Getting To Know Domenic Scopa And His New Book, The Apathy Of Clouds

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?

I first encountered poetry in middle school. Honestly, I don’t remember why, but I decided to write a poem for one of those middle school poetry anthologies. My sixth grade teacher handed out submission forms in class, and I thought that it would be fun to try. Late that night, my mother and I wrote a poem together, and much to my surprise, the anthology accepted it for publication a few months later. It was my first, and most satisfying, acceptance. After that experience, I didn’t encounter poetry again until my sophomore year in college. My friend told me to take a class—Modern American Poetry—with Fred Marchant, and I began to fall in love with poems again. I planned on applying for a PhD in Philosophy, but I impulsively decided to pursue an MFA instead. I don’t remember why I initially wanted to write poems. I appreciate the challenge of recreating the world to fit the particular emotional landscape of my mind; I love making my own truths.

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?

As unusual as it sounds, I don’t have a writing routine. I probably should have one, though. I’m a Lecturer of English and General Studies, so the amount of work that I have each semester varies. Admittedly, I’m a night owl, so I think that I produce most work late at night. However, I don’t read well late at night, and reading is just as important as composition. As cliché as it sounds, I love to write in coffee shops because I can observe so many people. I always write longhand, which sometimes surprises people, and I frequently shift my gaze from the people whom I’m observing to my notebook. Everyone probably thinks I look like some freak fiendishly recording details of their lives. 

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?

I’m visually-inclined so almost always an image. An image usually triggers an idea, and an idea usually triggers a poem. I try to use the ideas to create truths—whatever that means—about the images.  

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?

Robert Lowell, Larry Levis, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Bruce Weigl, Anna Akhmatova, Tony Hoagland, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jamaal May, Betsy Sholl, Fred Marchant, Dante Alighieri, David Foster Wallace, George Orwell, Jo Ann Beard, Annie Dillard. I’m probably missing dozens, but these people immediately come to my mind.

Tell us a little about your new collection: what’s the significance of the title? Are there over-arching themes? What was the process of assembling it? Was it a project book? Etc.

The title of my debut collection is The Apathy of Clouds. The poems featured in this collection were written while I was a student in an MFA program. I hope the speakers in the poems are multifaceted. They can stand on their own in each of the poems, but I also wanted readers to recognize that it’s possible, emotionally, for one speaker to be voicing the entire collection. The singular speaker of the collection experienced a traumatic childhood event and must spend his life confronting the ramifications of it. I tried to evoke this trajectory by using the motif of contemporary familial relationships.

Domenic Scopa is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry and translations have been featured in The Adirondack ReviewReed MagazineBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewReunion: The Dallas ReviewPrime Number, and many others. He is currently a Lecturer of English at NHTI, Concord’s Community College.