Hungrily Poetic: An Interview with Barton Smock

George Salis: What has influenced you then and what influences you now?

Barton Smock: Then, would be misheard song lyrics.  And movie trailers.  Poets Jorie Graham, Rodney Jones, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Andrew Hudgins.  So many others.  Author Ken Sparling.  I don’t know if there is a now.  Maybe a ‘during’?  During: Poets Carl Phillips, James Tate, Kazim Ali, Traci Brimhall, Johannes Göransson, Jon Cone, C.D. Wright.  Poet Camonghne Felix.  And Franz Wright, always.

I can’t, of course, do what any of the above do.  Nor any of the below.  But if I’m on the path, I can be avoided.  And return in kind.  And I’m in this for the space.        

GS: Ghosts, owls, gods. What are the origins of these and other obsessions?

BS: Fear.  The need for repetition and for things to be doubled.  Being nightly awake as a teenager in a country house full of brothers while all there are pretending either to fight or to sleep.  The lack of detail in each; that hopeful slip given to devil.

GS: Are your dreams more or less interesting than your poetry, or do you do dream in poetry?

BS: I often have desperately real dreams where people I know are either being mean for no reason or are being themselves harmed.  I usually wake up sad or indignant.  I blame coffee and horror movies and worrying at the oddest times that my kids will die.  So I think that what gets me to the dream is hungrily poetic, but the dream itself is mostly bones.       

GS: Is brevity the soul of wit?

BS: Ha, well, I guess I’d have to say yes, given the later writing I’ve done…but also I’m not sure wit lasts long enough to warrant a soul.  Also not so sure brevity ever gets anywhere in time.  Does it bring, it might, an oxygen mask to a few dolls. 

GS: What makes a poem a poem?

BS: I’ve said this before, I think, and I also think I’m less right about it, now…but I’d say a great avoidance or a sudden thing, or both.  But that’s more what makes my poem a poem.  For others, to me…I mean, I always come to worship…but if I can leave believing, now that’s the glow, the ash, the keeper, the remnant.  The made.   

GS: What poem are you unable to write?

BS: Charles Simic’s “The Clocks of the Dead.”  Not it, nor something similar.  Might be why I’m still here.

GS: What is the place or purpose of poetry in a country ruled by illiterati?

BS: I think it should be obsessed, possessed, and alone.  Also, I believe it’s more a question of who readers place poetry with.  I mean, I’m all for preaching to the converted might we make a church of the embodied, and I don’t mind saying my small things about death and food, but the story of my voice has been recited by countless narrators and christ they all look like me.           

GS: If you had the chance to read only a single poem of yours to the world, which would you choose and why?

BS: This short one I wrote called “dear you.”  Because the world is never quiet for very long, because anxiety, because pressure.

‘dear you’

I am at a word
for loss

Read Smock’s poetry in The Collidescope here.

Barton Smock has two new, privately-published collections for sale:

MOTHERLINGS, 52 pages, 4.00
poems, June 2019

Animal Masks On the Floor of the Ocean, 114 pages, 10.00
poems, June 2019

They can be purchased via Paypal (

Barton Smock lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and four children. He is the author of the chapbook infant*cinema (Dink Press, 2016) and of the full-length Ghost Arson (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2018). He writes often at, and is the editor of {isacoustic*}.

George Salis is the award-winning author of Sea Above, Sun Below (forthcoming from River Boat Books, 2019). His fiction is featured in The DarkBlack DandyZizzle Literary MagazineThe Sunlight Press, Unreal Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in IsacousticAtticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on FacebookGoodreads, and at

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