Saturday 31 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part four

What are you working on?

A couple of weeks ago I began a series of prose poems about common tools, paired with drawings of the same objects. I had just finished four years of art school and wanted to mate image and text in some way. So far, I have written poems about and made drawings of a hammer, a knife, secateurs, and clamps. I have no idea how many tools I will address, or whether I will complete this project. It’s too early to tell! I spent about ten years writing and rewriting the poems based on Chopin’s 24 Preludes that appeared in my last book, What We Carry. In the end, I only included fourteen of them.

Friday 30 August 2019

Stephen Page : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the poem tells you it is finished.

Thursday 29 August 2019

James Arthur : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Writing a good poem means capturing truth through language. To do that, you have to avoid cliché and you need to pry open your unexamined habits of thought -- so writing a poem, or interpreting one, involves analytical thinking and the precise control of language. The arts in general encourage empathy, curiosity, and imagination.

It’s easy to undervalue those things because their benefits are hard to quantify, but Donald Trump could not have been elected President of the United States if there hadn’t been a widespread failure of empathy, analytical thought, and attention to the nuances of language. In my life as a creative writing professor, I sometimes get students to read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” in which he writes, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Orwell wrote that in 1945, but it remains true.

Stephen Furlong : part one

Stephen Furlong received his M.A. in Professional Writing from Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of the chapbook What Loss Taught Me, which was published by Nostrovia! Press in Fall 2018. His poems, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in Louisiana Literature, Bone & Ink, and Full Stop, among others. He currently serves as a Staff Reviewer for LitStyle, a subset of the literary journal Five:2:One. He can be found on Twitter @StephenJFurlong.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was fortunate to have a grade school English teacher who had a passion for poetry; her name was Mrs. Smircich and, for her class, we were required to memorize two poems and recite them in class. I cannot recall the poems I memorized, but there are two bright light bulbs of memory from that experience: we were forbade from memorizing Shel Silverstein and I was introduced to the first poem that truly shook my core from the inside—“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. While some of my classmates snickered at “breast” and “bosom”, the lull of the rhymes reminded me of prayer. Every time I am awe-struck by nature Kilmer’s spirit nods in approval. That year I ended up reading a lot of Robert Frost who was the first poet I ever loved. As it were, I had a healthy respect for nature poets so I found Emerson eventually, and before I knew it, my love of poetry had begun.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I tend to have a lot of poetry books on my bedside locker at the same time, lined up to be read. There is so much good poetry out there; it’s hard to get the time to read them all. Current favourites are May Day 1974 by Rachel Hegarty, Fleche by Mary Jean Chan, To Air the Soul, Throw All the Windows Wide by Mary Dorcey, Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital by Kevin Higgins and Bad News, Good News, Bad News by Edward O’Dwyer. If I was to pick one out of these that has had the most impact it would be May Day 1974 by Irish writer, Rachel Hegarty. It remembers the victims of car bombings that took place in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974. Her poems give voices to the 34 people who died. Devotions by Mary Oliver, has taken up permanent residence in my bedroom. It’s my go to book when I’m in need of some spiritual inspiration and renewal.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part one

Natasha Sanders-Kay is a writer, editor and activist residing on unceded Coast Salish territories in Burnaby, BC. Recent work has appeared in Poetry Is Dead, subTerrain, PRISM international, and Spacing. Her chapbook poem Postmodern Mutt is part of a travelling migration project from Vancouver-based artist Lois Klassen; see Natasha is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU, where she was mentored by Betsy Warland. She is a member of subTerrain magazine’s editorial collective and team of reviewers, and previously served as managing editor. Over the years Natasha has worked, organized and volunteered with numerous arts and social justice initiatives. She is working on her first collection of poems.

Photo credit: Trista Baldwin

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

Poetry can create a container of words to hold an experience or emotion, and can do it in a way that offers the reader enough to go on, but with mystery as a major element, plenty for them to unpack and interpret in their own terms. You know how as writers we’re told show, don’t tell? I believe poetry is the ultimate form of showing.

It’s also language at its finest. Every word, space and line break can be loaded with meaning, full of craft and care. Poetry engages with language in its own magic way.

Because poems are usually shorter than other forms such as fiction, nonfiction, drama and the like, they can be more accessible to people reading on the fly, yet their power can stay with you, whirling within you, forever.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part five

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

I return often to Mary Oliver because of her ability to weave together all aspects of the human experience with the material qualities and landscapes of the natural world without sentimentality, cliche, or staleness. Also Sylvia Plath for the courage of her bold, unflinching work and her searing imagery. I also read a lot of fiction and turn to T. C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, James Baldwin, Alice Munro, Louise Erdrich.

Monday 26 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : 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’ve been fortunate to have been in many writing groups since graduate school with some really smart, thoughtful writers. Several of these groups have seen manuscripts of mine come to fruition. Poems from my most recent book Ten, published by BlazeVOX, began as a ten-line exercise to stave off boredom during the recovery of major knee surgery, and were dispersed among a group of writers (Amanda Field, Stefania Heim, Katy Lederer, Caitlin McDonnell, Lynn Melnick, Carley Moore, Idra Novey, Laura Sims and Leah Souffrant). We all had young children, who were with us flinging food and objects and making a ruckus. But when it came down to it the workshops were sharp and efficient.

This same group saw the beginning of a book-length poem, STORY, which is about to be published this December by Ugly Duckling Presse. While sharing some of STORY I got together with another writing group: Erica Hunt, Brenda Coultas, Karen Weiser and Marcella Durand. These poets read STORY in manuscript-form and offered great feedback. I actually remember coming in a few minutes late at the day I was going to workshop STORY and hearing some of the poets guess whether or not Story was an actual “story.” That was fun!

As of late I find it’s hard for me and other writers to schedule writing groups so I’ve been breaking off with various writers I respect and share work that way. I also love to writer via solicitation for a specific project or collaboration, which provide opportunities to derail my own obsessions for a bit.  Also, lately, I just write to my friends. My friend Laura Y. Liu and I wrote a collaborative poem, an ode, to our dear friend and colleague and renowned feminist, Ann Snitow, when she was retiring from Eugene Lang College. I wrote a poem to Marcella Durand after we dropped off our kids at summer camp and swam in a beautiful river.

Kimberly Campanello : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading a lot of ‘innovative’ Irish poetry/poetry coming from Ireland. I’ve particularly enjoyed new work by Pascal O’Loughlin, Natasha Cuddington, and Christodoulos Makris. I’ve also been reading Bernadette Mayer for the first time. One of my favourite things to read is the magazine Poetry Wales, which has been such an incredible force under the editorship of Nia Davies. Continuing the Welsh theme, I have really loved delving into The Edge of Necesssary: Welsh Innovative Poetry 1966-2018 edited by John Goodby and Lyndon Davies. The poems of Heather Dohollau and Childe Roland are particularly striking.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part three

How does a poem begin? 

Poems begin in several ways for me. It can be something as slight as a smell carried on the breeze or a flash of color from the corner of my eye. It can be a word that jumps out at me. Lately, they have been inspired by people and stories. I like to listen to stories about people, about their histories of triumph and struggle. I like to understand context of the times people lived in and how the social and political climate affected them. I start to see the world through their eyes in an almost transcendental way. I ask them to tell me more of their story. Then I listen and write.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

W.H. Auden quoted Paul Valéry - who himself was paraphrasing Leonardo da Vinci - when he said that “a work of art is never finished, only abandoned.” I agree with all of them! From a purely practical perspective, however, a poem is finished when I can’t do anything more to it just then. Nonetheless I am an inveterate reviser, and although a poem has appeared in print in a journal, I may still make some revisions to it before it appears in one of my books. I even revised poems that had appeared in previous books for my new and selected, Running in Prospect Cemetery.

james stotts : part five

how does a poem begin?

a poem really can’t begin until there’s a sense that it needs to be something new, so it’s always the variation that’s dawning on me.  there gets to be a number of occasions that always force the point.  when my [ex-]wife was pregnant, i started writing sonnets and counting the weeks.  the terror and delight of expecting meant that i was able to keep up a good pace that carried me for almost two years, until jackson’s first birthday.  we were also just arrived in a new city, boston, and taking a lot of bus rides down to nyc to see my brother, visit the russian consulate, and cetera.  and ten years later, i’m still writing china bus sonnets every time i take the ride.  so the patterns of life, instead of becoming repetitive, always put me in a receptive and determined mood.

those are very different than the poems that strike, almost like panic attacks, at all hours, where the mind gets sucked into a sort of vortex.  those only get resolved by coming to terms.

the poems hardly ever begin or end on the page, they get going with a phrase or puzzle or rhyme, and then i will work them over in my mind on long walks or trips or in wee hours.  i usually know the poem is finished by the time i have it really by memory and when i stop tripping over certain lines.  a little more might change after i put it to paper, but by that time, most of the leg work has already been put in.

Friday 23 August 2019

Stephen Page : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Probably while reading all of the Dr. Seuss books alone in my room as a child. Later, in 2nd grade, I wrote poems to the girl who sat in the desk in front of me. I did not think of myself as a poet then, but later, while I was in the Marines, I penned marching and running chants. Still, I did not consider myself a poet. Near the end of my time in the Marines, while on a photo safari in Africa, I met a green-eyed goddess who was on the same tour bus. I think she was my inspiration to become a poet and to consider myself a writer because, when we separated after the tour, I wrote her long letters in poetic form.

Thursday 22 August 2019

James Arthur : part four

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

It depends on what I’m correcting against -- I feel that I’m always correcting against something -- but mostly I go back to the books and poems that remind me to bring generosity, spontaneity, and vulnerability into my own writing. One poem I love is Heather McHugh’s “What He Thought” and another is “Train to Dublin” by Louis MacNeice. Reading Kenneth Koch’s “To Life” always makes me want to write. Same with “All Creation Wept” by Melissa Range.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’ve been very fortunate to have encountered some generous poets who have given me constructive and encouraging feedback on my work. John Corless, the first poet to read my work back in 2012, gave me great advice. At the time I was focussing on writing short stories as I believed I wasn’t writing ‘real poems,’ despite John’s encouragement. In 2017, I started writing poetry seriously and took some online courses and workshops. Thanks to Adam Wyeth and Kevin Higgins, I started to believe I was writing ‘real’ poems. I also got great encouragement from participants in Kevin’s online poetry workshops. Their support gave me the confidence I needed to continue writing, to continue to be ‘daring’ in my work and write the un-writable.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Beth Gordon : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, C.T. Salazar’s This Might Have Meant Fire, Alicia Mountain’s High Ground Coward, Bianca Stone’s The Mobius Strip Club of Grief.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Always a combination. This summer, it’s Adam Dickenson’s Anatomic, Phoebe Wang’s Admission Requirements, The Paris Review #228, The Feathertale Review #22, and PRISM international #57.3 RUIN.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part four

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

Poetry and metaphor are how we encode the human experience. The things that cannot be explained matter-of-factly or within prose - death, grieving, heart-break, profound joy, transcendent experience - can be given a home in the incredibly flexible form of poetry.

Last week, while backcountry camping, I witnessed a dragonfly exit its nymphal form, a miraculous happening that is so very, very strange: this ethereal creature with its glass-like green body and iridescent, glimmering wings climbs out of the plain-looking, slate-coloured, cockroach-like shell. There are even little threads, as if the dragonfly has been held inside the nymph form with a harness.

While watching this, I thought of its similarity to poetry with its ability to enrich the ordinary happenings of a human life with profound, transcendent meaning.

Monday 19 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

If the process begins to feel vapid, empty, in a way that’s not interesting or with promise, then I move on. It’s fairly intuitive, though I read/revise my work endlessly. I try not to be precious about the “perfect” poem. I don’t think poems are necessarily ever finished in their perpetually-thinking bodies. And maybe I at times just run out of steam or need to switch gears, though I would argue that it is also sometimes the reason to stay.

Kimberly Campanello : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

As a teenager, my reading of Arthur Rimbaud and Walt Whitman shaped my sense of what it means to write poetry. Later on, H.D. (Trilogy), M NourbeSe Philip (Zong!), Thomas McGrath (Letter to an Imaginary Friend), Stein (Lifting Belly), and Aimé Césaire (Cahier d’un retour au pays natale) all had a big impact. I’m interested in poets who take on big projects or longer poems – poets who are in some sense visionaries in whatever mode they are working in. My thinking about this large-scale mode is continually renewed by poets with these ambitions, most recently by the work of Geraldine Monk (They Who Saw the Deep), James Byrne and Sandeep Parmar (Myth of the Savage Tribes, Myth of the Civilised Nations), and Denise Riley (A Part Song). I am really looking forward to the forthcoming book by Joyelle McSweeney, having read some of the poems in journals.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part two

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

Poetry gives the reader space to be mindful. I often see poets as gardeners scattering seeds into the fertile soil of the mind. In some minds these seeds take root and grow, but they are always affected by the climate of the reader’s mind and the sum total of their personal experiences. For me, prose has always been a sort of ready made atmosphere that I slip into when I read. It can challenge me as a reader, but not in the same way that poetry does. Poetry requires me to consider the devices of the poet and to visualize in a way that fills in the spaces between line breaks. Poetry offers the reader a freedom to personalize the reading experience.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part two

How does a poem begin?

It begins like a tiny pebble in a shoe or a grain of sand in an oyster. An almost imperceptible but persistent irritant. Until it isn’t. Until it’s rubbed me so raw that I find myself asking Why is this damn thing still here? To answer that question, the question of why I am snagged on something I am not consciously thinking about, I must write a poem.

By writing a poem, I discover what significance that thing holds for me and how it is linked to many other events, objects, feelings, dreams, ideas, and so forth – a deep and wide network of associations. Was that network built prior to my paying attention or does it arise during the process of writing a poem? I don’t know. But paying attention to one’s obsessions is its own reward, whether or not the poem that evolves proves to be a pearl or remains a dull and lumpy grain of sand.

james stotts : part four

what poets changed the way you think about poetry?

the first poetry i remember really devouring was margaret atwood and lucille clifton.  that’s probably not typical.  i got over atwood, but clifton is still my first hero.  i didn’t realize for almost twenty years that my poems look like hers on the page—no punctuation and no uppercase.  she’s always been in my blood.  when i was ten i was challenged by a teacher to memorize ‘the raven,’ and did it in a week.  that same week i memorized ‘the bells,’ ‘annabel lee,’ and a few others.  and i read all the stories, really.  i outgrew poe, too, but supplementally.

i found an anthology when i was eleven or twelve, of the yale younger poets.  so ashbery was there, and a dozen other i love, but the best and the one i obsessed over was joan murray.  especially her ‘lullaby.’

when i was thirteen, there was a statewide poetry recitation competition in the gym at la cueva high school, in albuquerque.  i recited stevie smith’s ‘distractions and the human crowd,’ donald justice’s ‘there is a golden light in certain old paintings’ (which is an orpheus poem), and ‘nothing gold can stay.’  i remember a lot of other kids doing ‘the love song,’ and the parents and teachers were impressed, but i could have read that by heart, too.  i got a bronze medal.  i guess the point is, that i was learning from them and wanted to be them someday.  i was in love then with edna st. vincent millay, cummings, hayden, and almost everyone in our schoolbooks.

i was sixteen or seventeen when i first read derek walcott, ‘the schooner flight,’ and convinced one of my teachers to let me give a lesson on the poem myself.  so i assigned the reading to the whole class, and i thought i could teach it like the novels we were reading then, like ‘catcher in the rye’ or ‘a separate piece.’  but everyone swore that walcott didn’t make any sense.  that was my first inkling that i was painting myself into a corner.  i listened to walcott on the radio when he read in santa fe at the lannan theater that summer.  my older brother was going to the college of santa fe, then, and i really hoped he would give me a ride up.  but, anyway, i listened on the radio in my bedroom.  the next year, i read philip levine.  i was asked to teach one of his poems in english class my senior year, and i did ‘rain downriver.’  that whole year i was obsessed with workers’ poems.  carl sandburg, james wright.  i was reading ‘civilization and its discontents,’ too.  and i thought of myself as a worker.

it’s hard to explain, but easy for me to wrap my brain around, this sort of development.  my parents split up when i was ten, and when we were thirteeen my mom moved us up into the sandias to work for room and board on a horse stables.  it was that or live on the streets at that point.  we would wake up before sunrise to water and feed the horses, and muck the stalls, and load the tractor with hay.  on weekends we would take out trail rides or clean brush or clean the arena where they did english riding.  i worked every waking hour, and i would go to school with shit six inches up my sleeves.  i got teased, but by then i was already proud.  when the socialist poets, and the workers’ poets, finally found their way to me, i was totally prepared to fall in love.  i was waiting tables at a diner through high school, graveyard shifts on the weekends, and reading, and writing, and sometimes making it to class.  i can’t imagine how they graduated me cum laude with a scholarship, with so many missed days.  but i managed.  so i brag.

the voice that is great within us changed my life, too, when i was in high school

those are a few of the first poets that mattered.  the list could go on. 

Friday 16 August 2019

Stephen Page : part one

Stephen Page is part Apache and Shawnee. He was born in Detroit. He is the author of three other books of poetry – A Ranch Bordering the Salty River, The Timbre of Sand, and Still Dandelions. He holds two AA’s from Palomar College, a BA from Columbia University, and an MFA from Bennington College. He also attended Broward College. His literary criticisms have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald, How Journal, Gently Read Literature, North of Oxford, and the Fox Chase Review. His fiction has been published in Quarto, The Whistling Fire, and Amphibi. His haiku and senryu has appeared in Frogpond, Hedgerow, brass bell, Black Bough, Bravura, Brussels Sprout, Cicada, Haiku Headlines, Heron Quarterly, Japanophile, Our Reader’s Quarterly, Piedmont Literary Review, and Point Judith Light. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He loves his wife, family, friends, long walks through woodlands, communing with nature, reading, spontaneous road trips, throwing cellphones into lakes, and making noise with his electric bass.

What are you working on?

I am currently editing and adding stories to two collections of fiction. One is an assemblage of fictional happening that could have occurred near places where I grew up in Michigan, lived as a U.S. Marine overseas, and lived in New York while I was a student at Columbia University. The other collection is a compilation of fictional accounts that might have occurred on a ranch in Argentina where I was working after I left New York. I am also polishing the final galleys and promoting a collection of poems (about ecoRanching in Argentina) that will be published in a couple of months. The name of the new book is, “The Salty River Bleeds,” and is being published by Finishing Line Press.

Ty J. Williams : part five

What are you working on?

I am currently working on my first chapbook. I have been publishing poems over the last year and I have nonfiction writing credits to my name, and although writing poetry has been a lifelong imperative, publishing it is fairly new to me. I’m now putting together a chapbook to have a go-to collection of what I’ve been working on over the last year or so. I’m not sure if I’m going to try to shop it around to presses or if I’m just going to avoid that stress and self-finance and self-publish it. Either way, I should have a small collection of poems out this summer. Follow me on Twitter and IG if you want to keep up with that progress.

Thursday 15 August 2019

James Arthur : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

For me, one of the challenges of writing poetry is that a poet needs to use language in a way that’s counterintuitive. Outside of art, in a non-literary context, people use words to dispel ambiguity, to articulate opinions, to explain abstract ideas, and to summarize. Even when we’re children, much of our language education trains us to do these things. But poems are successful only if they appeal to the reader’s imagination, so a poet usually needs to resist the urge to summarize, and often needs to withhold judgment, especially if that judgment would reduce a poem’s range of implication or would come in place of the raw sensory data that helps readers imagine whatever is being described. That’s why students in creative writing workshops are always being told to avoid abstractions: to show, not tell.

At the same time, the most skillful poets do find ways to use the full resources of their language, including abstractions such as “soul,” “heavens,” and “world”: all three of those words appear in Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” but the context around them (“Then Space - began to toll, / As all the Heavens were a Bell”) makes them strange and vivid. John Ashbery’s “And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name” defies almost every workshop maxim that exists, but it’s a brilliant piece of writing.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I first encountered poetry in school, I didn’t like it. I found it difficult to understand and rhyme left me cold. The fact that I was studying it for exam purposes didn’t help. The only poet that I would relate to as a teenager was the great Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh, which was probably because like me he was from rural Ireland and was writing about things that I could relate to. I would never have believed then that I could write poetry let alone get a poem published. Now, I love reading and writing poetry. Through my own writing and reading a wide variety of poetry I realise that poetry comes in many shapes and forms. When I started writing first, I read as widely as I could to see if I could find another poet who wrote like me. It was my way of trying to validate my own writing. Then I discovered that no two poets write the same way. We all have our own unique voices and our own way of expressing ourselves.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Beth Gordon : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Early on, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath in that I learned from them that no subject was taboo.  Later, Robert Haas and Mary Oliver made me think about how my poetry engages in the world beyond my interior. Charles Wright’s work also has a special place in my heart…I love the gracefulness in his poems.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Christian Bök, Anne Carson, Billy-Ray Belcourt, and Suzanne Buffam.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Lauren Carter : 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 am and always have been a very solitary writer. I think this comes from growing up in a small northern Ontario town, in a dysfunctional family, and spending a lot of time on my own, staring out at the blank horizon line of Lake Huron. I began writing in isolation and, to a certain degree, that's what I'm most comfortable with.

Having said that, I now live near Winnipeg where there is an incredibly vibrant, vast, and supportive community of writers, and I'm beginning to learn the value of both receiving and offering critique - although the first few drafts of anything I write are mine and mine alone, to write, revise, and tinker with in solitude.

Monday 12 August 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part one

Jennifer Firestone is the author of five books of poetry and four chapbooks including Story (UDP), Ten, (BlazeVOX [books]), Gates & Fields (Belladonna* Collaborative), Swimming Pool (DoubleCross Press), Flashes (Shearsman Books), Holiday (Shearsman Books), Waves (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), from Flashes and snapshot (Sona Books) and Fanimaly (Dusie Kollektiv). She co-edited (with Dana Teen Lomax) Letters To Poets: Conversations about Poetics, Politics and Community (Saturnalia Books) and is collaborating with Marcella Durand on a book about Feminist Avant-garde Poetics. Firestone has work anthologized in Kindergarde: Avant-Garde Poems, Plays, Songs, & Stories for Children and Building is a Process / Light is an Element: essays and excursions for Myung Mi Kim. She won the 2014 Marsh Hawk Press’ Robert Creeley Memorial Prize. Firestone is an Associate Professor of Literary Studies at the New School’s Eugene Lang College and is also the Director of their Academic Fellows pedagogy program.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was younger I would come home from elementary school/middle school and put on my dad’s very large, cushy headphones and sit on the rug near the stereo. I would stay that way for hours listening to all kinds of music, replaying songs and thinking about the lyrics. I loved Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, Blondie, Diana Ross, the list goes on. I had an ear for music though I couldn’t play an instrument for the life of me. I could pick up on subtleties, nuances in a musical piece and bring language to express what I thought it was doing. I think this location in sound was meaningful to me, connected to meaning, and was a somewhat natural segue to writing/reading poetry.

Additional influences/introductions to poetry were through teachers in my early education. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Rickenbacker was dynamic, smart, generous. She told my parents I had a talent for writing and that my parents should save my writing, and so they did: stacks and stacks of fiction and poetry on the top shelf of my closet.

Also Ms. Dresser and Mr. Moore, both hard-ass high school English teachers that my peers complained of as being mean and too strict. I sat toward the front of their classes and was tentative because of the rumors that I heard but instead I found them to be committed, passionate, intelligent, and caring deeply about literature. I remember keeping my admiration of them, my joy for their classes, hidden from my peers. Mrs. Dresser was a white woman from Berkeley (or maybe she was getting a graduate degree in Berkeley). She had punkish short, red hair and was a no- nonsense kind of person. She was my first teacher who seemed like a real feminist. And Mr. Moore, an elegant, middle-aged black man, always in a suit, with a deep voice and a face that wouldn’t dare smile. I remember viscerally how I felt in their classes. It would not be over-stating to say I soared (privately), knotting and unknotting the language of poems of Dickinson and Hughes, etc., the feeling of “getting something,” the import of the poem, sonically before semantically, was completely exciting to me, the feeling of almost being there but never really there, intellectually satisfied.

Kimberly Campanello : part one

Kimberly Campanello’s poetry books and pamphlets include Consent, Imagines, Strange Country (on the sheela-na-gig stone carvings), and Hymn to Kālī (her version of the Karpūrādi-stotra). In April 2019, zimZalla released MOTHERBABYHOME, a796-page poetry-object and reader’s edition book comprising conceptual and visual poetry on the St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. Also in April, above / ground press published her chapbook running commentary along the bottom of the tapestry. She is Programme Leader for Creative Writing and a member of the Poetry Centre in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

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

This depends on the poem/project. For my large-scale conceptual/visual poetry project MOTHERBABYHOME, I wrote in isolation but aired the poems regularly among audiences in Ireland and in the UK. These audiences varied quite a bit in terms of their familiarity with the subject matter, with the mode of writing (visual and conceptual), and with poetry readings in general. This variation really helped me ‘test’ the work, or at least know that I should keep going and write all 796 pages of the project. It also made releasing the whole thing and doing a durational performance of all of it feel much more familiar than it might have had I not worked on it for so long and shared work along the way. Currently, I’m sharing work on a regular basis with two poets based in Ireland – Dimitra Xidous and Annemarie Ní Churreáin.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : coda

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Poetry is still as intense as I have always imagined it to be. I am still in love with it.  

Juliette van der Molen : part one

Juliette van der Molen is a transatlantic writer and poet currently living in the Greater NYC area. She is an intersectional feminist and member of the LGBTQIA community. She is the poetry editor for Mookychick Magazine and a seasoned spoken word performer. Her books include: Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse Collection and Mother, May I?. Her work has also appeared in Burning House Press, Kissing Dynamite, Memoir Mixtapes, Collective Unrest and several other publications. Her next book, Anatomy of A Dress, will publish in December 2019 through The Hedgehog Poetry Press.

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

I always saw poetry as inaccessible. I was often confused by it or didn’t understand it. But, the more I write poetry the more in tune I feel with the language of poetry. Crafting my own poems has helped me dive deeper into metaphor and find a balance between something more narrative and lyrical. Contemporary poets are the bards of our times, seeking to open up perspectives to our current political and social climate in unique ways. I work hard to bring my poetry to the eyes of non-poets in the hope that they will see what I see and learn to enjoy poetry.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Susan Glickman : part one

Susan Glickman grew up in Montréal, but after many travels landed up in Toronto with a husband, two children, a dog, and an old house that always needs fixing. Formerly an academic, she now works as a freelance editor and is learning to paint. She is the author of seven books of poetry from Montreal’s Véhicule Press, most recently What We Carry (2019). She has also published four novels, three children’s books, and an award-winning work of literary criticism: The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape (1998). The children’s books and her novel The Tale-Teller (2012) have all been translated by Christiane Duchesne for Les Éditions du Boréal, the novel appearing as Les aventures étranges et surprenantes d’Esther Brandeau, moussaillon (2014).

Photo credit: Toan Klein.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was enchanted with poetry from the moment my parents began reading Mother Goose to me, and I started making up rhymes before I could read or write. I loved the sounds of words as much as I loved their meaning and I loved their rhythm as much as I loved their sounds. I don’t think we read much contemporary – or even modern -- poetry in high school, but I bought a copy of Leonard Cohen’s Selected Poems 1956–1968 at a school bookfair when I was sixteen, and my head exploded.
Then, in university, I had the great good fortune of studying with Denise Levertov, who became my mentor and my friend. Everything I understand about open form -- about writing to express the inner rhythms of thought and feeling, about the line break and the breath -- I owe to her, and to the practice that began with her. Living in Greece the next year, when I was nineteen, introduced me to modern Greek poetry and that also made me more interested in experimenting outside closed forms. I sometimes go back to those forms, however. I especially love the knotty logic of sonnets, because they help me tame big emotions.

james stotts : part three

has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

it never stands still.  the more it expands, the later i feel i’ve come to the party.  maybe too late.  i can’t admit to the confidence in the current state of poetry that is advertised by poetry critics every time they get a chance to survey what we’re doing nowadays.  i don’t feel like we’re on any right track.  i asked mark strand once, not long before he passed, about what it means to be a poet in america today.  he wasn’t afraid—he was confident—that he didn’t have real readers in real numbers anymore, that they barely exist.  i don’t know if it’s a case of anymore, but it was nevertheless discouraging.

i think of russia as a time capsule, where it’s possible to see an analogy to the slow decline in concern here—accelerated.  the collapse of the soviet union also ended most of the literary censorship, or at least pushed the boundaries enough that a lot of underground poets were allowed to come up for air, and that a whole century of verboten verse came to light without consequence, so that russians could openly recover their modern heritage.  of course, pussy riot is still pushing the envelope, and they have a literary vocabulary, but they aren’t poets.  anyway, this ‘democracy’ came with a huge dystrophy of esteem generally for poetry.  sergei gandlevsky, when asked if it was better or worse, after the fall of the soviet union now that he can publish his work in his own country, shrugged and said it was ‘по-другому.’ just that things were ‘different’ now.  the persecution was gone, but nobody cares.  you can see this delineated clearly between generations in russia.  but the older generation was never comfortable reading tsvetaeva and mandelstam.  they love mayakovsky and esenin, though.  that would be like us being allowed to learn frost, but being told that t.s. eliott and langston hughes and allen ginsberg were subpar and anti-institutional.  and ¾ of our poetry would be in an underground.

what i see now here wherever i look is a compartmentalized identity poetry.  every poet in his camp, using the poetry to check off the newest box.  a lot of energy being wasted.  american poets get a lot of nosebleeds because they don’t have enough iron in their diet, i think.

just one more comparison, though, because i think american poetry deserves pride of place.  russian speakers will swear that pasternak’s translations of shakespeare are superior, just due to the natural poetic capability of the russian language.  i don’t consider it arrogant to state that the original is the wellspring, and proof of english’s weedy bastard capacity, and that it has outbastardized, in a good way, the field.

Friday 9 August 2019

Ty J. Williams : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

In high school, I was invited to attend the Young Authors’ Conference at a satellite campus of Ohio University. There, I heard English professor Peter Desy (now retired) speak about poetry and share some of his work. That moment had a huge impact on how I understood poetry and how I wrote poetry. Desy gave the attendees of his session a packet of poetry, which included one of my all-time favorite poems, “My Father’s Picture on the Cover of a Buffalo Bison’s Hockey Program for 1934”. Since that transformative moment in 1987, the 90s introduced me to Jim Carroll, John Trudell and Def Poetry Jam, all of which expanded my understanding of what poetry was and could be. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the genius of my hometown, Columbus, Ohio. We have such fantastic, nationally known poets like, Rachel Wiley, Scott Woods, Maggie Smith, Ruth Awad, and Hanif Abdurraqib, to name only five. These folks and so many other poets in this city keep our scene humming; keep all of the poetry nights, workshops, and literary events happening continuously, year-round. I am a very small fish in this pond, but it is such a privilege to be able to talk to these folks and learn from them.

Thursday 8 August 2019

James Arthur : part two

How important is music to your poetry?

Very! When I first began writing I wanted to be a novelist, maybe because I wrongly believed that writing fiction would come more naturally to me than writing poetry, but after a few years I realized that what I really love are not characters and narrative, but the sound of language itself. Rhythmical speech has a hypnotic power, something that even young children experience when they encounter it in nursery rhymes, children’s books, and lullabies, and that same power acts on us when we hear a great poem read out loud. A few poems that I especially enjoy hearing are Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” Millay’s “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,” and Stevens’ “The Idea of Order at Key West.”

But it’s never just a matter of working each line up into maximum aural richness: the point is to make the poem’s aurality expressive, so that sound and semantic meaning operate in meaningful relationship to one another, sometimes drawing together, sometimes pulling apart.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I’m absolutely sick to death of reading and looking at it. Having said that I don’t think a poem is ever fully finished. Every time I look at my chapbook, The Woman With An Owl Tattoo, (published by Fly on the Wall press last May), I find something else,  I’d like to change. It might be a word, or a line break or an insertion of a comma, or full stop. That’s part of the fun of writing poetry. I love the tinkering with the words and lines and trying out different things with a poem to see what works best.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Beth Gordon : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Making sure that I continue to evolve. I think this is true of all artists. I practice my craft and I go through a phase where I get proficient at writing a certain kind of poem – whether it’s form or subject matter or both – and then I explore that “type” of poem for awhile. Then I get to a point where I’m tired of writing that type of poem and I also feel myself being lazy. That period of time when I push myself to improve my craft…for me, it feels like I’m lifting something very heavy. Pushing to the next level is difficult…then I’m there and writing feels “lighter” again. Until the next plateau.

Ellen Chang-Richardson : part three

What are you working on?

Building up my work and gaining publication.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Lauren Carter : part two

What are you working on?

2019 is a two-book year for me: my poetry collection Following Sea came out in February and my second novel, This Has Nothing To Do With You, comes out in September. So I’ve been really busy with that aspect of the life. Nevertheless, I feel most sane when I’m writing so I’ve been working on a novella-trying-to-be-a-novel and am continuing to work in fits and starts on a collection of poems currently titled Furrow that explore the destruction of the tall grass prairie and my brother's suicide.

Monday 5 August 2019

Tolu Oloruntoba : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem begins with the initial crystal of an idea often in the form of a snatch of phrase that comes to me and won’t let go, or I find an angle of view or metaphor I hadn’t considered before. I carry that around for a while and would usually set it down in my notes. Days, or sometimes, several weeks would usually pass before I realize what it was meant for, or what to pair it with. Frequently, these sharp crystals meld with or give an approach to my ongoing themes, the ones I always return to. Books very often prompt that awareness of intriguing notions that I get obsessed with. The collection I’m completing now, for instance, inspired by a single line in another collection I read this year.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I think music is inherent to not only my poetry, but poetry in general. Sound is one of the components that differentiates the genre. I fiddle with the meter, sometimes with rhyme, and I do a quick scansion at times to see if what I want to say is said in the way I want to say it. A poet without a good ear will usually produce tone-deaf poems. To say that scanning a poem for meter is a thing of the past is to say that poetry is a thing of the past. Or maybe I’m just old-fashioned and I just write old-fashioned poems.

Saturday 3 August 2019

james stotts : part two

how did you first engage with poetry?

the old velvet volumes of mother goose rhymes and fairy tales, which took up half a book shelf in the den, and then the tiny little best loved poems that i think used to be in every house, even if there wasn’t a single other book of real literature.  it’s heartening and ironic to think that in every family, the greatest poems were at hand, often right by the bible, for whenever they were needed.  the first poems i remember are hot cross buns, and the walrus and the carpenter.  but i think even at five or six i was obsessed with every kind of book.  there were five kids, and we all acquired it to some degree.  even though we didn’t have money.  my mother would never throw away a good book, and we spent every weekend with her at the library, carrying home stacks of books, mostly for her, which she devoured. one of her biggest shames was when she would get her card suspended, and we’d have to go to the main library and pay overdue and lost fees.

i had already decided what i meant to do with my life when i was eight.

i was twelve when i bought my first books.  my class was taken on a field trip to a strip mall around the corner where a book liquidation mart had popped up.  we each took five dollars.  i got last year’s best american poetry, david wagoner, kenneth patchen, and stevie smith, and some trash novel, all for a dollar each.  i still have them all, except the last one.  at that point, though, i already had a lot of favorite poets, only these ones were really mine.

Friday 2 August 2019

James Roome : coda

What am I reading at the moment?

Here’s an excuse to plug some excellent books I have been reading recently: Europoe, an anthology of contemporary European poetry in translation, compiled by SJ Fowler. Some surprising and challenging stuff in there. I’ve also been reading CD Wright’s book about beech trees; I think it’s from Copper Canyon Press. It’s stunning. Hard to describe, you should just buy it. I also started Leanne Shapton’s, Guest Book last night. Once again, a book that is doing something different that’s hard to describe; kind of a combination of an art project and short fiction, which aims itself at the uncanny and achieves it.

Ty J. Williams : 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 send out poems for publication, I publish some on my WordPress site and on Twitter. I also attend poetry workshops when I can, and share poems with friends and family. My favorite and the most impactful way (for me) of birthing my poems into the world is at my favorite open mic. I live in Columbus, OH, which is in some ways, one of the most generic, “everyman” Midwestern city you could imagine. But there is such a fantastic, vibrant arts scene and a wonderful poetry scene here (I boldly declare that it may house the best poetry community and scene in the state of Ohio). I regularly attend Writers’ Block Poetry Open Mic. WB has been running continuously for 20 years, every Wednesday at 8PM. I like to try different poems there and see how they sound coming out of my mouth, see how they land with an audience, see if my favorite lines get a reaction or crickets and talk to my fellow poets afterward. WB is my nuclear poetry family and bringing new poems there is a crucial part of my process.

Thursday 1 August 2019

James Arthur : part one

Canadian-American poet James Arthur is the author of The Suicide’s Son (Véhicule Press 2019) and Charms Against Lightning (Copper Canyon Press, 2012.) His poems have also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, and The London Review of Books. He has received the Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry Scholarship, a Hodder Fellowship, a Stegner Fellowship, a Discovery/The Nation Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship to Northern Ireland, and a Visiting Fellowship at Exeter College, Oxford. Arthur lives in Baltimore, where he teaches in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

Photo credit: Summer Greer

How does a poem begin?

My poems usually begin in a word or a phrase whose sound I like, but whose full significance becomes clear to me only as I write the poem. Occasionally I begin by wanting to express a particular theme or idea, but not often, and when I do, the process of making the poem usually involves letting go of that first idea so the poem can grow in directions I haven’t anticipated. That’s part of the pleasure of writing: being surprised by what emerges on the page.

Anne Walsh Donnelly : part one

Anne Walsh Donnelly has been published widely in various online and print journals. She was nominated for the Hennessy Irish Literary Award for emerging poetry and selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series in 2019. She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Woman With An Owl Tattoo, published by Fly on the Wall press. Her debut short story collection, Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife, will be published by Blue Nib in September.  To find out more about Anne and her work, go to:

What are you working on?

I’ve just finished reviewing and editing the proof copy of my debut short story collection, Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife, which will be published by Blue Nib in September. I am now concentrating my efforts on writing my first full collection of poetry; I have just completed a series of poems that may form the basis of this collection. I’m having great fun writing them as they engage with serious topics in a light-hearted way. I’m also experimenting and writing some personal essays.