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10 Questions for Dorsey Craft


When he you, you sat in the surf
           a day and night, let the lap of Caribbean

obscure your thighs, let the minnows run their purple
            races across your thighs and finches
tear red cords from your scalp…

From "Anne Bonny Marooned with Child," Summer 2019 (Vol. 60, Issue 2)

 

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
The first poem I submitted to workshop was a voice poem from the point of view of my cousin, who had gotten arrested for running from the police the week before. I love looking back on those early pieces because my voice is so different—right now I’m very maximalist and my language is much more lyrical, but back then I was writing in very short, clipped lines with lots and lots of exposition. I was also writing very judgmental poetry, being very harsh with my characters and sometimes with my speaker. I’m an older sister and a first-born and a Taurus, so that judge-y voice is still a part of me, and I’ve had to learn to make my poetry a space to put all of that down and imagine a speaker without it.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
I’ve read a ton of poets I admire, but hands down the biggest influences on my work have been my teachers. Jillian Weise’s work and workshop taught me about being brutally sincere in my poetry, and just taught me about poetry in general—the whole thing. Can’t praise her enough for the work she’s doing at Clemson. Amy Fleury in my MFA program at McNeese State really stressed following the language in a poem and letting it surprise you, as well as the revision strategy of paring down to get to the core of a poem, getting rid of the scaffolding you had to write to get to the real thing. Amy is a master craftswoman. I have a broadside of her poem “When At Last I Join” in my house and I read it almost every day. The funny thing is, I’m in my last year at FSU now and Barbara Hamby has been my biggest influence here and she’s taught me just as much but in the opposite direction—she’s all about putting everything in the poem. I’m trending that way in my most recent work, but I’m hoping to find a happy medium.

What other professions have you worked in?
I’ve pretty much always been a student—I went straight from undergrad to MFA to Ph.D. But I worked as a cashier at Piggly Wiggly in high school and through college, and I always feel nostalgic when I buy groceries now. I was also fired from being a waitress partly because I was really bad at smiling.

What did you want to be when you were young?
The first thing I wanted to be was a writer. But I realized that adults didn’t think of that as a serious career possibility, so I decided I wanted to be a sportscaster. I started college as a communications major with that goal in mind, but I switched my major to English right after my first lit class freshman year and worked my way back around to wanting to be a writer.

What inspired you to write this piece?
About three years ago I got bored of writing about myself and started writing poems about Anne Bonny, a female pirate from the 18th century. The central facts of her story are pretty scant—she was born in Ireland to a wealthy landowner and a housemaid, whom he later married. The family moved to England and then to South Carolina, where I’m from. Anne was wild and had a mean-streak and, as an adult, took to the sea and had a long career as a pirate that may or may not have ended in her hanging. “Anne Bonny Marooned with Child” is one the poems in the series that explores the more historical side of things. It’s based on an anecdote I read about Anne being sidelined from piracy due to an unwanted pregnancy and left with her lover’s land-based mistress. I thought that was such a surprising dynamic and it struck me how much even women who were transgressive or powerful often ended up at the mercy of their bodies while men were free to do as they liked. I have quite a few poems in the series where Anne is doing whatever the hell she wants, so this one works against that and meditates on her limitations.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I was writing for a long time about South Carolina, but I’ve had to put it down. I don’t think I’m grown up enough to come at it directly yet. But it’s still there in certain poems of mine, and I think it’s a big part of my attraction to ocean and water and beach imagery.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
Not really—I usually have to write in the morning and I read to get in the mood. Coffee always helps.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
My husband, Kyle. He’s an electrical engineer and he’s from a completely different background, so he can always be counted on to call me on things that my poet friends tend to give me the benefit of the doubt for. He’s not a big over-praiser—his comments usually start with “I like it, but…”

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
My sister is a painter, and I wish I had the brains in my fingers to be able to work with color like she does. I tried to do one of the paint-with-wine classes and my owl turned out unfortunate looking.

What are you working on currently?
I have a manuscript in progress called Plunder that focuses on gender and femininity by weaving Anne Bonny poems together with poems from a speaker who is closer to me. Anne functions as her own person, but also as a wild friend, an alter ego, and lately she’s been captaining a crew of female literary figures. Most recently Medusa got involved.

 

DORSEY CRAFT holds degrees from Clemson University and McNeese State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Mid-American Review, Notre Dame Review, Rhino Poetry, and elsewhere. She is currently a PhD student in poetry at Florida State and the assistant poetry editor of Southeast Review.


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