Saturday 29 February 2020

Hilary Sideris : part three

How has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

In my twenties I was thrilled to discover Bill Knott, who sometimes wrote in rhyme and meter, always in surprising ways. He also used some confessional elements, lamenting, often comically, his personal plight, as well as grim facts of history. His poems are both hilarious and disturbing. I didn’t know poets could do that. In his poem about Ezra Pound, “Penny Wise,” he wrote:

well alright
I grant you
he was a fascist
ahem antisemitism the
er war and wall
I’m not defending them
but at least
you’ve got to admit
at least he
made the quatrains run on time

Knott spoke in a comedic voice about history’s traumas. He was idiosyncratic, both formal and informal, an oddball (I speak of the poems, having never met the man.) Later, I discovered D. Nurkse, Charles Simic, and the comedic female voices of Terri Ford, Jennifer Knox, and Sarah Sarai.

Terese Mason Pierre : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult part about writing poetry, for me, is when I’m unable to linguistically express an idea in my head that’s incoherently shaped. I’ll try many ways—writing short lines, writing stream-of-consciousness style—but not everything works. Since I like to work in order, if I’m stuck at this point, the poem doesn’t continue, the first draft doesn’t end, and I’m forced to stop and do something else. Sometimes, I might not finish the poem, or have to rewrite it at a later date. It’s very frustrating.

Friday 28 February 2020

Emily Coppella : 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 poetry process is a lot different from my prose process. A lot of my fictional prose is edited in whichever fiction workshop I’m taking, or through a group of close writer friends that I have. We message each other to ask for advice and occasionally meet up to chat about our work among other things. On the other hand, I don’t seem to share my poetry as often. It’s not so much an issue of insecurity as an issue of intimacy. I’m not afraid to share my work, it’s just that many of my poems seem so intimate that I like to be with them by myself for a while, maybe for too long.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Tyler Pufpaff : part one

Tyler Pufpaff: Poetry Editor at Variant Literature. English & Business student at UNCG. Lover of black coffee and the Godfather movies. Previous publications have appeared or are forthcoming in Torrid Literature Journal, Coraddi, and Poetry Diversified 2019: An Anthology of Human Experience.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was taking a creative writing class in high school. Naturally we broached the subject of poetry – most of us dreading the assignments to come. My poems scored poorly but my friend, well, she was gifted. The competitive side of me came out, playfully, and I kept writing desiring to score better than her. I never did. A year later, far removed from home in my grandparent’s guest bedroom, I would write. I would stay up all night drinking whatever bottles my coworkers would buy for me (underaged) and I would just feel. Had I not had the introduction a year prior, I can’t even imagine what kind of misery I’d still be in. This is when it started. I haven’t stopped since.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

D.A. Lockhart : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’ve been blessed to have met and worked with a good number of highly accomplished poets from both my graduate school days and my professional life. Campbell McGrath provided some of the absolute best guidance with some of my early poetic work. He pointed me through the notion of the lyric consciousness of a poem and how the moment within the poem must live and breathe. Maura Stanton and Catherine Bowman had massive influence over me as a young poet. Poets that I’ve met only through their work have as been absolutely crucial to sense of poetry include Gerald Vizenor, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Natalie Diaz, and Leslie Marmon Silko.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Michael Maul : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

For me, poems finish somewhere in the middle ground somewhere between my own preferences and the poem’s self-interests. We both get a vote. If I force things or become a bully, I can wreck a poem. But you can’t rely on the poem’s voice (inspiration?) to properly complete itself. I believe it is the job of poems to contribute Truth to its writer. And it is the poet’s job to keep truth healthy while fabricating a fitting vehicle for it to travel in.

Of course without close attention, these interests can inadvertently work at cross-purposes with each other. Which is painful.

Monday 24 February 2020

Diana Fitzgerald Bryden : part one

Diana Fitzgerald Bryden is the author of two collections of poetry, Learning Russian (Mansfield Press) and Clinic Day (Brick Books). Her novel, No Place Strange was shortlisted for the First Novel award and longlisted for the Impac/Dublin. She has published numerous poems, essays and short stories in journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S., including, most recently, The Malahat Review and Praire Fire.  A collection of short stories, Sorry Darling is close to completion. Diana lives in Toronto, where she arrived as a teenager from London, England.

What are you working on?

A collection of short stories, with the working title Sorry Darling.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Sarah de Leeuw : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

In the last two months I’ve been utterly transfixed by Kaie Kellough’s Magnetic Equator. I’m also reading The Grand River Watershed: A Folk Ecology by Karen Houle and TREATY # by Armand Garnet Ruffo.

IAN MARTIN : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t. My approach to writing is very iterative. Everything just sits on my computer and I come back to it frequently to make little changes. In theory a poem is done when it’s been published, but I’ll still probably revise it after the fact for when I do readings, or if I’m republishing it in some form. Poetry is an imperfect form of communication (like everything) so I see revision as a normal part of the process. I will always keep trying to get every poem to be perfect, to perfectly communicate what I’m trying to say. When I say it perfectly, I will be done. I will win poetry forever.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Hilary Sideris : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

I took my first poetry workshop as a student at Indiana University in the 80s. Those were the days of the Confessionalists and Deep Imagists – Sylvia Plath and James Wright are two of the poets I first loved. Both poets inspired imitators who responded to the pathos and brilliant imagery of their work, but weren’t always as technically gifted—or interested in craft. Without my knowing it, in a sense, the strong formal music in Plath and Wright’s poems attracted me. By which I mean, they used form so well that it didn’t feel like form.

Terese Mason Pierre : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I know when a first draft of a poem is finished when I run out of creative steam. I start with a bright idea, and a momentum that carries me forward until it can’t anymore. That first draft can take up to thirty minutes. I set that draft aside for a few days, then return to it to edit it some more. The poem is done, completely, when I’ve manipulated it all I wanted, and I can’t see any other way to make it clearer.

Friday 21 February 2020

Emily Coppella : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it doesn’t feel like it only belongs to me anymore. Getting to that point is hard to define. Sometimes I reach that place, then return to that “completed” piece months or even years later, only to change it again. Maybe I’ve come to the conclusion that when I think my poem is finished, it’s really just “complete…for now.”

Thursday 20 February 2020

emilie kneifel : coda

Closing Statement

i want to be your friend. everyone wants to be your friend. you are cool. you are the coolest.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

D.A. Lockhart : part three

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

It’s honesty. Fiction and prose essays are much more contrived forms of expression. There is a lot more balancing in those structures of writing that require the writer to wrap truth in such a manner as to fit within its constraints. Those same constraints weaken the experiential aspect of the poem as felt by the reader. A poem is an event and very few types of writing outside this form can accomplish that same sort of thing.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Michael Maul : part one

Michael Maul resides in Bradenton, Florida, living near Sarasota Bay. His poems have previously appeared in numerous literary publications and anthologies in the U.S. as well as in Ireland, Scotland, and Australia.

He is also a past winner of the Mercantile Library Prize for Fiction, for a short story set in Siesta Key, and his work was selected for inclusion in Intro 4, an anthology of new voices published by The University of Virginia Press.

Maul is a graduate of the Ohio University creative writing program, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He later held faculty and administrative positions at Ohio University (Athens, Ohio), The Columbus College of Art and Design (Columbus, Ohio), and Saint Louis University (St. Louis, Missouri.

He is the author of Birds Who Eat French Fries (2019).

What are you working on?

Last year I published two books in twelve months. It was gratifying but required attending to a lot of moving pieces. So now I’m back to just trying to write good poems,  then seeking good homes for them in literary magazines and journals pretty much anywhere in the world. That is space where I am very comfortable, and am enjoying being back inside.

Chris Banks : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

The first really important poet to me was the Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen whose lyric gifts were extraordinary. I remember taking a record out from the University of Guelph library in 1989 and listening to her read poems after she had died. It was a revelation. Next, I would say Patrick Lane and Philip Levine were touchstones for my early writing. Later came the poets Larry Levis, Dave Smith, Mark Strand, Philip Schultz, and Hayden Carruth. The poets I have been reading recently with great interest would be Kim Addonizio, Jack Gilbert, Bob Hicok, Dean Young and Dobby Gibson.

Monday 17 February 2020

katie o’brien : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

oh, gosh. I remember in high school being absolutely mesmerised by e.e. cummings’ playful use of punctuation – I would say his work piqued my interest in poetry. recently, I picked up bill bissett’s breth /th treez uv lunaria: selektid rare n nu pomes n drawings and was just as inspired as I was when I first encountered derek beaulieu’s work. Joshua Whitehead’s re-membering of queer Indigeneity in full metal indigiqueer is stunning and mind-opening, and Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white introduced me to political, anti-racist work. rob mclennan and Mathilda Cullen have changed the way I think about publishing. I am continually inspired by friends like Amy LeBlanc, Kyle Flemmer, Leslie Ahenda, jaye simpson, Ren Pike, and so many more – I think every time I encounter new work in this community, my understanding of writing is expanded.

Priscilla Green : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important for all the reasons all art is important. It’s creativity and it’s freedom; it colours the world and makes our meaningless existence worthwhile.

Sunday 16 February 2020

Sarah de Leeuw : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t.

IAN MARTIN : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I think I used to see poetry as a solitary pursuit, as romantic, as depressing, as all-encompassing. Now I just think of it as something nice that I like to do and share. It’s a way to connect with people and that’s the most important thing to me now. I used to be a lot more standoffish. I didn’t want people to understand me. I wanted to be special and important. Poetry is cool but it’s not the only thing. You can do other stuff and just hang out.

I think also my view on what poetry can be has changed a lot. I think I used to have a really narrow view of what was “good” or “correct” in poetry but now I care a lot less. There’s lots of ways to write a poem and when I think too much about what a poem “should” be and try to make my poems look or behave a certain way, it invariably turns to crap. It’s too rigid for me.

Saturday 15 February 2020

Hilary Sideris : part one

Hilary Sideris has recently published poems in The American Journal of Poetry, Bellevue Literary Review, Free State Review, Gravel, Main Street Rag, Rhino, Salamander, Sixth Finch, and Southern Poetry Review. She is the author of several chapbooks as well as Most Likely to Die, poems in the voice of Keith Richards (Poets Wear Prada 2014), The Inclination to Make Waves (Big Wonderful 2016), Un Amore Veloce (Kelsay 2019) and The Silent B (Dos Madres 2019).

What are you working on? 

I’m working on some poems that take place in my neighborhood, Kensington, Brooklyn, since Trump. The poems are based loosely on conversations and encounters I’ve had at the laundromat, nail salon, post office. Poems that come directly from my experience are the hardest for me to write. Stevens wrote in a letter to his wife, “The plain truth is, no doubt, that I like to be anything but my plain self.” It’s liberating to put on a mask, which Stevens did a lot. I’ve escaped from my plain self by writing poems about fish, poems addressed to plants. I wrote a book of poems in the voice of Keith Richards called Most Likely to Die and a book of four-letter word poems called The Inclination to Make Waves. In the word poems, I played with dictionary definitions, etymologies, and the multiple meaning of words, which allowed me to write about myself without setting out to do so. I like to trick myself like that.

Terese Mason Pierre : part one

Terese Mason Pierre is a writer, editor and organizer whose work has appeared in Canthius, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere online and in print. She is the poetry editor of Augur Magazine and volunteers with Shab-e She'r reading series. Her first chapbook, Surface Area, was published with Anstruther Press in Fall 2019. Terese lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was a child, around ages 7-10, I read Shel Silverstein’s books. My favourite was Where the Sidewalk Ends. I loved his poetry so much, I plagiarized one for a school assignment in the fifth grade. I had never written poetry as a hobby—except for small poems for my mother’s birthday cards—until I got a poem published while I was in high school. After that, I started experimenting more with poetry, but continued to read novels and short fiction. I didn’t seriously start collecting and reading poetry until the beginning of 2019.

Friday 14 February 2020

Emily Coppella : part one

Emily Coppella is a writer, yoga student, and feminist from the GTA. She is currently studying English Literature and Language at Carleton University. She plans to gradate with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. Her poetry has been published by Coven Editions, In/Words, and has won 2nd place for the George Johnston Poetry Prize. Film, music, and social justice are some of her other passions.

What are you working on?

Honestly, I’m working on showing up for myself as a writer. I’m trying to take pen to paper most days and see what comes up for me. Poetry comes a lot more naturally to me than prose right now, so I’m leaning into that. By not setting any clearly defined goals except just to write, I feel like I’m allowing myself to write whenever and about whatever I want, which makes my work feel a lot more exciting. I didn’t make any resolutions for 2020 except for the intention to focus on one word: “allow.” I’m allowing myself to understand that I’m a writer even when I’m not writing.

Thursday 13 February 2020

emilie kneifel : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

i guess my answer depends on our scope.

one option: on the scale of one’s whole life, a poem is never finished. you can always take the cookie dough back out of the freezer, in the same way that you can choose to be in a long term relationship as long as you understand that its participants and the relationship itself will continuously shift.

HOWEVER. i am really precious about artifacts. as a medium-sized kid, i would fix spelling errors on toddler-me’s masterpieces, which now makes me shudder. that feels like defacement. now i keep my drafts mild-to-mediumly obsessively. and those poems, the ones who live in drafts evermore, are untouchable (is that the same as finished?) once they’ve been wrung as much as i can wring them within the next, oh, let’s say two months. why?

because on alie ward’s ologies podcast, futurologist rose eveleth said that the way people have predicted the future in the past is most interesting when understood as an exemplification of the era being predicted from. because my petri dish poems (the ones blobbing around in various drafts the way we’ve shelved old sicknesses) are an imprint of a self from a certain point in time. to my mind (right now today), it seems more important to preserve that evidence of prior existence than it does to keep paving over the same road.

being the hypocrite that i am, i did recently tinker with a really old poem (i obviously left the original(s) unperturbed). but i might argue that the new draft is a different poem altogether. or a reboot of a show that no one really asked for.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

D.A. Lockhart : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I am of two minds on this. The first being, a poem is done when I’ve got sick of working on it. And oddly enough, this does happen fairly often enough. The second mind being that I am not all too sure that a poem is ever done. The great American Pacific Northwest poet Richard Hugo  proclaimed that he was always writing the same poem. And this was a good thing. I could argue that’s the case with me. A lot of my work operates in a sort of overarching discussion of decolonization and often engages the concrete in a way that shows off its multitudes. Meaning a poem that looks at cattails or ahpawiak has so many was of exploring its connections to creation that it requires more than one poem could every hope to. In this second way, I might be trapped in that Wallace Steven’s poem without any hope of escape.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Chris Banks : part four

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

I teach high school students and what I tell them is that poetry tells you the truth about yourself. It will never sell out because you can’t make money off of it and it won’t make you famous. Believe me, I won a National poetry award in Canada early in my career and was “poetry-famous” for like six months which meant I could get a free beer in certain tiny bars in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Aim higher. Anyways, what poetry does is immediately connects a reader and a poet in a way that gives the reader a little electrical charge. I still feel that tiny zap of understanding thirty years after reading my first poem. I hope that never changes.

Monday 10 February 2020

katie o’brien : part four

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

everything. poetry is (or should be) expansive, regime-destroying, curious work. I really feel most forms of writing are poetry in some way.

Priscilla Green : part four

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

I return to Keats and Wordsworth and Blake. I always go back to the Romantic poets.

Sunday 9 February 2020

Sarah de Leeuw : part three

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry refuses givens, eschews the expected, and allows for different worlds and ways of being to be imagined. Poetry offers the chance for radical reconfigurations of understanding ourselves and our relations to everything beyond and outside ourselves. Poetry is language being (re)born. Poetry inspires change.

IAN MARTIN : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Almost not at all, which is odd. I’m deeply invested in music, and I do songwriting from time to time. And I spend a lot of my time writing poetry. But I’ve never really done anything that combines them and I tend to think of them very separately. I don’t know why. I’ve been listening to a lot of Marie Davidson lately and she does electronic club music mixed with spoken word. I’m really into that lately. I think mixing different things is cool and worth doing but there’s so much to do and so little time.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Kitty Coles : part five

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

Plath, particularly her later poems (1959 onwards). Her extraordinary grasp of the technical (alertness to rhythm and the sound of the poem when spoken aloud, imagery that’s at once startling and precise, the balance between sparseness and richness) gives her a steely control of often emotive and challenging subject matter. I find her work endlessly invigorating.

Friday 7 February 2020

Leah Callen : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Remaining faithful to my own poetic voice when it may not be the popular one out there in the world. But it is mine.

Thursday 6 February 2020

emilie kneifel : part four

How does a poem begin?

once, the poet melissa lozada-oliva tweeted about how horniness and the impulse to write are the same feeling, which could truly be my entire answer. horny is such a good word for it because both horniness and the writing pull (and any kind of desire, really) are often steeped in prohibitive shame. also, horny being a kind of silly word tells me that a visceral poem tug doesn’t always have to be born of momentous dee-sire across an abyss of lack (though of course it can be); it can just be a crush, buzzy and sweet and already dissolving. you can have simultaneous crushes, or crush while also knowing that this one is gonna hurt. “just a crush” i say, even though a crush is never just a crush; it’s a mini incarnation of your life’s larger grief/joy. because what you look for, what you notice, what AROUSES you, all of that is informed by what has made you, what you’ve made.

also, to keep the sexy metaphors going, i think a poem has the capacity to do to us what actor alia shawkat once said (somewhere in an interview for her movie, duck butter) an orgasm does, which is that it’s one of the only times in our lives where we actually forget about death (which is what i think i mean when i call a poem an extra-temporal unit of time).

Wednesday 5 February 2020

D.A. Lockhart : part one

D.A. Lockhart is the author Devil in the Woods (Brick Books, 2019) and Breaking Right (Porcupine's Quill, 2020). His work has appeared widely throughout Turtle Island including Best Canadian Poetry 2019, The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, TriQuarterly, The Fiddlehead, and Belt. He is pùkuwànkoamimëns of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation. Lockhart currently resides at Waawiiyaatanong where he is the publisher at Urban Farmhouse Press.

What are you working on?

I just put in the finishing round of edits on my short fiction collection, Breaking Right, that is due out this fall with Porcupine’s Quill. It is short fiction set in Indiana that uses a lot of Hoosier folk tales as its basis. Poetically, the final touches are going into my sixth full poetry collection, Go Down Odawa Way. A decolonial homage to the southern Three-Fires traditional territories. Wrapping up the Canada Council Grant for that in conjunction with the final edits. And I am very early into a new poetry manuscript, Commonwealth, that explores borders and migrations in area of the American Midwest. 

James Dunnigan : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Really great poems no one finishes. Not the poet, not the reader.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Chris Banks : part three

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

I usually start with an idea, or a title, and I then start writing very rapidly. I use to write very slowly, almost methodically, especially when writing a poem in syllabics, for instance, but that has all changed. A. R. Ammons believed poetry was the result of personal anxiety and so each poem was a momentary release from anxiety. A catharsis different from therapy. I believe that too and I like to try to get some of that manic energy into a poem. Once I finish a poem or a collection, I show my work to a few trusted readers like Paul Vermeersch or Jim Johnstone. Everybody needs a few readers who you can count on to pat you on the back while pointing out glaring problems.

Monday 3 February 2020

katie o’brien : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

short answer: I don’t. I’ll leave it for a while, and if I don’t hate it when I come back to it, then it’s finished for now.

Priscilla Green : part three

How does a poem begin? 

For me, it always begins with a feeling. I cannot write a poem about anything but that which makes me feel – deeply and irrepressibly. 

Sunday 2 February 2020

Sarah de Leeuw : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was very young, maybe between the ages of 3 and 5, my father read me Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner over and over again as my primary bedtime story. I fell asleep to the sounds of words becoming storms and travels. Later in life I often wandered into the poetry section of libraries in the small northern towns I grew up in. I just choose random books from the shelf, never really understanding what I was reading, yet enjoying it for reasons beyond myself.

IAN MARTIN : part two

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

In general I don’t think any art form is uniquely capable of something that other forms aren’t. In the words of Kanye West: “Everything in the world is exactly the same.”

Saturday 1 February 2020

Kitty Coles : part four

How important is music to your poetry? 

Music is one of my main interests and some lyricists (e.g. Thom Yorke, Hannah Fury, Courtney Love, Katie Jane Garside) have influenced my writing. The more you write, the more you become aware how limited words are as a tool for capturing and conveying meaning. It’s impossible, really, to have another person understand what your words mean, other than on the most basic level: what I mean by ‘love’ is different from what you understand by it. Music allows you the possibility to circumvent all that.