Q&A with Poetry Contributor Dahlia Seroussi

Dahlia Seroussi earned her MFA from Oregon State University. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Passages North (online), Normal School (online), and others. Her chapbook What I Know was published by Finishing Line Press and her essay "Just The Nanny" was published in True Parent, subset of The Portland Mercury. For less refined verbiage, follow her @DahliaSeroussi. Her poems “I Admit the Baby Reminds Me” and “I Was a Small Red Pulse” will appear in the Summer 2017 Premium Edition of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, July 16, for special savings and discounts.


I love how the short lines and stanzas slow the pace and draw attention to each word in "I Admit the Baby Reminds Me." Can you tell us a little about how and why you chose your line breaks for this poem?

Thanks! The form emerged pretty organically and remained the same throughout my revisions of the poem. Both of the poems here were born from the immediate aftershock of a breakup, a time when I felt like I had been reduced to my most basic parts and needs. Everything I wrote came out totally stripped-down and bare, like each line was all I could muster. It was important for me to preserve this minimalist aesthetic in “I Admit the Baby Reminds Me” because it reflects the sort of slow “trudging” that emotional recovery requires. I also think that the no-frills form makes it easier (I hope) for the reader to make the leap between baby in a crib to a lover leaving.

Compared to "I Admit the Baby Reminds Me," "I Was a Small Red Pulse" feels very surreal. What was the inspiration for this poem? Does it feel like a departure from your other work? 

Yes and no! It actually began as a completely different poem, tonally and formally much more similar to “I Admit The Baby Reminds Me.”

But as I moved away in time from the end of my relationship, I became less interested in its “true” details. I had exhausted the facts and written plenty of poems obsessing over them—some more successful than others. As I worked through my pain, I began to think about what hadn’t happened. I think it’s natural to go through this: to consider the what-ifs, to want to rewrite certain events.

As someone who is pretty attached to reality, it felt very transgressive to “write away” from my experience—but it was also liberating. For example, the speaker in “I Was a Small Red Pulse” is pretty vindictive, but that’s not at all how I felt at the time. The surreal set-up allowed me to fully submerge myself in this emotion, which was empowering and surprising.

Both of the poems included in Carve are fewer than 15 lines. What do you enjoy about short poems, both as a reader and writer? 

I have always loved short poems, because they seem to exemplify what poems do best: distill human experience. I like poems I can see and hold in my mind all at once, like a painting. As a writer, I feel that my time with the reader is precious; I don’t want to lose them by going on and on. I also just haven’t developed stamina for long poems. Anything over a page and I feel like I should get a medal. 

Who are some of your favorite poets to read right now and why?

I recently read Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas, and it was stunning. Formally, the collection is so dynamic, which I really admire. I also love its exploration of language as a living, breathing thing.

I’ve also spent a lot of time with Ellen Bass’ work recently, after seeing her read in February. During her presentation she called for writers to render sex the way it really is, flawed and unruly, and that really stuck with me. So watch out.