CAP: I was surprised that there wasn’t a poem called “Tamp” in the collection but noticed that the word is contained within at least two poems in the collection. Why “Tamp” for the title instead of something else?
DL: The word “tamp” first appeared in the poem, The Fence Builder, which was partly a found poem because the pivot lines of the poem were spoken to me by the man who dug my dad’s grave. As the collection grew and began to take shape, I thought more about all of the word’s different meanings and how they resonated with what I was writing about. There really wasn’t ever a close second possibility for a title for this book.
CAP: Why did you choose to have the book divided into two parts?
DL: I think when I was putting it together that just felt like a natural break. And I hope it reflects a marking in the period of grief. A before and after. Or maybe more like when you’re in the wilderness. And when you come out on the other side of the wilderness.
CAP: You told me recently that this book took about six years to come together. Is that because of the subject matter, world events, or something else? Or a combination?
DL: A combination, I suppose. Some of these poems were written before my dad died when, because of his long, slow decline, I was already grieving for him. More poems came after his death, and I’m sure I was writing as a way to process his loss. It was important to me that these poems not be overly sentimental or cloying. So they underwent numerous revisions, and it just took a long time to feel like they were working in the way I wanted.
CAP: Tell me what it’s like to have a book in the top 5 of Amazon’s New Releases Bestsellers!
Were you expecting that?
DL: No! I never expected this book to register in any way like it has. It’s been overwhelming, and I’m so grateful to think about these poems getting into the hands of readers. This book is so personal to me. It’s a memorial of sorts to my dad, and it’s just lovely to think about sharing him with so many people. I’m very grateful.
CAP: It seems that you and your father were incredibly close. Did you consciously decide to write a book of poems that mostly centered around images and memories of him, or did it just happen?
DL: It didn’t start out as a conscious decision. But yes, we were very close. He was a
foundational character in my life, of course, but he was also a wonderfully unique person. I saw that my entire life in the way he lived and behaved, as well as in the way other people responded to him and were drawn to him. I kept writing poems about him, and eventually I saw that there could be enough for a book.
CAP: I love the last line in “Another River of the Underworld” – “sleep is another kind of prayer.” Can you tell me how that line came to be?
`DL: So many of these poems were inspired by dreams. Immediately after my dad’s passing, I had such vivid dreams about him. A lot of those dreams were me processing my grief. Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, dreams so often allow us to feel like we’re still in communion with the dead. Some of those dreams brought me immeasurable peace, and that’s what I think prayer does in its best form.
CAP: “The Fence Builder” is another of my favorites. You’re a magnificent storyteller, the
narration of your words is spot-on. You really take your reader right there by your side, but in
such a beautiful, meaningful way. How do you make sure that you have the reader’s full attention – I think this is one of the key pieces in the body of work. If the reader misses the poignancy of this one, they’ve really missed something big.
DL: It’s almost impossible to know if you have the reader’s attention without the benefit of good first readers. I’m part of a wonderful workshop group, and we are brutally honest with each other. If early drafts of my poems are missing the mark, they are not afraid to tell me, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
CAP: I know that you write lots about birds. What is your favorite bird, and why?
DL: My two favorite birds are the Eastern Bluebird and the Carolina Wren. I love the Eastern Bluebird in large part because of its color. I once heard that the Eastern Bluebird is a sign to be happy, and it’s nearly impossible to see such a bright flash of blue and not feel your whole spirit lighten. I love the Carolina Wren because they’re so sociable, and also because they’re so brave. There’s a Carolina Wren on the cover of my first book, Crimes Against Birds, and one of the poems in that book describes a pair of wrens protecting their nest from a black snake. How can you not admire that kind of determination?
CAP: How did you come to be published by Mercer University Press?
DL: Mercer has a long history of publishing writers I really admire. Just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of books by William Kelley Woolfitt, John Lane, Jesse Graves, and more recently, Annie Woodford. A friend suggested I submit the manuscript to Mercer, and they accepted it. Marc Jolley is the director of the press, and he’s been wonderfully supportive.
CAP: You’re also an editor for Cutleaf and work as a publisher with Eastover Press. What does it
feel like to be on each side of the publishing process? Which side do you prefer?
DL: My experience as an editor and publisher has made my experience as a writer less stress inducing. It’s been a great benefit to understand the minute and complex reasons why an individual piece or an entire manuscript might be accepted or rejected. I love both sides of the business, but one aspect I love most is that I can often share my perspective with writers who only see the publishing side as a great mystery.
CAP: What are you working on now and when can we look forward to seeing or hearing you read from your work?
DL: I’m always working on multiple projects, but at the moment, I’m trying to shape a new manuscript of poems, and I’m working on an essay about the poet David Eye who passed away in January. If readers aren’t familiar with his work, I recommend they read his collection Seed.
CAP: Can you tell me a little bit about your writers’ residency and how people can learn more
about spending time there? I know firsthand that it’s a pretty magical place.
DL: I’m fortunate to have a property that I can offer as a residency space to writers and artists. I call it the Orchard Keeper Writers Residency (https://dentonloving.com/orchard-keeper-writers-residency/). There’s a very minimal fee to help with the property’s maintenance and upkeep. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a safe, clean space for people who just need some time to themselves to dedicate to their craft. So many of us just need a few days of quiet to help us get words on the page or finish a project. The property is part of the farm where I live, and I love being able to share the space with others.