Monday 30 November 2020

Paul Pearson : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Of course music, specifically rhythm, is an integral part of poetry. I'm assuming that kids are still being taught rhythm and meter in school. What I suspect they're not being taught is that the pinnacle of human artistic endeavour is the music video.  If music is  poetry in to time and visual art is poetry in image, then the music video, which combines both of these, is poetry squared - at least when it's done well. Go ahead, try to change my mind ;) 

Sunday 29 November 2020

Len Gasparini : part two

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

I’m inclined to agree with Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz who said quite succinctly that “one clear stanza of poetry can take more weight than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.” I don’t think an explication is required.

Saturday 28 November 2020

Primessa Espiritu : part four

Why is poetry important?

Is it? If it takes you somewhere, it becomes as important as the journey. It can be transformative. It can also be a joke. Whatever I think it may be is inconsequential. Art is a personal act that can be taken hostage, celebrated and ignored. 

Friday 27 November 2020

Jake Byrne : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Securing income.

Carolyne Van Der Meer : part one

Carolyne Van Der Meer is a journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer whose articles, essays, short stories and poems have been featured in journals internationally. Her first book, Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in 2014, while her second book, a collection of poetry entitled Journeywoman, was published in 2017 by Toronto-based Inanna Publications. Her third book, Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 Poems | Du coeur à l’âme : La Vie de Marguerite Bougeoys en 30 poèmes, for which she translated her original English poems into French, was published by Guernica in 2020. Another collection of poetry, Sensorial, is forthcoming from Inanna in 2021. Carolyne lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Photo credit: Bassam Sabbagh

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first engaged with poetry as a child. I remember reading a long poem version of the story of Pegasus and Bellerophon, which has always stuck with me. Then, as a teenager, I started writing poems about horses because I rode regularly. Images from my riding and dressage work melded with mythology and other influences. And then I started writing love poetry. It was terrible! I got over this phase and left poetry for a long while, to pursue journalism and then short fiction. I came back to poetry as an adult with a small child—and then became very committed, using it to explore the experiences of illness and motherhood. My practice grew from there.

Thursday 26 November 2020

Jeffrey Harrison : part four

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

We often talk about the limitations of language, and of course it is limited. Nevertheless, the language of poetry can do an enormous number of things, and often at the same time. It can be both literal and figurative, pursue sound and sense in tandem, engage simultaneously in syntax and poetic form (especially in the play between sentences and lines). Narrative, argument, description, song, incantation—they’re all there (and I’m probably forgetting something). The images aren’t as vivid as in painting, the sounds aren’t as viscerally affecting as in music, but I don’t think there’s another art form that can do so many things at once. 

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Sally Ito : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it’s been read and there’s been some feedback given on it by an editor, or a writing friend.  After it’s published, I don’t go back to it. 

Lauren Camp : part one

Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press, 2020), which Publishers Weekly calls a “stirring, original collection.” Her writing has appeared in Ecotone, Poem-a-Day, Witness, Poet Lore, and other journals. Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, the Housatonic Book Award and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic.

Photo credit: Bob Godwin

What are you working on?

I have been musing over and documenting elements of my father’s last four years with Alzheimer’s Disease. Writing poems, rather than a full narrative, means I can focus anywhere I want: an edge, a worry, a pleasing connection. Within the same time frame, I’ve also been writing poems inspired by the quiet, spacious canvases of artist Agnes Martin. I began this latter project shortly after the 2016 election results. I didn’t have a particular determination with the work, just an interior need for ease. I’ve been happy to be in the sandbox with these two projects for a good while.

Jessica Drake-Thomas : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I was younger, I thought poetry was a closed loop, one where you’d have to be lucky to get invited in. But, I’ve grown to think of it as a table, one where we can pull up another chair, and add in another leaf to make room for anyone who has something constructive to say. It’s a conversation among writers and readers. Academics would call it a discourse.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

David Martin : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was a university student, I took a year-long poetry survey course, and I also happened to connect with a group of poets in Calgary who met weekly to share their work. This was an important combination for me: studying the history of poetry and also interacting with people for whom it was a living art.

Kim Mannix : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt anything I’ve written was absolutely finished. Even years later, if I re-read something I’ve considered “done” or that’s been published, I’m likely to see things I still want to change or tinker with. But obviously there’s a point where I am content enough with a poem to leave it alone. I can’t explain what exactly makes it ok to leave, other than there’s a kind of stillness or pause after I read it that makes me think, this can stand on its own now. It’s funny, because in my professional life I have deadlines that force me to finish whatever I’m writing, and make peace with how it comes out. There’s simply not time to tweak or second guess. Some of the poems I’m happiest with have also been because of some deadline, maybe for a contest or journal I’m submitting to.

Monday 23 November 2020

Paul Pearson : part three

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

Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar. I can't think of anything more perfect than that little book. I don't know how many times I've read it yet it remains an almost mystical experience each time I open it up. There is a magic in that book that defies explanation and scoffs at those who try. All of Brautigan's stuff is fantastic, poetry and prose alike - and if you've never read him I envy the discovery you are about to make, but my life is done in watermelon sugar. 

Sunday 22 November 2020

Len Gasparini : part one

For over a half-century Len Gasparini has been one of the most original voices in Canadian poetry; a life experiencer “who emerged from the counter-culture of Jack Kerouac and the Beats,” as one critic said. Gasparini is the author of two-dozen books, including his Collected Poems, five short-story collections, two children’s books, numerous essays, and a one-act play that drew rave reviews in Montreal. His work has been translated into French and Italian, and anthologized here and in the U.S. Götterdämmerung, his latest book, is an eco-poetic tour de force that reads like a prescient postscript to T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland

Photo Credit: Lisa Pike

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’ve always had a rhythmic instinct for poetic endings; perhaps it was stimulated by my reading of O. Henry’s short stories when I was a teenager. Interestingly, in the Fall 2017 issue of subTerrain, critic Brian Palmu in his review of my chapbook Death and the Maiden, noted that I was “a master of endings”; and he quoted Robert Frost: “Any fool can get into a poem, but it takes a poet to get out of one.” 

Saturday 21 November 2020

Primessa Espiritu : part three

How important is music to your poetry? 

Instrumentals have been instrumental in uncovering most of my words. Music is definitely as important as my desk. It’s also my shelter… and my ocean. Or is it my spyglass? 

It’s all of the above. Music is a powerful influencer and travel companion. 

Friday 20 November 2020

Jake Byrne : part three

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

Poetry accomplishes absolutely nothing in the material world—and yet, poetry is also capable of radical transfiguration of the human soul. Go figure.

Thursday 19 November 2020

Jeffrey Harrison : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

You don’t. The reason Paul Valéry’s remark that a poem is never finished, only abandoned, is quoted so often is that it is true. But it’s a little complicated. I tend to believe that you can always make a poem better… though, on the other hand, you can also over-revise a poem, making it feel less natural. Then you have to find your way back to the original impulse, or go back to an earlier version and work with that. Even in those cases, though, I have usually learned something in the process, and there is almost always something in the later version (the one I’m abandoning) that I want to import into the earlier version I’m returning to. One hopes that it’s possible to develop an instinct about when to stop working on a poem— like knowing when to take a child’s finger-painting away while it is still fresh and before it becomes a muddy mess. But your poet friends can also help with that.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Sally Ito : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I had a dream when I was in high school and when I woke up, I wrote it down as a poem. That was my first engagement with poetry. 

Jessica Drake-Thomas : part one

Jessica Drake-Thomas is a poet, fiction writer, book reviewer, and PhD student. She’s the author of Burials, a gothic horror poetry collection. She fills her days with as much strong coffee, ghost stories, and scones as possible.  

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the poem surprises me. There’s always a turn that appears in the piece when a poem is ready, when it says something more than I originally intended. It almost transcends its original form, in a way. 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

David Martin : part one

David Martin works as a literacy instructor in Calgary and as an organizer for the Single Onion Poetry Series. His first collection, Tar Swan (NeWest Press, 2018), was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize. David’s work has been awarded the CBC Poetry Prize, shortlisted for the Vallum Award for Poetry and PRISM international’s poetry contest, and has appeared in numerous journals across Canada.

Photo credit: Joe Tran.

What are you working on?

Right now I’m finishing up my next poetry manuscript, called Kink Bands, which uses the thematic lens of geology to explore ideas of time and family, language and environment. 

Kim Mannix : part one

Kim Mannix is a poet, fiction writer and journalist from Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has been published in several journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. and is a contributing editor of Watch Your Head, a climate crisis anthology. You can find her on Twitter @KimMannix, usually posting about kids, cats and music.

How does a poem begin?

For me, this can happen in a lot of different ways. I’ve had great success responding to poetry prompts, especially during National Poetry Month challenges. Other times it will just be something a person says, or something I notice or remember, that sparks whatever that strange sense is that makes us think, “this could be the start of something.” It starts with a line, or sometimes even just a word and meanders from there.

Monday 16 November 2020

Paul Pearson : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? And What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I'd been writing poetry for a few years, had a couple of pieces published in journals and was really getting into doing readings, before I encountered Doug Barbour and through him the world of sound poetry. As a young poet I was so pleased with my developing ability to craft nifty little lyric poetry with the occasional semi-original image that I completely ignored the pure sonic pleasure of language as a thing that can happily exist completely separate from any sense of "meaning." Reading Doug, or better yet, listening to Doug, encouraged me to pay as much attention to the physical sound of the words I was writing as the meaning. He also drilled into my head a healthy suspicion of the weakness of simile to the point where I sometimes have to force myself to use the word "like" in a poem ;)  

Sunday 15 November 2020

Rachel Eliza Griffiths : part five

What are you working on?

I’m writing a novel. Visually, I’m working several projects that include photography and mixed media. It’s getting messy and weird (not the novel!), which means maybe I’m doing what I hoped, which is to simply experiment with various materials. Another important and necessary thing I’m working on lately is how to maintain a stronger balance of rest and work during these difficult days. There is so much pressure and pain everywhere. I refuse to surrender pleasure. Joy is always at play for me, something both deeply worked for and also, deeply earned. The work of delight is not to miss all the evidence of daily abundance and the details of how to remember and to recognize it in yourself and others. I constantly engage this muscle because I must. I don’t ever neglect or deny wonder. 

Dennis Cooley : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding readers. A lot of poetry seems to fall into a big fat wide silence. 

50 years later 
                                       he sends 
             out words &
     they   barely come back
                                   no answer   no other

        words   only a    small voice
                  small & dampened
                                             talking to itself 

An almost bewildering number of writers appear by the day. Sites such as the ones that rob mclennan runs produce torrents of new writing. The wide and growing activity has got to be heartening, yet where are the readers? How to respond to the writing? Who can deal with the enormity? 

Saturday 14 November 2020

Joyelle McSweeney : part five

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

When our baby was born with a grievous, unexpected birth defect,  flown to Riley, and lived thirteen days, we had no words to describe what we were feeling. In fact I'm not sure we were even feeling-- a word like 'feeling' might be too comprehensive, and even the word "describe" seems like drawing a line around something that cannot be bound. To gesture towards it, I'd say: the feeling was like falling down the stairs--pain, disbelief, peril, terrible momentum, perceptual intensity, and knowing that it will be worse when it is over. Time went so quick. And yet, it was the time of illness, it was hospital time, so it also distended and dilated, we were inside some stoma of time, bacteria living in the lidless eye of time. 

And our baby in her warm room on her raised white bier began to remind us of an image, from Art--  it was the image of Mario Montez at the beginning of Jack Smith's queer, underground, and notoriously unfinished film, Normal Love. In the opening shots, Mario Montez is black-eyed screen-goddess, in white bonnet, in a bath of pearls and milk. Everything that happens in the film goes away from and returns to this image. And so it was with our baby, in her incredible glamour, under her heat lamps, arrayed on white sheets, her black hair swirling around her white bandages, and tubes cycling all of her holy blood out of her and bringing it back at the neck--  we couldn't take our eyes off her. I would glance at my husband sidelong, and, in extremis, repeat:  

normal love, normal love.

I found at the hospital that Art did not desert me, and I realized then that Art was truly my faith. And, for a creed, lines of poetry, images from film-- when my consciousness could not collect itself to form a thought, my brain relayed images and lines, and it gave me comfort to rub my raw self up against that Art a child rubs a scrap of soft worn shining fabric-- the more drastic the Art, the more it was able to reach me in my extremity. Artaud, Cendrars, Bataille, Breton--all that intensity and frottage. When we finally removed the respirator, when the tube came up from her throat, I was afraid to watch, afraid I would see something ugly that would flap like a black cloth over my whole life. But I didn't turn away. I opened my eyes in the dark (Ro. Bolaño tr. Chrs. Andrews).  I looked on my dying baby and felt a prayer come to my lips:

Let beauty be convulsive or it shall not be at all.

Later, at home,  in the dark, when I could not close my eyes, I would recite: "Night is the insane asylum of the plants."  That's the great Chilean poet Raúl Zurita translated by Anna Deeny Morales. And often are the times I recall this quote by Zurita, translated by David Shook:

I felt that pain and death should be responded to with a poetry and an art that was as vast and strong as the violence that was exercised over us. To place in opposition the limitless violence of crime and the limitless violence of beauty, the extreme violence of power and the extreme violence of art, the violence of terror and the even stronger violence of all our poems.

And often are the times Johannes and I will turn to each other in our Rust Belt kitchen, in our distraught, 100-year-old diva of a house, with the house and the world falling down around us, one dead child, one foster child we love fiercely, two adolescent daughters picking a path through a world of ruins, and we paraphrase a sacred dialogue for Blaise Cendrars and Little Jehanne of France:

--Are we going to go all the way, Blaise?

--Yes, we're going to go all the way. 

And then, like Mary Shelley, we just keep going.

Primessa Espiritu : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When you decide to take a walk or a run, when do you know it’s over? When the road has ended? When your legs hurt? I guess it’s done when you’re satisfied, when you moved within it long enough to know it and appreciate it. 

Friday 13 November 2020

Jake Byrne : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Haaaaa. I didn’t know when I signed up for this “job” it was going to radically alter my entire conception of the universe. But it did. 

I used to think poetry was just words on a page. It’s not that at all. It’s about listening and speaking to the pain and beauty around and inside you.

Thursday 12 November 2020

Jeffrey Harrison : part two

How does a poem begin?

A poem can come in many ways—from an image, an interesting phrase, the visitation of a memory, a sudden connection between two things, an exhilarating or traumatic experience, a glimpse of something beautiful, even from being pissed off about something—but literally, on the page, a poem begins with a phrase. I like to think of that opening phrase as the angle of entry into the poem, sending it on a particular trajectory that is both syntactical and emotional. Sometimes you have something you want to write a poem about, but without that phrase (which is often a very ordinary phrase), you don’t have a way into the poem, and the poem can’t happen. Sometimes the phrase will come out of nowhere when you’re taking a walk, triggering the poem, or in a phrase you happen to hear on the radio. If a poem isn’t working, sometimes you can find another angle of entry, a new way in that reorganizes everything that follows and perhaps leads to an entirely different place.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Sally Ito : part one

Sally Ito has published three books of poetry, Frogs in the Rain Barrel, A Season of Mercy, and Alert to Glory.  She has also co-translated the children’s poetry of Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko with her aunt, Michiko Tsuboi in a book titled Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. Ito lives, writes and teaches in Winnipeg. 

Photo credit: Warren Cariou.

What are you working on?

I work in different genres so I’ll answer what I’m doing as a poet right now.  I’m teaching a creative writing poetry class so I try to do the exercises I assign my students as a way of generating my own work. I also try and write a haiku-a-day on Facebook, usually after taking a walk outside. I work on translation of poetry peripatetically with friends – namely, my Japanese aunt when I translate from Japanese, and German-reading poet friends when I translate from the German.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Regan Good : part five

What are you working on?

I am currently working on fourth and fifth poetry manuscripts simply by putting poems into two sliding and approximate piles.  There could be a sixth book between those two piles that I’m too dumb to see. I’m really not good at the “get your book in order” analytical work.  My heart hurts when I see workshops and the like offered on “How to order your manuscript.”  There is so much commerce around poetry right now, so much junk, I am deeply suspicious—really, I’m a big drag about it.  For God’s sake, just write your poems!  I think Dana Levin Tweeted something the other day like, “Can’t I just call my book, ‘What I Wrote from 2014 Until Today?’” A poem comes when it comes, you can’t make the writing of poems directed and expect good poems; you can not set out to make a product.  It’s all gotten very A+ student out there and A+ students are incredibly tedious and predictable, even those claiming experimentation.  I like some human smell left in a poem—problems, oddities, wildness, even a typo at this point is welcome.  At fifty-three, I am really only now starting to write well.  Or maybe I’m deluded.  I don’t know, life is a dream. 

Monday 9 November 2020

Paul Pearson : part one

Paul Pearson is the co-founding editor and chapbook designer for the Olive Reading Series. His poems have appeared in Descant and Event, and the anthology Writing the Land: Alberta Through Its Poets from House of Blue Skies. Raised in a mining town in the mountainous back-country of southeastern British Columbia, Paul has since relocated to Edmonton where he lives and writes with his wife and two children. Lunatic Engine is his debut collection.

Photo Credit: Oscar Pearson

How did you first engage with poetry?

I've always known that I wanted to be a writer though I always thought though that I'd end up in science fiction, my first love as a reader. I always liked poetry and did well in it in school but I always considered it something you studied, rather than something you read for fun or, God forbid, wrote. Then, in my first-year University English lit class, I stumbled into Patrick Lane, was struck dumb with "Mountain Oysters." Here was a poet who grew up in the bush in the interior of BC, like I did. Here were poems about people I knew: working people, mountain people, alcoholics and men like my father. I had no idea poetry could actually mean something real, something personal, something now. That was it. From that moment I was a poet. 

Vik Shirley : part five

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

I mainly write with the Russell Edson method of 'blank page and a blank mind', but to get me in the mood and my mind thinking in the right kind of way, almost as a portal to myself, before I start writing, I often surround myself with books I love and read a poem or two from each. Could be Edson, certainly Tate (so this would probably be the simple answer to your question), maybe Jennifer. L. Knox, Kennard, Waldron, Minnis, Kharms. It's a matter of feeding on poetry to make poetry, as I think many people do. If I just want to meditate and lose myself in poetry, then I go for Ashbery. The pleasure to be gained from each line, the juxtapositions, different feelings and atmospheres he creates. I still find his work incredibly moving and overwhelming, even when it's just funny. Its sheer brilliance, alone, can bring me to tears.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Rachel Eliza Griffiths : part four

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

Toni Morrison – it doesn’t matter what genre I’m working in, including my practice as a visual artist. Her writing and life continues to alter and to inform my own development and understanding of who I am becoming on the page and elsewhere. 

Dennis Cooley : part four

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

I find it hard to say, though I feel strongly that poetry offers experiences that other forms seldom can realize. I am struck by what Isobel Cunninghamm has said: “It lets air in between the dense and sometimes heavy ideas that are in the world.” 

Here’s what I wrote a couple of years ago in “19 Questions”:

But poetry. Poetry above all. Forget the embarrassing sales numbers, disregard the avowed aversions, set aside for the moment your own panicked flight when you were caught unsuspecting at a poetry launch. Poetry's the lucky terrain of what-ifs and just-supposings. It's in poetry that we speak most urgently, most eloquently, most pointedly, most succinctly to our unspoken selves. It is there that we happen upon anticipated or forgotten lives. When you fall in love you want a poem, you might even steal one and hope it will find favour, or at least speak for you. Else why the booming business for greeting cards? They perform a useful function, sometimes skillfully, but they are so generic that they immediately and everywhere become everyone's poem. Sometimes we want more, better songs to sing. When your spouse dies only a poem will do, and you wish you could find one or write one—a good one that says what for the rest of the time you cannot quite say or know how to say or bring yourself to say. No ordinary remembrance will do. You want, at least for yourself, a poem that can give contours to your loneliness and sound to your yearning. A poem to speak in wonder of what might touch you, or delight you, or bewilder you. In reckless moments you might even welcome a poem that challenges your understanding of what language and knowledge is, jolt you open to what strangely has been made and laid before you. You would like something to surprise you, with the sting of a mosquito bite, perhaps, to tip you into intimacies you had not quite realized were yours. When that happens you may feel a small shiver: yes, that's right, that's how it feels. Sometimes poems tell us what we don't know we already knew, and there's that rush of pleasure. Though you might not have said so, you have been waiting for a poem whose wit and rhythm rinses you with newness. You want lines, you hunger for lies, clever and unusual lies, that do not take as irrevocable what at our most tired and resigned and obstinate we suppose is the real and only world. When we are looking for something adequate to our desires we know that literalness and acquiescence won't hack it. We want to be alive to the world and stirred into something more. It's a more expanded and a more charged world we hunger for, even when we don't know it. That's why we secretly want the intensities and misadventures that we call poetry.

Saturday 7 November 2020

Joyelle McSweeney : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult thing about writing poetry is not writing poetry. Reading about everything the Shelleys sacrificed to make their life entirely about art, thought, and writing, and everything that crashed into their life anyway,  has partly eased my anguish and self-blame. Even with my kids in school and on days which should feel 'free', I spend so much time on the phone with doctors and dentists, time sorting out health insurance, shopping for food, dealing with the foster care system, attending meetings, trying not to look and then looking at the unbelievably bad news crashing in at every orifice--

But I also know: to write is the real drug. To write is to break the law and get kicked out of the republic for whatever little intoxicating grain of time you can find. The more time I actually get to spend writing with any kind of dailiness, the more of that drug I get, and the more I want it, and the happier I am. 


Primessa Espiritu : part one

Primessa Espiritu: This person lives and creates in Montreal, Quebec.

How did you first engage with poetry?

Anonymously, through a young web. An online poetry community found me and pulled me out of my shell. It was a long time ago, in a trend far far away. That type of online forum was relatively new and it was wild. Our hearts were full of magic, connecting on many different levels while discovering our voices.

Friday 6 November 2020

Jake Byrne : part one

Jake Byrne is a queer writer. His poem “Parallel Volumes” won CV2’s Young Buck Poetry Prize for 2019. His work has appeared in Bat City Review, PRISM international, Lambda Literary’s Poetry Spotlight, The Puritan, and The Fiddlehead, among others. His first chapbook, The Tide, was published by Rahila’s Ghost Press in 2017. He is a Settler based in Tkaronto, on the traditional meeting places of the nations of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, the Haudenosaunee, and the Missisaugas of the Credit River.

What are you working on?

I’m shopping around my first manuscript, wrapping up my second + dismantling it into a couple chapbooks, and the forever-work of trying to maintain a happy balance of life + work.

Thursday 5 November 2020

Jeffrey Harrison : part one

Jeffrey Harrison is the author of six full-length books of poetry, most recently Between Lakes, published by Four Way Books in September 2020. His previous book, Into Daylight, (2014) won the Dorset Prize from Tupelo Press, while Incomplete Knowledge (Four Way, 2006) was runner-up for the Poets’ Prize. His first book, The Singing Underneath, was a National Poetry Series winner in 1987. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, and his poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize volumes. He lives in Massachusetts and can also be found at

How did you first engage with poetry?

I’m sure it started with nursery rhymes, or with my mother reading me some of the poems of A.A. Milne. The poem of his that she most liked to recite, and the one that stuck with me, is called “Disobedience” and begins, “James James/ Morrison Morrison/ Weatherby George Dupree/ Took great/ Care of his Mother,/ Though he was only three.” The poem has a sense of fun that offsets its darker side about the mother’s disappearance. Maybe it was an early lesson in the way form and content can play off each other in interesting ways. And, as we all know, disobedience is much more compelling than obedience. I later found it in other poets too—Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Philip Larkin, etc.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Kristine Snodgrass : coda

I have been thinking, for a while, on the idea of ecstasy. How it is fleeting and yet everlasting. The momentary phenomenon often that drives us into a poem or visual piece. I am addicted to ecstasy. I think that is the driving force in my obsessions (poets talk of obsessions so much, you know?). Even if I cannot find the ecstasy, that too is a moment that has to be brought into a poem, visual or not. The act of asemic writing is so founded for me in a present moment. There is “no meaning” semantically, yet I am thinking as I write. It is like a psychic connection that I hope the reader will get—maybe that is abstract expressionism. I used to think that asemic writing was really a dismantling of meaning, but it is so much more than that. The experience of the language is ecstasy. The hand, so gracefully (have you ever really watched anyone handwrite?) so sexually scratches and pulls. What a dream. When the piece is over, we move on to another, or even lament the loss of the past. I am always driven, in search of that.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Regan Good : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I can reread it and not feel as Lowell said “paralyzed by fact”…the poem doesn’t feel lurid, garish or grouped.  Words aren’t laid or pasted down, instead the pressurized words form a matrix, a world, and you need to interact with it and be in that mess of potentiality.  If I think I’m beginning to think too much, I stop writing and walk away.  So years may go by before anything is finished.  But when I close them down, I still want the feeling of “no conclusion.”  I was editing someone’s poem the other day and she asked, “Are you as hard on your own poems?”  Oh my God, yes.  Worse.  I have a Supreme Court Justice of Poetry in my head, always, always.  

Monday 2 November 2020

Vik Shirley : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Definitely. I'm into, what I guess you would call, anti-poetry, now. When I started writing, I thought it was all about displaying techniques, and that you had to have stanzas and rhymes etc, I didn't realise you could subvert the whole damn thing, that a poem could be an absurd parable, a list or a marking scheme (not the first time I've referenced Matthew Welton in an interview.) I'm mainly interested in irony now and subject matters that are considered unworthy of poetry. Although I can appreciate more traditional types of poems, I like ones that don't behave like poems. I find writing poems specifically "about" something tiresome and think of writing as either play, an experiment or a delve into the subconscious. I'm also interested in insouciance, aleatory and irreverence, all of which were celebrated by The New York School of Poets. I find poems that highlight the absurdity of our rituals and mock things we hold dear infinitely more interesting than poems on nature.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Rachel Eliza Griffiths : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is essential to how poems happen in me. I’d called myself a lyric poet, and I’d also say that my visual art lends itself to the space of what would be called “lyric.”  My ear is my greatest editor – actively listening helps me open and cut the language at the same time. Whenever I’m writing anything rhythm is critical. For me, voice must also be inseparable with the poem’s questions and desires articulated by language.    

Dennis Cooley : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I was mature when I started seriously to write. At that point I had read and taught and read about and written about a lot of poetry, especially twentieth-century poetry, so I was exposed to much that had been done or was being done. Since then I’ve developed a stronger sense of the page as a graphic surface, the letters as scores, the text as digital creation. Poets have lived at the membrane where poetry follows the ear and the eye into music and graphic art. New constituencies have proliferated in the literary world, following their own aspirations and strategies.

There are new opportunities too. The interent has opened exciting new opportunities to do dazzling new things, or things that once could be done only at great expense and effort. In a split second you can reach audiences and in ways that only a few years ago were virtually impossible. That is really encouraging.