Wednesday 30 September 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : part one

Kristine Snodgrass is an artist, poet, professor, curator, and publisher living in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the author most recently of Rather, from Contagion Press (2020) and the chapbook, These Burning Fields (Hysterical Books 2019) Kristine’s asemic and vispo work has been published in Utsanga (Italy), Slow Forward, Brave New Word, and Asemic Front 2 (AF2). Her work was just featured in the Asemic Women Writers Summer Exhibition Online. She is passionate about collaboration and her collaborations with De Villo Sloan have been collected in the book, WHISTLE (Asemic Front Series, 2020).

What are you working on?

I am working! Some of it is editorial, some vispo and asemic, including collaborative projects. Andrew Topel and I have been collaborating for a few months. It has been a nice challenge to work with his bold letters—he makes me plan which is odd because most of my work is very intuitive and organic. I am also collaborating with the asemic artist, Karla Van Vliet. Her ink pieces are so exquisite that it takes real care to work with them. I am often spiritually drawn to her work which does make it very intuitive and feminine in a lot of ways. Collaborating is so exciting because working with another artist is full of variables. That is why it is my love and I am writing about it now. I am also, hopefully trying to get some collaborative poetry I have done with Maureen Seaton out and about.  Solo-wise, I am still working in vispo and asemic—doing a couple of projects. I am also editing a book of asemic and vispo work by women artists that will be published by Hysterical Books in 2021. More on that soon! So far, that project has really blown me away. There are some real heavy-hitters alongside fresh and emerging voices. 

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Melissa Studdard : 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?

I’m part of an accountability group called The Grind. It’s wonderful because it’s all about relentlessly producing something every day. We don’t workshop each other’s poems, and we rarely comment. It works well for me because when I’ve been in groups in the past that involve workshopping and commenting, I’ve become exhausted halfway through the month and barely made it to the end. Now that I’m in The Grind, which I choose to do or not do on a month-to-month basis, I spend eight months out of the year writing a minimum of either one new poem or one new substantial revision per day, and I spend the other four months of the year organizing manuscripts, submitting work, reading voraciously, and doing other writings. So, basically, I do two months on and one month off—that’s the pattern.

Darrell Epp : part four

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

Poetry can slow down time. It’s obvious that we are obsessed with speed. We want what we want, when we want it—we don’t want to hear there’s a delay. No matter how fat we get, we still want our food FAST. We want faster downloads, faster satisfaction. We want our pizza in 30 minutes or it had better be free. But it’s getting hard to ignore that, in our ever-faster race to the finish line, some things are being neglected and lost along the way…Reading a poem can provide a shocking reminder of what we have lost. In cinema, the ratio of narrated time to time of narration is 1:1. This means, it takes as long for you to watch the cowboy say “Let’s go that way” as it takes him to say it. This is part of what makes cinema so popular and thrilling, that immediacy, that headlong rush of time. It is also what makes cinema pretty lousy at delivering moments of transcendence, or spiritual truth, all exceptions, such as the films of Robert Bresson, duly noted. On the other hand, in a poem the ratio between narrated time and time of narration can be wildly skewed, until time dilates, and, if you’re lucky, stops. Simply put, you write a poem about a moment. You reader spends more than a moment reading it, more moments re-reading it, digesting it, pondering it, until this one moment that would otherwise have vanished, grows in stature and becomes powerful enough to haunt. Read or write enough poems, and a powerful message is sent. The message is: all these moments that make up the ligaments of your day, don’t let them flow past you without paying attention, they are worth savouring, giving thanks for, and being baffled by…

Monday 28 September 2020

Tariq Luthun : part four

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

I think the unique thing about poetry is that it is malleable yet unwavering. That sounds like something out of a book review but, in all seriousness, I have seen poems serve in so many functions, and I have experienced so many things that I would dare to call poetry because of the ways I have been moved by them. A more salient example lies in how I approach my own work.

In my college days, I was news reporter, editor, and editorialist, but I left those roles to create a more vibrant and accessible community for poetry on my campus. My peers and I achieved that goal, but though I left the news industry, I never felt like I left journalism behind. To me, the poetry I was writing was still about illuminating the real narratives I held dear or felt didn’t get enough play in mainstream media outlets. Being Palestinian, it’s difficult for our narratives to receive adequate attention; and when given attention, they are rarely done justice. Poetry was a means of reportage that allows me – and so many others – to distill our history, and offer texture to the reportage in the way that so many other mediums do not.

Ultimately, I think that poetry is able to help us craft new definitions for our feelings and thoughts; it offers us a way to resonate with something or someone in moments, where other mediums might take longer to engage us. From that craft, we are better positioned to envision new definitions for what the world can be. But, poetry demands our attention. You can not reap the benefit of a poem if you do not lend yourself to it or open yourself up to the possibilities of where it can take you in the few moments it has your time. In that way, it is unwavering. Poetry is built to move us in so many ways, but we have to put in a little work to be gifted that movement.

I think that’s where poetry accomplishes so much: the best, most moving pieces ask something of the reader in ways other forms may not.

Jacob Strautmann : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I think it’s finished, I read the poem aloud. I append to the last line a word like, “Fucker”—as if the whole poem were addressed to some fucker over there.  If it feels true I’m done. If it feels forced, it needs additional revision.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Jérôme Melançon : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Not that long ago I picked up my copy of Ginsberg’s Collected Poems 1947-1980 and realized just how much I owed him. Early on I was very much taken with form, and reading him and Kerouac’s prose taught me a lot about flow. Much of my writing until recently was an attempt to develop a practice that includes form and flow; reading it now feels like watching myself as a teenager move in a body that’s not fully inhabited, or that’s too fully inhabited. Being aware of this conflict is helping me find solutions to this problem of form and flow.

Later on, a few years apart, I read Yves Bonnefoy and P.K. Page. And here it’s their attention to the moment that struck me. They give you a sense of a whole room, of a whole event, of the depth and breadth of an emotion, without entering the realms of description or analysis.

And a couple years ago now I did a reading alongside Daniel Leblanc-Poirier. I didn’t know him, hadn’t read his work. Us talking after the reading, walking from St. Boniface to Winnipeg, and the way he read his prose at the reading, opened something up for me. Not that we talked that much about poetry or writing; maybe it’s just getting to know someone a bit, how that leads to look at what matters to them, at what they do, differently. He’s part of something of a movement in Québec that can be trashy, that can seem to look for shock for aesthetic reasons. Until then I saw this kind of writing as facile, and retrospectively that was immensely unfair and close-minded. And contradicts my admiration for Ginsberg. I don’t see myself as a part of that movement or aesthetic, but for the collection I just finished I did explore a change of tone, subjects that are tied to discomfort, that might create discomfort, and vocabulary that I might not have considered poetic before this meeting. And it’s a collection about the French language and its politics, so somehow that shift is fitting.

Beyond these few moments, since rob mclennan started Periodicities I’ve been reviewing poetry. That’s new to me. I try to do one a month, it gives me a break from all my other writing. It’s allowed me to really focus on a book, to keep it with me, because I tend to move on very quickly and not return to books after I’ve read them. To discard them unto my bookshelves. Some books give and give, they’re immense like that; and there are others that have quieter voices, that you have to take more time and adjust to. Writing about them has helped me develop an actual discourse on poetry, or poetries, perhaps, as opposed to only focusing on my own practice.

Saturday 26 September 2020

Mike Puican : part three

What poets have changed the way you think about writing?

Gwendolyn Brooks is a major influence. I was fascinated by how, sometimes with just few words, she could create characters who felt like real, complicated people you might meet anywhere, not just two-dimensional characters. I read as much of her work as I could find. I especially studied her great poem “In the Mecca,” and her novel, Maude Martha. My book, Central Air, is full of observations about people living in the city. I work hard to make them feel like real people. While our styles are very different, my work has been heavily influenced by what I learned from her.

Friday 25 September 2020

Bruno Neiva : part one

Bruno Neiva is a poet and text artist. 

What are you working on?

Until the end of the year, I’ll be working on an anthology comprising a large part of my visual poetry and text-art production, especially digital-based pieces. It’s coming out in 2021 through Hesterglock Press (

Maria Brito (a former student of mine) and I have just finished off a collaboration, “Ballroom Etiquette”. It’s a détournement of Victorian etiquette rules and illustrated combat techniques. It’s coming out soon through Team Trident Press (

I’m also working on “Nods”, a collection of minimal poetry after other poets and writers’ work (, etc.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Julie Hogg : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It’s instinctual; a poem is finished when it becomes its own entity.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Keith Leonard : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, it’s always begins with the willingness to get lost. When I’m not willing to just see where the language goes, the poem generally feels flat. If I write about things I am already fairly certain of, I resist allowing myself to be surprised.

Or, it begins with reading and admiration. Lots and lots of poems making a little cobblestone road.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Melissa Studdard : part three

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

I’m not sure I fully believe one form can rigidly do something that another absolutely cannot, but I will say that poetry is more likely to break language, soul, heart, staid conventions and patterns—to disassemble and reassemble thought and feeling in ways that we did or didn’t know we needed. It cracks the surface, the superficial, the unexamined, and it hands us back ourselves, more awakened and vibrant and aware.

Darrell Epp : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

W. H. Auden said, "A poem is never finished, it is only abandoned." I agree.

Monday 21 September 2020

Tariq Luthun : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

I think music is vital to my poetry. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my poetry starts aloud in conversations with myself. However, those conversations aren’t monologues. In most cases, I’m singing out loud and really allowing the words and the tones my body creates to guide me and my thinking.

I recall a time when Terrance Hayes was asked something similar, and the idea of instrumental collaboration came up. He shared how he’s often asked about making this pairing, but would rebuff those asks. To him, his poetry was – in and of itself – music, and it made no sense to him to pit music amidst music in that way.

I don’t know where he stands on that now, but I have always loved that distinction. It makes a lot of sense for me as someone who is just as meticulous about how the poems sound in the mind as they do in the air. Poetry is music, and so I try to approach it with that impulse in-mind.

Jacob Strautmann : part three

What are you working on?

I quickly grow obsessed with an idea for a writing project (‘25 poems that are also magic spells’ or ‘40 poems for 40 years of the Voyager mission.’) and write towards those ideas until they dead-end, but I accumulate a large batch of poems in the process. I divide those poems into mini-books of 5 or 6 each. I have 14 mini-books in my current project. I go over each mini-book until all 5 or 6 poems are of the same family. I’m halfway through this process right now, and the title is ‘Burr and Pearl.’ It will be a book about lost friends.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Jérôme Melançon : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I go back and forth between languages quite a bit. My confidence level with French and English fluctuates. For a while I thought I could write poetry in English. It turns out I wasn’t reading nearly enough poetry in English and a lot of my writing didn’t really get anywhere, wasn’t finding a form. It seems undeveloped to me now, awkward. I’m translating a lot of those poems into French now, basically re-writing them, and I’m much happier with the results. I’m someone who can have very rigid ideas, which is antinomical to what poetry can be right now; my first poems were sonnets! And I hadn’t understood all the rules. Styles and movements are so different in French-language and English-language poetry that moving across them is often more muddling than creative for me.

I constantly feel like I’m not inhabiting either language, like I’m just beside syntax. Writing bilingual poetry has been one way to work around that issue. My chapbook, Coup, came out of my first attempt at just doing whatever. I had rules, sure: they had to fit within a tweet, with Twitter’s old character limit; they had to be couplets, one line in French, the other in English; and they had to rhyme. Better if they could be alexandrines. But within that I didn’t worry about perfection, I just sent everything out there. With this form I suppose I’m owning that French will always be my first language, that I might never cease to approach English through it, and that this can be a strength. My speech and writing have been transformed by these hesitations and echoes.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Mike Puican : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I didn’t start writing poetry until I was an adult. I had been married for six years and was in the middle of a rough divorce and custody battle. I felt lost and alone. One night, walking down a street in Chicago, I stopped into a bar featuring a poetry reading. I had no idea anything like this went on and I was captivated. I began going to every open mic and reading I could find. After a while, I started writing poems and reading them in open mics. I met other writers and they became an important community for me. This led to my involvement in poetry slams and competition at the National Poetry Slam. Over time, my interests have moved to poetry that is more for the page than the stage. Despite that, I’ll always have a strong connection to the performance poetry scene.

Charlie Clark : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I’m answering this question in terms of listening to the live or recorded music of musicians rather than the music inherent in a line of poetry—the latter is obviously crucial, and usually where my poems start: a word, a phrase, the way certain sounds go together. So, that said, I try to keep my poems open to the art I encounter and the conversations about art that I have with others Music is a natural/crucial part of those conversations, so it finds its way into my poems quite regularly. (Frankly, I would love to write—or even simply read—a book of poems that is composed as a series of record reviews.) Lou Reed, John Fahey, Pantera, Talking Heads, etc., all show up in my book, right alongside John Donne, Hafiz, and Whitman. They are all a part of the culture stew of my life, so I try not to separate them out. When I was younger, I always had music on when writing. It felt normal to write with Bad Brains playing; it was just a part of the sensory tapestry of the experience of making. I still do sometimes listen to music while writing, though the music needs to be something less sonically insistent, like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports or Anouar Brahem’s The Astounding Eyes of Rita. And even with those records, I find I’ll need to pause them to figure out the sound of a specific line. In those moments I need the silence to focus. My old professor Stanley Plumly once told me good work requires devotion. I think I half-believed it at the time, but I find it increasingly to be true.

Friday 18 September 2020

Victoria Mbabazi : part five

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

In regards to books, I really love Neil Hilborn’s book Our Numbered Days but general poems when I’m really stressed I always go to Doc Luben’s 14 Lines From Love Letters or Suicide Notes or When A Boy Tells You He Loves You by Edwin Bodney. I just love the sounds of their voices and they’re very sad poems but their cadence is very soothing to me. Musicality is everything.

Thursday 17 September 2020

Julie Hogg : part four

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

I adore Margaret Atwood’s poetry, the work and theory of Levertov and Symborska; Heaney and Hughes are side by side on my shelf. I find Wayne-Holloway Smith’s poetry exciting in its content and form. Stephen Sexton’s acute combinations of words twist my heart.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Keith Leonard : part four

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is important because people are important. Poetry allows us to enter a common space of language to observe all our conflicting emotions, to witness our complexity. Poetry says we matter to each other, that we are not alone in our fear, our grief, our love.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Melissa Studdard : part two

What are you working on?

A lot of projects, simultaneously—which is how I work best. If I get stalled on one, I can work on another. I have several poetry manuscripts going, and I’m also working on an oratorio for a stage adaptation of Hesse’s Siddhartha. Of the poetry manuscripts, the one I can most easily describe is a series of poems told from the perspective of the severed tongue of the mythological character Philomela. As you might imagine, the project can get heavy at times, even though I’ve built in levity—so it’s a relief to be able to write lighter or comical poems for other projects. Another poetry manuscript I’m just putting the finishing touches on is structured as a job application, with two main sections (“Application” and “Interview”) and several subsections (“Previous Experience,” etc.)—so, much of the pathos, humor, and meaning is derived from the placement of poems within specific sections. All of these projects are so different from each other, and I love that. As Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Darrell Epp : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

The first poem that knocked me out was 'Alone' by Edgar Allan Poe. I still love it. Killers lines, startling images, a great surprising ending, hypnotic rhythm--it's got it all. And, some lines in the Richmond Lattimore translation of Aeschylus hit me so hard, that I did think, 'Wouldn't it be great to write something that thrilled a reader the way this thrilled me...?" Still working at it!

Monday 14 September 2020

Tariq Luthun : 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?

For me, the work enters the world verbally. Whether I’m just thinking out loud, singing to myself, feeling out lines aloud – I kind of just let the sounds of words linger, and try to see what they inspire me to do next. To me, poetry is a cathartic experience.

So, for that reason, I don’t really engage with any writers groups or peers in the development of a poem (though I’ll definitely consult friends once the piece is salient and close to that aforementioned readiness). I use poetry as a means to help me process my emotions, my ideas, and my ideals. It’s an act of reflection, mercy, and healing that allows me to learn about myself, my perceptions, and come to grips with that so I can find the peace I need to move through the world.

As a result, I often say that we write for ourselves, but we share for others. My logic here is that the primary and most important audience for a poem is the self. If the poems you write don’t excite and move you, then – no matter how many hundreds or thousands love your work – that vulnerable labor will fail to sustain you. I write out of the desire to continue to exist, and to thrive in the face of all the systems in the world trying to gaslight, commodify, or consume us. Once I’ve done myself justice and written something that moves me, I reason that there are others who navigate the same gamut of emotions I do and have to believe that if something sustains me, there’s a chance it will sustain them. So, I write for myself to stay alive, and I share for others to gain and be moved by something from that process.

Jacob Strautmann : part two

How important is music to your poetry?

In middle school, I thought I would be a musician. When I gave that up, I thought the poems could be my songs. The analogy broke down as I’ve grown less sure of the separation between the genres. Now, I don’t write poems to be songs, but I write poems with songs underneath them. I have a trio of songs built to tunes by the electronic composer Dallas Campbell. Tom Petty plays in the background of a poem in my book. Currently, I’m trying to crowbar The Cure’s ‘Lullaby’ into a poem of Norse myth. I think my first hero was Beethoven, and when I write a poem that surprises me, I remember that.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Jérôme Melançon : part one

Jérôme Melançon writes and lives in oskana kâ-asastêki / Regina, SK. He is the author of a bilingual chapbook with above/ground press, Coup (August 2020), two books of poetry, De perdre tes pas (2011) and Quelques pas quelque part (2016) with Éditions des Plaines, and one book of philosophy, La politique dans l’adversité (Metispresses, 2018). He teaches Francophone studies and philosophy, and even sometimes creative writing, at the University of Regina. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram through @lethejerome.

How does a poem begin?

A desire to stop what’s happening around me and render a moment fully. Not unlike taking a picture. There’s something I know I’ll want to remember, there’s something happening in that moment, emotions attached to things that I want to take with me. I’m not much of a photographer so I can only really account for a moment through words. This swelling feeling often just disappears as I write and the poem falls flat. At times though there’s a line or two that will stick, and I can build the rest of a poem around them.

There’s a struggle between what I’m trying to get across then, the aesthetics of it, and the desire to be in close communication with readers. This writing might also just be me saying “you’ve got to see this!” I haven’t thought too much about what communicating beauty means; it’s just a given for me, I have this desire. I haven’t felt the need to interrogate it, or to question it. And more recently, like in the book I just finished, it’s moved to the beauty in responses to what isn’t beautiful, the aesthetics of what has an aesthetic impact, without necessarily being beautiful.

Saturday 12 September 2020

Mike Puican : part one

Mike Puican’s debut book of poetry, Central Air, has just been released by Northwestern Press. He has had poems in Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, and New England Review among others, and he won the 2004 Tia Chucha Press Chapbook Contest for his chapbook, 30 Seconds. Mike was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team, and is a long-time board member of the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. Currently, he teaches poetry to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals at the Federal Metropolitan Correctional Center and St. Leonard’s House.

How does your work first enter the world?

Strange as it sounds, I use an Excel spreadsheet. When I begin, I typically write down phrases or sentences that sound interesting or mysterious but have no relationship to each other. After I have about forty or fifty of these, I transfer them to an Excel spreadsheet. This makes it very easy to view a large number of disparate thoughts on one screen and move them around to look for the patterns and associations. Once I find a few thoughts that come together in interesting ways, I have the start of a poem.

Charlie Clark : part four

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

Well, Tomaž Šalamun’s “History,” as I said. Beyond that, I am sort of constantly reading Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s two last books, Song and The Orchard. They are perfect books. I will never tire of them. There is actually a British edition that collects the two titles into a single volume. I printed a copy of Brigit’s uncollected poem “Iskandariya” and I use it as the bookmark in that volume, which I keep close to me. I had a period a couple of years ago where I reread Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris for a few months straight. It’s an immensely valuable book. Aside from how well she renders the conceit of the book, I marvel at how there’s no excess to it. In the last few years the work of W.S. Graham and C.D. Wright has become incredibly important to me. Their approach to language, literally at the level of the word, of thinking about words as objects, is important. And their approach to humor, not that people think of them as especially funny poets, per se. They’re not trying to get a laugh out of you, but they are often, on some level, amusing themselves, and there is a real intimacy in finding yourself equally amused. If I’m stuck while writing, I’ll pull some of the work of these writers off the shelf and see how they handle things. Not that they only serve the function of helping me as I write. I never tire of the pleasures of their work. The consolation of observing their ways of thinking.

Friday 11 September 2020

Victoria Mbabazi : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is the most important thing in my poetry. I think general media in general but music would be the starting point. I love writing poems with no punctuation and I also really love writing prose poems and sometimes the only ways to make those two work is just to have a good sense of rhythm. I always tell people the best way to learn how to write a poem is to listen to rap music.

Thursday 10 September 2020

Julie Hogg : part three

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

In true Freudian style, I can play with words.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Keith Leonard : part three

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

I tend to read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift once a year. It’s a book that puts poetry in context of gift cultures, rather than capitalist cultures. I find it’s essential for me to be reminded that poems are not commodities to be sold. Or at least they don’t work well as commodities. Rather, poetry is an ethic of living. For some reason, I forget that, and reading Hyde’s The Gift brings me back to writing, encouraging me that the intension of poetry exists outside the way American culture currently affixes value. 

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Melissa Studdard : part one

Melissa Studdard is the author of five books, including the poetry collection I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast and the poetry chapbook Like a Bird with a Thousand Wings. Her work has been featured by PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and has also appeared in periodicals such as POETRY, Kenyon Review, Psychology Today, New Ohio Review, Harvard Review, Missouri Review, and New England Review. Her Awards include The Penn Review Poetry Prize, the Tom Howard Prize from Winning Writers, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and more.

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins in the roof of the mouth or the lower lining of the heart, like a monarch clinging to the underside of a marigold leaf. It spins itself into new being; it demands attention with the coloration of flight. We all have it, the poem. Every human, I mean it, has poems in them, can do this. You just have to open yourself, pay attention, hone your craft.

Here are some of the many ways you can recognize that a poem wants to do its thing in you—

You hear a phrase that ignites you due to its dexterity of language or unusual syntax or colloquial vibrancy, and you want to write it down.
You notice something happening, like a caterpillar eating a parsley stem, or a bohemian-looking woman holding the hand of a woman in a business suit, and you want to write it down.
You feel something, like a sunset or a break up so deeply that you must lay it on the page to relieve yourself of it enough to go about your daily life.
You read another poem that blows your mind, and holy hell, you HAVE TO WRITE one too.
You find a great prompt or book of prompts or someone gives you a prompt.
You feel the frame or structure of it, and you know you want to fill it in.
You feel the rhythms and sounds, and you find the content to ignite them.
You encounter something going on in the world that deserves poetic attention, and you decide you must do it.
You suddenly hear a phrase or see an image in your head.
You come across an interesting question, and it can only be answered with a poem.

Darrell Epp : part one

Darrell Epp’s poetry has appeared in over 100 magazines on 6 continents. His poems have been collected in the books Imaginary Maps, After Hours, and Sinners Dance.

What are you working on? 

Putting together my fourth poetry collection, 'Mechanical Monkeys' which will be published by Mosaic Press late next year.

Monday 7 September 2020

Tariq Luthun : part one

Tariq Luthun is a Detroit-born Palestinian community organizer, data consultant, and Emmy Award-winning poet. He earned his MFA in Poetry from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and currently serves as Editor of the Micro Department at The Offing Literary Magazine. His work has appeared in Vinyl Poetry, Lit Hub, Mizna, and Button Poetry, among other credits. His first collection of poetry, HOW THE WATER HOLDS ME, was awarded Editors' Selection by Bull City Press and is available now.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t think you can ever know when a poem is finished. I recall being in a workshop co-lead by New York poet Jon Sands back when I was a teenager, and when it was time to pause our drafts and put our pencils down he said, “Remember: you have the rest of your life to finish this poem.”
That notion gave me a lot of comfort, but it is also somewhat daunting to think about how you can always revisit a poem. Once you realize that a poem is an extension of the body, and is thus as malleable as its creator, there are too many moving parts to consider: the emotional and mental state of the writer, the world around us and what it calls for, the content itself and if it has been done justice, etc. So, if you’re like me, you might feel compelled to revise the work beyond its initial “timestamp” of publication.

So, I think the closest we can get to “finished” is actually coming to a place where we feel that the poem is ready. To take it a step further, I believe that a poem is ready to enter the world when the creator feels at peace with the work the poem is doing, and believes that someone, somewhere, may benefit from engaging with said work.

Jacob Strautmann : part one

Jacob Strautmann’s debut book of poems The Land of the Dead Is Open for Business was released in March 2020 from Four Way Books. He is a recipient of the Massachusetts Poetry Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. His poems have appeared in the Boston Globe, Agni Magazine, Salamander Magazine, Southern Humanities Review, Blackbird, and other magazines. Strautmann is the Department Manager of Economics at Boston University, where he also teaches playwriting. He lives in Belmont, MA with his partner Valerie Duff and their two children.

Photo Credit: Kalman Zabarsky

How did you first engage with poetry?

Deceit. I was required to memorize a poem every six weeks (out of the same packet of about 50 poems) every year of high school.  I didn’t trust poems, and I was bored with it.  I remember asking my English teacher how we were the authority on what a poet intended. “How do we know Emily Dickinson isn’t talking about real giants?” was one of my insightful questions. Ultimately, I asked if I could memorize from a collection of Greek poems in translation I found in the library.  After a couple successful memorizations and sensing the teacher didn’t know if I were word-perfect or not, I started writing my own poems to memorize, but I craftily used the names of the Greek authors as my cover.  I think I made it to age thirty before I realized there was no way I had her fooled.

Sunday 6 September 2020

Mark Harris : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

It’s tempting to respond with a page-long list. To never stop changing my thinking, that’s my wish. Influences on my early writing include Emily Dickinson, Robert Creeley, Lucille Clifton, Jorge Luis Borges, Basho, Robert Lax, Amiri Baraka, Lorine Niedecker, Raymond Roseliep, Gustaf Sobin. I’ve also learned so much from reading Paul Celan, Rae Armantrout, Anne Carson, Elizabeth Robinson, Fred Moten, and many others.

Connection to authors I’ve come to know through Ornithopter Press means the world to me. Their poetry has changed my appreciation of poetics, and how could it not? To read holding others in mind, and then to reach a concerted understanding, and common cause, is transformational. To think I’ve had the good fortune to publish such brilliant people—I’m grateful.

Saturday 5 September 2020

Charlie Clark : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Maya Phillips’s Erou is an incredible read. It’s a project book, following the hero’s journey (in this case her father’s) into the afterlife. But it manages to go so many places, to think through grief in so many different ways. I encourage everyone to seek it out.

I also just got a copy of the Wanda Coleman selected Wicked Enchantment, the one that Terrence Hayes edited for Black Sparrow Press. I’ve read some of Coleman’s work here and there, but never made a sustained inquiry into it. I’m only a handful of pages into the book, but I am already having the feeling that I’ll be coming back to it regularly.

Friday 4 September 2020

Victoria Mbabazi : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I never know when a poem is finished. I just hope it is and then my trusted writer friends workshop it and tell me it isn’t.

Thursday 3 September 2020

Julie Hogg : part two

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is intrinsic to my poetry. My first degree is Language and Linguistics and I’ve always been fascinated by rhythm, repetition, sounds – the musicality of lexis and speech. Often, a particular song or instrumental will capture the very same energy as my poem and I’ll play it on repeat whilst I write. I love a good riff.

Michael Chang : coda

I encourage all young writers, particularly those from marginalized or “non-traditional” backgrounds, to get your work out there.  You don’t need a MFA to write.  Work hard, do your homework (read widely and obsessively, appreciate your place in the constellation of amazing writers throughout history), challenge yourself.  The world needs to hear from you.  Evie Shockley, a fellow lawyer-poet, once said to me: “No one else can create the art that you will make.”  Amen!

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Keith Leonard : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

In school, I assumed a poem was something to be broken down and understood completely. But the longer I’ve been out of the classroom, the more I’ve realized that, for me, I care less about understanding a poem and more about listening to a poem. I think those two things are very different. Understanding a poem can sometimes be rooted in the impulse to possess an object; listening to a poem is just being there and being open to what the poem has to say. Reading poetry and writing poetry are both acts of attention—which, for me, takes conscious work. I get distracted easily. But poetry requires a battling of that impulse towards ease. It requires sitting with a page of words that came from another conscious mind as that person attempted to explain or explore. 

Tuesday 1 September 2020

James Knight : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is language freed from utilitarian constraints. It is important because of its playfulness, its unproductiveness. We all dream and day-dream. Whimsical notions occur to us in our idle moments. Those irrational ideas need expression if we are to be healthy and happy, and poetry is one way in which they can be given life. I honestly believe that if everyone read poetry now and then we would be a less tormented, destructive species. And, of course, everyone can write poetry - it would be wonderful if they did.