Saturday, 20 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part four

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

Poetry often gives the sense, in its distillation, that it is merely a glimpse of an entirely other, entirely whole other world, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, whereas visual art can sometimes be the thing itself, finished, whole (although I also prefer unfinished, process-based visual art and non-representational work). Perhaps that is why sometimes I like my poems to be visual, or somehow visually structured, even if the poems feel incomplete in the language. I increasingly find it hard to separate the visual from the textual, and so my work now often hovers between the two. A sensibility to installation-based visual arts practices as a curator and visual artist lends itself to my site-specific poetry. Each practice has its own vocabulary, its own possibilities, its own way to construct and deconstruct meanings, to synthesize and expand language and meaning. But poetry is language, and song, and word, and these are somehow deeply linked to meaning making in a way I can’t quite articulate with a brush, or a stitch alone.

Friday, 19 July 2019

James Roome : part four

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 was listening to the excellent Radio 3 programme, The Verb the other day, and a novelist (Denise Mina, I think) said, about her own writing, ‘it just falls out of my fingers’ (or words to that effect). I thought that was a lovely description of the writing process. Pretty accurate too (when it’s going well, that is).

I tend to write in snatched moments, and don’t really have much of a support network for it beyond a friend (the aforementioned James) and my wife, who tells me when something’s crap. I mean, I have a lot of people who support me in my writing, but not that many that I can look to for extensive critique. I keep trying to go to a local writers’ group, but life keeps getting in the way.

I do see this as a shortcoming in my writing process to be honest. You can take a poem so far on your own, but then it’s nice to have some outside input. You can become a little too close to your poetry sometimes, and it can be hard to notice the things that aren’t working, particularly if you have read it again and again to the point that it’s slipped into a pattern in your head. That can be difficult to break.

Ty J. Williams : part one

Ty J. Williams is a writer and poet who has recently eschewed decades of corporate jobhood to seek his first undergrad degree from the Ohio State University. His poetry can be read in Black Bough Poetry, Neololigism Poetry Journal, Columbus Alive and Fourth & Sycamore, as well as his WordPress site, The Little-Known History of Brooding. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, USA, with his wife, 3 sons and dog. Follow Ty at tywrites1 at and tywrites at

Photo credit: Kate Chapman.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Well, most of my poems are never “finished”, but all of them have an ending. I’m always editing and revising my poems, and that process is never really done. On the other hand, the endings of my poems are always intentional and well thought out. The last lines and the word choices in those last lines are probably the most deliberated and the most purposeful part of my writing. So, when I complete an initial draft of a poem, the endings are usually pretty solid and the least edited part of the poem. The rest will be tinkered with ad nauseum. 

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : part four

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

My book started off as research, nothing more. As it developed and I became obsessed, it grew into a rambling biography that happened to contain a few poems. No one in their right mind will be as interested in this as I am, I decided. And a poet (Penelope Shuttle) suggested that I recast most of it as poetry, as she felt the poems worked well. The result is a short, beautiful objet (I think), like a jewel; rich, condensed, precise. It took years and years to achieve this. And of course, it's a million miles from perfect. But one day soon the publisher will print it and I won't be able to fiddle-arse around with it any more. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is pretty important to my poetry, but not as a source of inspiration. I use music as a screen to close me off from the outside, allowing me to turn my attention fully inwards. The physical world vanishes, and the music that I use for this purpose never really informs the work and is usually quite banal or what might be considered “bad” by a judgmental auteur. I usually attach to one song and play it on repeat for the entire time I’m working on a certain piece. It never really imprints upon the work, but provides an energy I use to propel me further and deeper into the work.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part four

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

Not in particular, but reading on its own is very important to me. Whenever I finish a manuscript, I go through a period when I don’t remember how to write a poem. I feel very literally like I don’t know what a poem is anymore. I give myself a break, and then I turn to reading to relearn it. Every book I read teaches me, either because it reaches me or because it doesn’t, and I think about why I’ve had that reaction. I also find other forms of storytelling to be just as restorative. Good innovative fiction nourishes me. Formally ambitious essays. Films with strong visuals. Video games with textured worlds. I take all of this in.

Chris Warren : part four

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

I truly think that, within this ever expanding and indefinable creative spectrum we find ourselves, poetry has the capability to do, and be, anything we wish. I feel that poetry has an ability to take and remould language in a way other forms find a little more difficult. You only have to look at works like Derek Beaulieu’s recent book Aperture, or Christian Bok’s Xenotext, or Barrie Tullet’s current exhibition The Typographic Dante to see what is possible. Excitingly, I still think we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg. The first example I ever saw of world moving concrete poetry was Ottar Ormstad’s Bokstavteppekatalogen, and it completely stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. I didn’t really know for some time what to do with it, conceptually, but I did know I’d never write in the same way again. That’s what poetry can do. So, I guess, to answer the question, I feel poetry still has the ability to turn a writers concept(s) of what is possible completely on their head, to spark a complete psychic and creative reevaluation of reality, and personally no other form has ever fully managed that.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part two

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

Poetry allows us to be cavalier with rules, both in the reading and writing of it. Because of the commitment of good poetry to truth, it can work beyond the poet, beyond their personal considerations and needs while writing it, and be applicable universally as anything between art and prophecy.

G. E. Schwartz : part thirteen

How does a poem begin?

Waking from last night's dream (s), dialoging with its narratives and images.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I consider myself more a reviser than a writer. I don’t think a poem is ever finished. Maybe, during the revision process, the second, third, or thirteenth draft becomes a different poem altogether. But maybe, during those in-between drafts, you start to see the potential or the concept or the beginnings of a poem become your own. Somewhere in-between, you realize that a poem is finished because it is exactly in the order you want to say it, with the exact words you want to say it with. Sometimes, it requires another comma or two. But at some point, you get tired of reading your own work, and you abandon it, and it stops there. Sometimes you pick it up again. It really depends on where the poem wants to go. Just let the poem take you to where it wants to go.

Carlie Blume : part five

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

There are so many books, but one in particular lately I find myself often returning to is Adele Barclay’s If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You. Her work is so sensual and vibrant. Every poem feels like a whimsical dream.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I have learned through painting that a work (mine anyway) will never be perfect, but there is a moment when it just feels done and there is the risk of overworking it. Sometimes a poem is finished because the structure says so, or because I am happy with the rhythm or the pace of it and it just feels, or visually looks, finished. I think it’s easier to know when a poem is unfinished, unresolved, or needs to have a big eraser attend to it.

Some of my poems are finished when I can no longer see them in the landscape. But they never are completely finished in the sense that they may be a moment in a conversation, a trace, a point on a line, a breath in a lifetime of breathing. Or they are floating somewhere still out there in the water, or decomposing in a pile of leaves. Like ecologies, these poems are always in process; increasingly I like poems that are unfinished, or somehow give the sense that they are in motion, or still speaking after I have finished writing/reading the words. 

Friday, 12 July 2019

James Roome : part three

What are you working on?

All sorts. Sonnet sequence, occasional poems (some with a vaguely political edge. A first for me), and a sequence based on myth inspired by Gunslinger. There’s a ‘character’ in that poem that is literally a circle of parsons, each holding a candle. It’s in the very early stages and is probably going to be quite the undertaking. ‘Bull’ (the long poem/sequence that makes up my chapbook) took four years to get right, so we’ll see!

I’m also putting together a collaborative pamphlet with a friend, James Lock, whose work I greatly respect for its commitment to making poetry useful. He’s someone who comes at writing poetry from a completely different standpoint to me really – where I aim for ridiculousness, he sees poetry (and I hope I’m getting him right here) as a means to say things that need to be said.

Now that the chapbook’s out, my next aim as an individual poet is to put together a pamphlet or full collection, which I’m working towards. I have around 30 complete poems at the moment, though whether they’ll all make it into a final collection I have no idea.

And then there’s the endless cycle of submissions and rejections, though I have had a micro poem published recently in Black Bough (a new digital micro poetry publisher) and I have had a short sequence accepted by Stride, so that should be appearing at some point over the summer.

Steve Venright : part five

What are you working on?

Poetry in a broad sense—I suppose this is obvious—can be found in any medium. I move from one to another, depending on what feels fun and otherwise compelling at the time: writing, visual art, audio recording, and sub-media within those fields. As for literary projects, I’m completing work—after a lengthy hiatus—on a book about the dream world of legendary sleeptalker Dion McGregor, to feature dozens of original transcriptions of his somniloquies, which were recorded in the ’60s by his roommate/songwriting partner Michel Barr and are now in the archives of my little Torpor Vigil label. Its title is The Somnolent Adventures of Dion McGregor, and I confidently anticipate that it will be the fastest-selling book of its kind in more than half a century. (There was one other book of its kind that came out in 1964.)

I’m also assembling a compilation of poems that were not part of my 2017 selected. It will likely be called The Golden Age of Noxious Drivel. Though not by me, of course!

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : 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?

Yes, though I spent a decade in a dark room on my own first. I came out with a draft but realized I'd almost forgotten how to speak and I'd lost and all my friends.  But I made new ones in local groups and on courses, who helped me perfect my story - though, of course,  it is far from perfect.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

George Oppen’s work—reading him felt like an outstretched hand. His presence & very humanistic perceiving has really informed how I cast my own experiencing into the act of writing.

Aimé Césaire absolutely shattered all tentative obligations I might have felt to keep believing / caring about the people who had told me for so long what the function and tradition of poetry might be. It was hugely important to be able to read him, and important to still be reading him.

Lisa Robertson, as a different way to approach and grapple with the lyric in poetry. The same with Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, the early work of Joseph Ceravolo.

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, essential. Paul Celan (of course).

Really, a great majority of the writers who have vitally affected my relationship to writing haven’t been poets.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The editing process is the hardest part, and I think it’s partly because it can be endless, and some poems, no matter what you do, just won’t work. They’re mulch for the poems coming later. I love the writing process. I know some poets find it difficult, but I’m very good at shutting off my editor and letting the words get on the page. It’s once they’re there that I struggle to make sense of what the poem wants to be. I think I write so easily because I don’t consider the reader in those moments. I have permission to fail. But in the editing process I have to invite a reader in, and I have make the poem deliver something they want or need. I have never been good at killing my darlings. I want all my darlings to live.

Chris Warren : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

My concept of poetry now is unrecognisable from what it once was. I once liked to think, loftily, that I knew exactly what a poem was, and what constituted quality, but am happy to say that nowadays I haven’t the faintest clue. I have always had ambitions to blur the lines between my art and my poetry to create an odd amalgam that was neither one nor the other. Nowadays the line has become so successfully blurred for me that I’m never entirely how to describe or explain what I’ve done. I have had people on Twitter tell me that have loved a recently posted poem, that I didn’t even recognise was poetry. I also recently had a spot on the Chaudiere Books blog post for Poetry Month showcasing one of my visual poems from 2016. The poem was one of six from a collection containing micro poems designed around Rorschach ink blots. Since I made them I have completely forgotten what the content of those micro poems were, so am as much in the dark as to what they mean as anyone else. There is something wonderful about that. I am more than happy to have visual work I have done described as poems, or poems I have written described as something else entirely. For me to dictate that the things I make are immovably one thing or another does nothing but compromise viewer autonomy and devalue the work. If you say it’s poetry then I don’t really feel it’s my place to argue.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part one

Tolu Oloruntoba has lived in Nigeria, the U.S., and Canada, and once spent 12 years studying and practicing medicine. His poetry has appeared in Pleiades, Columbia Journal Online, Obsidian, SAND Journal, Entropy, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His debut chapbook, Manubrium, is forthcoming from Anstruther Press in 2019, and a full length collection of his poetry will be published by Palimpsest Press in 2021.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

There is a sense of repose that comes over me when an unexpected ending suggests itself, and I am able to capture it. And if when I look over the poem, I am overtaken by a sense of wonder, can’t help re-reading it repeatedly (I wrote that?), and can’t, however hard I try, find anything to change, or add, I sense that the work is done. For some other poems, particularly if they deal with past trauma, when I’m done, I just feel the overwhelming urge to go lie down after. Think of Frodo’s “It’s Done,” at the Cracks of Doom (before I unearth the same issue in a different poem).

G. E. Schwartz : part twelve

Why is poetry important?

Because it gives us the best possibility to present and explore our knowing and unknowing: that it can be a modest restatement of the notion that we are more than an organism in an environment, more than an integrated personality, more even than a mature and creative individual, as the phrase goes... as we are wayfarers and pilgrims.

Joshua Weiner : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is the home of metaphor, without which there is no knowledge; it is original science. 

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part one

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan graduated from Bowdoin College and attends the University of the Philippines MA Creative Writing Program. In 2016, she was awarded the Carlos Palanca Memorial Foundation Awards for Poetry. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Cordite Poetry Review, Asymptote Journal, Cha Literary Journal, Contrary Magazine, Eastlit Magazine, and New Asian Writing, among others. She is one of the current poetry editors at Inklette Magazine. Her first book of poetry, The Sea That Beckoned, is available from Platypus Press.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was very fortunate to have an ally and a mother figure in my third-grade teacher Mrs. Lippman, during my first year in the U.S. She had an enormous library for an eight-year-old girl to feast on. I still remember the first poetry book I read, entitled Poetry For Young People: Emily Dickinson. It had a picture of a tree with a dove in it. I abandoned poetry a couple of times in my life, but thankfully I had teachers such as Professor Anthony Walton at Bowdoin College and Professor Nerissa Guevara at the University of Santo Tomas who picked up where Mrs. Lippman left off in educating me as a young writer of poetry.

Carlie Blume : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I recently read Tiana Clark’s I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood and was floored. I also just finished Cluster by Souvankham Thammmavongsa and was struck with her range and ability to bring the reader to their knees with a simple, stark poem. I also often return to Jonina Kirton’s Page as Bone- Ink as Blood as well as An Honest Woman. I will never tire of those books. Jonina’s poetry is so heartfelt, raw and wise. It breaks my heart every time.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

There was always poetry on my bedside table as a child; the written word was always somehow a home for me. Although I have written most of my life as a process of meaning-making, to find words for what I can’t understand or grasp, sometimes to process grief, or as a means to conjure a whole other space, I feel like I am only really beginning to engage with poetry recently. My writing feels more complex now, but also simpler, more a part of me and also apart from me. Turning fifty has made me (mostly) accept the limits of my life and the possibilities of my contributions to it, but has also stabbed me with the deep sense of the limits of my remaining time. Both of these things are motivating and somehow freeing.

Shannon Mastromonico : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is extremely important. I've always had a very strong connection to music in general, so it has proven to be a big inspiration when I write. Music is lyrical poetry.

Poetry is one of the most important things to me and I almost gave up. I have been writing for thirty years but I have only been actively honing my craft and submitting work for about a year. As soon as I decided to call myself a poet, as soon as I decided to send my work out there, I stepped onto my true path. Since May of 2018, I have been published more than ten times and I self published my first chapbook of poems earlier this year. I truly cannot believe that I waited so long.

Friday, 5 July 2019

James Roome : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I remember doing an assignment on them as a pair as one of my first essays as an undergraduate and being absolutely floored by Song of Myself. I sat on the edge of my bed and read the whole thing in one sitting. It was so free and welcoming and casual and fun to read in a way that other poetry I had been exposed to had not been, yet it was still intensely philosophical.

Dickinson, I was bamboozled by at first. I found her syntax and capitalisation challenging. Now I find her to be one of the most consistently rewarding poets I read. Her imagery and turn of phrase is so idiosyncratic. She inspired me to make more surprising choices with language and imagery.

After those two, Wallace Stevens for the spiritual nature of his work, Frank O'Hara for his surrealism and joy, CD Wright for her incredibly generous and vivid work (she operates within a frame of reference that is alien to me, and that makes her work extremely interesting to me).

I just realised, every single poet I’ve mentioned is dead.

Steve Venright : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

What I find most difficult about writing poetry is resisting the temptation to be meaningful. That’s not to say I avoid meaning (whatever that means) in a poem, only that I try not to arrive at meaning through intention. I suspect there are instances that prove that statement false; e.g., a limerick about the third World Trade Center building to collapse on September 11, 2001 wouldn’t have gotten very far along without some awareness that I’m methodically imparting what, for simplistic convenience, can be called a political view (though I’d prefer something like “empirical curiosity”). But, generally, I prefer if a poem develops or asserts its own meaning without my conscious intervention. Also, the words are very hard.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I seldom return to a poem without seeing a way of improving it. Usually the improvement is not an improvement, and so the process continues eternally. I have a few poems that do seem perfect and therefore 'finished' but they are very rare beasts. And what is the formula? Indefinable I'm afraid and of course different in every case. Something to do with: the fewest words, the plainest words saying the exact right thing, the music, the shape, the strength, and there being a point in writing it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult part about writing poetry, for me, is the physical and mental cost of the sustained effort of writing. Most of the writing I do occurs in a short period of time, in between long pauses where I might be able to make a few quality edits (at best), or essentially undo all the work I’d done previously. So, when I’m writing, everything I do channels into the work. I write until I’m exhausted, always pushing myself to do more as I can never predict when the work will end and I’ll enter that state of being unable to write. It is a place of excitement and happiness, but it’s always followed by a pretty severe collapse.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I think poetry has few limits, and my goal is to keep pushing my understanding of it as far as it will go. Poetry is as broad as prose and contains as many multitudes. I’ve gotten much more interested in how poetry and prose can speak to each other, work together, blur and blend, and hybridize each other. The longer I write, the more faith I put into the story being told and less into the mode in which it is told. I believe each story should be revealed not only in content, but through its form.

Chris Warren : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was least 4 years old and in my teenage years became quickly obsessed with the work of Jim Morrison, oddly, and Sylvia Plath, as I suspect many people do at that age. In my late teens and early twenties I was writing a lot more and began writing poetry to perform, becoming resident poet for an open mic night in London and reading whenever possible locally.  I have had brief love affairs with several poets over the years but, as heretical as this sounds, have never been a committed reader of other people’s work, preferring instead to simply focus on the crafting of my own. Saying that, I do still love a bit of Frank O’Hara and will reach for Alexander Vvendensky’s Rug / Hydrangea without fail whenever I need lifting out of myself to somewhere better.

Monday, 1 July 2019

G. E. Schwartz : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry? 

Listening to it, being moved by it, gives balance to poetry forging by example, its effectiveness in tone, mood and clarity.

Joshua Weiner : part four

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

I return to the Scottish border ballads, especially "Edward" and "Sir Patrick Spens"; poets from the English Renaissance--Wyatt, Gascoigne, Ralegh, Spenser, Fulke Greville, Sidney, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Campion, Donne, Herbert, Jonson, Henry King, Marvell.  I turn to the Romantics--Blake's Songs, Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, Coleridge, Keats, Clare; also Dickinson & Whitman.  I find renewal in the poems of Hardy and Hopkins; Frost, Stevens, Williams, D.H. Lawrence, Pound, Moore.  And Mina Loy.  And then later, Sterling Brown, Auden, Roethke, and especially Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell; also Gwendolyn Brooks, and Larkin.  I find it in Ammons, and Creeley, also Kenneth Koch, and Ginsberg.  Ted Hughes and Adrienne Rich, Gary Snyder and Derek Walcott.  Thomas McGrath and Robert Duncan.  Seamus Heaney and Roberts Pinsky & Hass.  Anne Winters and David Ferry.  I save the first for last, Thom Gunn; Thom Gunn, most.  This is my DNA, my rhythm book, my source and sorcery; these are the constellations of my night sky.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Carlie Blume : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I sometimes struggle with figuring out how to elevate a poem and make it soar. I know when a poem isn’t working, but I don’t always know how to get it to that next level. I often drive myself insane with that question. That’s usually when I try to pull back and absorb myself with the work of other poets and make myself familiar with the poems that are working well.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

sophie anne edwards : part one

sophie anne edwards walks and creates site-specific and responsive poetry (along with installation-based textile and visual art) on Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island). Her work has been published in a number of print and online publications. Her poems also appear in the bush for a mostly biotic readership. She was shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2019 poem of the year contest. Instagram: sophie anne edwards Twitter: sophieanneedwa1

What are you working on?

Mostly, I am working on a collection of poetry titled Interview with a River. I am writing about the complexity of a local river ecosystem - the biotic and the abiotic, the social, cultural, colonial, environmental histories along with my own personal emotional, intellectual and embodied relationship to the river. Alongside the responsive poetry, I am also writing with the river - finding ways that the river might be a collaborator in the writing and editing. This involves spending a lot of time on the river; I  never quite know what invitations I might set up as these emerge from cues I interpret through my walks. I have also just finished edits on chapters included in two book projects (one on geopoetics, the other on 19th century women and travel), and recently submitted two co-authored articles on creative field research with children in the early years. I also write a lot of lists (the poetry of daily life).

Shannon Mastromonico : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I started reading Sylvia Plath's work when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Her work and her life had a huge impact on my own work, how I see poetry in general.

Friday, 28 June 2019

James Roome : part one

James Roome received an MA in Poetry from MMU and is based in Manchester, UK. His work has appeared in Magma, Tears in the Fence, Ink, Sweat and Tears and the Wordlife anthology. His first chapbook, Bull, is out now from The Red Ceilings Press.

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is ridiculous. It’s an excuse to say ridiculous things and get away with it. I wrote a poem the other day about a fake study that claimed 12% of people believe that when the full moon shines on the human body, it is possible to see their internal organs. Ridiculous, right? Perhaps it’s possible to get away with it because so few people care about poetry, and those that do have a preference for the odd and unusual. The stranger, the better. Even ‘mainstream’ poetry is a niche interest. The world continues all around us. And yet, every now and again one breaks through into the popular consciousness and the ridiculousness and variety of the world is highlighted and everyone looks at it and thinks, huh!

In another, more serious way, I also think of poetry along the same lines as Wallace Stevens: as a replacement for religious spirituality. I like what Susan B. Weston said about ‘Sunday Morning’: ‘the "revelation of a secular religion."' We say these ridiculous things, but sometimes they add up to more than the sum of their parts. Sometimes there’s a stone buried in poems and when you wash it in the sea it turns red.

Finally, poetry also makes us question language. Does a word have to mean exactly what you’ve been taught it means? A prime issue with understanding and acceptance of poetry as an art form is that everyone feels a sense of ownership over the language they speak. That language, therefore, has to mean something and if you don't understand what it means then it must be elitist/you're not clever enough to get the poem. This is a misconception that I try to correct on a daily basis as part of my work as an English teacher. Poetry is about making you feel (or not feel) things, without needing to explain why. That’s valuable. It can be beautiful and surprising and harsh and weird, and it’s at its best when it resists logic.

Steve Venright : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I haven’t been reading much poetry of late, though a couple of fairly recent favourites would be Stuart Ross’s poetic novel Pockets (ECW), and the selected writings of Paul Dutton (Sonosyntactics) and Alice Burdick (Deportment), both from WLU Press. I have, however, been reading lots of books about poetry and poets. I’ve now read almost everything by Richard Holmes, including his massive and exceptional bios of Shelley and Coleridge, and his trilogy of “reflections of a Romantic biographer” which include, as in the most recent instalment This Long Pursuit, revelatory mini-bios of poets who are often better known their other vocations, such as Margaret Cavendish and Zélide (Isabelle de Charriere). Another superb poet-bio I read recently is the one on Keats by Robert Gittings. Oh, and I did just read most of John Ashbery’s Hotel Lautréamont—picked it up in Cambridge at Grolier Books which, like the poet, was born in 1927. Not bad, that guy.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Jessica Mehta : part five

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

Li-Young Lee, particularly his poem “Braiding.” It’s a reminder to love the current moment: “There will come a day / one of us will have to imagine this.”

Mary J. Oliver : part one

Mary J. Oliver’s background is in the visual arts, teaching and exhibiting in Scotland and England. She switched to writing fulltime ten years ago. Quite a few individual poems accepted by magazines and journals and anthologies, won a few prizes in competitions, so was encouraged to commit to a major project, which has been accepted for publication, 2019, Seren Books, UK. Her debut is a coalescing of prose, poetry, found documents and photographs, and demonstrates her deep awareness of the visual and tangible qualities involved with holding and reading a book.  She has always lived on the west coast of UK, either in Scotland or Cornwall. 

Photo credit: Steve Tanner, Fotgraphics, Cornwall

What are you working on?

I'm finishing a ten year project relating to a hobo's experience in Canada during the Great Depression of the 1930s (my father). It's my cross-genre debut - poetry as memoir, JIM NEAT - The Case of a Young Man Down on His Luck, being published by Seren (UK) in September 2019.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part one

Nicole Raziya Fong is a writer living in Montréal. Her work seeks to delimit and re-construct immaterial ampules of psychic experience, coaxing the incorporeal into inhabiting a more muscular physique. Her chapbook, Fargone (2014), was published as part of the Poetry Will Be Made By All project. Past work has appeared in publications including Cordite, Poetry is Dead, and The Volta. PEЯFACT (Talonbooks, 2019) is her first book.

What are you working on?

I’m currently grappling with a long, onerous project titled OЯACULE. It’s an imperfectly theatrical channelling of psychic mutability, suffering and feminine resistance. It’s onerous in the sense that it’s being written alongside a process of uncovering traumatic memory, difficult in that I’m trying to maintain an equivalent level of hiddenness while implementing a legibility of my own making. I’ve always had more of an interest in the workings of language and how certain convergences might reveal or conceal something ordinarily untouchable; it’s something I’m trying to access in this work.

dean rader : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Two poets I did not mention above are John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins. They taught me how a line of poetry is also a line of music. I am probably most drawn to poems that I think catalyze language’s ability to lift itself out of mere expression and into the realm of music.

In terms of inspiration or interaction, I recently completed a collaborative project with the calligrapher Thomas Ingmire in which I wrote a poem in response to one of his drawings while listening to music. That poem, “Nocturne (Lasciere Sonare)” is itself a marriage of poetry and music.

Also on this note (ha!) a young composer named Sam Melnick put a few poems from Works & Days to music, and I recently learned that British composer Gabriel Jackson is setting my poem from Bullets into Bells, “Self-Portrait in Charleston, Orlando” to music for The Crossing musical ensemble out of Philadelphia. So, while I always think of my work as being first and foremost in conversation with visual art, it is also intimately connected to music.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Charles Jensen : part one

Charles Jensen is the author of the poetry collection Nanopedia and six chapbooks of poems, including the recent Story Problems and Breakup/ Breakdown. His first collection, The First Risk, was a finalist for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award. He is the recipient of the 2018 Zócalo Poetry Prize, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, the 2007 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, the Red Mountain Review Chapbook Award, and an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Field, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is the founding editor of the online poetry magazine LOCUSPOINT, which explores creative work on a city-by-city basis. He lives in Los Angeles and directs the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension, the largest continuing education creative writing program in the nation.

Photo: David Franco

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was 13, I lived on an island. There were 11 kids in my class. A poet came to do a residency in the school for a week and that was really the first time I started writing poems and learning about craft. The following year, my high school English teacher pulled me aside after class after we did a poetry assignment and encouraged me to keep writing, that she’d work with me outside of class. Those two people changed my life. One was a public school teacher who went above and beyond, and the other was an artist funded by a state arts agency to work with kids.

Chris Warren : part one

Chris Warren is a UK based typographical artist, poet and writer. He has exhibited in China and Finland, and will soon be exhibiting a series of 18 typewriter studies in the UK. He is also a contributor to the Chaudiere Books blog, a founding member of The Spittoon Collective, founder of the Spittoon Fiction night and former fiction editor of The Spittoon Literary Magazine, based in Beijing. His work can be found at

What are you working on?

The time I have to work at the moment is relatively few and far between but I’m doing what I can to make headway into four separate projects. One is a series of 26 concrete poems focussing on the digital manipulation and disintegration of individual letters; the second is a growing series of typewritten shade studies; the third is an increasingly ridiculous typographic nonsense odyssey that I lost all control of some time ago, and the fourth is a series of large, typewritten, poems largely written by my 18 month old son. He is one of the greatest sound poets I have ever heard, bias aside. The issue I have at the moment, if it can be called an issue, is that the work put into any of these projects is letting loose a flood of thoughts and ideas that are influencing the others, or planting seeds for new projects, which means everything I’m working on seems to be quickly gestating into something larger than I originally conceived. However, finding myself juggling more balls than I have hands for is a far nicer place to be than having acres of time and an empty head. I’ve been there too, and that’s just upsetting.

Monday, 24 June 2019

G. E. Schwartz : part ten

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

There are three: Herman Melville's Pierre or, The Ambiguities, as it always reminds me how an authentic dramatic expression of profound anxieties and obsessions reveals us as a species on a path to discovery; Melville's Clarel, which, while mocking Christian allegory, addresses the deeply pastoral with virtuosity and purpose, and ALL of Margaret Avison's work, as she brings home for me at least that the elusive--and the elliptical--can stalk me with its river-deep slow whisperings.

Joshua Weiner : part three

What poets have changed the way you thought about writing? 

Too many to name.  I think I'm a little changed by every poet I read seriously, by which I mean continually and intentionally for a period of time.  Mina Loy, whose work I was immersed in for years, helped me better understand the relationship of verbal density to expansive consciousness; she became one of my few courage teachers, you could say.  And Wallace Stevens did something of the same though entirely differently, by connecting, very powerfully, the sensual world to actions of mind, and with such strong physical sensation in the language. I notice that when I read him for a spell, and I look up from the book, the world around me looks perceptively changed, my brain feels like it's suddenly doing something unusual that's separate from reading.  Reading Stevens for me is a little like taking LSD, but easier to be with other people.  It didn't change the way I thought about writing as much as it made me hyper aware of how, at the granular level of the syllable, the interaction of those language-sounds affects me. 

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Carlie Blume : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

In elementary school my grade five teacher gave us the assignment that we had to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class. I wasn’t familiar with much poetry growing up so my mom took me to the library where we checked out a few poetry anthologies. When I discovered Trees by Joyce Kilmer I was immediately drawn to poem’s beautifully simple anthropomorphic portrait of a tree as well as it’s musicality. It completely delighted me.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Shannon Mastromonico : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The beginning is the most difficult for me, when the page is blank. The first ideas that I write down are what sparks the process, what gets everything going and they come unexpectedly. Before that moment, it's a waiting game.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Lennart Lundh : coda

I like to close readings at new venues by quoting from Carl Sandburg's "Notes for a Preface," found in his Collected Poems: "I should like to think that as I go on writing there will be sentences truly alive, with verbs quivering, with nouns giving color and echoes. It could be, in the grace of God, I shall live to be eighty-nine, as did Hokusai, and speaking my farewell to earthly scenes, I might paraphrase: 'If God had let me live five years longer I should have been a writer.'"

Steve Venright : part two

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

One of the books I return to when needing to get my bearings is Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen. My poems were almost all in prose even before I first encountered it, but my love of that collection—and formally related works such as Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror—secured my inclination. Beyond any technical allure, of course, is the haunting and transporting charge of being addressed by the mind of Baudelaire travelling without decay or distortion through time and space. Literature is indeed, to paraphrase Nicky Drumbolis, a wonderful form of time travel! (When I’ve got a craving for rhyme, humour, and absurd mythic adventure, I can be found within the pages of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.)

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Jessica Mehta : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately? 

I’m on a self-prescribed diet of “research-only” books, but fortunately most of them are poetry. I’m neck-deep in the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Marianne Moore, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

dean rader : part four

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

I think about this all the time as well. I’ve been thinking about it a great deal in relation to a book I worked on with Brian Clements and Alexandra Teague called Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, which Beacon published in 2017, on the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre. In that book, poetry offers an alternative mode of expression to journalism, statistics, and polemics. So often, public discourse is an example of language at its worst. Well, poetry is language at its best. It clarifies even though it does not explain.

William Stott argues that documentary photography (like that of Dorothea Lange) “educates our emotions.” I love that. I think poetry does something similar but maybe the opposite—it emotionalizes our intellect. It helps us feel through our thinking.

Poetry connects us to language, the tool we use for everything.

Monday, 17 June 2019

G. E. Schwartz : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Alex Dimitrov's Together and By Ourselves, Anais Duplain's Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus, and Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic.

Joshua Weiner : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I've been reading Tom Pickard, early work up through his latest, Fiends Fell Journal, published last year by Flood Editions, beautifully edited and produced by Devin Johnston at Flood, he does such great work, and he has a keen feeling for English poetry that deserves a better audience in the U.S.--the reissue of Roy Fisher's A Furnace, edited by Peter Robinson, is a good example of a book that really needed a champion, and Devin stepped in, impeccably.  I've also been taken by the recent W.S. Graham books--Michael Hofmann's edition for NYRB, and the new Faber selected.  It was an anniversary year last year for Graham, and I'm eager to see the new issue of Chicago Review, with its Graham feature, which should hit stands presently.  Hofmann's own feeling for Graham, the choices he's made, has helped me really hear what's wonderful in that work.  I've also been reading through Donna Stonecipher's books, one by one, a remarkably consistent body of work--six books out, it's clear she knew what she was about from the very beginning.  The most recent books of hers--The Cosmopolitan, Model City, Transaction Histories, and the chapbook from Catenary Press, Ten Ruins--all devoted to the prose poem, are certainly some of the most formally rigorously defined in that genre, which from the outset defies definition.  I've also recently enjoyed new first books by Lindsay Bernal, Liz Countryman, and Joshua Mensch, all quite different from each other, and books that I admire and find auspicious.  Otherwise, I've been immersed in the German translations and essays of Michael Hamburger, collected in a recent omnibus from Carcanet--more than any other poet writing in English, Hamburger gave us a comprehensive image of what German poetry accomplished in the 20th century.  Though, as post-script, I'd add that I just got my hands on David Gascoyne's Collected Verse Translations, which I'm working through, with special attention to "Hölderlin's Madness," a cycle of the German Romantic's poems, translated quite freely--I think Gascoyne was working with a French translation from German, which rather triples up the translation layers, quite interestingly--and antecedent to Hamburger's edition, which was really the first complete translation into English.  That's all rather heavy.  The book I just finished and enjoyed immediately rereading and am still rereading is Anthony Madrid's There Was an Old Man with a Springbok, which you can hear is a limerick; in fact the book is over 140 limericks that are as good as anything by Edward Lear, and of a demented genius that is 100% Madrid.  They are light verse in the most serious way, the sensibility a kind of extraordinary verbal champagne spiked with a gabillion bubbles of technical virtuosity.  It's the most dangerous book I've read all year.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Elisa Matvejeva : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I don’t think I could write if music didn’t exist. I have a ritual, if you will. I feel an emotion or have an image in my head, but by listening to music, this emotion condenses into tangible words and phrases. There is something so therapeutic about music and how it forms words in my head. I guess it is because I grew up in a household where music was always playing. I guess it helps me think clearly.

Carlie Blume : part one

Carlie Blume is a Vancouver born writer of poetry and fiction. She is a 2017 graduate of The Writer’s Studio as well as a recent graduate from the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive and Chelene Knight’s Advanced Poetry Workshop. Her work has appeared in The Maynard, Train: a poetry journal, Pulp MAG, Loose Lips Magazine, Guest Poetry Journal and BAD DOG Review.

What are you working on?

I am currently working on polishing up my first poetry collection, writing poems for my second collection and building up the courage to get back to the novel I have been starting and stopping for the last five years.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Shannon Mastromonico : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It's strange because there is a feeling, the way the words sound at the end, maybe. But there is definitely a moment where I just know that it's finished.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Lennart Lundh : 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?

My work meets its public when I read at the wonderful venues available to me in the Chicago area, and/or when it gets published. I don't write collaboratively and won't workshop. By this point, I'm confident in my abilities.

Steve Venright : part one

Steve Venright is a Canadian visual artist and poet whose books include Spiral Agitator (Coach House Books, 2000), Floors of Enduring Beauty (Mansfield Press, 2007), and The Least You Can Do Is Be Magnificent: Selected & New Writings (Feed Dog/Anvil Press, 2017). Through his Torpor Vigil Records label, he has released several albums of somniloquies, soundscapes, and songs, including Dreaming Like Mad with Dion McGregor: Yet More Outrageous Recordings of the World’s Most Renowned Sleeptalker and Samuel Andreyev’s The Tubular West. As a purveyor of neurotechnology in the 1990s, he exploited the psychedelic potential of pulsed light with his Hallucintatorium—a sort of retinal-circus sideshow that earned him the designation of “Toronto’s prime purveyor of non-chemically altered states” (Eye Weekly). Steve’s digital abstract images and patterns—“variegraphs” and “tryptiles”—are available online from the Torpor Vigil Art store, which peddles everything from credenzas to beach towels.

How does a poem begin?

A poem tends to begin with a neural or maybe extra-neural impulse, tickle, or flash. Sometimes the first line is already in my head; other times—if I arrive before it—I have to wait around a little for it to show up. Every poem I’ve ever written, so far as I can recall, has begun with a single phrase or line without my having any notion whether it will be as short as that or run on for, say, dozens of pages. The disparate but resonating one-liners end up assembling themselves into aggregates when enough of them emerge. Other one-liners suggest a theme and form that I end up riffing on till there’s a bunch of them and they form a modular piece, sometimes even a (dreaded) list poem. I often reflect on Henri Michaux’s observation that the mere desire to create a poem is enough to kill it. I also find Max Ernst’s maxim (Max-ism?) of keeping one eye on the outside world and one on the inner to be a useful position from which to start.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Jessica Mehta : part three

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

Poetry demands a trimming of the fat, and the ability to say critical things concisely. For me, there is a protective veil in poetry that allows me to be totally honest and forthcoming in a way other genres don’t.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

dean rader : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Certainly Merwin and Wright but also Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich. I was also really influenced (and still am) by Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, Rainier Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Jorie Graham, Federico Garcia Lorca, Charles Wright, Paul Celan, Georg Trakl, Rita Dove, and H.D. I think H.D.’s “Eurydice” may be the great American poem, and it is certainly one of the most underrated. I think about it all the time.

But, I would also say that artists like Paul Klee, Robert Motherwell, and Dorothea Lange, (and now Twombly) have changed how I think about my practice. I have poems about all of four of these visual artists.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Adrienne Gruber : part four

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

There’s a few. Broom Broom by Brecken Hancock is one that always helps me find my way into my own poems.

Monday, 10 June 2019

G. E. Schwartz : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about your writing?

In rough chronological order: John Berryman, as his poetry showed me I could express the various voices and moods within; John Montague, as he reminded me we ALL live (in a micro and macro way) in various cultures, mostly dualistically, Joseph Brodsky, as he taught me to ALWAYS LIVE a strong defense for anything I make--that it might be made to be tried and tested, Ronald Johnson, who set a great example on the many  ways to address the vistas before me, and William Bronk, who taught me how to navigate World, as a land of dreams with its joy its beauty and often its cons.

Joshua Weiner : part one

Joshua Weiner is the author of three books of poetry, including The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish.  He is also the editor of At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn (all from Chicago).   A book of prose, Berlin Notebook, reporting about the refugee crisis (LARB) came out in 2016, and the chapbook, Everything I Do I Do Good: Trumpoems (Dispatches from the Poetry Wars) in 2018.   A recipient of Whiting, Guggenheim, Amy Lowell, and Rome Prize fellowships, he teaches at University of Maryland, and lives with his family in Washington D.C.

Photo credit: Ralph Alswang.

What are you working on?

I'm finishing a translation from German, of Nelly Sachs' 1959 volume, Flight & Metamorphosis, something I've been working on for a couple of years, with the help of Linda Parshall, a German scholar and friend. The translation is very close to finished; now I have to write the introduction and compile the notes.  It'll be the first translation of the entire volume, one of her two masterpieces (the other, Glowing Enigmas, translated in full by Michael Hamburger about 50 years ago). 

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Elisa Matvejeva : part four

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

I’ve shouted from the rooftops about Ocean Vuong before, but he really is an inspiration. I hope that one day, when I require renewal, I could just call him up and have a chat instead of just reading his poetry. But it will suffice for now. His poems just transport me into another realm. He’s the reason I started this journey of publishing. His book Night Sky with Exit Wounds really gets to me, it’s so beautifully crafted. It always manages to renew me.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Cendrine Marrouat : part five

What are you working on?

I am working on volume 2 of Walks: A Collection of Poetry. This series is a celebration of my love for haiku as well as an invitation to embrace the flitting moments that surround us.

Volume 1 will be released on February 28, 2019. For more information, visit

Shannon Mastromonico : part one

Shannon Mastromonico was born and raised in Montreal. She has been writing poetry/creating art for over twenty years and is an alumni of the Dawson college photography program. Her work has been published in the journals Montréal Writes, Persephone's Daughters, Snapdragon Journal and Harness Magazine as well as in her  recently self published chapbook. She lives with her husband and kitty, Calliope in the Laurentian Mountains.

What are you working on?

I'm working on my first full length poetry book, which is actually a poetic graphic novel.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Lennart Lundh : part four

How does a poem begin?

My senses, all or singly, elicit a response from the word-wrangling part of my brain, which sets about herding letters into some semblance of order. I never know when, and I've learned not to force it. There's no quota I'm trying to meet.

Valerie Wallace : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been listening to poetry podcasts lately. I'm a big fan of PoemTalk from Penn Sound. My go-to right now is The Poetry Exchange, which approaches the conversation as thinking about particular poems as friends. I think that’s perfect.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Kara Petrovic : coda

Anything can be poetry. But not everything is a poem.

Jessica Mehta : part two

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 never been part of a writers group. I simply wrote, mostly poetry, for years. When I was in my 30s, I took a chance and sent an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher. It was accepted the same month.

Bobbi Lurie : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading Ideograms In China by Henri Michaux, The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa, Poet by Clark Coolidge, sleep preceded by saying poetry by Jacques Roubaud, Extracting The Stone Of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, and Crow With No Mouth by Stephen Berg.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Ariel Dawn : part five

Why is poetry important?

I see poetry as an offering to Spirit, a response to life, an eternal conversation that divines the pattern and essence in what may seem to be overwhelming chaos.

dean rader : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I had always “liked” poetry, but I didn’t really get hooked until I was in college. I remember one day in particular. I was taking a standard American literature survey class the assignment was to peruse our poetry anthology and note any poems that intrigued us.  I still remember sitting in the dining hall, thumbing through Robert Diyanni’s Modern American Poetry: Voices and Visions. Somehow, I found myself turning to pages that had W. S. Merwin poems on the left-hand page and James Wright poems on the right-hand page. I remember reading Merwin’s “A Door” and “When You Go Away” and Wright’s “Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry Ohio” and “The Jewel.”  Almost immediately, I could feel the entire room moving away from me, as though it were on a conveyor. I had never encountered anything like those poems—dark but beautiful, accessible but otherworldly, grave yet lyric. Reading those poems in that book on that day changed my life.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Adrienne Gruber : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m part of a sweet poetry book club, which is awesome because I find I don’t get a lot of time for pleasure reading these days. Some of the books I’ve read and loved over the last year are Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, Trauma Head by Elee Kraljii Gardiner, After Birth by Elizabeth Ross, The Carrying by Ada Limon, War/Torn by Hasan Namir, Chenille or Silk by Emma McKenna, Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight, and Precious Energy by Shannon Bramer.

Monday, 3 June 2019

K.I. Press : part five

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

The book I return to is Kristjana Gunnars’s The Rose Garden: Reading Marcel Proust. In it, the narrator reads Proust non-sequentially, by dipping in and reading random sections, and I am happy to say that The Rose Garden can also be read this way.

G. E. Schwartz : part seven

What do you find the most difficult about poetry?

Building the emotional connection between the reader (or listener)and me--without that there's no compelling reason for a reader to care.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Elisa Matvejeva : part three

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

Poetry is the most concise form of writing and I admire that very much. You could read a poem consisting of only two lines and, if written well, it will transport you into another realm regardless of its length. For me, it’s the easiest way to express myself. I describe a picture or a moment, or a feeling, and, with the use of some key words, I’ve somehow managed to relate to other people. I think that’s beautiful.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Cendrine Marrouat : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

I always have music playing quietly in the background when I write poetry. But it has to be music conducive to creativity, such as classical pieces or tracks from my favorite bands (e.g. Genesis).

Music has played a very important part in my creativity. Some songs have moved me to the point where they inspired complete poems. 

Julie Morrissy : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems, Ailbhe Darcy’s Insistence, and Scott Thurston’s Talking Poetics: Dialogues in Innovative Poetics.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Lennart Lundh : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

I started writing poetry in the early 1960s, so, yeah. Of course. Right along with my short fictions. What I think poetry can and should do has changed. My subject matter has changed, my voice and craftsmanship have changed. As have my audiences. In part, to answer the unspoken question of influences, because every author, good or bad, of every poem and story I've read since I got my first library card in 1954 has taught me something about how to write. In part because how the world expresses itself and what it speaks about has changed.

Valerie Wallace : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

I want each of my poems to have the music they need to advance their meaning and emotion, and to be a pleasure to the ear. From a young age through my early twenties, I played piano and cello, and creating music on its own is such a distinct and difficult endeavor that it took me awhile to accept and really understand how poetry only truly works on the page when it can be lively in the ear.

Hasan Namir : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

I usually stop the poem when it ends on a word or a verse that makes me say “Aha.” Then, when I revisit the poem, re-read it a few times, take some time off and come back to it again, I realize that it actually needs to end on another stanza or verse, so then I start to make changes based on my new reading of the poem. To reiterate, sometimes you know when it ends as you’re writing the poem. Other times, through revisiting the poem, then you know when it ends.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Kara Petrovic : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins by inviting its reader (or listener) to embark on a journey. A poem begins by setting the scene of the universe in which it exists. A poet, on the other hand, begins by reaching into their heart and squeezing, until something worthwhile pours out.

Jessica Mehta : part one

Jessica Mehta is a multi-award-winning poet and author of over one dozen books. She’s currently a poetry editor at Bending Genres Literary Review, Airlie Press, and the peer-reviewed Exclamat!on journal. During 2018-19, she was a fellow at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where she curated an anthology of poetry by incarcerated indigenous women and created “Red/Act,” a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience using proprietary software. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and native Oregonian, place and personal ancestry inform much of Jessica’s creative work.

Jessica’s novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). Jessica has also received numerous visiting fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University at Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library. Visual representations of her work have been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC and The Emergency Gallery in Sweden. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured recently at events like the US State Department’s National Poetry Month event, “Poets as Cultural Emissaries: A Conversation with Women Writers,” as well as the “Women’s Transatlantic Prison Activism Since 1960” symposium at Oxford University.” Visit to learn more.

What are you working on?

I have four books releasing in 2019, one in 2020, and am currently completing the seventh month of a nine-month fellowship at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where I’m curating an anthology by incarcerated indigenous women. I also just finished up a manuscript and am working on my PhD in poetry.

Bobbi Lurie : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A poem is finished when another word would ruin it or a poem is finished when you can’t look at it any longer or a poem is finished because it feels “right” or it’s finished because it’s late at night and you want it all to end.

Or a poem is never finished. Once it’s published one still edits it in one’s mind. Last week I withdrew a just-published poem. I realized it wasn’t finished/ that maybe I’d never finish it. So I’d say a poem is never finished. The poet is finished. That’s why I’m finally sending this interview in to you after all these weeks/months. I’m done.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ariel Dawn : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

After leaving the poem in the dark for a month, I’ll read it as a spell to open a gate to another dimension. If it won’t open I will revise and hide away for another week or month and so on until I’m inside and nothing is altered.

Dean Rader : part one

Dean Rader’s debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize and Landscape Portrait Figure Form (2014) was named by The Barnes & Noble Review as a Best Poetry Book. Three books appeared in 2017: Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon), Suture, collaborative poems written with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press); and Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited with Brian Clements & Alexandra Teague (Beacon). Most recently, he co-edited They Said: Contemporary Collaborative Writing and Native Voices: Poems, Craft, and Conversations. Dean writes regularly for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post, BOMB, and The Kenyon Review. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco and a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry.

What are you working on?

Over the last two years, my poems seem to be grouping themselves in ways neither expected nor intentional. On one hand, I am writing poems I think of as largely political that take on controversial issues such as gun violence, race, and even climate change. A poem like “History,” which was published in the Kenyon Review Online not long after the Charlottesville riots, is a good example of this. Here, I’m looking both forward and backward; somewhere in the middle is my young son, who I seem always to be talking to about past and present transgressions.

On the complete other end of the spectrum is a relatively new poetic obsession—Cy Twombly. I have been writing short, almost minimalist poems in response to specific Twombly pieces. I am particularly attracted to his drawings and to the social and semiotic distinctions between drawing and writing. What does it mean to draw as opposed to write? What does it mean to make a mark on a canvas? Or a page? To paint a poem? To draw the letter e?

Somewhere between these two modes is another unexpected series—elegies for my late father who died in December of 2017. Even though he had not been well for most of the year, his death was sudden and, by all accounts, unexpected. I wrote about his illness for the first time in 2017. Bizarrely, he began dialysis the day of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in England. Somehow public and private tragedies, local and global mourning, merged in the poem “Elegy Pantoum,” in which big questions seem to loop back on themselves.

So, what do these three interests have in common?

That is what I want to find out.

Somewhere is a through-line. Somehow, the Venn diagram of these concerns overlap and even inform the other. In some way, the endeavors of art in the face of loss spool shared threads. Many scholars and art critics have claimed Twombly’s drawings and paintings are elegies. Maybe my Twombly poems are elegies for our country; maybe the poems about the decline of our country are really elegies for my father; maybe the poems about my father are actually interventions on the ability of art to articulate anything at all.

Wow, that was a long answer. I am also working on an essay about a triple murder twenty years ago in India. I knew the victims and was with them not long before they died. It is, as you might imagine, very difficult to write.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Travis Sharp : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Athena Farrokhzad, White Blight.
Julia Madsen, The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland.
Shira Dentz, how do i net thee.
Timothy Yu, 100 Chinese Silences.
Muriel Rukeyser, US 1.
Ronaldo Wilson, Farther Traveler.
M. NourbeSe Philip, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks.
Ed Roberson, City Eclogue.
Jill Magi, Threads.
William Carlos Williams, Spring and All.
Rachel Zolf, Neighbor Procedure.
Dale Smith, Sons.
Jessica Bozek, The Tales.
Julie Carr, Real Life: An Installation.
Steven Zultanski, Agony.
Cassandra Troyan, Kill Manual.

My undergraduates and I this semester are reading many selections. Eileen Myles. Martín Espada. Morgan Parker. CAConrad. Mary Oliver. Eve Ewing. Sharon Olds. Danez Smith. Sylvia Plath. H.D. Patricia Smith. Tracie Morris. William Shakespeare. Harryette Mullen. Alice Notley. Nicole Sealey. Randall Mann. Lorine Niedecker. Stephen Crane. David Ignatow. Gertrude Stein. Yedda Morrison. Douglas Kearney. Nikki Wallschlaeger. Guillaume Apollinaire. W. H. Auden. Phyllis Wheatley. Kate Durbin. Amaranth Borsuk. Claudia Rankine.

Adrienne Gruber : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding the time to get truly into it. There are many parts to writing that are difficult, but right now I just wish for more time.

Monday, 27 May 2019

K.I. Press : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve recently read most of Karen Solie’s books, Kayla Czaga’s two books, Michael Redhill’s new one (Twitch Force), Alice Burdick’s selected (Deportment), and Billy-Ray Belcourt’s This Wound is a World. Also, I supervised a student’s self-published poetry book recently, and I want to plug it: it’s called Dog Star by Kaelen Bell.

G. E. Schwartz : part six

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms cannot?

Poems at their best create solitudes where we can meet.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Elisa Matvejeva : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A poem is finished when the words start to click. I’m a big fan of the good old circle ending, so I sometimes plan ahead, but that doesn’t always work out. Some poems are written by just writing until I run out of words. Others are written with careful planning. And then there are some that just naturally come to a conclusion. I like to draw back to certain points in the poem and end it by almost summarising, so it reads almost like an essay.

Jennifer Kronovet : coda

Why is poetry important? 

I’m not sure it is. But it can be beautiful, and what’s the point of everything important without depth and beauty and understanding and new ways to talk and think?

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Cendrine Marrouat : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I have been reading haiku collections. Haiku is my favorite poetry form and I have studied it extensively to understand its essence and be able to write it myself.

Haiku teach you to write concisely and impactfully. They are the embodiment of the “show, don’t tell” technique that writers are advised to master and that make stories so much more enjoyable to readers.

Julie Morrissy : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I studied Eavan Boland in high school. I was consumed by her poetry and her life, because she lived in my neighbourhood. Her work brought an enormous sense of possibility for me—as young woman who was writing. She changed what I thought about living, not just writing.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Lennart Lundh : part two

Why is poetry important?

It's our best hope of making teleportation and time travel real. Seriously. I just received a note from a reader, who I'm unlikely to ever meet, in Australia, where I've never been. Here in my 70s, my time is naturally limited, but one day my great-grandchild will open a box holding copies of my books. These events aren't science fiction. They're the magic of creative writing. They're our way of touching other people with questions and observations.

Valerie Wallace : part three

What are you working on?

I’m working on getting back to writing, especially daily writing, which is a challenge for me. This last year I traveled a lot to promote my first book, so it was a very social year. I’m learning to lean into my own words again.

Hasan Namir : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Recently I read Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji, who is an incredible poet. I loved how it evoked so much emotions and that’s what I enjoy the most about reading poetry is having all the feels. In the book, the reader is often the voyeur, witnesses and questioning all the surroundings and the very core of our own being. I also loved how the book questions our own political identities through the brilliant form.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Kara Petrovic : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m choosing to answer this, because I find it very difficult. I’m always revisiting old poems and finding new ways to edit them. I suppose I know a poem is finished when I can no longer do that, which is very, very rare.

Bobbi Lurie : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Definitely. I now see the danger in words and how most everything written is misunderstood.
Ultimately, there is less to say and even less desire to say it.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ariel Dawn : part three

How does a poem begin?

For me a poem begins with a memory, moment, vision, and the desire to divine, recreate; then, gathering its energy, material, and writing, a phrase or sentence leads into that new time and space.

Jules Arita Koostachin : part six

How does a poem begin?

• With spirit...

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Travis Sharp : part four

What are you working on?

I recently finished a manuscript, Monoculture, poems on, in, of monocultures, the plant and the animal and the violent human kinds. The plant and the animal kinds are also human kinds, because only the depredation made possible by the human could fathom a monoculture.

I’ve begun writing poems about money. How money speaks, how we are hailed by money, the cuteness of its little coins, its neutral cruelty, its creepy lack of materiality. Money is nowhere, and yet.

I’ve been working on essays: on the rejection of industrial literature in Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women; on Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall and the prevalent but incorrect alignment of a history of progress with liberation; on the avant-garde as a capitalist project that contributes to environmental devastation.

Adrienne Gruber : part one

Adrienne Gruber is the author of three books of poetry, Q & A (Book*hug), Buoyancy Control (Book*hug) and This is the Nightmare (Thistledown Press), and five chapbooks. She won the Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron poetry contest in 2015, SubTerrain’s Lush Triumphant poetry contest in 2017, and her chapbook Mimic was awarded the bp Nichol Chapbook Award in 2012. Originally from Saskatoon, Adrienne lives in Vancouver with her partner and two daughters.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t necessarily ever know. My latest collection, Q & A, probably contains some of the most ‘finished’ poems of all my collections, but even those poems could be tinkered with forever. I think it depends on your definition of finished. Sometimes a poem is finished when I’m tired of it and I know if I keep working on it I’ll ruin it. Sometimes it’s finished because life is moving on and if I don’t call it done then it will never move forward. Sometimes a poem is finished because it feels right every time I read it.

Monday, 20 May 2019

K.I. Press : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding a sweet spot between too much and not enough dot-connecting. I don’t think this challenge is at all unique to poetry; it’s one of the great difficulties of much communication, certainly of literature. We can’t see inside readers’ heads, and our own heads are too familiar a landscape to us. How do we make our own thinking strange enough to ourselves that when we write it, it’s new, with all the elements readers need to come to an understanding, but without holding the reader’s hand?

G. E. Schwartz : part five

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

After many years ago when I workshopped and studied with the Irish American poet John Montague and soon after with Joseph Brodsky, I internalized, I believe, the patterns of serious critique, and ever since have written poems with, as the tact of my first collection (Only Others Are) implied, as visioning various individuals and groups, audiences, as it were, for placement of the works, both ghosts and those still corporeal.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Elisa Matvejeva : part one

Elisa Matvejeva is a contemporary poet and filmmaker currently residing in London, England. From her travels around the world, she has gained a unique voice and uses it to write her poems. Elisa has been writing since she could hold a pen and, with her mother's encouragement, has made sure always to keep creating. With the publication of her first book, Elisa hopes to continue making more of both beautiful words and films. In her free time, she enjoys films, wine, and cuddling small animals. She's on Instagram as: @elisa.matvejeva

How does a poem begin?

For me, every poem has to start off either with a bang or a truth. Every poem must be ingrained into the reader’s memory as something they could relate to or picture very clearly. Something fascinating enough to stay on their mind despite the poem having ended long before. I think it’s important to grip your reader early on. Many poems have strong punchlines at the end, but I believe in the importance of creating a lasting first impression.

Jennifer Kronovet : part five

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

When I require renewal, I (re)watch a tv show or movie with a badass female lead who kicks butt or read a novel that takes place inside a brilliant woman’s brain: the first season of Alias or Nikita, Margaret the First, by Danielle Dutton, Wing Chun starring Michelle Yeoh, Oreo by Fran Ross, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, G.L.O.W., Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, any Marvel scene with Misty Knight or Colleen Wing.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Cendrine Marrouat : part two

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

I believe that poetry and theatre are the only art forms that allow artists to tackle very sensitive topics without offending people the way other artform  would.

In my poetry, I have touched on spirituality, death, suicide, racism, and homophobia, for example. I wrote an entire book of short forms dedicated to helping people grieve the death of loved ones better -- Short Poetry for Those Who Fear Death. (

One day, years ago, I received an email from a reader of that book. They told me that before opening the collection, they had wanted to die. When they were done, their life had a new meaning. They had never wanted to live more. This is one of the best compliments I have ever received. And knowing that this little book helped someone is the icing on the cake.

Julie Morrissy : 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?

Mostly I keep my work in progress to myself, but I work with my editor when I’m putting a collection together and I have a couple of close friends and mentors who review work for me. I also do a lot of readings so that is often how the poems first enter the world.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Lennart Lundh : part one

Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. Since 1965 he's authored seventeen books of poetry and two more of short stories; had his words and images published in hundreds of journals, magazines, and anthologies; and read in front of well over a hundred audiences. Len's books can be found on Amazon and Etsy, while his photography is available from Fine Art America and Redbubble.

Photo credit: Jen Pezzo.

What are you working on?

Right now, I'm doing a 30/30 where folks make a donation to St. Baldrick's and I send them a poem each day of April, along with a book-format pdf and hand-bound chapbook after the month is over. St. Baldrick's is second only to the US government in financing research into cures for childhood cancers, and this is the sixth year I've done Poems Against Cancer. (

Valerie Wallace : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Absolutely. When I make a poem now, it’s about the poem and the reader, not about the poem and my own needs. I’m now inexorably attuned to form, thanks to the good work of teachers and reading other poets.

Hasan Namir : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

The one course that changed the way I perceive and write poetry is English 472- Advanced Poetry (Simon Fraser University). It was taught by Jordan Scott, who is not only an incredible poet, but an amazing mentor. He opened my eyes to a whole new world of experimental poetry, which intertwines with the dialectical themes such as sexuality and religion, two major themes that I play with in my poetry book War/Torn. If I had wrote the book with rhymes, then it would lose its significance. I am very grateful for him and also super grateful for my professor/mentor Jacqueline Turner, who inspired me to find new ways to write poetry. She challenged on the way I incorporate words and how to reshape them so they would give new meaning. Another author/poet who inspired me is Fred Wah, especially the term languageless, being hyphenated in-between two opposite languages. I find myself hyphenated between Arabic-English, Iraqi-Canadian, in search of reconciliation between the two identities and languages.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Kara Petrovic : part three

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

Always, always Richard Siken. I have many poetry books to-be-read, they are piling up on my desk. But I always return to Richard Siken, particularly Crush, when I find I need to be renewed.

Bobbi Lurie : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Poetry happened to me. It was at my father’s funeral. I didn’t even realize it happened at the time. But I wrote my first poem at my father’s funeral. I went off to write in my journal which I carried with me everywhere I went. Only this time it was all fragmentation. I was hiding behind a tree, unable to finish a single sentence. These indeterminate lines and half-expressed thoughts mirrored the sense of confusion I felt. And the fragmentation was truer than anything I had experienced before. My way of writing changed forever.

I realized later that these unfinished collections of lines and blank spaces might be called poems. They weren't like the poems I remembered reading in school. It was a revelation. I felt poetry was an absolute miracle and, strangely, I realized it was actually something I had always been doing, combining words and blank spaces, images and words together on the page.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Ariel Dawn : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

The poetic prose of Elizabeth Smart, Marie-Claire Blais, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Cohen, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Andre Breton, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Dylan Thomas, they write from the borderlands of reality and dream, and the narrative as well as the poetry is immersive.

Jules Arita Koostachin : part five

Why is poetry important?

• Poetry is important to me because I love how we can make our most traumatic experiences into art... almost like the words can disguise our deepest pain, but also share it with our readers without having to really go there. There are things in my life that I have never shared, but when I write I can creatively express myself without feeling vulnerable.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Travis Sharp : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When you stop reading or writing, a poem is finished. A finished poem might be finished like wood is finished or finished like a death is a finishing. When I stop reading, stop writing, stand up, get some coffee, look out the window, pet the cat, check my phone, send an email, the poem is finished.