Wednesday 31 July 2019

Beth Gordon : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

As a child, reading Mother Goose nursery rhymes. I am fortunate enough that I do not remember a time in my life with books and poetry.  I started writing poetry almost as soon as I could write. My engagement with poetry as an adult(ish) began in college and I’ve been fortunate more recently to engage with the wider poetry community that is online, including social media.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was 15 years old and in love with the world of classic literature. I discovered an anthology of poems by John Donne and it went with me wherever I went.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Lauren Carter : part one

Lauren Carter is the author of four books: the poetry collections Lichen Bright and Following Sea and the novels Swarm and This Has Nothing To Do With You (forthcoming September 7, 2019). Her long poem “Island Clearances” won first prize in the 2014 ROOM Poetry Competition, and she has twice been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Her prose has won the Prairie Fire fiction prize and been selected for Best Canadian Stories (ed. John Metcalf), longlisted for CBC Canada Reads, and nominated for the Journey Prize and the Giller Award. She blogs regularly about writing and life at

Photo credit: Jason Mills

How did you first engage with poetry?

My parents both trained as high school English teachers and were readers, so we had a lot of books in my house, including a fat, clothe-bound, blue hardcover book containing the big names of The European Canon. Wordsworth, Keats, Hardy, etcetera.

I would read these poems to myself, often out loud, and loved the truly romantic, moody lyricism and sense of them. The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees / The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas...

I started writing my own poems in imitation but then, one afternoon, I cracked open a book in my high school library to discover Susan Musgrave. I wish I could remember what poem of hers I read that day but the imagery floored me.

It made me realize that so much more was possible in terms of using poetry to build an evocative sense of emotion. It was almost like it gave me permission to tell the truth. The floodgates opened and my first poem was published in a now-defunct Saskatchewan literary journal located through the Writers' Market when I was 18.

Some of those early poems, written in my late teens and 20s, I still think of as my best work.

Monday 29 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

For showing a path to the mystical in writing: Okinba Launko, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Amos Tutuola, Eduardo Corral
For showing that I can craft a personal mythology, or recombine what is taken for granted: Pascale Petit, Yusef Komunyakaa, Safiya Sinclair
For bringing balance into chaos with a difficult-to-imitate stillness: Rainer Maria Rilke, Mark Strand, Lorna Crozier, C.K. Williams
The Council: Wole Soyinka, Dionne Brand, Gregory Pardlo
For showing a path to the scientific in poetry: Adrian Matejka, Sally Wen Mao
For permission to embrace my weird: Jim Johnstone, Shane Neilson
For broadening my visual field: Kaveh Akbar, Solmaz Sharif 
For eloquently describing the anguish of the exile: Esiaba Irobi
For teaching me that being less opaque does not have to sacrifice quality: Kimiko Hahn, Maggie Smith
For calibrating my ear to the way poetry is supposed to sound: Chris Abani
For bringing the fire: Terrance Hayes, Saeed Jones, Kamau Brathwaite
For refusing permission to choose despair as the logical end of (my) poetry: Ross Gay, Eve Ewing

Sunday 28 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part four

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

I always go back to Meditations in An Emergency by Frank O’Hara. That’s my book. It’s taken me through madness and back. It truly is my meditation. However, I also go back to District and Circle by Seamus Heaney, my collected volume of Louise Glück, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop. And my Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English, my first introduction to Filipino writers.

Saturday 27 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part five

How does a poem begin?

Poetry almost always begins with my feet. I walk. A few words walk with me until they begin to string out into something/else. Sometimes I have a strong visual idea but no words, and sometimes I have words, but no structure. I almost always have a fieldbook with me, or turn to it when I get back from walking. I make notes, I draw, I listen, I question myself. I have been known to stuff leaves in my nose and flower petals down my shirt. I find it hard to not walk barefoot on the quartzite. A poem begins with my feet and a question. The language and practice of fieldbooks comes from my training in geography influenced/encouraged by the brilliant scholar, mentor and friend joni m palmer). The walks, the writing, the notations follow some sort of query (even if I don’t always know the question); sometimes I am looking for the question and always seeking a deep observation of the ecosystems to know it better, to see patterns, to listen. This process is almost always inseparable from my own thoughts and state of mind. I am curious about the edges, the boundaries of language and writing, self and ecology.

james stotts : part one

james stotts is a poet and russian translator, living in boston with his son.  his first two books, since and elgin pelicans, were published by pen and anvil press.

what are you working on?

it never occurs to me until after the fact.  the work goes on, and if the small pieces have any affinity in retrospect, then that just becomes a matter of flower arrangement.  i’ve hardly ever been capable of a project.  in fact, the poems have been getting shorter, tighter, more opaque, nearer to a certain end.  my marriage, which was a wonderful but overextended realization of mutual exclusion—fourteen years—gave me a lot of material.  three books.  the next one is looking like a break-up album, with the upshot of a housewarming.

Friday 26 July 2019

James Roome : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Agreeing with myself that a piece is finished can be difficult. Also, it can be difficult to justify the process to yourself sometimes when you’ve been staring at something all morning and all you’ve done is moved a comma.

That being said, I find most elements of writing poetry to be joyful. It’s incredibly liberating to just sit down in front of the computer and write down whatever comes into your head. To be as weird as you want without concerning yourself with narrative arcs and/or logic. And then, to have someone read that and enjoy it, or take something from it that you never intended, that’s glorious.

No, on the whole I don’t find writing poetry to be difficult. I find the ‘explaining’ that goes hand in hand with a medium that uses language as its primary mode of communication (as opposed to music or the visual arts) to be more difficult. There can be a perception that everything in a poem has to have a specific and pre-ordained meaning, to the point where people feel affronted when you’re not willing to assign one. It can come across as if you’re simply being awkward. I believe that it is possible to just accept that some things are beautiful and some things upset you and some things annoy you, and that you can’t always explain why. In fact, if you can’t explain why then that’s a job for you rather than the person who made the original art.

That’s another reason poetry is so valuable. It allows us to have that moment where the signs don’t go with the signified, and actually that’s just fine.

Ty J. Williams : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I started writing poetry in high school (some 30 years ago) and at the time, and through my 20s and 30s, I was trying to be witty and clever. Only in the last 5 years, or so, have I really started searching my gut to see what needs to be written. I’ve been mining childhood and young adult trauma, analyzing my life choices and reactions, and writing earnestly about that. I still long to be considered clever and witty, but I’m feeling the pull to become more honest about my feelings, and fears, and about my damage and record it. The pull comes as a sort of therapy and healing as well as having an honest conversation with my wife, my sons, and my beloved friends. My time here is limited and it’s time to start talking about real life and not trying to be a literary wise-ass.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The last two poetry books I've read have been: Censored Poems by Marin Sorescu and The Art of Falling by Kim Moore. They couldn’t be more different; I love Sorescu’s for his fierce and direct confrontational approach. And Kim’s for her connectedness to the female body and her powerful use of repetition. 

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part five

How does a poem begin?

With living.

Beth Gordon : part one Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother, currently landlocked in St. Louis, MO. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Riggwelter, Into the Void, Five:2:One, SWWIM, Verity La, Califragile, Pretty Owl Poetry and Yes Poetry. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe, published by Animal Heart Press. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.

What are you working on? 

I just had my first chapbook published: Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe (Animal Heart Press).  My second chapbook, Particularly Dangerous Situation, will be published later this year by Clare Songbirds Publishing.  Both those books dealt in some manner with my grief journey following the unexpected death of my granddaughter in 2013. I’m now writing a full-length manuscript.  It’s just starting to take form in my mind, but I believe it’s about trying to re-enter the world of the living.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part one

Ellen Chang-Richardson is an emerging Canadian poet of Taiwanese/Cambodian-Chinese descent and the founder of Little Birds, a workshop series based in Toronto & Ottawa ( Her writing has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine and my (small press) writing day. Ellen holds an Hon.BFA in Fine Art History & Visual Studies from the University of Toronto and certificates from the Gemological Institute of America, and the Node Center for Curatorial Studies, Berlin. When she is not writing or chasing adventure, Ellen is the Assistant Curator at Barbara Edwards Contemporary.

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is one of those rare art forms that pries apart the layers of humanity and society. It does for us, what great conceptual art does. It makes us think; it makes us feel.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part five

How does a poem begin?

I usually hear it in my head-voice. It’s hard to explain, but I can tell the difference between the sound of a thought and the sound of a poem. The voice of a poem has a confidence and authority to it that I don’t experience in my usual thinking. It feels organized, if that makes sense. That’s when I know to start writing things down.

Chris Warren : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

I’m grateful that a lot of the work I make, be it visual or more conventional, comes to me largely fully-formed. I don’t battle with it, trying to craft it to perfection, or sit and scratch my head trying to get the work out. Most of what I do simply involves getting the idea in my head out and onto paper (or wherever it needs to be), and then moving on to the next. I don’t plan anything, or thrash stuff out to see if an idea will form (though wish I were a little more patient for this approach, as it’s well known how fruitful it can be). Finishing my poetry is more like putting together an IKEA table. I have the instructions and simply need to follow them. I may sometimes be missing a screw or two but for the most part it’s all there before I start, meaning much of what I do is finished before I even put pen to paper. I’m beyond grateful to have a head that works this way. I’ve accepted now that this is how I work and no longer try to force things out that aren’t coming of their own volition. I’ve tried this far too many times, and all it has ever resulted in for me, is unhappiness and stress. I want every creative second now to be spent in the production of work I can see and know I have to do, rather than pursuing nebulous paths that were never meant to be followed. Right or wrong, it’s an approach that suits me.

Monday 22 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

From the days when I was trying to be a comic book illustrator, the feet of anything are the hardest to draw. So basically, the ending. Getting an idea worth exploring is, to me, the easy part; delivering the crescendo of your exploration is not. How do you give a worthy ending to your statement, how can you add to the conversation and the history of the art form, how do you reward the reader’s attention, how do you do right by the gravity (or even levity) of your subject, how do you give an unexpected, refreshing, or at least accomplished ending? The poem shouldn’t whimper off.  These are my fears and concerns when trying to end a poem.

G. E. Schwartz : coda

My poetry takes on everydayness, searching out that quality of wonder which Is our true subject. I try to write, opening onto some larger mystery, one that we, no less than any other, are still trying to come to terms with.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : 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 poems enters the world as lines, as images, and as concepts. It’s up to the poem, how it wants to introduce itself to me. The ways in which it enters my mind is as myriad as anyone introduce themselves to anyone else. It’s how they say it that matters, because how the poem comes to you shows you a snippet of a text or a character with a backstory. My work is delving into that past to fully develop the poem, tinkering with form, sound, meter, etc. But the first utterance or even the first concept of the poem is my blueprint.

Saturday 20 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part four

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

Poetry often gives the sense, in its distillation, that it is merely a glimpse of an entirely other, entirely whole other world, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, whereas visual art can sometimes be the thing itself, finished, whole (although I also prefer unfinished, process-based visual art and non-representational work). Perhaps that is why sometimes I like my poems to be visual, or somehow visually structured, even if the poems feel incomplete in the language. I increasingly find it hard to separate the visual from the textual, and so my work now often hovers between the two. A sensibility to installation-based visual arts practices as a curator and visual artist lends itself to my site-specific poetry. Each practice has its own vocabulary, its own possibilities, its own way to construct and deconstruct meanings, to synthesize and expand language and meaning. But poetry is language, and song, and word, and these are somehow deeply linked to meaning making in a way I can’t quite articulate with a brush, or a stitch alone.

Friday 19 July 2019

James Roome : part four

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 was listening to the excellent Radio 3 programme, The Verb the other day, and a novelist (Denise Mina, I think) said, about her own writing, ‘it just falls out of my fingers’ (or words to that effect). I thought that was a lovely description of the writing process. Pretty accurate too (when it’s going well, that is).

I tend to write in snatched moments, and don’t really have much of a support network for it beyond a friend (the aforementioned James) and my wife, who tells me when something’s crap. I mean, I have a lot of people who support me in my writing, but not that many that I can look to for extensive critique. I keep trying to go to a local writers’ group, but life keeps getting in the way.

I do see this as a shortcoming in my writing process to be honest. You can take a poem so far on your own, but then it’s nice to have some outside input. You can become a little too close to your poetry sometimes, and it can be hard to notice the things that aren’t working, particularly if you have read it again and again to the point that it’s slipped into a pattern in your head. That can be difficult to break.

Ty J. Williams : part one

Ty J. Williams is a writer and poet who has recently eschewed decades of corporate jobhood to seek his first undergrad degree from the Ohio State University. His poetry can be read in Black Bough Poetry, Neololigism Poetry Journal, Columbus Alive and Fourth & Sycamore, as well as his WordPress site, The Little-Known History of Brooding. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, USA, with his wife, 3 sons and dog. Follow Ty at tywrites1 at and tywrites at

Photo credit: Kate Chapman.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Well, most of my poems are never “finished”, but all of them have an ending. I’m always editing and revising my poems, and that process is never really done. On the other hand, the endings of my poems are always intentional and well thought out. The last lines and the word choices in those last lines are probably the most deliberated and the most purposeful part of my writing. So, when I complete an initial draft of a poem, the endings are usually pretty solid and the least edited part of the poem. The rest will be tinkered with ad nauseum. 

Thursday 18 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : part four

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

My book started off as research, nothing more. As it developed and I became obsessed, it grew into a rambling biography that happened to contain a few poems. No one in their right mind will be as interested in this as I am, I decided. And a poet (Penelope Shuttle) suggested that I recast most of it as poetry, as she felt the poems worked well. The result is a short, beautiful objet (I think), like a jewel; rich, condensed, precise. It took years and years to achieve this. And of course, it's a million miles from perfect. But one day soon the publisher will print it and I won't be able to fiddle-arse around with it any more. 

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is pretty important to my poetry, but not as a source of inspiration. I use music as a screen to close me off from the outside, allowing me to turn my attention fully inwards. The physical world vanishes, and the music that I use for this purpose never really informs the work and is usually quite banal or what might be considered “bad” by a judgmental auteur. I usually attach to one song and play it on repeat for the entire time I’m working on a certain piece. It never really imprints upon the work, but provides an energy I use to propel me further and deeper into the work.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part four

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

Not in particular, but reading on its own is very important to me. Whenever I finish a manuscript, I go through a period when I don’t remember how to write a poem. I feel very literally like I don’t know what a poem is anymore. I give myself a break, and then I turn to reading to relearn it. Every book I read teaches me, either because it reaches me or because it doesn’t, and I think about why I’ve had that reaction. I also find other forms of storytelling to be just as restorative. Good innovative fiction nourishes me. Formally ambitious essays. Films with strong visuals. Video games with textured worlds. I take all of this in.

Chris Warren : part four

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

I truly think that, within this ever expanding and indefinable creative spectrum we find ourselves, poetry has the capability to do, and be, anything we wish. I feel that poetry has an ability to take and remould language in a way other forms find a little more difficult. You only have to look at works like Derek Beaulieu’s recent book Aperture, or Christian Bok’s Xenotext, or Barrie Tullet’s current exhibition The Typographic Dante to see what is possible. Excitingly, I still think we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg. The first example I ever saw of world moving concrete poetry was Ottar Ormstad’s Bokstavteppekatalogen, and it completely stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. I didn’t really know for some time what to do with it, conceptually, but I did know I’d never write in the same way again. That’s what poetry can do. So, I guess, to answer the question, I feel poetry still has the ability to turn a writers concept(s) of what is possible completely on their head, to spark a complete psychic and creative reevaluation of reality, and personally no other form has ever fully managed that.

Monday 15 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part two

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

Poetry allows us to be cavalier with rules, both in the reading and writing of it. Because of the commitment of good poetry to truth, it can work beyond the poet, beyond their personal considerations and needs while writing it, and be applicable universally as anything between art and prophecy.

G. E. Schwartz : part thirteen

How does a poem begin?

Waking from last night's dream (s), dialoging with its narratives and images.

Sunday 14 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I consider myself more a reviser than a writer. I don’t think a poem is ever finished. Maybe, during the revision process, the second, third, or thirteenth draft becomes a different poem altogether. But maybe, during those in-between drafts, you start to see the potential or the concept or the beginnings of a poem become your own. Somewhere in-between, you realize that a poem is finished because it is exactly in the order you want to say it, with the exact words you want to say it with. Sometimes, it requires another comma or two. But at some point, you get tired of reading your own work, and you abandon it, and it stops there. Sometimes you pick it up again. It really depends on where the poem wants to go. Just let the poem take you to where it wants to go.

Carlie Blume : part five

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

There are so many books, but one in particular lately I find myself often returning to is Adele Barclay’s If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You. Her work is so sensual and vibrant. Every poem feels like a whimsical dream.

Saturday 13 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I have learned through painting that a work (mine anyway) will never be perfect, but there is a moment when it just feels done and there is the risk of overworking it. Sometimes a poem is finished because the structure says so, or because I am happy with the rhythm or the pace of it and it just feels, or visually looks, finished. I think it’s easier to know when a poem is unfinished, unresolved, or needs to have a big eraser attend to it.

Some of my poems are finished when I can no longer see them in the landscape. But they never are completely finished in the sense that they may be a moment in a conversation, a trace, a point on a line, a breath in a lifetime of breathing. Or they are floating somewhere still out there in the water, or decomposing in a pile of leaves. Like ecologies, these poems are always in process; increasingly I like poems that are unfinished, or somehow give the sense that they are in motion, or still speaking after I have finished writing/reading the words. 

Friday 12 July 2019

James Roome : part three

What are you working on?

All sorts. Sonnet sequence, occasional poems (some with a vaguely political edge. A first for me), and a sequence based on myth inspired by Gunslinger. There’s a ‘character’ in that poem that is literally a circle of parsons, each holding a candle. It’s in the very early stages and is probably going to be quite the undertaking. ‘Bull’ (the long poem/sequence that makes up my chapbook) took four years to get right, so we’ll see!

I’m also putting together a collaborative pamphlet with a friend, James Lock, whose work I greatly respect for its commitment to making poetry useful. He’s someone who comes at writing poetry from a completely different standpoint to me really – where I aim for ridiculousness, he sees poetry (and I hope I’m getting him right here) as a means to say things that need to be said.

Now that the chapbook’s out, my next aim as an individual poet is to put together a pamphlet or full collection, which I’m working towards. I have around 30 complete poems at the moment, though whether they’ll all make it into a final collection I have no idea.

And then there’s the endless cycle of submissions and rejections, though I have had a micro poem published recently in Black Bough (a new digital micro poetry publisher) and I have had a short sequence accepted by Stride, so that should be appearing at some point over the summer.

Steve Venright : part five

What are you working on?

Poetry in a broad sense—I suppose this is obvious—can be found in any medium. I move from one to another, depending on what feels fun and otherwise compelling at the time: writing, visual art, audio recording, and sub-media within those fields. As for literary projects, I’m completing work—after a lengthy hiatus—on a book about the dream world of legendary sleeptalker Dion McGregor, to feature dozens of original transcriptions of his somniloquies, which were recorded in the ’60s by his roommate/songwriting partner Michel Barr and are now in the archives of my little Torpor Vigil label. Its title is The Somnolent Adventures of Dion McGregor, and I confidently anticipate that it will be the fastest-selling book of its kind in more than half a century. (There was one other book of its kind that came out in 1964.)

I’m also assembling a compilation of poems that were not part of my 2017 selected. It will likely be called The Golden Age of Noxious Drivel. Though not by me, of course!

Thursday 11 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : 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?

Yes, though I spent a decade in a dark room on my own first. I came out with a draft but realized I'd almost forgotten how to speak and I'd lost and all my friends.  But I made new ones in local groups and on courses, who helped me perfect my story - though, of course,  it is far from perfect.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

George Oppen’s work—reading him felt like an outstretched hand. His presence & very humanistic perceiving has really informed how I cast my own experiencing into the act of writing.

Aimé Césaire absolutely shattered all tentative obligations I might have felt to keep believing / caring about the people who had told me for so long what the function and tradition of poetry might be. It was hugely important to be able to read him, and important to still be reading him.

Lisa Robertson, as a different way to approach and grapple with the lyric in poetry. The same with Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, the early work of Joseph Ceravolo.

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, essential. Paul Celan (of course).

Really, a great majority of the writers who have vitally affected my relationship to writing haven’t been poets.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The editing process is the hardest part, and I think it’s partly because it can be endless, and some poems, no matter what you do, just won’t work. They’re mulch for the poems coming later. I love the writing process. I know some poets find it difficult, but I’m very good at shutting off my editor and letting the words get on the page. It’s once they’re there that I struggle to make sense of what the poem wants to be. I think I write so easily because I don’t consider the reader in those moments. I have permission to fail. But in the editing process I have to invite a reader in, and I have make the poem deliver something they want or need. I have never been good at killing my darlings. I want all my darlings to live.

Chris Warren : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

My concept of poetry now is unrecognisable from what it once was. I once liked to think, loftily, that I knew exactly what a poem was, and what constituted quality, but am happy to say that nowadays I haven’t the faintest clue. I have always had ambitions to blur the lines between my art and my poetry to create an odd amalgam that was neither one nor the other. Nowadays the line has become so successfully blurred for me that I’m never entirely how to describe or explain what I’ve done. I have had people on Twitter tell me that have loved a recently posted poem, that I didn’t even recognise was poetry. I also recently had a spot on the Chaudiere Books blog post for Poetry Month showcasing one of my visual poems from 2016. The poem was one of six from a collection containing micro poems designed around Rorschach ink blots. Since I made them I have completely forgotten what the content of those micro poems were, so am as much in the dark as to what they mean as anyone else. There is something wonderful about that. I am more than happy to have visual work I have done described as poems, or poems I have written described as something else entirely. For me to dictate that the things I make are immovably one thing or another does nothing but compromise viewer autonomy and devalue the work. If you say it’s poetry then I don’t really feel it’s my place to argue.

Monday 8 July 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part one

Tolu Oloruntoba has lived in Nigeria, the U.S., and Canada, and once spent 12 years studying and practicing medicine. His poetry has appeared in Pleiades, Columbia Journal Online, Obsidian, SAND Journal, Entropy, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His debut chapbook, Manubrium, is forthcoming from Anstruther Press in 2019, and a full length collection of his poetry will be published by Palimpsest Press in 2021.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

There is a sense of repose that comes over me when an unexpected ending suggests itself, and I am able to capture it. And if when I look over the poem, I am overtaken by a sense of wonder, can’t help re-reading it repeatedly (I wrote that?), and can’t, however hard I try, find anything to change, or add, I sense that the work is done. For some other poems, particularly if they deal with past trauma, when I’m done, I just feel the overwhelming urge to go lie down after. Think of Frodo’s “It’s Done,” at the Cracks of Doom (before I unearth the same issue in a different poem).

G. E. Schwartz : part twelve

Why is poetry important?

Because it gives us the best possibility to present and explore our knowing and unknowing: that it can be a modest restatement of the notion that we are more than an organism in an environment, more than an integrated personality, more even than a mature and creative individual, as the phrase goes... as we are wayfarers and pilgrims.

Joshua Weiner : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is the home of metaphor, without which there is no knowledge; it is original science. 

Sunday 7 July 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part one

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan graduated from Bowdoin College and attends the University of the Philippines MA Creative Writing Program. In 2016, she was awarded the Carlos Palanca Memorial Foundation Awards for Poetry. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Cordite Poetry Review, Asymptote Journal, Cha Literary Journal, Contrary Magazine, Eastlit Magazine, and New Asian Writing, among others. She is one of the current poetry editors at Inklette Magazine. Her first book of poetry, The Sea That Beckoned, is available from Platypus Press.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was very fortunate to have an ally and a mother figure in my third-grade teacher Mrs. Lippman, during my first year in the U.S. She had an enormous library for an eight-year-old girl to feast on. I still remember the first poetry book I read, entitled Poetry For Young People: Emily Dickinson. It had a picture of a tree with a dove in it. I abandoned poetry a couple of times in my life, but thankfully I had teachers such as Professor Anthony Walton at Bowdoin College and Professor Nerissa Guevara at the University of Santo Tomas who picked up where Mrs. Lippman left off in educating me as a young writer of poetry.

Carlie Blume : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I recently read Tiana Clark’s I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood and was floored. I also just finished Cluster by Souvankham Thammmavongsa and was struck with her range and ability to bring the reader to their knees with a simple, stark poem. I also often return to Jonina Kirton’s Page as Bone- Ink as Blood as well as An Honest Woman. I will never tire of those books. Jonina’s poetry is so heartfelt, raw and wise. It breaks my heart every time.

Saturday 6 July 2019

sophie anne edwards : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

There was always poetry on my bedside table as a child; the written word was always somehow a home for me. Although I have written most of my life as a process of meaning-making, to find words for what I can’t understand or grasp, sometimes to process grief, or as a means to conjure a whole other space, I feel like I am only really beginning to engage with poetry recently. My writing feels more complex now, but also simpler, more a part of me and also apart from me. Turning fifty has made me (mostly) accept the limits of my life and the possibilities of my contributions to it, but has also stabbed me with the deep sense of the limits of my remaining time. Both of these things are motivating and somehow freeing.

Shannon Mastromonico : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is extremely important. I've always had a very strong connection to music in general, so it has proven to be a big inspiration when I write. Music is lyrical poetry.

Poetry is one of the most important things to me and I almost gave up. I have been writing for thirty years but I have only been actively honing my craft and submitting work for about a year. As soon as I decided to call myself a poet, as soon as I decided to send my work out there, I stepped onto my true path. Since May of 2018, I have been published more than ten times and I self published my first chapbook of poems earlier this year. I truly cannot believe that I waited so long.

Friday 5 July 2019

James Roome : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I remember doing an assignment on them as a pair as one of my first essays as an undergraduate and being absolutely floored by Song of Myself. I sat on the edge of my bed and read the whole thing in one sitting. It was so free and welcoming and casual and fun to read in a way that other poetry I had been exposed to had not been, yet it was still intensely philosophical.

Dickinson, I was bamboozled by at first. I found her syntax and capitalisation challenging. Now I find her to be one of the most consistently rewarding poets I read. Her imagery and turn of phrase is so idiosyncratic. She inspired me to make more surprising choices with language and imagery.

After those two, Wallace Stevens for the spiritual nature of his work, Frank O'Hara for his surrealism and joy, CD Wright for her incredibly generous and vivid work (she operates within a frame of reference that is alien to me, and that makes her work extremely interesting to me).

I just realised, every single poet I’ve mentioned is dead.

Steve Venright : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

What I find most difficult about writing poetry is resisting the temptation to be meaningful. That’s not to say I avoid meaning (whatever that means) in a poem, only that I try not to arrive at meaning through intention. I suspect there are instances that prove that statement false; e.g., a limerick about the third World Trade Center building to collapse on September 11, 2001 wouldn’t have gotten very far along without some awareness that I’m methodically imparting what, for simplistic convenience, can be called a political view (though I’d prefer something like “empirical curiosity”). But, generally, I prefer if a poem develops or asserts its own meaning without my conscious intervention. Also, the words are very hard.

Thursday 4 July 2019

Mary J. Oliver : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I seldom return to a poem without seeing a way of improving it. Usually the improvement is not an improvement, and so the process continues eternally. I have a few poems that do seem perfect and therefore 'finished' but they are very rare beasts. And what is the formula? Indefinable I'm afraid and of course different in every case. Something to do with: the fewest words, the plainest words saying the exact right thing, the music, the shape, the strength, and there being a point in writing it.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Nicole Raziya Fong : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult part about writing poetry, for me, is the physical and mental cost of the sustained effort of writing. Most of the writing I do occurs in a short period of time, in between long pauses where I might be able to make a few quality edits (at best), or essentially undo all the work I’d done previously. So, when I’m writing, everything I do channels into the work. I write until I’m exhausted, always pushing myself to do more as I can never predict when the work will end and I’ll enter that state of being unable to write. It is a place of excitement and happiness, but it’s always followed by a pretty severe collapse.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Charles Jensen : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I think poetry has few limits, and my goal is to keep pushing my understanding of it as far as it will go. Poetry is as broad as prose and contains as many multitudes. I’ve gotten much more interested in how poetry and prose can speak to each other, work together, blur and blend, and hybridize each other. The longer I write, the more faith I put into the story being told and less into the mode in which it is told. I believe each story should be revealed not only in content, but through its form.

Chris Warren : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was least 4 years old and in my teenage years became quickly obsessed with the work of Jim Morrison, oddly, and Sylvia Plath, as I suspect many people do at that age. In my late teens and early twenties I was writing a lot more and began writing poetry to perform, becoming resident poet for an open mic night in London and reading whenever possible locally.  I have had brief love affairs with several poets over the years but, as heretical as this sounds, have never been a committed reader of other people’s work, preferring instead to simply focus on the crafting of my own. Saying that, I do still love a bit of Frank O’Hara and will reach for Alexander Vvendensky’s Rug / Hydrangea without fail whenever I need lifting out of myself to somewhere better.

Monday 1 July 2019

G. E. Schwartz : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry? 

Listening to it, being moved by it, gives balance to poetry forging by example, its effectiveness in tone, mood and clarity.

Joshua Weiner : part four

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

I return to the Scottish border ballads, especially "Edward" and "Sir Patrick Spens"; poets from the English Renaissance--Wyatt, Gascoigne, Ralegh, Spenser, Fulke Greville, Sidney, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Campion, Donne, Herbert, Jonson, Henry King, Marvell.  I turn to the Romantics--Blake's Songs, Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, Coleridge, Keats, Clare; also Dickinson & Whitman.  I find renewal in the poems of Hardy and Hopkins; Frost, Stevens, Williams, D.H. Lawrence, Pound, Moore.  And Mina Loy.  And then later, Sterling Brown, Auden, Roethke, and especially Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell; also Gwendolyn Brooks, and Larkin.  I find it in Ammons, and Creeley, also Kenneth Koch, and Ginsberg.  Ted Hughes and Adrienne Rich, Gary Snyder and Derek Walcott.  Thomas McGrath and Robert Duncan.  Seamus Heaney and Roberts Pinsky & Hass.  Anne Winters and David Ferry.  I save the first for last, Thom Gunn; Thom Gunn, most.  This is my DNA, my rhythm book, my source and sorcery; these are the constellations of my night sky.