Monday, August 1, 2011

Poetic Horizons: An interview with Laura K. Deal

by Janet Fogg

Today, Chiseled in Rock has the pleasure of interviewing Laura K. Deal, an author, poet, and certified dream worker who earned her Ph.D. in History with a dissertation entitled “Whores and Witches: The Language of Female Misbehavior in Early Modern England 1560-1640.” In her writing career Laura focuses primarily on YA, and her first fiction publication was “The Silent Meadow” in the March 2002 issue of CRICKET Magazine. She has since been published in a number of anthologies, the most recent of which is her short story "Wolf Howl," the next Len and Talon story after "Wolf Dream," forthcoming in Wolfsongs Anthology 2, from WolfSinger Publications.

For years Laura has also journaled and written poetry, and last year she decided to expand her poetic horizons by attending a continuing education class through the University of Colorado at Boulder called “Poetry Workshop and Contemporary Poetry” taught by Dr. George Moore. This week Laura will share lessons learned and examples of various styles of poems.

CIR: Laura, what did you hope to learn in the class?

LKD: First I want to say thanks for inviting me to your blog! I didn’t go into the class with a goal to learn anything specific. I signed up for the class because after eleven years of a daily writing practice and some personal loss, I needed something to re-energize me. I chose a poetry class for two reasons. Attempting to write poetry makes me think about word choice more carefully in my fiction writing. But more importantly, I had no intention of publishing any of the poems I would write in the class, so it took away that pressure.

CIR: Were your goals achieved?

LKD: Absolutely. The members of the class were all wonderful writers and respectful of each others’ work. George set a tone that made it easy to share our work aloud, and provided assignments that got the ideas flowing.

CIR: Poetry is often enigmatic and highly personal. Did you find the class to be supportive of various styles?

LKD: Definitely. We had assignments that shaped the poems we wrote for each week, but of course everyone wrote something completely different from everyone else’s work.

CIR: Do you believe your writing “voice” has evolved because of this class? Has it impacted your poetry as well as your fiction and journaling? In what ways?

LKD: I think my writing voice evolves constantly, with whatever writing I do, but certainly the focus on modern poetry made me think about language in different ways. I have a better understanding of certain poetic forms, and that shapes the poetry I write now. For instance, I’m better at seeing how a poem “turns,” or goes in a new and unexpected direction, and I try to incorporate that into poems I write now. It impacted my fiction by rejuvenating my enthusiasm for writing, so I was able to plunge into Nanowrimo with excitement that I’d lacked before the class. Journaling, however, is such a private process, where the goal is to get my thoughts and emotions out on paper but there’s no expectation of letting anyone else read it, that I don’t worry about word choice when I’m writing in my journal.

CIR: What’s next?

LKD: I’ve just started the first draft of a long fantasy novel, so I expect that will keep me busy for a year or so. I enjoy meandering through a first draft, letting the world and characters unfold as I go. I expect I’ll participate in Nanowrimo again this November, but the story that I’ll write for that hasn’t presented itself yet. And I’d love to get back to offering writing salons where a small group of us writes to a prompt (both prose and poems) and then shares what we’ve written. There’s a synergy that happens when writers gather that’s truly magical.

CIR: And now, Laura will share several poems and describe the style she utilized for each.

LKD: The assignment for this poem was to use ten images. I’m not sure I managed it, but I was happy with the result.

Wedding Gift

It could be a hand,
being a knocker,
but no one knows for certain.
It evokes art fairs,
white canvas tents,
a modern artist
inspired by an altered state
of creative consciousness,
the knocker’s aluminum sheen
too textured to have once been cans.
Its hollow drumming summons
us to the door where friends
ask, “What is that?”
Besides a knocker, of course,
As if art must represent.
More a Rorschach test,
these silvery oval mounds
fisted together.
My husband’s aunt saw in it
a long and happy marriage,
an heirloom for our offspring
to fight over one day.
Or maybe our daughters will say,
“I never could figure out
what it’s supposed to be.
You take it.”

This assignment for the next poem was to write a sonnet, but not to get caught in the strict forms of the traditional sonnet. We weren’t supposed to use rhymes, though I found that restriction difficult to work with so I settled for assonance rather than rhyme. The subject of this poem came from dreamwork.


In the man’s dream the rattlesnake hides,
A lurking threat of unknown size,
A poisonous trap under the couch.
Despite a rattle, it makes no sound.
In another dream the rattler appears,
The man grabs it just below the head,
Aware of teeth and poisonous bite,
He locks it in a cage. First try.
Now that he’s glimpsed his power,
The transformative knack for shedding skin,
He’s locked it tightly away,
Forgetting that dream cages won’t hold.
Next time, he’ll taste his shifting self
When changing fangs pierce his soul.

For the last assignment, we could write in whatever style or form we liked. I chose a pantoum, because it’s my favorite kind of poem. The repeated lines make the poem sound like a chant, which suited the subject of my poem.

Pantoum for a Ghost

Don’t hover beside me.
I saw you die
I wept at your beside
Your breath evaporated.

I saw you die
Not a moment, a movement.
Your breath evaporated,
Your living ceased.

Not a moment, a movement,
That step to oblivion.
Your living ceased—
You believed you would.

That step to oblivion
A false promise
You believed you would
Stop. Like a clock.

A false promise,
This hope of escape.
Stop, like a clock?
A delusional dream.

This hope of escape
Lost forever,
A delusional dream
Your spirit must walk in.

Lost, forever,
Not knowing you’ve died,
Your spirit must walk in
A remembrance of living.

Not knowing you’ve died
You cling to my grieving
A remembrance of living.
I bless you. Move on.

You cling to my grieving—
I wept at your beside.
I bless you. Move on.
Don’t hover beside me.

CIR: Thank you again, Laura, for joining us at Chiseled in Rock!

You can learn more about Laura at and read additional poems at and


Margaret Yang said...

Great interview! Thank you for sharing your poems with us, Laura!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful poetry Laura. My favorite two lines (obviously for different reasons) were: he’ll taste his shifting self (wow!)
and You take it (so unlike the rest of the poem and yet so inevitable with kids)...
Karen Lin

Laura K. Deal said...

Thanks, Margaret and Karen!