Monday 31 December 2018

Melissa Eleftherion : coda

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry presents new syntaxes with which to reimagine and reshape the world.

Heather Sweeney : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

This is a tough call.  I think it’s finished when the poem stops keeping you up at night.  When it stops being annoying.  When it stops breaking your heart.  When it can live on its own without you.

Sunday 30 December 2018

Eric Schmaltz : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ll mention two recent and compelling reads: First, Aditya Bahl’s Name-Amen, a beautifully designed and published chapbook by Malmö-based small press Timglaset Editions. This book of visual poems––in which language is fractured, overlain, magnified, reflected, and refracted––confronts the English modernist tradition and emerges from a “very painful and traumatic breakdown of the language [Bahl] had been working with” (n. pag.). Second, The Awful Truth by Diana Hamilton is part-long poem and part-novella, and navigates the complex relationship between author and self and the problems of exercising control over either of those figurations.

Saturday 29 December 2018

Elizabeth Robinson : part three

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

Poetry can stop time or create various simultaneities.  I feel that one of the great gifts of poetry is that it is an open form of inquiry.  It may include narrative, concrete images, epiphany, resolution—but it may not.  So often, everything in popular culture assumes a conventional narrative patterning, but this differs from the way life really works.  Many of our most important projects (art-making, loving, creating constellations of family or community, for example) are characterized by waxing and waning, by ad hoc patterning, by varying rhythms.  Of course there’s a lot of great literature in fiction and nonfiction that can do this, but I tend to feel that innovation in other genres uses poetic patterning as its model.  Poetry has almost infinite elasticity which makes it an incredibly responsive and resourceful art.

Friday 28 December 2018

Frances Boyle : part two

What are you working on?

I actually am working on a novel, of all things. I signed up for NaNoWriMo with the notion of expanding one of my draft short stories into a longer-form work. I almost certainly won’t reach the 50,000 word target for the month but I’m fine with that, and also fine if I never end up with a novel. My real objective is to get deeper into the world of my story —to know my character(s) better and find out what’s behind my rather sketchy plot. If the pages and pages of back story and internal musing I write in November help me craft a short story that’s ultimately richer, I’ll be more than satisfied with that. And, of course, I continue to germinate poetry, and to work on revisions of both my poems and my other short fiction.

Sacha Archer : part two

How does a poem begin?

How does one write? Over here it’s an emptiness that demands filling—even if that is a pipe dream. How can the empty world be made to speak? It comes out gibberish, mostly. That’s fine. Gibberish is an accurate reproduction of what really goes on. I look for the gibberish that we cling to and cling to it. The gibberish I produce is the product of my failure to believe in the meaninglessness that we are expected to ignore. It is amazing that people can ignore a hammer hitting their head. Am I in shock? Survival is editing. The poem begins, for me, in recognition of those habits that erase us. A poem begins in catching myself off guard, noticing something I always notice but somehow never process—the wealth of the blind spots.

Alina Pleskova : coda

How does a poem begin?

With the light just-so, a change in external or internal weather, or feelings getting fucked with by the state or the state of things. With something a brilliant friend says offhandedly while fiddling with their jacket cuff on the porch. With looking at the moon. I mean, look at her.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Sarah Nichols : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

As I said, I find that attempting to compress a great deal of emotion into a confined space is one of the most difficult things about writing poetry. Another thing, and it is huge, and extra to the process, is the amount of abuse and straight up hatred directed at women, people of color, and LGBTQ people for having a voice and attempting to create spaces where it’s okay to write about the experiences of those identities. I’ve seen so many friends fight endlessly for the good of the poetry community, and they should be supported. This does not stop me from writing, but it does make me ask myself what I am doing to help regarding these issues. Not enough. To get back to the spirit of the question, another difficult thing is asking myself if I’m repeating myself. I have themes that I continue to investigate, but I worry if the material, or my approach, is going stale. It’s not a comfortable place to be. Having patience is also a difficult piece of the process for me. I’ve sent things out almost immediately after writing them, with little thought as to “maybe this should wait until you read it again and see how you feel,” to frustration over response times, but I feel that less than I used to.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Shara Lessley : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Nothing about poetry is easy. I fail constantly. That there is great joy in the failure tells me I’ve found my calling.

Kara Goughnour : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

When I first began reading poetry, the things I was reading were beautiful, but they were extremely lyrical, with topics which were palatable for any audience. As I grew older, I had this period where I was writing horrible poem after horrible poem because I didn’t know how to write on the topics I needed to. When I first heard “What Did I Love?” by Ellen Bass, there was a chunk of ice in my chest that melted down through each toe. The poem is about a chicken butchering day on a small farm, but Bass makes it ceremonial and loving while simultaneously making it neither of those things. It’s truly just a masterpiece of a work. I’m not a spiritual or religious person, but the religiousness felt toward the cycle of life in that poem just did something for me. Hearing it was a revolutionary moment for my writing. I grew up on a dying farm, and was surrounded by that culture, and I didn’t know that feeling of belonging in a moment so often argued as innately immoral could be expressed. It made everything that I needed to say feel so much more approachable.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

John LaPine : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Saying something that matters, and saying it in an artistic way. On one hand, an image isn’t [always] a poem. But neither are a handful of unresolvable questions. Finding the balance between art and inquiry. Finding the balance between knowing and unknowing.

Monday 24 December 2018

Melissa Eleftherion : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I’d say it’s very important. The cadences emit meaning of themselves and I try to be awake to what’s inside. Perhaps that’s why I have a hard time writing when I’m in the thick of daily life chaos; it’s too loud for me to hear the music.

Heather Sweeney : part one

Heather Sweeney’s chapbook Just Let Me Have This was published this year by Selcouth Station Press.  Her newest chapbook, Same Bitch, Different Era:  The Real Housewives Poems is forthcoming by above/ground press.  Her poetry appears in recent issues of the tiny, A Velvet Giant and Goat’s Milk.  She lives in San Diego where she writes and teaches.  You can also find her at

What are you working on?

I have a chapbook forthcoming from above/ground press, Same Bitch, Different Era which is based on the reality television show, The Real Housewives of New York; so I am finalizing ideas about the cover design and the acknowledgments.  I am also working a series of prose-ish poems that center around ethereal states of being and ethereal materials—charcoal, mist, clouds.  I have been working closely with slowness and integration.  I am allowing myself to take more time with these poems and not get so hung up on the finished product.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Eric Schmaltz : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I tend to distrust the idea of a “finished poem” since so much of my own work is about process. As someone who occasionally publishes his work, this is a bit of problem since publishing tends to suggest that a poem has been finished. I think of publishing as an act of sharing and an opportunity that privileges the writer to feedback on the work. In other words, publishing, for me, is part of a mode of inquiry and a way of seeing what pings back. I find it generative to continually rework the form, medium, and content of any given poem to see what springs into being through processes of gradual modulation.

Stephen Cain : coda

Why is poetry important? 

As a form that is (nearly) uncommodifiable and is of little interest to hegemonic capitalism, poetry can be the site of liberation and revolutionary expression that works “under the radar” to subvert conventional thinking. A change of expression = a change in cognition = a change in life.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Elizabeth Robinson : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Three things sealed my commitment to (obsession with) poetry:

1. Listening to my father read Victorian novels to me when I was a child.  I often did not understand the content of the novels, but he was a very fluent reader and I absorbed the beauty of language and rhythm from him.

2. Being taught in Sunday School that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh,” which seemed both continuous with my experience of being read to and utterly, transformatively mystical.  The divine in language, language in flesh/enfleshed.  Wow.

3. My mother gave me a book of Emily Dickinson poems when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.  I still have it.  The poems did everything I needed language to do: feel, speculate about the nature of the world, offer a compelling way of thinking that wasn’t indebted to conventional narrative structure.

Friday 21 December 2018

Frances Boyle : part one

Frances Boyle is the author Light-carved Passages, a collection of poems, and most recently Tower, a novella from Fish Gotta Swim Editions. Her poems and short stories have won local and national awards, and been published in print and online journals throughout Canada and in the U.S. as well as in anthologies with themes as varied as motherhood, Hitchcock films and love poetry. A second poetry collection is due out in 2019. Frances lives in Ottawa, where she is part of the editorial team at Arc Poetry Magazine, and reviews for Canthius. Find her at and @francesboyle19.

Photo credit: John W. MacDonald

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 have several fantastic writers’ groups who I rely on heavily. Two of them focus on poetry, and the third is for fiction. The Ruby Tuesday group has been meeting weekly for more than 10 years (!). It is not only the place where my work first enters the world, it is most often where poems are first generated since we do a 10-20 minute free-write each week, either a specific exercise / prompt or simply writing in response to a published poem. I very often go back (sometimes a very long time later) to find phrases or images from these timed writing sessions that I can use in shaping a poem. We also critique work that’s been brought to the group. The phrase “you’ve seen this poem before” is commonly heard and always welcome, since looking at revisions generates further discussion and new energy. Because we are a sizeable group, and we meet so frequently, there is no pressure to bring work every week. But most of us rarely let more than a couple of weeks go by without the urge to get feedback on new (or revised) poems. My other poetry group, sometimes known as the Other Tongues, meets monthly and we workshop one poem by each person. In all of my groups, we are not only first readers for each other, but also a support network and a source of close and continuing friendships.

Sacha Archer : part one

Sacha Archer is a writer that works in numerous mediums as well as being the editor of Simulacrum Press ( His work has been published in journals such as filling Station, Nod, Utsanga, Otoliths, Matrix, FIVE:2:ONE, Sonic Boom, Futures Trading, Timglaset, Touch the Donkey and Politics/Letters Live. Archer has two full-length collections of poetry, Detour (gradient books, 2017) and Zoning Cycle (Simulacrum Press, 2017), as well as a number of chapbooks, the most recent being TSK oomph (Inspiritus Press, 2018) and Contemporary Meat (The Blasted Tree, 2018). His visual poetry has been exhibited in the USA, Italy, and Canada. Some of that work, among other things, can be found on his website, Archer lives in Ontario, Canada.

Why is poetry important?

I’ve been wearing a scarf during the cold months for as long as I can remember. A few days ago my wife gave me a neck warmer. Now every time I come inside I take off my coat and then my hand goes up to the cloth around my neck and pulls to unwind the scarf—which isn’t there. It’s been only a couple days of this, but I’m still trying to unwind the scarf and instead yanking my neck sideways as the neck warmer fails to yield. I love this.

It is one thing to tell this story and an altogether different thing to revel in the experience of it. Poetry, I think, is an (always failing) attempt to surpass the relation of experience and somehow submerge the reader in the less than logical shapes of impact. Why is that important? You have to open the window sometimes.

Alina Pleskova : part five

Why is poetry important?

To mark where we are, each of us, even if we aren't sure how we got there.

Thursday 20 December 2018

Sarah Nichols : part three

How did you first engage with poetry? 

For all of my childhood, and some of my adolescence, I disliked poetry. I didn’t understand what I was given to read in school; in Fifth grade I was given an assignment: write a haiku for homework and come back tomorrow and share what you wrote. That terrified me, trying to get the correct number of syllables, and to this day I still don’t write haikus. I was 16 or 17 when I discovered Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton’s works, and that’s when I saw that I did have a connection to poetry, and that it mattered. I did not, however, see myself as a poet. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was intimidated by poetry: there are so many opportunities to get it wrong; you have to, I think, compress a great deal of emotion into a small space and make it resonate, and I thought there’s no way I could do that. I made some small attempts but threw them away. In 1998, I entered a writing contest that my college was sponsoring, with a cash prize for the winners. I wrote an ekphrastic poem about Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks, and it took first prize. I was stunned, and I consider that the beginning of becoming a poet.

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Shara Lessley : part one

Shara Lessley is the author of The Explosive Expert’s Wife and Two-Headed Nightingale, and coeditor of The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, her awards include an National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Mary Wood Fellowship from Washington College, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, an Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship from Colgate University, and a “Discovery”/The Nation prize, among others. Shara was the inaugural Anne Spencer Poet-in-Residence at Randolph College and currently serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Acre Books. She lives in Oxford, England.

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

Bruce Snider has been my primary reader for more than a decade and a half. He sees every draft I write, whether it’s poetry, creative nonfiction, or criticism. Together, we dreamed up and coedited The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice, an anthology of essays. I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator or friend. Robin Ekiss, Amaud Jamaul Johnson, Danielle Cadena Deulen, David Roderick, Rachel Richardson, and Sara Michas-Martin are also important readers and sources of great support.

Courtney Bates-Hardy : part five

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

It depends on what kind of renewal I need. When I feel sad or discouraged, I open up a poetry app on my phone and listen to Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” or Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata.” I have Matthea Harvey’s mermaid poems from If the Tabloids are True What Are You? sticky-tacked to my desk so I can read them often. I tend to return a lot to Anne Simpson’s Is and Lorna Crozier in general. But sometimes you don't know what you need until you pick up a new book of poetry and begin to read.

Kara Goughnour : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

In sixth grade, my English instructor created a month-long poetry curriculum for us, and we began by listening to spoken word poets. This became an obsession for me, and I spent countless hours after class on the library computers listening to it. I hadn’t ever heard words used the way they were in poems, and nothing had ever moved me as much as these sounds did. After this, I started looking for poetry in every sound. Now, there is poetry in everything for me — in the squeal of the train on its tracks as it takes me to work, the pigeon-purr of my cat once I arrive home. I also hold so many actual songs close and believe that they too helped me understand how sound would be portrayed in my writing. There are a lot of lyrically skilled musicians, especially in rap. Any poet who isn’t listening to rap could benefit from it; the time put into the rhyme scheme and literary devices of well-written rap bars is often impressive.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

John LaPine : part three

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

Poetry does what other genres do, but in an impossibly small package. If you want to devastate, you have to do it in 6 lines, instead of 6 pages. Poetry also lends itself to being a little more cryptic and experimental than other genres. When you know your reader can devote more time, each syllable and punctuation symbol becomes important. Poetry is very intricate.

Monday 17 December 2018

Melissa Eleftherion : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately? 

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier; Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar; New & Selected Poems of Cecilia Vicuna; at sea by Melissa Benham.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Eric Schmaltz : part one

Eric Schmaltz is a poet, artist, and critic who works across a variety of genres and media, including print, sound, performance, and video. His work has been published in Jacket2, The Capilano Review, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Poetry is Dead, Lemon Hound, and Trinity Review. His first book of poetry and text-art, Surfaces, is available from Invisible Publishing.

What are you working on?

At the moment, my new work is focused on the various ways material environments are written and how they also write themselves. I’m particularly interested in investigating the poetic potential afforded by “communication graphics” and the use of graphic signification as an extension of language.

Stephen Cain : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

John Clare: Selected Poetry and Prose (eds. Merryn & Raymond Williams); Voodoo Hypothesis (Canisia Lubrin); Drift (Caroline Bergvall); Full-Metal Indigiqueer (Joshua Whitehead).

Saturday 15 December 2018

Elizabeth Robinson : part one

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Apprehend, a winner of the Fence Modern Poets Prize, and Pure Descent, a winner of the National Poetry Series (and the late Sun & Moon book).  Her mixed genre meditation On Ghosts (Solid Objects) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.  Ahsahta Press will publish Vulnerability Index in 2019.  With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited the critical anthology Quo Anima: spirituality and innovation in contemporary women’s poetry, forthcoming any day from University of Akron Press.

What are you working on?

For a long time, I felt I wasn’t writing very much, maybe not writing effectively.

I’ve been going through many life transitions and also working very hard at my day job with homeless individuals.   At a moment when things settled a bit, I found that I had actually been writing quite a lot and I suddenly have four complete manuscripts and a bunch of nonfiction.  So it is a time of taking stock: looking at what I’ve written to see who I’ve become and where that might be taking me.  One manuscript, Vulnerability Index (which will be published in the coming year by Ahsahta), is about my work with people who are living on the street and it feels very different from my previous writing—much more narrative and very often comprised of direct quotation.  I’m nervous that I might not be honoring my conversation partners fully enough, that I’m clumsy with this more direct kind of writing.  And I am trying to learn how to translate my way of thinking from poetry to prose in the nonfiction work, which is also about people experiencing homelessness.  Somewhere in there I’m also trying to get back to writing reviews, partly because reviewing feels like such a good mode of participation in community and also because I learn so much when I review a book.

Erin Bedford : part five

How does a poem begin?

With yearning.

Friday 14 December 2018

Alina Pleskova : part four

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

Sometimes I do a sort of brain-jogging bibliomancy with Frank O'Hara or June Jordan or Jack Spicer's collected works. They're pretty hefty volumes, & because none of them were capable of writing a single bad line, let alone a bad poem, they’re revivifying. I also return to Anne Boyer, for proof of how the personal & the political are inextricably linked & how it's okay to write about crushes, too. Kathy Acker for fucking—not sex— in all its viscerality & corporeality. Hanif Abdurraqib for how to notice everything like, everything, & turn it into a song that no one can forget. Roberto Bolaño, for reminders of how to be both playful & deadly serious. CAConrad for how to write poetry with my entire body. Tommy Pico for a reminder of how internet slang & unadorned, everyday vernacular, when wielded just-so, can be incredibly powerful. Jenny Zhang for messy & precise immigrant feelings. Larissa Pham for gorgeous lyricism that cuts. Mary Ruefle for quite literally anything else. Okay, also, I've given away & replaced my copy of Anne Carson's Short Talks so often, it's comical. That'll do it.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Sarah Nichols : part two

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

I tend to be almost secretive about what I’m currently working on, but I have moments where I tell writer friends ideas, or scraps of ideas, about things. I’ve noticed since I started writing more essays, I am more open about the subjects of those than I am about poems. How does my work first enter the world ? I frequently ask myself what’s the one thing that I feel that I must work out of my system, even if it’s a painful subject that I might find hard to reveal. I write a lot of found poetry, and so I am frequently looking at books not just as a reader, but as material for poems. I should also say that I am always looking at other art, as well. Movies, music, other forms of visual art. My second chapbook, Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens, came directly from watching the documentary Grey Gardens, and turning the transcripts from that into poems. I was obsessed, and I wrote the book very fast.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that yes, I do have one friend, Cat Conway, who is a poet and a Plath scholar, that I regularly share my ideas and poems with. We read each other’s work; she’s designed two of my chapbook covers, we edited a journal together; we’ve written blurbs for each other’s books. I am so grateful to have her as a friend and colleague. Not everyone who works in this lonely business gets to have that one person (or several) to make it less lonely. While I write alone, it’s important to know that a community is there.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Courtney Bates-Hardy : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Amber Dawn, where the words end and my body begins (also her memoir, How Poetry Saved My Life)
Sina Queyras, My Ariel
Rachel Rose, Marry and Burn
Matthea Harvey, If the Tabloids are True What Are You?

Kara Goughnour : part two

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

Poet John P. Maurer once said to me that poetry is like staring at something, and I think that sums it up well. Poetry is an experience, both in its style and brevity. You’re right there in the middle of it, the poem all around you with its emotion and power, then all at once it’s over — you’ve blinked.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

John LaPine : 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’m relatively new to poetry, so I’m working on building my first readers group. This summer, I met a group of fabulous poets at the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat workshop in the foothills of the Ozarks, and I would trust any of them with my work.

Monday 10 December 2018

Melissa Eleftherion : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

Finding time to write. Having time to revisit half-finished poems that got interrupted by daily life & being able to get back in touch with their meanings and musics.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Stephen Cain : part four

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

Maximum density of signification. 

Saturday 8 December 2018

Erin Bedford : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Very. I started paying close attention to phrasing and wordplay when I listened to music as a teenager and the singer-songwriters I usually listened to made me realize words didn’t have to be put together logically or rationally to make very real statements. Now, I almost always use music as assisted-entry into the particular emotions I need to write poetry.

Friday 7 December 2018

Andrea Blythe : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I go through a few points of “completion” while composing a poem — when each stage of drafting is finished and when the poem itself is ready to share with others. I call drafting a completion, because as I’m loosing words onto a page I will inevitably reach a point of emptying. Everything I needed to say at that moment has been said and the poem in its rough, ungainly state is good enough for now.

Sometimes all a poem will need is a single draft along with some minor tinkering, sometimes this process of emptying myself is repeated multiple times as I figure out what the poem is meant to be (in some cases over a matter of years). Eventually, the poem will reach a stage at which I’m willing to send it out into the world, the point at which I suppose it could be called complete. This is governed in part by trust in my gut feeling cultivated through years of trying, failing, and trying again. Though, if I were to sum up what this feeling means, I would say that a “completed” poem has a kind of smooth roundness to it — the words, lines, imagery, beginning, and end all sitting comfortably within the curve of the whole.

Alina Pleskova : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

Because my poems are entirely written w/ a first-person speaker, & very feelings-driven, it's difficult convincing myself that anyone else might care, or be interested. It's difficult to forget the word 'myopic'. Workshop experiences with [stodgy older white male] professors did a number on me, & the effects still linger.

When I see other poems that seem comfortable in/with their interiority, I relax, too. I think, "Hello, I'm waving to you from inside this poem."

Thursday 6 December 2018

Nancy Jo Cullen : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t think there’s a specific answer to that. Sometimes I know a poem finished and I’m right. Sometimes I think a poem is finished and then I come back to it and it still wants some more work. Sometimes I stop even though the poem’s not finished because I don’t know where to go next. In that case it may be years before I come back to that poem.

Sarah Nichols : part one

Sarah Nichols lives and writes in Connecticut, and is the author of seven chapbooks, including This is Not a Redemption Story (Dancing Girl Press, 2018), Little Sister  (Grey Book Press, 2018), Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, 2018), and How Darkness Enters a Body (Porkbelly Press, 2018.) Her poems and essays have also appeared in White Stag Journal, Dream Pop, Memoir Mixtapes, and the RS 500.

How Important is Music to Your Poetry?

Music plays an enormous role in my work, and I think that that influence has grown deeper within the past few years. I read song lyrics of my favorite artists, and I write about my connections (or obsessions) with the music that I’ve listened to for over thirty years. Since 2016, I have written, and published, an elegy for David Bowie, and my experience with the Post-punk band Joy Division. I have also had the opportunity to write micro-cnf essays on specific albums for the RS 500 project and the journal Memoir Mixtapes. I can’t play music, or read it, but I think that this is another way into it. Along with reading and writing, the music I love has been there, working as a balm or asking me to explore it on a deeper level.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Courtney Bates-Hardy : part three

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

I just started another writer's group after a year or two without one. There was a while when I was being very protective of my new work, in an attempt to get it down on paper before I scared it off, but I'm at the point now in the manuscript where I feel confident sharing it with others.

Kara Goughnour : part one

Kara Goughnour is a queer writer and documentarian living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is the 2018 winner of the Gerald Stern Poetry Award and has work published or forthcoming in Third Point Press, Riggwelter Journal, The Southampton Review, and others. Follow her on Twitter @kara_goughnour or read her collected and exclusive works at

How does a poem begin? 

A poem begins in the body. Sometimes I wake up with a whole poem in my mouth and immediately spit it out. Sometimes it’s a stuck thing, and I yank at it for hours before it finally loosens. Sometimes I have to coax it, give it time and edit after edit. Regardless of how it leaves me, it begins as a bodily urge. It’s a moment that I need to snowglobe on a page. 

Tuesday 4 December 2018

John LaPine : part one

John LaPine earned his MA in creative writing & pedagogy from Northern Michigan University (NMU), where he volunteered as an associate editor of creative nonfiction & poetry for the literary journal Passages North. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in: The Rising Phoenix Review, Hot Metal Bridge, The /Temz/ Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Under the Gum Tree, Rhythm & Bones, Midwestern Gothic, & elsewhere. He teaches English at Butte College.

What are you working on?

I’m currently sending out my first poetry chapbook which is derived from pieces I composed while writing my thesis (a creative nonfiction/poetry hybrid genre work). Many of the poems have been published individually, but it’s time to see if they can work as a collection.

Connie Voisine : part five

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to think I knew things that I should tell people about: where I came from, what my experiences in the world were, etc. Now I think it’s more about what I don’t know. Now I am moving towards something else. This from Layli Long Soldier: "And whereas one of my students asks a visiting poet about education vaguely getting at what is worth practicing? The poet suggests looking at whatever is/was missing in one's life and begin there."

Monday 3 December 2018

Catherine Graham : coda

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

What to leave in. No, what to take out. No, what to leave in … endless.

Melissa Eleftherion : 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 often get my best ideas in the shower. When I was commuting an hour and a half to work everyday, I also got ideas while riding trains or buses. Perhaps its the combination of movement and stream-of-consciousness thinking that help me catalyze creative concepts. Sometimes it’s a line, sometimes just a word that leads somewhere, perhaps a poem. Sometimes it feels like words move through me, and if I’m lucky enough to stop and write them down, I might have something. 

Sunday 2 December 2018

Saturday 1 December 2018

Erin Bedford : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

The feelings that inspired it go slack. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it is publishable, or even complete. Which does mean some of my completed/published poems will probably never seem “finished” to me because I do feel like I could climb back into that exact emotional place and write differently or more.


Friday 30 November 2018

Andrea Blythe : part four

How did you first engage with poetry?

I believe I first started to seriously consider poetry through song lyrics. I loved the booklets that came with cassette tapes and CDs I was gifted or purchased. They were beautiful with their small pages and  tiny fonts. I always open them up and peruse them as a body of work in themselves and felt terrible disappointment when the books did not feature written lyrics. Reading the songs as individual pieces, observing how the lines were broken, noticing the use or lack of punctuation, seeing how some rhymed and some did not — in whole, the way lyrics existed as written words unveiled a new understanding separate from the performative nature of the song itself. This exploration led me to perusing and picking up books of poetry at the library and discovering many new voices.

Alina Pleskova : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it's time to do something else. Jack Spicer: "Poetry ends like a rope."

Thursday 29 November 2018

Nancy Jo Cullen : part four

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first engaged with poetry because I had a broken heart and I suppose they functioned as a diary of sorts, those poems. But then I realized I wanted to actually write something that was at least half way decent and I started reading poetry and thinking about poetry.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Nisa Malli : part five

How does a poem begin?

My poems usually begin with a half line prompt drifting through my head that I discard later once I’m in the thick of it. 

Courtney Bates-Hardy : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the book is out. I didn't stop tinkering with my first book until it was already out.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Dominik Parisien : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Fighting the narrative impulse. For poems dealing with disability: allowing for emotional vulnerability without letting it overwhelm the piece.

Connie Voisine : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Once I find the line of a poem, the rest of it all kind of slides into place. But until I do, tone is messy, the images don’t necessary cohere, and the poem floats around like some kind of amoeba with me twisting the focus this way and that, closing one eye to see better, walking away.

Also, I don’t enjoy being done with a poem. I feel as if it’s over, our sweet little troubled relationship, and I won’t have that experience again. I miss the poem when I am done

Monday 26 November 2018

Catherine Graham : part five

How does a poem begin?

With a glimpse—through image, sound, emotion—that demands your attention having triggered the inner life.

Melissa Eleftherion : part one

Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, librarian, and a visual artist. She grew up in Brooklyn, dropped out of high school, and went on to earn an MFA in Poetry from Mills College and an MLIS from San Jose State University. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & six chapbooks: huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013), prism maps (Dusie, 2014), Pigtail Duty (dancing girl press, 2015), the leaves the leaves (poems-for-all, 2017), green glass asterisms (poems-for-all, 2017) & little ditch (above/ground press, 2018). Founder of the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange for San Francisco State University, Melissa now lives in Mendocino County where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at

What are you working on?

I just finished a 30/30 project called The Poeming where myself and 30 other poets wrote 31 erasures based on the work of Seanan McGuire. Since I enjoy the playfulness and the serendipitous nature of found poems, I decided to keep up the daily praxis by writing more erasures, this time based on James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime, a book that angers me deeply for its subjugation of women. Found poems can have the uncanny ability to strike at the core of the unconscious tenor of what’s happening, whether in the world, the mind, or the body. I like experimenting with the treasures resonant in someone else’s language.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Stephen Cain : part two

How does a poem begin?

Usually with a pun or alliterative phrase that I can’t get out of my head.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Jónína Kirton : part five

How does a poem begin?

Often, they introduce themselves with an opening line that will present itself over and over. Heard as a call to engage with pen and paper it takes me into writing. Some poems are more difficult to enter. When writing to a theme it can take some time to find that first line. I must first do research on the subject and spend time contemplating what I am learning and/or feeling as I explore the theme. This is a potent time that must be honoured. It may look like I am doing nothing, but I am in reality floating with what some might call the muse. It is not unlike tender lovemaking. It cannot be rushed.

Erin Bedford : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My first serious engagement with poetry happened during my early twenties when the man who would turn out to be my writing muse for fifteen years quoted Yeats’ Easter, 1916 in a letter he wrote to me. I still wonder, if a person I was not in unrequited love with had done so, would I have fallen for poetry the same?

Friday 23 November 2018

Andrea Blythe : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Oh, so many — I could almost say that just about every poet I read does this for me, although a few immediately jump to mind.

Pablo Neruda provided me entry into lush language, the kind that expresses a passion for life and the details of the world at large, from a love of socks to the beauty of beasts in the wild. He makes me want to infuse my own words with the same level of passion.

Erasure poetry is a significant part of my practice, and I credit Mary Ruefle with revealing the technique to me. Her book A Little White Shadow presents a beautiful erasure of a nineteenth century books, which pretty much made my head explode when I first read it. It allowed me to re-examine what poetry is defined as.

Ron Padget introduced me to humor in poetry. He often plays with language in his poems, just delighting in the sound and texture of the language.

And then, there’s Laura Madeline Wiseman. As collaborators, we simultaneously write and edit pieces, and so I’ve been able to witness her process and how she approaches language. I find myself continually learning and expanding how I work with words through these interactions. I feel as though I’ve grown significantly as a poet since we’ve started working together.

Alina Pleskova : part one

Alina Pleskova is a poet who lives in Philly by way of Moscow. Her first chapbook, What Urge Will Save Us, was published by Spooky Girlfriend Press in 2017. Poems have appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, American Poetry Review, Peach Mag, Queen Mob's Teahouse, & more. She's on twitter at @nahhhlina.

What are you working on?

I was working on a sort of ethnography of desire. I sent a short survey to a couple dozen people-- internet strangers, friends, former lovers, current lovers, etc.-- & asked them (among other things) what they desired, how & when & if desire ends. I've been thinking about desire's mutability, duality, voraciousness, what it looks like in the current cultural climate & in late capitalism & in a body/mind in the aftermath of traumas, how it fractures, how it can become hierarchical, etc. I wanted to write into that & include many other voices, a sort of riff on A Lover's Discourse, as part of a suite of poems I've been working on about fraught intimacies. But it's sort of on hold while I get my bearings. Desire in any form, even a messy one, is a difficult head space to access in light of the news recently. One thing I noticed, in the survey results I've gotten so far, is how often people want to leave their bodies entirely.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Nancy Jo Cullen : 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?

When I am ready to share a poem the first person who reads the poem is my partner. She has an excellent eye and is a great help. I’ve recently joined a small group of poets here in Kingston and we read each other’s work and I’m so not a joiner but it is the best thing ever. I’m so grateful they invited me to join them and I’m patting myself on the back for having the wisdom to say yes.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Nisa Malli : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Anne Boyer, Anne Carson, Anne-Marie Turza, Elizabeth Phillip, Emma Healey, Gwendolyn Macewen, Karen Solie, Kaveh Akbar, Leah Horlick, Melissa Stein, Sylvia Legris....

Courtney Bates-Hardy : part one

Courtney Bates-Hardy is the author of House of Mystery (ChiZine, 2016) and a chapbook called Sea Foam (JackPine Press, 2013). Her poems have been published in a variety of literary magazines, including Room, Carousel, and On Spec. Her work is forthcoming in Collective Unrest. She is currently working on her second collection of poetry.

Photo credit: Ali Lauren Creative Services

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on my second collection of poetry, which is tentatively titled The Anatomy of a Monster. My first book, House of Mystery was all about fairy tales and the various transformations of life, but this collection is mostly about monsters and anatomy and death and injury and recovery.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Canisia Lubrin : coda

How does a poem begin?

With attention.

Dominik Parisien : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Early on I didn’t think elements relating to identity could be the subject of poetry. When I was younger I never saw myself or people like me - disabled, queer, bilingual - reflected in the work we studied. The disabled body and disability experience in particular never seemed worthy of poetry. When I was finally introduced to disability poetics, and to the study of gender and sexuality, it opened up the world to me. Poetry expanded from language, psychology, and imagery to include experience, identity, and the political.

Connie Voisine : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Anne Carson taught me how to think in a poem.

Gwendolyn Brooks taught me how to think and sing.

George Herbert taught me how to doubt in a poem.

Monday 19 November 2018

Catherine Graham : part four

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is like the crack of language (and craic!). Words meet and explosions happen. Poetry elicits more with less and refuses to be caged. It isn’t afraid of feelings or engaging with mysteries. Poetry embraces clarity and ambiguity. It’s a place of edges, thresholds, encounters. Silence and pulse.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : coda

“Literary serotonin floods my brain
The bane of my existence is causing me pain
No dame, no pain, the old tune wanes as I let the neural rain
Arraign my brain
I think I just came” – Mugabi Byenkya

Stephen Cain : part one

Stephen Cain is the author of six full-length collections of poetry—including dyslexicon, American Standard/ Canada Dry and, most recently, False Friends (Book*hug). He teaches avant-garde and Canadian literature at York University and walks and broods in Toronto.

Photo Credit: Sharon Harris

What are you working on?

A new collection of poetry, a triptych of serial poems, currently under the title Walking & Stealing. A play about Rene Daumal and Roger Gilbert-Lecomte of Le Grand Jeu, and an essay on Daphne Marlatt and geologic space.

Saturday 17 November 2018

Jónína Kirton : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

It is essential. I use a variety of music to enter my poet mind and to bring forth the memories or feelings that I want to bring into a poem. Like poetry, music enters our body and takes us on a journey which at times feels like time travel. Hearing certain songs suddenly I am twenty-three at The Zoo listening to Streetheart or Barrelhouse or at Bogart’s Nightclub disco dancing to Lionel Richie. Sometimes the lyrics provide powerful writing prompts. Other times it is the music that transports me to the place where memory and creativity merge.

I have been listening to healing ragas and chanting music for thirty years now. I experience the sound of the tap, tap, tap of finger tips and palms on the various drums as an invitation to be fearless when dealing with difficult themes like loss. At times the healing nature of the slow, steady call and response rhythm of the chants can be felt in my writing. Other times I find that the Metis fiddle and the movement of my feet brings words that are dancing the jig. When writing of my twenties I might listen to Steely Dan. Elvis Presley is pre-teen, and such dreamy stuff for me. Occasionally, I need something big and theatrical like The Phantom of the Opera or Meatloaf to elicit passion and longing. Whatever I am listening to informs the writing I do. Knowing this I become my own DJ developing playlists that will bring forth the right feeling tone to whatever I am working on.

Erin Bedford : part one

Erin Bedford's work is published in William Patterson University's Map Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Temz Review and Train: a poetry journal. She attended and won a Certificate of Distinction for her novel Fathom Lines from the Humber School for Writers. Currently, she is acting as shill for her newly-completed second novel, Illumining, and her manuscript of poetry. Follow her to find out more @ErinLBedford

What are you working on?

As is the case with most writers, I am always working on getting previously-written work published. The first is a novel set in York in the early nineteenth century. The second is a complete manuscript of poems that explore human relationships through hendiadys. For all who aren’t total word nerds, hendiadys is a figure of speech that makes use of conjunction (and) to allow two words to unify as a single concept without using one to modify or subordinate the other. 

I am also writing new poems and working on an essay about my experience of getting a massage from my ex-husband’s new girlfriend.

Friday 16 November 2018

Andrea Blythe : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Definitely. The way I read, write, and perceive poetry is constantly changing. Years ago, I took a post-modern poetry class in college and it blew my mind, expanding my conception of what a poem could be, opening new doors into approaching poetry. As I continue to read both contemporary and past poets, I discover more and more ways that poetry can use words to draw out emotion or intellectual discourse. I am continually fascinated by the structural forms and styles that poets use, by the unique choices of words, phrases, or dialect. I am so inspired by the poets around me.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Nancy Jo Cullen : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I absolutely love Billy Rae Belcourt’s This Wound is a World. Danez Smith’s Do Not Call us Dead, Marie Howe’s Magdalene. Three books I’ve read this year that I’ve really loved.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Nisa Malli : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When you cannot imagine reading it any other way and no parts of it stick on your tongue. 

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part six

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry opens at the edge of further possibility because it’s raw materials is the whole of life. Big, unknowable, loveable, ever-expanding, terrifying life. 

Dominik Parisien : part three

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

I return to the poetry of Jim Ferris over and over again - The Hospital Poems and Slouching Towards Guantanamo especially. It drives me forward in my own work, particularly in times where I am in a great deal of pain or my disability has been manifesting in very public ways (convulsing in public, losing consciousness, etc). The anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry is Disability is another source of renewal. Tainaron: Mail From Another City by Finish author Leena Krohn is a grounding text. Tainaron isn’t poetry, although it is quiet, imagistic, poetic, obsessed with metamorphosis, and it fires up my imagination in ways nothing else does.

Connie Voisine : part two

What are you working on?

I had a chapbook come out recently and a book is being printed as I type. I have been wanting to tell a long story about addiction, about opioids in rural America (where I am from) and the women who keep their children alive. I don’t know where that is going or how it’s going to happen, but mostly I don’t understand these days the border between fiction and nonfiction.

Monday 12 November 2018

Catherine Graham : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I had the honour of returning twice these past nine months to read at various venues in Northern Ireland where I lived for many years after completing an MA in Creative Writing. During my recent time there, I connected with poets familiar and new. I’m reading their work now: Kathleen McCracken’s Selected, Joan Newmann’s Dead End, Kate Newmann’s I Am a Horse, Mel McMahon’s Beneath Our Feet, Moyra Donaldson’s Selected Poems, Julie Morrissy’s I Am Where, Michael Longley’s Angel Hill.

Raina K. Puels : coda

In several interviews, the advice Sharon Olds gives to all writers is to take care of their bodies. To me, part of this is ensuring my reproductive health and rights. I’m terrified that Roe V. Wade could be jeopardized if Kavanaugh or another anti-choice justice is confirmed to the Supreme Court. The best way to stop this is to vote in midterm elections this November. If we elect more pro-choice officials to the House or Senate, we have a much greater chance of stopping any bills or justices that would mean the end of Roe or access to emergency contraceptives.

While Plan B is the most convenient emergency contraception because it can be purchased over the counter or on Amazon, it has a huge issue: Plan B is only effective for those weighing 165lb or less and nearly INEFFECTIVE for anyone over 176lb. This information about weight restrictions is only available in super tiny print inside the box.

Ella is an emergency contraceptive that is effective for people of all weights, but it is typically only available with a prescription. PRJKT RUBY is an online service that allows people to access hormonal birth control and emergency contraceptives without a visiting a doctor. They offer FREE online health consultations. I highly suggest checking out their website for more information. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but I share this information in the hopes it can help poets with uteruses take and keep control of their reproductive health so they can continue to create beautiful and important art. 

Sunday 11 November 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : 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?

I am often incredibly private with my work/writing process until it is published in a journal/zine/publication or shared on stage through a live reading/performance. If I’m struggling with a piece, I run it by my dogs/selves/whoever I happen to be around and that often helps me get out of my rut. I enjoy working ideas/poems with my brother who is one of my favourite writers and an inspiration along with ‘Writing While Black’ a collective of Black writers I belong to co-created by the illustrious Whitney French, that has facilitated my growth.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Jónína Kirton : part three

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

At sixty-three I no longer turn to books for renewal. I turn to music or I take walks. When I need to remember why I write I find working with emerging poets and reading the poetry submissions for Room Magazine or for Turtle Island Responds brings me much needed inspiration. It is often emerging poets that restore my belief in the power of poetry to bring awareness and healing to difficult issues.

Friday 9 November 2018

Andrea Blythe : part one

Andrea Blythe bides her time waiting for the apocalypse by writing speculative poetry and fiction. She is the author of Your Molten Heart / A Seed to Hatch (2018) a collection of erasure poems, and coauthor of Every Girl Becomes the Wolf (Finishing Line Press, 2018), a collaborative chapbook written with Laura Madeline Wiseman. She serves as an associate editor for Zoetic Press and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Learn more at:

What are you working on?

I have a number of projects floating at the same time (as per my usual). I’m currently writing and editing three chapbooks of poetry. Pantheon is a collection honoring fictional characters in pop culture, which I finished a couple of years ago and am reworking before I continue sending it out on submissions. I have another untitled collection of found poems based on Stephen King’s The Plant that’s in the works. And I’m continuing to edit a series of prose poems based on the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairy tale (although it’s starting to morph into something else entirely at this point). With my collaborator, Laura Madeline Wiseman, I’m working on two separate collections — a series of Valkyrie poems and a series on warrior women in history.

Outside of poetry, I have a novel and several short stories in progress. And I’m also collaborating on a musical webseries about a woman who gets dumped and turns to her puppet friends for support.

Linda Frank : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Pretty crucial. My third book was called Insomnie Blues. An attempt to write a book that loosely followed a blues scale! The title came from a song by the same name sung by the Québecois singer Pauline Julien. It always haunted me.

Thursday 8 November 2018

Nancy Jo Cullen : part one

Nancy Jo Cullen is a Calgary transplant now living in Kingston, ON. She’s the 4th recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writer. Her fiction and poems have appeared in Best Canadian Poetry 2018, The Journey Prize, The Puritan, Grain, filling Station, Plenitude, Prairie Fire, This Magazine, Room and Arc Poetry Magazine. She has published 3 collections of poetry with Calgary’s Frontenac House Press. Her short story collection, Canary, was published in 2013 by Biblioasis. Her novel, The Western Alienation Merit Badge is forthcoming in 2019 with Wolsak and Wynn. She is mid-way through her fourth collection of poetry titled Nothing Will Save Your Life.

How does a poem begin?

A poem for me usually begins for me as a phrase image that I want to explore.  Sometimes I have a plan, I know what I want to get to in the poem, other times I riff on the image and one idea leads to the next until the poem is finished.

Jennifer Zilm : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Rachel Zucker’s The Pedestrians, Kim Trainor's Ledi, Carl Phillips, Sue Goyette, C.D. Wright, Ian Williams— I keep a list at

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Nisa Malli : part two

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

In poetry, you can be unrelenting. You can hold the reader’s breath for a full page and build and dismantle tension with precise grace. It allows for hairpin turns and pivots, lets you (and the reader’s eye) turn away from something that is hard to see and turn back a line later.

As a patient, when interacting with the medical system, you have to learn the words your doctors will hear best. You’re stuck using their pain scales and the names of recognizable symptoms. In poetry, you can use your own language to render experiences comprehensible and make the reader feel, or at least imagine for a moment, the sometimes unbearable sensations of the body in pain. You can write the fiction of your body. The metaphor doesn’t have to be medically accurate, it just needs to evoke the feeling. If medicine fogs the order things happened in, it doesn’t matter. It can be someone else’s body, and in writing it so you can sometimes write it more clearly.

Crystal Stone : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem is continually happening for me. It’s how I perceive the world. I’m more often than not a silent observer in public spaces, taking notes of what’s around me. I record everything. Dialogue overheard from strangers. Dialogue directed at me from strangers, friends, or students. Quotes from poems I love. Words and images I misread into poems when I tried to move too fast. Headlines I’ve seen. Memes that seemed almost philosophical. Somewhere in the process of taking notes of all the things I witness, a poem emerges and I realize why I’ve seen all the things I have. For me, life is a living puzzle; a poem is the exploration of why and how those pieces fit together.

M. Wright : part five

Why is poetry important?

It is a door to whatever the reader most needs.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Poetry is music-making language. The great pleasure of poetry is its world-expanding musicality.

Dominik Parisien : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin, Port of Being by Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Anatomic by Adam Dickinson, and the chapbooks From the Wounded Banks of the Tigris by Lamees Al Ethari and The Machete Tourist by John Elizabeth Stintzi.

Connie Voisine : part one Voisine is a poet living in New Mexico. Her recently published chapbook is And God Created Women, and she has a book-length poem, The Bower, forthcoming in 2019.

How does a poem begin?

It begins with an image, an acute sense of description, that this image is felt in more dimensions than I actually know. The thinking comes later—why is a man who knocks at my door one afternoon compelling to me? How is that tactile, sensory, human moment unbearably real to me? Why? The language comes out of that overwhelming sensory experience, and revision reveals the significance of it.

Monday 5 November 2018

Catherine Graham : part two

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

Rip your heart out with its word-force and aural energy then put it back in before you know what happened.

Raina K. Puels : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Under palm trees on a patio overlooking Tampa Bay, I sipped wine with a bunch of Literature PhD students. One said, “I love Maggie Nelson.” The next said, “No, I love Maggie Nelson.” And I said, “No, I really love Maggie Nelson.” It went around like that for a while until we agreed it’s become a cliché to say Maggie Nelson is your favorite writer.

In the same vein of kickass-female-scholar-writers, Jenny Boully is also fabulous and dreamy. As a fledgling undergrad I read The Body, her book-length essay composed in only in footnotes to an invisible text, and The Book of Beginnings and Endings, a book comprised solely of the beginnings and endings of essays. Boully is forever expanding and collapsing my notions of genre. I cannot recommend her most recent book Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life highly enough.

Sunday 4 November 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Bothism by the effervescent Tanya Evanson
Flare by the intricate Camisha L. Jones
past life. by the insightful Yemisi Adeleye
Where the Sidewalk Ends by the hilarious Shel Silverstein
The Politics of Rolling Spheres by the emerging Daniel Omara
Doomed Kids by the righteous Devis Nsubuga
Yellow Pupu Poems by the provocative Kagayi Ngobi

Saturday 3 November 2018

Peter Norman : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I usually have several on the go, and I dip in and out of a given collection (unless it’s a sequential narrative or for some other reason demands a cover-to-cover read). On my shelf right now: new books from Dani Couture, Phoebe Wang, and Jeff Latosik; an earlier one by Micheline Maylor; a Selected from Charles Simic and a Collected from Rita Dove.

Jónína Kirton : part two

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

Good poetry invites us to lean in, to be better listeners. The succinctness of it, the sparseness, leaves space for emotional truths that we may otherwise reject. It bypasses the mind, enters the body and awakens the parts of us that have been sleepwalking through life. It reminds us that other ways of knowing not only exist but are essential to our well-being. 

Friday 2 November 2018

Linda Frank : part four

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

In the last few years I have returned again and again to Robert Hass. It is great to have his selected The Apple Trees at Olema…handy to have all those poems in one volume when you travel!

Jennifer L. Knox : part thirteen

How does a poem begin?

Differently for different people. For some, it begins in a story. For others, where a story didn’t go. For others, sound. Others, the visual. Others, a feeling. Etc. For me, it’s often in misheard language (sound and sense) or compulsions (transgressive feelings).

Thursday 1 November 2018

Jennifer Zilm : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I write in notebooks, on postcards, on scrap paper. I like to have one person to swap poems with (a poetry wife) or a small group of writers—I like a cultish, coven atmosphere.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Nisa Malli : part one

Nisa Malli is a writer and researcher, born in Winnipeg and currently living in Toronto. Her poems and essays have been published in Arc Poetry, Carte Blanche, Cosmonauts Avenue, Grain, GUTS, Maisonneuve, Policy Options, and elsewhere. She holds a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria and has held residencies at the Banff Centre and Artscape Gibraltar Point.

Photo credit: Alex Tran

What are you working on?

I am working on a book of haunted poems that offer benedictions, incantations, and instruction manuals for sick bodies.

Crystal Stone : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I just finished reading The Babies by Sabrina Orah Mark. I’m currently working my way through MOTHERs by Rachel Zucker and then I’ll start Blue Lash by James Armstrong, and Ghost Fargo by Paula Cisewski. I try to read a new one every Sunday.

M. Wright : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is pivotal to my life and by extension, my poetry. Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Blind Willie Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, John Coltrane, Buddy Guy, The Rolling Stones, Charlie Parker, Screaming Females, Joni Mitchell, Dawes, and Laura Marling.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part four

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

Dionne Brand (all of her work).

Dominik Parisien : part one

Dominik Parisien's poetry chapbook We, Old Young Ones is forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press through its Dis/Ability series and his recent work can be found in Quill & Quire, The Fiddlehead, Plenitude, Train: a poetry journal, as well as other magazines and anthologies. He is the co-editor, with Navah Wolfe, of The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, which won the Shirley Jackson Award. His latest project is Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, with Elsa Sjunneson-Henry. Dominik is a disabled, bisexual, French Canadian. He lives in Toronto.

What are you working on?

The latest round of edits on my poetry chapbook, We, Old Young Ones, forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press. The chapbook explores disability, ageing, and intergenerational dynamics. The occasional non-fiction piece. I’m also co-editing an original anthology of retold myths from around the world for Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press. 

Shaindel Beers : coda

Why is poetry important?

I think that anything that can save your life is important. For some people, that’s poetry. For some people it’s painting or another art form. For some people, it’s nature or working out. You have to find the thing, for you, that makes you want to keep on living, and cling to that.

Monday 29 October 2018

Catherine Graham : part one

Catherine Graham is a writer of poetry and fiction. Among her six poetry collections The Celery Forest was shortlisted for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry, named a CBC Best Book of the Year and appears on their Ultimate Canadian Poetry List. Michael Longley praised it as “a work of great fortitude and invention, full of jewel-like moments and dark gnomic utterance.” Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and CAA Award for Poetry and her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction, “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Best Fiction and was a finalist for the Fred Kerner Book Award. She received an Excellence in Teaching Award at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and was also winner of the Toronto International Festival of Authors Poetry NOW competition. While living in Northern Ireland, Graham completed an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies around the world and she has appeared on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. Visit her at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @catgrahampoet
How do you know when a poem is finished?

You don’t, though sometimes you hear (faintly) that “click like a closing box” sound W. B. Yeats talks about. Otherwise, it’s when your intuition signals: done. The craft is there and the poem holds. It’s alive and ready to live on without you.

Raina K. Puels : part four

What are you working on?

I’m working on watching less Law and Order: SVU and being more kind to myself. I’m working on staying steady in tree pose with my eyes closed. I’m working on living and breathing a line from Maggie Nelson’s Jane: “Treating things lightly is indeed the answer to so much.” I’m working on perfecting my chocolate-chip scone recipe, unwrapping Starbursts with only my tongue, and not buying so many groceries. I’m working on a found poem about Corgis using the text from the Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue website.   

Sunday 28 October 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : part three

What are you working on?

I am currently making incredibly unhurried progress on my second book. I am thoroughly enjoying the process and how it contrasts to my first book. During the creation process of my first book, I had an outline within a month of the initial idea and established a writing regimen that was incredibly cathartic. For this second book, I am letting it come to me at its own languid pace and I am completely at peace.  

Saturday 27 October 2018

Peter Norman : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I had formative, paradigm-nudging encounters with the work of Sylvia Plath in the eighties, Margaret Avison in the nineties, Stuart Ross in the noughts, to name a few.

In middle age, I think the likelihood diminishes that an aesthetic experience will take your brain completely apart and put it back together again. In Zona, a book about Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie Stalker, Geoff Dyer proposes that this is much less likely to happen to us after the age of thirty, which has generally held true for me (I’m forty-four). For one thing, there are so many more books/movies/albums/etc. already swimming around in memory that it becomes harder for a newcomer to plunge into the pool and dominate. I read a lot of poetry that I love and admire the hell out of, but I’m too old for it to establish itself as a soul-reconfiguring aesthetic touchstone. No skin off its back, of course — plenty of other readers will have that experience with it.

That said, in recent years I have come across some work so striking and distinctive that it has renovated aesthetic regions of my brain. Recent books come to mind by Sina Queyras, Linda Besner, Mikko Harvey, Susan Holbrook, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson; I’m sure there have been others.

Jónína Kirton : part one

Jónína Kirton is a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet. Born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba she currently lives in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh. She published her first collection of poetry at sixty. Much to her delight page as bone ~ ink as blood, was met with some critical acclaim. Her second book, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her interest in the stories of her Métis and Icelandic ancestors is the common thread throughout much of her writing.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I let the poem lead. I am in conversation with it and it lets me know when it is done. If I do not wait for this signal, I usually regret it. Given this I will go back to the same poem over and over, moving things, making small yet significant changes. I can do this for months or years before I feel it is ready. Whenever I have rushed a poem (due to a deadline) I often find subtle but important changes that I wish I had made.

Friday 26 October 2018

Linda Frank : 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?

My work first enters the world in my mind, then shows up in pen and ink. Once it is transferred to computer and a draft is printed I bring it my writing group.

Jennifer L. Knox : part twelve

Why is poetry important?

It connects us to each other and to the magic.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Jennifer Zilm : part three

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

I write in notebooks, on postcards, on scrap paper. I like to have one person to swap poems with (a poetry wife) or a small group of writers—I like a cultish, coven atmosphere.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Crystal Stone : part three

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

Poetry is intimate, vulnerable, and shameless. It can take a form, or it can reject it altogether. Journalism has to present facts, comedy has to tell a joke, but poetry can do all of that while capturing the breadth of the emotional moment. A poem doesn’t have to stop at facts or the punch-line: a poem can tell the whole story. It preserves emotional memory in ways that the other forms don’t. It can be simultaneously depressed, beautiful, and funny, like the true human experience. It can tell the whole story or just part of it. There’s a responsibility to the reader and the people who populate the poems, but it’s also easier to preserve anonymity of the people discussed in a poem, too, because the character’s identities are less important than their reactions and actions in the world.

M. Wright : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

In terms of a reading-to-writing ratio I like to hover in a 3:1 range. I read a lot! Lately I’ve been reading Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando a collection of poems edited by Roy Guzmán and Miguel M. Morales, Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, If One of Us Should Fall by Nicole Terez Dutton, and Tula by Chris Santiago. I also feel strongly that reading works that aren’t poetry keeps me equally sharp and engaged as a poet and creative. Some recent reads include: There There by Tommy Orange, Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald, and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Lastly, I’m a huge advocate and fan of poetry coming out of micropresses. Some of my favorites from micropresses right now are Bad Anatomy by Hannah Cohen, Evolving God by M. Stone, and Soft Boy by Kevin Bertolero.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand
Listen Before Transmit by Dani Couture
Everyone Knows I Am A Haunting by Shivanee Ramlochan
Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealy

Shaindel Beers : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The most recent poetry book I read was Erika Meitner’s Holy Moly Carry Me. It is brilliant, and you need to buy it now. I want to point out that poets should read everything. Read fiction, read memoir, read science, read nature… Most importantly, just get new ideas in your head. I’d also recommend Goodbye, Sweet Girl by Kelly Sundberg and Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away by Alice Anderson. They’re both memoirs and so needed. Alice Anderson is a poet, and the language is beautiful. I know when I was reading her work, I kept tweeting lines that were so poetic, they took my breath away.

Monday 22 October 2018

Raina K. Puels : part three

How did you first engage with poetry?

My mother read to me while I was in utero. Her favorite was a book called Barnyard Dance! about dancing farm animals: “Bounce with the bunny. / Strut with the duck. / Spin with the chickens now— / CLUCK CLUCK CLUCK!” Perhaps this is why I’ve always carried a penchant for rhyme. I recently stumbled across a journal I kept in second grade. Nearly all the entries rhyme: “went to school / swam in dad’s pool / ate chicken and rice / today my step-sister was nice.” Just this morning a poem came to me in rhyming couplets: an orderly way to categorize messy experiences.  

Sunday 21 October 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

In no particular order, Nas, Samiya Bashir, Lupe Fiasco, Wole Soyinka,  Ab-Soul, John Keats, Noname, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Big K.R.I.T, Ross Gay, OutKast, Kagayi Ngobi, 3-Card, Nayyirah Waheed, Jaden Smith, Isabel Allende, Sam Beam, Fatima Asghar, Moses Sumney, Safia Elhillo, Future, Rabindranath Tegore, Lily Allen, James Baldwin, Mike Shinoda, Whitney French, Chester Bennington and I could honestly continue listing poets for pages so I’m going to stop here 😊   

Saturday 20 October 2018

Peter Norman : part three

How does a poem begin?

This has changed over the years. Originally, I would set out to write a poem about a specific thing — a personal experience or observation; a particular topic or theme. Then, as I learned more about prosody, I’d try out various forms for the challenge of it. Later, poems tended to arise from a phrase that came to mind and stuck there because it had a pleasing and/or exciting sound; I’d build out from that original bundle of words, whatever form or subject might happen to transpire.

In recent years, I’ve found these sound-nuggets less forthcoming, or at least less intriguing. So I play around with challenges and restrictions — for example, my next book (coming out this fall) consists of poems that use the line-ending words of other people’s poems. Inspired by cooking shows like MasterChef, I sometimes set myself “pressure tests”: I spin a Wheel of Fortune–style virtual wheel ( that I’ve loaded up with various challenges (compose a poem that does x or adheres to form y). Then I have half an hour to do the best I can with whatever the wheel assigns. I pretend that Gordon Ramsay and his ilk are waiting to deliver withering assessments of my effort.

Friday 19 October 2018

Linda Frank : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I seemed to have had a love of words and poetry since about the second grade. My parents actually saved my early poems which I apparently made into a book of sorts. I loved reading poetry in the readers we had in primary school. In high school I discovered Leonard Cohen’s poetry and then his music and that changed how I thought about the written word.

Jennifer L. Knox : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry?

Can one exist without the other?

Thursday 18 October 2018

Jennifer Zilm : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

On epic road trips through B.C. between Terrace and Greater Vancouver when I was three years old I heard Bob Dylan’s line “ten thousand miles in the mouth of graveyard” and I still can’t see clear cut patches on mountains without shaking.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Crystal Stone : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t. A poem is never really finished, but good enough to share. If you hold onto your words too long, they sometimes lose timeliness. And one of my goals is to write about current events, to touch people in the moments they need a poem. There are so many rapid changes happening right now in our country and they need a poet’s response.  

M. Wright : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I’ve reread a poem and feel I’ve had a conversation with myself, that reading it is a true act of stepping into myself, I feel it is finished. My extraordinary wife gets the final say as to a poem’s fate however. She knows me and my poems far better than I.