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2018 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient Danielle Deulen

We’re thrilled to introduce the 2018 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients with individual features on our blog! Out-of-state judges spent several months evaluating the 400+ applications we received, and selected eighteen writers and two publishers to receive grants of $3,500 each. The 2019 OLF applications will be posted at the end of April, and the deadline to apply will be Monday, July 9, 2018.

2018 Oregon Literary Fellowship Recipient
Danielle Deulen 


Danielle Cadena Deulen is the author of two poetry collections, Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us (2015) and Lovely Asunder (2011); a poetry chapbook, American Libretto (2015); and a memoir, The Riots (2011). She has been the recipient of a University of Wisconsin Creative Writing Fellowship, three Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Awards and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. She teaches at Willamette University and is the poetry series editor of Acre Books.

Q&A with Literary Arts

What are your sources of inspiration?
Other people, primarily—especially other writers. I know that when I read something wonderful—especially by someone with a very different mind from my own—I’m getting a little bit of the spark that brought their work into being. There are writers I go back to over and over: Pablo Neruda, Dana Levin, James Baldwin, Dan Beachy-Quick, Lorca—to send me into a kind of writing reverie. But it’s also just other people in general: I love to hear the stories and dreams of my friends and family, and am an avid reader of news articles, blogs, both in the professional and amateur arenas.  I’m always interested in psychological and sociological studies—any scientific studies that try to explain the relationships between people, the dynamics of power, the way memory works, the way love can transform a person utterly. This is probably why I’m drawn more to cities than wilderness. The wildness of humanity is endlessly, intensely interesting to me.

How would you describe your creative process?
In my earlier writing life, when I had a lot of time, I could clear a whole day away to read and write and revise.  Now, working full-time and being the mother of two small children, my writing time is more precious, so when I sit down to write I have much less time—an hour, and maybe if I’m lucky, up to four hours—so I’ve found my process has changed. I need to “get into the mood” much more quickly, so I tend to grab a book by a poet I love, or listen to music (without lyrics), or look through museum catalogs at art.  Other writers are a huge inspiration to me, and if I immerse myself in art I love, I usually get a “triggering” line in my head, and begin there.  In the process of writing, I allow for every possibility that arrives in my head, often writing the same line over and over in several different ways until I get one that “sticks.”  I try as often as possible to get the first complete draft of a poem in that one sitting. Then I wait a while (at least a week: enough time to be a stranger to the poem) before picking up the poem again to see if there’s anything interesting there on a more distant reading. At that moment, I tend to discard about ¾ of what I write; the ¼ of the poems that make it through that first “editorial read” might take a day to edit, and might take a decade to edit, depending on the poem. In other words, I try to keep the generative and editorial processes as separate as possible and find both modes of thinking/reading/writing invigorating.  I get a little blue when I haven’t been able to write for a while.

What is most exciting about receiving a fellowship?
Beyond the honor of being among such wonderful writers, the most exciting part of the fellowship for me is having the opportunity to meet other writers in my region. Also, this kind of recognition at the beginning stages of a project really helps to carry that initial inspiration through to a finished collection. Being alone so much with my work, after a while my confidence tends to flag and I begin to wonder, WIt’s a tremendously unproductive thought that usually leads me to losing enthusiasm for my project and placing it on hold. At least now, with this big vote of confidence from Literary Arts, I can answer that nagging question:&nbspYes! Now get back to work!

What are you currently working on?
I have just this summer begun writing my third poetry manuscript, tentatively titled “Doubt” in order to draw thematic coherence around a radical loss of faith—not only spiritual faith, but faith in all conventional American institutions (capitalism, marriage, democracy, heteronormativity, etc. ), as well as a distrust of language itself.  In terms of form, I’m a writer who is interested in hybridity, and I hope to explore a variety of structures, both organic and received, in my next collection.  In this way, “Doubt” will be a continuation of my aesthetic trajectory thus far. To explain: in my most recent publication, Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us, I place traditional poems alongside lyric essays. These essays (and the book as a whole) take their titles from Michel de Montaigne, and like his work they juxtapose stories of personal experience with philosophy, contemporary political issues, and ancient knowledge, moving from point to point by associative leaps rather than classically arranged arguments.

While I’ve always been interested in ancient texts (many poems in my first collection, Lovely Asunder, were feminist revisions of Greek and Roman myths), my latest collection marks a departure in my previous concerns in that I have been moving away from utilizing personal experience and toward more pointed political content. Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Us raises questions about how Western philosophical and sociological structures perpetuate racism, sexism, and a culture of violence in America.  I hope to take on this interrogative stance in “Doubt” as well, but with more tonal and formal variety.

The collection will certainly be informed by the current American political landscape and its linguistic performances of “fake news” and outright lies.  However, I hope to avoid the potential didacticism of such concerns by embedding these larger sociopolitical ideas in the intimate voices of individual speakers—people whose personal lives have been disrupted by the failing of these structures. The late C.D. Wright, a poet whose work remains as an inspiration and bulwark for me, wrote, “The word misused distorts the world”—a truth I’ve thought of often in the past year.  I hope, of course, that the opposite might be true as well: that the word used well might set the world right.  It is, perhaps, a naïve hope, but one that bolsters me in times of despair.

What advice do you have for future applicants?
Just keep trying.  I’ve always thought that when it comes to landing awards like these, you take the top five percent of writers who have some talent and work hard, and then it’s just a roll of the dice: total chance.  Since you don’t know who will be on the judging panel, or what mood they’ll be in when they read your work, you have to just keep working hard, showing up for yourself, showing up for your writing, throwing the dice.  Eventually they’ll land in your favor.

Judge’s comments from fellowship judge Lillian Bertram:
“In “A Reasonable Doubt” Daniella Cadena Deulen writes that her students would love the statement “The sky has some clouds,” a statement “so vague no one could possibly see it.” She suspects her students would respond with “Make these even less specific, more universal.” As a poet and teacher, she would “have to explain, again, how/that word-universal-grinds/up the world in its metal mouth.” In this topical and contemporary work, life and death—“his death/live-streamed, his four year old daughter in the backseat” is not universal—it is site and body-specific. Cadena Deulen makes a case for rendering the specifics of experience, those that bring pleasure and that those that seek to oppress and harm. Through verdant language and urgent imagery, the poems make visible the conditions so vital for resistance.”

Excerpt from Lost Sapphics*

everything closed inside a bud.  a tender

 vine curls around rails. i unbutton the smoke

texture of your blouse, cool your skin with my tongue.

           see how unselfish


i am—how i disappear into a breeze

to please you?  all season, a stand of silver

lindens have watched us without interest while our

sudor soaked your bed.


i go home to my hallways, your scent strong on

            my hands, think of your eyes, the waters between

lost isles, those leaves like heavy, green-copper bells

latent with ringing.


when i run along the edge of the steep bluff

            trying make your touch ebb from my body

the ocean becomes a thin gleam inside me.

            an aortic thrum.


a wind’s complaint. starlings spreading rumors through

            the slender grass.  a susurration so soft

i hardly hear it.  cumulus clouds tremble

            toward the waning light.


your mouth wets mine. the earth is saturated

with secrets.  an iris rises near your door.

i envy its hue.  its vim.  how it grows two

ways without splitting.


*first published in Barrow Street, winter 2015/16 issue

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