The Questionnaire: Ange Mlinko

March 15, 2013   •   By The Questionnaire

How do you get up in the morning?

Trying to remember my dreams, rather than my to-do list.

Do you succumb to nostalgia?

Now less than ever. Either because moving around so much has made me detached, or because being a poet is a perpetual hedge. What's around the corner could be my next poem. The future is always interesting.

Do you write long and cut, or short and backfill?

This sounds like a question about hair, not poetry. As for my hair, I always go long and cut.


How do you feel about your Wikipedia entry?

I'm not sure it's useful or necessary.


Lunch with any three people who ever lived; who do you invite?

Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Philip Sidney, and Hilary Mantel.

Best piece of advice you ever received?

"Never read the comments section."

Disciplined or hot dog?

I don't really understand this question, but I'll hazard a guess. Both?

Have you ever been defeated by a genre?

Every time I try to write something in the key of memoir, I'm overcome with mortification.

Which classic author would you like to see kicked out of the pantheon?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Are you okay with blood?

Are you asking me if I would be competent in an emergency, or whether I believe in vengeance?

Who is your imagined audience?

I'm grateful for my real audience, so I won't speculate about an imaginary one.

What country would you want to be exiled in?

The Egypt of The Alexandria Quartet.

What's your favorite negative emotion?


Is your study neat, or, like John Muir's, is your desk and floor covered in "lateral, medial, and terminal moraines"?

Moraines of books and mailers and coffee cups, coffee filters, an old can of paint, crusted paintbrush, dog bowl...

What is your go-to shoe?

Whatever shoes rhyme with flâneuse.

What's your poison?


What's your problem?


Title of the book you're probably never going to write, but would kind of like to get around to?

Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic Poetry: Translations. I'm trying to brush up on Russian, but Arabic and Hungarian would take a decade out of my life, respectively. Yet what worlds are contained there — what promise in the words Russian poetry, Arabic poetry, Hungarian poetry. Potential thrills.

What are you so afraid of?

That my children will be the third generation in my family that doesn't particularly belong anywhere.

How long can you go without putting paw to keyboard?

Not long!

Do you require a high thread count?

Mmm. It helps.

Who reads you first?

An editor.

Sexy and dangerous, or brilliant and kind?

One answer at twenty, another answer at forty.

What character or story haunts you?

For many years I retained the memory of reading Chekhov's "The Black Monk" at the age of twelve. The key image, that of the gaunt monk skimming at great speed across the landscape, stayed with me; when I reread the story decades later I realized it was about the proximity of madness and ambition. I guess that's why I'm a poet, not a story writer: I remember only the haunting image.

Does plot matter?


Does age matter?


Do you prefer to write standing, or must you lie prone in a field of dandelions with a steno pad and a good pen? Or what?

I prefer to write when the poem is ready, full stop. When the idea has ripened and the research has been done and the words are pecking at me like grackles.

Is there a literary community?

There are many literary communities. But they shouldn't be so idealized. They can enforce conformity and right-thinking as much as any other kinship group. I'd rather have a readership than a community.

What's the question or questions we should have asked, had we known?

Should websites stop demanding author photos? Answer: Yes, they should stop demanding author photos. And then badly cropping them.