Interview with Carol Smallwood

Interview by Alex Phuong

Carol Smallwood’s recent books include In Hubble’s Shadow (Shanti Arts); Prisms, Particles, and Refractions (Finishing Line Press, 2017); Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction (Shanti Arts) 2017; Library Outreach to Writers and Poets: Interviews and Case Studies of Cooperation (McFarland, 2017). She’s a multi-Pushcart nominee:

How do you select which poetry form to use?

The topic of the poem decides if the poem will be free verse or formal. Sometimes I start out with a villanelle and it doesn’t work and it ends up a sonnet; sometimes I start out with free verse and it stays in free verse. In looking for places to send poems I sometimes see editors say they do not want formal poems which is unfortunate. Recently I purchased the new paperback, How to Write Classical Poetry: A Guide to Forms, Techniques, and Meaning edited by Evan Mantyk, and Connie Phillips and wish it had been available when I first delved into poetry because it is a marvelous guide.

What made you turn to poetry? Were your early poems in formal or free verse?

I turned to poetry after editing dozens of nonfiction anthologies for a change of pace. Fiction did not work that well for me, so when I was fighting cancer, I tried poetry while reminding myself that there was no time to be afraid of its difficulty. In college, “Poetry” to me was studying one line of poetry of poets like John Donne for an entire class period.

What poets have influenced you the most?

The lines of Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot have remained with me the most and they’re the ones I enjoy revisiting.

What advice could you share with struggling writers?

All of us use different approaches, so I’m afraid there isn’t any guaranteed rule to writing. One has to really want to write and put aside easier things at times they would rather do.

Could you please share what you working on now?

Another collection of poetry based on a poem that appeared in The Binnacle: Thirteenth Annual International Ultra-Short Competition Edition, University of Maine at Machias, in 2016. It helps a great deal when your work is recognized, spurs you on in the right direction.


About the interviewer: Alex Phuong graduated from California State University—Los Angeles with his Bachelor of Arts in English in 2015. His writing has appeared both online and in print, and he enjoys writing as well as classic cinema.