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Dana Kinsey


The author of "Self-Portrait as a Tourniquet" in ISSUE 03 and her thoughts on leaning into rhythm and rhyme, writing outdoors, and capturing fleeting moments. 

What are you reading these days? Do you love/hate/feel neutral about it, and why?


All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks


I am astounded by every word of it and deeply regret not reading it sooner because it’s the quintessential text for understanding our deepest yearnings for love. I read that The Boston Globe called her an “academic wildcard,” which made me instantly want to devour this and every one of her books that I hadn’t already read.  Her voice is clear and grounded; lyrical and raw. I simply love it. 


Have you read a passage of writing that deeply shifts something inside you, if so, please share it with us? 


“Love is a process that has been refined, alchemically altered as it moves from state to state; it’s that ‘perfect love’ that can cast out fear. As we love, fear necessarily leaves. Contrary to the notion that one must work to attain perfection, this outcome does not have to be struggled for - it just happens.” 


Hooks, Bell. All About Love: New Visions. HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.


When you are working on a piece, what inspirations do you draw from?


First, music and musical artists are my favorite inspirations. Also, fine artists and other writers are my muses because their magic forces me to respond in some tangible way. When I read something and wish I had written it, I then study the writers’ craft. I see what I glean from borrowing certain elements of their craft. 


What craft elements are you most interested in/attached to within your writing?


Lately, I’ve been attending a lot of open mics in my city, so I’ve been leaning into more rhythm and rhyme. I’m also an actor, so I enjoy opportunities to perform and I now view my work a little differently knowing that I’ll be trying to engage an audience as they listen. I constantly seem to be half page poet and half spoken word poet. I thought it was always a weakness, but I’m learning to embrace it. 


Who/what are some of your writing obsessions, and why?


Some living poets I’ve been obsessing over are Dante Di Stefano, Tiana Clark, Ross Gay, Amanda Gorman, and Tina Chang. My husbands from other lives (or maybe future ones) are Pablo Neruda and e.e. cummings. Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, and Muriel Rukeyser stay fixed in my inner circle. As far as spoken word, I love Rudy Francisco, Sarah Kay, and Anis Mojgani. 


I obsess over The Slowdown. It’s never a good day until I read and listen. I was a fan when Ada Limon hosted and now I enjoy all the other hosts, especially Major Jackson. 


What are some ways in which you remain productive/find time to be a writer? 

I try to write each morning as soon as I wake up and journal more often. I also take an amazing class with poet Emily Sernaker every Sunday via Zoom. She curates the best poems from the best poets and we deep dive in analysis, and then write in the style of that week’s poet. The community she’s built continues to nourish me. I walk away each week in awe of more poets and with consistent drafts and feedback. Emily makes sure we study a diverse group of poetic voices when she chooses our class poets. Highly recommend finding Emily and taking her class!


Tell us what your writing space look like.


There’s not just one! I have a creek near my home where I love to write outdoors. I have an office with deep red walls and shelves of books that overlooks said creek for dreary days. I love to write in coffee shops and also bars. Changing up locations helps generate more topics and different vibes. 


What are some ways in which you get through a block in your creative work?

Long, challenging workouts or walks somewhere beautiful help considerably. I call friends, watch television series/movies, and read novels. Cooking also frees my hand and allows me to think more clearly. Music is my go-to remedy for any kind of block. 


How do you navigate the experience of submissions/rejections/acceptances?


Let’s keep it real. I think people are lying when they say rejections don’t bother them. Having our innermost, precious thoughts squashed most definitely hurts. I know all the things writers say as consolation, but we all know if you have a fantastic piece that a journal loves, they’ll work it out. I constantly keep at least 30 submissions in progress. When I lose one to rejection, I add a new one. There’s something about that number. Acceptances, especially to dream journals, are cause for next-level celebration which equals red wine and salted caramel ice cream. 


Regarding your piece in Issue 03, what does it mean for/to you?


So, I was driving to work at a school in another state. I live in PA and sometimes run a writing lab in DE, so I have to leave very early. The upside is the many sunrises I see that I wouldn't have otherwise because I’m not an early riser. The downside was the day I wrote the poem. In the sky, there was the most beautiful sunrise in oranges, pinks, and purples. Just as I was staring into it, expressing extreme thankfulness, there was a deer lying so close to my tires as it had been recently hit by another car. The dichotomy of those two sights struck me as both ironic and thought-provoking. The natural world I praised and chose to glory in also held the broken deer, and it would no longer be the bearer of beauty. I realized that my task is to care for all those I can, whether they’re all blazing colors and glitter or wounded victims, almost dead. I’ve never tried to capture a single, fleeting moment in verse before. It felt good to write it as a confession, a cautionary tale featuring a graphic depiction that would hopefully stay with readers for a long time. 


Do you have a recent publication/project you would like us to highlight? 


"Show Me, Earth, Your Day" Finalist for Sweet Lit's 2023 Poetry Contest.


What is something you would like to share with other writers out there?

Never stop being curious and awe-filled by other human hearts that beat in and out of rhythm with your own. Listen closely and capture them on pages so we can learn about each other. It’s the only way to love and be loved. The only way.   

Dana Kinsey is an actor and teacher published in Fledgling Rag, Drunk Monkeys, ONE ART, On the Seawall, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Sledgehammer Lit, West Trestle Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Viewless Wings, The Champagne Room, Hive, SWWIM, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Wild Roof Journal, Prometheus Dreaming. Dana's play, WaterRise, was produced at the Gene Frankel Theatre.  Her chapbook, Mixtape Venus, is published by I. Giraffe Press. Visit


Instagram @dana.kinsey

Twitter @WordsbyDK

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