Interview with Poet – John Hoppenthaler


I’m back again to share another of our interviews. Today’s is with Poet and Associate Professor (ECU – English/Creative Writing), John Hoppenthaler.

He is an Associate Professor at East Carolina University, he edits “A Poetry Congeries,” a monthly poetry feature at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. His essays, interviews, and essay/reviews appear in such journals as Arts & Letters, Southeast Review, Chelsea, Bellingham Review, Pleiades, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Waccamaw, the North Carolina Literary Review, and Kestrel, where he served as Poetry editor for eleven years. His books of poetry are Domestic Garden (2015), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008), Lives of Water (2003), and , all with Carnegie Mellon University Press. With Kazim Ali, he has edited a collection of essays, Jean Valentine: This World Company (U of Michigan P, 2012).

Among his honors are an Individual Artist Grant from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, grants from the New York Foundation on the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts, and the North Carolina Community Council for the Arts, and Residency Fellowships from The Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, the MacDowell Colony, the Elizabeth Bishop House, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He was named and served two terms as the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the Eastern Region of North Carolina.

The workshop topic he’s chosen to present is: Poking the ‘I’ Out: Against Solipsism in Your Poetry   (Part lecture and part practical how-to ideas on how to move beyond the self in one’s poetry.) He is very good at his craft,  you won’t want to miss a minute of it.

Johns publicity photo 21 (2)


John Hoppenthaler


One of his books: Domestic Garden - John Hoppenthaler





Now let’s begin our interview with John Hoppenthaler:

Question: Have you always written poetry or is there another genre you enjoy writing as well?

It’s always been poetry first, but I do write essays as well. Some of these are essay/reviews of one or more books of poetry, but I also dabble in creative non-fiction. Here’s an example:
I have also conducted many interviews with writers over the years. A large grip of these can be found at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, where I edit A Poetry Congeries.

Question: What makes you so passionate about poetry?

Poetry is an exercise in failure, yet it is in failure that we begin to learn about ourselves and the world in which we live. That is, in poetry we seek to give voice to the ineffable; in the process of attempting to do so, we are forced to consider the world and everything in it. Also, poetry is one of the best ways to inspire empathy in a world that needs as much of it as we can muster.

Question: How do you create a poem with believable speakers?

That’s a good question, and I like that you specify “speakers” as many—if not most—of my poems are persona poems. That is, they’re fictions, largely imaginative acts. To create characters that seem real, one most infuse them, like a good playwright, with character traits that are believable. One must select specific details that place characters in a context that seems plausible. Characters must be flawed because we are all flawed, and they should act and speak in ways consistent with the world you’ve placed them in. It helps to be a mimic, a voyeur, and a mime, and it’s a good idea to unplug sometimes and listen to people engage with each other in the world.

Question: Is there any other genre you haven’t tried, but would like to?

I served as Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison’s personal assistant for nine years. I would love to one day write a novel, but I fear the ways my mind engages with the world are not the ways a novelist’s does. I have yet to find a way to sustain the energy in a piece of writing over the many pages a novel requires.

Question: Do you believe poetry can help prose writers create better pieces of work?

It must since most of the prose writers I know read a lot of poetry and use poetry in their writing classes. I suppose it has to do with the way poets privilege image, sound and condensation, showing instead of telling, how those things can be brought to bear on prose.

Question: When someone reads your poetry, what do you hope they take away from it?

What they need.


Only four (4) days until our Friday Night Kick-Off Event (March 18th) and five (5) days until the 4th annual Pamlico Writers Conference (March 19th) at The Turnage Theatre in Washington, NC.

If you haven’t already registered why not do it now. Honestly, you really won’t want to miss this conference. We’ve packed a lot talent into this conference and Kick-Off Event that we’re sure you won’t want to miss. Why not click on the link below now and register/sign-up for the conference and your choice of workshops.


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See you at the conference.

Kay Wilson



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