Tuesday 31 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part five

What are you working on?

Currently, a collection of poems engaging with my experience growing up in the Pentecostal church, plus witchcraft, werewolves, and being a gender weirdo.

Evelína Kolářová : part one

Evelína Kolářová is a young, emerging writer from the Czech Republic. She is an undergraduate student at the University of South Bohemia. She writes both in English and in Czech. Her poems have been previously published in literary magazines such as Really System, The Gambler Mag, Red Weather, Genre: Urban Arts or Sink Hollow. Her work has made the finalist list of the Poetry Matters Project's Literary Prize 2019.

Photo credit: Ondřej Cihlář

How does a poem begin?

Either as a lightning strike of inspiration upon some strong experience (which does not necessarily have to evoke the poem instantly) or during a review of writer’s notes as a result of the review and creation process. It is usually the former in my case, exceptionally the latter. A poem has to start somewhere – that somewhere is different for every poem and poet, be it an experience of trauma, catharsis evoked by other literary pieces, a strong sensual experience upon the discovery of the wonders of nature, or inspiration by another piece of literary work. Behind every poem, there is a need for the articulation of human experience. If it is powerful enough that it is written down, if the moment of somewhere is powerful enough, a poem can begin. It is upon the poet to decide whether they want to work with some sort of a structure behind the poem or whether they want to give it the chance to flow autonomously. It is usually that I do not impose any structure on my poems.

Monday 30 December 2019

Brian Henderson : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

OK so ever since I was a kid I’d been listening to my Dad play his classical records on his home-made hi-fi (as it was in those days) with its huge tower speaker thrust into the corner of our various living rooms over the years. I was so enraptured with that music’s ability to reach some deep core in me that I wanted to write music just like it. The only problem of course was I had no idea how to do that, let alone even play an instrument at that time. But I could write, so that’s how it started: poet free. As it turned out I did very little writing of any kind; poetry, though it has affinities with music, is of course not music – it’s so saddled with expectations of referenciality and representation -- but honestly without some of that it just can’t do the sorts of things music can emotionally. And then I read Dylan Thomas in Grade 11. And that blew the doors off.

WCW made an impact on me with the “No ideas but in things” mantra for sure. Here was an opportunity to side-step grand and sweeping statements about the way things are, for the things that actually are and for opening their expressivities. (Maybe an early incipience of what was to became Speculative Realism?)

Duino Elegies launched me into the possibilities of linguistically inventive meditation. Rilke changed my notion of what both thinking and prayer could be. And Wallace Stevens allowed baroque and mannered language to flourish convincingly inside some of that thinking. And then the huge echoic depth and silence of Paul Celan.

And then along came John Berryman and Sylvia Plath and poetry as the possibility of a writing life-path, where one writes oneself into life and possibly even death.

Also The Drunken Boat and “I is another” which totally made me re-think notions of the self, and how performative it might be, the multiplicities of an “I” and the absences, the voids. How can words witness such things? Better how can they be such things?

And then the Canadians excited me in that wonderful explosion in the 60’s and 70’s: Gwendolyn MacEwan particularly with her deeply lyrical myth psychology was a turning point, and Don McKay’s transformative ecopoetic revelations too.

And in the States: Louise Gluck, Mary Oliver, Galway Kinnell, Charles Wright.

And then Hugo Ball, the DADAs and Andre Breton, the Surrealists; Friederike Mayröcker especially, showed how truly electricly freeing language could be.

And the ones I haven’t mentioned: Robert Bly, Robert Hass, CD Wright, Brenda Hillman, Michael Ondaatje, Steve McCaffery, bp nichol, Christopher Dewdney, Anne Carson, Margaret Atwood, Tomas Tranströmer, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbury, Henri Michaux, all of whom have touched my practice in one way or another. It’s an impossible map.

Sunday 29 December 2019

Matthew Gwathmey : part three

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

Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Poems and Prose. After reading the whole thing cover to cover to cover to cover, I read just a little snippet here and there, each time I return. Highlights include: the stories/memoirs “In the Village” and “Efforts of Affection: A Memoir of Marianne Moore;” the poems “The Man-Moth,” “The Armadillo,” “Crusoe in England,” and “One Art;” a note she wrote for a talk in Rio: “Writing poetry is an unnatural act.”

Shelly Harder : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I can no longer recognize it as a thing with which I’ve had much to do, and I’m able to enter it, and the space of it is a place I’d like to be.

Saturday 28 December 2019

Kyla Jamieson : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m re-reading Sugarblood by Liz Bowen. It’s a gift of a book, a core text in my sick lit lineage that resonates in terms of both style and content. Bowen is a brilliant poet of the body, mind, and heart. Reading Sugarblood felt like finding secret staircases to all the towers of thought and feeling I had sensed but not yet accessed. (Clearly I am also re-reading Harry Potter.)

From Bowen’s poem “no small things”:

how can a woman tell
when her sex becomes hideous
is it in the shift
from caring
to needing care

She asks bold questions about care and gender and illness, and I love the ways her poems move.

Other books on my desk: I have to live by Aisha Sasha John, Renaissance Normcore by Adèle Barclay, Women in Public by Elaine Kahn, An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton. I had Eileen Myles’ newest book, Evolution, out of the library but had to return it.

I often wish I could read more, but I’m also aware of how much pressure people feel to always be reading/consuming/thinking/processing the external. There’s a taint of ableism in such expectations. I’ve had difficulty reading, have been unable to read for periods of time, and wrote a lot of my book when I couldn’t read. And I just want to say, it’s okay not to read. It really is.

Friday 27 December 2019

Victoria J Iacchetta : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

During my sophomore year of university I discovered that I’m heavily drawn to the Romantics. I can’t really explain why, but I feel an innate kinship with them. When I read romantic era works, especially poetry, I just get it; I feel it. I, and I think most people who know me well, would consider me to be a modern day romantic. My writing, and other art, certainly reflect this.

Thursday 26 December 2019

Amritpal Singh Arora : 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?

Although I started on my own, I have made a conscious effort to try to become part of the local community. It’s helpful that most writers are extremely welcoming and encouraging. I have made an effort to attend workshops, readings etc. I typically try out new material at open mics or will post snippets of poems on social media. 

Wednesday 25 December 2019

James Schwartz : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Vastly. When I began writing poetry in my early 20s my poems were basically juvenile Cavafy influenced. It took me time to find my voice since ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘Amish’ are two very different sections at a library! To want to be a provocative, political artist and come from a conservative background can be both a new and old battle. These days now in my 40s I have more distance and a more objective eye in terms of LGBTQ Amish issues today.

Alex Leslie : part thirteen

How does a poem begin?

Noticing. Discomfort. Strangeness.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m delighted to have been reading my friend Alessandra Naccarato’s debut book Re-Origin of Species, which continues to offer new surprises and meaning to me after many readings. I’ve also been reading Billy-Ray Belcourt’s new book NDN Coping Mechanisms, which is truly spectacular. Other recent, mind-bending favourites have been Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen, Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, and If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar.

Monday 23 December 2019

Brian Henderson : part two

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is evocative. I think the things, the extants themselves, of the world, of this earth, are evocations, evocations of themselves that also call us forth and sometimes within language such that poems can sometimes also be this evocation. Poetry is then a place of being and transformation; its calling opens gaps in language and the world. We know what Auden said about making nothing happen, but really it can actually open that void., and that void is one (languaged) place through which attention lives. It can decentre the self; it can put the fun back in the ontological funicular; it loves to disobey, and it loves to open its arms; it’s a place where non-knowledge happens. Shouldn’t the poem be a shelter for the life of the thing that is beyond our conceptualizing and false sense of mastery? Maybe the world is seriously in need of some of that medicine right now.

Sunday 22 December 2019

Matthew Gwathmey : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find everything difficult about writing. I often wonder why I do it. But I do. A little bit. Each day. I haven’t dared to take the Rilke challenge and ask myself in the deepest hour of the night, “must I write?” I worry what the answer may be. Also, as an unsatisfied tinkerer, editing requires a computer, a printer, paper, pen, and a dart board behind a closed door. First drafts generally look nothing like final products.

Shelly Harder : part one

Shelly Harder hails from rural Ontario. A first chapbook, remnants, came out with Baseline Press in 2018. Find more of their work at hardershelly.wordpress.com.

How does a poem begin?

Fragmentary impulse, feckless endeavour, erratic outpouring. Whichever, when it happens that I’ve stumbled upon a configuration of words – it could be a brief phrase – that makes a demand, and I can’t ignore it, the words require a place that could be for them a home, then a poem is, at the least, attempting to begin.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Kyla Jamieson : part three

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

To echo Estlin McPhee’s response to one of your questions, I love how poetry can be almost anything. I think/hope that we have fewer ideas about what poetry can/can’t be than we do about prose. I’m thankful that it has become less of a “boys’ club” than, say, screenwriting. I think that says something about the relative accessibility of poetry—I appreciate that it can require very little time and few resources. And in terms of what poetry can accomplish, I admire its ability to hold both complex ideas and uncertainty simultaneously.

Friday 20 December 2019

Victoria J Iacchetta : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Ha… I can honestly say that I can count on 1 finger how many times I truly felt I had finished a poem. One of my biggest weaknesses as an artist is that I’m never satisfied with my work, and therefore struggle with the concept of anything I do ever being ‘complete’. I think it takes a lot of internal growth and development for me to be able to take a poem on a complete journey.

My most complete poem, in my opinion, originated in October 2016 and wasn’t completed and submitted for publication until June 2019. It was then accepted by two magazines in August 2019, which felt amazing.

I know that seems like a long time to spend on a poem, especially when it was only 12 lines or so, but it was worth it when I was able to look at the poem and feel nothing but pure pride and satisfaction. There was a blanketing calm that I felt with it, I just knew it was ready.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Amritpal Singh Arora : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I would say I rarely truly feel a poem is finished. After writing a poem, I will often leave it for a while and return to it with fresh eyes. This process typically remains on loop. I continue to play with punctuation, the poem’s music or form. Once I have return to a poem a number of times and feel there are no further changes to make, I resolve to be content with the (un)finished poem. 

Wednesday 18 December 2019

James Schwartz : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I love reading indeginious voices and Hawaiian / Pacific poetry which is on the Amish forbidden reading list.

You should read Indigenous Literature from Micronesia by an amazing poet Craig Santos Perez.

Alex Leslie : part twelve

Why is poetry important?

Anything that inhibits the process of becoming a robot!

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find poetry—especially my own—to be very slippery. The words themselves don’t always summon the magic; sometimes I look at my work and find that meaning, music, or even image have retreated for the day and everything sounds flat. Other times the same words are full and alive. I don’t know why that happens but I find that difficult—knowing that sometimes I just have to wait, trusting that it will come back.

Monday 16 December 2019

Cara Waterfall : part five

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

I re-read Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith. She is masterful in the way she writes about Hurricane Katrina. She inhabits various personas — dogs, elderly patients at a nursing home, and the hurricane itself — and gives voice to the suffering of those left behind and those who survived. She is also gifted at a myriad of poetic forms, including the sestina and abecedarian, and her poetic language is second to none. But all her poetry books are worthy of inspiration.

Paisley Rekdal is another favourite. Imaginary Vessels is a book in which each poem is linked to inhabiting a particular vessel, whether it is a public persona (her Mae West sonnets are incredible) or a rumination on bubbles in a playground, where the narrator’s “thinnest edge / of dream still wavers, the one where the doctor tells me / I am carrying, but will not tell me what / or when.” The “Wartime Devotional” on portraits of skulls unearthed near the Colorado Mental Health Institute is particularly moving.

Brian Henderson : part one

Brian Henderson is a Governor General Award finalist (for Nerve Language, Pedlar Press 2007) and a finalist for the Chalmers Award for Sharawadji (Brick Books, 2011). He is the author of 12 books of poetry including The Alphamiricon, a deck of visual poem cards now online at Ubu: http://www.ubu.com/vp/Henderson.html and [OR] (Talonbooks, 2014). His latest is Unidentified Poetic Object from Brick (2019).

He is a co-editor of the Laurier Poetry Series, https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Series/L/Laurier-Poetry, and lives with his wife, Charlene Winger, in Grey Highlands, Ontario, Canada.

How does a poem begin?

Really, I have no idea. A poem can begin anywhere, and often seemingly out of nothing: I wake up in the middle of the night with a phrase; I’m out for a walk and there’s a rhythm that loops in a few words after a while; an image mirages as a response to something seen, but even the lines that emerge from seemingly nowhere I believe are at heart a responsiveness to something, if nothing more than the process of being. It’s kind of a spontaneous responsiveness if that’s possible, but just as often these little sparks and pools of light will arrive if I’m mulling something over, immersing myself in a memory, a theory, an event, but it’s almost that I want to say it begins with X. There’s the story of Descartes struggling with some problem which was giving him great grief and so he just finally gave up; but in a carriage on his way home from somewhere weeks later, the answer popped into his head. Researchers have been exploring “self-talk” – that continuous inner voice we’re always hearing that tells us who we think we are – annoying as that can sometimes be. They also though, in exploring this inner voice, have pointed to a condensed inner speech which is highly abbreviated and often even ungrammatical and perhaps even wordless, an inner hearing, a voice not our own at the tip of the unconscious. Hmm. Were poets their subjects in these explorations? Anyway, the poem sometime begins, and if it does, it comes as a gift, and the poem itself (if it happens), only after --Cohen called it ashes -- and only if we’re lucky with further gifts engendered by the first; then there’s the writing, with luck, floating flying delving to maybe dream in words.

Sunday 15 December 2019

Matthew Gwathmey : part one

Matthew Gwathmey was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. He became a Canadian citizen in 2013 and lives with his wife and children in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he is a PhD student at UNB. 

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I figured out that my first name could be found in my last name (gWATHMEy), I began a lifelong obsession with words and wordplay. Naturally, this led to poetry, particularly after discovering e e cummings. It was round about early high school when I first started writing my own poems. It was round about third-year university when I started getting serious about poetry. Only took me fifteen years to gather enough poems for a book.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Kyla Jamieson : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Time and intuition. I tend to write quite quickly when I am writing, and by the time I reach the end of a poem it’s pretty close to its final form. Letting some time pass after finishing a draft gives me perspective and can reveal the possibility of evolution or recalibration, or bring certainty that the thing is done.

The passage of time also carries me away from the state in which a particular poem was created. I become someone new, and the poem remains the domain of the person I was, and there’s seldom anything I can do, or want to do, to it then. But time can also move in unlikely ways and shapes, in spirals or circles, and bring me back to a space or state of mind/being—for example, after finishing my book I went back and wrote a few new poems for the first section, which is mostly about gendered violence and trauma. In this case it “helped” that the patriarchy and white fragility never stop with their bullshit. It’s easy to follow their trails back to the triggered state I spent most of my twenties in, and write from that place, though it’s not a pleasant one.

Friday 13 December 2019

Victoria J Iacchetta : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Growing up I had always gravitated towards writing, but it was later in life that I learned how to structure it in different ways. I have a BA in English and History, so I studied a lot of 17th-19th century British and Irish literature.

When I was younger, I had an image of poetry being this unattainable, abstract thing that you either understand or you don’t. It terrified me, and I certainly never thought I’d be where I am with it today. After studying poetry for several years, I sit here now with many published works of my own, and I find it a struggle to disagree with the fears and interpretations formed by my younger self.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Amritpal Singh Arora : part one

Amritpal Singh Arora is a poet and writer of medical nonfiction, working on his first poetry collection. He is a family physician in Burnaby, British Columbia. His work has previously appeared in the Canadian Family Physician and Train: a poetry journal blog.

Photo credit - Pardeep Singh Photography

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on my first collection of poetry. The poems in this collection deal with the intersection of themes of grief, domestic violence, medicine and navigating the world as a racialized person. I’m hoping to begin querying within the next year.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

James Schwartz : part one

James Schwartz is a poet, writer, slam performer and author of 5 poetry collections including The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America.

http://literaryparty.blogspot.com  Twitter / IG: @queeraspoetry

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Growing up Amish and gay meant I had literally no books or poets to identify with at the public library or school and still do not. But there were male writers that were vital to my literary development: Arthur Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. Today’s poets as well, look at the groundbreaking, amazing work done by Ocean Vuong, Sam Sax, Kaveh Akbar, Buddy Wakefield. I loved Eugene Gloria’s Sightseer in This Killing City and Tommy Pico’s poetry collections. Not simply gay poetry but interesctioning with other closed communities and cultures.

Alex Leslie : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry?

I’m constantly listening to music. I grew up playing music, in so many bands and orchestras, and abruptly stopped in my late teens, but that programming is deep inside me, of pacing, temporal structure, and rhythm. I took music composition classes as a kid and I remember learning about time signatures and such, and feeling that it was like learning a secret code. I used to try to figure out the time signature that different people talked according to. Most people speak in three-four time, by the way. If someone’s talking in 4/4 time, run!

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

What I’m really familiar with is the intangible sense that a poem is not yet finished and has instead reached a standstill. But usually I try to ignore that little voice of certainty and I say the poem is done when I want it to be done—when often the poem is still percolating or changing form (and it might need to do that for years to come, which is just very slow). So when that sense shifts and solidifies into a different feeling, then I know a poem is finished. I’ve only written a couple of poems that found their final forms quickly; I am mostly slow.

Monday 9 December 2019

Cara Waterfall : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

I adore The Sleep of Reason by Jenny George. She has this innate ability to write candidly and cleanly (without embellishment), but each line is layered and thought-provoking, and to be honest, deeply unsettling. Her poems stuck with me long after I read them. (The Sleeping Pig will change the way you see pigs forever!)

Oculus” by Sally Wen Mao is a voyage into new ways of seeing and being seen, particularly in the age of social media and too much information. It’s so creative on so many levels, not only with regard to format, but also the many perspectives that come into play.

Late Wife” by Claudia Emerson, where she addresses her first husband, her second husband and the late wife of her second husband, is extremely poignant. The language is exquisite and she expresses her pain in new and evocative ways. This book becomes even more moving when you consider that Emerson succumbed to cancer as the “late wife” did.

Say Something Back” by Denise Riley is a meditation on grief. After her son’s sudden death, she writes not necessarily to make sense of it, but to have an outlet. The book comes at you from all angles in all formats. Her grief is so palpable and there is nothing linear in how she experiences it.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Síle Englert : 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?

Most of my writing process is quite solitary. My work begins with a lot of time spent alone in quiet rooms and in my own head, which can be isolating. I think it’s incredibly important for writers to connect with other writers and artists, both for their own well-being and the benefit to their work. Sometimes, the seed of a poem comes from conversation with someone else. For example, one of my recent pieces grew out of discussions with two other poets about being vulnerable in your writing and how it feels to put intimate pieces of yourself out into the world for other people to read.

I am lucky enough to have an incredible group of poets with whom I regularly workshop my writing. That’s usually the next step before I try to publish a piece. I’m always learning from them and my work would not be in the in the shape it’s in without their enthusiasm and expertise. They support me, challenge me and inspire me. Another aspect of the writer’s group that I really enjoy is the experience of other people’s process, the privilege of reading what they’re working on and seeing it in a more raw form.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Kyla Jamieson : part one

Kyla Jamieson is a poet and editor who lives and relies on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Her work placed third in the 2018 Metatron Prize for Rising Authors and was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Is Dead, Room Magazine, The Vault, GUTS, Peach Mag, The Maynard, Plenitude, The Account, and others. She is the author of Kind of Animal, a poetry chapbook about the aftermath of a disabling concussion. Body Count, her début collection of poems, is forthcoming with Nightwood Editions in Spring 2020. Find her on instagram as @airymeantime or on a rock next to a river.

Photo credit: Jeremy Andruschak

What are you working on?

I’m working through my editor’s notes on my first full-length collection of poems, Body Count, which is forthcoming with Nightwood Editions in Spring 2020. I spent years writing and editing the book, and feel like these final steps “should” be easy in comparison, but they’re not.

I’ve been feeling the inertia and anxiety of disability-amplified financial precarity (being sick & broke) more intensely than usual over the past four months, and it’s possible that everything is feeling more difficult than it otherwise would. Or maybe self-doubt is a normal part of the process? I’m trying to think of doubt the way Ocean Vuong described it in an instagram story: “it means u respect what ur trying to achieve.”

Adeena Karasick : part five

How did you first engage with poetry?

From a very young age i was writing. i didn’t really know what poetry was but i was always consumed with the physicality and materiality of letters and saw them as sparks of light, vessels of fiery potential. i loved the way you could make sounds through the juxtaposition of otherness, enabling one to say the unsayable, elevate the mundane, mixing, combing, spinning, twisting reference, syntax, idioms --- providing different avenues of connection…And, though they often get a bad rap, celebrating “the pun” as the highest art form; inhabiting what Freud might call a “psychic economy”, opening up the possibilities for infinite signification. As a young girl growing up in Vancouver, Canada, when everyone else was trading hockey cards, i collected these:

So, i think it’s safe to say that THIS was my first engagement with poetry, and to this informs a sense of parodic commentary / satire that marks so much of what i do.

Friday 6 December 2019

Victoria J Iacchetta : part one

Victoria J Iacchetta is a Puerto-Rican/Italian-American woman, and very much resonates with the role that her ancestral lineage has played in the development of her complex psyche. In 2015, she received a dual Bachelors degree in English and History from The University at Buffalo, and has since found the emotional stresses of working in “corporate America” to heavily influence her artistic direction. Victoria is currently living in London, England, and is working towards a Masters degree in Strategic Marketing. Her first chapbook, The Cubicle, will be published in Season 4 of Gap Riot Press, and prior works have been published in The Gravity of the Thing, Vamp Cat Mag, Ghost City Press, Bottlecap Press, and Peach Mag.

Photo credit: Steve Deisig Photography, Buffalo, NY

What are you working on?

I’m never really working on anything in particular. My poetry is more or less a result of intense bouts of emotions that come and go as they please. I find it hard to just sit myself down and write without any sort of organic need to do so.

For some reason, there are very few environments/places that really foster productivity with my poetry; in the past, most of the poems I’ve written were when I felt trapped and confined (for example, times when I had a particular obligation to uphold, and would do anything to avoid or postpone doing so).

Thursday 5 December 2019

A.W. French : part five

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

Most of what I appreciate about poetry is its depth-in-brevity, the sense in which a poem can communicate so much in such a short space. That being said, I love a good long poem as well. Poetry is also, at least in a contemporary sense, not necessarily bound by the rules of language. When somebody writes prose, they are writing in the same way that prose has been written before – one word after the other, all in a line, so on and so forth… but when I write a poem, I can break all of that if I want to. There’s a space for those fractures of form and there’s a space for more conventional poems, depending on what you want to do. I guess the various options you have as a poet just excites me, and I want to keep trying new things.

I also feel poetry to be more meditative than other forms for some reason. There’s something about it that lets me dwell on things in a healthy way, and that’s just helpful for me as a person, regardless of the quality of what I produce. I’ve written myself through a lot of difficult times in my life, and I’m sure there will be more to come. I can’t imagine doing the writing that I have about the tougher subjects I’ve faced in any other form, for me it has had to be poems. I love writing poetry, and as much as I’m sure I’ll try other forms down the road, this will always be home.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Emily Lu : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Something I’ve been doing recently is writing out a song’s lyrics in its entirety. I go through this process often with a Mandarin pop song, drawn by its structures of meaning. I also like the linguistic distance; it is my first language and I need to look up a lot of words to figure out the song’s whole form. The extra work to find meaning that is required (which is unconscious for me in English) forces me to slow down and pay attention.

Alex Leslie : part ten

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

Yehuda Amichai’s Psalm. Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Edmond Jabes’s ‘Book of’ series.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Estlin McPhee : part one

Estlin McPhee is a writer, magic-maker, and collective organizer whose first chapbook of poems, Shapeshifters, was published by Rahila’s Ghost Press in 2018. For five years, they co-curated REVERB: A Queer Reading Series with Leah Horlick. Estlin's writing has appeared across North America and can be found online at emcphee.com.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I didn’t like poetry as a young person (too boring, too slow!) but was interested in stories and studied creative writing in high school. We had a unit on poetry and my writing teacher—having never instructed us on what a poem was or shown us examples—told us to write a poem by the end of the block. She refused to answer any of our questions about where to start, how a poem should look, etc. I felt so lost at first, sitting there watching the clock tick and trying to come up with a poem, when I didn’t even know what a poem was. Of course then I realized it could be anything, and what a gift that was.

Monday 2 December 2019

Cara Waterfall : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

I need silence to write creatively, but carving out quiet time can be difficult. I work part-time and I have three children under six years old so I often end up editing poems on my iPhone after they are asleep. Any lulls in my writing can be attributed to the encroachment of “real life” on my creative life (which I’m sure other poets experience as well.) That said, because poetry is my only creative outlet, I find ways to make time for it, even if it is only in increments. Those small moments of writing inspire me to continue.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Síle Englert : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Lately, I’ve been fixated on a lot of brave, difficult and dazzling poetry from women. Some of my recent favourites are What to Wear When Surviving a Lion Attack by Paola Ferrante, Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang, Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin and Souvankham Thammavongsa’s Cluster.

One of the reasons I love poetry as an art form so much is that it holds space for infinite voices and experiences. Some of the poems in these books draw me in to familiar places but approach them in unusual ways. Others are far outside my own experience, but I have the privilege of sitting with them for awhile and listening. And then there’s the pure delight of their art, how each of these women puts words together on the page.