Saturday 30 November 2019

Adeena Karasick : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

HA! My first book was called “The Empress Has No Closure” and my 2nd book had two front covers – so, closure is not something I’m fond of; ) All to say, even when i think a poem is finished; is published and bound in a collection, i still find myself re-working it, supplementing because the world keeps shifting; new ideas are always coming, the poem is alive, breathing ever-evolving. Often I will live-edit the already published piece in performance / infuse it with variant rhythms textures, sound clusters, puns.

Also sometimes lines that work in the US don’t translate as well in Canada, India, Italy or Prague; needs massaging. Or what works for a jazz poetry bar in NY might need tweaking for a giant outdoor festival. So, yes depending on venue, culture, ambience, i‘m constantly reworking even “finished” pieces. Particularly, this is true in the case of my recent book, Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) which features a series of faux Facebook updates – i continually think of new lines and now a whole new book is erupting from it. As i think i said in The Empress Has No Closure, “a finish is only a gloss”.

Friday 29 November 2019

Alexus Erin : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Growing up, I was classically trained as a singer. I spent a lot of time in choirs, so sonic resonance and polyphony are both concepts and tools I return to often. As a listener, I often oscillate between emo and rap; both genres use lyrics in ways that feel natural to me as a poet. Third-wave emo was incredibly intertextual, melancholic and tongue-in-cheek. American rap music has an amazing literary tradition, which is also deeply intertextual and political. I am a huge fan of Earl Sweatshirt’s craft. I think he is always leaning to rhythm in expansive and thoughtful ways. And eloquence? Unmatched.

Thursday 28 November 2019

A.W. French : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, immensely. I began writing poems that I actually wanted to share about three or four years ago, and I saw it then as this isolated practice where it was just me in my room writing stuff down. Some publications helped me to see that other people were writing too, but when I moved back to Vancouver from Ontario in 2018 I started to try to engage with the writing community here, and that’s blown my mind. Starting my podcast, Page Fright, has helped me meet some of the people I look up to in my writing, people I really do consider as literary heroes. The fun thing about contemporary lit is that the people behind books are out there, and they want to talk to you about their writing… that took me so long to figure out.

Now that I’m talking to my favourite writers semi-regularly, I view writing as way more connected than I could have imagined it. Writing is a somewhat competitive thing, but the community is so friendly, and everyone seems to know each other. I remember literally writing a whole (failed) chapbook manuscript in my room in Ontario, whereas now I need to get out and write in response to other writers regularly in order to create something I like. I want to continue to work my way into the literary community, but more importantly want to create spaces for people who haven’t entered that community yet, and to allow them a chance to have their works seen and voices heard.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

Emily Lu : part four

How does a poem begin?

With one image / idea /tension finding another unrelated one and trying to imagine the ways they might interact.

Alex Leslie : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Fistful of Flowers by Jake Skeets

Hymnswitch by Ali Blythe

I just ordered the Penguin anthology of prose poems that came out recently, and I am ready to geek out with it. I’m soooooooooo excited.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading of new books, as I’m reading a lot of collecteds/selecteds. Here’s some things from recent days: Reinaldo Arenas’s selected poems, Hart Crane’s collected poems, Orchid Tierney’s Ocean Plastic, Zach Ozma’s Black Dog Drinking from an Outdoor Pool, Edgar Garcia’s Skins of Columbus, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ selected poems, Federico Garcia Lorca’s collected poems, Ronaldo V Wilson’s Lucy 72, Adrienne Rich’s selected poems, Sor Juana’s selected poems, and some recent Carmen Gimenez Smith books.

Monday 25 November 2019

Cara Waterfall : part two

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

It allows me to tap into my emotion in the most abstract ways — and it can definitely be cathartic. I find a great deal of comfort in piecing words together in this way. Poetry is the closest I can get to achieving fullness of self-expression.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Síle Englert : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

My ideas around what poetry actually is, have undergone constant, sweeping change since I began to write. It’s been a sort of evolutionary process. When you’re very young, poetry is nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. Even into high school, you’re still learning that poetry is traditionally about rhyme and metre. There are rules to follow and there’s some comfort and familiarity in that.

As I read, learn, and develop my craft over time, my definition of poetry gets broader. I find a lot of joy in poets whose work breaks the rules in interesting ways, whether it’s a poem that might be indistinguishable from a very short story or one that is only about sound instead of meaning. I’ve become very interested in the places where poetry blends with other media (like visual art, animation, music), and in experimenting with form and what a poem can look like. In the most recent issue of PRISM International, I found a poem by Charity E. Yoro called “Our Lady of ‘Iolani,” which was written as a crossword puzzle. It was brilliant and beautiful.

As a poet, you study the rules, experiment with them, and then begin to break them in artful ways. Poetry has become a difficult creature for me to define and I think that leaves a lot of room to make incredible art.

Saturday 23 November 2019

Adeena Karasick : part three

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important because it asks us to navigate the world in new ways. I’m interested in a poetry that’s marked by irony and parody, puns, slips and ellipses, fractures and paradox; a poetry of surprise that asks questions vs providing answers; adopts a wild mashup of idioms, textures; draws from different registers and asks us to crawl inside and revel in its non-normative patterns of syntactic logic, its deliciously luxurious heterogeneity. A poetry that foreground its own labor presents new ways of communicating, helps us to celebrate that sense of otherness in our daily lives. Do i think poetry can heal the ills of society – no, but it sure can and shift reality re-shaping the ordinary into ever-expansive possibilities of meaning and being.

Friday 22 November 2019

Alexus Erin : part four

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

I have been an avid reader of Michael Dickman since I was a teenager. My English teacher gave me her copy of The End of the West on our way to Dodge Poetry Festival; I don’t think a week will pass without me rereading “We Did Not Make Ourselves”. “Valentine” by Lorna Dee Cervantes; I used to perform it on the poetry recitation circuit. Also, pretty much anything by Louise Gluck- in undergrad, I carried a copy of Averno in my backpack.  

Thursday 21 November 2019

A.W. French : part three

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

It’s usually Al Purdy, or at least it has been for a long time. I love Purdy’s writing, and it was one of the first things that drew me to poetry. His collection Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets was one of the first books of poetry I bought, if not the first. I like to return to that book because it reminds me why I started writing, and sometimes that can help get my mind up-and-running. Leonard Cohen is a writer I have a similar relationship to, since he was an early influence. Oddly enough, I started with Book of Longing, which is Cohen’s second-last book of poems. I bought a copy when I was in Bath, England writing a chapbook manuscript, and it’s one of my favourite books on my shelf.

Lately, though, I’ve been looking at Matthew Walsh’s book These are not the potatoes of my youth when I need something to give me inspiration. Walsh’s writing is weird, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. It addresses its subjects with such a delicate transience that I aspire to achieve in my work. It took me a long time to read Walsh’s book, because every poem I read seemed to beg me to reply to it with a crappy draft of my own. I got, and get, a lot out of Walsh’s writing, and am super thankful to them for their creative work, as well as to those who recommended it to me initially.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Emily Lu : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

One area I find difficult to write about in poetry is mental health / medicine. This became clearer to me after attending medical school. I have to think a little harder about how I represent these intersections and if I am doing so ethically, responsibly, in a way that isn’t reductionist or takes advantage of patients’ stories that I have encountered. What exactly is my goal here? Areas where I ought to be unconscious in the writing process I can no longer claim ignorance. For now, it seems an essay in this area would be a more constructive form than a poem. 

Alex Leslie : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Edmond Jabes, because he was able to write about the Holocaust truthfully, that is nonsensically and beautifully at the same time. Richard Siken, because Crush is just a queer masterpiece. Rita Wong’s poetry for eco justice. Once I saw Joy Harjo read at the Longhouse at UBC, years ago, right after a big death in my life, and it felt like a sacred space.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué : part four

What are you working on?

I’ve just recently finished my fourth collection, tentatively titled Madness. It’s a book about exile, mental health, attachment, cultural rejection, and forms for living. In many ways, it is a continuation of my work in Losing Miami to understand the conditions of cultural shift under threat of global ecological collapse. Since I’m working on sending that around, I’m on a bit of a poetry break, and I am focusing on my graduate study at the University of Chicago where I research the way gay people hone their identities through the media they consume.

Monday 18 November 2019

Cara Waterfall : part one

Ottawa-born and Costa Rica-based, Cara Waterfall’s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry, CV2, The Maynard, The Fiddlehead, SWWIM, Rust + Moth and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She won Room’s 2018 Short Forms contest and second place in Frontier Poetry’s 2018 Award for New Poets. She was recently selected as a finalist for the 2019 Coniston Prize. She has a postgraduate diploma in Poetry & Lyric Discourse from The Writer’s Studio at SFU, and a postgraduate diploma from the London School of Journalism.

How did you first engage with poetry? 

My father is a great lover of literature and introduced me to William Blake at an early age, specifically Tyger, Tyger. I also remember a dog-eared copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse. I particularly love the epigraph Stevenson wrote “To Alison Cunningham, From Her Boy” and these lines in particular: “For the long nights you lay awake /And watched for my unworthy sake:/For your most comfortable hand/ That led me through the uneven land”.

M.W. Jaeggle : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the words reach a state of equilibrium over their reference, when the words are at once faithful to the experience or emotion that prompted their arrangement and working to name an unestablished experience or emotion. Others might call this interplay of conflicting desires a contradiction or ambivalence, but I find the feeling I experience when language is torqued to this state better described by equilibrium. It goes without saying that I have no way of predicting or measuring this process. I just intuitively know when the words sing an experience new.

There’s another, perhaps more simple way of answering this question: I know a poem is finished when it has convinced me that it will survive anonymity, when the poem has made me feel sure it’ll speak to a reader without needing a disclaimer like you needed to be there.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Síle Englert : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Whenever I think about this, I’m reminded of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye: “How Do I Know When a Poem Is Finished?” She talks about a poem as a room in a house, where you have to close the door for awhile and walk away, leaving it alone to settle in and get comfortable with itself. And when you go back to the room, you might move a few things around, rearrange some furniture. That’s what writing poetry feels like, for me. I could keep re-stacking the books and fluffing the pillows indefinitely. I might ask a friend whether the lamp looks better here or there. But at some point, you do get a sense that the room looks pretty good the way it is and you can live in it fairly comfortably.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Adeena Karasick : part two

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is integral to my writing process. When writing I am hearing the cadences, rhythms, textures of language and so the work inevitably highlights its sonoricity, erupting at times into constellations of syntactic collages highlighting what Zukofsky might call “upper limit music”. In Italian the word sentire is both to hear and to feel, and this sense of musicality that runs deep into the subconscious, into the body -- reminds us how language is not just a communicative vehicle but physical, visceral, material and acoustic. Recently, I’ve enjoyed taking the work a step further, and performing with music -- my recent spoken word opera, Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padua Press, 2017 and the English edition by Gap Riot ress, 2018), is performed with live music, featuring an original Jewish-Punjabi klezmer-bhangra music score by Frank London, performed with hi on trumpet with Indian percussionist Deep Singh (on tabla and dohl) and Middle Eastern keyboard player Shai Bachar, and presently we’re working on the album which should be out  February, 2020 with Chant Records. Stay tuned!

Friday 15 November 2019

Alexus Erin : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, and Odes by the incomparable Sharon Olds.

Natalie Lim : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is incredibly important to my life in general, so it becomes important to my poetry by proxy. When I listen to songs, I like paying close attention to the lyrics and how they work, which is why I think I gravitate towards musicals so much. In well-crafted musical numbers, every lyric has a purpose. Every line works to move the plot along or reveal a secret or draw you deeper into the mind of a character. I try to bring that same attitude to the editing process, where I look closely at each line of a poem and question whether or not it needs to be there, whether or not it’s contributing to the grander narrative of the piece.

Thursday 14 November 2019

A.W. French : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finishing a poem is always tough for me. I have so many halves of poems in my notebooks, it’s crazy. I feel like my inspiration usually comes in the form of a line or two, and then I’m left to draw the rest out on my own. It’s that drawing-out process that has been tripping me up lately, but every now and then I can get into a rhythm and produce more than just a line or two that is really inspired by the experience I’m trying to capture in my writing. I think it’s also difficult for me to call any of my poems ‘finished’, since they come from my life and are always susceptible to change as a result of that origin. Maybe if I have a book out in the world some day, my poems will feel more concrete and unchangeable, but I can’t say that there’s much that I’ve published so far that I would consider “finished.”

I also struggle with cliché. I think a lot of first drafts of mine are filled with super cliché lines mostly because I try to write in the language I know and use, and those clichés express a multitude of things quite well. My work is the most fun to create, and I think is at its best, when its playing with common turns of phrase and subverting expectations. That’s a tough thing to achieve, and I don’t think my work does it as well as a lot of other writers, but I like to play with colloquial phrases in my titles especially. I’d like to work more on this, though, because working in my own vocabulary often results in the emergence of cliché.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Emily Lu : part two

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

When I’m writing a poem, I feel more degrees of freedom where I can manoeuvre creatively. Certainly there are no expectations of a beginning, middle, end. It can even get away with being illogical. It feels, at least, like a very efficient aesthetic and a lot more fun.

Alex Leslie : part seven

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Balancing love of form and resistance of misinterpreting the world as a poem.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué : part three

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

When I need focus, as in when the world and my feelings about the world are so jumbled I can barely get a sense of what to think anymore, I turn to poets in whom I find organization of experience: John Ashbery and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge especially. They are phenomenologists as poets. Ashbery’s “Three Poems” helped save me from the most debilitating patterns of thought I’ve ever had.

Monday 11 November 2019

M.W. Jaeggle : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Carl Phillips has taught me how a poem might be a scene of intimacy between poet and reader, poet and memory, and reader and imagination. His poems on the big poetic subjects—change, loss, longing—are shaped by a syntax that makes poetic revelation appear where you’d least expect. I’ve tried to include this form of surprise in my writing.

Charles Wright has shown me how the length of a line and its terminus can do more than complement the words expressed. I’ve learned from him that a line broken at a certain point may downplay the content of the line while echoing or prefiguring another line. Such a concern for the inner relations of a poem is something I’ve tried to apply to my writing. Wright’s playful manipulation of idiom—the sort of formulaic language that often flirts with banality and cliché—reassures me that great poetry involves renewal as much as creation.

I have learned from Jan Zwicky that there is a porous boundary between the sensuous, perceiving body and the intelligence, that immeasurable storehouse of information and knowledge. Before reading her work, I thought that there was a meaningful distinction between these forms of being in the world, that this distinction was better respected than played with in poetry. Zwicky has repeatedly shown me that poetry creates forms of truth out of perceptions likely overlooked by other fields of knowledge. I don’t know where a self-evident truth such as this would be more at home besides in poetry: “When we draw the blinds at dusk / is the moment we most want to open / them again.” She’s given me the confidence to pursue these truths and the forms of knowledge that would assist in their realization.

Sunday 10 November 2019

Síle Englert : part one

Síle Englert is a poet, fiction writer and multidisciplinary artist who dabbles in everything from knitting to tattoo design. She is the author of Threadbare, a chapbook from Baseline Press. Her short fiction won Second place in Freefall Magazine’s 2018 Fiction Contest and has been recognized in shortlists and longlists through Room Magazine and Prism International. Her poetry placed Second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and has been featured in journals including: The Fiddlehead, Room Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The /tƐmz/ Review and The Minola Review.

How did you first engage with poetry?

As a child, I loved Anne of Green Gables. I read the books and watched the movies over and over. My first memory of poetry is listening to Megan Follows as Anne reciting “The Lady of Shalott” while she walked in the woods. Words were Anne’s pleasure, her comfort and often her friends. I was enchanted by the expression in her voice, her reverence for the sounds and later, the way she brought joy to other people when she recited. I wanted to learn how to find beauty and solace in written words, like Anne did. That connection was so meaningful to me that I still go back to those same stories from time to time, as an adult, and they can reawaken those same emotions.

Albert Dumont : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with an experience, one of my own or that of someone else. It begins with an idea which goes from the heart to the mind and back to the heart again.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Syd Lazarus : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I'm currently reading The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand, Handwriting by Michael Ondaatje, There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker, and I Become a Delight to My Enemies by Sara Peters.

Adeena Karasick : part one

Adeena Karasick is a New York based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of ten books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) "a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick's signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “one long dithyramb of desire, a seven-veiled dance of seduction that celebrates the tangles, convolutions, and ecstacies of unbridled sexuality… demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Most recently is Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera co-created with Grammy award winning composer, Sir Frank London. She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking and 2018 winner of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” is established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University. 

What are you working on?

Celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the first commercial flight, and realizing that almost each of my 10 books of poetry features airplanes in some way, I am working on a borderblurring collage essay, called Ærotomania. Between leisure, labor, utility and entertainment, it exposes how the airplane as an erotic theater, a social text of secret motives, is structured like a language. Like the cubism of Picasso and Braque or Gertrude Stein’s “studies in description”, through “a system to pointing” calls attention to the process of recognizing an object and to the role of language in that process”. Its taking up all my time energy passion – every day and night I am obsessed; stealing into language and flying through planes of meaning and being; thinking about how Marshall McLuhan pronounced, “the airplane is an extension of the entire body” --

We are the letters travelling through space.
Seated letters speaking ourselves 
against the sky inverted through flying circuits 
coded ciphers secrets’ shaded silence 
of shuttered truance

We are the letters, the interletters between rows of text
awake / in the flux of discomfiture

The spoken sentence 
between destinations
of dissemblance
liaised in the labor of 
hours aisles eros sorrows aeros

parataxiing down the runway

in the heft of day --

Friday 8 November 2019

Alexus Erin : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Intuition/ asking the poem “what’s the deal here, anyway?” and letting it tell me.

Natalie Lim : part four

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

I have a couple poems I always come back to in different situations. I read Natalie Wee's "Least of All" and Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" when I am trying to hold myself more gently, Danusha Laméris' "Small Kindnesses" on days when I need to be convinced the world isn't all bad, and Ada Limón's "What I Didn't Know Before" when I want to be reminded what love looks like. But my heart poem is "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith—I know every word by memory, and will for the rest of my life.

Thursday 7 November 2019

A.W. French : part one

Andrew William (A.W.) French is a poet who was born and raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia. French holds a BA in English from Huron University College at Western University and is pursuing an MA in English at UBC. His poems and book reviews have recently appeared in Train: a poetry journal, The Lamp, The Hamilton Review of Books, PRISM International, and a number of other journals across North America and the UK. French grills his favourite emerging and established writers on Page Fright: A Literary Podcast.

How important is music to your poetry?

I came to poetry through hip-hop, which was a weird way for me to fall into the form. I’ve always been really into writing, but when I listened to the spoken-word that some of my favourite rappers had done, it got me into poetry. I spent a lot of time as a teenager trying to write bad spoken-word that never showed up anywhere because I wanted to emulate those rappers, and that slowly took me to writing page poems. From that experience I took a sense of rhythm I still consider integral to my work. I learned how to use words more creatively and started to develop a sense of humour in my writing as well from writing in that style. Humour is something I see as being important for my poems, especially given the heavier topics I tend to tackle with what I write.

I do write in a way that most people, I think, would consider independent of music, and I think that’s important to note here. Just because music brought me to poetry doesn’t mean my poems are pulsing with musicality. I like to think I can find some sort of colloquial musicality in the way that I write, but that’s a tough goal to achieve, and I don’t know if I’m actually anywhere near there yet… that’s for the reader to judge. I’d like to write more about music and the songs that have influenced me, and I frequently listen to instrumental music while I write, but I think it would be a bit of a stretch to call my work inherently ‘musical’.

Michael Ruby : part five

Why is poetry important?

There are a lot of reasons, probably an infinite number of reasons, why poetry is important. I’m going to let a few spill out of me. Poetry is an ancient verbal art form, in continuous use for thousands of years. Much of the earliest surviving writing is poetry, including many scriptures. Other verbal art forms, such as narrative, drama and philosophizing, often begin as poetry. Another major verbal art form, song lyrics, is never far from poetry.

Poetry is all of the poetry ever spoken or written, most lost forever, but much not lost, including lengthy poetic traditions in a number of languages. All of those poems to enjoy, be moved by, learn from! In this language alone, English, the poetic tradition is vast, spanning roughly 700 years, peaking in the late 1500s and 1600s. Even with its much shorter history, the American poetic tradition is already vast.

Poetry is memorable language, probably a feature of all good writing. Poetry is often compressed language, without unnecessary syllables, without anything unnecessary. Language that calls attention to itself—to the sounds, the words—not just the meaning. Poetry entrances the listener. Poetry slows down the reader. Poetry is language that is savored instead of consumed.

Like painting and other art forms, poetry is always the same, and poetry is always changing. People can paint the way they always have. Poets can write the way they always have. But in our time, the past 175 years or so, poetry has also become the verbal art form where we are most free with language. Poetry is where language is most free.

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Emily Lu : part one

Emily Lu was born in Nanjing. She earned her B.Sc. at the University of Toronto, and her M.D. at Queen’s University. Currently completing residency training in psychiatry, she lives in London, Ontario. Her chapbook Night Leaves Nothing New was published by Baseline Press.

Twitter @yyemilylu

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I was a bit dismissive of poetry those years studying pathobiology, which also coincided with the time I started to write poetry again in earnest. Reading and writing poetry has remained a great joy all this time. Reading in particular occupies a vital space where I live. 

Alex Leslie : part six

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

Compression. Instantaneous connections. Chant.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I try to not let a poem finish “at rest.” What I mean is, I don’t think that a poem should end when its constitutive parts come into some nice and satisfying relationship with each other, or when “conclusions” have been made. I am not trying to induce catharsis in readers; I’m not interested in “moving” readers. I’m interested, more than anything, in the moment where it feels the poem has put its hand into the world and dislodged something, but the something is unclear enough that there is a moment of panic. A poem of mine ends, I hope, with a feeling akin to the feeling that you forgot something, but are not sure what, or the feeling that you are being watched, but are not sure from where, or the feeling that you are anxious, but are not sure what there is to be anxious about. I know a poem is finished when I’ve torqued its parts into that kind of surprise.

Margo LaPierre : part five

How does a poem begin?

With the writing of it. I don’t have a plan for the poem before I start. There may be a sense of an empty room, and the goal is to activate the space—see what happens when I spill words and images. Perhaps they hook or mirror or float or make no sense at all. Most often I write on my laptop which is light and portable, and increasingly I jot poem babies on my Notes app in-between errands, or right before I fall asleep. It’s like my ego has dislodged by that point and I’m finally just a gentle being of erratic expression. In the morning I retrieve those fragments. Here’s one: “Fall in love with someone who has allergy to scoville and farts.” I have yet to find a use for it.

Monday 4 November 2019

Julia Bloch : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Very—and the poetry is important to the music. I come from a family of musicians—pianists, violinists, harpsichordists—so I’m lucky to feel at home in art and art making and especially music. I grew up surrounded by instruments and sheet music and going to performances, chamber music parties, rehearsals. I still practice when I can find the time on the upright piano I found on Craigslist, and I’ve collaborated with my father on a couple of libretti. When a composer with the Network for New Music in Philadelphia wrote a new piece for one of my poems, I was stunned by how much the structures of the music spoke to the structures of the language and how much the song could help the poem say in phrasing, modulation, tempo, all completely reimagined off the page.

M.W. Jaeggle : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

I often compose my poetry to some sort of rhythm, though seldom to anything consciously predetermined. The rhythm of a poem typically appears when the images begin to rub shoulders. Sometimes this friction feels like the experience of music.

I often listen to music while writing, though only when I know the music really well. I can focus on the writing when I know there’s familiar music between me and the world. When I don’t know the music, I shift my attention from the writing to the music. I like to think I know enough music to keep things from growing stale, but my partner would say otherwise.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Albert Dumont : part four

Why is poetry important?

My poetry is important because it allows people who read my poems, a glimpse of my soul.

Saturday 2 November 2019

Syd Lazarus : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Darcie Wilder, Tommy Pico, Billy Ray Belcourt, Sina Queyras, Dionne Brand, Porpentine, and Gwen Benaway are who come to mind. While she's not a poet, Helen Oyeyemi also inspires my work greatly.

However, on a personal level working with Liz Howard was a tremendous honor and did wonders for my voice and courage.

Friday 1 November 2019

Alexus Erin : part one

Alexus Erin is an American poet and performer, living in the UK. Her poetry has previously appeared in Potluck Magazine, The Melanin Collective, The Nervous Breakdown, The Audacity (, American Society of Young Poets, God Is in the TV, LEVELER, Silk + Smoke and a host of others. She was the 2018 Fellow of the Leopardi Writers Conference and a performer at Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2018). Her screenplay, American Lotus Project, won an award at Temple University’s Diamond Film Festival. Her chapbooks Two Birds, All Moon (2019) and St. John’s Wort (forthcoming- 2019) were published by Gap Riot Press and Animal Heart Press, respectively. Erin’s full-length collection, Cartoon Logic, Cartoon Violence is forthcoming (2020) from Cervena Barva Press.

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

I think structural aspects of lyrical poems have access to the expression of the embodied experience in really resonant ways. So many contemporary poets are also using enjambment, page-space and alinearity in order to interrogate memory and use self-reflection to confront the reader. I saw a wacky meme on the internet the other day that said, “I’m handing out flyers that say ‘confront yourself.’” I think poets that choose to forgo traditional formatting can get readers to do just that: put change to work, use discomfort as an invitation. I think fracturing says a lot. Negative space is your friend. Time is relative and then constructed, etc.

Natalie Lim : 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 usually start as a bullet point in the notes app on my phone—I write down all sorts of things I’ve noticed or pulled from conversations around me, images that won’t leave my head, the remnants of a dream I’ve just woken up from. These bullet points are the jumping-off point for me when I sit down to write.

I currently have a few close friends that I share my poetry with on a regular basis, although I would love to join a writer’s group at some point in the future!