“Suddenly I land in that world: A Conversation with Nick Flynn About Collaboration & Hybridity”—curated by Kristina Marie Darling

Nick Flynn is the author of thirteen books, including Low (Graywolf, 2023) and Some Ether (Graywolf,, 2000), winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. His bestselling memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Norton, 2004) was made into a film starring Robert DeNiro (Focus Features, 2012), and has been translated into fifteen languages. www.nickflynn.org

Kristina Marie Darling: Your new book, Low, just launched from Graywolf.  What would you like readers to know before they delve into the work itself?

Nick Flynn: I like to imagine this stranger who has somehow found their way to this book. Had they seen a poem in a journal somewhere, did they simply like the cover? I sometimes like to enter into a work of art without any sense of where I’m going, of what awaits. What I like about a book of poetry is you can read it cover to cover in the time it takes to watch a movie. I do that, and sometimes I don’t understand the world I am entering for the first many pages, and then suddenly I land in that world. I imagine if this reader has this book in their hand then the reason it ended up there will become clear by the time they put it down.    

KMD:  Low juxtaposes prose and verse to great effect.  What does this interplay between hybrid prose and poetry make possible with respect to music and cadence?

NF: This is the first time I have blended the two forms in one books overtly. I try to sneak a lot of poetry into my prose books, by making it look like prose, but if you were to read it out loud it would have a certain strange music to it.  

KMD:  Relatedly, what advice do you have for writers who struggle to create formal variation and texture within a poetry collection?

NF: It’s taken me a long time to find the right balance (if I have)...there’s many examples out there now of writers who do it well, from Layli Long Soldier to Carole Maso to Melville in Moby Dick. I would say to dive into that work and see if it suggests anything to you.

KMD:  In what ways is your poetry informed by other artistic disciplines (painting, film, sculpture, music, etc.)?

NF: I’ve been teaching an interdisciplinary workshop at the University of Houston for the past twenty years, where poets and musicians and artist and theater folks gather and try to learn from each other. It seems to be the way world works, rather than being silos in our genres—we learn from each other, that we ask for help from those who have spent more time immersed in a field than we have, that we try to apply what they can offer to our own work.

KMD:  In addition to your achievements as a poet, you are a brilliant teacher–we were lucky to have you lecture on collaboration at the Ionion Center for the Arts in Greece via zoom!  What has teaching and mentorship opened up within your creative practice? 

NF: I feel very fortunate to be a teacher...I found my way to it in my late 20s and have been learning from my students ever since. I was initially drawn to Paulo Friere’s theories on Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and how to deconstruct the hierarchies of “traditional” learning. What this means in practice is I place myself in the group, and we all learn together.  

KMD:  What else are you working on?  What can readers look forward to?

NF: for the past year I’ve been working on a book which circles around the idea of friendship, focused an important friendship I had in my 20s, one of those friends that reveals other worlds you could enter, worlds you didn’t even know existed. Most of it takes place on a boat I lived on for ten years, so there’s a lot of water, a lot of ice. It is still finding itself, but that is what I know today.    

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of thirty-nine books. An expert consultant with the United States Fulbright Commission, a twice-awarded Fulbright Scholar, and a member of the peer review panel for Fulbright grants, Dr. Darling’s work has also been recognized with three residencies at Yaddo, where she has held the Martha Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet and the Howard Moss Residency in Poetry, a 2024 Villa Lena Foundation Fellowship, a 2024 Civita Institute Fellowship, and ten juried residencies at the American Academy in Rome, where she previously served as an ambassador for recruitment. Currently a faculty member at The Los Angeles Review of Books Publishing Workshop, she has taught (or is scheduled to teach) at Yale University, the American University in Rome, Stanford University, where she leads a workshop in professional empowerment through their Continuing Studies Division, the New School, San Diego State University, where she has served as Editor-in-Residence in partnership with Poetry International on three occasions, and in Cedar Crest College’s Pan-European M.F.A. Program. A prolific public speaker with the Ovation Agency, Dr. Darling has also lectured at the historic Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Miami, the United States Embassy in Togo, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and Webster University’s Geneva, Switzerland campus, where she leads a biannual writing workshop for diplomats.  Dr. Darling is Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press & Tupelo Quarterly. Born and raised in the American Midwest, she now divides her time between Greece, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast.