Friday, 7 May 2021

Geoffrey D. Morrison : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

It must have been early. My mother read to me from books of nursery rhymes, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses, that kind of thing. As a family we kind of put a premium on memorizing snatches of poetry, old sayings, rhymes. My mother grew up in Aberdeen in Scotland, where the Doric dialect of Scots is spoken. There are a number of poems and ballads in Doric, jokes, funny sayings. The agricultural historian Ian Carter correctly points out that the dialect is “particularly rich in vituperation.”  

When my grandparents came to visit us, my grandfather would just start declaiming poetry out of nowhere. It was strange and wonderful. I particularly remember these lines from “The Battle of Otterburn,” a ballad chronicling a medieval battle on the English-Scottish border:

But I have dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I.

This was a man who was born on a farm, for most of his life drove a lorry, and ended up as a porter in the University of Aberdeen medical library. I believe he had been given poems to memorize at school. Years after he died, my mother showed me a sheet of paper in his handwriting. It was a poem in Doric about a boy who made a whistle out of a twig. It was so good. I thought he wrote it! It turned out it was by a poet from the early 1900s. I don’t know if he wrote it out completely from memory or copied it from a book but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the former.

Anyway, all this to say that I felt a connection with poetry really early on – and not only a connection. A reverence. But I didn’t dare write it for my own enjoyment until I was a teenager.

Lillian Nećakov : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When you want to add a stanza, a word, an image, tinker, but the poem just doesn’t let you. The music simply stops. You read the poem out loud and there is a natural “final note” if you will. With a finished poem, I often come back to it a few days later and re-read it to make sure it really is finished. Most of the time my instincts are right. I suppose after writing for decades, you know, on a gut level, when a poem is done. The great thing about finishing a poem is that there is always another one on the horizon.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Raegen Pietrucha : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Focusing strictly on aesthetics, I still find myself drawn to the urgent, gut-punching writing of female poets, for the most part, though I find myself quite curious these days about work that has headed off the well-worn path of how poets are trained to write (presuming they’ve attended writing programs). Unless I’m returning to work that has always resonated with me, I want to be surprised, to feel something or see something unique structurally that I wasn’t expecting to when I read others’ poetry. Put another way, I want to read poems that don’t remind me of all the other poems I’ve read before. Nowadays, more often than not, I’m finding the type of edification I seek in work I simply can’t pin down, work that’s so different from anything I’ve read or written that I find myself wanting to return to it, with the goal or hope of unraveling its mysteries. 

Jacalyn den Haan : part one

Jacalyn den Haan is a poet and teacher from Langley, BC and currently living in Montreal. Her poetry has appeared in Walled Women, Savant Garde, and EVENT magazines. A chapbook, Selected Leavings, is forthcoming through Cactus Press later this year. 

How important is music to your poetry?

It's essential. I come from a musical family and my first foray into poetry was writing song lyrics when I was six years old. My childhood and adolescence were governed by music – piano, French horn, choir, etc. Music’s in my blood, and I make sure that it finds its way into my poetry as well. 

There’s a whole host of poems in my chapbook Selected Leavings, which will be out this summer through Montreal’s Cactus Press, that are crafted after the rhythm and flow of certain songs. For instance, I listened to Ludovico Einaudi’s “Fly” at least 382 tiemes while writing the first poem of the book.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Kelly Weber : part five

How does a poem begin?

My poems almost always begin by accident…it’s hard, unless I’m trying to write into a specific gap in a manuscript, for me to try to just sit down and write a poem. But if I give myself a craft exercise or technique to practice, a poem might just show up. Often one poem leads directly into the next, and then I have to go back through a word blob and figure out which parts are one poem, which parts are another, which parts are vestigial and can be released. But that’s what I really enjoy. The pressure is off to face a blank page and Write a Poem. Instead it’s more of an excavation of what’s already there, once I’ve generated big chunks of words. The poem and I discover each other in the process. In a sense, I begin each time, rather than the poem—because each time I’m discovering what poem could be or what I think a poem is.

Hannah VanderHart : part two

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

I’m a temperamental reader, and often wander through the house holding a stack of books. Jean Valentine has been renewing me lately—she is a poet who lets the gaps and the windows of logic into her poem, so that there is always room for the reader to wonder and think. Iris Murdoch’s novels are a great source of mental vacation for me, when I need to change genres. Or criticism/philosophy can function the same way for me: Wittgenstein, Simone Weil—recently, Robert Hass’s A Little Book on Form and Carl Phillip’s The Art of Daring. Interviews, too, are a great resource for reminding me how and why writers live and work in the world—I love The Paris Review’s interviews (the Toni Morrison, Kay Ryan and Geoffrey Hill interviews are three of my favorites), and podcasts with writers (Between the Covers, Commonplace Podcast, the Iris Murdoch podcast). We live by way of conversation.

Anna Press : part one

Anna Press is a queer writer and high school English teacher. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband (also a writer) and their errant dachshunds. Her work appears in Perhappened, Porcupine Literary, The Hellebore, Daily Drunk Mag, and Emerge Lit Mag, and elsewhere. Talk to her on Twitter @annaepress.

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

I feel like poetry is the genre of possibility. Often when I sit down to write (that makes it sound like I have a structured writing routine, which I certainly do not!), poems begin with a “what if?” kind of thought. I think many people feel freer experimenting with language in poetry than they do in prose. I do. Poetry feels like the most compelling manifestations and variations of language, almost a kind of ekphrasis of life at times. Poems “do” a lot in a relatively short space; that fills me with wonder, and there is no better feeling than being awed by words. Poetry does transformative things with language. Grammar and syntax become tools more so than rules. A teacher I had in high school warned us that poetry isn’t necessarily “about” anything, which I found bewildering at the time, but I think it was an invitation to experiment. What can you do, what can you make, what can you give, when you’re not limited to anything? I think for me personally, right now, those verbs, “do,” “make,” and “give,” get at what I am trying to accomplish with poetry, especially if you allow them to be synonyms for “explore.”