Saturday 31 October 2020

Joyelle McSweeney : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Yeats says a poem should end like a well-made box, closing, but these days I know a poem is finished when I want to go live there, when it doesn't bother me anymore. Close me up in the book, in the vault. And then, like Madeline Usher, I'll spring out! 


Thursday 29 October 2020

Ashley Hynd : part five

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

Poetry is so precise … it can be read in an instant but felt for an eternity … it can continue to unfold inside someone’s heart long after it has graced their eyes … in this sense, poetry can shift opinions, it can open minds to things they were previously closed to, it can bridge gaps in communication across different cultures or classes or lived experiences … it is small enough to slip under one’s defences yet large enough to move the biggest barriers  ...

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : part five

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

I do have to pull myself up and back every now and then. I find with my constant creating I go in different directions which is good and bad. I love to experiment, but I still find solace in what I think of as a “base” style for my vispo and asemic work. I talk a little about this style in Brave New Word. When I am wanting to come back, not just with visual work, but to my soul, I look to these poets, mainly. I do love anthologies and will always turn to an anthology in a time of need. I think they are hugely underrated. We should all be reading anthologies daily. 

No More Masks: An Anthology of Poems by Women, edited by Ellen Bass and Florence Howe;  Levertov; Bachmann; Rich.


Tuesday 27 October 2020

Regan Good : part three

How important is music to your work:

You mean rhythm and sound combined?  Without music, it is not poetry.  It just isn’t.  It is something else that could be interesting for other reasons, but music is elemental to poetry.  Music is the engine; thought is not the engine.  No music?  You have prose maybe artfully arranged.  To me it is Death.  That is the truth.  Poetic music was first the sound of clapping or feet stamping around a fire, maybe with some chanting or groans added in.  Rhythmic utterance, incantation, dream, intuition, song, prayer.  Music is the most elemental part of the art and I refuse to abandon it.  There are some interesting flat sounding poems out there that do work, so what do I know?  Still, how else does one really reach another place?  You need transport.  It is true that you have to be sure you don’t lie with your music.  Be careful that it doesn’t lull you into saying a half-truth or something sentimental or fuzzy.  I was preoccupied with that at Iowa, how to ensure I didn’t lie.  I was obsessed—and I still am; I wanted my poems to be pure.  In graduate school, I dropped all my dumb, half-understood college girl tools and began to work without any nets at all.  It was a mess but necessary.  (I was reminded yesterday that in high school I had wanted to be a hybrid of Thomas Wyatt and Joni Mitchell!) I’m finally seeing how that ugly period led to the poems I am writing now, the poems I wanted to write 25 years ago.  Things take a long time to settle in art, one’s own art, if you are really putting pressure on your work.  So, please, everyone remember that art is not a race, though our culture makes it seem so.  

Monday 26 October 2020

Vik Shirley : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The agonising last throes of finishing. I often 'finish' as I'm submitting to mags. So often, I'm there, already after numerous versions and edits, maybe after workshopping or showing friends, and then, as the deadline nears, and you're forced to really get into the minutia, suddenly the whole damn poem is populated with issues and you have to keep going over and over it. This can go on for days after you thought you were ready to submit. It feels like a kind of madness at that point. The easy, fun part is coming up with the idea and getting started. The creative rush is what I'm in it for, really. Then the work begins and I don't like work, it's just got to be done. Sometimes you don't manage to nail it for the submission. The poem gets rejected and you look at it again and say oh no, I can see now what's wrong and it's easy to fix. Some poems come together and get published with no sweat at all, but others ... I had a poem accepted for British mag, The Rialto, recently, which I'd been working on for about three years!

Sunday 25 October 2020

Rachel Eliza Griffiths : 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?

I haven’t shared poems with friends or writers groups in years. I like to have the intimacy of this work all to myself for as long as possible prior to publication. It’s such a private geography. It also takes time and patience for me to let the poem’s voice really fill the language, however uneasy that feels, however intensely that happens in the work. I have to do it alone, aware that I’m not alone because there are other poets, other readers, living and dead, who are in that poem with me. Mostly, I’m reluctant to ask for a second set of eyes and when I finally do it is likely it will be an editor or my agent who is looking at the work. Many poet-friends in my life are generous and willing to read my work before I publish my poems but I’m aware that they are also trying to balance obligations that factor into the daily living and writing of their own work, day-jobs, teaching, time their families, and their overall health. I would rather they give that extra time and energy to themselves, as it is so needed by all of us, especially during this pandemic. It’s a gift, and I don’t take it for granted, that they will be there for me and vice versa, but I tend to save this sort of request for something that’s very special or where I’m feeling more vulnerable than I usually do.

Dennis Cooley : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Everything is unfinished. It always is. I remember being outraged when learning that W.H. Auden said, or what somebody called Mallarmé said, a poem is never finished, it is only abandoned. I took that to be an excuse for something worse than slovenliness. I've since come to agree with what he was saying.
In the practice of writing, or in at least one theory of language, you never can 'finish' a poem, if by 'finish' we mean fixed in place, once and for all, as if it had found an ultimate achievement beyond which you cannot possibly go. But you can never be done with the words and the shapes. I've come to think of the poem as something that is open and unrealized, immune to completion and  resistant to perfection. I believe in trying to polish them, making them shine, but they're never finished, as in done and totally sufficient. I never feel that what I have written cannot be improved, or altered into another no-less accomplished version. It could always take a small or even large swerve in another direction. The sense of the poem as a done deed doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
So when are you “done”? The limits often are practical. You get tired; you haven’t the energies to take it further. You haven’t time: the editor wants, the publisher insists; you yourself have to get on with the quotidian pressures of your life; you have run out of ideas, words, impetus, inspiration, models; you have other things to write; nobody in her right mind (or a mind to her bank account) is going to publish your 2,000 page poem; you lose oomph, purpose: the damn thing wears down your hopes and spirits; you are depleted mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically; you are discouraged, defeated, can do no more; you are elated with what you have done, or at least pleased, you want to find a reader you have an idea what sorts of editors may wait lovingly or unlovingly on the other side of the door, readers too; what it is they will bless or curse? 

You aren’t writing to god. You are a suffering, flawed mortal with your own dreams and limitations; you work in the sublunary world. You have to let it go at some point. You may have to learn to let it go.  

These words at the end of my book Country Music:

                                   I've done my best
                       no no   there's no need for thanks

        it is the least
                          i could do
               it's not as if i thought
         it was done
                                                           or anything
               that there could be no more
            not in the least

        what can i say
that's the way things go
whether or not they are finished

Saturday 24 October 2020

Joyelle McSweeney : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My introduction to poetry was extremely random and archaic-- two qualities which may be found in my poesie to this day. An important and dubious early accident was the gift of a red-vinyl bound anonymous-feeling anthology of 'best-loved American poetry", which included poems in supposed regional and racial dialects, patriotic ballads about George Washington and Paul Revere, "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley (the famous  "Hoosier" poet who wrote the supposed "Hoosier" dialect) and also weird bits of decadence, like Thoreau's poem "Smoke" which begins "Light-winged Smoke, Icarian bird!" or "I am a gentleman in a dustcoat trying" (John Crowe Ransom) and then, like, "Casey at the Bat." 

I had no fucking idea what any of this was, it all seemed so cryptic, cartoonish, violent, boisterous and random, but I felt compelled to read and re-read it. Something of its hectic exclamatory nature and its random throngdness has certainly stuck with me, and made me at least a fearless reader, a reader who goes by ear and loves a crowd. I think there was some Sandburg too to balance it out, which is sort of shocking in retrospect, given his socialism. The people, yes. Of course the chaos and racial violence of American languaging was also evident in this book, entirely audible and threatening. Even alphabetical order felt like being pelted with pebbles, and what was this thing at the back--this index of first lines, which just mashed the whole thing up and regurgitated it again, this time with rhythmic, quasi-religious delivery? 

Next up I read a sexily-illustrated edition of Poe, which introduced me to a lot of decadent logics, decor, costumes, hair-styles, architectures, motifs and narrative mechanisms. These would seem far-fetched and thrilling for a long time until they just started to seem true. 

Later our own little baby would live and die at a hospital built and named as a memorial to James Whitcomb Riley, The Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. Whenever I was not in her room I was in a little Gothic-style library, which was v. quiet, since literally not one of my fellow Hoosiers  (except for Johannes Göransson) were ever in there. A very Bruce Wayne feel to this library, and a very haunted feel to this hospital. I continue to be haunted by this hospital, and I would like in turn to haunt it. I would like to live there as the library ghost.

Friday 23 October 2020

Bruno Neiva : part five

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

I always return to Charles Bernstein’s poems and Donald Barthelme’s short stories. I always find something new in their work that triggers new ideas.


Thursday 22 October 2020

Ashley Hynd : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

What I find most difficult is more about my creative process … I am a percolator … So for me a fundamental part of my process is this period of time between existing in the world gathering the poems in my body and when they have steeped and are pouring out. It’s kind of like how when you first wake and are not awake enough to notice the absence of coffee, you get out of bed, load the coffee machine, fill it with water and then suddenly YOU NEED COFFEE, only you still have to wait for it to finish slowly dripping into the pot … the difficult phase is like that, knowing I need to write, feeling it in my body, but not being able to write just yet … once that phase has passed the poems come easy ... 

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : part four

 What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I was in class today “teaching” a poem; I teach in a university and this is a Freshman course. After spending some time on the poem, at the end of the poem I said, “this is exhausting” and they heartily agreed shaking their heads. Then I was like, “this is our work”. The whole shebang is difficult. I have been so driven to create in the past years that I am exhausted yet exhilarated. In a lot of ways, I find it difficult to stop myself—to tend to normal life and to “rest”. I am reminded that there are a lot of artists out there like me, obsessed, and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. That is all I can say. 


Tuesday 20 October 2020

Regan Good : part two

How does a poem begin:  

As Madame Moore said, “Ecstasy affords the occasion and expediency determines the form.”  I know when something is happening, time gets sticky and I feel both small and large at once.  A dead rose on a bush can offer entry.  It’s a textural thing.  The small thing leads to the big space that I understand as freedom; I let my mind sort of fan out until I feel like there’s a hinge or a hatch, a feeling of another world behind whatever image or bit of music afforded the poem.  This is not symbol making.  Despite the feeling of space and freedom, I do impose a lot of strictures on myself.  Poetry is a special kind of thinking, poetry is thinking that is bound to feeling, not tiny personal feelings, but to the larger archetypal feelings of human kind—love, confusion, anger, grief, horror of death, joy—whatever river the poet is in.  I’m fascinated by prehistoric Man and I try to imagine what their connection to the world was like which is impossible to know; they are our first poets.  The work they did—making sense of the world through stars, rocks, vegetation, animals, water and forging rituals and ceremonies—that is the poet’s work writ large.  I am very careful to keep myself in the Cloud of Unknowing for as long as possible when writing, every line needs to flow from the feeling of wanting to know but not knowing.  As Frost wrote, “way leads on to way.”  I keep poems “open” for years because I love the feeling of potential, or re-entering the mess of words and being in that place of suspended time.  I am always asking myself, is this room big enough?  Can I see all the corners?  If I can see the corners then I need to open a window or find a tunnel out of there, or I need to build another floor.  I wait for a feeling of overlays.  I believe that poetry is “the best words in the best order,” but I also absolutely don’t believe in perfection of any kind whatsoever, at least in regard to anything produced by Man.  I love imperfections, ruin and all examples of Wabi-Sabi in the world.  

Monday 19 October 2020

Vik Shirley : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Two fairly recent obsessions have been Tom Jenks's A Long and Hard Night Troubled by Visions, published by if p then q and Colin Herd's You Name it, on Dostoyevsky Wannabe. Both these books are incredibly funny and clever, and fill me with delight. Jenks does so much in one short piece. You never know where he's going to lead you. The situations are so absurd and surreal, often containing references from the 1980s, or popular culture. Each word does so much. There's strong use of irony and deadpan humour, but not in a snidey way. There's a faux innocence and sincerity  to it, which I find hilarious and irresistible. Herd also plays with popular culture, and everyday language. His poetry is fun, sexy and deliciously stylish. I bought my friend this book, he was saying how he loved the 'non-endings'. I would add non-titles to that too, or 'anti-titles'. 'And I haven't even thought about a garnish' being a favourite end line and 'Definitely wear trainers!' being a favourite title. Adore.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Rachel Eliza Griffiths : part one

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet, artist, and novelist. Her. most recent collection is Seeing the Body (W.W. Norton 2020). Griffiths' work has widely appeared, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, and many others. She lives in New York City. 

How did you first engage with poetry?

Probably in the music my parents played when I was very young. My mother read books to me. She encouraged me to read aloud to myself while she cooked dinner for our large family, which is why maybe sometimes books and reading feel like such a feast to me! Another thing that is a bit hard to describe was that I was always listening to how people described themselves, their lives, other people, and shared stories. Sometimes it was more about the textures, or slang, or the way that they said something simply with their voice or eyes. I felt like I was overhearing secrets about how to live in the world. But it also engaged my growing appetite for observation and attention. Details about the world everywhere I went accumulated in me. I think that Lorca’s articulation of Duende is the closest and clearest to what I’m trying to say.  I don’t think I have a consciousness that doesn’t begin with poetry being right there in my first memories. It’s always been there even if, as a child, I didn’t know how to call it anything else but the simplest of feelings – tree, rain, blue, sun, mother, father, heart, sleep, fire, face. 

Dennis Cooley : part one

For decades Dennis Cooley has been active as poet, editor, teacher, critic, mentor, publisher in Winnipeg. He has published thirty books, including Bloody Jack, Irene, The Bentleys, seeing red, and The Home Place (a book on Robert Kroetsch’s poetry). the muse sings, cold-press moon, and the bestiary have appeared in 2020. 

Photo credit: Diane Cooley

What are you working on?

I have been working with the photographer, Michael Matthews, on the gibbous moon, a collaboration that is nearly reader for the press. Michael has produced a large number of stunning abstracts and I have provided the poems. Another collection, body works, which plays with ideas of the body and human mortality, is in submission with another press. I intend soon to return to one manuscript, 1931, concerned with the Estevan miner’s strike, which has been lying in wait for many years. I have on the go half a dozen journals that I have kept and edited over the years, and a collection of travel poems related to the journals. The most ambitious project, love in a dry land, has been on-going since 1989 and has grown into a comically large ms, which I am starting to shape for submission.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Joyelle McSweeney : part one

Joyelle McSweeney is the author of ten books, most recently Toxicon & Arachne, poems; The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, a goth ecopoetics; and Dead Youth, or, The Leaks, a verse play. She co-edits the international press Action Books and is a co-translator of Yi Sang: Selected Works. She teaches at Notre Dame.

What are you working on?

Right now I am reading Mary Shelley's journals and working on a long poem in daily installments called Deathstyles

I haven't returned to Deathstyles for a bit because of the chaos of daily life, but in that sense my own chaos seems to have merged with the defunct dailiness of Deathstyles and with M.Shelley's journals. I feel a sense of self-recognition, self-contempt and of course fondness as I read about the chaos of the Shelley set, the amount of time PB Shelley spent not-writing, but rather going around trying to scrape together loans, the gossip that was traded about and circulated back to them, the seriousness with which they approached such endeavours as publishing anarchic texts via fire balloon, the random ways catastrophe arrived--by germ and undertow, not fire-balloon. I feel very reflected in the book, in all of its characters and settings, improbable successes and boisterous failures, sublimities and calamities

The Deathstyles are narrative poems about trying to want to live and trying to help children live in a world made of death. The title is a reference to Ingeborg Bachmann's novel trilogy about trying to want to survive a world revealed to be structured by patriarchy's death-dealing. In a world designed to be unsurvivable, is death an act of resistance or capitulation? I have one answer for myself, and another for my daughters, so, like Mary Shelley, I just keep going. 

Friday 16 October 2020

Bruno Neiva : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

The last poetry books I read were This Is The Way The World Ends by Pedro Eiras, notes from recently by Chris Turnbull, Two Hundred Houses by Rachel Sills, The Lonesomest Sound by Mike Ferguson, Go Sift Omen by Paul Hawkins and A Certain Plume by Henri Michaux. Currently, I’m reading the anthologies Written: 1976-2013 by P. Inman and Flarf: An Anthology of Flarf.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Ashley Hynd : part three

What are you working on?

I am currently working on a new poetry project funded by The Regional of Waterloo Arts Fund. It’s an erasure project that uses the United Nations Language Vitality and Endangerment document as a source text to create Traditional Style Anishinaabe Myths about how the language was lost. 

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : part three

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

This is a big YES. I started my journey in asemics by joining groups like Michael Jacobson’s The New Post-Literate and connecting with people there. I knew a few folks since my husband is an avid asemicist. Facebook has been a great place (can you believe it?) for me to connect with like-minded people who are practicing now. In that light, I started a group, Women Asemic Artists and Visual Poets (WAAVe Global) and it has been a real source of inspiration and joy. I always post new work—pretty much daily—and that helps me to stay connected to what is going on and get feedback and also hang with friends! De Villo Sloan has been a big influence and supporter of mine for a while. He has really encouraged me to keep going and I value his feedback on my work. And, I am always inspired by what others (especially the women) are doing. I am just starting to get into Twitter. I am working on sharing there, too. 

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Regan Good : part one

Regan Good attended the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and currently teaches writing at the Pratt School of Architecture and Barnard College.  She published her first book, THE ATLANTIC HOUSE, in 2011, and her second, THE NEEDLE, this year.  She lives in Brooklyn.  

Photo credit: Mia Isabella Photography

Poets I learned from:

Dead: All of the dead poets teach us/me, and I am always thinking of them (especially the American poets Dickinson, Frost, Bishop, Stevens, Berryman, Crane, Lowell, Eliot, Moore, Roethke, Whitman, Ashbery).  Yeats was foundational to me, I can’t imagine poetry without him, my middle name is Maud after Maud Gonne because Yeats was my mother’s favorite poet.  Another important influence (though why would any one care?) was Milosz and the book The Bells of Winter.  I also read Anna Akhmatova and Wislawa Szymborska at an important point as well. Rilke, too. Recently Aime Cesaire’s poems have become portals, and also St. Jean Perse’s Chronique taught me something I can’t articulate but I felt it the second I read his work—it’s huge. 

Living: I learned a tremendous amount from Jorie Graham at Iowa; her third book, The End of Beauty was very important to me.  I was saved from a path of perdition in the early 90s by Donald Revell’s work; his book New Dark Ages was a real rock in a ironic ocean.  I did not believe in the ironic style that marked the 90s (but for one or two exceptions), and I was happy to turn away from it.  Jane Mead’s beautiful work was important for that reason, a sane alternative.  Then the work of poet peers who one has known for decades informs one in imperceptible ways.  I recently gave a reading with Geoffrey Nutter and Matt Rohrer and we felt we were in a dream, listening to each other and thinking backward to who we were in 1993 in Iowa City.  A lifetime later and we are still hard at it. 

Monday 12 October 2020

Tariq Luthun : coda

What are you working on?

In the poetry space? Not too much these days (though I’m supposed to be writing my first full-length collection). I’ve been pretty spread thin between a lot of community-based work. It’s been difficult to think about writing poems when the people I love are struggling to survive. But, that’s not a new phenomenon – there has always been suffering in the world, and poems have always been written. In many cases, these poems help us get by. But, I’m just at a point where it’s been tough to navigate doing both, especially given difficulties of community organizing mid-pandemic.

That said, something I’m really optimistic about is the work we’re doing here in the Detroit disability community to propose city charter revisions that will make the city more accessible. We are in coalition with so many other grassroots orgs ranging from people fighting for clean water to fair housing to eliminating surveillance, so I’m excited about the potential we have to improve things for everyone being left in the wake of certain, narrow “revitalization” efforts. Other than that, on the literary side of things, I’m transitioning in my role at The Offing to shift from work as an editor to helping build out the platform in more unique and impactful ways. The Offing has always been a necessary space for marginalized voices, but I’m excited to see how we can take things to the next level and build upon the successes of previous years.

But, most importantly, I’ve been working on myself and learning how to do a little less. There was a point where I was spread so thin between my full-time job and the time I volunteer as an organizer, that I wasn’t able to be my best self and would often find myself going through the motions. So, I’m learning to prioritize better so that I can get back to doing the work that sustains me, and in turn, the people I serve.

Vik Shirley : part one

Vik Shirley's chapbook, Corpses, was published by Sublunary Editions in March 2020. Her collection, The Continued Closure of the Blue Door, is forthcoming from HVTN Press and a pamphlet of her visual poetry is due from Hesterglock Press, early 2021. Her work has appeared in such places as Perverse, 3am Magazine and Dostoyevsky Wannabe Cities: Bristol. She is currently studying for a PhD in 'Dark Humour and the Surreal in Poetry' at the University of Birmingham. Follow her @VikShirley.

Photo credit: Lisa Whiting

What are you working on?

I've been working on some short fictions, a poetry review and some grotesque miniatures, similar to those in my Corpses chapbook. I've also been finishing my Disrupted Blue and Other Poems on Polaroid pamphlet, for Hesterglock Press, a book of visual poems combining found family photographs and handwriting. The lead pieces use Joni Mitchell lyrics. Blue was my mother's favourite album. The book is dedicated to her. The Polaroids are ones she took when travelling in Europe and Canada. They were separated from family photos, as they didn't contain people. Some are buildings and structures, others scenery. There are 10 pieces that match the 10 album tracks. The other poems work with text, automatic writing, generated over lockdown. I have some of the poems coming out in the Autumn issue of The Indianapolis Review. The original five, which inspired me to put the book together, were published in 3am Magazine last year. For my PhD studies, I'm about to have a look at the poetry of Egyptian-French surrealist poet Joyce Mansour, in relation to sex, death and humour in her writing.

Sunday 11 October 2020

Jérôme Melançon : part five

What are you working on?

I always have too many projects going on at once. I’ve been writing for years and not putting out much - my two books were written as one, fifteen years ago, and I added a few things here and there before the second one came out. Poems have been piling up ever since. I’m completely rewriting most of that work, and adding on based on what this self-transformation is letting me see about my past and present experiences.

As I mentioned before I’m putting together a fourth book right now, all in French, of poems about places in Western Canada. It’s become a practice of tentative decolonization, partly by working on old poems that kept that colonial gaze on a land that’s empty of people and relations, empty of history, just something to be perceived. There can be beauty in that, Camus’ writing has a lot of it, but this beauty comes at a cost and is an appropriation, is part of the larger continuing appropriation of the land through settler colonialism. It’s beauty that’s predicated on erasing a lot of what makes beauty possible.

And at the back, somewhere, is another book on travel, and that one will end up being bilingual in different ways, and might have to be unconventional in its presentation because I want to account for distance through history and geography. I have no idea where I might even submit it, but I suppose that’ll be a problem I’ll need to wait to deal with later on. I have a lot of poems I’ve written while travelling. There’s colonialism here too: in reading these poems I feel I was often appropriating all these places in that same way I’ve been doing it in the Prairies. But now… There’s confinement and the absence of deconfinement for my family even though it’s August now, and the nostalgia for travel itself and not just for specific trips. There’s carbon emissions, and then there’s the destruction that tourism brings, even as it’s supposed to bring some money - and that might just be another form of exploitation. Travel writing can’t have the same meaning it used to have, when eurocentrism was the norm. It certainly doesn’t for me.

For more immediate things, on Instagram (@lethejerome) I’ve been messing around with an old idea of bringing together poetry, politics, and philosophy. And it’s mostly poetic prose, so automatic translations should give you something. Lately there’s a lot about landscaping and sidewalks because with confinement I’m going for walks in a residential neighbourhood. Sidewalks lend themselves to a lot of metaphors, and there’s a lot they exclude. There’s a larger project in there somewhere, writing poetry about and from political philosophers, but I haven’t figured out what that might be just yet. I want to read more political poetry first. I’d love to be able to write something that’s at once poetry, politics, and philosophy, where neither of the three terms are an adjective or qualifier for the other, but where I might find each in the other through various techniques. I’m willing to give it time.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Mike Puican : part five

When you require renewal, is there a particular author that you return to? 

Whenever I feel stuck, I turn to Albert Goldbarth. Reading his work makes me realize that anything is possible. He has the incredible ability to mix small, mundane elements of people’s lives, honest reflections of his personal struggles, and big ideas of philosophy, religion, or science into a single poem. He does it in an easy conversational style that never seems forced. His big-hearted poetry often comments on the shared challenges and experiences we face as humans without a drop of sentimentality. It has been said that Goldbarth can make a metaphor out of anything. His work is a door that opens to show me all that writing can achieve.

Friday 9 October 2020

Bruno Neiva : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

The list is quite long… I’ll name a few: Ana Hatherly, Alberto Pimenta, Charles Bernstein, P. Inman, E. E. Cummings, Gertrude Stein, Aram Saroyan, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Charles Simic, Russell Edson, Tom Jenks, etc.

Thursday 8 October 2020

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I think this is an important question. If we are not evaluating “what poetry is” on the regular (remember that Ashbery poem, “What is Poetry”?), we are not really doing the work. So, then, what does that journey look like? I started in “conventional” poetry 20 years ago and most recently (past two years) strayed to asemic (for good definitions of this see Wikipedia) and vispo (visual poetry). I think the asemic and vispo scenes have erupted. From what I can tell, the asemic and vispo scenes, for years marginalized, are just getting into the mainstream with a recent write-up in Art in America, for example. I say that to illustrate that what we know is always ever evolving (especially definitions), right? Of course. What is marginalized, will become defined, policed (gatekeepers), and create more revolutionary work. Working in asemics and vispo has really opened my consciousness in this way. I want to be fluid. In and out. Back and forth. 15 years ago, I was focused on getting my poems published in “good” journals. 

Now, I am especially drawn to and searching for the work of women. I (and many others) see the work of women to be leading the way in vispo and asemics. See Dona Mayoora or Terri Witek. We must give women the publications and gallery shows we have not received; we have been overlooked or pushed out. We are here. That is why I started WAAVe (Women Asemic Writers and Visual Poets). Amanda Earl is doing really amazing work on this front. Too much to list here. 

Ashbery’s poem has these lines: “Shut your eyes, and you can feel it for miles around. / Now open them on a thin vertical path.” Is this poetry?

I really don’t think this answers the question at all! Ha. 

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Melissa Studdard : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t know if a poem is ever finished. What happens is the poet calls it done and moves on. You could spend your lifetime writing one novel or poetry collection, or a decade writing ten novels or collections. How much of a perfectionist are you? How done do you want to be before you move on? The beauty of doneness in poetry and the other arts is that it’s at least partially subjective. In the best circumstances, I feel an ending. It’s the same feeling as when you finish a life phase. It’s in your bones: Stop. It’s the same feeling that tells you to end a relationship, a night out, a collage. So, I would say to a student of writing, “Listen to yourself; listen to the poem.” In the worst circumstances, I don’t know when to end because I haven’t paid attention well enough, or I’m rushing to move on to something else or I go on for too long because I don’t want to start the next project. Then, I figure it out later. Or someone tells me. The good thing about writing a poem is that you can keep revising until you feel good about it.

Darrell Epp : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Demo by Charlie Smith. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. The Sonnets by Sandra Simonds. Galaxy Love by Gerald Stern. Isaiah. Collected Poems of Hopkins, always...

Monday 5 October 2020

Tariq Luthun : part five

How does a poem begin?

I think the genesis of poetry starts with life. Living, engaging with the world around you, and so on, are the fuel for good stories to be born. But, I think once that’s established, there is a more prevalent starting point: a poem begins with desire.

I know that’s a rather vague answer, but I don’t know of any other way to quantify it. Now, that desire can be for something like attention, or it can be something more internally focused. In my case, poetry is born out of a desire to heal – whether that healing ends up serving myself or others, I try not to dictate. But, it starts with a desire that is entirely my own, and from there the poem blossoms. My desires then shift as the poem matures, and then – once I’m healed (or getting there) – I desire for it to help heal others (or at least move them in some small way).

A poem can do immense work and never see the light of day. The desire it helps us process is a beautiful thing to interrogate because while the poem may never leave the confines of our notebooks, the impact it leaves on our living, moving, feeling bodies arcs the way we interact with the world we live in. And, if living is the genesis of poetry, then the actions we do or do not take – and how – set of an entirely unknowable chain of life experiences and, subsequently, poems.

Jacob Strautmann : part five

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I started I had specific and selfish expectations of what poetry would bring.  I made poems to try to be original, to attract a love, to grow famous, to make my mark. That’s the biggest change. Today, the poems are just for themselves. Like trees. I know I feel better when I’m building poems. So I keep doing it. Somewhere under it all I’m sure poems are witness and transformation, and always a two-way street.

Sunday 4 October 2020

Jérôme Melançon : part four

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

I’m a political philosopher by training, so most of my writing focuses on being extremely precise with concepts and arguments, with relating descriptions and analyses to contexts. I inhabit the world Maurice Merleau-Ponty laid out and I’m still trying to find my way through it (that’s my book La politique dans l’adversité and the four projects I’m editing at the moment) and out of it (by asking questions I don’t think he can answer, by reading philosophers and thinkers who are very different from him). I have hesitations about rhetoric and persuasion. I’m not sure arguments work unless they have something else attached to them - affectivity, beauty, refusal, a desire for something different.

Maybe poetry can be more convincing than arguments. Poems can help us develop a sense for the perspectives of others, how they intersect with our own, maybe even enlarge or shift our perspective. They can appeal to common elements in perception, to common emotions and sentiments. They can carry values, embody them, instead of defending them. They help us relate to each other and to ourselves.

There’s also a reinvention of language in poetry, both in terms of making language say things that haven’t been said before, that couldn’t have been said before, and in terms of developing a relationship to language. That’s something I do when I teach creative writing: my students either have French as an additional language, or use English more than they do French. A lot of making them write poetry is about helping them move through language, find a measure of freedom and find themselves within it, instead of being constricted by its rules and seeing it as belonging to others. The politics of who is Francophone can be stifling.

And perhaps through this reinvention and this new relationship to language there can be a better awareness of rules, how to resist them to make other lives within them, how to transform rules, how to live with ever-changing rules. Can be, because there is a lot of conservative poetry. And attitudes toward poetry do not align with political attitudes. I’m interested in developing this emancipatory aspect of poetry now.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Mike Puican : part four

What are you working on?

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a memoir. It covers a misguided and self-destructive time in my twenties when I became deeply involved in a cult-like environment. While I was able to pull myself away and create a much different life for myself, I don’t want to hide it or pretend it never happened. The memoir is an attempt to own that time in my life and to explore what it reveals about who I am now. Stay tuned.

Friday 2 October 2020

Bruno Neiva : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

It has changed a lot. I was heavily influenced by Surrealism until my mid-20’s. Then, I found Language poetry, Concrete poetry, Text-based art, OuLiPo, Conceptual Poetry, etc.

Thursday 1 October 2020

Ashley Hynd : part one

Ashley Hynd is a poet with mixed ancestry who lives on the Haldimand Tract and respects all her relations relationships with the land. She was consecutively longlisted for The CBC Poetry Prize (2018 & 2019), shortlisted for Arc Poem of the Year (2018), and won the Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize (2017). Her work has appeared in several publications including ARC, Room, PRISM, Grain, TNQ, Malahat, Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press), Changing the Face of Canadian Literature (Guernica Editions) and Best Canadian Poetry 2020 (Biblioasis). Her debut chapbook Entropy is available with GapRiot Press.

Founder and facilitator of Poets & Pancakes, a monthly brunch for writers run from her home, Ashley believes in building and fostering community. She sits on the editorial board for both Canthius Literary Journal & Textile KW. Her Hobbies Include trampling the patriarchy, avoiding doing dishes and getting lost in conversations. Follow her on twitter: @ashley_hynd

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is deeply human; it is the language of the heart … it can communicate a world of importance across the deepest distances of cognitive dissonance … our world needs that now more than ever