So Scared: An Interview With Dalton Day

Dalton Day’s latest collection, Fake Knife, is available now through Freeze Ray Press. Find out more about him at
1. How do poems take form for you? Do you start with a form in mind, or does one surface as you write?

Usually my poems start with an image, & then everything else sort of unfurls from there. There’s that saying that a poem will tell you how it wants to be written, I think. I think that’s a saying. Maybe I just made it up. Poems are ghosts just trying to tell you what they need to move peacefully into the afterlife. There, I definitely made that up.

2. You often use untraditional punctuation in your poetry. What do you think a poem gains by playing with punctuation?

I think poems without punctuation are more immediate – less controlled. A flood. A small flood, where you’re like, “if that were any bigger there would really be a problem, but for now I just like watching it.” & your friend is like “it’d be a lot more enjoyable to watch if you’d shut up.” & your other friend is like, hissing the whole time.

3. What do you do to make sure your writing never falls into a rut?

I read a lot of poems. I read a lot of different poems. Poems I could never write. That’s the most important thing. I try not to listen to poets talk about writing poems too much. Or at least try to be really good at filtering out the folks who are just masturbatory instead of actually care about writing & the people it affects. I consume other forms of writing / creative output: films, comics, music, Twitter. I pet a lot of dogs.

4. Your poems often borrow writing styles from forms other than poetry—I’m thinking specifically of the “One Act Play” suite recently published in Pretty Owl Poetry. What do your poems gain from this style-bending?

I love plays. I love setting & drama & the idea that no two performances are the same, nor could they ever be. I love the immediacy of an audience. So, in making a poem that was a play, I changed the stakes, I think. I allowed myself to build rather than demonstrate, & then watch, helplessly, as the whole thing collapses. & isn’t that what writing is? No, really. Somebody tell me. I’m so scared.

5. Can you think of a poem that was particularly difficult for you to write? Why was it a challenge?

Inject / Extract / Inject / Extract (from the first issue of Wildness)

You say you feel like a needle, dropped.

You don’t say that, exactly, but you feel that, exactly.

Swollen is not what we ever mean.

Moon, instead.

Moon, like, Moon the first time we ever made it there & joy was said but fear wasn’t.




The body can’t attack itself.

I don’t say that, exactly, but I believe that, exactly?

I don’t believe that, exactly, but the wind wants to make a sound when it moves through you.

I can’t hear it.

The body does what it does, without asking us.

I’m covered in hands, Mountain. & now, only some of them are yours.


This was a challenge because diagnoses are a challenge. Because grief makes even less sense before it’s called for. Because writing something down only helps me see it a little more.

6. What are you absolutely terrified of?

Bees. Losing my memory. My mom dying. My grandmother dying. Climate change. Men. Drunk men. Being in a car. Driving a car. Car horns. Loud noises in general. The idea that something is wrong with me & I don’t even know it. Freaky Fred from Courage the Cowardly Dog. Donald Trump. All my teeth falling out. Etc.

7. If you could magically transform one poem published online into a person so as to be best friends with it, which poem would you choose and why?

Sara Woods poem “Dear Juniper” published in Guernica. Because Sara’s poems always make me calm, & it would be nice to have that calm as a person I could talk to & go to St. Vincent concerts with. Because this line: “I’m tired / of pushing against my boundaries like there isn’t light / slipping in from everywhere all the time & those cracks / are us-shaped.”

8. If you could redefine “maudlin” what would you make it mean?

Maudlin |ˈmôdlən| adj.: A kind of chocolate that isn’t harmful to dogs, & is, in fact, quite nutritious for them.