Home > Artist & Writer Interviews > Darryl Price, A Poet

Darryl Price, A Poet

Poetic World of Darryl Price

VOICES: When did you start writing poetry, and why did you start?
DP: According to my mother I was around five years old. It was about some daisies growing outside my bedroom window where we lived in Kentucky. I handed it to her and just walked away. And that was that. I’d started down the path. And I never looked back. I had my first poem published when I was twelve in the local newspaper. It made me a celebrity of sorts among my school classmates.

Later in high school I wrote a poem for our senior yearbook that was printed on the first page. I thought it was cool because they had superimposed it over a picture of some girl blowing dandelion seeds into the wind. I was kind of embarrassed and happy about it at the same time. Girls used to tell me I talked funny because my vocabulary was so big. Because of this I started to talk in shorter sentences and use smaller words except when I wrote the poems. I always had a poetry journal going. In college I received a scholarship to edit the school’s literary magazine. I came into contact with many poets then like Anne Sexton and Ginsberg and Wendell Berry and Susan Fromberg Schaeffer and Lyn Lifshin. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Once we were in a dorm room together with a bunch of other hippie like fellow young men and young women and Allen and I were singing LIKE A ROLLING STONE by Bob Dylan with what I thought was tremendous serious musical enthusiasm. When the applause died down he turned to me and softly said through one side of his hand: that’s not how He plays it. I was somehow greatly taken aback by this crazy out of place remark. My reply: but that’s exactly how Darryl Price plays it. He gave me one of those goofy little elongated smiles from behind his thick little glasses that made his eyes look like marbles and we both let the whole thing drop. But I never forgot the moment.

I still have a postcard Anne Sexton sent me with a drawing of a flower on it. But being a poet was never easy. It alienated just as many people as it attracted. And it made guys with girlfriends very jealous. So I decided to try to write songs instead. I started out in folk groups and moved to rock as I went from acoustic to electric and back again. There are still tapes floating around. My daughter likes to listen to them. Nobody else gives a hoot that I know of.  


VOICES: You have quoted people as varied as Kafka, Seneca, Vonnegut, and The Beatles, and you clearly draw inspiration from the wisdom of others. Who are some people who inspire you most (writers or otherwise), and where else do you find inspiration?
DP: My biggest inspiration comes from nature. I’m also inspired by music as you have already stated. My love of the Beatles is legendary among my family members. But the truest inspiration for me is simple; wind, leaves, stars, meadows, lakes, boats, clouds, bees, flowers, basically anything that moves catches my poetic attention. And a certain kind of headspace that is hard to describe. Sometimes I’ll just be walking along and it will hit me; I can write right now. It’s a feeling I get.
Another great influence was Jennifer Bosveld, founder of Pudding House (the largest literary small press in America) for never wavering in her dedication to poets and poetry her entire life. She has inspired countless individuals from all walks of life to be creative and to express themselves through the art of poetry. She is a champion of the highest literary order.

This might sound funny but people are also an inspiration for me because I want to say something to them that will ease their pain at living. I want to pronounce words of comfort and healing that help us celebrate being here together. Although of course just like the next guy sometimes I’m just frustrated or sad and end up writing something about that — but that is not what I intend in my heart of hearts. There I want to simply add to the volume of beauty already in the world, give my yes, and back out quietly and go home and drink a beer.


Franz Kafka, The Beatles, Mother Nature
VOICES: When you are writing poetry, do you consider the form, the message, or the language most important?
DP: I consider the words most important, and not just what I am saying, but the how. I often go back and forth over certain words — to see if I can come up with something more colorful, more interesting, more original, more fun. Form for me is an art that I enjoy that’s different than the coming up with of words. I enjoy playing with it because it makes me happy to make something beautiful in a shape.

As for the message it’s pretty much the same. We are talking about the human condition or what the world looks like through that lens and searching for purpose. The one thing we can all agree on is that we are in this condition together — some suffering more than others I realize — but its beginning and end are the same.

VOICES: As you have noted, Wallace Stevens said, “Poetry is the supreme fiction.” Tell us a little more about the association between poetry and fiction for you, and also the idea of truth in fiction and poetry — another theme Stevens pondered.

DP: When I first read Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist I thought of it as a poem. I read it as a poem. It might be called something else by others but to me it was just a very very long poem. The best fiction for me always has passages in it that are pure poetry. How could it be otherwise? When you hit that mark of truth and beauty it passes over I think at least for me to the poetry side. Truth is tricky because it’s always changing but I think you know it when it hits you. When the right combination of words and thoughts and images come together to form a thing you can’t deny. To deny it would turn you into someone or something false. My triangle of poetry’s purpose — for me — is truth, beauty and goodwill.

VOICES: You’re from Kentucky originally. Does geography influence your poetry? Does your immediate environment?

DP: Absolutely. I grew up in the country. We had no choice but to interact with nature. Cooperation was key but also full of many wild surprises. When I was in college I would tell others about the many strange and wonderful plants and animals I had encountered in my childhood from snakes to chipmunks to opossums, and many of them shook their heads in disbelief. It wasn’t in their own vocabulary, their own experience. Many had never seen a luna moth underneath a porchlight — the real thing, not a picture in a book –something you could touch and hold and marvel over. And more animals too: foxes,frogs,wolves,horses,cows. All kinds of cats and dogs of course. Also we had many different- color lightning bugs rising up out of the fields and grasses at dusk (along with your regular regiment of little brown bats and the occasional owl of some sort). You had your regular yellows of course but also blues, greens, and reds. You heard me right. It was considered good luck to find one of these rare beauties.

One time I decided to give my Mom a unique gift. I spent the whole day picking butterflies off the flowers outside and putting them in the house. I considered it a kind of living art poem. They weren’t afraid of people back then. I must have been pretty little because I remember having to reach to get to the tops of the flowers. The butterflies could be plucked off as easy as pinching a blade of grass, only softer. When my Mom saw what I had done she went ballistic and told me to get those “insects” out of her house, pronto, although she did not use nice words to express her desire to have all the butterflies removed as quickly as possible by me. I made sure each and every one was returned to the great outdoors to fly their colors around for another day. Another mom. But I was crushed by my defeat to impress her with this dazzling gift.

I still try to remind myself to look up at the sky. So many people never do. They miss the stars, the moon, the clouds and rainbows. It gives you great perspective against the onslaught of the ego.

 James Joyce, Look to the Skies, Moth & Lamp
VOICES: You express vivid and powerful reflections from simple, everyday things. Does a simple thing evoke the reflection, or does it work the other way round? Or is the process completely different?
DP: It’s our world. If we are to find wonder then here’s as good a place to start as any and why not start with what we’ve got? If we can’t find the answers right where we are then all is lost. Of course I believe, as much as I like to travel, home is as good a place as any to experience the miracle of living out a poem or inspirational moment on the earth as a man.

VOICES: Finally, please tell us (if you’d like) about what you’re presently writing, or about your next project.

DP: I’m always working on a new poem. Always. My biggest fear is that I will end up like poor Emily Dickinson with a drawer full of poems that somebody discovers after I’m gone. That’s why even though I have a crippling fear of putting my stuff out there in the real world I still continue to do it.
The World, Emily Dickenson, Darryl Price
: Anything we’ve left out?
DP: Poetry is a voice and a way for that voice to carry. But it doesn’t do the work of living compassionately or beautifully or with appreciation for you. You have to give it your own mind and heart to truly receive its gifts, but it’s worth it.
VOICES: Thank you, Darryl Price, for sharing your poetry and your beautiful voice and vision with our readers here on VOICES.
  1. June 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Great interview! Thanks for posting it 🙂

    • deepee10
      June 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      You are fabulous!

  2. June 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Wow DP, fascinating responses. Great interview. peace…

    • deepee10
      June 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      And here’s the great thing, Linda. There is a bit of “peace” for me knowing that really interesting, involved and creative people like yourself are in the world right now doing amazing things all over the place! To me that’s what’s cool!

  3. deepee10
    June 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Michelle and Walt,I just wanted to thank you both for this wonderful opportunity to speak about my take on the life and meaning of my poetry.I’m also really glad I got to express myself in a positive manner with you in this interview. Because mostly I just want to, you know, hide myself away but I know that’s not the right thing to do.We’ve got to engage with the world. I’m so glad that you two saw a need in the world for Voices and were brave enough to make it happen. Voices is blossoming. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it.I’m honored.Best wishes for its continued success. Your poet pal, Darryl P.

  4. June 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I would have died a thousand sunlit deaths had my son filled my house with butterfly.

    He filled it laughter though, which is much the same.

    interview/innerview was lovely. C

  5. June 8, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Darryl — Really lovely to have your voice here! You honor us with your openness and your grace. Thanks for not hiding.

  6. June 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    This is a wonderfully entertaining interview. Darryl is a true artist.

  7. June 9, 2010 at 6:28 am

    this is a wonderful interview, darryl and VOICES. go well, poet pal!

  8. June 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

    A gift of words from a writer and person of such truth and humanness. I can’t count the number of times Darryl has brightened my day with a poem sent to me or just a few words as a reminder of a larger picture waiting with arms outstretched. My thanks to those involved in making this interview happen. Bravo.

  9. June 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Darryl is an amazing poet with a big heart. It is his heart that shines through all his work making it unique and special. This is a terrific interview. I feel I know DP so much better. We also share many poet faves, among them Wendell Berry and Susan Fromberg Shaffer

  10. June 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    So wonderful. The world has Darryl. This is just great.

  11. June 12, 2010 at 2:48 am

    What a wonderful way of learning more about you. What a wonderful and thoughtful interview, too. I’m jealous of the different color lightning bugs, growing up and spending most of my life in cities, I’ve only always got the plain yellow ones, if any!

    • deepee
      December 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

      A friend of mine who is a biologist tells me it has to do with concentrations or maybe build-ups of certain elements in the lighting pigments (he used much bigger words) that causes the deepening or darkening to other hues that sometimes but not often occurs in the body of the insect, also it might be something they ate. I was surprised he didn’t say it was something I ate!I’m just glad I was a witness to something so beautiful in nature.I’ve always kept it to the forefront of my memory.

  12. June 12, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, a postcard from Anne Sexton? Now I’m really jealous! Do you realize what a blessed life you have? Ah, so much of what you write in your poems confirms that you do indeed realize that. May the muse be with you!

  13. D'Arcy Fallon
    June 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Dear Mr. D: Thank you for this interview. I feel like I’ve gotten to peek inside your mind and learn about your creative process. So fabulous, this Q & A. You remind me ALL the time to look up at the sky.

  14. deepee10
    June 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Here’s a thank you gift to all of you wonderful people:

    YOU KNOW HOW I’M ALWAYS SAYING THAT POETRY IS FOR EVERYBODY AND CAN BE FOUND EVERYWHERE:”All of my life I have fought against the many tired and rigid definitions of poetry because they have become for me too restrictive and too predictable and too confining and too elitist. I know that poetry is for everybody. And I’m out to show it. It’s an ancient and timeless human invention that helps us give voice to all our dreams and hopes and fears and love. A key to unlock the promise within the human spirit itself. It’s a tool for art and art at its best has always fed the imagination which in turn feeds the doing of anything that gets done. It can be misused but its purpose is not to be misused.But to be one more interesting way for the truth and beauty of the human being’s soul to rise and be heard and known throughout the land we call the earth, our home.” OR, MY AUTHOR’S NOTE ON SUNFLOWER:”Being creative is fun. The trick is to make it fun for someone else. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard work or not a challenge. It’s always a challenge. What I want my poem to do is to light up and spin around and make a beautiful noise. I do my best, but I realize I can always do better. I’m delighted when the poem works for someone other than myself. And the cool thing is there’s always a bit of mystery about what makes it come to life in the first place. I love that.”Okay,wELL,folks, here’s a good example of that taken from a kind note I received from a fellow writer recently;the original first and then the poem I made out of it:”I like your poem. My rigidly linear thought process delights in the many layers of meaning implied in your words even as I do not entirely understand them: which is my usual reaction to poetry. I think about writing poetry myself but I do more thinking than writing. It’s the same with descriptive prose. I want to start using more poetically descriptive language in my stories. But it’s something I need to learn. The stories don’t come out of my head that way. You seem to have a natural facility with figurative language. Which is one of the things I like about your writing.” Now see below. He’s a poet already I think and a good one:


    I like your poem. My rigidly linear thought
    process delights in the

    many layers of meaning
    implied in your words even as I do

    not entirely understand them:
    which is my usual reaction to poetry. I

    think about writing poetry
    myself but I do

    more thinking than writing.
    It’s the same with descriptive prose. I want

    to start using more
    poetically descriptive language in my stories. But it’s

    something I need to
    learn. The stories don’t

    come out of my
    head that way. You seem to have a

    natural facility with figurative
    language. Which’s one thing I like about your writing.


  15. Kim Hutchinson
    July 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Wonderful interview, Darryl! It’s your desire to bring beauty to the world and your take on the human condition that makes you and your work so special. I’m so glad to see the man behind the work in this piece.

  16. July 7, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    This is a very comprehensive interview DP and I feel I can see what makes you tick and feel you across the oceans. Very open and, ‘poetic’ for want of a better word. And thank you… Jx

  17. August 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    A lovely interview, Darryl. Sorry it took me so long to get to it. 🙂 I love the story of the house full of butterflies. I would have swooned. And smiled. xo, H

  18. Walter
    August 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Darryl – Heather’s comment brought me back to this. We, and I myself, have to thank you again for this wonderful interview. Voices is fortunate to have you among our little group of contributors, and your participation, with your always informative comments, is just great! – Keep on keepin’ on – Walt

  19. deepee
    December 3, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Hello Voices nation–I’m just beginning work on a projected book with another poet, one of my very favorites but I’m not at liberty to say more,about the conversation of poetry. Below are two sections of my notes that I am sharing here with the readers of this particular interview as a thank you for your kindness and support. but please keep it under your hats. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us!And we are only at the beginning of this project:

    Part I.

    I find I am very interested in the magic that happens when a poem suddenly kicks into life and begins to take on the necessary organic shape of its own being. Sometimes this can be misdirected or misconstrued if one doesn’t pay very close attention to the sounds it is making. I find this bit to be highly interesting because it is a process that starts within and becomes without and yet if successful can then be used as a tool to go both in and out like a two-way mirror. But there’s danger in such an undertaking. One can get lost in the waterfalls until you wake up old (as in no longer willing to be the hero) and dispirited. It’s not wise to take too much from the fountain when it gives so generously to you unless you are willing to put back in. I’ve told various students of mine this for years but they don’t believe me. It takes your life, little by little. It consumes you as surely as by any fire, but if you have creative control you will get your art out of the experience.The sad part being that it remains outside of you then forevermore, but with the chance to reconnect with others so that that spirit, that act of imagination, that hope, those dreams and even that moment of consciousness are passed on. It’s a key to awakening.If you so choose.There is plenty of freedom involved in the art of making poetry, both in the reading and the construction.A lot of the best pieces have many doors and windows built right into them. Meaning you can go to great depths or stay at the surface and just enjoy the view as you please. Darryl Price

    Part II.

    Personally I like to put a little goodwill in many of my poems simply because I can,for example,
    “a most colorful just treatment for one
    and all used to defend the holy path
    of spirit with compassion’s brave kindness. ”
    and it’s as good a place as any for it to reside in this world when I’m not around. The world will always become exactly what we say it is at any given moment if we put enough soul power behind it.Granted this notion has to do with certain principles of physics and the long history of linguistics and the fact that it is organic by nature and therefor constantly changing,but let’s take the Beatles for a more modern example.They put certain words out there in a beautiful rocketship of music that took root in people’s imaginations all over the planet:”There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.” Well,okay.Say that enough times and suddenly you’ll start to see a bunch of doors and windows popping open right in mid-air in front of and all around you. That’s the power of those few words by John Lennon. They can take root inside of you and become what you are and how you believe and even empower you to take action–even when you are sad or feeling empty–they can fill you up again! This for me is poetry’s primary purpose– to provide the inspiration for fun, for one to think up a new possibility for oneself–and out of that comes an unbelievable freedom to live. Freedom of expression,freedom to dream,freedom to create, to be. It all leads to being given back an authentic voice. Even silence can be heard to speak directly to you if you understand the language.Darryl Price

  20. Walter
    December 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Sounds very intriguing, DP

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  1. June 12, 2010 at 4:05 am
  2. January 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm

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