would want the reader to take the same thing from every one of my poems. Beauty, and joy, maybe a laugh. Something minuscule or enlightening, however fleeting it might be, toward some turn or emotional perception. It was never my intention to lead a reader in a particular direction by force.

IM: By force?

TD: Right, as in, I’m not trying to attach a bridle to the reader and lead them through the desert as a cowboy would his horse. I’d like  the reader to ride alongside me, to travel with me.

Read Dodson’s “Questions” series here, published in Interrobang!? Spring 2009.