Interview with Poet Kendall Mallon

1. Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that you are one of our contributing poets. Will you please begin by telling us where you’re from, what you write, and why poetry?

I was born and raised in Colorado—which is pretty rare these days give the state’s recent population boom—and currently live in Denver.

I write poetry mostly, but I venture into screen writing and long form narratives that blend verse and prose. I am drawn to poetry because it challenges me to be precise with my words and really look at language as a medium in itself. I read a great article recently that said poetry has the ability to use the page to create silence for a reader, which prose can’t do (or at least not as effectively). That insight made a lot of sense to me, which is why I often inject verse into my prose-like narrative works. Plus, poems can go beyond the confines of a sentence. I love to ramble, so poetry allows me to express the meandering rhythm of my thoughts and emotions without trying to fit them into a proper sentence.

2. Who, or what, are your poetical influences?

I am fascinated with myths, folklore, and symbolism—I think they are an interesting way to look into how humans grapple with the unknown as well as serve as collective archetypes in our minds.

The Beat poets sparked my initial passion for poetry. They showed me a whole new way of looking at poetry and writing that I had not experienced before which lead me to explore the medium further and discover the many ways poetry can presents itself. Also, reading Prometheus Unbound by Percy Shelley in college solidified my decision to dedicate my life to writing.

3. How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

That is the million-dollar question… I honestly just play around with each poem to see which rhythm best gets the message across. Sometimes if I want a certain symbolism in a piece or allusion I will play with different meters—like if want the number six to be present symbolically in a longer poem I will try and see if it will work in iambic heptameter or trochaic heptameter. For “Fermentation” I used the spaces as a way to affect the rhythm of the lines. I personally do not like one or two-word lines so I used a space where I could have used a line break, but didn’t feel it was necessary for a word or two to sit alone. The spaces also ended up adding a visual element to the poem that mimic bubbles of CO2 rising through fermenting liquid, making the form choice work on multiple levels.

4. What is your writing process like?

I write almost all of my rough drafts long-hand with a fountain pen. I find that if I try to start from scratch on a computer, I worry too much about perfection and end up trying to edit while I am trying produce content. But with a fountain pen I find I can just keep writing and not worry about how it looks because that is not its final form. When I go to transcribe the hand-written stuff onto the computer it acts as a first revision because I am forced to go through each word carefully to type it up. Also, I always carry a notebook in my left-back-pocket and a pen in my right-back-pocket because I never know when I am going to be struck with inspiration or learn a new word.

5. Do you belong to any writer’s groups—face-to-face or online? If so, are they part of your process?

Lately, I have started going to a writer’s meetup in Denver for writers in their 20’s and 30’s. It has helped me meet some local writers and bounce ideas off them, as well as set aside some time to just get out and write.

6. What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

I love language, so I am attracted to poetry that pushes language to its limits. I also look for poetry that has some philosophical, political, or social element. For classic poetry I admire Percy Shelley — especially the way he weaves philosophy and politics into long form poems. For Modern poetry, I really like the Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin—I really enjoy the way she uses myth to talk about modern issues in Ireland. Reading Eleni Sikelianos’ The California Poem in college opened up my eyes to explore using the page in my poetry. She uses long lines on a landscape format page for this book-length poem, and I loved the way it added the tone, rhythm, and structure of the poem.

7. What is the most important role for poets today?

Poetry is such a unique form of writing that captures something that prose often doesn’t or cannot due to its limitations as a medium or writing. So, poets today need to find that avenue for expression and push it to its limits to tell the world what was once thought inexpressible through language to be expressed—taking advantage of language’s flaws.

8. Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

I was lucky enough to hear Gary Snyder read at Naropa University in Boulder a few years ago. It was an honor to hear one of the surviving Beat poets read, as well as him talk about the challenges of writing traditional Japanese forms in English.

The most recent book I finished—I have a tendency to start a pile of books and jump back and forth between them—is Brothers Karamozov.

9. Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

I am always working on various short poems tweaking them here and there as I find time. I also write for film and helped write the director, Joe Gietl, write the screenplay for a short film called A Void, which is currently in production right now. I am also working on a speculative piece that is structurally based on the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus. It will blend poetry and prose to tell a story about how we can take comfort in the unknown and mysterious—i.e., not everything needs an answer.

10. Tell us about the Irish Sport of Hurling. We noticed it in your bio.

Hurling is an Irish sport dating back to before recorded history that uses a stick called a ‘hurley’ or ‘hurl’ (camán in Irish) and a ball called a sliotar (pronounced sli-ter). The object of the game is the either hit the ball through a pair of uprights over a bar for one point or into the goal for three points. You are allowed to catch the ball and carry it for four steps before you must pass the ball or attempt to score. You can run with the sliotar balance on the end of your hurley for as long as you want. The easiest way to wrap your head around how the game is played is to look up a video on YouTube. Also, the women’s version of the game is called Camogie.

What I admire most about the game is that there is no professional level—all of the highest playing teams compete for the love of the sport instead of a paycheck. After the All-Ireland finals—which is the country’s equivalent to the Super Bowl—the players go back to their day-jobs on Monday. It truly is a unique cultural sport. There are fossilized hurleys that have been dug up from bogs that date back thousands of years; so, it is pretty much as Irish of an activity as anything.

11. What other interests do you have beyond literature?

I love sailing, which gets me odd looks considering I am from a land-locked state, but there is a pretty decent sailing community in Colorado—even though our lakes and reservoirs are tiny. I also enjoy gardening with my wife; we have a large assortment of succulents, cactus, bonsai, and orchids that are strewn throughout our home.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. (And thank you for being firmly on the side of pie, rather than cake.)

Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:

As part of my love for fountain pens I dabble in calligraphy and post some on my Instagram @kendall_mallon —along with other fun stuff I am doing.