Thursday, November 2, 2023

An Interview with Ohio Poet Deni Naffziger


An Interview with Ohio Poet Deni Naffziger

Through her poetry, Deni Naffziger “dismantles the familiar”, penning poetry that engages the senses, prompting the reader to slow down and dive into each passage with fervor. Her current anthology, Strange Bodies: Poems, “takes us on a journey-using story, science, metaphor, and myth-that brings us full circle to the essence of who we are and how closely we are connected to each other and the natural world.

Welcome, Deni!

GM: What is the premise for your new book?
DN: Just as Elizabeth Bishop wrote of her initial self-realization that “you are an I, you are an Elizabeth,” we all come to a similar awakening, an awareness of the physical body and our own consciousness. Over the years, we may begin to question our understanding of the world and our place in it, which awakens the spirit, and we find ourselves longing to unite the physical and metaphysical. It comes down to discovering the essence of who we are and how closely we are connected to each other and the natural world.

GM: What are you currently writing?
DN: I am loosely calling this next collection I've been working on "origin stories" or "half-known life" because the poems have to do with place and history and how the present is related to the past. I've been researching my ancestry and what life might have been like "back in the day". I've even written a piece that considers the small band of humans that remained on our planet 800,000 years ago when the earth warmed rapidly. I had no idea how often our planet has experienced extreme climate change since humans have been around. In fact, 800,000 years ago we came close to extinction (there were only about 1200 people left), but my goodness, our ancestors were tenacious (and resourceful)!!

GM: Very interesting! Exciting writing and reading! We anticipate this upcoming volume; a lot of research and gathering information. How do you maintain creative thoughts and ideas?
DN: I have my cell phone with me 24/7 and I use the "notes" app all the time. If I have an idea, a line, an interesting word, a connection I've made, a metaphor I want to explore, I just talk it into the notes app. That way I always have material to work with at all times. I also love research -- provides me with details and helps me develop metaphors.

GM: Who is your favorite author?  
DN: I just attended Lit Youngstown and heard Ross Gay (poet) read his brilliant work, so right now I'm consuming a lot of Ross Gay. I have so many favorite authors. Do I have to choose? Dorianne Laux, Louise Gluck, Carolyn Forché, Charlie Clark, Ada Limón, Elizabeth Bishop, W.S. Merwin, Maggie Smith -- so many poets I love.  I'm in a couple of writers' groups and I always look forward to reading their poems. Prose: Barbara Kingsolver, Oliver Sacks, Richard Powers, Zadie Smith, Alice Hoffman, Anthony Doer, Christian Wiman (I could go on and on, but I'll spare you).  I read a lot of different authors and genres -- poets, fiction writers, essayists, philosophers. I get LOTS of ideas from the essayists and philosophers.  I garner new vocabulary and ways to put words together from poets.  I read fiction to escape.

GM: Do you have advice for novice writers?
DN: Be fearless. Listen to feedback but trust yourself too. Read a lot. Then read more.

GM: Authors say that writing is easy, but marketing is difficult. Do you have any advice for authors regarding marketing and promotion? 
DN: This is not my strong suit. When my first collection came out, I didn't even give a reading, no book launch -- nothing. I sold quite a few books because I was teaching, and all kinds of people at the college bought the book. My most recent publisher definitely laid out her expectations. I had to plan six readings before the book even came out. I HAD to have a book launch (which I did and it was really fun). She let me know I needed to "put myself out there"  so I'll be presenting at some conferences, getting involved in book fairs, giving readings. Putting yourself out there doesn't come natural to me, but it's good advice and I've enjoyed it. I suppose if you can afford an agent, get an agent. 

GM: When you're not writing, what do you like to do for fun?
DN: I have a couple of dogs I adore, so we walk and hike and play and snuggle. I also enjoy kayaking, listening to live music, and traveling. It's probably a given that I read a lot too:).

GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
1. I have music on at my house almost 24/7 (classical, jazz, blues, alternative, rock, and hip hop). I refer to it as my life soundtrack.
2. I lived overseas for a year.
3. I was in a band. I sing and play the ukulele.
4. I run an Airbnb. Giles Milton once stayed here when he was researching interviews with German Soldiers following WWII. He told me Ohio University has the only collection of this type in the world!
5. I am a cashew junkie.
6. I keep a "moments of awe" journal.
7. I often wake up in the wee hours of the night and write.
8. I'm going to welcome my first grandchild in the spring!
9. I love winter -- it may be my favorite season. Oh heck, I love every season.
10. I'm grateful to be here on this planet for whatever time I have. When you realize what a miracle it is to be here -- how many things had to go right for you to be here, how can a person be anything but grateful.

Connect with Deni…

Meet Deni at the Hocking Hills Book Fair, The Dairy Barn, Athens, Ohio, December 9, 2023.

Deni Naffziger is the author of five books including Strange Bodies, Desire to Stay, Still Life; Revenants: A Story of Many Lives (co-authored, funded by The Ohio Arts Council), and a children's coloring tale, A Story of Flying, which was produced for the Passion Works exhibition, "A Story of Flying," and was funded by The Ohio Arts Council. She has also published three chapbooks: Desire to Stay (The Spoon River Quarterly), Close to Home (Crazy River), and Intervals (Pikeville Review). Her work has been published in many literary magazines and journals, including New Ohio Review, Atticus Review, The MacGuffin, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, The Main Street Rag, and others. For nearly twenty years, Naffziger edited Riverwind, a national literary publication (Hocking College, Nelsonville, Ohio.) She earned a Fulbright Scholarship in 1990 and taught Creative Writing and Advance Literature at Kendal College in Kendal, England. She has over thirty years of experience teaching creative writing and disability studies. Naffziger currently serves as Poet-In-Residence at Passion Works Community Studio in Athens, Ohio.



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