“My writing comes from that place of honest communion, or as close to it as I can anchor my language.”
Dawn’s Fool (IceFloe Press, 2019)
Tell us a bit about your growing up and your path to becoming a writer.
I was surrounded with books and music as a child. My parents were both musicians; my mother read poetry to us and we all sang together. I learned to love the music of language in that way. I read widely and voraciously, often attempting to take in material beyond my understanding — I remember in particular trying to grasp Kafka, and at another time, the Bhagavad Gita. An artistic impulse was fostered in me and encouraged, and I began attempting poetry as soon as I could write words.
I did not take an academic route; instead I chose – felt impelled – to just throw myself into the world and life and learn in that way what it was, what is going on here. At various times during my explorations, I focused intently on poetry, trying to learn to write better – trying to learn what that actually meant, to write well. I took a few free workshops, participated in ad hoc writing groups, read at open mics, continued to absorb the writing of others.
Publication has only come since I began interacting online, and previous to becoming involved with the internet I didn’t seek publication except sporadically (and unsuccessfully for the most part.) That I have a chapbook on the verge of being born is a real thrill! A (not so) secret: I have another manuscript, a longer chap, making the rounds, and I have plans for a third I hope to focus on next year. But Dawn’s Fool is special to me in several ways and I hope it does well and is read widely.
What obsessions led you to write Dawn’s Fool? What is this chapbook about?
All of the pieces in Dawn’s Fool speak of my sense of our relationship with the rest of the natural world (from which we are inseparable). Over the years it has become ever clearer to me that if we as a species are to become able to live harmoniously with all the other life that’s here and to successfully address the various environmental crises we face now, we will need to find a degree of what I might call communion with other species, other forms of matter, and even with ourselves. My writing comes from that place of honest communion, or as close to it as I can anchor my language. At times I feel tremendous grief in that place; at other times an exaltation, a joyous ebullience. I hope that range of feeling is conveyed by these poems.
What’s the oldest piece in Dawn’s Fool? Can you say something about how you came to write it?
The oldest piece is the title piece, also called “Dawn’s Fool.” This poem was written in the mid 1990s and as it describes, I was looking out my window as the day brightened, and saw a dove. I had read that doves are not very good at nest building. I wonder about how the mythic significance of certain creatures is not very well aligned with the way they’re understood by science, and it was from that question that the poem arose. (This piece, by the way, was read and recorded on YouTube by Heather Derr-Smith, for the Cuvaj Se Border Poetry Project, and initially was the only previously published piece in the collection. We’ve since added three poems, one of which was published by Mojave He[art] Journal, the poem titled “[getting around].”)
“Dawn’s Fool” became the title poem because of the resonance expressed in the poem; that I see myself in a similar role and position, holding a hope and being not quite able to anchor it, or feeling unable to. So all the poems speak to that place, of reaching toward peace and a better world we’ve not found our way to yet.
What was the final poem you wrote or revised for this chapbook? What is your revision strategy?
The most recently written poem in Dawn’s Fool is one called “Turtle Law.” It was a difficult poem to write and went through a number of revisions; writing it was like gathering a handful of odd sticks and vines and attempting to weave them into a basket that could hold something. It was challenging to settle the poem into a harmonious flow; it goes from an almost jocular feeling to something deeper and also harder to convey. It seemed a good place to begin this grouping as it echoes in tone all the disparate elements of the chapbook.
My revision strategy, or method, is largely intuitive and voice-based. If a poem does not feel right, I let it sit and come back to it. I tinker with words, cut lines and replace them — all that — but the fundamental and key component of the process is whether something I call the “poet voice” is satisfied. I read the poem out loud to myself usually many times in order to get to that place where it feels like it all aligns and does what I want it to.
Which poem in Dawn’s Fool has the most meaningful back story to you? What can you tell us about that back story?
Well, I might have a different answer at another time, but today the poem with the most meaningful back story is titled “What Only the Earth Remembers.” I have had several experiences of “hearing” rocks, feeling I am sharing communication with them. The strongest such might be a time I was on the shore of the Ho River in Washington State. The shore there is comprised of vast stretches of river rocks – stones that have been smoothed by tumbling in the water over probably eons of time. They vary in size, tiny to bigger than my head, some striped or solid grays, some with inclusions of other minerals…. As I was walking along and gazing at them the phrase came into my mind “all the stories are in the stones” and I took that to mean that stones keep the record of everything that has happened on the planet. This experience continues to resonate within me. What layers of untold history are trapped in rocks?
What has the editorial and production experience with your press been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of Dawn’s Fool?
As you know, this is pre-production, this interview; the chapbook is to be printed in mid-December 2019. IceFloe Press is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I am in North Carolina, in the U.S.A., so I’m not able to have any hands-on participation. However, Robert Kenter, editor and publisher, is wonderful to work with. He did the cover painting — the actual cover design is not yet finalized — and basically showed it to me and asked “do you like this?” which I very much do! I have worked with Robert on a couple of other smaller projects and know his standards for visual expression are high; he is careful to run any decisions by me of course, but I trust him to continue in a direction that will result in a beautiful product. He will be doing some illustrations for the interior of the book as well.
Robert also did some editing of the poems — we had a little back and forth with that which was quite harmonious and productive. I appreciated his fine-tuning and was able to do even more fine-tuning in response.
What are you working on now?
I have some new work that is less Earth focused — some of it is scheduled to appear next year, probably in January, and some more recent pieces are in consideration by a few journals, but the ongoing project at this time is my Greenway Poet project. I have taken to sticking poems up on trees in a local walking park, signing them as Greenway Poet. I’ve also written some poems from that place, as it were, inspired by the Greenway directly. (Two of those pieces are included in Dawn’s Fool.) Next year I expect to put together a collection of my Greenway Poems, but it is still formative. I’m tickled to say that my anonymity has been busted by some interested neighbors who also frequent the park and I have been assured that many people do read and enjoy my poems there. Guerilla poetry for the win!
Kyla Houbolt has only been seeking publication since March 2019, and has been published in numerous online journals. You can find most of her published work in her Linktree, here: linktr.ee/luaz_poet She is a Best of the Net nominee for 2019 and you can find her on Twitter @luaz_poet. The pre-order link for Dawn’s Fool as well as an image of the cover painting can be found here: