Thursday 28 February 2019

Tina Mozelle Braziel : part five

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

Yes, absolutely. There’s always one collection that I have to take with me when I travel. That touchstone shifts over time. For years it was Lucille Clifton. For a while it was either Seamus Heaney or James Wright, but my husband has taken to carrying them with him everywhere. Elizabeth Bishop is someone I return to again and again. And lately, I go to Ada Lemon’s Bright Dead Things or Vievee Francis’s Forest Primeval.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

hiromi suzuki : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

I love music. I don't think "music is important for poetry", but aim for "poetry that music sounds like". Lines of words like melodies. Poetry partakes of the nature of music.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Hana Shafi : part one

Hana Shafi is a writer and artist who illustrates under the name Frizz Kid. Both her visual art and writing frequently explore themes such as feminism, body politics, racism, and pop culture with an affinity to horror. A graduate of Ryerson University’s Journalism Program, she has published articles in publications such as The Walrus, Hazlitt, This Magazine, Torontoist, Huffington Post, and has been featured on Buzzfeed India, Buzzfeed Canada, CBC, Flare Magazine, Mashable, and Shameless, Known on Instagram for her weekly affirmation series, she is also the recipient of the Women Who Inspire Award, from the Canadian Council for Muslim Women. Born in Dubai, Shafi’s family immigrated to Mississauga, Ontario in 1996, and she currently lives and works in Toronto. It Begins with The Body is her first book.

Photo credit: Dylan van den Berge

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

Usually it's shyly sending it to a friend with about fifty disclaimers that it might really really suck. I'll generally send it to friends who are also writers or artists, and see how they feel about it. It's always very nerve-wracking, and I obsessively reiterate that it's OK if they don't like it for fear that they might only say nice things to spare my feelings.

Shazia Hafiz Ramji : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

It's scary and it hurts; my poems don't allow me to lie to myself.

Monday 25 February 2019

Metta Sáma : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

This morning I was talking with one of the cooks at my child’s daycare, Wanda. We have a lot of conversations about writing, and, for a long time I’d been very intrigued by her. She was never able to tell me what she did, creatively, but she kept asking me for help to do the thing she does. One night, she came to my home to get a lawnmower; as a thank you gift, she gave me a CD of her reading “stuff” and a book of her “stuff”. It was a published book and CD set of her POETRY. She kept calling it “stuff” and “just little things that I think about” and it reminded me of my mom, who also calls the poems she writes “little thoughts” or “little sayings”. But they’re not aphorisms or anecdotes; they’re poems. So, this morning, as I was chatting with Wanda, who was once again talking to me about “things” she “makes”, I was left baffled as to why she wouldn’t call her work poetry. We were speaking about plays, specifically, writing plays, and I was telling her that plays feel more natural to me, since I’m a visual person, so I can see the play in my head. The tough part is getting the words out, to transform the visual to the written. She works in an opposite way: she sees the words in her head, writes them out and at the end of it, people read what she’s written and can see the images. We had a great conversation and it was one of the times that I recalled Paul Guest saying that he had a facility for language and I thought well golly what must that be like! It occurs to me that, for my mom and for Wanda, they don’t think of their poems as poems because writing them is effortless. Writing is difficult for me. As I said to Wanda, I’m not a word person. I’m a visual person. So, the translation of the visual to the word is quite tedious and I never believe I’ve gotten it down right. Because, of course, I haven’t.

Brad Casey : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to be very against readings. I never wanted to take part. I’ve been very lucky in the last few years to find a community of writers, all fairly disparate, who appreciate taking big risks and cherishing experience and who channel that energy into their performances. A lot of those people do readings and they make it something interesting, performative, compelling to an audience. They turned me on to readings. There’s an art to reading, I think, and it’s important, for me, to take into consideration. Even just to look up now and then while you’re reading, to speak from a self-assured place, to keep an audience engaged. It’s fine if you want to eyes down read and get out, it’s just not for me. So I’ve warmed up to readings, I like doing them now and am still exploring my own voice in that realm. Maybe I am a boring reader, I don’t know. I’m trying to connect with an audience in different ways, to be more performative. It’s an exploration. I still, often, don’t bring non-writer friends to “reading” readings, though. I think if you’re not invested in the art form it can be a weird experience.

Sunday 24 February 2019

Billy Mavreas : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Browsing through Cheap Thrills (a second hand book and record shop in Montreal) when I was 15 or so, this was in 1983 approx. I marvelled at beautiful little forgotten books. At the time they were priced at forty cents for some slim volume so I always brought something home. The game changer was finding a battered paperback copy of JF Bory’s Once Again.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Emily Banks : part four

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

“The Truth the Dead Know” by Anne Sexton. Wow, what a morbid response! It’s just a poem I fell in love with as a baby (teen) poet. Musically, the way Sexton varies short-clipped sentences with longer lines that strain against the tight stanzas she winds them into has such a visceral effect for me: “My darling, the wind falls in like stones / from the whitehearted water and when we touch / we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.” When I read this poem, I feel it physically, like my heart rate is affected by each line. Knowing that words could do that fueled my determination to be a poet when I was younger, and it’s a nice reminder for myself now.

Friday 22 February 2019

Kevin Spenst : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

A poet whose work I return to time and again is Don Domanski. I love the fable-like quality to his poems that incorporate so many different traditions from science and geology to various world religions. There’s a buzz to most every phrase in his work. Last year, I spent two concentrated months reading and writing and I’m pleased with the poetry that came out of that period. Upend (Jackpine Press) was the resulting chapbook. I was more aware of the layering of lines and metaphors while writing that than ever before thanks to the work of Domanski.

In terms of straight up poetics, Jane Hirshfield is someone else who I’ve reread. I like her clarity of vision and how she sees poetry as a spiritual pursuit. To be perfectly frank, I may write something that neither goes anywhere nor means anything to anyone, and if all I have is that hope in a final product, then I’ve failed. If I take up the task of writing as something inherently valuable (a period of reflection on meaning, language, etc), then I’m bound to benefit from this time whether or not my poetry makes it off my laptop.

Oh, and Mary Ruefle rocks. She’s someone I need to read more. Someone whose work always delights in its sharp cognition and radical flights. 

Brian Kirk : part three

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

I think the power of poetry lies in its ability to convey more than one meaning at a time. In prose for instance, particularly the essay, we are trying to be as precise in our language as possible. Poetry can manage, via a range of effects, to convey seemingly contrary ideas or generate a range of sometimes conflicting feelings in the reader all at one time. It many ways, poetry reflects the real world more closely than prose in that it does not attempt to establish polarised, black and white attitudes, but embraces the confusions and mixed emotions of the everyday.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Tina Mozelle Braziel : part four

What are you working on?

My husband and I are writing Glass Cabin Diary, a collaborative memoir about how we—husband and wife, novelist and poet—built our home by hand, something we had never done before. It reveals how we cut every board, framed every window, and how we managed to live in the midst of   power tools and sawdust while building the house.  We call it the Glass Cabin Diary because three of the four cabin walls are made of glass discarded from a church. My sections address what it means to build a house as a woman. I’m also writing about how home building has deepened my understanding of the creative process as well as inspired my poetry (I’m including some of my home-building poems). I’m trying to put into words what it feels like to live in such proximity to the natural world—heating our home with a wood stove, making do with a composting toilet and an outdoor shower, and glancing out to see hawks swoop or deer nibbling on foliage.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

hiromi suzuki : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

In my childhood, I was Selective Mutism. I was in the world of imagination alone, so I read books, wrote poetry and drew pictures. I started writing poems in earnest at teens. At that time, I met the books of E. E. Cummings and Richard Brautigan, and love their poems still now.

Elizabeth Ross : coda

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Right now I’m reading Otolith by Emily Nilsen and Voyager by Srikanth Reddy.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Shazia Hafiz Ramji : part three

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

Poems can also convey understanding through rhythm and cadence, much like a prayer or a chant. This kind of knowledge feels occult, primal, and necessary for me, but it's elusive outside of poetry. Poems can also convey the specificity of experience in a way that I don't think other forms can, possibly because poetry enacts sensory, synesthetic experiences and allows for layered, non-linear ways of understanding.

Monday 18 February 2019

Metta Sáma : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I first began writing poems, I had maybe read one or two poems prior to writing poems. I don’t recall ever reading any poems in (grade) school and we didn’t have poetry books in the house. My dad had pens made up with lines from “Invictus”: “I am the Master of my Fate/Captain of my Soul” and I didn’t know where those lines originated. So, my understanding of poem making was nil. As a college student, I thought that “great” poetry was written by White people, because these were the only poets we read. Actually, scratch that: I thought poems, period, were written by White people, great or not. In the years since then, I met poets such as Sean Hill, who was a student at the time that I was a student, Adela Najarro, Blas Falconer, Mike Perez, Helena Mesa, all students at the time that I was a student, and later Jericho Brown, who was entering a program as I was exiting, and Srikanth Reddy, who was on a fellowship at the same time that I was on a fellowship. So, I began to see and have conversations with poets of color and during my time in a PhD program, the poet Maria Gillan introduced us to working class poets, so poetry expanded for me. These were living poets, celebrated poets, forgotten poets, and some, of course, were no longer alive but their works were alive, forever; poets such as Audre Lorde, Wanda Coleman, Lorenzo Thomas. Even later, when I moved to New York City, I met poets such as Amy King, Rachel Levitsky, Saeed Jones, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Tony Medina, Muriel Leung, Ekere Tallie and the great poet-quilter, Jacqueline Johnson. And these poets weren’t all working towards the epiphanic, image-based ending or the purely imaginative narrative that I saw clouding the works of White writers, particularly those in academic programs, and they weren’t all working in stanzas and some, like Adela, were talking back to the Canon. Every step of the way, my consideration of poetry has expanded and deepened, from the teachings of the great poet, editor, mentor Herb Scott to the living room class teachings of Patricia Spears Jones.

Tyler Truman Julian : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I feel like one of the most difficult parts of writing poetry is revising. As I’ve mentioned in some of the other questions, to me, poetry feels so carnal and immediate, which is a little bit like a double-edged sword. Once I get through those first few drafts and I put so much energy into them, I want that to be the end of it! That’s why having that solid group of readers there to support you and help you envision a potentially different end goal than what you initially thought is so important. Without them, many of my poems would remain half-baked notes in my phone that nobody else would see or let alone understand. Finding that balance between the personal and universal seems to be another challenge, but once you find it in a poem and are able to share it, you can really see the power of poetry.

Brad Casey : part one

Brad Casey's first book of poetry, The Idiot on Fire, was published by Metatron. His first novel will be released by Book*hug in Spring 2020. His work has appeared in The Puritan, GlitterMOB, Peach Mag, Bad Nudes, VICE and more. Currently he lives in Berlin and will soon be back in Canada but who knows where, geez.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was about 5 years old I wanted to be a painter. There was this underground tunnel that connected my elementary school to the middle school next door where my mother worked and no one was allowed to go through the tunnel except me, in winter, as my mother would drive me home after school. There was an art room in the tunnel with frames and canvas and paints and I was so small and the tunnel seemed so large and dark and this art room smell of paint and oil and wood and musty humid tunnel was only mine and it felt special. We got to use the art room one day for class and I was so excited, I made what I know now to be an abstract but then was just an excitement of painting and no skill. I was so proud of it. My teacher saw my painting and said no, that’s not what you were supposed to do, you should have done it like this and she showed me another student’s painting which was like a ship the way a kid would draw a ship. Half circle, a line up the middle, a triangle sail.

I was devastated. I was a sensitive kid and the teacher didn’t know that would affect me so much. It wasn’t her fault but I never painted again after that. I covered up that desire with a sheet.

The next year I had a teacher named Mrs. Dawson. She had this recipe box, like a little rectangular box filled with little rectangular pieces of paper and on each piece of paper was a writing prompt. Stuff like, “You’re in a hot air balloon and you can’t make it land, where does it go? What do you see?” or “You’re on a beach and you find a glass bottle with a letter in it from far away, what does the letter say?” Stuff like that. I was a bright kid and eager to learn and I’d finish my work early and she had me write stories from those prompts to keep me busy and sometimes she’d have me read those stories in front of the class. She was very encouraging. I was a quiet kid and shy and that experience helped me find a voice through writing, an outlet for that special feeling I used to have aimed toward painting.

Then I had a hard time as a teenager. I was bullied and made fun of a lot. No matter what I did I was judged. Harshly. I started writing poems and journals because I wasn’t judged there. I could write whatever I wanted and the page never judged me. I used to write letters to an imaginary woman named Sophia, I told her all my secrets. I’ve never told anyone about that. And I still remember the first poem I wrote: it was an acrostic of the name of the girl in my class that I liked. I always had a crush on every girl, as I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself as an adult that’s become a crush on every person. I want to write an acrostic for every person.

Sunday 17 February 2019

Billy Mavreas : part one

Billy Mavreas (he/him) is an artist/writer and the author of three graphic novels, one book of posters and several dozen zines, pamphlets and chapbooks.

He has been involved with the Montreal literary community since the late 1980s as an editor on journals, poster maker for spoken word events, cover artist for various small presses and in a myriad other capacities bouncing between poetry and comics.

He is an original co-founder of Expozine, Montreal’s zine fair and is an ardent collaborator and small press and self expression advocate.

He works out of his art shop Monastiraki.

Photo credit: Jen MacIntyre

What are you working on?

I’m working on several simultaneous projects. Currently I have an abstract graphic novel that needs tightening and a whole slew of drawing poems that will eventually be zines.

I get easily moved by materials, a new pen or rubber stamp, some vinyl stickers, an old perfect magazine to destroy. I never know what new thing will spark me, leaving older things pushed further back.

John Luna : part five

5. How does a poem begin?

Well, it’s funny that, looking at the above answer, I would say that poetry is a constant but that the instance of a poem is not. As such, beginning a poem is a problem. It used to be that I would have to try and then perform moderately well or badly or procrastinate and engage in some of those moods and behaviours (esp. walking or travelling) in order to find the poem in media res and then conjure the myth of its beginning. Now I mostly have to just open a file with a title and one overheard phrase or another that has been distorted a little, and that is sort of like walking into an installation space and laying out materials for an exhibition. Then more elements are brought in and unloaded and aligned and the idea of building this temporary shelter for the poem presents its straightforward problems of connection and load bearing and the transfer of prospective weight. And this is the result of a constant situation of pressure; but that’s not really a poetry problem. At some point, the gestures enact a series of consequences and there is an ordeal, and that gives us the poem, which really doesn’t start beginning until that point; the rest is training and suspense.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Emily Banks : 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 share a lot of my roughest drafts with three friends from college: Sarah Huener, Hannah Riddle, and Liana Roux. We went through our undergraduate creative writing program together, so they’re really the people I feel the least shame with. I mean, they saw the poems I brought to workshop at eighteen about like, skinny dipping in various apartment pools. From time to time, we do a “grind” in which we send each other a poem a day for a month. We don’t critique, just offer encouragement and point out lines we love. Since I’ve finished my MFA and started a critical Ph.D. program, this practice has been such an important way for me to stay connected to my poetic community and keep writing. A handful of poems in my book originated that way.

Friday 15 February 2019

Kevin Spenst : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

My conception of poetry has opened up tremendously. Currently, on my desk, there’s a chapbook of concrete poetry made with a typewriter. As a teen, I did not dig bpnichol or concrete poetry at all, but seeing the work of Judith Copithorne here in Vancouver, Gustave Morin in Windsor, Ontario (his Clean Sails really blew me away) and Renee Gladman, whose Prose Architectures is sublime, I have a growing appreciation for vispo. Also, sound poetry fascinates me whereas when I was a teen it would have just made me giggle. (Google: steve mccaffery carnival). I was delighted last year to hear Donato Mancini give a reading in Victoria at Open Space of new work that took on a uniquely aural dimension.

In terms of the lyric, my interests over the years have centered around metaphor. It feels foundational to how language is embodied and experienced. I gravitate towards work that is wildly metaphorical and playful and I love the idea of opening up metaphor to erasure, found poetry, and the plundering of other texts. (Thank you, Silliman and Bernstein!) Surrealism is another place that I like to play. James Tate takes the cake and pushes it through the colander and it’s squeezed out into sweet squiggles that exude meanings both sad and hilarious. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Vancouver poet Laura Farina on a radio program I cohost (plug: Wax Poetic on Coop Radio; pats on the back: RC Weslowski and Lucia Misch). Laura’s work was a burst of lovely surrealisms: horizontal landscape hanging in the window, the city crossed the street pretending not to know me… That’s the kind of stuff I strive to write.

David Estringel : coda

Why is poetry important? 

It is the only voice a soul has.

Brian Kirk : part two

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

I have one particular, first reader, the poet John Murphy, who has been tremendously important for me. But these last few years I am also a member of the Hibernian Poetry Workshop who meet in Dublin every month. They are a very experienced and critical, yet encouraging, group.

Thursday 14 February 2019

Tina Mozelle Braziel : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m not sure if I ever know that for sure. I find myself continually tinkering. Sometimes, I will give up on a poem, only to totally rewrite it years later.  Some poems seem like they’ll never be done with me.

Wednesday 13 February 2019

hiromi suzuki : part one

hiromi suzuki is a poet, artist living in Tokyo, Japan. The author of Ms. cried, 77 poems by hiromi suzuki (kisaragi publishing, 2013), logbook (Hesterglock Press, 2018) and INVISIBLE SCENERY (Low Frequency Press, 2018). Her works are published internationally in Otoliths, BlazeVOX, Empty Mirror, Burning House Press, DATABLEED, MOONCHILD MAGAZINE, Hotel, talking about strawberries all of the time, Mookychick, ambush review, Coldfront, and 3:AM Magazine. More work can be found at

Twitter: @HRMsuzuki

What are you working on?

Now I'm trying to translate my first poetry collection 'Ms. cried' 77 poems by hiromi suzuki (kisaragi publishing, 2013 ISBN978-4-901850-42-1). Poems in collection are written almost in Japanese, partly in English. Japanese writers have translators, but I am not. However, since subtle nuances of poetry can be expressed by my own translation, I enjoy my work. I'm submitting several translated pieces to literary journals. I hope these will be liked by editors.

Elizabeth Ross : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Pretty important. I played classical violin until I was sixteen. I was learning the Mendelssohn violin concerto when I quit (which is a very long story) — one day I plan to tackle a project where I re-learn the violin and write a corresponding poetry collection.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Shazia Hafiz Ramji : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to write very quiet and minimal poems that relied on imagery. They were always personal and philosophical. I think that the more I've written, the more risks I've taken in terms of expanding my poetry's engagement with the world i.e. with narrative, with histories, with time, with place. Poems continue to (attempt to) express the inexpressible, but they can also discover, mend, and make.

Monday 11 February 2019

Metta Sáma : part one

Metta Sáma is author of Swing at your own risk (forthcoming Kelsey St. Press), the year we turned dragon (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs), le animal & other creatures (Miel), After After/After "Sleeping to Dream" (Nous-zōt Press) and the web-book, Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books). She lives in Winston Salem, NC with her toddler.

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

For pleasure, I’m reading Linda Ashok’s Whorelight, which the poet, Ravi Shanker N. described as: “[P]oems [that] come from a mind that reacts to sensations like chlorophyll in a leaf”; Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us, which I saw at a big box & was so excited to see poetry books on the shelf that I almost left it there hoping a non poet would snag it!; TC Tolbert’s Gephryromania, which I’ve been slowly reading for nearly a year, unwilling to let the book go & Maria Melendez’s How Long She’ll Last in This World (“Breath is my first language, “American” second”). For classes: Craig Santos Perez’s [saina], Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, Morgan Parker’s There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, Shara McCallum’s Madwoman, Bianca Stone’s Mobiüs Strip Club of Grief, Trista Mateer’s The Dogs I Have Kissed, Luther Hughes’s Touched, Hazem Fahmy’s Red Jild Prayer, Morgan Christie’s Variations on a Lobster’s Tale, Raquel Salas Rivera’s poemas necesarios y otras malas mañas/necessary poems and other bad habits and Natalie Eilbert’s Conversations with the Stone Wife.

Tyler Truman Julian : part four

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

Recently, I’ve spent most of my time working on fiction, so when I require renewal, I often return to the writers and books that impacted me deeply as a child first: Jack London, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Then the more recent: The Prince of Tides, A Farewell to Arms, anything by Lauren Groff, Nina McConigley, Jeffrey Eugenides, Annie Proulx, Mariana Enríquez, or Diane Cook. When it comes to poetry though, I look first to some of the poets I’ve already mentioned, Sarah Suzor, Jill Mceldowney, Caroline Chavatel, Brooke Sahni, then to some old mainstays T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein (when I need something to drive me a little nuts), John Donne. I am in love with the Psalms as well. I think they are inspirational in their scope of heavy emotion, artistry, and imagery. Some new work I’ve deeply enjoyed though is Whereas by Layli Longsoldier, The Sublimation of Frederick Eckert by Travis Cebula, anything by Chelsea Dingman, and Druids by Tomaž Šalamun (Translated by Sonja Kravanja). I feel like this may have been more than what you bargained for, but reading has proved to be the most important part of my writing; it is at once informative and restorative: necessary.

Sunday 10 February 2019

John Luna : part four

4. Why is poetry important?

I am a visual artist as well as a writer, and for years when engaged with one practice would become convinced that there were no other practices or preoccupations worth having, but it was actually the space held in reserve between this illusion of having two choices that was vital. I suppose I would say because it is already happening at all times, that every concern we have with poetry about sound or meaning or voice or form are already problems of a social culture and that we see them in the young, for instance, and see them in our symptoms and interfaces and politics. So (admitting it’s bad to start a sentence with ‘so’) you might as well ask, ‘why is will important?’ Or, ‘what is will and why is it important to ask?’

Saturday 9 February 2019

Emily Banks : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My mother, Anele Rubin is a poet too, so I was exposed to poetry in the womb. She had this book of poetry for children that she’d read to me, and I still remember certain lines from it. “Hummingbird” by D. H. Lawrence is one that really stuck with me, the image of a primordial world where giant, monstrous “Humming-birds raced down the avenue.” And “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost was an early (and persistent) favorite; “Spring is the mischief in me” comes to my mind every spring. I also loved Emily Dickinson and remember reciting “Dear March” for my first-grade class which surprisingly didn’t make me popular.

I always wrote little rhymes and verses in my diaries, but it wasn’t until high school that I took my first creative writing class and started thinking of it as a public thing. People liked my writing, and I felt like a stronger sense of self that I ever had before. I went to UNC-Chapel Hill for the creative writing program (and because of my angsty desire to get out of New York, and warmer weather, and basketball…). In college, I truly experienced the support and pleasure of a writing community, and the life I wanted became clear to me.

Friday 8 February 2019

Kevin Spenst : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

It was the spontaneous overflow of powerful teenage feelings recollected in suburbia. In high school, I remember being very keen to read the Romantics. I had no idea what to expect, but I loved the name and these poets turned out to be as exciting as I expected with their critiques of consumerism (Wordsworth’s “The World is too much with us, getting and spending we lay waste our power”), philosophy (light) in Keats’ “Heard melodies are sweet, those unheard sweeter,” straight up ecstasy in most of Shelley, the renewing power of nature, and a host of other themes. If we compare the music videos from the Romantics (that 80s band), I would say that poetry from two hundred years ago stands up better than music from thirty some odd years ago. I mean that’s the beauty of poetry and working with language, it’s not as subject to the vicissitudes of fashion as other art forms. (Apologies for the strawman argument.)

The teen-angst poems that I wrote were love poems that were basic sentences with some missing articles and prepositions. After I read ee cummings through the summer between Grade 11 and 12, I played with spacing on the page. In Grade 12, I took a Creative Writing class from an wonderfully supportive teacher, Mr. Chudnovsky. (factoid: Chudnovsky’s son grew up with Seth Rogen who named the villain in the latest remake of Green Hornet... Chudnovsky!) I wrote fiction and poetry in his class, but after sending a story to Event Magazine and getting a rejection, I folded. I’m still working on developing a thicker skin for rejections and criticism.

David Estringel : part five

Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with? 

No. Writing poetry has always been a very private, intimate process for me. It taps into a lot of vulnerability on my part, so the poem needs to be done before I can muster up the courage to expose myself.

Brian Kirk : part one

Brian Kirk is an award-winning poet and short story writer from Dublin. His children’s novel The Rising Son was published in December 2015. He was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series in 2013 and highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014 and 2015. His first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in 2017. His poem “Birthday”, taken from that collection, won the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. He blogs at

How did you first engage with poetry?

At school, first of all. I was lucky to have a good English teacher at Secondary School, so I enjoyed most of the poetry I came across. Then I suppose I discovered the Beats, and later I went looking for other modern poets. It’s an unending journey of reading and discovering new and old poets. When I was 19, I began to write poems and did so for a while before studying English Literature in London when I was in my twenties. I stopped writing for a while and then went back to it some years later and here I am still learning fifteen years later.


Thursday 7 February 2019

Tina Mozelle Braziel : part two

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

I read it aloud to my husband first. If it still feels rough I work on it some more. After that, I share it with my wildly talented, multi-genre, writing group. They give the best notes and encouragement. I also exchange poems with other poets via email or in person. Before I send anything out into the world, I have my husband read it. That’s the real test. His ear is more forgiving than his eye. 

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Elizabeth Ross : part four

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

Empathy, music, alchemy, cartography, argument, revolution. Poetry seems to be where I’m centered; even though I write in other forms, poetry usually steals my stories and essays.

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Vannessa Barnier : part five

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

It certainly has. What I first found to be small, legible trinkets became so much more. Poetry, to me, is not only the written word, but rather a means of relating to each other, both on page and through community. It’s a coming together of words over feelings with other people. I’ve learned that, though there is always the singular experience of reading, it isn’t the only way to experience it, and arguably, not the best way.

Shazia Hafiz Ramji : part one

Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s first book, Port of Being (Invisible Publishing), received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and was one of CBC's best Canadian poetry books of 2018. Her fiction and criticism have appeared in The Humber Literary Review and Quill & Quire, respectively. She will be a writer in residence with Open Book in March 2019. She lives on unceded Coast Salish land (Vancouver) where she began the Intersections Reading Group and where she works as a publishing consultant and editor for various presses across Canada.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I know a poem is finished when I feel something similar to the feeling of telling someone else what you think of them honestly, and then still being accepted by them for who you are and what you think.

Sometimes, when I look at a poem a week or so after writing it, I wonder how I wrote it. I take surprise as a good sign that it's finished. If I can find my way back into the poem, it's not finished.

Monday 4 February 2019

Tyler Truman Julian : 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?

As I mentioned in the first question of this series, I turned to poetry out of necessity and part of that necessity was to capture the present moment quickly and effectively. As a result, most of my poems enter the world via an image that strummed a chord somewhere deep inside me. I may not know exactly what that chord is in the moment I jot down what I am experiencing, but that’s what revision is for I suppose. In this way, a poem can stem from something as loaded as seeing a dead bald eagle beside the highway or something as simple as coming back home and seeing a book I was reading had fallen onto the floor while I was gone. I love giving meaning to the commonplace, and poetry lets me do that. I don’t usually share my earliest ideas; they seem too raw, and I worry about losing some of that rawness too soon when people start chiming in with their ideas or interpretations. But once I have a draft that I feel good about, I definitely have a group of readers I turn to for feedback before going back to revise. These tireless supporters are my mother, Sarah Suzor, Nina Welch, the recently interviewed Jill Mceldowney, Caroline Chavatel, Brooke Sahni, and Richard Greenfield, and I really don’t know what I would do without them. They know how to tell me something is not working in the nicest way possible (well, most of them!), and that means the world to me. 

Sunday 3 February 2019

John Luna : part three

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

There are books I would never willingly part with, and people I do reread for pleasure, but I’m insecure enough to have some anxiety about influence. When I was younger I would have to be reminded that there was such a thing as a poem, and so direct myself to a poem by Adrienne Rich or T.S. Eliot or Paul Celan. Now, I generally am trying not to think of a poem as something that exists in any comparative way. I reread things of my own in a certain way (rhythmically and meanderingly) if I want to remember my own humour and tactile reasoning and that can help, especially, with the process of editing.

Saturday 2 February 2019

Gillian Sze : part five

How does a poem begin?

A line, an image, a terrible incident, a beautiful moment, a strange phrase. Often it begins like spring: suddenly and out of nowhere.

Emily Banks : part one

Emily Banks is a doctoral candidate and poetry lecturer at Emory University. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Superstition Review, Blood Orange Review, Cimarron Review, Free State Review, Muse/A Journal, storySouth, and Yemassee. Her first book, Mother Water, is forthcoming from Lynx House Press.

Photo credit: Ashley Chupp photography.

What are you working on?

New poems! My first book was recently accepted for publication, and that’s given me a lot of creative energy. I’ve been obsessing over this manuscript for the past few years, so I’m very happy to send it out into the world and start fresh. The poems I’m writing now are ultimately towards my second collection, but for now I’m enjoying seeing where the words take me. I tend to circle around the same themes, so I don’t really do book projects—I just trust that it will all come together eventually. (Oh—I’m writing a dissertation, too! It’s about female sexuality in American gothic literature, broadly. So yes. I’m basically writing all the time.)

Friday 1 February 2019

Kevin Spenst : part one

Kevin Spenst, a Pushcart Poetry nominee, is the author of Ignite, Jabbering with Bing Bong (both with Anvil Press), and over a dozen chapbooks including Pray Goodbye (the Alfred Gustav Press), Ward Notes (the serif of nottingham), Flip Flop Faces and Unexpurgated Lives (JackPine Press), and most recently Upend (Frog Hollow Press). His work has won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, been nominated for both the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has appeared in dozens of publications including Event, the Malahat Review, subTerrain magazine, Prairie Fire, CV2, the Rusty Toque, BafterC, Lemon Hound, Poetry is Dead, and the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2014. He is a cohost at Wax Poetic on Vancouver Co-op Radio and part of the organizing team at the Dead Poets Reading Series. He lives on unceded Coast Salish territory with his sweetheart Shauna Kaendo.

Photo credit: Shauna Kaendo

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a chapbook of new poetry riffing on faith, spirituality, mushrooms (no… not those kinds (well… not, exclusively)), and idioms from other languages for rain. I wrote a prose-poem this morning that runs riots through the Book of Revelations, the movie “God’s Not Dead” (file under: cringingly over-the-top evangelical propaganda), and cute dogs in a voice that appears to be raving mad, but in fact, at the end of the piece, it’s an emblem of sanity. I’m having fun letting my manic energy out and then reeling it in for quieter poems that are a bit more sobering and dark. Yes, I’m drawn to extremes. 

Also, I’m working on a series of experimental prose pieces that make use of the Mennonite refugee experience in Vancouver, Canada in the 20s and 30s. That’s my family’s background and I’m digging into as much history as I can to build up settings for surreal tales that flit between fiction and nonfiction. I love the definition of Kelly Link’s short fiction as being slipstream, which is a style blending different genres and modes. That’s a place where my imagination feels most at home. Hopefully, all of this will culminate in my first trade publication of prose somewhere down the road.

What’s amazing is that I’m able to do all this from my own writing room at the Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, BC where I’m the current writer-in-residence. Yes, I’m living on gratitude.

David Estringel : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

The best way I can describe it is that it is a visceral experience. As I put the finishing touches on a piece, there is an incredible build-up of tension, internally, and when I am done, I immediately push my laptop away like a supper dish I have had my fill of and feel fulfilled for a few minutes (two or three…tops). Then I move on to the next one. I, basically, give birth to them and instinctually push them out of the nest right after. I love them, but they often don’t feel like their mine anymore.