MARIA S. PICONE, Managing Editor
A Conversation with Dacia Price
Tune in for discussion of: the benefit of an MFA; Dacia’s research and writing interests; future projects; and thoughts on writing authentic, vulnerable CNF.
MP: Hello everyone! I’m Maria S. Picone, the Managing Editor of Chestnut Review and the Prose Chapbook Editor, and I’m here with a very special guest, which is the 2022 winner of our Prose Chapbook Contest, Dacia Price. Dacia’s chapbook This is for the Naming, will be available in mid-May and we’re so, so excited to publish her work. Dacia, it’s really great to have you hear today and illuminate this awesome work that’s coming out in the world soon.
DP: Thank you so much for having me! I am so thrilled to have it out in the world and so excited to be here with you.
MP: This chapbook, to me, when I first encountered it, seemed like such a perfectly wedded hybrid of poetical forms and devices and lyricism with these small, CNF flash that are strung together or braided. How did the genesis of the project come to be? Have you been somebody who’s always worked in this hybrid form or was this something you developed?
DP: I think I’ve always aspired to work in hybrid form and the deeper I get into my craft and my practice, the more hybrid it becomes, sometimes unintentionally so. I might start out with something that is very straightforward CNF memoir-esque and then through the writing I find myself making more organic, hybrid choices. So I think organically I am a much more hybrid writer than even I anticipate for myself. But this collection actually came about as a result of a challenge of creating a flash piece of CNF every single week underneath a constraint, and the constraint for me was “the things that lurk in the shadows.” That was self-imposed, and I found myself writing all these sort of flash pieces that ended up being in conversation with the loss of my mother and cancer, and before I knew it I had created this sort of braided collection that was in conversation with itself.
MP: “Things that lurk in the shadows??” That’s so evocative and I can’t believe it took you to this place. So, how did you determine—there’s a couple devices that are used throughout such as one-paragraph sections with breaks, slashes that are straight, the bar ones, a use of dashes. How this you determine this punctuation and paragraph—stanzagraph—based formal language in which to have this medium?
DP: That’s such a good question and I don’t know if I have a specific answer on the methodology. Often, it falls down on instinct. For me, when I was putting it together, I kept imagining two voices, a duality within the self, so that there is a call and response, or a thought and a list. So the double lines that you see throughout this piece is an articulation of that two-voice element that I’m trying to navigate in my brain as I’m composing this. Same with the slashes—sometimes I’m using them as a visual representation, sometimes it’s breathwork, where I’m wanting my reader to take a big inhale or pause in their breath before they move on. It’s visual as well as bodily moments of pause or delineation.
MP: I’m taking notes over here! Another thing that struck me about this collection was your use of italics for dialogue or sometimes just straight—there’s no quotation marks; it’s not the usual convention of prose; it’s more of a poetic or experimental prose convention. Did that also get developed along with this project, where that felt natural?
DP: That one actually felt very intentional. As a reader, I find the typical dialogue markers to be a little boring, a little dull. Some of the writers I admire the most embed their dialogue within the prose itself. It allows the reader to speed through it all so there’s not really a difference because there often isn’t much of one—the dialogue you’re saying, hearing, experiencing is happening in tandem with your experience of that. I love the idea of embedding it and allowing my reader to differentiate between what’s being said and what’s being experienced.
MP: Wow, I love that! I think it really works, not only with the fact that readers have to do some of that work, but in this idea that it’s a two-voice collection talking about the self. It feels more external, like a rupturing, to use these dialogue tags and things. That really kept me reading this collection over and over again in the queue.
A few of your pieces are in hermit crab form, but all of them have an image or, almost a visual aid at the beginning, that introduces a mood, a theme. I love that because, from the title, you can either continue vibing off of that or introduce a different moment or feeling to the collection. When did this gain a visual art component?
DP: I don’t know if there was a moment. Each piece went through its own process from construction of lines and narrative and shifted into a visual representation. I’m a very visual person in the way that I interact with the world; I tend to experience things from that place of visual stimulus and so those are often my access points into narrative. I start from a place of scene, of noticing, and then get into the crux of it. Because it starts from this visual origin and goes into narrative, it’s a natural progression that it has that visual effect on the page, that we end from a place of visibility.
MP: We talk about voice, and it’s almost a cliché, but this collection had such a strong voice. I could feel the author saying, this is the work, this is what I want from it, this is what’s here, and, welcome. It felt like one of those magazine spreads with a beautifully curated home and perfect interior decoration—every aspect complemented each other aspect and that made it this rollercoaster ride to read.
I was so excited when I saw this for the first time, and I thought to myself, even if she never wants to do a single edit, let’s publish it! Of course, it went through a whole reading process, but the first time I read it I was sitting on my couch and my eyes kept getting bigger as I kept scrolling through every page.
DP: That makes my heart swell.
Dacia Price is an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University where she teaches composition and is associate editor for Passages North. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, The Forge Literary Magazine, Pacifica Literary Review, 45th Parallel, and others. Her writing has been nominated for Best of the Net in both 2019 and 2020 and in 2022 her flash essay “Here // Not Here” won the Roadrunner Nonfiction Prize.