Interview with Nate Hoil

Why poetry?

I’ve been most successful with poetry so far, but I write all sorts of stuff. Poetry is nice because it’s something you can work on whenever you want: on your phone while in a waiting room, at home with the TV on in the background, and so on. For me, poetry is a chance to write in an unfiltered way, as opposed to strategizing and structuring a scene or an argument or something. There’s a lot of freedom to experiment in poetry.  

Who are you currently reading?

This year I’ve been trying to read a lot of short stories. I really enjoyed a collection titled Nudes by Elle Nash. I’ve been revisiting some Raymond Carver stories. I try to check in with a few print and online magazines. Right now, I’m currently moving through the novel Firestarter by Stephen King.  

What poets/artists have had the most influence on your work?

It’s hard for me to separate the legend of the writer with the writing themself, so I’m fascinated by people like Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, Stephen King. The first writer I started to study closely was Denis Johnson, especially his acclaimed book Jesus’ Son (which of course was semi-autobiographical). Some other poets’ works that encouraged my writing include: Kim Hyesoon, Rae Armantrout, the poetry of Sam Pink. I recently reread a Sylvia Plath poem called Tulips, and her writing was really making sense to me.

djf: For this collection I get a birth and death (and maybe rebirth) theme among others moving through these pieces. 

What is the inspiration behind these?

It’s interesting that you mention that. I have a long poem published on receipt paper through betweenthehighway press (shout out to Alex) that draws randomly selected word patterns from a book about reincarnation. I’ve done the process with a few books now: I take a highlighter and draw X’s and lines through the paragraphs and see what sentences I can form out of the highlighted words. It started as an experiment, but when I placed the reincarnation language between my “hardboiled” first person poems, it started to make sense that maybe some of these speakers are coming from different time periods, different places, and even different lives.

Are these part of a bigger collection? 

Yes. It is a book I’ve been sending out called: A MESSAGE FROM THE GALLERY OF EXCAVATED HEADS. You are actually the first person to publish poems from this particular project, so I appreciate that! The title comes from the book’s center section, where I used my highlighter process mentioned earlier, but this time I used pages from a text on aliens. There are about 20 pages of highligher poems and 64 pages of poems like these ones you are publishing.

I like the “Gallery” title because it makes me think that each of the “I” characters could be seen as these weird dug up heads, each one with a small story to tell. My book-writing process isn’t ever very thought out before I start working, but I like how that image sort of came together.

I see “Gallery” as my second full-length collection—I also wrote one called SELF TITLED in 2020-21 while studying at Miami University in Ohio. Both collections remain unpublished, but the majority of  SELF TITLED is published or forthcoming through print and online journals. 

djf: I love the movement in these poems. I love what you’re doing with the line; end stopped lines through the poem seem to give more weight to the enjambed lines, which are really well done; surprising. Ex. I spend all day studying / myself in the mirror. 

NH: Thanks, that’s good to hear! I think my use of enjambment was initially an attempt to recreate comedic timing. I’d have to go back and look at them all, but I know it was fun to use the breaks to derail expectations or land a punchline. Sometimes the lines just need a pause to stay readable as well. Overall, I probably lean towards end stops, unless the enjambment seems absolutely necessary.

How much does the visual element influence the line? 

I try my best not to let the initial appearance of the text overtake the poem; I’ve noticed that when I start being visually experimental it’s often because the actual words and lines are lacking something. Therefore, I’m probably trying to compensate by focusing on the form. That being said, I do like how this set of poems look at a glance. There are definitely trends in the series, for example there are 1-3 lines per stanza.

What modern poet do I have to read right now, like tonight? 

Nick Twemlow, especially with his collection Palm Trees. It was the first reading I saw while living in Iowa City, and it changed my life. Palm Trees is my favorite collection of poems. It’s been some years since he’s published anything new though.