Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Elias Baez : part one

Elias Baez is a poet, programmer, and pop journalist living in Baltimore with his husband Alex. His website’s, and so is his Instagram handle. Twitter’s baez_us. All he wants is a friend.

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

My first poetry workshop, when I was nineteen, was taught by Richard Wilbur and David Sofield, when both were soon to retire. Sofield insisted that poems should have wit, and snap in places like a rolled-up towel. He also used the phrase “by my lights” a lot, which I stole remorselessly. Wilbur showed me that accomplishment and humility are not mutually exclusive. He also liked a funny line. Most of all, I learned from him that language is all hyperlink, and anything can be sampled or referenced if you place it rightly. Later, James Arthur taught me how to make my references actually make sense. And how not to hide, or strip the humanity from my writing. Of poets I never had as a teacher, Djuna Barnes taught me a poem could build my own personal God. Amanda Berenguer performed immaculate geometry on fruit. Hilda Mundy split the atom of metaphor, and proved that it is the strongest bond. Jericho Brown taught me I’m not excluded from the traditions I was raised to know and love and work and carry.

Jamie Townsend : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

My current poetry reading habits are varied and sporadic (I’ve actually been reading a lot of queer theory and sci-fi/fantasy over the last few years). Current favorite poets who working today that I didn’t mention in my previous response are: Marie Buck, Vi Khi Nao, Chris Nealon, Lisa Robertson, Steve Orth, Lindsey Boldt, Gracie Leavitt, Brandon Shimoda, Aisha Sasha John, and Joshua Jennifer Espinoza.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Jaswinder Bolina : part one

Jaswinder Bolina is author of the essay collection Of Color (McSweeney's 2020); three full-length collections of poetry, The 44th of July (2019), Phantom Camera (2013), and Carrier Wave (2007); and a digital chapbook, The Tallest Building in America (2014).

What are you working on?

I’m working on a fourth collection of poetry and am just about finished with it, I think. It’s called English as a Second Language and Other Poems (or The Usual Entertainment). After several books with short titles, I decided to go long on this one. We’ll see if anyone wants to publish it soon enough. I hope so. It took a lot of work on very little sleep. Of course, that makes me worry it’s an incoherent mess, but I’ve had the very best time of my writing life putting it together.

Kristy Bowen : part one

A writer and book artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of many artist books, chapbooks, and zines, as well as several prose/poetry/hybrid collections, including the recent sex & violence (Black Lawrence Press, 2020.) Her poems have appeared recently in Pretty Owl Poetry, The Account, and Pedestal Magazine.  She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio.

What are you working on?

Right around the holidays, I stumbled into my brother-in-law's comment string on a Facebook post from someone he'd been talking about a few day's prior--a guy who was pathologically into conspiracy theory and had some crazy thoughts about current events (at that moment it was the Nashville bombing). What caught my attention was not so much what he was saying, but HOW..this strange sequence of cause/effect and pattern-forming that had no basis in fact or reality and yet was captivating nonetheless. It occurred to me that in our own histories, we often make meaning and substance out of  our own lives and experience in a similar way. And if I could capture that diction and flowing way of talking about things--my own things--it might be an interesting experiment. I have a handful of pieces that I'm liking and hope to write some more. At my day job at the library, we are planning programming and exhibits around the subject of urban legends this semester, something I've written about quite a bit before,  and those ideas are also turning some similar wheels and creeping into the poems.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Erik Fuhrer : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

My partner is a painter, and her methodology is to continuously overpaint a piece that she does not feel is working. I am always astonished at her boldness, since I can get so precious about what I write, and have the luxury of being able to paste words that are “not working” into another document for quick recovery later if necessary. Due to the nature of her medium, her revisions literally efface the original attempt, and sometimes she decides the finished piece was the one she has already replaced with new strokes of paint. It makes me feel grateful that my art form is more malleable, because I often go back and forth, swapping and cutting, but this also means I lack the resolution she has to stop messing around with something. She stops because there are no refunds in her practice, and she likes it enough to live with it, for now. Since I can always go back, I sometimes continue to do so, in a loop. That said, there is always a point where the sound of the poem, the spacing of the poem, the way it feels on the tongue, just clicks. I’m not sure I can quite describe it, but it is a bit like the poem itself is an active object asserting its own finality. I used to be skeptical of writers that described their work as speaking to them, as if the work was a separate entity, but now that I have been writing for a while, I realize it kind of is like that—writing is kind of witchy in that way, as I’m sure much art is. 

Alicia Wright : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

The poem’s resonance touches the end of my feeling. Then the momentum in my brain shifts, and I fall forward, back into present consciousness. 

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Ren (Katherine) Powell : part three

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

There are several poets I turn to for different reasons. When I am feeling vulnerable and need a hug, I pull out my worn copy of Patricia Fargnoli’s Necessary Light (Utah State University Press). She worked as a counselor before she was a poet. I don’t think she ever stopped comforting people. When I’m feeling insignificant, I pull out Elisabeth’s Bishop’s collected poems. Her humor is sly, and her humanity all over the page. When I need to be reminded of resiliency I reread “Song” by Brigit Peegan Kelly. It’s a painfully sweet poem to read again and again. Can you imagine turning out just one such perfect piece of art into the world? 

I have to say, reading these poets doesn’t directly renew my writing life. All of them intimidate me as a writer. But their poems renew me as a person. So it’s just one slow circle.. I come around in the end to a blank page.