I’ve Got Questions for Joanne Durham

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

To Drink from a Wider Bowl by Joanne Durham
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

To Drink from a Wider Bowl – Winner of the 2021 Sinclair Poetry Prize, Evening Street Press, April 1, 2022

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

The book is a collection of 49 poems in a narrative arc that takes the reader from grandparents to grandparenthood. In the words of poet and anthologist James Crews, the book is “a map of how to navigate our days with honesty, grace, and a deep mindfulness that leaves nothing unnoticed.”

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

These free-verse poems are accessible and lyrical. There’s humor, wordplay, and contemplation within vignettes of moments across my life.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

I received this response on Goodreads: “Your poems dazzle! I read them all. I can’t say enough about how you have exquisitely woven the intimacy of your life and your history into poems that are truly memorable. The joys and sorrows of being human. The arc of the generations captures my heart.”  Another reader said that they never liked poetry, but after reading my book, they’ve changed their mind.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

People have told me that they like my poems because I don’t quite sound like anybody else. I hold a combination of Naomi Shihab Nye and Ellen Bass as poets I most strive to learn from and emulate.

  • Why this book? Why now?

We live in a world with much cruelty, injustice, and despair. Even people who thought they were protected from these things are wondering how long we will survive. I think when we view ourselves and our world openly and honestly, we have the best chance to navigate to a better place. Poetry allows me to see things holistically, how I’m connected to everyone else, and hold strength and beauty alongside fear and anger. My poems emerge from that perspective, and I hope they elevate the spirits of readers.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Teaching kids from many backgrounds and cultures in public elementary schools. They were so full of promise and surprises.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

The epigraph at the beginning of my book, from a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, says, “Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us, we find poems.” I want my poems to lead readers to the poetry in their own lives.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

Borushnuck, the name my father made up for a rolled donut I wouldn’t try until he gave it that name – one of my earliest introductions to wordplay.  I sing “In My Life” by the Beatles as a bedtime song when I visit my grandson, who inspired many of these poems.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

In my book club, I just finished We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff. I’m reading the wonderful poems and essays in All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis. I read lots of poetry online daily. Some of the poetry books on my desk right now are Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose’s chapbook, Imago, Dei, Kai Coggin’s Mining for Stardust, Susan Vespoli’s Blame it on the Serpent.

Joanne Durham

Learn more about Joanne on her website.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Watch Joanne read from the book at 3d Wednesday’s YouTube Channel.

Buy the book from the publisher (Evening Street Press).

About the author

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