Sunday 30 September 2018

Michael Dennis : part three

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?
As much as I return to poetry I return to novels and movies and music.  There are a certain few novels that I read every few years.  I just finished rereading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read it but the ending always surprises me.  Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” is a movie I return to, but I also love rereading Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to shake out the gobwebs.  John Irving’s splendid Cider House Rules is a book I return to, almost as a gift to myself.
At present I’m reading a fair bit of new poetry, daily, I’m going through fifteen to twenty poetry titles most week, just to keep up with the blog.  I think because I’m reading so much poetry that when I need to recharge the batteries I go outside poetry.  I listen to a lot of music although I tend to listen to music I already know instead of searching out new music.  I am a lazy man.
Right now I’m reading Paul Auster’s 4321, an autobiography by Bruce Springsteen, a book of short stories by Alison MacLeod, All the Beloved Ghosts and a book of feminist essays called Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

Saturday 29 September 2018

Allie Marini : part twelve

12. Why is poetry important?

Because it makes you stop & squint & not trample the flowers you hadn’t noticed because you were so focused on where you were going.

Friday 28 September 2018

Jennifer L. Knox : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

In the last seven months, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Shane McCrae, Victoria Chang, and Ada Limón

Thursday 27 September 2018

Lauren Brazeal : part three

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

I continually return to Sylvia Plath’s “The Rabbit Catcher” for different reasons. Mostly it’s the pure, burning energy in the poem. She was so unafraid to show her madness and raw power in that piece. Whenever I feel timid or like I should be more subtle, I return to “The Rabbit Catcher” and am reminded to never look away from my anger or sadness or joy—whatever emotion I’m trying to communicate in my writing at the time.

Sarah Venart : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Audience is hard. You have to make space for the reader and to leave room  for her around my words isn’t always easy. I forget about her while composing, so then when I edit, I use that old adage from fashion about accessories: if I have four things going on in my poem, I remove two. 

The certainty that my poems are, like, useful is important to me.  I’m not sure if I can communicate this well, but I’ll try.  Roots and upbringing are important and I really want to write poems that would be useful to my grandmother (a coalminer’s wife) or the neighbours around where I grew up, for example. I think of their female voices—gruff, tough, survivalist— and I want them to appreciate what I’m saying. But as far as I know, they had no use for poetry. So to make a marriage between poetry and use is difficult but I try. That is what I want to illuminate in my poems.  I spoke to Marge Piercy about this a lot when I worked with her last summer. As you know, use is important to her too (See “To Be of Use”).

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Matty Layne Glasgow : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Two friends and mentors who helped me believe I could write are Sara Cooper and Long Chu. Both phenomenal poets in their own right, Long and Sara not only read my work and provided patient feedback when I had no idea what I was doing, they also introduced me to an array of poets that changed the way I read, write, and live.

Long lent me copies of Richard Siken’s Crush and Carl Phillips’ Cortège, which were the gay masterpieces I never knew I’d been waiting for all my life. Up until that point, most of my poetry immersion was from my French studies as an undergraduate. I enjoyed Baudelaire’s musicality and visceral verse, but Arthur Rimbaud was (and still is) one of my favorite writers. However, Crush and Cortège helped knock something loose in me, and I felt like I could actually write about myself, who I was. Siken and Phillips each bring a distinct beauty and candor to their writing, and that candor pushed me toward an unabashed reclamation of my queerness—something that, even in my mid-twenties, I hadn’t been completely comfortable with, and certainly not comfortable writing about.

Sara lent me a copy of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, a stunning book that defied form and remains my go-to when I’m in need of inspiration on lyric mastery. Beyond craft and concerning the content, Citizen obviously challenged many of us to examine our whiteness, to recognize micro-aggressions, and to better understand the inherent racism people of color experience in our society. As a young writer and a cisgender white man, this was a pivotal book for me. It caused me to examine myself and my own behavior, while also putting a mirror up to my privilege—a reflection I’d been naïve to throughout my youth and into my young adulthood. So, without Sara and Long, I wouldn’t be a writer at all. And without Siken and Phillips and Rankine, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Robin Durnford : part five

Why is poetry important?

This is a big pretentious question, but I think it’s extremely important. Poetry is more important than ever. Poetry isn’t capitalist. I mean I know it’s Instagrammable now, but poetry itself cannot be monetized (or can it?). Well, literature can’t (or can it?). But actually, although I lean this way politically, I also know that poetry cannot be socialist. It can try! Poetry, like all art, is about telling the truth, about being honest, about saying fuck the bullshit whatever the bullshit of the day may be. People get so intimidated by canonized poets these days, but, Jesus, so many poets were ignored and basically drummed out of the discourse of the day. That asshole Dylan Thomas, I forgot about him, he was telling the world something, but it wasn’t anything that it particularly wanted to hear, but his words? They had music. I’m a romantic that way. I believe in aesthetics. I don’t think making something beautiful, though, should make you snotty towards the world or those who don’t get it. I can’t say I’m always good at this, but I do know that poetry is not for poets. Poetry should be for the world. Actually, Thomas’s own “In my Craft or Sullen Art” sums it up!

Coda: This was fun. Thanks for giving poets an opportunity to talk and be heard!

Shaindel Beers : part one

Shaindel Beers is author of the poetry collections A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), The Children’s War and Other Poems (Salt, 2013), and Secure Your Own Mask (White Pine Press, 2018). Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in eastern Oregon’s high desert, and serves as poetry editor of Contrary.

What are you working on?

I’m going to give the most embarrassing answer that there is. I’m currently working on promoting my third book. Book promotion is an entirely different type of energy from writing, but when something strikes me to write about, I’ll definitely write. But a book is like a baby. When it first comes out, it’s a newborn, and you have to take care of it. You have to keep on top of sharing reviews, doing interviews, all of that stuff. You have to honor the writing you’ve already done by supporting it. So, I’m going to make this plea on behalf of all authors. When you read their work and it resonates with you, write a quick review on Goodreads and then copy and paste the same review to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, anywhere you can think of. These are the small actions you can do that support writers. 

Monday 24 September 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part ten

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author? Mary Ruefle, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath. The complete (or selected) works of each. Ruefle’s lectures in Madness, Rack, and Honey are a balm.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Michael Dennis : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?
There is a long list.  Earle Birney got me into the game, I’d already been writing some very bad poetry but when I heard Birney’s “David” everything changed.  Then Gwendolyn MacEwen.  Shortly after that I discovered Leonard Cohen and was transfixed.  When I first read Sir Jack Kerouac I was hypnotized.  Then around 1975 I heard Tom Waits for the first time and I remember the exact moment.  I was in a small hotel room in Thunder Bay watching American Public Television in the middle of the night.  Tom Waits introduced me to the idea of Charles Bukowski.  Al Purdy was in the mix early along with Alden Nowlan.
The truth is that every time I read a good poet it has an effect on my work.  Most recently I’ve been in correspondence with the American poet David Clewell, former Poet Laureate for Missouri.  He not only recommends that I read certain people, he sends me books that I have to read, sometimes he sends them with post-it notes telling me which order to read the books in.  It has been, and continues to be a steep learning curve but it is absolutely inspiring.  Clewell introduced me to David Lee.  David Lee is the best poet in America as far as this cowboy is concerned.  But there are some other monsters, lately I’ve been reading Albert Goldbarth, Dave Etter, Campbell McGrath, Sue Goyette, and damn, have a brain sputter.
Charles Bukowski, more than any one other writer, influenced how I think about the world of poetry, but he wasn’t a very nice cat.  As much as I love Bukowski I don’t share his ethos that poetry is more important than people.  Sometimes it is hard to reconcile a poet and their life against their body of work.  And then there’s Raymond Carver.  First time I read his work my heart stopped.
I can’t wait for the next poet to shake me up, bite into my way of thinking, nudge me forward.

Saturday 22 September 2018

Allie Marini : part eleven

11. How important is music to your poetry?

On the surface, not terribly, but a lot of my best ideas are sparked by a song lyric or the feeling that a song makes me have. One of my favorite pieces I wrote specifically for the literary journal Memoir Mixtapes, based on a poem by Nicole Blackman that had been set to music by the Golden Palominos – my first chapbook was titled after a lyric from a song by The Church, & a lot of my titles are sideways references to music. So it sneaks its way in, & hopefully someone sees the thing I’ve tucked away. Music is kind of an “Easter egg” in my writing.

Friday 21 September 2018

Thursday 20 September 2018

Lauren Brazeal : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Reconciling the narrative with image and syntax. I usually find one or the other when writing a poem: either the poem has a glitzy poshed-out language but doesn’t tell the necessary story, or it’s too direct, too prose-like. Finding the intersection where gorgeous language and story meet is always the goal. I’m happy to report it never gets easier.

Sarah Venart : part three

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

I love so many other forms of art and I use them to inform my work so I don’t want to hurt any feelings here, but I do like the conciseness a poem achieves.  Does that hold water?  Not really.  Conciseness isn’t married to poetry.  I guess line lengths and the sense of surprise with how a line ends - I appreciate that.  Also, how the words that I choose to end and begin a line can make someone think differently about that word or idea or what-have-you— that’s very cool. I like how succinct a poem’s surface can be while simultaneously holding this vast subtext.  But other forms master this too:  Photography. Instagram.  I’ll stop there!

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Matty Layne Glasgow : part three

What are you working on?

I recently submitted the final revisions of my first collection of poems to my publisher, and that process has left me much more emotionally and creatively drained than I previously understood possible. deciduous qween will be out in May of 2019 with Red Hen Press, but most of my excitement remains shrouded in dread and anxiety, so I’m juggling a few projects depending on the day and my mood.

In terms of poetry, I’m writing more about Houston, particularly our environmental history: the construction of bayous, the ship channel, the toxic industries inherent to our community. There’s also a book-length project I did a great deal of research on over the past few years during my MFA that follows the life of a transgender soldier during the Mexican Revolution. It’s a story and an individual I have a great deal of love and respect for, but I still have a lot to work through to make sure I bring Amelio’s life to the page in an ethical way that is the artifact of queer world-making befitting of his life. I’m also working on a novel that is all about queer magic and the ghost of a drag queen who protects a forest under siege. Drag, ghosts, and trees are my holy trinity.

To maintain my sanity and for my own personal pleasure, I’ve been reveling in some queer erotica about my beloved Houston Astros too. It may never live in the world, but it’s a nice way for me to interrogate and deconstruct toxic masculinity by queering my hometown squad. Bottoms up! Or rather, “Batter up!” Whatever they say.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Robin Durnford : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is central to my poetry. The music of language, that is. I feel very strongly that poetry should really need no accompaniment. The music should come from the sound of the words themselves, in their chosen order, and the syllables and the silences and the line breaks should make up the notes. Language itself is music. That’s poetry. The accents, the dialects, the combination of verbs and nouns, the rests leading up to intensity, the quietness, the noise of language. For me this is the struggle and the pleasure of poetry. For me form is a bit of a ruse, although I strongly admire those who make original music out of the frames that make up sonnets and villanelles and odes (although these days I often find them boring to the ear). I live for the sound of the language, of people’s voices, the way they talk when they don’t know anyone is listening. This was my childhood in the outports and quiet corners of Newfoundland. This is my poetry.

Micheline Maylor : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

            T. S. Eliot because of his musical lines. Seamus Heaney for what he does with history. Mary Rueffle. Billy Collins for his ability to speak of the ordinary with levity. Carolyn Forche for memorializing. Douglas Glover for being the best editor of prose. Agha Shaid Ali for bringing Ghazal forms to English. Jan Zwicky for metaphor. Patrick Lane for being the best editor of poetry. derek beaulieu because he forced me to reconsider what poetry is. . . so many reconsiderations. Reading itself is an act of reconsideration.

Monday 17 September 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately? I’m currently reading Tarfia Faizullah’s Registers of Illuminated Villages, Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, and Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle. Year two of Glass Poetry’s chapbook series also came in the mail recently, and I’m looking forward to digging in.

Sunday 16 September 2018

Puneet Dutt : part five

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

I like to pick up a new poetry anthology. Right now, I’m reading The Best American Poetry 2017.

Michael Dennis : part one

Michael Dennis published his first chapbook, quarter on its edge, in 1979. Since then he has published several books and over a dozen chapbooks, his work has appeared in numerous magazine and journals. His most recent collection is Bad EngineNew and Selected Poems (Anvil Press, 2017) edited by Stuart Ross.
Dennis was born in London, Ontario, grew up mostly in Peterborough, Ontario and has resided in Ottawa, Ontario for the last thirty years. He lived in P.E.I. for year in the mid-80s and Czechoslovakia in 1989–90.
For the past five years Dennis has been producing a blog, Today’s book of poetry where he writes about books of poetry he admires. He posts a new blog every two or three days. So far Dennis has written blogs about 711 contemporary books of poetry.
Dennis is semi-retired from a career of varied employment. Dennis has installed public art for the Canada Council Art Bank, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Ottawa Art Gallery and numerous other arts organizations. He ran a small boutique hotel, The Cartier Inn. He drove taxi and trucks, worked in an ice-cream factory, worked on the motor line at Ford in Windsor, Ontario for a couple of years, a copper mine in northern Ontario. Dennis opened his own non-profit English as a second language school in Jablonec nad Nisou, Czechoslovakia and so on. Now he is supported by his wife and lives the life of luxury afforded most poets.
Photo credit: John W. MacDonald
What are you working on?
I recently sent a new book/manuscript of poetry to Anvil Press.  They published my most recent collection, Bad Engine.  Of course I’m hoping they’ll publish this new book, Low Centre of Gravity.  So that is heavily on my mind, but for the moment I’ve been able to set that aside.
I’m doing a chapbook with Larry Cowan’s Monk Press, my tentative title is Sad Balloon.  Those poems are finished, sort of.  I often work with Stuart Ross as an editor because he is a complete pro and he always makes my poems better.  Stuart has been helping me with Sad Balloon.  He also edited Bad Engine and he gave Low Centre of Gravity a good going over as well.  All of that to say that I will still have some homework to do once Stuart returns those poems to me.
Stuart and I have been working on a collaborative project for a couple of years.  Thus far it has produced one small chapbook called The Dagmar Poems.  But we are sitting on a pile of work that we like and do have plans for it.  These are poems that we wrote one line at a time, Stuart would write a line and then I would write a line, and so on.   Either of us can decide when a poem is finished.  Stuart and I are hoping to get together soon to put the finishing touches on our project.
rob mclennan contacted me recently as asked if I’d be interested in doing another chapbook with his above/ground press.  And I’m excited about that.  rob has published my work several times in the past and I’m happy about doing another one.  When you publish with rob there is simply no telling where it might end up, his distribution seems hits a wide swath.
Marilyn Irwin publishes chapbooks with her Shreeking Violet Press and we’ve talked about doing a chapbook together sometime in the next year and I’m certainly excited about that.
My biggest time consumer these days is my blog “Today’s book of poetry.”  That takes up a two or three hours every day.  I try to post a blog/review of a different book every other day, although lately it has been more like every three days.  I’m getting old and bad engine is starting to smoke.   The best unintended consequence of the blog is that I get to read a lot of poetry, daily.
I don’t really have a strict writing schedule for my own poems.  I often feel like I am not writing enough but then when I collect them all up I’ve usually got more poems than I thought.  I certainly worry about it a lot less than I used to.

Saturday 15 September 2018

Allie Marini : part ten

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

“Poem (My Hayseed Harelequin)” by Karen Volkman, from Spar, and every poem in Nicole Blackman’s collection Blood Sugar

Friday 14 September 2018

Jennifer L. Knox : part six

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

Forms of writing? I think poetry is unique in that it doesn’t need to convey information. It creates a feeling that is the poem, like a little feeling producing machine.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Lauren Brazeal : part one

Lauren Brazeal is the author of two chapbooks, Zoo for Well-Groomed Eaters (Dancing Girl Press, 2016), and exuviae (Horse Less Press, 2016). Her first full-length collection, Gutter, is releasing in the summer of 2018 from Yes Yes Books. In her past, Brazeal has been a homeless gutter-punk, a resident of Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, a maid, a surfer chick, and a custom aquarium designer. A graduate of Bennington’s MFA program in writing and literature, her work has appeared in journals such as DIAGRAMSmartish PaceBarrelhouseForkliftOhio, and Verse Daily.

How does a poem begin?

I tend to write two kinds of poems. Sometimes the poem arrives fully formed, and I act more like a transcriber—jotting down the words as though they’re being dictated to me from a speaker outside myself. Other times, I hack away at a poem, and it’s a slow, sweaty, chiseling effort. These poems sometimes go through months of edits before reaching a finishing point. Most often though, my work is a combination of the two: an impulse or series of inspirations that require teasing and manipulation in places. 

Sarah Venart : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

One of my mother’s favourite stories was about the first words of my sister, who, as a toddler, pointed to an earthworm and said “ribbon walking.” Metaphor was everywhere and as valuable as fact in our family. My mother was a writer; my father studied explosions; my sisters, my brother, and I read a lot and drew a lot and made houses out of cardboard, and fabric—you get the idea.  And we lived in the country on a farm— so birth and death were happening… all this was formative. And my mother read us A Child’s Garden of Verses and Winnie the Pooh and Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas, but I didn’t love that stuff so much.  If you Google “The Purple Cow” you’ll find a favourite poem of mine at age seven.

Later, at Mount Allison, I studied history, but I would write in my own sort of descriptive narrative style and try to play it off as academic argument.  I took a class with the poet Douglas Lochhead and I handed in one of these “research” papers and he called me on it.  But he also asked me to write poetry instead of papers for the rest of the semester. I’m grateful he recognised that I am not a historian: I do not have a head for the past and its dates, the men and the battles.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Matty Layne Glasgow : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

This summer I’ve been enraptured by several collections—most notably The Carrying by Ada Limón, The Rabbits Could Sing by Amber Flora Thomas, and Equilibrium by Tiana Clark. Both Thomas and Clark have new collections coming out in September, and I love to delve back into a poet’s last book or earlier work to ready myself for their latest. I’m truly ecstatic about Red Channel in the Rupture and I Can’t Talk about the Trees without the Blood; I’ve had them pre-ordered for months, and I check the mail everyday praying for an early miracle. As for Limón’s The Carrying, it has truly shaken me to the core. I admire her keen eye for environment and how it emerges through bees and dandelions, in caves and trees. Her candor in these poems though—the way she meditates on grief and forgiveness, but also joy—crafts the kind of connection between the poet and the reader I love most. Her poems are complex in their imagery and echoes, but they also have a skilled accessibility to them that allows them to pinch a nerve or steal a breath and only make me trust her more as a writer. I never feel led astray; every meandering is beautiful and purposeful and makes me grateful these words are in the world. I’m horrified of caves and being underground, but “Notes on the Below” inspires me to follow her through Mammoth Cave National Park, as long as I get a flashlight or something. I’m scared of the dark, too. I suppose her work helps me confront my own fears then, not only as a writer, but as a human sharing this world with so much life.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Robin Durnford : part three

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

These days Elizabeth Bishop. For a long time, I ignored Elizabeth Bishop because she was too close to home—she wrote about moose in Nova Scotia—and I thought she was too prosy. What an idiot I was because when I finally really paid attention to her work—I taught her collected works in a ‘Canadian’ literature course—she knocked my socks off, and she blew my students’ minds. I love her. I love how much she traveled and how bored she sounds when she reads her own poetry. You can find “The Fish” on Youtube. It’s pure, one hundred per cent not caring and not giving a shit in the best possible way (she gave a lot of shits about the poetry itself I might add). I also come back to Sylvia Plath, again and again, all of her work. Seamus Heaney’s Opened Ground has been opened so many times you can’t see the words on the spine. Sometimes I go to Gerard Manley Hopkins for the pure weirdness and his rock ’n’ roll sound. I also like punk rock, especially David Bowie and the Pogues, in combination with Codco and maudlin Irish folk songs and recitations which never fail to make me cry.

*To steal a line from Eden Robinson, who says her biggest influences are Dolly Parton and Stephen King, mine were probably David Bowie and Codco.

Micheline Maylor : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

            I work for a press, I’ve been mainly reading things not published yet, but one to watch for is Ruba’iyat for the Time of Apricots by Basma Kavanagh to be released this September. It’s a book length long poem about the importance of women, the environment, and beautifully told in succulent language that makes you want to fall in it like a blue pool of happiness. Look for it this September at the Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival. Share it with your mothers, and aunts, and grandmothers. It’s important work and a tribute to those that women came before us.

Monday 10 September 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? Rae Armantrout made me acutely aware of how powerful and wily abstraction can be, and Emily Dickinson cracked open abstraction like a geode and revealed the worlds inside.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Puneet Dutt : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen have changed the way I thought about the poetic form and genre.

Saturday 8 September 2018

Allie Marini : part nine

9. What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The most recent ones I’ve read are The Future by Neil Hilborn, Terrible Blooms by Melissa Stein, & What Fresh Hell by Emily O’Neill

Friday 7 September 2018

Pamela Mordecai : part five

What are you working on?

I am working on the last book of a trilogy on the lives and deaths of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. (It might end up as a quartet... I don't know yet.) I'm writing it backwards. Two books are already published: de book of Mary: a performance poem, the second book, appeared in 2015 and de Man: a performance poem, the last book,  appeared in 1995. The first book, "de book of Joseph," is the one I am working on. The three books are written entirely in Jamaican Creole, a powerful language for literature. I use it in both my poetry and fiction.

Jennifer L. Knox : 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'm extremely grateful to have two poets I share work with. We 100 years ago met in graduate school and know the trajectory of each other's work very well. We each have a different heart-brain-balls ratio. I’m balls first, brains second, heart third. They're the opposites. So their feedback is usually aspects of the poem I never instinctually consider. That's invaluable.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Kaie Kellough : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?


Derek Walcott – For the rich variation within his repetition.  In his longer poems set in the Caribbean, familiar images – fronds, the sea, the horizon – reappear, but they change with each appearance.

Lisa Robertson – For her ability to sustain narrative movement while admitting noise and disjunction. 

Safiya Sinclair – For her explosive, sonorous language that never becomes ornamental, but sustains the poem’s development. 

Sarah Venart : part one

Sarah Venart used to write under her initials, S.E., but screw that.  Sarah's writing has been published in Numero Cinq, Concrete and River, New Quarterly, Malahat Review, Fiddlehead, This Magazine, Prism International and on CBC Radio. She is the author two books: Neither Apple Nor Pear/Weder Apfel Noch Birne and Woodshedding. A new collection, I am the Big Heart, is coming out soon-ish. Sarah lives in Montreal and teaches at John Abbott College.

What are you working on? 

I’m about to begin editing a new book, I am the Big Heart, which will be out in 2020.  Woodshedding came out in 2007, so it’s been a long time coming.  I let life events and self doubt get in my way for a while.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Jill Mceldowney : part five

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

Judy Jordan’s Carolina Ghost Woods.

It was the first book of poetry I read that made me stop and go ‘Poetry can do that?’

When I’m having a bad writing week, when I find myself questioning the importance, the prevalence of poetry—I return here to be gutted.

I suppose it is a older book now— being that it was published in 1999— so people are always surprised or don’t know what I’m talking about but every time, without fail, it devastates me.

Tracy Hamon : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem can begin anywhere, but no matter where it starts, for me, it always starts with metaphor. It may start with a title, a thought, a phrase, a few words, a conversation, or even research. I start writing to the idea/image of the metaphor and see where it goes. I also like writing with pen and paper to begin with—it slows my mind and the words can begin to gather into something cohesive. I often won’t switch to the computer until I have a rough draft and the need to break the lines and to shape the poem. 

Matty Layne Glasgow : part one

Matty Layne Glasgow is the author of the collection, deciduous qween, selected by Richard Blanco as the winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award and forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2019. He is runner-up for Missouri Review’s 2017 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and finalist for Nimrod’s 2018 Pablo Neruda Prize. His poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthologies and appear in the Missouri Review, Crazyhorse, Collagist, BOAAT, Muzzle, and elsewhere. He lives in Houston, Texas where he teaches with Writers in the Schools and adjuncts his life away.

Photo credit: Iran Garcia

Why is poetry important?

For me, poetry serves as one of the most transcendent ways in which we as humans can connect with one another, with the environments where we seek shelter and breath, with whatever cosmos or magic or spirit helps us find purpose. Our craft combats injustice, processes trauma, unearths hidden truths, celebrates our joy, and communes our grief, our uncertainty. I’m often in awe of how these journeys can occur in just a few lines on a page or through an epic narrative. Regardless of length or style, each poem affords the reader the opportunity to see the world through the poet’s eyes, and that connection is a hopeful one. Most importantly, I believe everyone is deserving and capable of this connection, this hope. I’ve had the privilege of teaching with Writers in the Schools since 2013, and their mission “to engage all children in the joy and power of reading and writing” is one I live by. Everyone—regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or economic resources—has a powerful story to impart, has a way of seeing the world wholly their own. Perhaps they do not long to be professional writers, but their words and their poetry can still build these connections, inspire those around them, and give us all more hope.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Robin Durnford : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

This is going to sound morbid, but after my father died in 2004 we needed some lines to put on his headstone. I wasn’t a poet then, just a mere PhD student, but I didn’t want something clichéd. I wrote some lines that people liked and ended up on the grave, so that was technically my first ‘publication.’ After that I just kept writing. I filled a whole notebook with verses that summer, trying to deal with the shock of what had happened (Dad died of a sudden death heart attack without any goodbyes to anyone), so that was the basis of my first book. I would say, though, that poetry was always in me. When I was a teenager I used to read poems from poetry anthologies and perform into hairbrushes in front of the mirror like a rock star. It’s just that where I came from poets were thought of as people from the olden days, all of whom were dead.

Micheline Maylor : part three

Why is poetry important?

            I was talking to a music promoter about the economics of poetry the other day. We were talking about the economics of poetry and he asked, “why does anyone take that in school. Why would anyone be interested. Here’s a guy that makes his living from selling other people’s poetry/songs and he just didn’t get that the reason people buy his tickets is the same reason that people read poetry and want to write it and song. Because it makes the audience FEEL good, or right, or sad, or enraged, or sexy, or sassy, or whatever. . . But poetry and song have the same function. It makes us FEEL. And this is a very good thing for people, and for communities, and societies, and civilizations. Poetry makes us more civil.

Monday 3 September 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part seven

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? Sometimes everything feels like a poem, and sometimes nothing does. I am insecure in the relevance of my lived experiences and interests. To an extent, I believe this insecurity is healthy—listening and paying attention are critically important! Perspective-taking makes for better poems. The flipside is an incessant metacognitive drone that my angle on the human experience isn’t important. I’ve learned to write through it.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Puneet Dutt : 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 do, I work with a friend in a writer’s collective. Through this we engage with new poetry, share our work, workshop poems, and write new ones. We work on revising larger manuscripts and discuss writing in general.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Allie Marini : part eight

8. What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Fewer “famous” poets than you might think & more peers: Nicole Blackman, Daphne Gottleib, Maggie Estep, Melissa May, Karen Volkman,  Nazelah Jameson, Erin Belieu, Christine No, Emma Bolden, Cassandra Dallett, Amy Gerstler, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Clementine von Radics, Sarah Kay, Leah Sewell, Melissa Stein, Victoria Chang, Margaret Atwood, Erica Jong, & others I’m surely forgetting right now.