Nocturne: An Interview with Jodie Hollander

Each year our Pavilion Poetry students assist with the publishing of our new collections, dedicating their time to an individual poet. In this interview, Emily Woolf talks with author Jodie Hollander about her new collection, Nocturne (Pavilion Poetry, 2023)you can also listen to Jodie’s responses below.

There is a link between music and memory throughout Nocturne. Does music evoke particular childhood memories for you as an author? How does classical music inspire this collection as a whole?

I grew up in a family of professional classical musicians. My mother was a cellist, my father a pianist, my sister a soprano, and my brother a violinist. So music was really everywhere in my childhood. The Bach Double Concerto was oftentimes the subject that we would talk about at the dinner table. And while I did sort of feel like the black sheep of my family, I found it to be really inspiring subject matter for my poems.

I think in another capacity growing up around so much classical music helped me to develop an affinity for sound and helped me as I was learning how to write in metre and form and allowed me to really see the beauty in poetic music similar to the way a classical musician might hear the beauty in their music.

The majority of poems in the beginning of the collection are written from a younger child’s perspective and capture a sense of innocence. Why have you chosen to write from this perspective, especially at the beginning of the collection?

Well, I thought it was important to reflect a younger self in the face of the difficult circumstances that are portrayed in this collection. But as the book progresses, so does the voice of the narrator.

There are multiple references to dreaming throughout the collection. Do you think they represent an element of escapism, given that the collection is primarily centred around tumultuous family relations? What do dreams represent to you?

Well, I’ve always found dreams to be fertile ground for my poetry. But rather than it being an escape, I find the dreams reflect the subconscious mind working through some of the central issues in the collection. For example, ‘Notes on Burning’ depicts the narrator burning to death in a dream, ridding herself of the old and starting a new. This theme of rebirth is a thread throughout this book, and I found it to be most powerfully represented in dream symbolism.

There are references to the beauty of nature throughout the collection and poems such as ‘Lilacs’, ‘Prairie Smoke’, and ‘Bishops Beach’. As a poet do you find certain natural landscapes particularly peaceful? Why have you chosen to feature them in your poetry?

I’ve been really fortunate to have lived in so many beautiful places, and I guess I find nature to be a place of refuge. Being in natural settings allows us a break from the buzz and noise of our contemporary lives – it helps us to access a place of truth, essential to poetry. That’s why you’ll find many of my poems set in the natural world.

The collection both starts and ends in Key West, Florida. What is your attachment to this location – why is it so important to you?

I was fortunate to be the poet-in-residence in Key West on two different occasions and I guess, in addition to finding inspiration on the island from Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and other writers that lived there, I also found Key West to be kind of a magical place. People ride bikes everywhere; the houses are colourful; mangoes and coconuts are rolling around; there are giant palm trees. In a way it sort of feels like being inside a kid’s picture book, which provides a nice contrast to the long winters I grew up with in Wisconsin. I don’t know, I guess there’s just something about this island that’s really stayed with me.

Jodie Hollander’s work has appeared in journals such as The Poetry Review, The Yale Review, PN Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry London, The Hudson Review, The Dark Horse, The New Criterion, The Rialto, Verse Daily, The Best Australian Poems of 2011, and The Best Australian Poems of 2015.

Her debut full-length collection, My Dark Horses, was published with Pavilion Poetry. She currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Follow @PavilionPoetry on Twitter and visit our website to pre-order Nocturne.

Listen to Jodie Hollander read from Nocturne

‘Dream #1’


‘The Potato Plants’

Pavilion Poetry Launch 2023

Join us in Liverpool on Tuesday 25th April to launch our new collections from Jodie Hollander, Katie Farris and Emily Hasler with the Centre for New and International Writing. Register for the free event here.

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