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10 Questions for Tyler Kline

It helps to think of your mind
as a landscape. Picture the grooves
and valleys carved like a penknife
to bark from years of compulsions;
it’s so easy following where the flood
knows it must go.
—from “From the Porch, A Moth,” Vol. 64, Issue 2 (Summer 2023)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
One of the first poems I wrote was about cherry tomatoes. I was working on a vegetable farm and spent a lot of time harvesting tomatoes. I remember using the word “hubris” to describe the tomatoes (I guess I thought they were gloating because of how delicious they were?). In any case, it was a terrible poem, but when it becomes tomato season, I always think of it.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
So many. Let me see… I’ll never forget reading Rick Barot’s “The Wooden Overcoat” and realizing the power of metaphor. I fell in love with Chase Twichell’s mediative poems from her collection The Snow Watcher. I remember first reading [insert] boy by Danez Smith and being amazed at how electric the lines were. Recently, I’ve been influenced by Paige Lewis, Ocean Vuong, and Natalie Shapero.

What did you want to be when you were young?
A writer? I think I actually did want to be a writer, but maybe more of a novelist or journalist (not a poet). Once, I considered studying psychology and becoming a therapist.

What inspired you to write this piece?
I wanted to write about my OCD and a conversation I had with my mother years ago. Although it’s a morbid topic (how you want to die), the conversation was surprisingly light, and I’ll always remember how I felt so connected to her. As for the OCD part, I remember reading somewhere how compulsions create “grooves” in your mind and they become deeper the more and more you follow them, similar to (in my mind) carving a word into tree bark. Something about that image really resonated with me.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I write a lot about towns and fields—some real, others imagined. I’m from Pennsylvania, so barns and silos and covered bridges dot the landscape I grew up in. Sometimes place does really seem to ground my work; it’s something I notice I keep coming back to. For instance, I’ve been writing so much about suburbia (cul-de-sacs, in particular). I grew up in a suburban/rural area and the more I write into these places, the more I seem to learn about myself.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
I really like Kaveh Akbar’s advice from his interview in wildness about flipping through a few books, jotting down some words, and then sort of riffing on them. I usually like to read a couple of poems before I start writing. Other than that, I usually write on my couch in the morning in a notebook. Revising takes place in Google Docs.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
Right now, since I’m in an MFA program, it’s usually my workshop. However, I really like to let poems sit for a while before I show them to anyone (the “crockpot stage”). Sometimes, I’ll read new drafts to my pug, Oscar. He’s a great listener.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Pottery. I would really love to take a pottery class one day. Or work in any visual art form. Watercolors perhaps?

What are you working on currently?
I’m working on poems surrounding toxic masculinity, boyhood, OCD, and suburbia. Next year, I’m going to put together my thesis for my MFA, so this summer I’m working on some poems I hope to include in it.

What are you reading right now?
I just reread Chelsea Harlan’s debut collection Bright Shade. It’s incredible. I also just finished Michael Wasson’s book Swallowed Light and loved it.


TYLER KLINE is a writer from Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, Best New Poets, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, and Sixth Finch, among other places. He’s currently pursuing his MFA at New York University, where he is a Jan Gabrial Fellow.

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