Silence and Stillness: The World at Night Welcomes Free-Writing Flow

An Interview With Featured Poet Ali Gipson

by Jonah Meyer, Poetry Editor


With my poetry, I strive to examine myself in terms of whom I have been, currently am, and will be, and how these versions of myself are influenced and impacted by the natural world around me.


Why do you write poetry?

In one of my journals, there’s a page that states: Poetry is how I react to the world around me. I’m not sure when I wrote that sentence, but I think it really encapsulates my reason for writing poetry. It helps me to understand myself, work through emotions and situations, and communicate my feelings with others.

How, where, when do you write? Do you tend to have a routine? What is the writing process like, for you personally?

I tend to write at night; for some reason, I’ve always felt more creative at night. I think it has to do with the silence and the stillness of the world. When I first sit down to write a poem, I just let myself write for 20 minutes. One of my professors in college introduced me to the Pomodoro technique, which has been immensely helpful because I get distracted easily. After finishing my free-write and taking a small break, I go through and highlight specific phrases and words that stand out to me – ideas I want to elaborate on, where I think a phrase might fit in the poem, etc.

From there, it’s drafting the initial poem, followed by rounds of revisions, which includes tinkering with line breaks and punctuation, moving lines and/or stanzas around, and incorporating poetic devices (often alliteration and repetition). It takes me anywhere from a few days to months (even years) to finish a poem. Figuring out a title always comes last, and for me, it’s the hardest part.

What are you currently reading? Anything interesting?

In terms of poetry, I’ve been reading War of the Foxes by Richard Siken. This is the first collection I’ve read by him, and I’m only about a quarter of the way through, but I’ve been interested by how he draws upon his experience as an artist into his poetry.

I’m also listening to the audiobook of We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizel. It’s the second book in the Sands of Arawiya duology. I’ve been captivated by the world-building in these books. Fantasy has always been my favorite genre to read.

Who and what life-experiences would you say have most inspired and shaped your creative work?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer. However, I think my younger self would be surprised to learn the focus is on poetry, not novels (as of now, anyways). I always considered poetry to be intimidating, but that changed when I took two poetry courses in college. They taught me helpful techniques and provided me with a lot of drafts and ideas. This introduction to poetry also helped me figure out my Honors College capstone project: a chapbook of 25 ekphrastic poems, of which I was the writer of the poems and the photographer of the images that inspired them.

During lockdown in March 2020, I really began to experiment with my poetry. This was the first time I approached my poetry outside of an academic setting. I revised some of the drafts – and finished poems from the capstone project – I had written during college and wrote new pieces, too, trying to figure out my voice and style.

What are some of the key themes, concepts you find yourself drawn to when it comes to composing poetry? What, in your opinion and experience, makes for great poem-material?

One of the key themes across my poems is nature, specifically how humans interact with nature. Sometimes I draw from personal experiences (like with “Orphaned”), but other times I’m inspired by the nature-human relationship as a whole. More recently, I’ve written a few pieces inspired by and about nature itself that lack the human element.

As for what makes great material for poems, to me, it’s something that evokes strong emotions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be based on a personal experience, but you as the poet should feel compelled to tell others about it.

Who are some of your favorite poets (past or present)? What is it specifically about their work which appeals to you?

Mary Oliver is definitely my favorite poet. She was a master at delving into the relationship between humans and nature, while keeping the focus primarily on the latter. Each time I re-read her poems I find something new to appreciate.

e.e. cummings also is one of my biggest influences. The first poem I read by him was “[anyone lived in a pretty how town],” and I remember being in awe of his style and use of repetition throughout the poem. I was reading his collection when I really began to experiment with my own poems during lockdown.

Two current/living poets whose work I adore are Ada Limón and Ocean Vuong. I had the opportunity to see Vuong on his book tour a few years ago.

Please share three interesting facts about yourself, which have absolutely nothing to do with writing or poetry.

  1. I have 10 tattoos.
  2. My go-to coffee order is a caramel latte.
  3. My favorite holiday is Halloween.

If you could choose one line from any one poet which you feel reflects your own appreciation of the craft—or of life, writ large—what would it be?

“I have not really, not yet, talked with otter / about his life.”

This is the opening line to Oliver’s “Almost a Conversation.” I appreciate the casual, conversational tone, and how Oliver introduces the reader to the idea of speaking with animals and trying to understand their lives and world. By saying “not yet,” Oliver implies this idea that talking with otter could happen at some point, and the reader is invited to imagine how that conversation might go. With just one line, Oliver has already given the reader so much to think about, and, to me, it invites one to keep reading.

Please share with us some additional activities, pursuits, interests which occupy your time and energies, outside of writing?

As a true Pittsburgher, I love cheering on the city’s sports teams, especially the Penguins. I enjoy trying new restaurants and coffee shops as well as frequenting indie bookstores like the White Whale. Some other hobbies include building jigsaw puzzles, spending time with family and friends, attending rock/alternative concerts, and going for walks in nature.

What are you currently working on? Any exciting up-and-coming projects, publications, poetic endeavors? And where can readers find more of your work?

My main project right now is putting together a manuscript. I have all the poems I want to include, so now the challenge is figuring out the order, the title, and all of the technicalities. My goal is to have it completed by the end of the 2023 so I can submit it to contests and presses early next year. In other news, I’m also happy to announce that two of my poems were recently accepted by Door Is A Jar and will be published in spring 2024.

My website,, features a list of my past publications and a few links to journals’ websites.

A summation of that which you endeavor to achieve with your poetry – in precisely one sentence?

With my poetry, I strive to examine myself in terms of whom I have been, currently am, and will be, and how these versions of myself are influenced and impacted by the natural world around me.

By Jonah Meyer

Jonah Meyer is poetry editor of Mud Season Review. A poet, writer, and editor in North Carolina, he holds a Bachelors in Cultural Anthropology, Masters in Library & Information Systems, and has backgrounds in print journalism and public librarianship. Jonah’s creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in O.Henry Magazine, Ampersand Literary Journal, Carolina Peacemaker, The Writing Disorder, Bluebird Word, Boats Against the Current, American Crises, JAB Fiction and Poetry, Bohemian Review, Found Spaces, The Mountaineer, Sledgehammer Lit, Oddball Magazine, Cold Lake Anthology, Beaver Magazine, Press Pause, Digging Press, Raise the Voices, Within and Without Magazine, and elsewhere. Jonah plays guitar, banjo, and piano, shoots street photography, and studies neuroscience and Buddhist philosophy. He serves as Poetry Editor for Twin Bird Review, Assistant Poetry Editor for Random Sample Review, Staff Writer with The US Review of Books, Copy Editor with Under the Gum Tree, Poetry Book Reviewer for Heavy Feather, and Poetry Reader for Okay Donkey. Jonah firmly believes everyone has a story worth telling.