Thursday 31 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part five

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

I turn to poetry to be led by a different logic than the kind that produces a lot of the algorithms that increasingly dictate our behavior. Poetic logic derives from what the body knows, what arrives through the senses and heart as well as the brain. At a formative period I encountered the poetics of silence and I will pledge allegiance to that flag forever, and more and more, as the noise continues to amplify in a seemingly deliberate attempt to drown out wisdom and kindness.

I am finding that over time, doing art is less about trying to get something and more about wanting to make and to participate. Letting the ego sit quietly on the shelf for longer periods is a huge relief and actually leads to much greater productivity and happiness. I am grateful to all the friends who help me constantly recommit to a poethical (to quote Retallack) path.

Tina Mozelle Braziel : part one

Tina Mozelle Braziel author of Known by Salt (Anhinga Press) and Rooted by Thirst (Porkbelly Press) has been recently awarded the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, a fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and an artist residency at Hot Springs National Park. She and her husband, novelist James Braziel, live and write in a glass cabin that they are building by hand on Hydrangea Ridge. Learn more at:

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

Poetry gives direct access to someone else’s interior world, how their mind moves, how they grapple with being alive, and how they make meaning.   

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Elizabeth Ross : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Mostly when enough time has passed that I can get into it objectively. I think finished-ness ideally happens after it’s been written, revised, left alone for awhile, and then read by someone else, ideally an editor or another writer, and I’ve had a chance to think about their comments and revise some more. And publication is a pretty good sign a poem is done, but not necessarily a guarantee.

There are other ways for a poem to be finished: sometimes a poem ends up being more of a process than a poem, or more of a thought exercise, and it kind of finishes itself — it was its own point. So, finished — and left on my hard drive (hopefully!).

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Vannessa Barnier : part four

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

There are three writers who have had the most influence on me: Donald Barthelme, Gary Lutz, and Diane Williams. It’s a combination of DB’s stories and characters, GL’s use of unconventional suffixes and complimentary words, and DW’s obscuring of the every day that have the most influence on my style. My copies of Sixty Stories, I Looked Alive, and Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty are in tatters.

Lenea Grace : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Music drives and influences almost all of my work. In the crown of sonnets I’ve been writing, I’m talking JD Souther, Linda Ronstadt.  I’m talking 70s Texas music: Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark. The poems aren’t about them – spoiler alert, they’re about me – but they loom large in my psyche.

Monday 28 January 2019

Tyler Truman Julian : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I was working on my forthcoming book, Wyoming, “finished” largely depended on if the new work was meaningfully adding to the work I had already drafted and was helping complete the “story” I was trying to tell. All the poems in that book are linked and build off one another, so the story of the collection felt equally as important as the poetics. In general though, I believe a poem is finished if it is emotionally, structurally, symbolically “true” to the moment in which it was written, and if I can still see that truth down the road. As a result, maybe strangely (naively?), I try not to look back at poems I have written once I have gone through many drafts and begin sending them out.

Sunday 27 January 2019

John Luna : part two

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

Part of my interest in relating to poetry pertains to my own problems as a reader, and how a person should go about accessing ideas in writing. Poetry has often just seemed like the most efficient way to communicate a material sensibility in writing urgently, with a figural relationship to the structure of the writing (its syntax, its appearance on the page) that is direct and also directly reflexive. The problem of introducing characters is avoided, as is the problem of framing arguments, yet characters and arguments occur. We get close to the visual, to conventions of speech and even body language, as to conventions of rhetorical oratory like truism, epigram, etc., always with the ability to slip back into thought and the process of language’s just achieving coherence. Even the lyrical or the musical can fall back into silence or forward into traffic.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Gillian Sze : part four

Why is poetry important?

It is a means for humans to think, express, and connect. It makes a listener or a reader a little warmer and maybe a little wiser.

Friday 25 January 2019

David Estringel : part three

How does your work first enter the world? 

Mostly by pure divine inspiration. Part of me does feel like I have a muse, actually. Out of nowhere a line of verse will pop in my head, usually at the most inconvenient moments (driving, teaching class, etc.) and I ruminate over it for hours. It is usually a line that fits somewhere in the middle, but it carries with it the tone of the piece and from there a ripple-effect happens and the rest of the poem forms around it. There have been times when I have been able to sit down and intentionally create, but those are the exceptions more than the rule. My creative spurts tend to happen in fives or sixes, then radio-silence for a while. Beautiful and frustrating at the same time.

Thursday 24 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part four

What are you working on?

I’m engaged in an ongoing collaboration with Portland-based poet Valerie Witte. We are researching the work of dancer-choreographers Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, and their contemporaries. We had been reading material about Cage and Cunningham’s influence on contemporary art and were struck that Rainer, Forti, and other women who studied early on with Cunningham and used some of Cage’s ideas were less well known, yet made and continue to make significant contributions to the art world. They are innovators who helped redefine what dance can be and do. We wanted to bring greater awareness to these artists and to find out how studying their work and ideas might enrich our own.

The first publication this ongoing project has generated is a chapbook called The Grass Is Greener When the Sun Is Yellow, a series of sonnets interspersed with letters to each other. The letters address the process of constructing the poems and what they mean to us, and branch into discussions of dance, poetics, gender, transgression, the unfolding disaster of the current political scene, and much else, in the associative weave that epistolary form enacts.

The second phase is a series of essays mashing up themes from our research with our own dance experiences. Following in the footsteps of the dancers we’re researching, we allow chance procedures to play a role in shaping the contours of this project.

This collaboration feels especially vital given that we’re both extremely busy with paid work. We feed this project by giving it our time and effort and thinking and imagination; it feeds us by providing a structure in which to continue producing creative work no matter how busy and by providing a forum for experimentation and meaning-making. We get excited about searching for innovative ways to enter each essay, and we take pleasure in our ever-deepening conversation about these artists’ work and its impact on us as well as on the larger culture.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Elizabeth Ross : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was peripherally engaged with poetry as a kid, at church, following services in the Book of Common Prayer. I also got pretty into Anne of Green Gables, so that led to “The Lady of Shalott,” which I dorkily recited, Anne style. And my dad, who was an English teacher, recited poetry all the time. But I didn’t think about poetry being something I, or anyone who was alive, really, could possibly write; then I won a winter reading contest in grade seven and the prize was Lorna Crozier’s Inventing the Hawk. I promptly starting writing really terrible but earnest stuff.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Vannessa Barnier : 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 perform my poetry at readings – I find that it’s the best way to get feedback, since it’s in real time, by a room full of people. I write something new for every reading I do – from there, my piece grows from the audible reactions, as well as what people tell me they liked after the reading. I always keep the parts people tell me they liked after the reading. That’s how I know what works: it stuck with them. So I stick with it, too.

Lenea Grace : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Bluets by Maggie Nelson. 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri. And I just revisited Eileen Myles’ book Inferno, which is not a book of poetry, but may as well be.

Monday 21 January 2019

Tyler Truman Julian : part one

Tyler Truman Julian is originally from Wyoming, though he currently resides in Mesilla, NM, with his wife. He is an MFA Candidate in New Mexico State University's fiction program and is an Assistant Poetry Editor for Puerto Del Sol. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Burnt Pine Magazine, Oasis, Wyoming Magazine, and Cigar City Poetry Journal, and his full-length poetry debut, Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Photo credit: Kelli Campbell.

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

For me, I turned to poetry out of necessity. I knew I wanted to write and felt like I had stories to tell but felt pressed for time (when I first started writing seriously, I was working on my family’s sheep ranch and going to school), and poet Sarah Suzor suggested I try writing poetry to capture quickly and dramatically the things I saw or did day to day. As a result, I began jotting down images I saw or short vignettes in the “Notes” section of my phone while out with the sheep or on horseback or in a tractor cutting hay and come back to them later. Most of the poems in my book, Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), grew this way. And, to me, that is the power of poetry. It is so distilled, so immediate, so timeless. Someone once said, if a story is a cruise ship, then a poem is the boiler room. I stand by that. Poetry allows for a powerful, immediate catharsis that can then stay with a reader for a long time. As a poet and fiction writer, I am always courting longer work, but there seems to be something in poetry that is so personal and relatable because you are able to get to the crux of the matter in just a few lines, continue on with your day, and return again and again and again in the future. There’s a freedom in this to engage with emotions that may not fare so well in a longer work that people are nonetheless looking for, and I like that. I like being able to write about riding a horse under powerlines and reflect on the anachronism of that moment, the static electricity, the way your horse dances uncomfortably, I can see that as part of a longer piece, sure, but in the immediacy, the brevity of a poem each one of those images takes on profound and lasting meaning.

Heather Sweeney : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with attention to a moment.  To an inner momentum.  A memory.  A pause, a pulse of something you need to articulate.  Like the intersection of ash and willow.  Wilting fog.  Mist and pine.  It begins with a door. With hunger.  With a song humming in the shoulder blade. With surrender.

Sunday 20 January 2019

John Luna : part one

John Luna is a Canadian/Mexican-American artist, whose practice as a visual artist and writer includes painting, sculpture and installation, critical writing and poetry, and teaching in the areas of studio art, art history and theory. Publication of his written work in art criticism and poetry has appeared in Ditch, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, Canyon, Cordite, Train and Matrix, among others. Luna’s first collection of poems, Listing, was released through Decoupage Publishing in 2015. His second book-length manuscript was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry in 2017. He the recipient of a 2017 BC Arts Council Project Assistance Grant for an ongoing project involving text and visual art.

1. What are you working on?

Currently I am working to arrive at something cohesive as a book for publication, the character of which will make it a thing with its own concerns rather than what would feel like a collection. These pieces are dense prose poems (each between one and three pages with not a lot of spacing) using references to commercial fragrances as the premise for reverie and meditation. At some point I became very interested in olfactory sensation as a point of departure for ekphrastic writing, as well as the subcultures that have formed around that; there are all kinds of ironies in that material. These poems are very worked over and developed over many sessions. By way of contrast, I’m also working on a series of rather raw and subjective-sounding sonnets based around the activity of reading, although it might be more accurate if we imagine ‘reading’ here as split up into separate (not always relatable) acts like ‘scanning’, ‘hearing’, ‘inferring’, ‘projecting’, etc.  

Saturday 19 January 2019

Gillian Sze : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I left nothing inside on purpose (Stevie Howell) and The World Doesn’t End (Charles Simic).

Friday 18 January 2019

Frances Boyle : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

My initial reaction was to say that (listening to) music is not important – I’ve never maintained a writing playlist and prefer to write in silence. However, I very often have one or more songs stuck in my head. Those rhythms will play out in my footsteps when I’m walking with my dog, and I’m certain they sometimes make their way into poems as I shape them, and read drafts aloud to myself. I pay attention to cadence and will rework a poem until it sounds ‘right’ to my ear.

Sacha Archer : part five

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Of course. Maybe not. No, I don’t think so. I think it remains an ineffable reality. Often I forget how nourishing and essential poetry is to my life because it cannot be discerned through the layers of stress and depression. But when I can reach it, that relationship exists, in some strange way, exactly as it first appeared. So, poetry has remained the same, but how and through what I need to pass through to get to it has changed immensely.

David Estringel : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

My first recollection of poetry was during the 2nd grade. It is a bit hazy, but I know it involved reading “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)” by Simon and Garfunkel, as a poem, and a completely botched job at reciting “Daffodils” from memory. I hated it then. Fast forward 13 or so years and then you have me in my first poetry class, as an undergrad English major. I wrote a haiku and was immediately hooked. Still love them to this day. Ever since that time a part of me always wanted to be a poet and concentrate life into distillate moments.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most challenging part is entering a poetry project. I work best when I have a sturdy vessel that carries me. But first I have to build the vessel and every time, I’m thrust into beginner’s mind. It can take a long time to locate both a line of investigation and a form for pursing that investigation. While I’m waiting, I read avidly, consider many subject matters and try out various project ideas, all the while reminding myself that inhabiting the void for however long it takes is necessary in order to create new work. Sooner or later, one of my experiments develops traction, and I follow that for the length of a book or a chapbook.

At every point in the writing process I engage in a variety of practices: yoga, meditation, dance, drawing, reading across genres, watching documentaries and formally innovative films, attending dance and theater performances. I’ve always thought one of the great things about being an artist is that it’s an excuse to constantly expand yourself through active attention and participation in wellness and culture.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Shara Lessley : part five

How does a poem begin?

With curiosity. And discomfort. With a question. Or an image. A poem begins with the ordinary. The extraordinary. The particular. Or the peculiar. This poem started with an image; that one, an idea. Your poem begins with a fragment; mine, a gallop. That poem started where the last one ended, meaning with the one true note that is silence. This poem (like those before it) is falling apart, but will pick itself up and begin again, hoping to sing.    

Elizabeth Ross : part one

Elizabeth Ross is the author of Kingdom (Palimpsest, 2015) and After Birth, a second poetry collection forthcoming in the spring of 2019. Her work has been published in literary magazines across Canada, longlisted for the CBC poetry prize, selected for inclusion in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She grew up in Victoria and now lives in Hamilton, where she’s working on a collection of essays.

Photo by Sara Heinonen.

How does a poem begin?

Most of my poems start with a line that surfaces in my head, from whatever — a newscast, overheard conversation, or maybe I’ll have a question — and if I can get that line to a piece of paper, I can see if it turns into something that might be a poem. Or I can bank it in a file and see if there’s something to go back to, later. Less often a poem begins with a strong feeling; this can be kind of inconvenient in that the Cheeseball Poet in me feels like I have to take it Seriously.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Vannessa Barnier : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first engaged with poetry in high school, reading the classics, getting taken by all the usual suspects, etc. I only saw poetry, then, as two-dimensional.

It wasn’t until 2014 when I was taken to my first poetry reading, which was the Art Bar Poetry Series. The mood was wildly open, people were drinking wine very casually, people took the open mic by storm, and there was an older man who would sketch people in the room. The whole experience really shook me and I was hooked ever since.

Lenea Grace : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Michael Ondaatje, Maggie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Rachel Zucker, Al Purdy, David Lehman, and though he’s not a poet per se, Martin Amis, who creates sentences so exquisite they are nothing if not poetry.

Monday 14 January 2019

Heather Sweeney : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Lately, I have been reading Dust and Light by Joseph Braun, and Certain Magical Acts by Alice Notley.  Needless to say, both are stunning.  I am also re-reading Lyn Hejinian’s The Language of Inquiry, which I am always learning from.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Eric Schmaltz : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins as a noise-laden signal. A poem begins as a faint weight on the fingertips of a sleeping hand. A poem begins as a hyperlink in blue. A poem begins as a quiver before a question. A poem begins as the letter p.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Gillian Sze : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

So many! Just to name a few: William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Anne Carson, Sappho, H.D., Du Fu, Li Bai, Wang Wei, Dionne Brand, Fred Wah, Adrienne Rich.

Elizabeth Robinson : part five

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

In moments of duress, I have been known to recite parts of the prologue of the Canterbury Tales to myself.  There is something so sensuous, but also reassuring in the song of spring’s arrival.  For me, especially this moment: “and bathed every veyne in swich  licour.”  As though water to the dry root were both nourishment and intoxicant.

Friday 11 January 2019

Frances Boyle : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The poetry books that I’ve read most deeply lately are two that I reviewed: Donald Winkler’s translation of Carole David’s The Year of My Disappearance (online at and Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas (in the fall 2018 issue of Arc Poetry Magazine), both wonderful and deserving of the multiple re-readings.

I keep books I’ve recently acquired on a ledge beside my reading chair, and tend to dip into them for exposure to a multiplicity of voices. I rarely read cover to cover. In the current stack, among others, are Jenny Haysom’s Dividing the Wayside, Susan Gillis’s brand-new Yellow Crane, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Thin Air of the Knowable by Wendy Donawa, Late Style by Barry Dempster, Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen and Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin. I’ve kept dark ecologies, a wonderful chapbook by Natalie Hanna, close at hand for nearly a year, and return to it again and again.

Sacha Archer : part four

How did you first engage with poetry?

I guess it was authors like Shell Silverstein, Denis Lee, and Dr. Seuss. But the first book of poetry that I bought was Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. I don’t remember what prompted me to buy it, but I do remember that I decided to check out a little used book store in Dundas (the town, not the street) where I lived at the time. I looked through the poetry section and randomly chose that book. I took it home and read it—and re-read it and read it again. That book changed my life. The darkness in it—the voice that I didn’t expect in the least. From that book I knew I wanted to be a poet. That was some time ago…

David Estringel : part one

David Estringel is an avid reader, poet, and writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, & essays. His work has been accepted and/or published by Specter Magazine, Literary Juice, Foliate Oak Magazine, Indiana Review, Terror House Magazine, Expat Press, 50 Haikus, littledeathlit, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Route 7, Setu Bilingual Journal, Paper Trains, The Elixir Magazine, Soft Cartel, and The Good Men Project. He is currently a Contributing Editor (fiction) at Red Fez, editor/columnist at The Good Men Project, and an editor/writer at The Elixir Magazine. Connect with David on Twitter (@The_Booky_Man) and his blog "The Booky Man" at

What are you working on? 

I just finished an “experimental” batch of poetry, recently, that I am testing the waters with. I am playing more with structure and form, word choices, sounds, and rhythm. A lot more “dirty realism” has made its way into the work, especially the shorter pieces, emphasizing very real moments in the human experience. I hadn’t “gone there” yet, so I am looking at this as a sort of creative “breakthrough” of sorts. Other than that, I am working on my first chapbook of poetry “Indelible Fingerprints,” writing short-fiction pieces, and doing some writing/editing for some literary magazines and The Good Men Project.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been immersed in Renee Gladman’s Calamities. I can’t get enough of her passion for language and the way her writing continually seeks to bring together body and mind. I’m entranced by the bemused and often funny tone of the book and the way it seamlessly integrates philosophical reflection with a sense of communion and community with Gladman’s many beloveds. I don’t want to ever exit this text but if I do, the stack on my bedside beckons: Katechon: Book One, Lines 1–500 by Michael Cross, Greater Grave by Jacq Greyja, House of McQueen by Valerie Wallace, (re)iteration(s) by Jill Darling, The Spectral Wilderness by Oliver Baez Bendorf, and Participant by Linda Russo.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Shara Lessley : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Here There Was Once a Country (Vénus Khoury-Ghata, trans. Marilyn Hacker), Kumukanda (Kayo Chingonyi), Human Hours (Catherine Barnett), My Bishop and Other Poems (Michael Collier), Deaf Republic (Ilya Kaminsky).

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Vannessa Barnier : part one

Vannessa Barnier is a creative project instigator and facilitator. She is the owner and host of Legible Intelligibles, a summer open mic poetry reading series in the park. On weekends, she is a bookseller at House of Anansi's brick and mortar store. She feels strongly and often.

She currently resides in the west end of Toronto.

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem begins with a singular, particular instance. It starts with something said, something witnessed, or a long-form experience that caught on something inside of you like a hook, and you have no choice but to open it up, lay it out and build around it.

Lenea Grace : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I had some outstanding teachers who first exposed me to great writing – I would say both my sixth grade language arts teacher Mr. Levine and my AP English teacher Mrs. Langston profoundly influenced my literary sphere.  Then, at McGill, I took a modern Canadian poetry course and discovered Michael Ondaatje, painted his poem “White Dwarfs” on the bathroom wall in my apartment (embarrassing, but true, and definitely without the landlord’s permission), and you know, felt things deeply. Or rather, learned you could feel things deeply without exceedingly flowery language or vague metaphors or empty abstracts.  All that said, I didn’t start writing my own poems until I was about 24. It’s amazing what heartbreak and living by yourself in rural Nova Scotia can do for untapped creativity!

Monday 7 January 2019

Heather Sweeney : part three

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

I find that I write poetry to understand myself.  I cannot express myself the same way in fiction or other genres.  It feels so full of possibilities.  You catch yourself inside a line of poetry and are transported.  A poem is a constellation.  A poem is a fractal.  A seed.  A cell.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Eric Schmaltz : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult part of writing poetry is not writing poetry. A poem first arrives as a phone call from an unknown number with poor reception; it is a voice that is difficult to decipher. I listen and feel an urgency and longing to know the voice that presents itself. I desire to fulfill the demands of the poem but I must sit, listen, and wait on the line before the static clears and the poem begins to emerge. Sitting and waiting can be the most difficult part.

Saturday 5 January 2019

Gillian Sze : part one

Gillian Sze is the author of nine poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan, Redrafting Winter, and Panicle, which were finalists for the QWF A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She studied Creative Writing and English Literature at Concordia University and received a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Gillian has served as a judge for various writing competitions including This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt, the National Magazine Awards, and the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her current project, a book of essays, is supported by a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal where she teaches creative writing and literature.

Photo credit: Christian Lee

What are you working on?

I just finished making Rice Krispies squares and I’m waiting for them to cool here on the counter. I’m wearing my sleeping four-month-old daughter in the kitchen. This is when I can squeeze in my reading and writing. I have opened on my Mac a doc with an unfinished essay, another doc with an unfinished long poem, proofs of my article, and the completed draft of my friend’s novel (of which I am thoroughly enjoying being a first reader!).

Elizabeth Robinson : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Of course, poets continue to do this all the time, which is why poetry is a constantly meaningful and renewing practice.  Earliest was Dickinson and the bible.  In high school, I heard Gwendolyn Brooks give a reading.  Never will forget that.  Denise Levertov’s “Stepping Westward” is still enormously meaningful to me, both in terms of content and cadence.  Then I discovered Robert Creeley and his economy, his intensity, his necessary but unshowy innovation. So many miracles have followed: Sappho, Lorine Niedecker, Jack Spicer, Beverly Dahlen, Barbara Guest, Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop, Jean Valentine.  Lately, I am deeply moved and catalyzed by Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s Rocket Fantastic.

Friday 4 January 2019

Frances Boyle : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

What I find difficult is being intentional about the poems I write. I have never been terribly successful in sitting down to write ‘about’ any situation or topic. It’s as though I need to trick my subconscious into letting things out. That’s why I find the timed writing we do in our poetry group so valuable. A prompt or a phrase from a poem may take me to some incident in my life that I’ve never thought to write about, or I may go to pure play with images or sound. And I’ve surprised myself by writing around or about a character, some kind of incantatory everywoman, whose experiences are very different from my own. As process, that can be effective. However, I have a handful of ideas that I’d very much like to put into poems and I’ve been frustrated that my efforts so far have felt forced or stilted. The other thing I find hard is to actually get around to writing poetry; I can be like a squirmy kid in a classroom desk, allowing myself to be distracted by all manner of other compelling activities.

Sacha Archer : part three

What are you working on?

I am finishing a manuscript titled Montage of Abrasions which is a mess of prose reflections (some autobiographical, some otherwise) mashed together with poems both visual and not. It has been an attempt to write something perhaps more conventional than I’m like to do—but I’ve probably failed miserably at that—which is good, and bad. Good in that I find it powerful and interesting—bad in that the same question arises that accompanies all of my longer works: who is ever going to publish this? The work developed with the loose theme of that which we read out loud and that which we read silently.

I am also at work on a manuscript which collects a number of series in which I engage/ collaborate with the landscape directly to discover poetry. I began it in 2016 with my Ghost Writing series where, in one part I facilitated asemic writing by trees, and in another part I wandered, collecting rubbings as poetry. This year I completed the next series which is titled The Nature of Language. In this work I regard natural specimens as found poems in and of themselves—the development of form (body) as a mode of writing before us. I want to round off the manuscript with a third series for which I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head.

Also, at the moment, I have starting sketching rooms in my home on my gestural keyboard on my phone.  Of this I have little to say at the moment except that I am finding it a fascinating way to write and it is producing some expectantly odd-ball texts.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Sarah Rosenthal : part one

Sarah Rosenthal is the author of Lizard (Chax, 2016), Manhatten (Spuyten Duyvil, 2009), and several chapbooks. A collaboration with poet Valerie Witte is forthcoming from The Operating System. Sarah edited A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Poets of the Bay Area (Dalkey Archive, 2010). Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals and is anthologized in Kindergarde: Avant-garde Poems, Plays, and Stories for Children (Black Radish, 2013), Building is a Process / Light is an Element: essays and excursions for Myung Mi Kim (P-Queue, 2008), Bay Poetics (Faux, 2006), The Other Side of the Postcard (City Lights, 2004), and hinge (Crack, 2002). She has done grant-supported writing residencies at VSC, Soul Mountain, Ragdale, NY Mills, and Hambidge, and has been a Headlands Center Affiliate Artist. She lives in San Francisco where she works as a Life & Professional Coach and serves on the California Book Awards jury.

How important is music to your poetry?

When I’m working at the top of my form, my ear drives my work. Image is important but probably second in line. I grew up surrounded by music and musicians and played the piano and flute—this has seeped in, along with the musics of multiple languages I heard as a child and my parents’ love of wordplay. Zukofsky’s maxim is always in my thoughts: upper limit music; lower limit speech. I feel compelled and designed to write poetry that means, not only in the way that sound, at the radical end, communicates its own meaning but also in the ways that we usually think of words communicating.

Sarah Nichols : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?  

The last book of poems that I read was Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, which is just so, so good, Minadora Macheret’s chapbook, Love Me, Anyway, which is so beautiful and layered, and Valerie Wallace’s House of McQueen, which I think has opened up a new way of approaching ekphrastic poems, with its investigation of the designer Alexander McQueen and his work. It creates a way to write about fashion, which is often neglected as art, ekphrastically, and to write about the artist, and finally, Jennifer MacBain-Stephens’ Vitamix and the Murder of Crows, which is gloriously absurd, but at the same time lingers and makes you want to know more about how the poems came to be.

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Shara Lessley : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Frank Bidart, Carl Phillips, George Oppen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Wisława Szymborska, John Donne, Kathleen Jamie, Shane McCrae, Spencer Reece, Federico García Lorca, Emily Berry, Louise Glück, Dunya Mikhail, and on and on and on...

Kara Goughnour : part five

What are you working on?

As 2019 is on its way, I’m working to end this year with one-hundred written poems. I want the importance of daily writing — profound or uninspiring — to be ingrained into me. As far as books go, I’m finishing up my second collected work, or mixtape if you will, written using blackout on the lyrics of all of my favorite albums. I wanted a piece that expressed what music has meant to my poetry, and I thought that there wasn’t any better thing to do than to pay homage to each album that held me up on a dark day. I also am working on some more long-form pieces for a video project. I want to return to my beginning in spoken word poetry for a brief moment in celebration of my one-year anniversary of submitting and being published — upcoming in June.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

John LaPine : part five

How does a poem begin?

Sometimes with a title, sometimes with an image. Sometimes I’ll say, hear, or think a phrase that feels like it belongs somewhere in a poem, so I’ll write it down and try to shape it into art later. Sometimes this works, but most of the time, the specific phrase will end up on the cutting room floor. In this way, a phrase works as scaffolding.

Lenea Grace : part one

Lenea Grace is the author of A Generous Latitude (ECW Press, 2018) and her work has appeared in The Walrus, Best New Poets, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. Lenea is the 2017 winner of The Walrus Poetry Prize Readers' Choice Award for her poem "Echo". She lives in Gibsons, BC.

What are you working on?

In particular, I’ve been labouring over a heroic crown of sonnets – a series of 15 sonnets linked through first and last lines. The last sonnet is comprised of the opening lines of the first 14 sonnets. It’s a long, winding, non-linear fever dream with a whole lot of Texas, Linda Ronstadt, push and pull.