Monday, 14 October 2019

Julia Bloch : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m not sure a poem is ever finished, in terms of the writing/revision process; I think it’s more like hitting a pause button. I push a poem as far as it will go, or maybe as far as it will let me go, and at a certain point either have to halt changes or move on to the next piece. Some poems might be finished but behave more like archives for other poems; they don’t all necessarily wind up getting published. One of the reasons I love writing about long poems, as a scholar, is that they help us think about the ways in which poems refuse being finished—they might interlock with others, or double back on themselves, or pause and begin again, or play with fragment and interruption.

Valerie Witte : part five

Why is poetry important? 

I’ve never considered myself a political writer, but faced with the deep distress caused by the current political administration, I now recognize the importance of poetry more than over. In an era defined by accusations of “fake news” and constant mendacity of the president and his cronies, it’s especially critical to acknowledge that language truly matters, to call things by their true names, as Rebecca Solnit would say. Many, many times over the past three years, when something disturbing has happened in our country or elsewhere, I’ve been convinced that the only way to counter such forces is through art. Poetry is a way to express what is otherwise impossible to articulate, to find common ground and to spark the imagination. It often feels like our only hope.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Albert Dumont : part one

Albert Dumont is an activist, a volunteer and a poet who has published 6 books of poetry and short stories. In recognition for his work as an activist and volunteer on his ancestral lands (Ottawa and Region) Albert was presented with a Human Rights Award by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in 2010. In January 2017 he received the DreamKEEPERS Citation for Outstanding Leadership. Albert has dedicated his life to promoting Aboriginal spirituality and healing and to protecting the rights of Aboriginal Peoples particularly those as they affect the young.

How did you first engage with poetry?

Many years ago I found myself recovering from a bad accident which came very close to taking my life. I was in severe dire straits because the accident left me unable to work at my trade as a bricklayer. At that time, I was celebrating 5 years of sobriety. I had no money to buy a meal in a restaurant for my two daughters, so I decided to write a poem to honour my life as a dad, rejecting alcohol. My girls took the poem to school to show their teacher and the next thing I know, the local newspaper published “The Path my Children Travel”.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Syd Lazarus : part one

Syd Lazarus believes in order to best understand them, you should know they once cried over an episode of Rugrats. Being Disabled, Jewish, non-binary, queer, and a Pisces is an important element of their work. They have been published in print and online publications such as Shameless Mag, Trash Magazine, Lunch Ticket, and Bad Dog Review. They have had the privilege of attending the Banff Centre’s Spring Writing Retreat 2019 and are super thrilled have their first chapbook How to Lose Friends Without Really Trying out with Frog Hollow Press. Feel free to follow them on instagram @lazaruswrites, they are always happy to make new friends.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Usually I know a poem is done when I can’t look at it anymore, other times, it’s when I get this pleasant punch in my gut when I finish looking it over--the flow feels easy, nothing irritates me about it, and it makes me excited to share it. I especially know that feeling is correct when I leave it alone for a month, look back at it, and still get that excitement about the piece.

There are also times when I look at a poem and think: Well, this is a poem, and it will either be published or it won’t be, regardless of whether I think it’s finished. In fact, some poems may be considered “finished” for a moment, only to find things worthy of change later.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

What’s interesting about this question is that I started writing poetry again around the same time I began studying piano again, so the two seem to be twinned in my mind; this has come out in my work, as well. My poetry coach/mentor is also a pianist, and she has noted several times that my poems are naturally musical and lyrical. And poetry and music are innately related/mutually beneficial: music has beats and sounds and tones and timbres and rhythms, as does poetry, especially when read aloud. So while music is beyond language, language has a music and finding it is important.

I also think that when one studies as much poetry as I have, one begins to absorb its cadences (a musical term as well) that seep into language. So while I have had no formal writing training save for one creative writing course in college, all the reading I’ve done has helped infuse the tradition of lyric poetry into my own work.

Another way I think music and poetry work together in my work is through my increasing attention to sounds and the senses. Poetry, often, can be visual—especially as we tend to encounter it on the page and screen. Yes, we can read it aloud and can hear it, but most of the time, I’d guess, we read it. Given that, I think it’s important to not only listen to poetry, but also for poets to pay attention to different senses than the visual. Lately, I have been trying to incorporate sounds into my lines, both in terms of the words themselves (e.g. assonance, alliteration, etc.) and in terms of sounds I’m portraying.

Finally, there may be a genetic component: I don’t have a musical family at all, except for my great-grandmother on my mother’s side (her grandmother Louise) who, I’m told, played piano by ear. She could hear a song or a jingle and play it, despite having no formal training. I’ve been told I have a good ear for music (by my piano teacher) and for lyrics/words/sounds (by my coach), so I’d like to think that comes from her.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Michael Ruby : part one

Michael Ruby is a poet and journalist who lives in Brooklyn. He is the author of seven full-length poetry collections, including At an Intersection (Alef, 2002), Window on the City (BlazeVOX, 2006), The Edge of the Underworld (BlazeVOX, 2010), Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), American Songbook (Ugly Duckling, 2013), ebook Close Your Eyes (Argotist Online, 2018) and The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019). His trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes ebooks Fleeting Memories (Ugly Duckling, 2008) and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep (Argotist, 2011). He is also the author of the echapbooks First Names (Mudlark, 2004) and Titles & First Lines (Mudlark, 2018), and five chapbooks with the Dusie Kollektiv (2011-2019), including The Star-Spangled Banner. He co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s collected early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015), and worked with Mayer and Lewis Warsh on other Station Hill books. Recordings of three of Ruby’s books, two performances and a 2004 interview are available at PennSound. A graduate of Harvard College and Brown University’s writing program, he works as an editor of U.S. news and political articles at The Wall Street Journal.

Photo credit: Susan Brennan.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was little, I had a much older half-sister through my father’s first marriage, Kathryn Ruby, who wrote poetry. She was the editor of the high-school literary magazine and the girlfriend of New York School poet prodigy David Shapiro from the nearby Weequahic section of Newark, the setting of many Philip Roth novels. Due to family conflicts, I had no contact with Kathy for many years starting when I was in 7th grade. But I heard all about the anthology she co-edited, We Become New: Poems by Contemporary American Women, published by Bantam five years later. It was one of the first books of contemporary poetry I ever read. Although I had no contact with her when I started writing poetry as a high-school senior, my big sister certainly sanctioned it as an activity for me.

When I was young, I also had an older half-brother through my mother’s first marriage, David Herfort, who wrote poetry. During February vacation in 9th grade, I visited David at college in Ann Arbor and read some of his poems and a prose poem called “The Virgin Land.” That was the first time I ever read any contemporary poetry, any poetry at all, except Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline” in class the year before. We didn’t study much poetry in South Orange and Maplewood, N.J., which otherwise had a great education system and produced such poets as C.K. Williams, Michael Lally, Paul Auster and my two siblings in the decades before me. Just nine months after I visited David in Ann Arbor, he was killed in a car accident in Spain. I didn’t read many of his poems until I was in my 30s and 40s, when I edited his Washtenaw County Jail and Other Writings for publication, and thus they had little effect on my first decades as a poet. But my dead brother has certainly played an immense role in my psychic and poetic life. Strangely, the piece of writing I remembered, “The Virgin Land,” was lost for 40 years, but finally reappeared in 2012. Writings of his have kept turning up all through the years—and there are more to come, if I’m not mistaken.

In a family with three out of eight children writing poetry, you might think our parents would be interested in poetry. But history and politics were everything to my parents, dominating all family discussions.

Tanis MacDonald : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Short answer: when all the elements work together in the best ways that I can think of.

Longer answer: beginner writers ask me this all the time, and I think they ask because I talk so much about drafting and revising, and they are wondering when they can just stop working on a single poem. Where’s the finish line? 

It’s a good question, and one without an easy answer; it’ll be different for each poem and each writer. But since “finished” is so hard to define, I think it’s a good idea for a writer to pretend to themselves, temporarily, that the poem is finished and walk away for a day, a month, whatever. I find that if I do this and return to the poem, the meaning of “finished” has often shifted significantly.    

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Razielle Aigen : part two

How does your work first enter the world?

Hard to say. I really don’t know where poems come a from…the oracle speaks and I listen…

Alex Leslie : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was a voracious reader growing up, but in terms of poetry that engaged me as an aspiring writer, I remember seeking out Anne Michaels’ poetry in high school – books like Miner’s Pond – because we read Fugitive Pieces in class and that book rocked my little world. I kind of spread out from there, reading contemporary poetry, but this very lyrical fiction writer was really the thing that opened the door for me.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Margo LaPierre : part one

Margo LaPierre is a queer, neurodivergent Canadian poet and fiction editor. Her debut collection of poetry, Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes, was published by Guernica Editions. She is a poetry selector for Bywords Magazine and Membership Chair of the Editors Canada Ottawa-Gatineau branch.

What are you working on?

Two things at the moment: a new poetry collection and a novel, both works-in-progress. The poetry collection is strictly structured in form, but its content is wild and energetic. I was inspired by chaos magic and performative utterances, which change reality while describing it. I have bipolar disorder, which makes routine a challenge for me, so to write a collection with specific formulaic rules feels like growth, and it’s surprisingly fun. The novel is set in Toronto thirty years from now and follows the formation of a young family who navigate mental illness and the world of sex trafficking to create a loving home for their new daughter and for each other. Aside from writing, I’m also a full-time freelance editor.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Julia Bloch : part one

Julia Bloch grew up in Northern California and Sydney, Australia. She earned a BA in political philosophy from Carleton College, an MFA in creative writing from Mills College, and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Letters to Kelly Clarkson, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and Valley Fever. She is the recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award from the San Francisco Foundation, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and other honors. She directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania and is an editor at Jacket2. She lives in Philadelphia.

Photo credit: Ryan Collerd.

What are you working on?

I am finalizing the pages of my third book, The Sacramento of Desire, which is being published in 2020. The book is about fertility, desire, and the queer experience of assisted reproduction; Allison Cobb calls it an “horological epic quest poem” and Sawako Nakayasu calls it “an urgent call.” I am also writing a new book, which will be a hybrid critical-creative work that includes poetry, essay, and memoir. It also deals with the political and social textures of assisted reproduction and queer kinship, but includes deep dives into queer theory and climate change grief.

Valerie Witte : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

In Forces of Imagination, Barbara Guest opened my eyes to the possibilities of analyzing writing and art, illustrating how theory (never an interest of mine) could be accessible, beautiful; how a discussion of art can itself be art. (I later became a member of Kelsey Street, which published Forces.) Charles Olson’s essay “Projective Verse” introduced me to his theory of field poetics, giving me permission to view the page as a space where a poet can feel free to create a form that is “an extension of content.” From Gertrude Stein, I learned the possibilities of repetition, and of bypassing the rules of punctuation and grammar to achieve something particular in a poem. At Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, I took a class called “Martian Poetics,” inspired by Jack Spicer’s Vancouver lectures—poetics of the strange. My chapbook It’s been a long time since I’ve dreamed of someone involves a speaker communicating with an alien of sorts and features communication via radio signals—all references to these lectures. I encountered most of these poetic icons at the University of San Francisco—that is where my writing completely changed, essentially from being somewhat traditional to being experimental in form and content—a shift resulting from encountering these poets and others in the program, as well as exposure to the work of my classmates and teachers.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

A.H. Lewis : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is the purest expression of self that exists with written words. It is art and honesty and freedom and sound and light and everything in between. Its boundlessness and inclusivity invite people to bleed themselves dry of all that plagues them and offers them a hug at the end. Whether you’re reading poetry, writing it, or both, you’re drawn into the arms of every person who has ever felt anything and you’re reminded that as long as poetry exists, you’re never alone.  Poetry is the ubiquitous articulation of the human condition and there is no element on earth more unifying than that.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

When I was in high school and college, I loved T.S. Eliot (and I still do; poetry often begins and ends in Eliot for me). I admired his intellectualism, his blending of references and allusions, his lovely lines, etc. He still has the power to move me unlike almost any other. Before I encountered “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets”, I didn’t know one could be so moved by experience and faith and, in many cases, the mind.  And then came e.e. cummings whose beautiful abstractions continue to haunt me. But since then I’ve turned to other poets for various other reasons; W.S. Merwin is a recent influence—his sheer beauty and ability to say something so simply but reach toward the divine is incredible. I also love how he crafts his lines; he eschews punctuation and lets the line/ line breaks do a lot of the work. And he’s a virtuoso of rhythm. Language, in Merwin’s hands, is born anew.
Rilke’s simplicity is increasingly becoming an influence, too, and I’m intrigued by the ways that he blends spirituality with simple diction. His poems are often short, too and this is something I want to work on.

But I also love and admire Gwendolyn Brooks, Eavan Boland, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. They render women’s experiences in everyday vernacular (though Millay and Brooks often turn to sonnets/rhyme/forms) that is so powerful and important. There’s something about the way these women blend memory and the everyday, the mundane and the ethereal, that invites me to visit their work again and again.  And lately I have turned to Jorie Graham for the way she manages to walk the precarious line between abstract and concrete, and yet somehow remains so accessible.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Tanis MacDonald : part one

Tanis MacDonald is the author of several books of poetry and essays, including Out of Line: Daring to Be an Artist Outside the Big City. She is the co-editor of GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for Our Times (2018) and the editor of Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt (2006). Her book, The Daughter’s Way, was a finalist for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian Literary Criticism. Her latest book is Mobile (Book*hug, 2019). She is the winner of the Bliss Carman Prize (2003) and the Mayor’s Poetry City Prize for Waterloo (2012). She has taught at the Sage Hill Writing Experience, and in 2017 won the Robert Kroetsch Teaching Award from the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs. Originally from Winnipeg, she teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

Photo credit: John Roscoe.

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I wouldn’t have figured out a writing practice if it hadn’t been for my first writers’ group in Toronto in the 1990s. I was part of that group for about five years, and we met in person every two or three weeks to read each other’s work; that group was really important to me. I know that this won’t always be possible at all times and places, but I wish for all writers an experience – even just a brief one – in which they can be part of a group of supportive peers who are generous and smart and take care of each other. There’s nothing else like it. And for a long time when I was an emerging writer, I wouldn’t send anything out to a journal that hadn’t been workshopped with these poet friends. But then life invaded: I moved and moved again, to three different cities in a decade, and all those moves pretty much upset the system of small-group writer support I had refined up until then. Online connection is good, but I’m still pretty envious of folks who have writer friends who they can see all the time. I like using Skype (or even an actual telephone call – so old-school!) to stay in touch with writer friends who live far from me.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Razielle Aigen : part one

Razielle Aigen is a Montreal-born writer and artist. She is the author of the forthcoming chapbook, Light Waves The Leaves (above/ground press 2020). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Entropy, Deluge, Contemporary Verse 2, Bad Dog Review, Dovecote Magazine, Half a Grapefruit, Sewer Lid, Fresh Voices, Five:2:One, California Quarterly, and elsewhere. Razielle holds a B.A. in History and Contemporary Studies from Dalhousie/King’s University, and is an alumna of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University.

More of Razielle’s work can be found at and through Twitter @ohthepoetry.

How did you first engage with poetry?

Despite my challenge with setting things in chrono-logical order, I’d say my first poetic engagements started early …probably around age nine, when I first wrapped my head around the phrase, “Today’s tomorrow’s yesterday.” This totally blew my nine year old mind, likely creating channels for an appreciation of the circularity of language, carving out neural pathways for my mind to later appreciate poets such as Gertrude Stein and others whose language is enjoyably disorienting. This moment, or at least this crystallized memory of a moment, shaped the way I relate to the bendy nature of time. In that intuitive, nine year old quantum understanding, I came to realize that we are not necessarily linear beings in that “future-effects-the-past kind of way” — which is, I think, an essential component of the poetic mind’s ability to create disjointed imagistic and temporal mashups, that, despite all rationality, somehow, cohere at some level of intelligibility.

Then, as a teen, I’d say my sense of the poetic was awakened by Bjork. As her deafest fan, it was her lyrical surrealism that shaped the way I later encountered and embraced Breton and the Surrealists….I still think that surrealism is probably my signpost for the magic that signals those other worldly places we are transported to and by the poetry.

Alex Leslie : part one

Alex Leslie has published two collections of poetry, Vancouver for Beginners, out from Book*hug this October, and The things I heard about you, shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch award for innovative poetry. Alex has also published two collections of short stories, We All Need to Eat (Book*hug) shortlisted for the 2019 BC Book Prize for fiction and named a Top 10 book of 2018 by NOW Magazine, and People Who Disappear (Freehand) shortlisted for a Lambda Award for debut fiction.

Photo credit: Johnny Alam.

What are you working on?

Right now I’m working on my first novel.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Each strong poem creates a pocket universe you can travel to for a while. I can handle this world more resourcefully when I don’t feel trapped in it.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Valerie Witte : part three

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with? 

Usually through performance. I participate in collaborative readings and events fairly often, usually in Portland or the Bay Area, where I used to live. I am also a founding member of the Bay Area Correspondence School, and we produce events periodically, which by definition have a collaborative component. I love incorporating different kinds of media into my performances. For example, I sometimes record audio of myself reading the poems and then play the audio as I read live, creating overlaps and dissonances to enhance the audience experience. I recently created a slide show of images to accompany the audio. It’s definitely a goal of mine to create an experience that is “not just a reading,” that will surprise and hopefully delight the audience, engaging them in ways they wouldn’t typically experience or expect at a poetry reading.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part four

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

Poetry can certainly be draining. Not necessarily the sitting still, writing part but the aftermath of looking for a place for a poem, looking for readers, all the peculiar nonsense that comes with it. When I’m tired of poetry I don’t look to poetry for help. Do not give the alcoholic more alcohol! I might focus on things like playing chess, reading novels, watching stupid youtube videos. I also like rollerblading, swimming, football, nature.

Tldr: Rumi

Saturday, 28 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

When I found the poetry of Lang Leav and Nikita Gill and Lauren Eden, to name a few, I was blown away by the sense of empowerment some their poems emulated. I’d never come across poetry that succinct and powerful before and it made me want to write my own poetry in a similar vain. There are also a number of poets, whom I will not name, whose poetry I absolutely cannot stand because of how little I agree with their messages/form/etc. and their work instilled in me that if I want a poet to represent my voice more accurately, that poet would have to be me.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I know when a poem is finished when my coach/mentor says it is! To be less flippant, though, it’s finished when I stop thinking about it. Though many of my poems get revised months and even years later, and there is always potential for revision, I find that if I’ve stopped thinking about the poem, it’s done.

I think it also depends what we mean by “done”. As I often tell my students, there’s always room for improvement or clarity. This was especially true when I was editing my last book: I revisited each poem—all of which were “done” many senses of the word!—and worked on fine-tuning language, finessing line breaks, etc. Some poems did wind up almost exactly the same, and others did have some re-working where lines were re-worked or stanzas moved, taken out, etc. However, I’m not sure this counts as “finishing” because the idea(s) of the poems were not adjusted. If we consider “done” as “no changes, ever” then my poems are done when I have no more control over them. If we consider “done” as something else; as the idea is clear and it’s just a matter of execution, then I think it might be a different story.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

When I try to say something worth breath, I struggle with doubt. And it’s not just a poetry thing, but it definitely comes out when I’m working with words. It’s like a shadow in the room and when my head gets loud, it overtakes the bookshelves, the pens run out of ink, I crumble up paper, and I sit seemingly defeated. And that happens more and less now that I have a chapbook out in the wild and I’m doing the wonderful, scary, exciting, terrifying thing that is sending out my full-length. But there’s an old song and one of the lines is this: My fears have worn me out. And I’m choosing more often than not to not get worn out by my fears because they are exhausting—and there is so much light to be found, and when there’s light, I feel like I can do just about anything.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part five

How does a poem begin?

As a feeling. I’ll see something that pisses me off or something that puzzles or inspires me and that feeling will follow me around until I’ve externalized it, propelled it onto the page and into plain sight.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m writing about Samiya Bashir’s Field Theories, from 2017. Two new books that left strong after-impressions are Paisley Rekdal’s Nightingale and Hai-Dang Phan’s Re-enactments.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Valerie Witte : part two

How does a poem begin?

I don’t write poems so much as extended series, which generally develop into a full collection. I usually start by selecting one or two source materials. For example, for my book a game of correspondence, I used text from a gothic experimental novel called Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, an encyclopedia of ghosts and demons, and the film Blade Runner (the title of my book comes from the film, as the characters play a game of correspondence chess). I compile language and then fold in material from my own life—observations, dreams, experiences. I continually play with the form and move lines, phrases, words around—sculpting language to create a cohesive whole.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Louise Gluck, Dylan Thomas, Dominic Leonard, Lisa Jarnot, Hera Lindsey Bird, Luke Kennard, Ocean Vuong, Charles Baudelaire, Nick Makoha, John Ashbery’s French translations, H.D., A.K. Blakemore, Matthew Haigh, Rebecca Tamas, Raúl Zurita...

I’ve also been reading submissions (shameless plug!) for my new journal Anthropocene, which has introduced me to many poets I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part three

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

There’s a brutal intimacy in poetry that no other form offers, and in that way, every poetry book is a poet’s diary. Every poem is a diary entry. The allowed lack of structure is like strolling through a poet’s mind because thoughts themselves are oftentimes random and nonsensical until you arrange them in a way that make sense to you. Poetry allows us to put those thoughts onto paper as raw as they appear in our heads in order to share that visceral self with the rest of the world. The beauty of poetry is that simultaneously it’s polished and it’s not, it’s intentional and it’s exploratory, and that’s something that only poetry can truly achieve.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part one

Sarah A. Etlinger holds a BA in English from Skidmore College, an MA in English from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition (English) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Scholarly interests include new media studies, first-year composition, feminist literature,  the Beatles, and popular culture. Currently, she is Associate professor of Composition and Literature at Rock Valley College where she teaches courses in composition, film, and literature.

A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of two books: Never One for Promises (Kelsay Books, 2018) and Little Human Things, forthcoming from Clare Songbirds. Other poems can be found in a variety of literary magazines, including The Amethyst Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Mookychick, The Penwood Review, The Magnolia Review, Brine (where she was September 2018’s featured Poet of the Month) and many others.

Interests include cooking, traveling, and learning to play the piano.

What are you working on?

Right now, I am working on poems that I plan to turn into a 3rd book, potentially titled Something Like Light. The poems in this group explore the relationship among language, meaning, and experience. As the title suggests, light, too, has a strong presence: light bends, changes, fades, illuminates, and obscures—all part of human experience.  In keeping with the rest of my work, hese poems also weave in history, mythology, and religion; this time, however, I’m particularly interested in how the natural world seems to anchor us at the same time it takes us to different planes and places--- as does light and spirituality.

Additionally, I’m toying with either a long poem or small chapbook about the prairie and its landscapes, with a working title of “Sea of Grass.” Though I live in Milwaukee, WI, I’m from New England, and so I’m fascinated by the flatness and beauty of the Midwest--not just the fields and the farms and the lakes—but the prairies, too. So, this is an ongoing project still taking shape, but I’m excited about the form it may take as I continue to work on it.

Finally, I am always working on revising individual poems, submitting to journals/contests, and trying to market my work.  Stay tuned for upcoming interviews, readings, and individual poems!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about poetry?

As mentioned earlier, I had a less than stellar first year of college, but I still learned a great deal about being a poet and human that year. That year I developed a bond with one of the professors—Hey Jamie D’Agostino!— and with him alongside, I was constantly surrounded by good reads. We read Mary Ruefle in his class and he introduced me to such dynamic poets as Lynda Hull and Jericho Brown outside of it. When I went to my community college, I made it a point to read every single book of poetry at their library. There I fell in love with Steve Orlen, Galway Kinnell, Cornelius Eady, among others. I also was introduced Yusef Komunyakaa during my stay. I must’ve borrowed Neon Vernacular at least a dozen times the first year I read his work. As a result, I still hold onto a line of his whenever I go to the page: Say something worth breath.  Currently, such luminaries as Chen Chen, Devin Kelly, Amorak Huey, Chelsea Dingman, Jay Besemer, Jessica Lynn Suchon, Lauren Milici, Kaveh Akbar, and Paige Lewis all keep me afloat and constantly challenge and reward the way I see and interact with poetry.  I could go on for days. Months. Years. If you let me.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part four

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry’s important to me because there are things I can’t say in any other way. My poetry is where I’m at my most honest, most authentic. Speaking my truth out loud has always been a tumultuous challenge for me, but in poetry I find my voice. I speak my truth with power, with conviction, without making myself small, without interruption or interference, without being silenced. I am coming to see my work as a sacred record of my resilience. It fills me up, connects me to something bigger, and helps me survive.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Staying weird. It’s so easy to fall into familiar patterns, but the best poems are strange and surprising.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Valerie Witte : part one

Valerie Witte is the author of a game of correspondence (Black Radish Books, 2015) and the chapbooks The history of mining (g.e. collective/Poetry Flash, 2013), It’s been a long time since I’ve dreamt of someone (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and The grass is greener when the sun is yellow (The Operating System, 2019). In 2014 she began a collaboration with Chicago-based artist Jennifer Yorke, and their work appeared in exhibitions in Chicago and Berkeley. She has also participated in residencies at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences; La Porte Peinte Centre pour les Arts in Noyers, France; and Ragdale Foundation. She is a founding member of the Bay Area Correspondence School and, over the years, helped produce many beautiful books for Kelsey Street Press. Learn more at

Photo credit: Andrew Hedges.

What are you working on?

With San Francisco–based poet Sarah Rosenthal, I am developing a collection of essays that address the work of postmodern dancer-choreographers Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer. This is the second part of our project, the first being a newly released chapbook called The grass is greener when the sun is yellow. For the collection, each of us is writing five essays that discuss a personal memory of dance randomly paired with a theme we’ve encountered in the work of Rainer and Forti. Thus the essays involve sometimes discordant juxtapositions, which can be both challenging and generative. We are comfortable engaging with language and form in experimental ways, and I’ve enjoyed the process of creating work that operates on multiple levels simultaneously, where the connections among the dancers and my memories are often implied, rather than explicit, nuanced rather than straightforward. Over time I’ve given myself permission to infuse the essays with my poetics, and they now take the form of nontraditional formats, such as a footnoted photo essay, erasures, and a sort of scripted play. Focusing on dance is not something I ever expected to do because I have no dance training and have had a rather fraught relationship to the form. However, in both Rainer and Forti’s work, I’ve found natural connections and entry points for exploration. So it’s been a stimulating, surprising, and exciting process.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Reading Matthew Welton was eye opening for me. The first book of his I came across was ‘The Number Poems’ after that I bought the other collections. What I found so interesting were the constrictions, limitations, the tactical formulation, mathematics. I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into one of his poems.

Chelsey Minnis has also been a revelation for me. ‘You have to apply a blowtorch to a lollipop’ - I never knew!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

As an editor, I love to tweak my writing until I consider it absolutely perfect—and then even after that. For poetry specifically, I focus on a poem until I read it and sit back in awe as if I read a stranger’s work. I know a poem is done when the flow is easy and natural, the words are painting the exact picture I see in my head, and the message I’m conveying is clear and honest. The best kind of poems catch the reader off-guard; that is especially true when those words are your own.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Stephen Page : part five

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers’ group that you work ideas and poems with?

No groups at the moment. I attended workshops at Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College, Vermont Studio Center, and Cleveland State University.  For many years, I conducted workshops and poetry readings in Argentina. But, from those experiences, I found that almost all of my writings that I have had published were those that were never workshopped, or those that were not changed from advice from workshoppers. I learned to trust my own instincts.  Now, I just listen to my muse, write, rewrite, edit, polish, then submit the piece to a publisher.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part three

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

This answer could be really long, but I’ll try to keep it small-ish. These five books have been steady and reliable for quite some time now.

John Taylor Unmonstrous, YesYes Books, 2019

Alison C. Rollins Library of Small Catastrophes, Copper Canyon Press, 2019

Aaron Coleman Threat Come Close, Four Way Books, 2018

Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s What Runs Over, YesYes Books, 2017

Emma Bolden House Is An Enigma, Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2018

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I thought I was afraid of poetry ‘til I read Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life. I used to think poetry had to be abstract, painstaking puzzles to be solved. But that book showed me poetry can be fresh, accessible, contemporary, can be working-class and gritty, it can dive boldly into the feminist conflict raging in my head, it can be therapeutic and personal and political. Her following collection Where the words end and my body begins, a book of glosas, opened my eyes and ears to other queer poets writing along these lines.

Betsy Warland taught me the importance of scoring a poem, working with text, breath and empty space so that the piece reads accurately, rings true.

I always see new and beautiful possibilities of form through the genre-bending and blending work of Dawn, Warland, and others like Chelene Knight and Daphne Marlatt.

And works by Dina Del Bucchia, Daniel Zomparelli and Jennica Harper have shown me pop culture is a legitimate poetic subject, and that poetry can be great fun.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part two

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

I’m more willing to contemplate wrenching subject matter through poems than novels or film; poetry’s brevity makes the pain of feeling with others easier to face. I really DO get the news from poems.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part five

Why is poetry important? 

I find this question, or versions of it interesting (e.g. “Can Poetry Matter”). Americans definitely circle back and around this idea and worry that poetry is perhaps not important. It seems partially to do with the fact that poetry is not linked to capital or is in a very tenuous way, and so can poetry have value if it doesn’t have “value.” Poetry has personally resuscitated me, led me to interesting, supportive communities, and taught me how to mediate and actively explore my curiosities and concerns. I don’t take its role lightly. As a professor of poetry for over two decades I see its transformative properties leaving tracks all over my students. Whether it’s by examining the tightly balanced syntactical units of a Gwendolyn Brooks poems, her documentary eye archiving the working class neighborhoods of Chicago, or Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s look at migration, selfhood and speech in her hybrid and fused chorus of voices in Dictée, these poets grapple with language to express and archive important lived experiences and to question the world. I have seen students, many marginalized ones in particular, step into areas that felt inarticulable and taboo. It’s a wonder.

Poetry is one of the oldest art forms, what we turn to when we grieve, when we protest, and when we celebrate. Poetry in its boundlessness straddles various animal/alien worlds that only it can do.

Kimberly Campanello : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me a poem begins in a strange juxtaposition, a kind of tension that is revealed by a seemingly literal or real object or moment in relation to something else (another object or moment), a tension that creates a sense that things are not what they seem.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part one

Charlie Baylis is from Nottingham, England. He is the editor of Anthropocene. His poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and once for the Forward Prize. His most recent publication is Drag City (Broken Sleep Books). He spends his spare time completely adrift of reality.

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I usually send stuff to magazines. I’m not a particularly social person and tend to be quite guarded about my poetry, so I find the idea of a writers group scary. I do look for feedback if I’m writing something longer, but it’s not a huge list of people, and I don’t necessarily follow their advice.

Juliette van der Molen : part five

What are you working on? 

I’m currently working on a few projects. I’m excited to tell the story of Dorothy Good in my upcoming collection: Confess. Dorothy was a 4 year old child arrested for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600’s along with her mother. It’s a challenge to tell a life story through poetry. I’m exploring how the past connects with contemporary life and ideas. There are so many things we can learn from history. Unfortunately, we don’t always do that because we don’t recognize the historical roots of problems that plague humanity.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part one

A.H. Lewis is a writer and poet living in Pittsburgh, PA. After earning a BA in English from Allegheny College, she went on to pursue her passion for literature by creating her freelance editing business, Happily Edit After, and publishing her first book just shy her 27th birthday—the first, undoubtedly, of many. She is a fan of all things related to summer and nighttime, especially during the clearest of starry skies, and more often than not she is wearing all black, from her combat boots to her lipstick.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I took a poetry class in college and absolutely hated it. I was terrible at it and I felt like I didn’t learn anything; I didn’t feel that I improved or found my voice or created anything worth reading. Fast forward about five years and I went through things in my personal life that tested my strength and patience, and this is when I revisited poetry. I found that the poetic form was the only way I could purge myself of anger, sadness, grief—everything, really—in a way that left me better than when I started. Poetry, and only poetry, offered me the catharsis I desperately needed.

Susan Glickman : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The book that knocked me sideways recently is Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night, but for the past year, I’ve also been savouring Helen Dunmore’s last book, Inside the Wave, and several volumes by Jane Hirschfield and Alice Oswald. They all live on my night-table for emergency administration.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Stephen Page : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

No.  I love it more than ever. All forms.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part two

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book you return to? A particular author?

Without a doubt in my mind it’s “The Journey” by Mary Oliver. My first year of undergraduate studies wasn’t very good from an academically successful year; by the end of the year, I had a 1.63 GPA and was asked not to return in the fall. But, in the midst of an emotional day in March that year, I received a message from my mother that was simple and direct—“Thinking of you! Have a great day! Love you!” and attached in the message was Oliver’s “The Journey”. Even though I had been familiar with Oliver and one of my favorite anthologies of poetry I owned housed the poem, I had never read the poem until that afternoon. I sure went through a lot of tissues that day, but, I also found something I often find in poetry: healing. Mary Oliver is certainly one of those poets I always return to when I think my poetry world is going to hell—and somehow, some way, things don’t seem as dark. I miss her.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Letting go of the urge to control everything, capture everything, include everything. When I’m writing a poem I need to remind myself it’s not an essay.

I’m also learning to write the difficult personal stuff I often don’t want to write or think about or share, which is sometimes the most compelling material. I’m finding it’s gut-wrenching to write through anxiety and fragmentation and fear, but so far it’s worth it so long as I protect myself and remember to breathe.

Worrying about offending people is always difficult, too. In life and in writing, I’m trying to break my tendency to explain, because in poems there’s little room for explanation. So I need to detach from my instinct to clutter the text with context.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part one

Lesley Wheeler’s forthcoming books are the poetry collection The State She’s In; her first novel, Unbecoming; and a suite of hybrid essays, Poetry’s Possible Worlds. Poetry editor of Shenandoah, she lives in Virginia.

Photo credit: Kevin Remington

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?
I’m more thoughtful than I used to be about the work a poem might do in the world. I so appreciate poems that feed hope and insight. I hope my writing does that, too, at least sometimes.

Lauren Carter : coda

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it is as good as I can make it at the time. When it is ready to step out the door and find a place in the world. This doesn't mean I won't lick my thumb and wipe dirt off its chin in the future but it does mean it is now its own thing.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

A good poem is not necessarily a “popular” poem. I studied with Myung Mi Kim and she would try to encourage us to push aside our egos away from the poem that was trying to wrangle free. It’s very hard to do this. We are influenced by aesthetics, politics, trends, our daily moods. The poem is misbehaving, subversive. It doesn’t entirely care if I don’t get what it’s saying. I can’t necessarily rush it or perform it. It’s not all about me. It has to radiate outward, linguistically, thematically and formally.

Kimberly Campanello : part four

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

I return to Rimbaud’s Une saison en enfer and Les Illuminations. The strangeness and unpredictability of these poems – not least because I read them in a second language – always gives me something to work with.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

Maybe it’s never finished. Does it have to be finished? My poems are dynamic. They live and breathe and the words on the page are guidelines for how they are feeling in the moment. I don’t even feel a poem is finished upon publication. Publication is just a snapshot of the poem in one crystallized moment. Often after publication, I will perform a poem and it still morphs and changes slightly based on how it needs to come out or what the energy feels like in that moment. It’s always a close version of itself but just like people, they continue to evolve.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part four

What are you working on?

A couple of weeks ago I began a series of prose poems about common tools, paired with drawings of the same objects. I had just finished four years of art school and wanted to mate image and text in some way. So far, I have written poems about and made drawings of a hammer, a knife, secateurs, and clamps. I have no idea how many tools I will address, or whether I will complete this project. It’s too early to tell! I spent about ten years writing and rewriting the poems based on Chopin’s 24 Preludes that appeared in my last book, What We Carry. In the end, I only included fourteen of them.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Stephen Page : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the poem tells you it is finished.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

James Arthur : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Writing a good poem means capturing truth through language. To do that, you have to avoid cliché and you need to pry open your unexamined habits of thought -- so writing a poem, or interpreting one, involves analytical thinking and the precise control of language. The arts in general encourage empathy, curiosity, and imagination.

It’s easy to undervalue those things because their benefits are hard to quantify, but Donald Trump could not have been elected President of the United States if there hadn’t been a widespread failure of empathy, analytical thought, and attention to the nuances of language. In my life as a creative writing professor, I sometimes get students to read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” in which he writes, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Orwell wrote that in 1945, but it remains true.

Stephen Furlong : part one

Stephen Furlong received his M.A. in Professional Writing from Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of the chapbook What Loss Taught Me, which was published by Nostrovia! Press in Fall 2018. His poems, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in Louisiana Literature, Bone & Ink, and Full Stop, among others. He currently serves as a Staff Reviewer for LitStyle, a subset of the literary journal Five:2:One. He can be found on Twitter @StephenJFurlong.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was fortunate to have a grade school English teacher who had a passion for poetry; her name was Mrs. Smircich and, for her class, we were required to memorize two poems and recite them in class. I cannot recall the poems I memorized, but there are two bright light bulbs of memory from that experience: we were forbade from memorizing Shel Silverstein and I was introduced to the first poem that truly shook my core from the inside—“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. While some of my classmates snickered at “breast” and “bosom”, the lull of the rhymes reminded me of prayer. Every time I am awe-struck by nature Kilmer’s spirit nods in approval. That year I ended up reading a lot of Robert Frost who was the first poet I ever loved. As it were, I had a healthy respect for nature poets so I found Emerson eventually, and before I knew it, my love of poetry had begun.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I tend to have a lot of poetry books on my bedside locker at the same time, lined up to be read. There is so much good poetry out there; it’s hard to get the time to read them all. Current favourites are May Day 1974 by Rachel Hegarty, Fleche by Mary Jean Chan, To Air the Soul, Throw All the Windows Wide by Mary Dorcey, Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital by Kevin Higgins and Bad News, Good News, Bad News by Edward O’Dwyer. If I was to pick one out of these that has had the most impact it would be May Day 1974 by Irish writer, Rachel Hegarty. It remembers the victims of car bombings that took place in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974. Her poems give voices to the 34 people who died. Devotions by Mary Oliver, has taken up permanent residence in my bedroom. It’s my go to book when I’m in need of some spiritual inspiration and renewal.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part one

Natasha Sanders-Kay is a writer, editor and activist residing on unceded Coast Salish territories in Burnaby, BC. Recent work has appeared in Poetry Is Dead, subTerrain, PRISM international, and Spacing. Her chapbook poem Postmodern Mutt is part of a travelling migration project from Vancouver-based artist Lois Klassen; see Natasha is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU, where she was mentored by Betsy Warland. She is a member of subTerrain magazine’s editorial collective and team of reviewers, and previously served as managing editor. Over the years Natasha has worked, organized and volunteered with numerous arts and social justice initiatives. She is working on her first collection of poems.

Photo credit: Trista Baldwin

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

Poetry can create a container of words to hold an experience or emotion, and can do it in a way that offers the reader enough to go on, but with mystery as a major element, plenty for them to unpack and interpret in their own terms. You know how as writers we’re told show, don’t tell? I believe poetry is the ultimate form of showing.

It’s also language at its finest. Every word, space and line break can be loaded with meaning, full of craft and care. Poetry engages with language in its own magic way.

Because poems are usually shorter than other forms such as fiction, nonfiction, drama and the like, they can be more accessible to people reading on the fly, yet their power can stay with you, whirling within you, forever.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part five

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

I return often to Mary Oliver because of her ability to weave together all aspects of the human experience with the material qualities and landscapes of the natural world without sentimentality, cliche, or staleness. Also Sylvia Plath for the courage of her bold, unflinching work and her searing imagery. I also read a lot of fiction and turn to T. C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, Louise Erdrich.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part three

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I’ve been fortunate to have been in many writing groups since graduate school with some really smart, thoughtful writers. Several of these groups have seen manuscripts of mine come to fruition. Poems from my most recent book Ten, published by BlazeVOX, began as a ten-line exercise to stave off boredom during the recovery of major knee surgery, and were dispersed among a group of writers (Amanda Field, Stefania Heim, Katy Lederer, Caitlin McDonnell, Lynn Melnick, Carley Moore, Idra Novey, Laura Sims and Leah Souffrant). We all had young children, who were with us flinging food and objects and making a ruckus. But when it came down to it the workshops were sharp and efficient.

This same group saw the beginning of a book-length poem, STORY, which is about to be published this December by Ugly Duckling Presse. While sharing some of STORY I got together with another writing group: Erica Hunt, Brenda Coultas, Karen Weiser and Marcella Durand. These poets read STORY in manuscript-form and offered great feedback. I actually remember coming in a few minutes late at the day I was going to workshop STORY and hearing some of the poets guess whether or not Story was an actual “story.” That was fun!

As of late I find it’s hard for me and other writers to schedule writing groups so I’ve been breaking off with various writers I respect and share work that way. I also love to writer via solicitation for a specific project or collaboration, which provide opportunities to derail my own obsessions for a bit.  Also, lately, I just write to my friends. My friend Laura Y. Liu and I wrote a collaborative poem, an ode, to our dear friend and colleague and renowned feminist, Ann Snitow, when she was retiring from Eugene Lang College. I wrote a poem to Marcella Durand after we dropped off our kids at summer camp and swam in a beautiful river.

Kimberly Campanello : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading a lot of ‘innovative’ Irish poetry/poetry coming from Ireland. I’ve particularly enjoyed new work by Pascal O’Loughlin, Natasha Cuddington, and Christodoulos Makris. I’ve also been reading Bernadette Mayer for the first time. One of my favourite things to read is the magazine Poetry Wales, which has been such an incredible force under the editorship of Nia Davies. Continuing the Welsh theme, I have really loved delving into The Edge of Necesssary: Welsh Innovative Poetry 1966-2018 edited by John Goodby and Lyndon Davies. The poems of Heather Dohollau and Childe Roland are particularly striking.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part three

How does a poem begin? 

Poems begin in several ways for me. It can be something as slight as a smell carried on the breeze or a flash of color from the corner of my eye. It can be a word that jumps out at me. Lately, they have been inspired by people and stories. I like to listen to stories about people, about their histories of triumph and struggle. I like to understand context of the times people lived in and how the social and political climate affected them. I start to see the world through their eyes in an almost transcendental way. I ask them to tell me more of their story. Then I listen and write.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

W.H. Auden quoted Paul Valéry - who himself was paraphrasing Leonardo da Vinci - when he said that “a work of art is never finished, only abandoned.” I agree with all of them! From a purely practical perspective, however, a poem is finished when I can’t do anything more to it just then. Nonetheless I am an inveterate reviser, and although a poem has appeared in print in a journal, I may still make some revisions to it before it appears in one of my books. I even revised poems that had appeared in previous books for my new and selected, Running in Prospect Cemetery.

james stotts : part five

how does a poem begin?

a poem really can’t begin until there’s a sense that it needs to be something new, so it’s always the variation that’s dawning on me.  there gets to be a number of occasions that always force the point.  when my [ex-]wife was pregnant, i started writing sonnets and counting the weeks.  the terror and delight of expecting meant that i was able to keep up a good pace that carried me for almost two years, until jackson’s first birthday.  we were also just arrived in a new city, boston, and taking a lot of bus rides down to nyc to see my brother, visit the russian consulate, and cetera.  and ten years later, i’m still writing china bus sonnets every time i take the ride.  so the patterns of life, instead of becoming repetitive, always put me in a receptive and determined mood.

those are very different than the poems that strike, almost like panic attacks, at all hours, where the mind gets sucked into a sort of vortex.  those only get resolved by coming to terms.

the poems hardly ever begin or end on the page, they get going with a phrase or puzzle or rhyme, and then i will work them over in my mind on long walks or trips or in wee hours.  i usually know the poem is finished by the time i have it really by memory and when i stop tripping over certain lines.  a little more might change after i put it to paper, but by that time, most of the leg work has already been put in.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Stephen Page : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Probably while reading all of the Dr. Seuss books alone in my room as a child. Later, in 2nd grade, I wrote poems to the girl who sat in the desk in front of me. I did not think of myself as a poet then, but later, while I was in the Marines, I penned marching and running chants. Still, I did not consider myself a poet. Near the end of my time in the Marines, while on a photo safari in Africa, I met a green-eyed goddess who was on the same tour bus. I think she was my inspiration to become a poet and to consider myself a writer because, when we separated after the tour, I wrote her long letters in poetic form.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

James Arthur : part four

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

It depends on what I’m correcting against -- I feel that I’m always correcting against something -- but mostly I go back to the books and poems that remind me to bring generosity, spontaneity, and vulnerability into my own writing. One poem I love is Heather McHugh’s “What He Thought” and another is “Train to Dublin” by Louis MacNeice. Reading Kenneth Koch’s “To Life” always makes me want to write. Same with “All Creation Wept” by Melissa Range.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’ve been very fortunate to have encountered some generous poets who have given me constructive and encouraging feedback on my work. John Corless, the first poet to read my work back in 2012, gave me great advice. At the time I was focussing on writing short stories as I believed I wasn’t writing ‘real poems,’ despite John’s encouragement. In 2017, I started writing poetry seriously and took some online courses and workshops. Thanks to Adam Wyeth and Kevin Higgins, I started to believe I was writing ‘real’ poems. I also got great encouragement from participants in Kevin’s online poetry workshops. Their support gave me the confidence I needed to continue writing, to continue to be ‘daring’ in my work and write the un-writable.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Beth Gordon : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, C.T. Salazar’s This Might Have Meant Fire, Alicia Mountain’s High Ground Coward, Bianca Stone’s The Mobius Strip Club of Grief.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Always a combination. This summer, it’s Adam Dickenson’s Anatomic, Phoebe Wang’s Admission Requirements, The Paris Review #228, The Feathertale Review #22, and PRISM international #57.3 RUIN.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part four

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

Poetry and metaphor are how we encode the human experience. The things that cannot be explained matter-of-factly or within prose - death, grieving, heart-break, profound joy, transcendent experience - can be given a home in the incredibly flexible form of poetry.

Last week, while backcountry camping, I witnessed a dragonfly exit its nymphal form, a miraculous happening that is so very, very strange: this ethereal creature with its glass-like green body and iridescent, glimmering wings climbs out of the plain-looking, slate-coloured, cockroach-like shell. There are even little threads, as if the dragonfly has been held inside the nymph form with a harness.

While watching this, I thought of its similarity to poetry with its ability to enrich the ordinary happenings of a human life with profound, transcendent meaning.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

If the process begins to feel vapid, empty, in a way that’s not interesting or with promise, then I move on. It’s fairly intuitive, though I read/revise my work endlessly. I try not to be precious about the “perfect” poem. I don’t think poems are necessarily ever finished in their perpetually-thinking bodies. And maybe I at times just run out of steam or need to switch gears, though I would argue that it is also sometimes the reason to stay.

Kimberly Campanello : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

As a teenager, my reading of Arthur Rimbaud and Walt Whitman shaped my sense of what it means to write poetry. Later on, H.D. (Trilogy), M NourbeSe Philip (Zong!), Thomas McGrath (Letter to an Imaginary Friend), Stein (Lifting Belly), and Aimé Césaire (Cahier d’un retour au pays natale) all had a big impact. I’m interested in poets who take on big projects or longer poems – poets who are in some sense visionaries in whatever mode they are working in. My thinking about this large-scale mode is continually renewed by poets with these ambitions, most recently by the work of Geraldine Monk (They Who Saw the Deep), James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar (Myth of the Savage Tribes, Myth of the Civilised Nations), and Denise Riley (A Part Song). I am really looking forward to the forthcoming book by Joyelle McSweeney, having read some of the poems in journals.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part two

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t? 

Poetry gives the reader space to be mindful. I often see poets as gardeners scattering seeds into the fertile soil of the mind. In some minds these seeds take root and grow, but they are always affected by the climate of the reader’s mind and the sum total of their personal experiences. For me, prose has always been a sort of ready made atmosphere that I slip into when I read. It can challenge me as a reader, but not in the same way that poetry does. Poetry requires me to consider the devices of the poet and to visualize in a way that fills in the spaces between line breaks. Poetry offers the reader a freedom to personalize the reading experience.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part two

How does a poem begin?

It begins like a tiny pebble in a shoe or a grain of sand in an oyster. An almost imperceptible but persistent irritant. Until it isn’t. Until it’s rubbed me so raw that I find myself asking Why is this damn thing still here? To answer that question, the question of why I am snagged on something I am not consciously thinking about, I must write a poem.

By writing a poem, I discover what significance that thing holds for me and how it is linked to many other events, objects, feelings, dreams, ideas, and so forth – a deep and wide network of associations. Was that network built prior to my paying attention or does it arise during the process of writing a poem? I don’t know. But paying attention to one’s obsessions is its own reward, whether or not the poem that evolves proves to be a pearl or remains a dull and lumpy grain of sand.

james stotts : part four

what poets changed the way you think about poetry?

the first poetry i remember really devouring was margaret atwood and lucille clifton.  that’s probably not typical.  i got over atwood, but clifton is still my first hero.  i didn’t realize for almost twenty years that my poems look like hers on the page—no punctuation and no uppercase.  she’s always been in my blood.  when i was ten i was challenged by a teacher to memorize ‘the raven,’ and did it in a week.  that same week i memorized ‘the bells,’ ‘annabel lee,’ and a few others.  and i read all the stories, really.  i outgrew poe, too, but supplementally.

i found an anthology when i was eleven or twelve, of the yale younger poets.  so ashbery was there, and a dozen other i love, but the best and the one i obsessed over was joan murray.  especially her ‘lullaby.’

when i was thirteen, there was a statewide poetry recitation competition in the gym at la cueva high school, in albuquerque.  i recited stevie smith’s ‘distractions and the human crowd,’ donald justice’s ‘there is a golden light in certain old paintings’ (which is an orpheus poem), and ‘nothing gold can stay.’  i remember a lot of other kids doing ‘the love song,’ and the parents and teachers were impressed, but i could have read that by heart, too.  i got a bronze medal.  i guess the point is, that i was learning from them and wanted to be them someday.  i was in love then with edna st. vincent millay, cummings, hayden, and almost everyone in our schoolbooks.

i was sixteen or seventeen when i first read derek walcott, ‘the schooner flight,’ and convinced one of my teachers to let me give a lesson on the poem myself.  so i assigned the reading to the whole class, and i thought i could teach it like the novels we were reading then, like ‘catcher in the rye’ or ‘a separate piece.’  but everyone swore that walcott didn’t make any sense.  that was my first inkling that i was painting myself into a corner.  i listened to walcott on the radio when he read in santa fe at the lannan theater that summer.  my older brother was going to the college of santa fe, then, and i really hoped he would give me a ride up.  but, anyway, i listened on the radio in my bedroom.  the next year, i read philip levine.  i was asked to teach one of his poems in english class my senior year, and i did ‘rain downriver.’  that whole year i was obsessed with workers’ poems.  carl sandburg, james wright.  i was reading ‘civilization and its discontents,’ too.  and i thought of myself as a worker.

it’s hard to explain, but easy for me to wrap my brain around, this sort of development.  my parents split up when i was ten, and when we were thirteeen my mom moved us up into the sandias to work for room and board on a horse stables.  it was that or live on the streets at that point.  we would wake up before sunrise to water and feed the horses, and muck the stalls, and load the tractor with hay.  on weekends we would take out trail rides or clean brush or clean the arena where they did english riding.  i worked every waking hour, and i would go to school with shit six inches up my sleeves.  i got teased, but by then i was already proud.  when the socialist poets, and the workers’ poets, finally found their way to me, i was totally prepared to fall in love.  i was waiting tables at a diner through high school, graveyard shifts on the weekends, and reading, and writing, and sometimes making it to class.  i can’t imagine how they graduated me cum laude with a scholarship, with so many missed days.  but i managed.  so i brag.

the voice that is great within us changed my life, too, when i was in high school

those are a few of the first poets that mattered.  the list could go on. 

Friday, 16 August 2019

Stephen Page : part one

Stephen Page is part Apache and Shawnee. He was born in Detroit. He is the author of three other books of poetry – A Ranch Bordering the Salty River, The Timbre of Sand, and Still Dandelions. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College. He also attended Broward College. His literary criticisms have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald, How Journal, Gently Read Literature, North of Oxford, and the Fox Chase Review. His fiction has been published in Quarto, The Whistling Fire, and Amphibi. His haiku and senryu has appeared in Frogpond, Hedgerow, brass bell, Black Bough, Bravura, Brussels Sprout, Cicada, Haiku Headlines, Heron Quarterly, Japanophile, Our Reader’s Quarterly, Piedmont Literary Review, and Point Judith Light. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, family, friends, long walks through woodlands, communing with nature, reading, spontaneous road trips, throwing cellphones into lakes, and making noise with his electric bass.

What are you working on?

I am currently editing and adding stories to two collections of fiction. One is an assemblage of fictional happening that could have occurred near places where I grew up in Michigan, lived as a U.S. Marine overseas, and lived in New York while I was a student at Columbia University. The other collection is a compilation of fictional accounts that might have occurred on a ranch in Argentina where I was working after I left New York. I am also polishing the final galleys and promoting a collection of poems (about ecoRanching in Argentina) that will be published in a couple of months. The name of the new book is, “The Salty River Bleeds,” and is being published by Finishing Line Press.

Ty J. Williams : part five

What are you working on?

I am currently working on my first chapbook. I have been publishing poems over the last year and I have nonfiction writing credits to my name, and although writing poetry has been a lifelong imperative, publishing it is fairly new to me. I’m now putting together a chapbook to have a go-to collection of what I’ve been working on over the last year or so. I’m not sure if I’m going to try to shop it around to presses or if I’m just going to avoid that stress and self-finance and self-publish it. Either way, I should have a small collection of poems out this summer. Follow me on Twitter and IG if you want to keep up with that progress.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

James Arthur : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

For me, one of the challenges of writing poetry is that a poet needs to use language in a way that’s counterintuitive. Outside of art, in a non-literary context, people use words to dispel ambiguity, to articulate opinions, to explain abstract ideas, and to summarize. Even when we’re children, much of our language education trains us to do these things. But poems are successful only if they appeal to the reader’s imagination, so a poet usually needs to resist the urge to summarize, and often needs to withhold judgment, especially if that judgment would reduce a poem’s range of implication or would come in place of the raw sensory data that helps readers imagine whatever is being described. That’s why students in creative writing workshops are always being told to avoid abstractions: to show, not tell.

At the same time, the most skillful poets do find ways to use the full resources of their language, including abstractions such as “soul,” “heavens,” and “world”: all three of those words appear in Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” but the context around them (“Then Space - began to toll, / As all the Heavens were a Bell”) makes them strange and vivid. John Ashbery’s “And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name” defies almost every workshop maxim that exists, but it’s a brilliant piece of writing.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I first encountered poetry in school, I didn’t like it. I found it difficult to understand and rhyme left me cold. The fact that I was studying it for exam purposes didn’t help. The only poet that I would relate to as a teenager was the great Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh, which was probably because like me he was from rural Ireland and was writing about things that I could relate to. I would never have believed then that I could write poetry let alone get a poem published. Now, I love reading and writing poetry. Through my own writing and reading a wide variety of poetry I realise that poetry comes in many shapes and forms. When I started writing first, I read as widely as I could to see if I could find another poet who wrote like me. It was my way of trying to validate my own writing. Then I discovered that no two poets write the same way. We all have our own unique voices and our own way of expressing ourselves.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Beth Gordon : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Early on, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath in that I learned from them that no subject was taboo.  Later, Robert Haas and Mary Oliver made me think about how my poetry engages in the world beyond my interior. Charles Wright’s work also has a special place in my heart…I love the gracefulness in his poems.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Christian Bök, Anne Carson, Billy-Ray Belcourt, and Suzanne Buffam.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part three

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I am and always have been a very solitary writer. I think this comes from growing up in a small northern Ontario town, in a dysfunctional family, and spending a lot of time on my own, staring out at the blank horizon line of Lake Huron. I began writing in isolation and, to a certain degree, that's what I'm most comfortable with.

Having said that, I now live near Winnipeg where there is an incredibly vibrant, vast, and supportive community of writers, and I'm beginning to learn the value of both receiving and offering critique - although the first few drafts of anything I write are mine and mine alone, to write, revise, and tinker with in solitude.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part one

Jennifer Firestone is the author of five books of poetry and four chapbooks including Story (UDP), Ten, (BlazeVOX [books]), Gates & Fields (Belladonna* Collaborative), Swimming Pool (DoubleCross Press), Flashes (Shearsman Books), Holiday (Shearsman Books), Waves (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), from Flashes and snapshot (Sona Books) and Fanimaly (Dusie Kollektiv). She co-edited (with Dana Teen Lomax) Letters To Poets: Conversations about Poetics, Politics and Community (Saturnalia Books) and is collaborating with Marcella Durand on a book about Feminist Avant-garde Poetics. Firestone has work anthologized in Kindergarde: Avant-Garde Poems, Plays, Songs, & Stories for Children and Building is a Process / Light is an Element: essays and excursions for Myung Mi Kim. She won the 2014 Marsh Hawk Press’ Robert Creeley Memorial Prize. Firestone is an Associate Professor of Literary Studies at the New School’s Eugene Lang College and is also the Director of their Academic Fellows pedagogy program.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was younger I would come home from elementary school/middle school and put on my dad’s very large, cushy headphones and sit on the rug near the stereo. I would stay that way for hours listening to all kinds of music, replaying songs and thinking about the lyrics. I loved Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, Blondie, Diana Ross, the list goes on. I had an ear for music though I couldn’t play an instrument for the life of me. I could pick up on subtleties, nuances in a musical piece and bring language to express what I thought it was doing. I think this location in sound was meaningful to me, connected to meaning, and was a somewhat natural segue to writing/reading poetry.

Additional influences/introductions to poetry were through teachers in my early education. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Rickenbacker was dynamic, smart, generous. She told my parents I had a talent for writing and that my parents should save my writing, and so they did: stacks and stacks of fiction and poetry on the top shelf of my closet.

Also Ms. Dresser and Mr. Moore, both hard-ass high school English teachers that my peers complained of as being mean and too strict. I sat toward the front of their classes and was tentative because of the rumors that I heard but instead I found them to be committed, passionate, intelligent, and caring deeply about literature. I remember keeping my admiration of them, my joy for their classes, hidden from my peers. Mrs. Dresser was a white woman from Berkeley (or maybe she was getting a graduate degree in Berkeley). She had punkish short, red hair and was a no- nonsense kind of person. She was my first teacher who seemed like a real feminist. And Mr. Moore, an elegant, middle-aged black man, always in a suit, with a deep voice and a face that wouldn’t dare smile. I remember viscerally how I felt in their classes. It would not be over-stating to say I soared (privately), knotting and unknotting the language of poems of Dickinson and Hughes, etc., the feeling of “getting something,” the import of the poem, sonically before semantically, was completely exciting to me, the feeling of almost being there but never really there, intellectually satisfied.

Kimberly Campanello : part one

Kimberly Campanello’s poetry books and pamphlets include Consent, Imagines, Strange Country (on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings), and Hymn to Kālī (her version of the Karpūrādi-stotra). In April 2019, zimZalla released MOTHERBABYHOME, a796-page poetry-object and reader’s edition book comprising conceptual and visual poetry on the St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. Also in April, above / ground press published her chapbook running commentary along the bottom of the tapestry. She is Programme Leader for Creative Writing and a member of the Poetry Centre in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

This depends on the poem/project. For my large-scale conceptual/visual poetry project MOTHERBABYHOME, I wrote in isolation but aired the poems regularly among audiences in Ireland and in the UK. These audiences varied quite a bit in terms of their familiarity with the subject matter, with the mode of writing (visual and conceptual), and with poetry readings in general. This variation really helped me ‘test’ the work, or at least know that I should keep going and write all 796 pages of the project. It also made releasing the whole thing and doing a durational performance of all of it feel much more familiar than it might have had I not worked on it for so long and shared work along the way. Currently, I’m sharing work on a regular basis with two poets based in Ireland – Dimitra Xidous and Annemarie Ní Churreáin.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : coda

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Poetry is still as intense as I have always imagined it to be. I am still in love with it.  

Juliette van der Molen : part one

Juliette van der Molen is a transatlantic writer and poet currently living in the Greater NYC area. She is an intersectional feminist and member of the LGBTQIA community. She is the poetry editor for Mookychick Magazine and a seasoned spoken word performer. Her books include: Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection and Mother, May I?. Her work has also appeared in Burning House Press, Kissing Dynamite, Memoir Mixtapes, Collective Unrest and several other publications. Her next book, Anatomy of A Dress, will publish in December 2019 through The Hedgehog Poetry Press.

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

I always saw poetry as inaccessible. I was often confused by it or didn’t understand it. But, the more I write poetry the more in tune I feel with the language of poetry. Crafting my own poems has helped me dive deeper into metaphor and find a balance between something more narrative and lyrical. Contemporary poets are the bards of our times, seeking to open up perspectives to our current political and social climate in unique ways. I work hard to bring my poetry to the eyes of non-poets in the hope that they will see what I see and learn to enjoy poetry.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part one

Susan Glickman grew up in Montréal, but after many travels landed up in Toronto with a husband, two children, a dog, and an old house that always needs fixing. Formerly an academic, she now works as a freelance editor and is learning to paint. She is the author of seven books of poetry from Montreal’s Véhicule Press, most recently What We Carry (2019). She has also published four novels, three children’s books, and an award-winning work of literary criticism: The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape (1998). The children’s books and her novel The Tale-Teller (2012) have all been translated by Christiane Duchesne for Les Éditions du Boréal, the novel appearing as Les aventures étranges et surprenantes d’Esther Brandeau, moussaillon (2014).

Photo credit: Toan Klein.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was enchanted with poetry from the moment my parents began reading Mother Goose to me, and I started making up rhymes before I could read or write. I loved the sounds of words as much as I loved their meaning and I loved their rhythm as much as I loved their sounds. I don’t think we read much contemporary – or even modern -- poetry in high school, but I bought a copy of Leonard Cohen’s Selected Poems 1956–1968 at a school bookfair when I was sixteen, and my head exploded.
Then, in university, I had the great good fortune of studying with Denise Levertov, who became my mentor and my friend. Everything I understand about open form -- about writing to express the inner rhythms of thought and feeling, about the line break and the breath -- I owe to her, and to the practice that began with her. Living in Greece the next year, when I was nineteen, introduced me to modern Greek poetry and that also made me more interested in experimenting outside closed forms. I sometimes go back to those forms, however. I especially love the knotty logic of sonnets, because they help me tame big emotions.