Category Archives: Influences Interview Series

Influences Interview Series with M Lynne Hayward

M. Lynne Hayward

As a light refresher, the Influences Interview Series focuses on how what you’re reading shapes what you’re writing. It’s a poetry recommendation followed by a less established poet to keep your eye on.

This week we’re cozying up with M Lynne Hayward. She’s picked Russell Edson as a writer who has personally influenced her style, and chose the poem “Counting Sheep” as a prime example of what he did with words that she finds so affecting.

Appears in The Tunnel: Selected Poems of Russell Edson available on Amazon.

Trista Mateer : So… Russell Edson? How did you come across his work and what particular elements of his writing would you say influence your personal writing style?

M Lynne Hayward : I was in an intensive creative writing program in high school. Russell Edson was one of the first writers we encountered who strayed away from traditional verse. Until I read his work, I appreciated the craft of poetry but I wasn’t impassioned by it. It wasn’t until I saw how he flattened magic and injected wonder into the mundane that I felt like I wanted to write poetry. I don’t emulate his form directly, but I was deeply informed by his blend of poetry and prose. He gave me permission for fantasy to flourish in my work.

Trista Mateer : He weaved fantasy and poetry together expertly. I could just be reading the wrong things, but I really don’t see that much in contemporary poetry. Was there anything about “Counting Sheep” specifically that spoke to you or was it just a poem you thought portrayed his specific style well?

M Lynne Hayward : The imagery still sticks with me and I read it almost 10 years ago. I still think of “He wonders if he shouldn’t rub them into a red paste between his fingers” every time I fire up the rice cooker. The simultaneous distance and curiosity of this poem is also something I identified with. I have bipolar disorder, so I have a dual perspective of everything depending on the time of the year. Both tend to get captured when I examine something in writing.

Trista Mateer : I feel like that simultaneous distance and curiosity is something you’ve achieved in the poem you’re about to share with us. Is there anything you’d like to say about it before we press on?

M Lynne Hayward : I wrote “Natural Disasters” as two separate poems. As I was going through my worst manic and depressive episodes respectively. As I worked on it, I kept thinking “what’s the worst thing that could happen to me” and the answer was “this.” So I started playing with the idea of the world falling apart in grand sci-fi fashion while the greatest problem in the universe was still my micro-drama. I really tried to transfer my dissociation into the words, so I’m glad that came across.

Natural Disasters by M Lynne Hayward

Last week…

Some drunk asshole dropped the moon
and it shattered all over the earth:
pox-marked glass shards from sea to shining sea.

The tides will recover
after Cthulhu rises,
but it fucked up everybody’s horoscope.

I press my ear to your wan stomach,
coy bubbles the only proof
you didn’t descend blonde from the heavens
to seduce me in my sleep.

The stars are due to fall on… Wednesday?
I’ll try to take the day off
to lay on the beach with you
and watch Aquarius pour into the ocean.


You kicked me in your sleep.
I kicked back.
You rolled over.

An even NPR voice called from the radio,
“Fire has consumed the Midwest
and we are next.”

I looked out the windows.
Asteroids and looters littered the streets.

I went to the kitchen and
dug through the freezer until I recovered
my cache of gin
the good stuff.

I thought of the lie I’d tell my sponsor,
“Don’t you think the end of the world counts a special occasion.”
I choked when I laughed
and the liquor wet my shirt.

I took the bottle to bed with me like baby.

Calm voices had given way to riot horns.
You snored
and I laughed again
and I couldn’t stop.
As the drizzle of meteor showers
gave birth to hell fire
I hiccuped and giggled
while you were consumed by sleep
and we were burned alive.

M is chronically bored. She cuts her ennui with internet addiction, screenwriting, spoken word poetry, flash fiction, game design, food, irregular sleep cycles, and lazy activism. M did a handstand once and almost fell off her bed. She never attempted to do that again. Last spring, M published a personal chapbook filled with lies (BAD TOUCH). She’s publishing a book of passive agressive odes before the end of the year.

Connect with her on Tumblr and BLK Proverbs.

Contributing Editor

Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.

Influences Interview Series with Jones Howell

Jones Howell

To be a writer of any kind, easily one of the most important things you have to do is read. Read everything, but most importantly read your genre. Read the greats. Read your contemporaries. Read what your friends and peers are reading. Find out what works. See how to do it well. Observe the craft to understand it.

In this new Words Dance interview series, we’re going to be talking to some less established poets about how and why they threw themselves into the ring and what works inspired them to do so. We’re going to be taking a look at how what you’re reading shapes what you’re writing (specifically as a poet). Consider this series as a poetry recommendation followed by a budding poet to keep your eye on.

To begin, we’re having a brief chat with Jones Howell. She’s picked a poem by Clementine von Radics titled “For Nikki” as one that has personally influenced her writing style.

Appears in Mouthful Of Forevers available at the WAYP store or Amazon.

Trista Mateer : First, I just want to thank you for reaching out to participate in this little interview when I put the call out. Now, you’ve chosen Clementine von Radics as someone who was most influential to your own style of writing. How did you come across Clementine’s work? And what were particular parts of her style that attracted you to her writing?

Jones Howell : Thank you for including me! My introduction to Clementine von Radics came in the form of a printed copy of her poem “Mouthful of Forevers” that hung outside the elevator in Annenberg Hall at my alma mater, Northwestern University. I read that poem every day for at least ten weeks before deciding to find more of her work. I had just completed a year-long workshop in writing fiction the year before, where I learned that my blunt, aggressive style of writing wasn’t working–at least, not as prose. Clementine has a way of telling an entire story in just a few lines. She’s very selective about her poetic devices. Before her, I didn’t know it was possible to do that and still call it poetry.

Trista Mateer : What do you find about this particular poem of hers (“For Nikki”) so appealing? Why did you pick this poem as a major influence of yours over another one of hers, such as “Mouthful of Forevers”?

Jones Howell : “For Nikki” encapsulates everything I’ve wanted to do as a writer and, frankly, everything I’ve been as a person. Both “Mouthful of Forevers” and “For Nikki” are love poems, but I have never been a “Mouthful of Forevers” kind of lover. I am not delicate and neither is my language. I want to be the backhand across the face or the shot of whiskey on an empty stomach: whatever knocks you on your ass and makes you remember my name. In eight lines and two curse words, Clementine does all that and leaves you begging for more.

Trista Mateer : Out of curiosity, is the title of the poem you’ve selected to share with us today (“Sentimental Bullshit”) directly influenced by Clementine’s poem? And is there anything else you’d like to say about it before we share it?

Jones Howell : Absolutely. The title is taken directly from her poem. “Sentimental Bullshit” began life as one of those poems where you just can’t stick the landing, no matter how many different words and phrases you try. It was one of the first poems I wrote when I decided to turn away from prose. It hung out in a Google doc, ‘finished’ but still grating on me, for weeks. When I finally figured out how to rewrite it, something shifted for me. I’d done it. I’d written something I was proud of, that I would never apologize for. I think Audrey Niffenegger said it best: “I feel a tiny pang of regret, as though I’ve lost a secret, and then a rush of exaltation: now everything begins.”


i live in the south and in the spring
everything smells like honeysuckle.

as a little girl i used to pick
the yellow flowers and pinch
the ends off with a fingernail, to drink
the nectar. maybe a drop;
two if i was lucky.

a tiny secret just-mine kind
of pleasure.

you’re kind of like that.

Jones (Jo) Howell is a 22 year old poet with an engineering degree. Her parents have stopped asking too many questions. Raised in the mid-Atlantic, educated in Chicago, and now setting down roots in Georgia, she recklessly dives headfirst into the open wounds of love, abuse, and family. She is a graduate of the Northwestern University creative writing program. Humor is her best coping mechanism.

Connect with her on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contributing Editor

Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.