Sunday, September 24, 2023

Q&A with Lynn Domina




Lynn Domina is the author of the new poetry collection Inland Sea. Her other books include the poetry collection Corporal Works. She teaches English at Northern Michigan University, and she lives in Marquette, Michigan.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems in Inland Sea?


A: Most of the poems—the poems at the heart of the book—were written over a period of a couple of years, following my move to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


Seeing Lake Superior every day quickly influenced the imagery in my poems, and then it eventually acquired symbolic significance, too.


A few of the poems in Inland Sea are older, poems that hadn’t quite fit into other manuscripts, but did fit into Inland Sea, either because of their imagery or themes.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Lake Superior is often referred to as an “inland sea.” When people say that, they mean it’s much more than a lake—it’s so huge for one thing. Most people who drive around it take at least four days to do so.


And because it’s so big, it has its own weather system and really affects life around it. So it has a real presence psychologically, spiritually, and practically for people who live where I do.


So the title has that direct reference to the lake, but it also has a symbolic reference. We all have our own “inland seas,” which are sometimes calm and restful and other times turbulent and dangerous. So I’m working with both aspects of the title within the book.

Q: The poet Kazim Ali said of the book, “These poems are themselves psalms, but ones full of the stuff of the world, messy and ordinary and beautiful and divine...” What do you think of that description?


A: I was really intrigued by Kazim Ali’s blurb. I hadn’t consciously been thinking of the poems in the collection as psalms, but they do share some resemblance to psalms.


They are full of ordinary elements of life that lead us toward (or have at least led me toward—I hope they do for readers, too) insights into the sacred and relationships with the sacred.


If you read the psalms in the Bible, they’re full of ordinary things—ice and snow, sheep, rocks. Similarly, my poems are full of water and snow, deer, bears, bats, and other things we encounter as part of our daily lives. The sacred isn’t separate from the material world but is a part of it.


Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the collection?


A: When I was arranging the poems, I was thinking a lot about tone. There’s much in the world that’s both beautiful and dangerous, and I wanted to acknowledge that in the book. The opening poem speaks to that paradox directly.


I see the collection as moving from caution to hope thematically. In terms of content, the poems move outward, from family to others in the wider world, and then back toward more intimate relationships in the last section.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I always have too many projects going at once. Right now, I’m thinking about other aspects of the Upper Peninsula, in addition to the water and forests that are so obvious, particularly the significance copper and iron ore mining have had on its history and culture. Those materials are starting to enter my poetry.


I’m also working on some creative nonfiction, a series of essays focused on people and places that have an ambivalent or unsettled history. The essays will be informed by my travel to these places, my reflections on my own curiosity, and also by more traditional research.


So they’re a blend of things, which might lead to a little bit of weirdness in their form. They’ll definitely be different from anything I’ve written before.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Isn’t being a poet the best possible vocation a person could have? I feel so lucky to have a life that is so infused with literature and other arts.


If anyone would like to read more of my work, a lot of it is linked on my website (, and I always respond to email messages sent through the contact form there.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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