1. When did you start writing?
"my mother likes to say that i wrote & drew comic books when i was at a very young age. i don’t quite remember any of that & throughout the rest of my K–12 education, i struggled with reading & writing. so, in earnest, i started writing while i was in community college. i had taken a fiction writing class because i needed an English credit & had no idea what i wanted to do with my life. at the end of the course, i realized i needed to write. i liked it, but more so, i felt more complete. the next semester i 'transferred' into the AFA in Creative Writing program, took a poetry course & found that home."
2. Where do you draw inspiration?
"for a long time, i had no inspiration. i wrote generic poetry. this, honestly, lasted until i got into my second semester of grad school, in conversation with my advisor, & i remember clearly him saying 'ok, but where is you in any of these poems? Where’s your connection? why do these topics matter to you?' i didn’t know. i clammed up. not a clue. i was nowhere.
eventually, after months of thinking, i concluded that i needed to write about my relationship to gun violence, to masculinity, to brotherhood. so i began to write poems about that.
currently, a lot of my inspiration comes from the examination of my mental health & queerness. mostly because they are, again, things that i feel the need to talk about, finally, but also they are topics that i’m struggling with in my everyday life, so they are always on my mind."
3. Could you share your process and thoughts on writing?
"generally, i’ll think of an idea, or a line for a poem. that’s the seed. the biggest difference in my process that i’ve noticed from other writers that i share a space with is that i tend to write poems as a project first & foremost. with my first book, loudest when startled, as well as my second manuscript, i only wrote poems that relate to each other. i have hundreds of poems about gun violence, about my brother, about my family, etc., & during the years that i worked on that first book, i maybe wrote half a dozen poems that did not relate to those topics. same goes for my second manuscript.
i feel like i get locked on & just can’t break free of that obsession until it’s 'complete.' though, your obsessions are never truly gone. i still write poems that could easily fit right into the first book. it’ll always be there.& i think finding & recognizing those obsessions is such an important step in my writing process that it’ll probably be how i write for my entire life. i just can’t comprehend not having a focus. not having something to say that i’m writing towards."
4. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"i mainly write sporadically on my phone or tablet, then let it sit. after a while, i’ll return to it on my desktop computer & flesh it out. i have notebooks on my desk in case i need to use them, but i’ve used the same notebook for a few years now & it’s still full of empty pages!"
5. How did loudest when startled come about? When did you realize you had material for a poetry book?
"loudest when startled started out as my grad school thesis. it was more bare bones at that point but had the same core of poems. & it frightened me. the subject material was, & still, terrifying for me to write about. it felt important though. it felt like a space that hadn’t been talked about in poetry. there are many writers that have touched upon gun violence in their work, but none seemed to take the same angle that eventually unearthed in loudest when startled.
so, i think after completing my thesis, i had this interesting idea for a project. from there, i began to add more to the poems that tie the whole thing together, such as 'without firearms,' or 'this poem is not about a bullet.' that last section needed to most added to it. i needed to understand the poems better. i needed to let them work through me. i was pushing a certain narrative, you know gun = bad, but that wasn’t the only thing the collection wanted to be about. after realizing that i wasn’t writing this grand anti-gun treatise, i was able to really see the poems for what they were; empathetic, understanding, desiring, & most importantly, layered. & shout-out to the editors at YesYes for allowing my book to grow even after they had picked it up for publication. their input made it immensely closer to what it needed to be."
6. How do you know when a poem is done?
"i don’t? no, i don’t know. it’s hard. a feeling, i guess. a feeling of completeness. if i’ve come back to a poem several times & leave it thinking 'i don’t see anything else that i can add.' this is definitely something i’m still learning about."
7. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"i hope people take away anything from my writing. frustration, fear, joy, sadness, stress, etc. i don’t hope to change peoples’ minds, or teach them, or show them how hard life can be. i just hope they felt something. that they came away from it with something new etched in their soul. small or large. a word. a line. a poem. the whole book."
8. What project(s) do you hope to take on?
"well, i’m working on two different poetry projects right now, as well as a novel-in-verse. the older poetry project & the novel-in-verse center around health anxiety while the newer poetry project touches on queerness. i have a few idea for more prose projects. ideally, & i know i joke about this on twitter all the time, but i really want to write about bigfoot. i’m not sure what yet, but i feel like that’s one of my writing goals for life."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"i despise the whole 'write what you know' advice. there’s so much i don’t know. in loudest when startled, there’s so many poems that have experiences that i did not have. that book would not have been written if i stuck to that advice, & i do get that advice several times, especially during my education.
i think that piece of advice misleads the readers to believe that everything that happens is true, that i was the 'i' in my poems. i can’t tell you how many times people have messaged me like… apologizing for what the brother character does in my book when those incidents never happened. now, i’m not saying that there isn’t truth in my poems, but my real brother had never gone on a mass shooting, or explicitly told me to buy a gun after i talked to him about suicidal ideation."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"oh gosh, i feel like i keep about my passions hidden from social media. i tend to talk about writing exclusively. it’s semi-conscious. though, i’ve been letting more things slip as my audience grows. i’m a big fan of manga, not so much anime, but if the cross section of poetry & anime twitter want to adopt me, please! drawing is incredibly relaxing. i’m a sports-person. unfortunately, i live in Minnesota so our sports teams are not known for winning. i hang out with my pets pretty much 24/7 now. as i’m writing this, my dog is lying to the side of my chair on a blanket, waiting for me to finish & go cuddle him, so you know."
Hear lukas ray hall read their poem "summer."
lukas ray hall is a queer non-binary poet. they are the author of loudest when startled (YesYes Books, 2020). their poems have appeared in The Florida Review, Moon City Review, Atlanta Review & Raleigh Review, among others. they live in St. Paul, MN. for more information, visit their website: www.lukasrayhall.com.
Amy Cipolla Barnes
Cristina A. Bejan
Elizabeth M Castillo
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Emily M. Goldsmith
Lukas Ray Hall
B. Tyler Lee
June Lin (mini)
Calia Jane Mayfield
Maria S. Picone
Charlie D’Aniello Trigueros
Heath Joseph Wooten