We love our authors. That sounds silly, but it’s true. We love them so much we like to annoy them by asking questions about their writing lives. Today we bring you an updated interview with Francis Daulerio, one of the most “breath of fresh air” poets you’ll ever read.
If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
Oh jeez, I’ve been a massive fan of Anthony Bourdain’s work for a good long time. I always admired how easily he was able to navigate the really complicated elements of culture and religion and politics and distill it all down to a palatable examination that didn’t feel like it was being swayed by anything other than reality. I’m absolute shit in the kitchen, but it’d be a real honor to share a bowl of home-grown garlic scape pesto my wife and I make each spring. It’s no culinary masterpiece, but I think he’d like it fine.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
I worry a lot about the headspace I’m creating for my readers. My first book was so sad (too sad, if I’m honest), that I’ve subsequently tried to layer in large helpings of hope wherever possible. It’s important to recognize how difficult life can be, but there’s no sense in wallowing, and I certainly don’t want my writing to take anybody to an unhealthy or even dangerous place. When I write now, I try to remind myself that there is hope to be found, and I try to aim for it whenever I can.
What books are on your nightstand?
We have books all over the house, so we eventually started turning different rooms into different sections. Philosophy and art in the living room, fiction and poetry in the study. You get it the idea. The nightstand serves as our nonfiction section. Stuff like Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive, Ross Gay’s Book of Delights, Maggie Smith’s Keep Moving. Good books to grab if you wake up with the scaries. The Buddhism section also lives there along with a few random books on gardening. It’s very zen. All the vibes.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The em dash. I’m a poet ffs.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
Many of them, actually. I was a pretty lousy student in high school. I probably could’ve used some meds, but early aughts catholic school wasn’t the place to talk about mental health or medication (imagine that!).
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
I’m actually a little mad at myself for not thanking Lexapro in the acknowledgements page of the new book. What a life-saver! I wrote 3/4 of Joy from my typical, unmedicated state of constant anxiety and then finished and edited it feeling like a totally new person. I know medication isn’t for everyone, but it drastically improved my daily life.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
The first stages of writing a new poem are totally energizing, and the editing process can be, too, if it’s enlightening or transformative. Generally though I do get exhausted by the tedious nature of editing. Once that spark of creativity is gone and I’m left with a heap of words to move around, things get a bit less exciting.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think social media makes it easy for an aspiring writer to feel excruciatingly inadequate. You see all these people dropping links to new publications and it can quickly start to feel like you’re the only one striking out, when in reality we’re all getting bombarded with rejections all the time. It can be difficult to learn how to interact in the writing community before you’ve really gotten your feet wet, which is why I think that space has turned into such a shitstorm. The good news is, once you get some publications under your belt, you get to take imposter syndrome for a spin. So there’s that…
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Any and every other thing.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I don’t think I’ve gotten traditional reader’s block, but there are definitely long stretches where I simply can’t find time to sit down and read at length. I try to take advantage of gaps between projects and time off work, but life with young children doesn’t make for loads of free time.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
This feels similar to the “do artists need to experience pain to create” question, and while I think the answer is probably no, I can’t help but think that the difficulties I’ve lived through have made me better equipped to write the way I do. Maybe that’s just me trying to make myself feel better. I’ve had panic attacks, and afterwords tried to tell myself that living like this isn’t all bad because it somehow helps me create. I don’t think that’s true, but in the moments I want to feel like I’m earning my spot by suffering. I’m sure there are folks who can do this without feeling intense emotions, but I’m not sure how. I definitely couldn’t.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I couldn’t write anything without my friend Rich Appel. He’s an incredible poet and editor, and he’s the first person I email when I’ve written something new. Honestly there’s not a poem in any of my books that he didn’t help with. I also get a lot of inspiration from my MFA friends Nick Gregorio and Daniel DiFranco, and I’ve learned a lot about how to exist in this community from Maggie Smith. I feel quite lucky to be surrounded by such incredibly creative people.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I have a very vivid memory of playing cards with my older cousin in the trunk of my aunt’s Chevy Blazer. Our parents were all in the house, and while he beat me in each game, he taught me how to curse, which words meant what, and how to drop them in at the appropriate times. Looking back, it was a pretty transformative experience (I’m only half kidding).
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Zero. I’ve got some ideas for a few different books, but nothing started yet. I’m thinking about trying out comedic nonfiction essays, but we’ll see where that leads. There also some poem ideas rattling around up there. Who knows.
What does literary success look like to you?
Mega yachts and piles and piles of cocaine.
JOY is available on June 21, 2022.