1. When did you start writing?
"I really don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. My mother taught me how to read at a very early age, and I picked up writing very young as well. Professionally, I have made a two-decade-plus career as a ghostwriter for several high-profile leaders, and I write poetry because I feel like I have to. I know many people don’t know me as a poet because I didn’t start attempting to publish my poetry until last year. The time didn’t feel right until then. The pandemic made me feel my mortality, as did my mother’s death in 2017. I guess you could call me a late-blooming poet on the publishing front."
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"I write on everything—the Notes app on my iPhone, my laptop, sticky notes, scraps of random paper, receipts, and in journals. Lately, I’ve turned more and more to my iPhone. I often wake with a line or two already in my head, and type it in my Notes app while it’s fresh. From there, I’ll email it to myself, and work it out on my laptop. I like to print work out to revise on paper. Some poems don’t make it to paper, but most do. I feel like I owe it to the reader to make sure the poem works well on the printed page, and I read all my poems out loud, too, to see how they will sound to the reader."
3. Are you ever afraid to write?
"I am never afraid to write, but I am cautious about what I publish. There are definitely topics that are difficult for me to take on, but I don’t seem much harm in getting everything out. There are poems I write that are for my eyes only and those that I write for publication. Rarely do I blur the lines. I am becoming braver with time, though."
4. Where do you draw inspiration?
"Inspiration is everywhere. Real life. Dreams. Other poets and artists. I also feel like a lot of poems come to me from somewhere I can’t explain. There are some that I intentionally sit down to write and others that feel like they are being dictated to me, but in my own voice. It’s difficult to explain. There is definitely this sense of otherworldliness to what I do, and not just in poetry, but other writing as well. I can also channel this otherworldly muse when I write. I wish I understood it, but maybe it’s better if I don’t. A little mystery is good for the soul, don’t you think?"
5. What drew you to writing poetry?
"I like poetry for its sound, for its compression, and also its freedom. I like to be able to get things out and move on. I like all of the forms available to me in poetry, and choosing which one to use for each specific poem. There is so much variety in poetry! I also love choosing which rules to follow and which to break. There aren’t dire consequences for breaking the rules in poetry, and that to me is freeing."
6. Recently you interviewed Chen Chen and Jose Hernandez Diaz (SQUEAL). What got you interested in interviewing writers?
"I loved interviewing Chen and Jose! They are both so incredibly brilliant and generous. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to start interviewing writers until I was approached by Clifford Brooks III. He reached out to interview me in the winter 2020 for The Blue Mountain Review, and I guess he liked what I had to say. From there, he asked if I’d be interested in joining The Southern Collective Experience (SCE), which I was. I have been interviewing writers ever since, and my debut chapbook, Something Kindred, is forthcoming from The SCE Press in January 2022. It will be available for pre-order in December. I’ll send you the link when it’s ready. : ) I’m also finishing up my full-length debut. We’ll see where that lands."
7. What other project(s) do you hope to take on someday?
"I love collaboration. I was introduced to this concept by two magical poets: Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel. In fact, I just finished leading a collaborative Heroic Sonnet Crown project with 28 local poets as part of my role as the Poetry Ambassador for the Mayor of Miami-Dade County. (I’ll send you a link when it goes live next Tuesday, October 26!) I would love to collaborate more with poets and work on some projects that tackle pressing topics: like climate change. I would also like to see poetry paired more with music. The idea of setting poems to music fascinates me. I would love to see a group of poets and musicians collaborate on something, especially with stringed instruments. I don’t play, but I really love the violin."
8. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"I hope people read my work and feel like I’m real and approachable. I hope that my work helps people, that it connects people, and makes them feel less alone. I also hope that it sparks joy. I write a lot of heavy stuff, but I also write light and funny stuff because I like balance. Hey, it’s Libra season! I’m a Cancer, by the way. Not that you asked. Lol. But I like to write poetry that is cathartic and poetry that is fun. Speaking of fun, I had a really fun time writing a Garbage Pail Kids poem for It Came From Beneath the Ink!: An R.L. Stine Tribute Anthology, edited by Lannie Stabile, and a love poem for Fire-Star for Marvelous Verses, a Marvel-inspired poetry anthology that Jared Beloff is editing for the Daily Drunk Magazine. I suppose I like to make people feel a range of emotions with my poetry: light and dark."
9. What’s the best writing advice you’ve been told or happened to overhear? Or what writing advice would you offer?
"Be true to your voice and write like you speak. Also, know your audience. I think it’s really important to find your people."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I enjoy spending time alone. I know that’s not something a lot of people admit. But I’m an only child, and I love spending time with my thoughts. I get more joy out of reading and writing than just about anything else. I also love watching movies and going for long walks—especially when there’s a light rain. I’m also obsessed with scent. I could spend hours in the forest, in an old bookstore, or in a place like Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. I sometimes make my own fragrances. I had considered writing a book of poetry with accompanying scents for each poem, but thought it would likely be a publishing nightmare. Maybe I’ll do it anyway one day. If anyone wants to collaborate on that, I’m open."
Hear Nicole read her poem "On Reading Poems, I Now Sympathize with Daughters of Dead Mothers" on page 45 of The Blue Mountain Review.
Nicole Tallman is a professional writer and poet. Born and raised in Michigan, she lives in Miami, serves as the Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County, an Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. Her debut chapbook, Something Kindred, is forthcoming in January 2022 from The Southern Collective Experience (SCE) Press. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @natallman and on her website nicoletallman.com.
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