Interview with Jona Colson, poetry editor of This Is What America Looks Like 2.10.21

The Poet’s Story: Interview with Jona Colson 2.1.21

Pratt Chat

The blog of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

Ten Questions for Jona Colson 

Imagine you get to take a writing workshop with any famous writer, living or dead. Whom do you pick?
Anne Sexton! I would be really curious to hear what she was like in person and in workshop.

Which poem by another poet do you most wish you had written yourself?
Anne Sexton’s “The Truth the Dead Know.” The poem has such an emotional truth combined with craft. A perfect poem.

How did you choose the title of your book?
My first book, which was published last year, is called Said Through Glass. This title comes from a line in the book. The original title was Everybody Has a Heart, Except Some People, but I changed it based on the editorial advice from the press, and thoughts from friends.

Celebrating Contributor Successes: Q&A with Jona Colson

Originally published by Little Patuxent Review


Q: How does a poet go from having a bunch of poems to having a collection? I suppose there’s two questions there. First is in terms of the work itself, second in terms of the logistics of publication.

For me, getting the collection together in a form that honored the poems and made sense was the biggest challenge. I, literally, as many writers do, placed all the poems on the floor and fit them together into bunches, into narrative threads, spacing and creating tension and surprise—with the help of many friends. A collection starts poem by poem, and it took a long time to get them all in sequence.

Publication wise, I sent the manuscript out for about a year to a few places, and, luckily, it was selected by the Washington Writers Publishing House. However, the collection has been about fifteen years in the making. A writer is ushered into a whole different world through the process of publication. Knowing that a whole body of your work will be available is a bit terrifying—like being exposed on a high ledge in full light. It’s a strange, but exhilarating experience.

10 Questions for Jona Colson

Originally published by The Massachusetts Review

Photo Credit: J. Carr


What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
I return to Anne Sexton. Her truth is a courageous.  I also read Anne Carson—her experimental forms and metaphors are gods.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
I keep a Word doc that is about one hundred pages long. I write down phrases or even words that I like, or I think are curious. I will play around with the phrases until I begin to generate what looks like a poem. It might take ten or more pages of nothing to get something. You keep hunting for something you want to say.