Friday 31 July 2020

Lance La Rocque : part three

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

I tend to return to Emily Dickinson (I love her slippery, off-kilter intensity), Tomas Transtromer (the depth of images and aura, the otherworldliness emerging from the ordinary world), and Nelson Ball (the vitality of his micro-linguistic play with words and ordinary things. He shows me how my backyard or kitchen is filled with lively, overlooked worlds.). All of them make the ordinary appear surreal/intense and make me want to find a way to do the same.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Stella Hayes : coda

How does a poem begin?

Typically a poem begins as I hear it—in a fury, somewhere between clear thinking and the subconscious. Many take years. All take time in the editing process. Something I am working out in my life or a quarrel with myself triggers the poem(s). Like a ghost of an idea but more like an obsession. In his book on poetics, The Triggering Town (1979), Richard Hugo, makes a persuasive argument that “[y]our triggering subjects are those that ignite your need for words. When you are honest to your feel¬ings, that triggering town chooses you.” So if I’m lucky, I write passed the “triggering town” to the essence of the poem which is always a surprise. The poem takes on its own life as I stand out of the way.

Michael Chang : part one

A Lambda Literary fellow, Michael Chang (they/them) was awarded the Kundiman Scholarship at the Miami Writers Institute in addition to fellowships from Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Brooklyn Poets, & the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in the Cincinnati Review, Summerset Review, Vassar Review, Minnesota Review, Santa Clara Review, Ninth Letter, Hobart, Harpur Palate, Poet Lore, The Nervous Breakdown, & many others. Their collection <golden fleece> was a finalist for the Iowa Review Award in Poetry; another collection <失恋王> was a finalist in the BOMB Magazine Poetry Contest.

What are you working on?

I have a lot going on!  I am doing a fiction workshop with Bryan Washington as part of the Miami Writers Institute.  I am this year’s Kundiman Scholar, so I am very grateful to Kundiman and the Miami Book Fair for inviting me to participate.

I am also taking a terrific course with Cooper Lee Bombardier called “Queer Bodies/Queer Forms.”  This was again made possible thanks to a full-tuition scholarship.  I am eternally grateful.

I am refining and will be teaching a course called Politics, Desire, and the Politics of Desire.  It’s going to be an exciting ride, so stay tuned for that.  I cover coming-of-age, gender & sexuality, family, food, the political, sex & shame, myth-making . . . it will be great fun to share my passions with folks.

I am moreover working on a full-length poetry manuscript that serves both as a love letter to America and an attempt to hold America to account.  It really challenges impressions of what a queer, gender non-conforming, Azn writer should and can write about.  It is a reckoning with America, boldly standing for the proposition that if you love something, it is your obligation and imperative to critique it.

Looking ahead, I will continue to riff on core themes of Americana, rebuilding our country in a post-Trump era, and—most importantly—unabashed self-love.  In calling forth a new America, we won’t apologize.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Dale Tracy : part two

What are you working on?

I’m organizing a manuscript focused on the feeling of being a broken-down machine tethered to a fence that is, however, also broken-down.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Calibna J. Kerr : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Every writer, author, poet has inspiration, one of my poems is entitled ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and this forms a key part of the construction of ‘Grenade Rain Dance.’ Inspiration is key to developing ideas, and of course this then shapes how you approach your content or subject matter. A key poet that has always played a role in my development is Charles Bukowski, there is simply a rawness to his verse that other poets seem to lack. The Beats as well of course, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs, have been really instrumental in how I create specific images, and approach form. More local to me, Benjamin Zephaniah, played a key role in my development, as he taught me that words are the best form of communication, and change can be achieved through the written word. But most recently, I think the best poet writing today by a country mile, is Kate Tempest. She has what the others don’t. ‘Let them eat Chaos’ for example, is raw and cuts to the point quickly, exploring a plethora of images that her audience are able to relate to, and that is something that I often return to.

Monday 27 July 2020

Jacqueline Valencia : coda

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Good question! I feel like it's like the construction of a sentence. I have to have certain parts for the overall work to satisfy what I'm trying to say. It's hit or miss if I accomplish it sometimes. But I know it's the end when I can walk away from it.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Jonathan Andrew Pérez : part three

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

Status is an artificial construct of society legislating difference, legislating meaning and discovering binaries. But poetry simultaneously creates worlds through process, like synchronicity, or dreaming, and in that world, the details emerge, and the poem feels real but is in reality actually strange. 

Saturday 25 July 2020

Maureen Hynes : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A conundrum! Whenever I hear this question, I think of the poem W.S. Merwin wrote (“Berryman”) about asking John Berryman a similar question: “How can you ever be sure / that what you write is really / any good at all and he said you can’t //  you can never be sure / you die without knowing / … if you have to be sure don’t write”.

Sometimes I feel a poem is finished when I write a satisfying final line; but that can be misleading, as I may later realize that line is a kind of summing up that the poem doesn’t need. I often feel I say too much in a poem, and could pull back, so that’s often a revision strategy for me. After workshopping and revision and massaging and re-ordering and fretting about word choice and line breaks and punctuation, the uncertainty doesn’t disappear, but it does diminish. If I’m lucky, there is a moment when I find myself physically nodding at the poem—a kind of greeting, a moment of recognition.

Friday 24 July 2020

Lance La Rocque : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?       

When I return to a poem several times and can’t change anything without making it worse—then I feel it’s ready to keep…or trash.  But maybe poems are never really finished. Sometimes friends have suggested major reconstructions that I couldn’t imagine. I love that rediscovery of open-endedness.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Stella Hayes : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

It is a subject I have given a lot of thought. If when you’re writing or conveying a private moment and if it is very painful, and if you’re jumping off the cliff headfirst, you’re not going to make music. I hope that my poems do have music which I don’t necessarily hear and that it is not as austere to the reader as it is to me. I have resisted making music in my own poetry, but I love musicality in poetry, particularly, poetry in translation, be it Brodsky or Rimbaud. A translation without music is rendered lifeless.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Dale Tracy : part one

Dale Tracy is the author of With the Witnesses: Poetry, Compassion, and Claimed Experience (McGill-Queen’s, 2017); the chapbooks Celebration Machine (Proper Tales, 2018) and The Mystery of Ornament (above/ground, 2020); and the chapoem What It Satisfies (Puddles of Sky, 2016). She received an honourable mention in Kalamalka Press’s 2019 John Lent chapbook award contest, and her poems have appeared in print and online publications like The Goose, Touch the Donkey, The Week Shall Inherit the Verse, Gatherings, Dusie, and Chaudiere.

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

When I write, the ideas come from me and the world as I live in it. But they belong to the poem. The poem’s the one talking, not me or any version of me—except as that version of me that is me as a poem talking.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Calibna J. Kerr : part three

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

Poetry is very similar to musical expression, especially in the sense of alliterative and bouncy rhythms which I try to employ frequently within my own work, where the tone is one of elation or potentially, ominous. There is still place, for the melodic elements of the art of constructing a poem, and of course can be achieved through the euphonic word choices as well. I think poetry is often more about having your heart firmly placed upon your sleeve, but again it’s important that you obtain your intended response from a reader through being honest, but also leaving much to be desired from independent perspectives and interpretations. Every poem means something different to somebody else, and that is the beauty of it. That is what it is about. A poem might touch one person in a very different way to another.

Monday 20 July 2020

Jacqueline Valencia : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

At the top of my mind, Roberto Bolaño, Anne Sexton, Kaie Kellough, Jordan Abel, and Alice Oswald.

Sunday 19 July 2020

Jonathan Andrew Pérez : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

The process is much like what I think whittling wood is like.  I engineer a framework, I delve into the dream, and I break it down as much as sound allows.  The end is the point that an internal logic crystallizes, and the subject (the writer) suddenly learns from the object (the writing).   Once that happens, there is space to think.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Maureen Hynes : part one

Maureen Hynes is the author of seven books, five of which are poetry. Her latest collection is Sotto Voce (fall, 2019), which was shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Award and the Golden Crown Literary Awards (U.S.). Maureen’s first book of poetry, Rough Skin, won the League’s Lampert Award, and her 2016 collection, The Poison Colour, was shortlisted for both the Lowther and Souster Awards. Maureen’s poetry has been included in over 25 anthologies, including twice in Best Canadian Poems in English, and in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry, 2017. Maureen is poetry editor for Our Times magazine.

Author photo:  Vivek Shraya

How did you first engage with poetry?

In my particular Catholic high school in the 1960’s, though there were contemporary Canadian poets in the texts we studied, they were often skipped over, not analyzed or even discussed, in favour of more classical poets—Keats, Spenser, Yeats, Spenser, Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and of course, Hopkins. I’ve kept these high school texts all these years, and it surprises me to find I’ve written out, on a separate piece of paper inserted into the book, John Mansfield’s poem, “On Growing Old” (“Be with me, beauty, for I am growing old,” it begins). I suppose it was the romantic idealization of beauty that appealed to me as a 16-year-old, rather than what I wanted to carry with me as I faced the prospect of growing old.

Somehow my friends and I discovered Raymond Souster’s Ten Elephants on Yonge Street, and that set me on a search for poets who were in writing in Canada at that very moment. I remember having a big twinge of jealousy, many years later, when Helen Humphreys told me that Margaret Atwood had come to her high school to read poetry; and that she (Helen) had always had the sense that poetry was a contemporary experience. 

Friday 17 July 2020

Lance La Rocque : part one

Lance La Rocque lives in Wolfville, NS. With Lisa, Emily, and Max.

He has published in Hava LeHaba, Industrial Sabotage, The Northern Testicle Review, and Periodicities. He has a book of poetry, Vermin (Book Thug), and most recently, a chapbook, glitch (above/ground press).

How did you first engage with poetry?       

I must have been writing poetry since I was at least thirteen. My mother carries around a poem I had published in a Salvation Army newsletter. It can be disturbing to rediscover your early selves and affiliations! I thought more carefully about poetry and began to write more when I met Stuart Ross and j w curry.  I’m grateful that two writers I admired published my poems. Sometime after I moved to Nova Scotia, Stuart told me that the poet Alice Burdick was moving to Halifax and maybe I should collaborate with her. He and Alice would probably find it amusing that that secretly pressured me into writing a lot of poems!

Thursday 16 July 2020

Stella Hayes : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I have no problem of consciously entering a state of utter delirium, but I have a problem leaving it without taking something back. My second book Nowhere with Him, came at a great cost. I wrote it in workshop with the great poet Natalie Handal in a year and a half. I completed it last summer and when I was done, I felt like I couldn’t write another line for as long as I lived. It’s a book of elegies — real and imagined — about my late father who died when we were both too young—he at 50 years old. It took me a few months to recover and I half-started Propaganda.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Alice Burdick : part five

Why is poetry important?

I don’t know why it is important, but it’s important to me and to others who don’t need to know why it’s important, but that it is. That would go for most art, I think. The value is in its existence. It is a mode of creation that hits home for some readers and some writers because we’ve chosen words to communicate ideas, feelings, imagination.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Calibna J. Kerr : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, I think it has. There is a lot of repetition across the market currently, the same old verses and stanzas and structures which has potentially contributed to the diminishing of its omnipotence within society. I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, and more and more, there has become less focus on rigid meters and the art of structuring a poem to set specific guidelines. Instead, when I approach this now, I allow it form a stream of consciousness rather than measuring out syllables and thinking about the implicit intentions of employing specific rhyme schemes. It is important that freedom of expression does not become limited in any form of the written word, and as the art itself has progressed through the ages, I think the deeper meanings, the images and the figurative message is much more important than adhering to specific standards.

Monday 13 July 2020

Jacqueline Valencia : part four

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

I remember having someone show me a writer suggesting poetry was a mere fragmentation of language. It can be. However, poetry has been part of revolutions, breaks people out of trauma, and can create feelings out of the images it creates in the mind. The mind as personal cinema has always fascinated me and it's something poetry is highly adept at. I can think of Claudia Rankine in Citizen and how her words made me want to uplift movements and at the same time, had me crying about the visuals of how cruel the world can be.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Jonathan Andrew Pérez : part one

Jonathan Andrew Pérez has published poetry in Prelude, The River Heron Review, Blood Tree Literature, The Write Launch, Meniscus Literary Journal, Rigorous, The Florida Review, Panoply Magazine, Junto Magazine, Blood Tree Literature, Cold Mountain Review, Piltdown Review, Yes, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mud Season Review, Meat for Tea: the Valley Review, Poached Hair, The Esthetic Apostle, The Tulane Review, Rigorous, The Tiny Journal, Muse/ A Journal, The Bookends Review, The Westchester Review, Metafore, Crack the Spine Quarterly, Projector Magazine, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Rise Up Review, BARNHOUSE, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Worcester Review, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Cathexis Northwest Press, Inklette, Rumblefish Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, Quiddity, POETRY, and Hayden's Ferry Review. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and won Split Lip Magazine's Poetry Prize 2019, selected by Chen Chen.

Jonathan is criminal prosecutor. This March 2020 he released his first Chapbook: The Cartographer of Crumpled Maps from FLP Press.  This selection is from his work-in-progress, first full-length manuscript, A Historiography of Justice.

What are you working on?

I am working on a historical revision that starts off on the prison labor of Hart Island, and the nameless masses that have been buried there to COVID-19.  I find myself returning to the same history of justice and race and systemic inequity. Part of the ease of poetry is the ability to thaw out ancient concepts through subconscious references.  At this critical time, when communities are suffering as a result of an apex of long histories of systemic inequity, poetry can speak literally for the dead and those born in the prison of their identities and social position. 

The time we live in right now, poetry is critical to become the processing agent not just for things like grief but memory.  The act of remembering the long history of financial inequity, and slavery, as well as more complicated mechanisms such as housing policy resulting in the density-rich virus-rich public emergency we are in today.
This summer, I am teaching a class at Wesleyan University called Poetic Justice that marries specific criminal justice ideas and legal history with a poetics of civil rights.  With that said, language is not always linear – it collides with beauty, it is inevitably classical as well as architecture and mapping the cities that give us family, community, and ultimately, belief.

Fred Schmalz : part five

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

Some books are definitely touchstones for me. I return to Oppen’s daybooks and papers to remind myself that things don’t need to resolve. I return to the copy of Langston Hughes’ later long poem “Ask Your Mama” that my friend Kathy gave me ages ago, to remind myself that poetry is a gift and that it is music. I find Inger Christensen and Etel Adnan and W.S. Merwin and Nicanor Parra and Harryette Mullen incredibly inspiring, even if my writing is not much like theirs. I also seek renewal from my friends who are poets, by their writing and their spirits.

Friday 10 July 2020

Dorsey Craft : part five

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

I often return to Sharon Olds when I’m generating ideas for new work. I teach Odes in my Intro to Poetry course, but Stag’s Leap and The Father really expanded my definition of what I could say or talk about in a poem when I was just starting to write. The confidence she has in her voice and her form can be very freeing when I’m sitting down to write.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Stella Hayes : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

That’s such a hard thing. It’s hard to know. Sometimes a poem’s penultimate line is the last line and I won’t know it until I read it out loud or record it and play it back so I hear it like other people would hear it. But that doesn’t always work. So I put it in my desk drawer, if you will. I leave it alone until I come back to it and feel my way to the ending.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Elaine Equi : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I can usually feel it or even hear it. It’s like a click. Some people don’t like “the click” associating it with a predictable or overbearing sense of closure. But I don’t mind a good strong finish. I also like humor in poems where the last line is the punchline.  Open-ended poems give the opposite feeling – more like an “ah” – something intentionally left unfinished so the idea keeps traveling in your mind. I like those too. The only ending I don’t really like is “the sigh” – the one that announces what you’ve just been reading must be a poem. Though even that can be okay. I feel a poem should go somewhere, something should happen, shift, change. Once it does, the ending will take care of itself.

Ava Hofmann : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The fact that for over a decade I’ve been cultivating skills that are very unlikely to bring me anything resembling financial security and that I’ve also forgotten to develop any other marketable skills.

Pretending like “oh, it’s so hard to make poems” seems disingenuous to me, like I’m trying to act like my artmaking is laborious (and therefore confer value onto it). Sure, you’ll always encounter creative problems and struggles, but part of the joy of writing (and all art) is to kind of climb into that creative trouble and climb back out of it again.

Every real time I’ve thought about giving up writing or have had real existential crises over my work were because we live under an economic system which despises human life—and therefore, also, despises art. If I wasn’t worrying about the fact that I feel like I have no future or whatever I’d be making more work and it would be a whole lot riskier and a whole lot better than the work I’m making now.

Alice Burdick : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

I love this question. Music is very important to words in general I think, when they’re working well. On a process level, I love writing while listening to music, and the types of music will influence my writing or invite a certain sort of exchange/conversation in a poem. Rhythm in all its forms is necessary, and makes a poem more enjoyable and exciting to read or to hear. It’s not all about “meaning” (whatever that is), but it’s a lot about sound and experience, and enjoyment.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Calibna J. Kerr : part one

Calibna J. Kerr or the Junk Talk Poet, is most well known for his most recent work in poetry - Take This Pill and A Cockroach's Tea Party (Published by Burdizzo Bards). The poet approaches controversial social questions with a refreshing and stimulating outlook on the world, blending light and darkness with unpredictable bouncy alliterative rhythms.

Inspired by the working-class cities and towns surrounding Birmingham the writer explores the boundaries of form and meter, in a way that mimics the unpredictability of modern life making somewhat unexpected comparisons that create an infinite range of extraordinary images.

His new publication, Grenade Rain Dance is due to be released on August 31st. Follow @JunkTalkPoet - Twitter.

What are you working on?

Currently, I am in the process of a final edit on a fictional psychological thriller novella, entitled When the Caged Canary Sings, as I was eager to explore other forms of written expression. In terms of poetry, I try to publish a collection per year, and my latest publication, ‘Grenade Rain Dance’ is due to be published 31st August. This is an exciting time, because it is more experimental and that little more unique than the previous collections published under my name and consists one long continuous poem that encapsulates social observations, and focuses on personal growth. I have always toyed with the idea of creating a longer piece of work, than traditional poetry, and I think with all forms of written creativity, it is the writer, author or poet’s job to push the boundaries of form, as without this there is very little originality, and with the changing of the world as time progresses, I think that becomes all the more important and this is what I have tried to do with this publication.

Monday 6 July 2020

Jacqueline Valencia : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes and it's both a painful thing and one filled with new possibilities. I've known and wrote in conventional forms, but it was reading James Joyce that kind of steered me into conceptual poetry. Constructing new forms and new ways of presenting language through assemblage and visual art really appealed to the sensory things I love about poetry.

But I also found the world of conceptual poetry to be restrictive in terms of class and racial appropriation. Poets feeling they're above feeling and circumstances just did not appeal to me. Poetry is meant to enlighten, yes, but it is one that moves the world forward from its conception to its fruition. It is not meant to destroy. A  lot of conceptualism is based on harm and awe instead of substance and the building of new ideas.

Thus, poetry should be a work that is open to criticism, not matter what the subject matter, and it can be best responded with more poetry of a better calibre. I mean, poetry that is less about the poet and more about the world it is deconstructing.

Sunday 5 July 2020

Fred Schmalz : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Language continues, so I’m not sure if there’s a “finished” state, or even if that state is stable. But poetry is patient. For example, a friend just revisited several abandoned “unfinished” poems from twenty years ago, and they realized that with a couple of very minor changes, the pieces were finished… that time and reflection had moved them from abandoned to resolved.

For me the question is: when have I done what I can to be intentional about every aspect of the poem? Which is different from asking whether the poem clicks—some poems get put through their paces and they don’t.

Friday 3 July 2020

Dorsey Craft : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading some great debuts lately. The speaker of Marianne Chan’s All Heathens explores Christianity, colonialism, travel with a stunning empathy and charm. Nicole Stockburger’s Nowhere Beulah has a quiet longing and demands to be read outdoors. I’ve also recently enjoyed Kate Gaskin’s Forever War, Jim Whiteside’s Writing Your Name on the Glass, Jose Hernandez Diaz’s The Fire Eater, and Tanya Grae’s Undoll.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Stella Hayes : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

Through my mother first. World literature and poetry from the Romantic movement—specifically from the first 40 years of 19th century known as The Russian Golden Age lead by Pushkin and Lermontov—were in her veins. She has a degree in Russian literature and language. She has an extraordinary poetic reservoir which she can recall instantly from memory. That’s how they used to do it back in the day—they memorized pages of poems, short stories, novellas and novels. And secondly, through poet Gary Light, a dear childhood friend who in his pocket always had a copy of Mandelstam, Blok or Pasternak. As teenagers, we would have parties in which he would read their work. He introduced me to the poets of the early 20th century, known as The Silver Age. And at last at USC under the tutelage of dear friend poet David St. John. I feel so lucky that I had a chance of a lifetime to be his student.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Elaine Equi : part four

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

In our ultracompetitive society, everyone tries to advertise their successes and downplay or even deny their failures. Individuals, companies, whole countries operate like this. The myth of the person who has it all, or does it all, who succeeds in every area of her life clearly causes unhappiness. We should know better than to believe it. Two poems that offer a refreshingly different perspective on the subject are “The Descent” by William Carlos Williams and “Ode to Failure” by Allen Ginsberg. We tend to think in terms of absolutes, but Williams reminds us, “No defeat is made up entirely of defeat – since/ the world it opens is always a place/ formerly/ unsuspected.” And I admire Ginsberg’s boldness in proclaiming, “O Failure I chant your terrifying name, accept me your 54 year old Prophet/ Epicking Eternal Flop!” I’m not in favor of becoming complacent or apathetic, but I do think we need to cultivate more compassion for ourselves and others instead of constantly striving to win.

Ava Hofmann : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

You know, I’ve tried to play around with ‘musical-ness’ and sound in my poetry before, but it never quite works out for me. I think there’s this lie as poets we’ve been led to believe that poetry is musical in some sense, when I think really there’s something more concretely visual about it—the synesthetic process of interpreting shapes into words, shapes into rhythms, pauses, etc. The work of my poetry is to create the illusion of an intimate music in the guts of what is actually a pretty impersonal visual art.

Alice Burdick : part three

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

Poetry is a very flexible form, and that is exciting. It operates on both minute and epic scales, and it can do a switcheroo at any point along the way. It is a nimble form and reminds me most of jazz in that way, free to take the reader as far in or far out as the poem goes.