- Lexie Reese
Interview with the Poet, K Lang
1) I loved your poem, “Ghost’s Mouth.” It seemed to be exploring the passage of time. The lines “an old september / something extinguished / in dry sage” evoked a feeling of nostalgia in me. How has your own sense of time influenced your poetry?
This poem is very much about the passing of time, but I wouldn’t specifically say “nostalgia.” Wordsworth says in his that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…the emotion is contemplated till…the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced.” I think in general, harkening to old-dead-white-dudes is bullshit, but I do feel that this poem is representative of that kind of process. This poem was not produced by a feeling of tranquility about the moment it is in reference to, rather it was something I sat with, deconstructing for a while until it fell apart, basically, into a poem.
2) Can you share what inspired this poem?
To expand upon my thoughts to the first question there, this poem was a reflection on the summer I spent after high school recovering from sexual assault – physically, mentally, artistically. At the time, being mired in the abuse I was going though, I didn’t see anything wrong—I couldn’t—even though everyone around me was watching as I fell apart. This poem was written many many years later. The anguish of the situation is now very much a ghost for me, in that it is not as present as it used to be but still haunts me in strange ways. I sought to deconstruct what that greiving/healing process looks like as an observer of my own trauma—how it is shaped like something vague but worrisome, how it nips at my heels just when I think it’s over, how I still wonder what I lost then and if I can ever have it returned to me.
3) I loved the form of the poem. The white space between words emphasized them perfectly. What was the thought process behind the structure of the poem?
Structurally, I wanted to emulate the separation in my own mind and body, but also create something depictive of the images within the poem—you can see the round mouth of the ghost, the scoop of the valley, the rocks falling, and I hoped for this use of space to emphasize the “hollow” feeling accompanying that particular trauma. I realize now that a lot of the hollow imagery I used to emphasize time and landscape was really just a means for me to represent in a way beyond words my internal hollowing.
4) In your untitled poem from “Orange Blossom,” I thought your exploration of the seasons was intriguing. The last lines, “it’s always been like / this” seemed to emphasize the idea that the cycle of the seasons is a familiar one. What was your process for writing this poem?
I write a lot about seasons, it’s an easy metaphor (maybe too easy?) for the passing of time and our own changing. This poem is reflecting on similar themes of “a ghost’s mouth.” While “a ghost’s mouth” focuses on summer, the moving in of frost in this poem is representative of the moving in of the realization of what has happened to me.
5) I enjoyed your use of personification in the poem. The personification of frost especially caught my attention. What was your thinking behind using this technique?
I feel that names are often powerful incantations—to call the grief by its true name, or by the name of the perpetrator, or even to say that grief is the haunting thing outright gives the grief more power than I am willing to give it. To personify it as a natural thing both emphasizes its pervasiveness and also offers me the ability to bend it into a character that does my bidding in the poem. It’s a reclamation to some extent.
6) How did you hear about our magazine?
I was a creative writing major at Utah State for my first three years of university before transferring to Boise State University where I have now received my B.A. in Creative Writing!
7) Do you have any tips for aspiring writers who aren’t sure how to get started?
If you mean for writers who are not sure what to write, I always keep a notebook with me wherein instead of writing poems (that’s too much pressure!!!) I just make observations— “sunsets are like peanut shells, my hands smell like garlic, that is not a cicada that is the sound of a prison style tattoo gun coming from my neighbor’s garage” etc. The poem happens when it happens.
If you mean for writer’s looking to get published…just submit everywhere! Keep your rejection letters! Frame them! You can’t be out there if you’re not out there, but also, publication isn’t the point. Emily Dickinson is my ride or die and she didn’t give a fuck if most of her words ever got read by anyone. The point is making it, doesn’t matter where it goes. Just start hanging your poems on telephone poles or hiding them in napkins at Starbucks.
8) Can you describe your writing process?
I start with some of my observations which are usually really weird and non sequitur then I try to compile them to evoke a limited scene. I like to think of my poetry as a moment in time rather than a strong narrative, just feeling something over a short span of time, or in retrospect. I want the feeling to come on stronger than the story and I want it to be complex too—for example, in “a ghost’s mouth” I wanted that summer feeling but also like…ominous. Once I know what I’m feeling, I like to keep the poem like a little egg in my pocket. I usually write two to ten drafts of a poem, and to edit I just read it outloud and edit in real time until I can stand to hear it. Then I put it in one of 100 Google Docs I have called POEM, or THIS IS SOMETHING, or OH HECK. Then they live there til I feel like someone wants to listen.
9) What poets and writers have inspired you the most?
Ada Limon is a huge favorite of mine, I think her poetry does an incredible job of capturing “the moment.” I also love Mary Oliver (because nobody else can make me cry about a grasshpper), Frank O’Hara (because WOW I’m in the city and STUFF HAPPENS and THAT!!! is a POEM!!!) and also, Whitman (who I always return to because I am here for that queer theory transcendental yee-haw America writing).
10) When did you realize you wanted to write?
In first grade, I wrote a story called “The Evil Corn Popper” which was, I suppose, an epic poem about a popcorn machine that was trying to flood the world with popcorn so the entire earth had to come together and munch it all away. It was a ten book series in my elementary school composition books. After that, I started writing poetry for the first time intently in a high school creative writing class where our teacher let us watch R rated Cohen brother’s films if we wrote good poems. In college, a professor told us to memorize a poem (shout out to Michael Sowder forever) because we never knew when we would be at a party and need to recite a poem – then I found myself in many basements with friends and pink wine sharing the good word and I can’t imagine a better life than that.
11) What do you think makes a good poem?
I think you have to mean it—and not even for the sake of your audience, but for your own sanity. I also think my favorite poetry startles me, not quite scares me, but is amusing in its imagery.
12) Where can our readers find more work by you?
My work has also been published in literary magazines such as and as well as in my self published chapbooks (2016), (2017) and (2018) which can be purchased on my website: klangepoetry.weebly.com