Interview With Poet, Terri Linn Davis

Ian O’Brien

1) ‘Mortuary Science’ is part of a wider project you are working on. Tell us a little about that.

“Mortuary Science” is a poem that’s a part of my full-length poetry manuscript where the speaker attempts to explore or “name” the concept of loss with all its nuance: loss caught in the act, its aftermath, and the imminent fear of it.

2) This piece seems to stretch the boundaries of the form of poetry to incorporate fiction, memoir, even CNF. Is that something that interests you as a writer?

Yes! My background is in poetry, but I’d love to break into microfiction, memoir, and CNF. A good amount of the poetry in my manuscript is narrative. I also enjoy writing prose poems, and I tend to take language and inspiration from sources that aren’t necessarily seen as “poetic.”

For instance, in “Mortuary Science,” I combine personal narrative, actual funeral director job descriptions, and etymology. The idea started from this kind of absurd claim from Bob upon first meeting me (this is a true story) that I would make a great funeral home director. He said that he meant that as the highest compliment. Bob has since passed, and his comment is one of the great mysteries of my life. But, Mortuary Science is a degree I researched for the poem and the more I researched, the more I started to want to combine who I feel that I am (my experience with death/funerals and my way of understanding life through language/metaphor).

3) Tell us a little about you and your writing process. How long have you been writing and what inspires you?

I’ve been writing poetry for about six years now. What inspires me is trying to articulate my life experiences or thoughts about how the world works through language/imagery. I tend to be succinct in general, and I like the challenge of conveying all I “know” through poetry’s brevity.

As for my writing process—it’s start-and-stop. I’m currently trying to figure out how to create without the deadlines of graduate school driving me. I keep all my scraps of personal insights, wonderments, or stray threads of language in the Notes App on my phone. Before I sit down to write, I like reading a ton of poetry for inspiration. Every poem feels like the first one I’ve ever written, so reading helps me focus on how I want to begin.

4) What’s next for you? Any more irons in the fire? What are you working on at the moment?

What’s next for me is submitting my poetry manuscript to contests and open reading periods! Now that I’m done with graduate school, I’m seeking out ways to feel and be involved in the literary community. I was just accepted as a poetry reader for Five South, a fantastic and highly collaborative literary journal. Being a part of their team has been so healing in many ways.

As far as other irons in the fire, for a few years now (pre-Covid) I’ve been working on a verse novel that follows a poet during an apocalypse. The verse novel works as the poet’s last manuscript and documents their inability to find their way/purpose during an apocalypse that benefits those humans left with more “useful” skills. One of these poems was published in Belletrist, here’s the link if you want to check it out:

Negotiating My Survival After The Zombie Apocalypse