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.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part two

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

Perhaps what poetry does best is draw language out of mystery and vice-versa into illumination as distilled, compact moments of clarity. And since language is important to us, a large part of who we are remains ever possible and worthy in poetry. In poetry, in those impulses to disassemble our days into shapes, features, categories, knowledges that can help us make sense of things--we are alive and mysterious. And the difficulties of confessing our longing to translate such things, feelings, the meagre pacificity of our dreams--are not mere vanity or luxury. Poetry isn’t a thing that will just capitulate to some reductive utility or meaninglessness. Perhaps we can’t know fully how poetry does what only poetry can do. It is important for us to have ambiguity in our lives, that we can achieve more possibility with the generosities and troubles that have come before us. But poetry reminds us that for our sake, things remain possible. Through specificity, the ever-shifting contours of our own lives invite poetry, which is a kind of joy in life--to remain ours. That is, we are held in something outside of what is monetizable. We escape a kind of material destruction daily. Because it cannot be commercialized, poetry invites us to hold possibility as part (and simultaneously apart) of the cosmic-scale complexities that compose our individual lives. That we are able to daily encounter--even momentarily--such things in poetry means that we exceed the bounds of their temporality. And we triumph in these moments. The best in us triumphs. That is the microcosmic potentiality of poetry.

Shaindel Beers : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I think Anne Sexton really changed the way I think about writing because she wrote EVERYTHING no matter how raw. I once spent a summer reading her complete works, and it was all there. Every little bit of life that happened to her turned into poetry. I think Transformations made a huge impact on me because it showed me that you can use fairy tales (or other widely known works) to rewrite the personal. It’s a safe way of distancing the subjects that are too close to write well about directly.

Monday 15 October 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part thirteen

How does a poem begin? Most of mine begin with a fragment of language that snags on something in my brain and bothers me until I fasten it to other words. Some begin as a rhetorical scaffold, and I have to find the images and phrases to complete the structure. 

Raina K. Puels : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Translating my brainchildren into wordchildren proves quite difficult. How can I possibly convey the lust I feel for my lover’s armpit that drives me to stick my nose into his sweet musk? I must first build a replica human suit of myself for you to slip into (complete with temperature controls so maybe you can feel more comfortable in my skin than I do). But even then, I can’t recreate his pheromones or create synapses from my nose to your brain. My mother once told me about this man she knew who wore a special cologne. Every time he walked by her head involuntarily turned his direction. Something about the pheremones in the spray connected to her on a corporeal level. I suppose that’s the most difficult thing about writing poetry—translating my intangible thoughts into something physical that has the power to sway a stranger’s body.   

Sunday 14 October 2018

Mugabi Byenkya : part one

Mugabi Byenkya was born in Nigeria to Ugandan/Rwandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. He spent his life across Africa, Asia and North America. Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015, has been featured on Brittle Paper, The Good Men Project, African Writer, Arts and Africa and The Kalahari Review amongst others. His writing is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. Mugabi’s debut novel, Dear Philomena, was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 30 city North America/East Africa tour in support of this. An advocate for the intersection of arts, chronic illness, social justice, and literacy, Mugabi leads workshops in effective writing, poetry, performance, vulnerability, mental and chronic illness for youth and adults.

Photo credit: Tom Mirga

How does a poem begin?

Stevie Wonder was once asked the same question about his music and I wholeheartedly concur with his answer, when it comes to my poems. To paraphrase, Stevie said the music does not come from him. In a similar way, my poems do not begin with me, my mind or my writing practice. I am merely a vessel. I tap into something greater than myself, call it what you want, whether: deities, ancestors or imagination. I tap into it and channel the poetry through my particular lens.

Michael Dennis : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?
Because of my blog I read a waft of poetry titles, every week, at least twenty.  Here’s a quick list of the last ten books I wrote about at Today’s book of poetry:
Salsa Nights at Hilo Town Tavern – Kristofer Collins (Hyacinth Girl Press)
Headline News – John Deming (Indolent Books)
The Art of Dying – Sarah Tolmie (McGill-Queens University Press)
Pressed Against All That Nothing – Cody Deitz (Yak Press)
Bociany (Storks) – Jonathan Garfinkel (Knife|Fork|Book)
Sinner’s Dance – Darrell Epp (Mosiac Press)
Burning The Evidence – Todd Cirillo (Epic Rites Press)
Sick and I – Katie Fewster-Yan (Desert Pet Press)
The Price of Scarlet – Brianna Noll (University Press of Kentucky)
Particles – New Selected Poems – Dan Gerber (Copper Canyon Press)

Saturday 13 October 2018

Peter Norman : 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?

In my teens and twenties, I’d share stuff with friends, family, and teachers, and occasionally I slammed, which is one way to get an instant reaction (via score cards held aloft by randomly selected audience members). In the early 2000s, my wife and I spent four years in Ottawa, which proved to be a vital period for my poetry’s development; most of the material that made up my first three books was written there. We regularly attended the Tree Reading Series, hosted at the time by the novelist James Moran, and I would try out new poems at the open mic. That’s a decent initial editing technique: if the passage you’re reading is flat, you can feel the energy drain from the room; if a line is unwieldy, you’ll struggle to deliver it. These days, though, I don’t generally release a new poem into the world until it’s published. I figure if an editor wants it in a book or journal on their watch, it must be working somehow; if it finds no love there, I’ll retire it or haul back to the drawing board.

Friday 12 October 2018

Linda Frank : part one

Linda Frank was born in Montreal and now lives in Hamilton, Ontario. A retired professor from Mohawk College, she has written three books of poetry: Cobalt Moon Embrace, Insomnie Blues and Kahlo: The World Split Open, which was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award. She is a past winner of the Banff Centre’s Bliss Carmen Poetry Award and has been shortlisted for the National Magazine Awards.

Photo credit: Caitlin Burgess

What are you working on?

I am presently completing my fifth book of poetry centered around the state of Florida where my grandparents first came when they immigrated to the US from Russia. My parents both lived and died there and my sister lived and died in North Carolina. The manuscript is a mix of personal, historical and environmental poems, all centered on the state of Florida.

Jennifer L. Knox : part ten

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

Anything by James Tate and Richard Hugo's What Thou Lovest Well, Remains American.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Lauren Brazeal : part five

What are you working on?

I’m working on final edits for my second full-length manuscript, which is a collection of vignettes and poems about the life and work of a fictional celebrity psychic.

I’ve also begun work on what will likely be my third full-length, which explores the spirituality, customs, and myths of the Native Amazonian tribe, the Waorani, while also confronting what it means to bear witness to the downfall and dilution of the tribe’s culture as a privileged white citizen from a country that has had a major hand in the destruction of the Waorani way of life.

Jennifer Zilm : part one

Based in Greater Vancouver, Jennifer Zilm is descended from a long line of charismatic hillbillies. She is the author of the books Waiting Room (BookThug, 2013) and The Missing Field (Guernica 2018). She works in public libraries, detoxes and social housing and is a failed bible scholar.

What are you working on?

A series of poems, prose fragments and erasures that is intended to be my version of Proust’s In search of lost time set in Surrey, B.C. the mystical bedroom community of Vancouver known for loose women and car theft where I grew up.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Crystal Stone : part one

Crystal Stone grew up in Pottstown, PA and received her Bachelor’s from Allegheny College. After spending two years teaching math in Jackson, MS, she returned to school to get her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various international journals including Driftwood Press, New Verse News, Occulum, Anomaly, BONED, Eunoia Review, isacoustics, Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, and Southword Journal Online. She gave a TEDx talk called “The Transformation Power of Poetry” the first week of April and her first collection of poetry, Knock-Off Monarch, is forthcoming from Dawn Valley Press this autumn. You can find her on Twitter @justlikeastone8 and on instagram @stone.flowering.

Photo credit: Yve Sojka

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first found poetry as a middle school student and continued to study it throughout my undergraduate career. Then, I stopped writing and reading poetry for two years. It was a tumultuous time. I was a middle school algebra teacher in Jackson, MS. My housing situations were never permanent. My support system didn’t exist. And it was there, in my second year of southern living, that I went to the Mississippi Book Festival and met Caroline Randall Williams, author of Lucy Negro, Redux. She sang “Lucy, Lucy, where you been?” and I was found again, even though I’m a white poet and it wasn’t meant for me. I bought her book and read it over and over. I bought other books like that one. Reginald Dwayne Betts, francine j. harris, Terrane Hayes, Danez Smith. I’d spend my Saturday’s at a lake or swamp reading poetry, a brown beer in one hand and pencil in the other, listening to the water, listening to the poets. I had something to say about all of it. I listed to the poet in others and found the poet in myself revived. That actually inspired me to go to graduate school and enroll in the MFA program I’m in now.

M. Wright : part one

M. Wright is an educator and poet living with his wife, Dylan, in Minnesota. He is the 2016 winner of the Atlantis Award in poetry and the author of the chapbooks a boy named jane (Bottlecap Press) and Dear Dementia (Ghost City Press) which was featured in the 25th annual Poets House Showcase. His poems have recently appeared in The Penn Review, Saint Paul Almanac, Glass Poetry, UCity Review, Wildness, and Jet Fuel Review. More:

Photo credit: May Waver

What are you working on?

I’m currently editing and writing the final poems of my first poetry collection!

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Canisia Lubrin : part one

Writer, editor, educator, activist and critic, Canisia Lubrin has had work published and anthologized widely, including in Brick, Vallum, The Puritan, Arc, Toronto Star, Best Canadian Poetry in English 2018 and The Unpublished City, nominated for the 2018 Toronto Book Award. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. Her multiple-award-nominated debut collection is Voodoo Hypothesis (Wolsak & Wynn/Buckrider Books, 2017). She lives in Whitby, Ontario.

Photo credit: Anna Keenan

What are you working on?

Long and short fiction, nonfiction, my next poetry collection.

Shaindel Beers : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I think I’m much more open-minded than I used to be. Working as a Poetry Editor for fifteen years, I’ve seen poems that are brilliant that I can’t explain or don’t understand, but there’s something there that gets you. When you’re a young, beginning poet, it’s easy to buy in to your own ego and not recognize the brilliance in the other or to believe a few professors and discount whatever they don’t like. Poetry is a big umbrella. We can all fit under it.

Monday 8 October 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part twelve

Why is poetry important? Accessing others’ perspectives is fundamental to being a helpful member of any collective. Poetry allows a window into others’ experiences, associations, and imaginations. For me, it excellent company.

Raina K. Puels : part one

Raina K. Puels is a Boston-based writer, educator, and editor. She lives in a sunny apartment with her cat Layla and her many succulent babies. You can read her work in PANK, The American Literary Review, Essay Daily, Berfrois, Queen Mob's, Maudlin House, Occulum, bad pony, and many other places. Check out her website for links to all her publications: Follow her on Twitter to see where her trail of glitter leads next: @rainakpuels.

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with a breath. A wingbeat. A stone tossed into a murky puddle. Then begins the sinking, the flying, the breathing. But also the stillness. A sleeping swan, face tucked into her plume. The transfixed child first seeing two women kiss. Peanut butter threatening to spill off the spoon, but staying firm in her convictions. A poem begins as soon as I put my feet on the cold floor in the morning. Or as soon as sun beams slip through the blinds and rouse the cat who then rouses me, fish breath my favored alarm clock. Or does a poem begin on the pillow plush with dreams? You tell me.  

Sunday 7 October 2018

Michael Dennis : part four

How does a poem begin?
For me a poem can come from anywhere.  It sounds so obvious and trite, but the truth is I’ve carried a notebook with me since I was a teenager.  Anything that catches my eye goes into the notebook, at least it does when I’m diligent.  But I’ll write a poem on any piece of paper that happens to be near if an idea hits.  I often don’t know where a poem is going to start but I am always working towards the ending.  My poems begins with me having an end I want to get to.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Peter Norman : part one

Born in Vancouver, Peter Norman has since lived in Victoria, Ottawa, Calgary, rural PEI, Halifax, Toronto, Windsor (Ontario), Montreal, and Edmonton. He has published a novel and three poetry collections. A fourth, Some of Us and Most of You Are Dead, is forthcoming in fall 2018 from Buckrider Books. For more info, visit

Photo Credit: Melanie Little

How do you know when a poem is finished?

No idea! I don’t trust any of my assessments of a poem (is it worth keeping? is it worth revising? is it actually — gasp! — done?) until at least a good several weeks have gone by. After that, the self-congratulatory flush of creation will have faded, and I can take a colder, harder look at the thing. Even then, though, my judgment is always suspect.

I’m reminded of something that happened during the editing of my last book. It included a sonnet about a funeral home. The poem was ten years old and had been published in a journal; I figured it was more or less okay as it was. However, my editor, David Seymour, felt that the closing couplet needed work. Looking at the piece again, I agreed with him, but my proposed solution (as it often is) was that we simply delete the whole damn poem. David pressed; he believed the piece had something to offer, and a stronger ending could salvage it.

I reassessed. Maybe the problem was that the couplet was straining prematurely to wrap things up. So I shoved the couplet aside, got rid of the sonnet scheme altogether, and just started adding quatrains. I ended up with seven new stanzas and a forty-line poem that worked a lot better. All along, the issue hadn’t been the last two lines; the issue was an incomplete poem. For a whole decade I’d thought it was finished, when in fact it was barely begun.

I’m not sure there’s a point to that story, except to reiterate that I never really know when I’m done. And good editors are awesome.

Allie Marini : part thirteen

13. How does a poem begin?

I’m not sure, but I can usually tell you where they end.

Friday 5 October 2018

Jennifer L. Knox : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Olio and the selected Bill Knott.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Lauren Brazeal : part four

Why is poetry important?

Poetry and art gracefully state what the news often obfuscates (either intentionally or unintentionally). Art—and I’m including poetry in this—is communication in its purest, most visceral form. As for poetry specifically, I feel it is often the most appropriate means of communication for certain kinds of messages. However, I don’t feel it’s more or less important than any other art form.

Sarah Venart : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

How far back should I go?  In the 1990s, I was into Alden Nowlan, John Thompson and Lowell, Plath, Sexton—I almost got a Sylvia Plath tattoo.  I am thankful I did not.  I go back to Elizabeth Bishop.  And Emily Dickinson. I feel intimately attached to them and to Nowlan and Lowell.  Currently I’m learning from Hieu Mihn Nguyen, Lucy Brock-Broido, Kay Ryan, Dorothea Lasky, Alice Oswald, and Marge Piercy. Their books have been on my desk the last two years.  Can I also add that Joy Williams, the story writer, is essential to me? I wrote a love poem about meeting her at the Cloisters in NYC. A girl can dream!

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Matty Layne Glasgow : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I’ve always loved playing with sound and rhythm in my work, but I’ve spent much of my short writing life seeking balance between the two. For whatever reason, I’ve always struggled with metre. Iambs, feet, and stresses frequently elude me, so my scansion is nothing to write home about. I do, however, generally strive for a lyric and musical line, and I pay careful attention to internal rhyme, word play, and different rhythms in the poem. I generally read a poem aloud as I’m drafting because I want to hear how the sounds meld together, how they echo. I practice reading aloud how I’d like the poem to be performed. I can’t read every poem in the same drone, so I try to figure out the tone and personality of that individual piece as I’m writing. Does it need a line break or a caesura to slow things town? Does it need to be over the top and have the same end rhyme throughout the entire poem? My gloryhole poem needed that. It really did.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Shaindel Beers : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I think it’s an instinctive feeling. You just feel when a poem is finished; you don’t necessarily know. Of course, sometimes you’re wrong. Someone else might point out a suggestion to you that you’ve never seen before; maybe you don’t need the last three lines or maybe you need more. Maybe the language isn’t working hard enough in one spot. I trust my gut a lot, and then I send it out. If it gets published, I was at least a little bit right in someone’s opinion.

Monday 1 October 2018

Jessica Morey-Collins : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry? This varies quite a bit. I have a minor auditory processing disorder, and sometimes struggle to enjoy sonic experiences without being overwhelmed. I tend to write with a lot of assonance, but rarely consciously use meter or rhyme lately. I probably should give meter another shot soon.