Monday 30 September 2019

Valerie Witte : 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? 

Usually through performance. I participate in collaborative readings and events fairly often, usually in Portland or the Bay Area, where I used to live. I am also a founding member of the Bay Area Correspondence School, and we produce events periodically, which by definition have a collaborative component. I love incorporating different kinds of media into my performances. For example, I sometimes record audio of myself reading the poems and then play the audio as I read live, creating overlaps and dissonances to enhance the audience experience. I recently created a slide show of images to accompany the audio. It’s definitely a goal of mine to create an experience that is “not just a reading,” that will surprise and hopefully delight the audience, engaging them in ways they wouldn’t typically experience or expect at a poetry reading.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part four

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

Poetry can certainly be draining. Not necessarily the sitting still, writing part but the aftermath of looking for a place for a poem, looking for readers, all the peculiar nonsense that comes with it. When I’m tired of poetry I don’t look to poetry for help. Do not give the alcoholic more alcohol! I might focus on things like playing chess, reading novels, watching stupid youtube videos. I also like rollerblading, swimming, football, nature.

Tldr: Rumi

Saturday 28 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

When I found the poetry of Lang Leav and Nikita Gill and Lauren Eden, to name a few, I was blown away by the sense of empowerment some their poems emulated. I’d never come across poetry that succinct and powerful before and it made me want to write my own poetry in a similar vain. There are also a number of poets, whom I will not name, whose poetry I absolutely cannot stand because of how little I agree with their messages/form/etc. and their work instilled in me that if I want a poet to represent my voice more accurately, that poet would have to be me.

Friday 27 September 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I know when a poem is finished when my coach/mentor says it is! To be less flippant, though, it’s finished when I stop thinking about it. Though many of my poems get revised months and even years later, and there is always potential for revision, I find that if I’ve stopped thinking about the poem, it’s done.

I think it also depends what we mean by “done”. As I often tell my students, there’s always room for improvement or clarity. This was especially true when I was editing my last book: I revisited each poem—all of which were “done” many senses of the word!—and worked on fine-tuning language, finessing line breaks, etc. Some poems did wind up almost exactly the same, and others did have some re-working where lines were re-worked or stanzas moved, taken out, etc. However, I’m not sure this counts as “finishing” because the idea(s) of the poems were not adjusted. If we consider “done” as “no changes, ever” then my poems are done when I have no more control over them. If we consider “done” as something else; as the idea is clear and it’s just a matter of execution, then I think it might be a different story.

Thursday 26 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

When I try to say something worth breath, I struggle with doubt. And it’s not just a poetry thing, but it definitely comes out when I’m working with words. It’s like a shadow in the room and when my head gets loud, it overtakes the bookshelves, the pens run out of ink, I crumble up paper, and I sit seemingly defeated. And that happens more and less now that I have a chapbook out in the wild and I’m doing the wonderful, scary, exciting, terrifying thing that is sending out my full-length. But there’s an old song and one of the lines is this: My fears have worn me out. And I’m choosing more often than not to not get worn out by my fears because they are exhausting—and there is so much light to be found, and when there’s light, I feel like I can do just about anything.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part five

How does a poem begin?

As a feeling. I’ll see something that pisses me off or something that puzzles or inspires me and that feeling will follow me around until I’ve externalized it, propelled it onto the page and into plain sight.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m writing about Samiya Bashir’s Field Theories, from 2017. Two new books that left strong after-impressions are Paisley Rekdal’s Nightingale and Hai-Dang Phan’s Re-enactments.

Monday 23 September 2019

Valerie Witte : part two

How does a poem begin?

I don’t write poems so much as extended series, which generally develop into a full collection. I usually start by selecting one or two source materials. For example, for my book a game of correspondence, I used text from a gothic experimental novel called Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, an encyclopedia of ghosts and demons, and the film Blade Runner (the title of my book comes from the film, as the characters play a game of correspondence chess). I compile language and then fold in material from my own life—observations, dreams, experiences. I continually play with the form and move lines, phrases, words around—sculpting language to create a cohesive whole.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Louise Gluck, Dylan Thomas, Dominic Leonard, Lisa Jarnot, Hera Lindsey Bird, Luke Kennard, Ocean Vuong, Charles Baudelaire, Nick Makoha, John Ashbery’s French translations, H.D., A.K. Blakemore, Matthew Haigh, Rebecca Tamas, Raúl Zurita...

I’ve also been reading submissions (shameless plug!) for my new journal Anthropocene, which has introduced me to many poets I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Saturday 21 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part three

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

There’s a brutal intimacy in poetry that no other form offers, and in that way, every poetry book is a poet’s diary. Every poem is a diary entry. The allowed lack of structure is like strolling through a poet’s mind because thoughts themselves are oftentimes random and nonsensical until you arrange them in a way that make sense to you. Poetry allows us to put those thoughts onto paper as raw as they appear in our heads in order to share that visceral self with the rest of the world. The beauty of poetry is that simultaneously it’s polished and it’s not, it’s intentional and it’s exploratory, and that’s something that only poetry can truly achieve.

Friday 20 September 2019

Sarah A. Etlinger : part one

Sarah A. Etlinger holds a BA in English from Skidmore College, an MA in English from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition (English) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Scholarly interests include new media studies, first-year composition, feminist literature,  the Beatles, and popular culture. Currently, she is Associate professor of Composition and Literature at Rock Valley College where she teaches courses in composition, film, and literature.

A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of two books: Never One for Promises (Kelsay Books, 2018) and Little Human Things, forthcoming from Clare Songbirds. Other poems can be found in a variety of literary magazines, including The Amethyst Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Mookychick, The Penwood Review, The Magnolia Review, Brine (where she was September 2018’s featured Poet of the Month) and many others.

Interests include cooking, traveling, and learning to play the piano.

What are you working on?

Right now, I am working on poems that I plan to turn into a 3rd book, potentially titled Something Like Light. The poems in this group explore the relationship among language, meaning, and experience. As the title suggests, light, too, has a strong presence: light bends, changes, fades, illuminates, and obscures—all part of human experience.  In keeping with the rest of my work, hese poems also weave in history, mythology, and religion; this time, however, I’m particularly interested in how the natural world seems to anchor us at the same time it takes us to different planes and places--- as does light and spirituality.

Additionally, I’m toying with either a long poem or small chapbook about the prairie and its landscapes, with a working title of “Sea of Grass.” Though I live in Milwaukee, WI, I’m from New England, and so I’m fascinated by the flatness and beauty of the Midwest--not just the fields and the farms and the lakes—but the prairies, too. So, this is an ongoing project still taking shape, but I’m excited about the form it may take as I continue to work on it.

Finally, I am always working on revising individual poems, submitting to journals/contests, and trying to market my work.  Stay tuned for upcoming interviews, readings, and individual poems!

Thursday 19 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about poetry?

As mentioned earlier, I had a less than stellar first year of college, but I still learned a great deal about being a poet and human that year. That year I developed a bond with one of the professors—Hey Jamie D’Agostino!— and with him alongside, I was constantly surrounded by good reads. We read Mary Ruefle in his class and he introduced me to such dynamic poets as Lynda Hull and Jericho Brown outside of it. When I went to my community college, I made it a point to read every single book of poetry at their library. There I fell in love with Steve Orlen, Galway Kinnell, Cornelius Eady, among others. I also was introduced Yusef Komunyakaa during my stay. I must’ve borrowed Neon Vernacular at least a dozen times the first year I read his work. As a result, I still hold onto a line of his whenever I go to the page: Say something worth breath.  Currently, such luminaries as Chen Chen, Devin Kelly, Amorak Huey, Chelsea Dingman, Jay Besemer, Jessica Lynn Suchon, Lauren Milici, Kaveh Akbar, and Paige Lewis all keep me afloat and constantly challenge and reward the way I see and interact with poetry.  I could go on for days. Months. Years. If you let me.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part four

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry’s important to me because there are things I can’t say in any other way. My poetry is where I’m at my most honest, most authentic. Speaking my truth out loud has always been a tumultuous challenge for me, but in poetry I find my voice. I speak my truth with power, with conviction, without making myself small, without interruption or interference, without being silenced. I am coming to see my work as a sacred record of my resilience. It fills me up, connects me to something bigger, and helps me survive.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Staying weird. It’s so easy to fall into familiar patterns, but the best poems are strange and surprising.

Monday 16 September 2019

Valerie Witte : part one

Valerie Witte is the author of a game of correspondence (Black Radish Books, 2015) and the chapbooks The history of mining (g.e. collective/Poetry Flash, 2013), It’s been a long time since I’ve dreamt of someone (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and The grass is greener when the sun is yellow (The Operating System, 2019). In 2014 she began a collaboration with Chicago-based artist Jennifer Yorke, and their work appeared in exhibitions in Chicago and Berkeley. She has also participated in residencies at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences; La Porte Peinte Centre pour les Arts in Noyers, France; and Ragdale Foundation. She is a founding member of the Bay Area Correspondence School and, over the years, helped produce many beautiful books for Kelsey Street Press. Learn more at

Photo credit: Andrew Hedges.

What are you working on?

With San Francisco–based poet Sarah Rosenthal, I am developing a collection of essays that address the work of postmodern dancer-choreographers Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer. This is the second part of our project, the first being a newly released chapbook called The grass is greener when the sun is yellow. For the collection, each of us is writing five essays that discuss a personal memory of dance randomly paired with a theme we’ve encountered in the work of Rainer and Forti. Thus the essays involve sometimes discordant juxtapositions, which can be both challenging and generative. We are comfortable engaging with language and form in experimental ways, and I’ve enjoyed the process of creating work that operates on multiple levels simultaneously, where the connections among the dancers and my memories are often implied, rather than explicit, nuanced rather than straightforward. Over time I’ve given myself permission to infuse the essays with my poetics, and they now take the form of nontraditional formats, such as a footnoted photo essay, erasures, and a sort of scripted play. Focusing on dance is not something I ever expected to do because I have no dance training and have had a rather fraught relationship to the form. However, in both Rainer and Forti’s work, I’ve found natural connections and entry points for exploration. So it’s been a stimulating, surprising, and exciting process.

Sunday 15 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Reading Matthew Welton was eye opening for me. The first book of his I came across was ‘The Number Poems’ after that I bought the other collections. What I found so interesting were the constrictions, limitations, the tactical formulation, mathematics. I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into one of his poems.

Chelsey Minnis has also been a revelation for me. ‘You have to apply a blowtorch to a lollipop’ - I never knew!

Saturday 14 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

As an editor, I love to tweak my writing until I consider it absolutely perfect—and then even after that. For poetry specifically, I focus on a poem until I read it and sit back in awe as if I read a stranger’s work. I know a poem is done when the flow is easy and natural, the words are painting the exact picture I see in my head, and the message I’m conveying is clear and honest. The best kind of poems catch the reader off-guard; that is especially true when those words are your own.

Friday 13 September 2019

Stephen Page : part five

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

No groups at the moment. I attended workshops at Palomar College, Columbia University, Bennington College, Vermont Studio Center, and Cleveland State University.  For many years, I conducted workshops and poetry readings in Argentina. But, from those experiences, I found that almost all of my writings that I have had published were those that were never workshopped, or those that were not changed from advice from workshoppers. I learned to trust my own instincts.  Now, I just listen to my muse, write, rewrite, edit, polish, then submit the piece to a publisher.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part three

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

This answer could be really long, but I’ll try to keep it small-ish. These five books have been steady and reliable for quite some time now.

John Taylor Unmonstrous, YesYes Books, 2019

Alison C. Rollins Library of Small Catastrophes, Copper Canyon Press, 2019

Aaron Coleman Threat Come Close, Four Way Books, 2018

Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s What Runs Over, YesYes Books, 2017

Emma Bolden House Is An Enigma, Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2018

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I thought I was afraid of poetry ‘til I read Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life. I used to think poetry had to be abstract, painstaking puzzles to be solved. But that book showed me poetry can be fresh, accessible, contemporary, can be working-class and gritty, it can dive boldly into the feminist conflict raging in my head, it can be therapeutic and personal and political. Her following collection Where the words end and my body begins, a book of glosas, opened my eyes and ears to other queer poets writing along these lines.

Betsy Warland taught me the importance of scoring a poem, working with text, breath and empty space so that the piece reads accurately, rings true.

I always see new and beautiful possibilities of form through the genre-bending and blending work of Dawn, Warland, and others like Chelene Knight and Daphne Marlatt.

And works by Dina Del Bucchia, Daniel Zomparelli and Jennica Harper have shown me pop culture is a legitimate poetic subject, and that poetry can be great fun.

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part two

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

I’m more willing to contemplate wrenching subject matter through poems than novels or film; poetry’s brevity makes the pain of feeling with others easier to face. I really DO get the news from poems.

Monday 9 September 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part five

Why is poetry important? 

I find this question, or versions of it interesting (e.g. “Can Poetry Matter”). Americans definitely circle back and around this idea and worry that poetry is perhaps not important. It seems partially to do with the fact that poetry is not linked to capital or is in a very tenuous way, and so can poetry have value if it doesn’t have “value.” Poetry has personally resuscitated me, led me to interesting, supportive communities, and taught me how to mediate and actively explore my curiosities and concerns. I don’t take its role lightly. As a professor of poetry for over two decades I see its transformative properties leaving tracks all over my students. Whether it’s by examining the tightly balanced syntactical units of a Gwendolyn Brooks poems, her documentary eye archiving the working class neighborhoods of Chicago, or Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s look at migration, selfhood and speech in her hybrid and fused chorus of voices in Dictée, these poets grapple with language to express and archive important lived experiences and to question the world. I have seen students, many marginalized ones in particular, step into areas that felt inarticulable and taboo. It’s a wonder.

Poetry is one of the oldest art forms, what we turn to when we grieve, when we protest, and when we celebrate. Poetry in its boundlessness straddles various animal/alien worlds that only it can do.

Kimberly Campanello : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me a poem begins in a strange juxtaposition, a kind of tension that is revealed by a seemingly literal or real object or moment in relation to something else (another object or moment), a tension that creates a sense that things are not what they seem.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Charlie Baylis : part one

Charlie Baylis is from Nottingham, England. He is the editor of Anthropocene. His poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and once for the Forward Prize. His most recent publication is Drag City (Broken Sleep Books). He spends his spare time completely adrift of reality.

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 usually send stuff to magazines. I’m not a particularly social person and tend to be quite guarded about my poetry, so I find the idea of a writers group scary. I do look for feedback if I’m writing something longer, but it’s not a huge list of people, and I don’t necessarily follow their advice.

Juliette van der Molen : part five

What are you working on? 

I’m currently working on a few projects. I’m excited to tell the story of Dorothy Good in my upcoming collection: Confess. Dorothy was a 4 year old child arrested for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600’s along with her mother. It’s a challenge to tell a life story through poetry. I’m exploring how the past connects with contemporary life and ideas. There are so many things we can learn from history. Unfortunately, we don’t always do that because we don’t recognize the historical roots of problems that plague humanity.

Saturday 7 September 2019

A.H. Lewis : part one

A.H. Lewis is a writer and poet living in Pittsburgh, PA. After earning a BA in English from Allegheny College, she went on to pursue her passion for literature by creating her freelance editing business, Happily Edit After, and publishing her first book just shy her 27th birthday—the first, undoubtedly, of many. She is a fan of all things related to summer and nighttime, especially during the clearest of starry skies, and more often than not she is wearing all black, from her combat boots to her lipstick.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I took a poetry class in college and absolutely hated it. I was terrible at it and I felt like I didn’t learn anything; I didn’t feel that I improved or found my voice or created anything worth reading. Fast forward about five years and I went through things in my personal life that tested my strength and patience, and this is when I revisited poetry. I found that the poetic form was the only way I could purge myself of anger, sadness, grief—everything, really—in a way that left me better than when I started. Poetry, and only poetry, offered me the catharsis I desperately needed.

Susan Glickman : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The book that knocked me sideways recently is Louise Gluck’s Faithful and Virtuous Night, but for the past year, I’ve also been savouring Helen Dunmore’s last book, Inside the Wave, and several volumes by Jane Hirschfield and Alice Oswald. They all live on my night-table for emergency administration.

Friday 6 September 2019

Stephen Page : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

No.  I love it more than ever. All forms.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Stephen Furlong : part two

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

Without a doubt in my mind it’s “The Journey” by Mary Oliver. My first year of undergraduate studies wasn’t very good from an academically successful year; by the end of the year, I had a 1.63 GPA and was asked not to return in the fall. But, in the midst of an emotional day in March that year, I received a message from my mother that was simple and direct—“Thinking of you! Have a great day! Love you!” and attached in the message was Oliver’s “The Journey”. Even though I had been familiar with Oliver and one of my favorite anthologies of poetry I owned housed the poem, I had never read the poem until that afternoon. I sure went through a lot of tissues that day, but, I also found something I often find in poetry: healing. Mary Oliver is certainly one of those poets I always return to when I think my poetry world is going to hell—and somehow, some way, things don’t seem as dark. I miss her.

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Natasha Sanders-Kay : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Letting go of the urge to control everything, capture everything, include everything. When I’m writing a poem I need to remind myself it’s not an essay.

I’m also learning to write the difficult personal stuff I often don’t want to write or think about or share, which is sometimes the most compelling material. I’m finding it’s gut-wrenching to write through anxiety and fragmentation and fear, but so far it’s worth it so long as I protect myself and remember to breathe.

Worrying about offending people is always difficult, too. In life and in writing, I’m trying to break my tendency to explain, because in poems there’s little room for explanation. So I need to detach from my instinct to clutter the text with context.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Lesley Wheeler : part one

Lesley Wheeler’s forthcoming books are the poetry collection The State She’s In; her first novel, Unbecoming; and a suite of hybrid essays, Poetry’s Possible Worlds. Poetry editor of Shenandoah, she lives in Virginia.

Photo credit: Kevin Remington

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?
I’m more thoughtful than I used to be about the work a poem might do in the world. I so appreciate poems that feed hope and insight. I hope my writing does that, too, at least sometimes.

Lauren Carter : coda

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it is as good as I can make it at the time. When it is ready to step out the door and find a place in the world. This doesn't mean I won't lick my thumb and wipe dirt off its chin in the future but it does mean it is now its own thing.

Monday 2 September 2019

Jennifer Firestone : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

A good poem is not necessarily a “popular” poem. I studied with Myung Mi Kim and she would try to encourage us to push aside our egos away from the poem that was trying to wrangle free. It’s very hard to do this. We are influenced by aesthetics, politics, trends, our daily moods. The poem is misbehaving, subversive. It doesn’t entirely care if I don’t get what it’s saying. I can’t necessarily rush it or perform it. It’s not all about me. It has to radiate outward, linguistically, thematically and formally.

Kimberly Campanello : part four

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

I return to Rimbaud’s Une saison en enfer and Les Illuminations. The strangeness and unpredictability of these poems – not least because I read them in a second language – always gives me something to work with.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Juliette van der Molen : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

Maybe it’s never finished. Does it have to be finished? My poems are dynamic. They live and breathe and the words on the page are guidelines for how they are feeling in the moment. I don’t even feel a poem is finished upon publication. Publication is just a snapshot of the poem in one crystallized moment. Often after publication, I will perform a poem and it still morphs and changes slightly based on how it needs to come out or what the energy feels like in that moment. It’s always a close version of itself but just like people, they continue to evolve.