In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Chelsea Dingman

by Jan 7, 2019

1. Tell us about your poem in Volume 20. How did it come to be?

My poem, “Aftermath,” was written the night of the election in 2016. I was in the process of writing a poetry collection about women who have suffered infertility and I had read some very negative comments about women in power online as I was following the election coverage. It made me think about the word “miscarriage” and all of the ways that a woman might suffer miscarriages over the course of one’s life. I was also feeling very discouraged about the possibilities for women: what we will be able to achieve and not achieve in my lifetime, in my children’s lifetime. The loss of the child and the loss of power became the backdrop for this greater negation of possibility for women.

2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?

My father died in a car accident, the winter that I was nine. I had the most wonderful homeroom teacher at the time. She encouraged me to write. I wrote her a book of poems about snow. When she liked it, I tried to write her a novel. That went less well, but it made me realize how much I loved the process of writing.

3. How has writing shaped your life?

I have always been an avid reader. I enjoy reading more than any other activity. Other writer’s words change the way that I look at and respond to the world. I write almost as an aside to that, or as a response to the excitement of what I’ve read, and the possibility that language offers.  

4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?

There are so many (and I know that’s a cliché answer). A few poets whose work I so admire: Patricia Smith, Aracelis Girmay, Larry Levis, Li-Young Lee, and Louise Glück, along with many poets in translation, such as Czeslaw Milosz, Anna Akhmatova, and Wisława Szymborska.

5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?

For my next collection of poems, I am researching traumatic brain injury in professional athletes, including CTE, which can only be diagnosed upon autopsy. Some of the research will be anecdotal in that I am examining the effects on both the individual and the family members.


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