Thursday 30 April 2020

Grady Chambers : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately? 

The last handful of months I've been sort of intensively working on putting together a second book of poems, and as has happened before when absorbed in my own work, have found myself spending more time with fiction than with poetry lately. I'm reading War and Peace at the moment, and making my very, very slow way through the New Testament. I read the latter only during my commute to work, so I only get through a few pages each day. It's been wonderful to experience it like that. I didn't grow up attending synagogue or church, so the bible is something I've never studied in any kind of formal way, and I've never felt forced to accept any of its teachings. That's allowed me to approach the New Testament purely out of curiosity and with more of an attention to language and phrasing than anything else, and I've found much to marvel at and enjoy in those aspects.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

J.R. Solonche : part five

How does a poem begin?

I’m with Frost who said a poem begins in delight. But I also believe a poem should continue in delight and end in delight. Fuck the wisdom.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Jay Besemer : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

This is such an important question. I have to answer with names rather than titles because I read in bulk & re-read often. Lately I have been having a hard time keeping up with all my fellow trans & gender non-conforming poets' books & other publications--what a wonderful problem to have! But I'm reading Jayy Dodd, Cyree Janelle Johnson, Oliver Baez Bendorf, Sam Ace, Trace Peterson, Adrian Silbernagel, Zoe Tuck, Joanna C. Valente, others I'm likely forgetting.

I'm also reading Mathias Svalina, Brandon Shimoda, Stacy Szymaszek, Olivia Cronk, Philip Sorenson, Daniel Borzutzky, Toby Altman, Nicholas Alexander Hayes, Julia Cohen, Keith S. Wilson, Douglas Kearney, Joyelle McSweeney, Johannes Görannson, Kim Hyesoon, Bhanu Kapil, Nikki Wallschlager, Fred Moten, W.S. Merwin, Robert Duncan & Tristan Tzara. Again, probably forgetting people.

I've been subscribing to a lot of presses lately; it's a great way to support poetry publishing & the presses where the books by my favorites originate--plus it's cheaper than buying each individually. I subcribe to Ugly Duckling Presse's translation series & Kenning Editions; in the past I've done Omnidawn subscriptions. I also often order in batches from presses--I do this frequently with ActionBooks, Nightboat, The Song Cave, & The Operating System.

Monday 27 April 2020

Alex Manley : part one

Alex Manley is a writer who's lived in Montreal/Tiohtià:ke their whole life. A graduate of Concordia University's extremely cursed creative writing program, their work has appeared in Maisonneuve magazine, The Puritan, Carte Blanche and Vallum, among others. Their debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016.

Photo credit: Blair Elliott.

What are you working on?

Improbably, I’m currently working on two different, full-length themed poetry manuscripts. The way I seem to work is that I’m deeply uncomfortable unless I have a project on the go. In 2016, with the editing process for We Are All Just Animals & Plants—my debut poetry collection with Metatron Press—winding down, I started work on something new: a poetry collection that would combine my passion—for lack of a better term—for romantic love and my history of devout Christianity, which lasted up until I was 18 or so and then quickly died. Despite now being a staunch atheist, I wanted to write something that paid homage to the role religion had played in my life as I grew up, as well as an ode of sorts to the beauty and power of certain aspects of faith: the ‘religious experience’ and/or ‘holy moment,’ the beauty of cathedrals, classical sculpture, Michelangelo’s “Pièta,” and so forth. In my head, it was a very gray book—solemn, sombre, tall and skinny and mournful. Meanwhile,  nearing the end of the first draft of that manuscript, I began work on another, different manuscript: a collection of poems written to and in and around the concept of Canada. I wanted to investigate something about this country—its vast expanses, its milquetoast reputation, its ‘old stock’ Canadians and immigrants, its hockey games, its racism. And I wanted to write a collection of poems that spoke to the Canadianness that my father instilled in me, one that was straightforward yet wry, serious yet winking. I wanted a Beaver Tail, a stubby Molson, and a wheat field. Right now, I’m trying to get both published… tell your editor friends.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Daniela Naomi Molnar : part four

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 cat, Stir Fry, aka LKP (Lord Kitty Potato) is the first to hear my poems, because he sticks nearby (often on) me as I work and I read my work aloud as I write.

In addition to his insightful feedback, I am extremely grateful to currently be working with Solmaz Sharif, who is my mentor for my final semester in Warren Wilson’s MFA in Poetry. I’ve also had the immense privilege to get support and feedback on early drafts over the past two years from from Airea D. Matthews, Connie Voisine, and Sally Keith. After cats, poets are my favorite people.

And I feel so lucky have a few poet and writer friends who I often share early drafts with, including Jay Ponteri, Sebastian Merrill, Dane Slutzky, Aaron Hauptman, and others. They’re all so incredibly smart and kind! For several years, I was a regular member of poetry workshops with my friend, the poet, novelist, and visual artist Zachary Schomburg. These workshops profoundly shaped my understanding of poetry and Zach’s voice is still present with me as I work.

True to my extremely introverted nature, for many years, I didn’t share my poems with anyone (other than LKP). I had a wakeup call via my closest friend, a person I’ve known for 20+ years and with whom I speak regularly. I mentioned in a conversation that I was working on a poem. She responded, “You write poetry?” So… I realized that I needed to be a bit more public with my work. I am so grateful to now have what feels like a wealth of diverse voices with and from whom I can learn. Because poetry is meant to be shared. In the words of Miłosz: “The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person.”

Saturday 25 April 2020

Adam W. Burgess : part one

Adam W. Burgess is a southern Nevada writer whose work has appeared in Towers, Brave Voices, America’s Emerging Writers, and Watermark. Adam names as inspirations writers such as Dennis Cooper, Sylvia Plath, Ocean Vuong, and Audre Lorde. Currently, he lives with his husband in Las Vegas, where he is an English professor and a frequent explorer of the desert’s fabulous trails, mountains, and wetlands. You can find out more about Adam by visiting his website,

What are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on a collection of confessional poems about masculinity in the queer (specifically the gay male) community; it started as a mini-chapbook but has progressed into a longer set of works, made up of much longer poems. I’ve also been thinking through ideas for a novel in verse. I have beautiful and terrible dreams about the resurgence of epic poetry as a favorite literary form. Can you imagine?

Friday 24 April 2020

Madeleine Barnes : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Holding space for creating is hard especially in a world that wants you to focus on producing things of monetary value. People will question what you’re doing and why you’re not making different choices, and they’ll pressure you to live a more prescribed life. Continuing on your path despite this pressure is tough, but I think the right people will celebrate your pursuit of an authentic life. From the outside, it’s difficult to understand the pressure that writers face or to fully empathize with how complicated and emotionally tumultuous the writing and publication processes are. It takes sheer resilience to continue. You must surround yourself with supportive, uplifting people who remind you of your purpose and your strengths. A great teacher once insisted that students block off time to write the same way they would make time for a dentist appointment. She was an outstanding teacher—if you’re a writer, making time to write is a matter of health. Finally, I live with chronic pain, which can provoke feelings of frustration. There’s so much I want to create, but sometimes my body and mind cannot be pushed further. I’m not a machine.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Grady Chambers : part one

Grady Chambers is the author of North American Stadiums (Milkweed Editions), selected by Henri Cole as the winner of the inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from the The Paris Review, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Grady was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing, and he lives in Philadelphia.

How important is music to your poetry? 

I'm reading "music" here to mean the music of the poem itself. Thought about that way, my attention to the music of my poems--the rhythm and sounds of the lines and words--is far less than it used to be. When I was in graduate school--six, seven years ago now--I was spending a lot of time with the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the incredible music of his poems led me to give a great deal of attention to the music of my own. When I would finish a draft of a piece, I would record myself reading it aloud. I would then play the recording back to myself. I felt l could tell where it needed work based on when I sensed it lost its rhythm / momentum.

Over time, I've done that less and less. I think at some point I sensed that my desire for the words and rhythm to sound a certain way got in the way of the poem expressing what I wanted it to. I still sometimes record myself reading new drafts and play them back to myself, but now I think I'm listening more for pacing than I am for the internal music or rhythm of a line.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

J.R. Solonche : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Poetry is the music of words. If music didn’t exist, neither would poetry. There are no wrong words in poetry. There are only wrong notes.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Jay Besemer : part two

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

In terms of how the work very first enters the world, period, that can depend on the mode of composition that's taking place. Most often it happens in fountain pen ink in a notebook. I'm a total notebook geek. Occasionally it happens in pencil on the pages of a found text or in collaged elements. It can also first appear in video or still images.

Unless it's in the context of collaborative projects, I don't generally share work with others until I send it out for consideration, or very occasionally to a friend who's agreed to read & comment on a completed book draft. But recently I've been resuming some correspondence, which sometimes involves trading small works in progress. There's no expectation of feedback in that case; it's more a mutual answer to the "what are you working on" question.

I do talk a lot about process, though, with other poets. I'm always interested in how other poets go through their own composition processes. I also enjoy collaborating with others, as I mentioned.

Monday 20 April 2020

Koss : part five

What are you working on?

I’m always working on lots of things at once. I’m tweaking poems for a hybrid book coming out this year from Negative Capability Press, for which I’m also creating images. I’m refining another manuscript and sending it out, while writing some poems about my ancestors (probably a chapbook up the road). There are also some comics rattling around. I’m moving towards visual expression, although I see words being part of it.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Daniela Naomi Molnar : part three

Why is poetry important?

Danielle Vogel defines language as: “a communal lung that holds and remembers all things through us. … A neural interconnectivity … an extended nervous system that we all share.”

Poetry nurtures this shared nervous system, sometimes by shocking it and sometimes by soothing it. Both can be a form of necessary nurturance.

Poetry is living ecotone that requires our participation.

In other words, poetry is an open text. Open texts reject rejects hierarchy, authority, commodification, closure, and control, instead inviting (requiring) the reader’s participation in the text.*

On a road trip through the California desert in 1968, Mary Corse became enchanted by the reflective qualities of highway paint, which contains glass microspheres. She began painting with these glass microspheres, which glimmer, shimmer, flicker, reflect, refract, and generate their own light. The paintings appear flat and monochromatic at first but contain a whisper of something more that compels the viewer to begin to move around, tilting her head or pacing. As she does so, the painting shifts in complex and mysterious ways. Like an open text, these paintings require participation in order to be completed. And like an open text, they are never still, never resolve into a product—they are nearly impossible to reproduce in photographs. A Corse painting makes the utter subjectivity of perception obvious (if one shifts her gaze even slightly, the entire painting changes), which leads to an understanding, at least momentarily, that the entire world is a fleeting, subjective illusion, that all of life’s apparently solid structures are helplessly subject to change.

If language is felt to be as mutable as light, if there is  “an unstable boundary : the body / the book” (Vogel), then we might begin to question where the borders of our bodies really are — where do we begin and end? Where does language begin and end? A radical, necessarily empathetic porosity sets in.

* “The ‘open text,’ by definition, is open to the world and particularly to the reader. It invites participation, rejects the authority of the writer over the reader and thus, by analogy, the authority implicit in other (social, economic, cultural) hierarchies. It speaks for writing that is generative rather than directive. The writer relinquishes total control and challenges authority as a principle and control as a motive. The ‘open text’ often emphasizes or foregrounds process, either the process of the original composition or of subsequent compositions by readers, and thus resists the cultural tendencies that seek to identify and fix material and turn it into a product; that is, it resists reduction and commodification.” (Lyn Hejinian)

Saturday 18 April 2020

Lannie Stabile : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is the diary we drip tears into when our crush doesn’t like us back. It’s the drywall we drive our fist through when we can’t afford rent this month. It’s the best friend who tirelessly encourages us to shower when the only thing we want to do is dissolve into the ocean. It’s the stranger we smile at when, for once, everything is going to plan.

How can a tether to the fucking world not be important?

Friday 17 April 2020

Madeleine Barnes : part two

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

Poetry gives us a way to voice and visualize experiences in a limited space. For me, the most transformative moments in writing and reading occur when there are restrictions. In poetry especially, you can focus on the joy of imagery, syntax, prosody, precision, and experimentation within the boundaries of a poem or collection of poems. I’m always interested in troubling genre and think poetry offers a brilliant arena for experimentation. You can incorporate different mediums into a piece of writing and call it a poem if it suits your creative sensibilities. Poetry’s visual components can radically change your perception of past and present experiences. Finally, I believe it was Wallace Stevens who wrote, “The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness.” The idea that anyone needs to justify poetry is a reflection of intense problems in contemporary society.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Eleanor Boudreau : part five

What are you working on?

Earnest can be read literally as Eleanor’s lover, but he is best understood as another side of the poet’s self. Moreover, in Earnest, Earnest?, I made up half the manuscript—I  did not invent images, all the images are things I have seen, but I did invent narratives to fit the images. So, for my next project, I’ve decided I will not make anything up—images, narrative, dialogue—it will all be true (at least to the best of my recollection), thus Earnest can never appear, because Earnest is not a real person, but a personification of parts of myself.

In short, I’m writing non-fiction with line-breaks. The result is more narrative and also more lyrical than Earnest, Earnest? That is intentional, as I am trying to change my poetic style as much as possible, to show range. An analogy I find helpful—sculptors have two methods, either carve small pieces individually and mold them together, or start with a large block and carve the negative space around the figure. Earnest, Earnest? is the former, but for my new project, I begin with large prose-blocks and I carve the negative space (the line-breaks and stanza-breaks) into those blocks to make poetry. This new project is very much still developing, but I am excited to keep working on it and see what that work reveals.

I’m also working on a murder mystery that is very much not true. I published this mystery as prose fiction years ago, but I’ve always felt it was, in fact, a book-length poem, so I’m calling it a “lyric mystery” and I’m trying to find the ideal form.

Wednesday 15 April 2020

J.R. Solonche : part three

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

First and foremost, Dickinson. Also, Williams and Alfred Starr Hamilton, an amazing poet who needs to be better known. No, who needs to be known.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Jay Besemer : part one

Jay Besemer is the author of the poetry collections Theories of Performance (The Lettered Streets Press, forthcoming May 2020), The Ways of the Monster (KIN(D) Texts and Projects/The Operating System, 2018), Crybaby City (Spuyten Duyvil, 2017), Chelate (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and Telephone (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). He was a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Find him online at and on Twitter @divinetailor.

photo credit: Rupert Glimm

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was a toddler, I had a book of kids' poems by John Ciardi (with Edward Gorey illustrations!) called You Read to Me, I'll Read to You. (I still have it!) Though I read at a very early age, I learned many of them by heart before I could read because I loved the book so much. I wrote some poetry in bits & pieces when I was in elementary & middle school, but didn't "fall into it" as my life until I was 14 or so. In school there was a definite line between the stuff we were assigned & the stuff that was considered "enrichment" but felt more vital--I grew up in Buffalo, NY, so there were good poetry orgs like Just Buffalo doing youth programs & there were poets-in-the-schools in my high school years. I was fortunate in high school to have access to a university library where I read the Dadas & Surrealists in translation. We had a few close family friends who were poets. Another family friend was an English professor, who used to give me big boxes full of literature & philosophy from his office discards.

Monday 13 April 2020

Koss : part four

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

Poetry can free you from the constraints of linear time while condensing a lot into a very small space. While flash fiction also compresses information, poetry can unravel from a line, a word, an image, or an experience.

One thing I love about poetry is the process—the journey—hopping in the car with no particular destination. While poetry, like other writing, can be narrative, it’s a much more open medium than essay or fiction writing, which tend to be more preconceived. Of course one can push the limits of any medium, but poetry gives permission right up front.

Sunday 12 April 2020

Daniela Naomi Molnar : part two

Why is poetry important?

Our culture inflicts so much violence on language and attention. Poetry (to build on Yusef Komunyakaa’s idea) is the caretaker of both.

In a culture in which language is shaped and eroded
by algorithms
by phone keyboards
by the sheer quantity of visual communication lobbed at our eyeballs, everyday
by the myriad, aggressive manifestations of consumerism therein
by the growing racket of human-made noise which erodes our capacity to listen
poets are a needed force.

I believe, too, that poetry is unique in its capacity to hold an almost infinite multiplicity of meanings simultaneously. In a culture obsessed with certainty, in which the violence of authority and authoritative statements is another type of violence done to language, this ambiguity is a much-needed balm. Poetry’s ambiguity allows us to “listen in strange ways,” in the words of Ross Gay, a type of listening that is fundamental to being fully human.

Because real art is always subversive, poetry can also (and in recent years, has) foreground the voices of the historically marginalized and oppressed. Poetry allows us to hear the voices of precarity and survivance, the voices of everything and everyone that cannot survive or thrive within a neoliberal ontology, which is to say, all “externalities” to profit.

This unprofitable (or anti-profitable) world is the necessary voice of poetry.

Saturday 11 April 2020

Lannie Stabile : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes! One hundred percent! When I first started writing poetry - in 6th grade - every poem had four lines, five stanzas, a rhyme scheme, and a goofy subject matter. Think: 12-year-old Russian spies and dog bite lawsuits. Total fluff. I had no idea how to extract the juicy childhood trauma bubbling within my body. However, in the past 20 years, I’ve learned the subtle art of excavating my own hot guts. Which means I’m still sad, but now I’m also vulnerable. And people can relate to that.

Friday 10 April 2020

Madeleine Barnes : part one

Madeleine Barnes is a poet, visual artist, and Doctoral Fellow in English Literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her debut poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good, was recently selected as the winner of Trio House Press’ open reading period, and will be published in May 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Women’s Work, forthcoming from Tolsun Books. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women and non-binary writers and artists. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU in 2016, and she teaches at Brooklyn College.

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

Recently I’ve been writing collaborative poems with former students via email correspondence. We’ll devise an arbitrary goal, such as, “let’s compose a twenty line poem about an astronaut in iambic pentameter.” I’ll send one line, they’ll send the next, and we'll volley lines back and forth until we achieve our goal. This process is profoundly generative, and I love thinking about how a fusion of different voices creates unexpected journeys and dialogues. Collage is another way to begin writing—I like to hunt for unusual phrases in old astronomy magazines and medical texts. These days, I work on my writing alone, but when I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was part of the Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops. The Madwomen provided an invaluable safe space to me when I needed it most. I couldn’t have written the forthcoming collection without them.

Thursday 9 April 2020

Madeleine Stratford : coda

Every single poet I translated throughout the years has changed the way I think about writing. In a way, both writing and translating poetry is about stretching the limits of the medium, but also the limits of my world. As a poetry translator, I must jump head first into the cracks of my poet’s language, sometimes completely blind. And I am always taking a big risk: that of not being able to crawl back out of a poem’s cracks or, worse still, that of filling the cracks. Alejandra Pizarnik declared once that writing a poem was about perpetually trying to heal a fundamental wound. For me, you have a great poetry translation when the wound and the balm coexist, because the translator penetrated the poet’s language, understood it from the inside, but did not try to explain it: poetry translation is about letting the poem speak for itself. But that process always changes you as a writer, or indeed as a person. You cannot dig that deep into someone else’s intimate relationship with language and remain untouched.

Eleanor Boudreau : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t. 

Wednesday 8 April 2020

J.R. Solonche : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the fat lady sings. Or when the poem lies back, lights up a cigarette, and blows the smoke in my face. Or when I stick a fork in it.  Or when it cries, “Uncle.” Or when I hear the subdominant, dominant, tonic cadence.

Ilona Martonfi : coda

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

The late Goh Poh Seng, because the first time I heard him read at an open mic event, he said, you are a poet. I attended his Montreal readings, read all his work. We are kindred spirits.

I still google him and listen to him read on his videos. (Goh Poh Seng, a Singaporean dramatist, novelist, doctor and poet, was born in Kuala Lumpur, moved to Canada; Posthumously; Works by Goh Poh Seng.)

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Kate Gaskin : part five

How does a poem begin?

With a feeling of lightness, a thread of rhythm, an image. Or with great difficulty after ages of struggling against the misery of a blank Word document. Good poems come from both types of beginnings. Bad poems too.

Monday 6 April 2020

Koss : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It never feels finished and, at any stage, it can always fragment and explode into something else, which is why I believe that, while it’s good to go through multiple revisions, it’s important to keep going and produce lots of work—unless of course you want to be Elizabeth Bishop. Cut that thing loose or it might become your albatross.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Daniela Naomi Molnar : part one

Daniela Naomi Molnar’s work asks how to live in the ecotone of now/here, on the brink of socioecological collapse/rebirth. She works across forms, melding painting, poetry, writing, curation, editing, site-specific intervention, activism, and teaching. Her mediums, therefore, are paint, paper, water, varied types of language, and varied forms of community engagement. Place is always one of her mediums. She uses these mediums to try to shape and nurture generative new ideas, ethics, and cultural change. Her work for the past several years has been focused on the complex, intersectional sociopolitical-cultural issues of climate justice and climate grief.

Daniela is the founding Department Head of the Art + Ecology program and a full-time Associate Professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she has been teaching undergraduate and graduate students since 2007. She is a founding member of the Board of Directors, a backcountry guide, and an all-around integral part of  Signal Fire, providing opportunities for artists to learn about environmental justice by engaging with public wild lands. She is founding Co-Editor of Leaf Litter, Signal Fire’s art and literary journal and Art Editor at The Bear Deluxe Magazine.

She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Warren Wilson College and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Fugue, Tripwire: A Journal of Poetics, Bomb Cyclone, petrichor, LEON, Discursive Impulse, GAZE, Archivaria, and Submit.

She is a member of the third generation of the Holocaust and a daughter of immigrants. She grew up in and around New York City and lives in Portland, Oregon, in the Cascadian bioregion on the unceded land of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, Chinook, Multnomah, and other Indigenous peoples.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I grew up inside a braided river of languages: Hungarian, Romanian, Hebrew, Yiddish, a bit of Spanish, English, and, predominantly, Huroheyisen (a ragged agglutination of all of the above). My parents are immigrants and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in their immigrant community in Queens. I recall walking down the bustling street with them, my small arm raised to hold my grandmother’s soft hand, feeling sensorily immersed in a ragged river of heterogenous colors, sounds, scents — and languages — trilled, shouted, sang…

Because I didn’t know any of these languages fluently other than English, their sounds were allowed to just be sounds. And this attunement to sonic sense over rhetorical sense is, I believe, one of the fundamental orientations of poetry.

Poetry also found me in the songs and prayers of my childhood, which included a lot of time spent in Jewish synagogues with my parents and grandparents. Most of the prayers and songs were in Hebrew or Aramaic and often heavily relied on rhyme and repetition. I learned sound sense in these ways, too, while also learning what it sounds like to pray to a broken god: poetry.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Lannie Stabile : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Because I’m a perfectionist, because I’m ever improving, because I’m often a murderer of good things, I don’t know if a poem is ever finished. But, at some point, I just have to let go.

Friday 3 April 2020

Sheldon Lee Compton : part five

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

Here is where I return to Ondaatje. His novel Coming Through Slaughter was given to me while I was busy feeling inadequate in graduate school. I wasn’t reading much at all during that time so I was slow to start the book. But then I opened it and saw those three sonographs of dolphin sounds and my reading and writing life was completely changed. There are paragraphs and sentences and phrases in that book I can return to in any mood and become instantly recharged. Ondaatje is in a tower all his own.

And recharge is what I want to do when I get inside my own head or let somebody else work their way in. Anything that distracts from my writing. The writing is what matters; it matters more than publishing, more than praise, more than awards, it even matters more than respect. If you write, don’t let anything come before it other than family. It’s the only way to make sure you express what’s in your heart. And expressing what’s in your heart is the only reason to do anything, ever.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Madeleine Stratford : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

My current pet project is Mestizo Skies, an English translation of Ciels métissés, by Quebecois writer Louise Desjardins (Écrits des Forges, 2014). A few of my translations came out in TransLit, a journal of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta and in carte blanche, literary e-journal of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Some new excerpts are upcoming in Inventory, translation journal based in Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature.

One thing that makes Ciels métissés particularly interesting to me is that many poems contain English and Spanish words, as well as Quebec French, a language close to my heart that is quite difficult to transpose into English. The poems speak about the endless, lonely, wintry landscape of Northern Quebec, where Louise is from, but they also speak of her travels to Europe and to Latin America, where I too have travelled countless times.

Something in Louise’s work speaks to me on an intimate level. It’s as though she were writing things that I already had in my head or in my heart. It’s like an intense déjà-vu feeling that makes you wonder if you haven’t already written this poem yourself. Because as you translate it, it still belongs to the author, but it feels like it could have been your own. This kind of communion with the authors I choose to translate (whatever the genre) is important to my creative process, but it is essential when I translate poetry.

Eleanor Boudreau : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Clancy McGilligan, a friend of mine and a fiction writer, was asked a version of this question recently (minus the word “poetry”). He answered, “The uncertainty.” I’m going to agree with that.

It’s definitely the uncertainty.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

J.R. Solonche : part one

J.R. Solonche has published poetry in more than 300 magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is the author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions),  Heart’s Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today and Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), True Enough (Dos Madres Press), The Jewish Dancing Master (Ravenna Press), If You Should See Me Walking on the Road (Kelsay Books), In a Public Place (Dos Madres Press), To Say the Least (Dos Madres Press), For All I Know (Kelsay Books), The Time of Your Life (Adelaide Books), The Porch Poems (Deerbrook Editions), Enjoy Yourself (Serving House Books), and coauthor of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley.

Photo Credit: Emily Solonche

What are you working on?

A book of poems.

Ilona Martonfi : 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?

I host Rue Towers Writers in my loft. I read the poems aloud. Receiving generous feedback from our eight members.

Founder and Artistic Director of The Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Reading Series, curator of Argo Bookshop Reading Series. I share the stage with wonderful writers and musicians.

Invitations to read at other Montreal literary offerings, open mic at Argo Bookshop. Concordia University readings. And several other fine café gatherings.