Thursday 31 December 2020

Charlotte Newbury : part three

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

Clarity and freedom of image. There’s also something to be said for that specific feeling you get after reading some poems that doesn’t really have a name - it’s a mix between comfort, recognition, and the sensation of being punched in the gut. Poetry doesn’t need you to pull your punches in the same way other forms do. A novel-length work that did to its readers on every page what Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things does, for example, would probably have to come with a health warning.

Noah Falck : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Lately, I’ve been reading more novels and collections of essays, which is rare for me. However, I’ve been slowly dipping into and finding joy in Rick Barot’s During the Pandemic, Mary Ruefle’s Dunce, Matt McBride’s City of Incandescent Light, and Adam Clay’s To Make Room for the Sea. I’ve been returning to W.S. Merwin’s The Lice, Larry Levis’s The Dollmaker’s Ghost, Lucille Clifton’s Collected, & Laura Kasischke’s Space, In Chains

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Jai Hamid Bashir : part two

Why is poetry important?

Poetry reminds us that we are cellular beings composed mostly of emptiness, and at our best, the potential of another elsewhere that resides inside of us. I recently found in The Paris Review the Italian poet, Antonella Anedda said, “I write to intensify reality and at the same time to undermine it.” That is very similar to my negotiations of wanting to write poetry and devote myself to the craft. However, on a level of being a reader, poetry, especially with the way pronouns, and other mechanics of the medium, such as enjambment, allow us a type of embodiment and intimacy. 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Carrie Olivia Adams : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I believe, perhaps rightly or perhaps wrongly, that one of my best strengths as a writer comes from being a close editor of others’ poems through my role at Black Ocean. And so, when I look at my own work, I am able to do so about as dispassionately as possible. There are so many times when I’ve gone back to a poem and cut lines or stanzas that were very emotionally close to me—they may have resonated with a specific moment or a particular sensation when they were written—but in the end, they did not live up to the strength of the poem and could not stay. I don’t want to be overly attached to anything in a poem, so attached it prevents me from seeing clearly whether it belongs there or has earned the right to stay. So, for me, there is usually a moment when I re-read a poem in the revision process and it feels like it was written by someone other than me, yet, someone who has intuited my entire experience. When the poem feels like another me speaking to me with the greatest empathy, then I know, it is finished.

Michael Edwards : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Seamus Heaney has always been a strong influence on my writing, in the way the lens of poetry can focus on many subjects, like family, upbringing, myth — His work reminds me that poetry is expansive. More recently Kayla Czaga, my extraordinarily talented mentor at SFU’s The Writer’s Studio, has heavily informed the way I think about writing, specifically poetry. She's helped me to explore other chambers in the poetic dwelling and supported a sort of redevelopment of my personal writing practice. Kayla also pointed me toward reading poets like Raoul Fernandes, Curtis LeBlanc and Rob Taylor, which has felt like a school of poets with which my own work is compatible. I’m constantly finding myself nodding in a “yes, yes, yes” to their aesthetic.

Monday 28 December 2020

Michael Igoe : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I am really never “all done” with a poem. I review it in a different stage and revise it. I can always clean up anything I write at a later point in time. Rephrasing and structure are very important! 4. A handful of poets have shaped my worldview and my own work. Rimbaud, Whitman, Eliot, Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton ( to name a few).

Sunday 27 December 2020

Donatella du Plessis : part one

Donatella du Plessis is a micropoet from Durban, South Africa. Her poetry has appeared in Feminine Collective, Idle Ink, Dust Poetry Magazine and The Write Launch

How does a poem begin?

Poems begin when I see something that disturbs me. Often, it’s something really small, like a dead bird, a vase of flowers, or a cupboard with breathing holes cut into it, but I will spend a lot of time agonising about why that particular object appears that way in that particular moment. 

Pascale Potvin : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Too often, I’ll put together a little collection of words, feel a stop, then send it off somewhere only to add to it, the next day. I’m learning to wait for the sense that my poem couldn’t possibly sustain any more pressure without breaking. Stop signs and red lights, they’re just temporary; a reader needs a car crash.

Saturday 26 December 2020

Adam Ai : 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?

Poems seem enter from somewhere else and leave in print so they are only mine for a little while and I’m part of a larger process. I appreciate the time I have with them more. There’s so much about the process you aren’t aware of until it hits you. I used to say nobody cared what I have to say so why bother and I guess I don’t have that excuse anymore. I lost a lot of years thinking that way. But it takes what it takes and you can only start from where you are. I realized this too late for my mom to see any of these successes. She knew me as she knew me, and we had little to be proud of. If I had stopped running earlier I might have been able to help us both. Given both of us reasons. Healing. Forgiveness. So the cost of that kind of thinking is high.

I heard a poem isn’t finished until somebody reads it and I’m finding that’s true. Poems I thought I’d probably keep on editing into different forms privately and just not show anyone have become something outside me and really do seem “done” – warts and all. So I’m learning something about letting go in that sense, and it’s a blessing of the process I didn’t see coming and a balm in a year of crisis. My poems were each a moment for me – but a moment I couldn’t let go of – and now they’re a sort of benchmark for how much I’m learning and how far I’ve come.

I really didn’t know the first letter of each line in a poem doesn’t have to be capitalized, for instance. I’m serious. There’s a word for that, but I can’t quite come up with this moment. Naïve will have to do. But that’s what happens when you spend all your time reading Emily Dickinson and other old-schoolers but have no exposure to modern poetry, or know any poets or anyone really interested in poetry. It’s just not my background. I learned what ekphrastic means the other day – I’ve been writing poems about pieces of art in other disciplines for a long time, dudes. A long time to not know that. But again, we all have to start somewhere. 

Nobody sees a poem of mine until I submit it, and since I never simultaneously submit or show the same version of a poem to successive editors it’s always a shot in the dark. I have to trust my instincts and that’s a useful, if rigorous process for a poet I think. I see now that many poets have a circle of people they trust and show their poems so they can get feedback and a sense of how it’ll hit people once it gets into the world. It sounds lovely but it’s not my story. If I leave the house with broccoli in my teeth I have to live with that. The lesson? Poems are never perfect. And they aren’t supposed to be. That’s not the point. Perfect isn’t a reasonable goal. So, I’ll live even if I’m embarrassed and hey, makes me push for the next poem to be even better. 

Anyway I figure the more varied and diverse voices we have in the poetry world the more potential there is we get a shot at saving someone. So I’m okay with being weird. I’m relieved I’m not the only one.

Matthew Carey Salyer : part three

How does a poem begin?

It begins with a line typed on the page and the line has a little tail that hangs down and curls halfway under itself until it becomes the line below. I cut that tail off and it regrows. I cut it off again. It regrows. When at last it winds across another line or two, I can see what kind of animal it is. Then I can begin to see what other kinds of animals it might be able to live around. For me, everything depends on husbanding the growth of that first line, its development into something approximating a stanza. I really do tend to think of it like some little animal that intrudes in the field of vision, a Pangur Bán, because it has nothing to do with my own intention for the page. I admit it to companionship. It comes from somewhere out in the real world – from anywhere, really – but it must be from the real world or I have no use for it. For the better part of this quarantined year, my world has been a ten-block radius, so now all my poems begin at the northernmost terminal of the Jerome Avenue Line. I know whether a particular poem is possible or not through the process of cajoling that line into an initial stanza. Whereas I need to see the first line on the page, the rest of the stanza happens first in the mind and the ear. When it appears in the page, it is pure transcription. I perform little revision of a poem after I draft it but a great deal of variation plays out in translation between the eye’s first line and the ear’s stanza.

Friday 25 December 2020

Carolyne Van Der Meer : part five

Why is poetry important? 

For me, poetry can often make us see something, realize something, discover something, just in the reading of a short verse. That’s why I think it’s important. I’m looking for the “a-ha” moment that poems often give me, the delight and surprise I can feel when the poet makes me see something in a way that I hadn’t considered before. We need more a-ha moments. They force us to take a deeper look—at ourselves—and at what’s around us.

Thursday 24 December 2020

Charlotte Newbury : part two

How does a poem begin? 

For me it usually starts with a conflict of some kind. If I ever lose sight of a poem as I’m working through it I ask myself, ‘where is the friction here?’ That’s how I get back to the meat of it; the disparate parts that bump together and make me want to write the poem to tease them out in the first place. 

Noah Falck : part two

What are you working on?

My daily water intake. Keeping the idea of the fairy tale alive in our house during a pandemic. The glow in the darkness of it all. The methodology of hide-and-seek. Flexibility both in idea and body. A fitness of empathy. And leaning into the joy of the tiny, of the small, of the momentary. Like the light in the room now, pooling through the window onto another virtual school day and later the noticing of a dog muscling through the magic hour in the field behind our house. Yes too, poems and sentences that are patterned out of the day, out of whatever time we use to build a life. 

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Lauren Camp : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I came to poetry in part through years of music-mixing for my local public radio station. My ears had become highly attuned to sounds and the way they organized, and then to the segues I chose to make as I shifted from one song or genre to the next. All those years in the lap of jazz, with its improvisations and eccentric angles, as well as its melodies, crossovers and minor chords. All that aural attention slid right into me and came out on the page. It taught me to wriggle through a poem, creating different “listens” for the reader. 

Jai Hamid Bashir : part one

Born to Pakistani-American immigrant artists, Jai Hamid Bashir was raised in The American West. Jai has been published by The American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Guernica MagazineThe Cortland Review, Academy of American Poets, and others. Jai is a graduate of Columbia University and the recent winner of awards such as Zócalo’s Ninth Annual Poetry Prize.

Photo credit: Jordan Finlay

How does a poem begin?

Poetry and dreams are obvious bedfellows for my practice. Writing is a complex sensory experience. I often observe the poem in what I can best describe as my “mind’s eye,”  and then seek to find the most precise linguistic textures and music for that particular image. I  often position myself as a poet as someone who also trained as a painter and performer, but found poetry to be the best craft and medium by which to share a phenomenon that happens quite naturally.   

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Carrie Olivia Adams : part one

Carrie Olivia Adams lives in Chicago with her husband and two cats. She is the Promotions and Marketing Communications Director for the University of Chicago Press and the poetry editor for Black Ocean. Her books include Be a thing of memory (forthcoming from Tolsun Books in 2021), Operating Theater, Forty-One Jane Doe’s, and Intervening Absence in addition to the chapbooks “Proficiency Badges,” “Grapple,” “Overture in the Key of F,” and “A Useless Window.” When she’s not making poems, she’s making biscuits.

How does a poem begin?

I wish I knew. Then, I’d recreate it every time I feel lost or unsure of myself. I am a serial note taker. I have a notebook in my mind where I record words and phrases that roll around my thoughts and trip me up in dreams. And I have a notebook on my desk and numerous Google docs of half starts, half middles, half ends. But, in the end, I think I approach a poem similar to how a novelist might approach a story—with research. I am constantly drawn to found text, the work of the archivist, the archaeologist, and the translator.  I get curious about a subject or an idea—medicine, architecture, choreography, cave dwellers, girl scouts—and then I let myself go down the rabbit hole collecting scraps of language, facts, and points of view along the way. And then there’s a vibration or a slow burning fire, and I know the connection has been made between this other world of ideas and my own syntax. Then, I know, it’s beginning.

Michael Edwards : part one

Michael Edwards is a poet, writer, editor and busy dad living in Vancouver, BC on traditional, unceded Musqueam territories. A graduate of The Writer’s Studio Online at SFU (2020), he has been published in various online journals including Talking Strawberries, Cypress, Cabinet of Heed and Headline Poetry. Michael is also the founding editor of Red Alder Review, an online publication focused on building connections between writers and the wider community. // Twitter: @michaelwrites1

Photo credit: Erin Edwards

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I think often about what Alice Notley said regarding the difficulty of ‘starting again.’ Each poem demands its own form, its own constraints, its own patterning of language. In starting again, there is a depth of mental resources that is pulled from, in a process that is at the same time labourious and effortless. It’s this kind of a paradoxical venture to write a poem.

Monday 21 December 2020

Michael Igoe : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

The way I see poetry has changed drastically since I began. I was 15 and was pretty much oblivious. A few musician friends encouraged me to start. It evolved into my lifeblood. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

Len Gasparini : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Extremely important. A musical note is akin to a stressed or an unstressed word or syllable. It all comes down to rhythm and meter. Everything is rhythm. The life of the cosmos resides in rhythm. I’ve written poems about classical music, rock-and-roll, jazz, and the blues. Most poets nowadays wouldn’t know a dactyl from a doorbell.  If you don’t dance, you don’t know what happens. 

Pascale Potvin : part two

How important is music to your poetry?

Totally. I only really got into writing poetry this year, when I revisited some groupings of words I’ve jotted down over the years. I’m not a musician, but they felt like lyrics at the time since they had distinct melodies to me. It’s in early quarantine that I decided to cut them down to their rawest forms; they still have their melodies, although not as rhyming. 

It’s for that reason I don’t really consider myself a poet, still today. I’ve always just tried to put words together in new ways, to hone distinct impulses.

Saturday 19 December 2020

Adam Ai : part two

What are you working on?

I bought a copy of Writer’s Market from Barnes & Noble January 1st, 2020 and began submitting poems for the first time. I submitted for about six months, netting 31 acceptances. My mom’s passing has a lot to do with the sudden rush to publish. I figure there’s nothing left to lose – nothing to gain either, but I’m seeing I might be wrong about that. Been carrying them around long enough. After six months I stopped – to catch my breath I think. I never imagined I’d have so many that editors would like what I’m up to. I was just sending everything I had to any magazine I could find with no real idea what I was doing. I figured it out on the fly. My acceptance rate rose as I learned how to be more professional. 

I’ll begin submitting again in the coming weeks. I write every day and I’m reworking older ones, too. I just set up a website – – and intend to collect poems I’ve published there. I’m taking my time to put my best work out now that I realize someone might actually publish them! I’m learning so much it’s changed the way I see my poems and I’m growing so much through the process I’m regretful I waited. Now I’m being interviewed about my poems, and how cool is that? I don’t know how it keeps getting better with the poems but it does. I’m humbled with so much to be grateful for and look forward to, when it still feels so often like nothing will ever matter again with mom gone. Not to mention Coronavirus, the riots, and all the other things making this the hardest year. But I’m starting to wonder where poems might take me next – a powerful tonic on days and nights when hope is hard to find. 

Matthew Carey Salyer : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Earlier this year, I read about a sociologist who had managed to walk the length of every street in New York before his death. All five boroughs. Imagine spending a day perched in his ear, how syntactically complex that would be. In metrical terms, this is a trochee cab-hailing town. Queens is anapestic. Staten Island substitutes. Iambs live on the Upper East Side, but who goes there. I think back to F.R. Leavis in The Common Pursuit and elsewhere, his sense of an undercurrent in English poetry that emulates the strangeness, the roughness, of our language as it’s talked: Shakespeare’s “full fathom five,” Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm,” Eliot’s pub-talk about how “Lil’s husband got demobbed.” Those poets who influence my thinking about writing help me translate between the poem-as-occasion and how I talk and what I hear talked. Elizabethans, Jacobeans, Metaphysical Poets. Sir Philip Sidney pushing quantitative meter. I want to hear Method Man reading Astrophil and Stella on the Staten Island Ferry. Richard Howard’s syllabic poems do this for me at a slyer pace. Meghan Maguire Dahn. There are turns in Lucie Brock-Broido, when she talks you “a marmoset getting out of her Great Ape suit,” for example, that inflect this. Roger Reeves. Melissa Green’s Fifty-Two has what I want in a sequence of broken paragraphs. Geoffrey Hill’s Mercian Hymns, his “Overlord of the M5.” I can hear it in the cadence of Timothy Donnelly reading Timothy Donnelly at an accelerated rate. I can see it in Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno at mine. The prologue to Langland’s Piers Plowman. Asturo Riley’s Heard-Hoard and “Chord.”   

Friday 18 December 2020

Carolyne Van Der Meer : part four

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

I don’t know that I want to compare poetry to other art forms in such a binary way. What I like about poetry is the ability it has to tell a story in a very, tight concise manner that can involve multiple layers and many details—through the use of words. I like the way it challenges me to make the story not only rich enough to hold the poem but also powerful enough to jolt the reader’s sensibilities—and to do so in a form that is so short. My goal is to get into the reader’s emotions, to get under his/her skin in that short space. And this is not always a given. It takes work and rework—and more rework. I like all of those ways that poetry challenges me—as a poet and as a reader.

Thursday 17 December 2020

Charlotte Newbury : part one

Charlotte Newbury is a poet from South East England with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter. She likes witchcraft, ecofeminism, and spider plants. Her writing has appeared in LandLocked, perhappened, Rejection Letters, and others. You can find her on Twitter @charnewbpoet.

What are you working on?

Think Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, but written from a voice beyond the climate crisis point of no return. I’ve been wanting to explore this future we’re barrelling towards - we already know so much about what it’s going to look like, operate like, require of us, just not what it’ll feel like. So in the same way O’Hara walks us around his city, frozen in time, and lets us experience those moments with him - that’s what I’m trying to do. It’ll just feel worse, probably. 

Noah Falck : part one

Noah Falck is the author of Exclusions, You Are In Nearly Every Future, and Snowmen Losing Weight. He lives in Buffalo, New York. 

Photo credit: Marcus Jackson

How does a poem begin?

For the most part, the way into a poem is still a mystery to me. I want to say they all begin differently or they all begin the same. Like opening a door to a house you’ve never entered or never even knew existed, but are happy to learn that it does, and you walk through it as if you know exactly where the cookie jar is. Maybe that’s not right. 

Perhaps, it starts with the musicality of the language or an image that keeps appearing in the mind, in the notebook. Sometimes it starts with a question that has no answer or a deep memory that surfaces as to say something more about the self, something more about the world. It could begin in the shower, in a field, in a snowstorm, in bed next to the love of your life. I am certain it begins when you pay attention long enough. 

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Lauren Camp : part four

How does a poem begin?

It begins because I need to hold something dear or turn over something troubling. It begins with an image, an opening, a dislocation of knowledge. With motion through landscape as much as because my emotional landscape needs to do some unfurling or shifting.  It doesn’t begin until and unless I come crashing into one of these. I don’t write at a set time of day or even every day. I’m not interested in simply filling a blank page. I want what T.S. Eliot wrote, “the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” I don’t write to begin. I write to continue. I know this will be a journey because I want the poem to be sensuous even if I am writing about what is not easy or what is, by nature, messy, miserable, or uncontrolled. Every poem is a challenge and every challenge could be a poem. I love that—the sanctuary of such possibility. The uncertainty is a fine motivator.

Jessica Drake-Thomas : part five

How does a poem begin?

I do a lot of research, looking for things that make me feel a certain way. But when I write a poem, it’s because I feel something. It’ll be an overwhelming essence of something ephemeral—like the purplish tint of a twilight, or the grey feeling inside of a haunted house, a spell, a song, or a voice in my mind. 

Tuesday 15 December 2020

David Martin : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I pay quite a bit of attention to the role of sound within my poems, which may not always be euphonious, but I think creates a certain kind of music in the line. Some of the poems that I like  most have bewildered me on my first reading, but I’ve been entranced by the intricacies of their sound patterns. 

Kim Mannix : part five

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m a horror writer too, or trying to be, and a huge Poe fan, so just before Halloween I re-read The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve always loved “Annabel Lee” because of how deceptively simple it seems. And it’s beautiful to read out loud.

I just finished Michael Prior’s Burning Province, which was stunning, and thoughtful and certainly a book I will return to again and again. 

I’m on to Word Problems by Ian Williams now. He’s definitely one of my favourite writers, and the wordplay and cleverness of this book, combined with such important and startling content is genius.

I always have Heaven’s Thieves by Sue Sinclair by my bed. I’ve read it cover to cover many times, but there are poems in there that I’d consider comfort poems, the way you come back to favourite songs or foods for familiarity and joy, so I keep the book close at hand.

Monday 14 December 2020

Michael Igoe : part one

Michael Igoe, city boy, neurodiverse, Chicago now Boston, numerous works appear in journals online and in print.,,, regular contributor to Spare Change (Cambridge MA). Instructor at Boston University Center For Psych Rehab. Avalanches In Poetry Anthology,  National Library Of Poetry Editors Choice Award 1997.; Twitter: MichaelIgoe5. Urban Realism/Surrealism. I like the Night.

What are you working on?

I’m chipping away at a w-i-p, trying to create a full length novel out of an older work-a novella titled Venetian Blind. I’m putting together a chapbook as well. My modus is sending out submissions to online and print journals and I’ve had success in this regard.

Sunday 13 December 2020

Len Gasparini : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Several poets: Rilke, T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane, Robert Lowell, John Berryman. One of the most important lessons I learned from each of them was “discontinuous composition”; in other words, the absence of linear transition, or placing separate, often disparate units of meaning one after the other in an elliptical way. Continuity is an illusion.

Pascale Potvin : part one

Pascale Potvin is Prose Editor for Walled Women Magazine and The Augment Review, Assistant Editor for CHEAP POP, and Assistant at One Lit Place. She’s placed her own work in Eclectica Magazine, Maudlin House, Quail Bell Magazine, BlazeVOX, and many others. She has a BAH from Queen’s University, and she is working on a budding book series. You can read more about her at or @pascalepalaces on Twitter.

Photo credit: Robert Charlebois

How does a poem begin?

It’s like—not a heart attack, that’s too extreme—but it’s like a shiver, a condensed emotion that appears first on my skin then my page, almost involuntarily. And I’ve come to realize that some of my life experiences have been less-than-typical, so in the end I find power by reshaping them that way.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Adam Ai : part one

Adam Ai is a poet and U.S. Army veteran from Los Angeles. His work is seen in many print and online publications and now at He lives with a Ghost. Hobbies include time travel and teaching robots love. Connect on Twitter and Instagram @AdamAiPoems.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Writing a poem is being in love. It comes first in feeling. Shots of instinct, like when you meet someone and they feel so good to you and it’s almost like you know them. Like a part of you is in the other and maybe it is. So in that sense you belong to each other a little bit. If a relationship develops – maybe a lot. And you can’t get enough of them and then at times you can’t stand them. It’s just so much. And you can’t get away from it.

I know a poem is mine when I have that feeling. Endorphins, adrenaline. It’s a rush. And I don’t think we choose love but are chosen by love – through instinct, DNA, fate… I don’t know but I guess it doesn’t make much difference – the things that strike us are who we are. Whatever you find in a poem that works for you and unlocks something, that’s all yours. We each take from the world according to our own. Everyone gets something different. A poem is everything and nothing.

I’ve never sent two editors the same poem or done a simultaneous submission. Rejections are my workshop. If a poem is rejected it goes back in the stacks till I’m ready to re-inhabit the headspace with fresh energy and reimagine the poem - from the ground-up, always with a sense of maintaining the central motivation I had to write it in the first place. Usually a specific person. I tend to write poems about specific people, even if it may not seem apparent. All poems have secrets. I think you have to protect them.

Once the feeling flies a poem is finished. I can only hope I’ve been able to fashion enough from the concept to achieve an effect worth sharing. Sometimes the feelings around a poem go for years, like any relationship, even if you’re no longer in that relationship. There are some poems I’ve been working on twenty years that are still alive for me so I revisit them. There are some I look at and can’t see a way into anymore. The Vanishing Poem. Smaller and smaller. Like falling out of love and you see that person again after some time has passed and think, what on Earth was I thinking? I must have been out of my mind. And you were. I’m nuts all the time. But that’s what love is for me. Losing your mind and finding your heart. Because sometimes even madness can save you.

Matthew Carey Salyer : part one

Matthew Carey Salyer is an Associate Professor at West Point. He is the author of a chapbook, Lambkin, and a collection, Ravage & Snare. His work appears in Narrative, Plume, The Common, Massachusetts Review, Florida Review, Hunger Mountain, Beloit Poetry Journal and numerous other journals. He has been a Pushcart nominee, a two-time finalist for the Iowa Review Prize, and a semifinalist for the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry. 

Photo credit: Fadi Kheir

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

After Derek Mahon’s death, I discovered The Hudson Letter which has the sort of homeward, homeless paradox that marks a long acquaintance with New York. I am interested in those poems of his that run the page like long, tipped-over rectangles filled with thought and sensation. “Chinatown,” for example. I had not thought I’d be drawn to his work, but I am most often surprised by what I’ve overlooked. The same’s the case with Ted Hughes, who I’ve been reencountering. There’s something I’d want to do in a poem like “Dully Gumption’s Addendum” where he turns his hawk’s eye to the civil landscape. To be honest, I tend to read poetry books like first blows in a contention with certain turns of phrase or form, fresh tics of personae or situations. I enjoyed Regan Good’s The Needle, which reads like a cave painting drawn with a very fine bone, and that brought me back to Berryman. Umit Singh Dhuga – a wonderful poet himself – sent me Don Patterson’s incredible Nil Nil and that’s brought me to a certain kind of Michael Donaghy poem. I tend to read individual poems or clusters of poems more than books. I’ve been reading a lot of Welsh and Australian poets recently. I’m not sure how that came about. Perhaps it was David Jones. I’m reading “The Hunt” and The Sleeping Lord. There’s also a poet I keep hunting named Madge Herron. She never had a book, but I know how I came about to reading her: “where the burnt-out heel of the sky cocks a hind leg at God there He keeps me.” Have you ever heard a line like that? 

Friday 11 December 2020

Jake Byrne : coda

How does a poem begin?

Sometimes with a title, although those tend to take years to complete. Still trying to find poems for some really fun titles, years later, yet I won’t give up on them.

Some are stitched together from errant lines in a dozen crummy freewrites.

Some – these are the rarest, one in every three hundred times, and almost never when I’m at my desk – some come out fully formed and ready to go. Those are the ones I send to contests.

Carolyne Van Der Meer : 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?

First it trots around in my head for a while. Then, when I finally write, it’s often a big dump. It just comes out, sometimes a bit chaotically. I usually write by hand to start with—into a journal that I really like (I have to really like the journal). I leave it there for a while and then go back to it, often scratching out bits and replacing them with other bits. Finally, once I have played with it enough, I type it up. And once it’s typed up, I usually send it to a poet friend I’ve been working with for about 10 years now. We comment on and critique each other’s work—and this process is so helpful. We have very different strengths—complementary in many respects, so the process is good for both of us. I have been in writers’ groups before—and they’ve always been helpful. But the greatest benefits come out of long-term synergy and not many multiple-person groups can commit to that over years.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Sally Ito : part five

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

With my haiku, almost instantly, on FB.  That is what most gratifying about writing haiku on FB. With other poems, it’s the usual process of submitting to a magazine editor or book editor to have them read and critique and put together in a collection with other poems. I don’t have a writers group for poetry, per se, but I do collaborate with others for translation. 

Lauren Camp : part three

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

A poem is an intimacy, a new form of touch, the body of language made fresh and surprising.  Without straight reason, it offers either new vision or comforting familiarity. Because it enlarges beyond a single and exact reading, it pushes the reader to devote time and spirit to hear its perspective and voices. Poems move into every knot or emptiness, exist against complacency. I am perfectly happy when a poem gets to be exuberant in its tragedy, when it mends my heart with its word play and turns. I love that one isolated poem can be a whole world, that it can undo someone—to joy or to sadness. Is there anything better than that?

Jessica Drake-Thomas : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Sara Tantlinger’s Cradleland of Parasites, Cynthia Pelayo’s Into the Forest and All the Way Through, Claire C. Holland’s Not Your Final Girl, Juliette van der Molen’s Confess: The Untold Story of Dorothy Good, Jessica McHugh’s A Complex Accident of Life, Ray Ball’s Lararium

Tuesday 8 December 2020

David Martin : part four

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

James Longenbach has written a number of books on poetic form and technique, and I’m always energized when I read his work. He has such a fine attention for the details of poetry, such as sound and line breaks, that I come away with new ideas and appreciation for the art form.

Kim Mannix : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

I’ve never considered how music directly impacts my poetry, but I do find much inspiration and emotional respite from listening to music, so in this way I suppose it must have an effect on what I write. I’m not a musician, but I am a big music fan/nerd. The bands or artists that I love the most are often great lyricists on top of being talented musicians. I don’t always listen to music when I’m writing, but when I do, I usually end up choosing something that matches the emotional resonance or mood of whatever I’m writing. Or perhaps it’s the music that help sets the tone for what words come out. 

Monday 7 December 2020

Paul Pearson : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me a poem always begins with the title. Always. I don't approach a blank page thinking that I have something to say, I am totally driven by imagery. Actually, that's not even completely accurate. I am driven by emotion. I don't write poetry to tell you something or to picture something. I write poetry to make you feel something. And I try to do it in as few words as possible. For me, titles are the purest distillation of a poem. Everything after the title is explanation. This is what made the first part of Lunatic Engine so easy to write, the chapter titles in Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, which I took for the titles of the poems in the first section of my book, are poetry in and of themselves. These titles led into the matter in the chapters and I took my direction for the poems from both.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Len Gasparini : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The organic fact that you can’t force a poem to happen. You have to be receptive to an unbidden mood, a rhythm, an image, a phrase; it’s something like being in a blessèd trance. Sometimes a stimulant can bring it on. That’s the way it works for me.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Primessa Espiritu : part five

How does a poem begin?

Poetry falls on me during events, major and miniature. An aftermath of life lived, observed and missed. It can be an emotional response, a question, an accusation… it starts when you fall into a trap and the only way out is through a word.

Friday 4 December 2020

Jake Byrne : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Junebat by John Stintzi, Pluviophile by Yusuf Saadi, Kyla Jamieson’s Body Count,  Curtis LeBlanc’s Birding in the Glass Age of Isolation, The Dyzgraphxst by Canisia Lubrin, A Sand Book by Ariana Reines, The Suitcase Tree by Filip Marinovich, Mythical Man by David Ly, Cloud Game with Plums by Rose Maloukis.

Carolyne Van Der Meer : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, it has. I used to like writing about emotions—or perhaps I thought that poetry was about—or should be about. But as time went on, I realized that this did not satisfy me and that my poems needed to be grounded in time and place—but particularly place. I think setting is important. Of the poem—and of the poet while she is writing. 

Thursday 3 December 2020

Jeffrey Harrison : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult thing about writing poetry is… not writing poetry—the dry spells when nothing is happening. They can be depressing. This is when some poets turn to writing prompts, but I don’t seem to be able to write from prompts. I did do a lot of that in college when I studied with Kenneth Koch and David Shapiro, and of course I’ve used prompts in my own teaching, so I see their value. I just can’t do them myself at this point, the way I’ve never been able to do “role play” at a job interview. It feels artificial. So, I just have to suffer through the arid periods. It is often reading that eventually gets back to writing.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Sally Ito : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I have always been an image driven poet, so I had little capacity and interest in developing the musical side of poetry in terms of rhythm, rhyme, meter.  I also was a poet of the page; in other words, I felt poetry was something you wrote that someone read silently to themselves on the page.  Now, I think more ‘three-dimensionally’ about poetry – it’s still all about words – but ‘words’ spoken, performed, read, sung, translated.  This wider understanding of the ‘word’ has expanded my view of poetry since I began writing it. 

Lauren Camp : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I came to poetry from outside the genre, knowing (truly) nothing about it. I wrote into the walls of my heart, into the noise I was holding. I wrote to pause with how I feel, and to describe and maybe let it go. My early poems were narrative. Now that poetry is less new to me, but no less magical, I strive for that and the integration of greater details, musicality, questions and confusion. My goal is to chase outer attention, risk, losses, our place in the ecosphere. I need to be in it, shattered by it, even. 

Jessica Drake-Thomas : part three

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

Poetry is the abstract art of writing. There’s really no limit on what it can or can’t accomplish. It depends on what the poet would like to express. Poetry is all about finding new ways of expression. The limit does not exist, in short. I really love the work that’s being done in the dark poetry genre right now. Lots of interesting risks are being taken and turning out in surprising ways. 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

David Martin : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading a great number of poetry books lately, but one that has intrigued me a lot is Christian Wiman’s book Stolen Air, his translations of poems by Osip Mandelstam. 

Kim Mannix : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Right now, it’s time and enough quiet mental space to feel creative. I have kids, who are both learning at home during the pandemic, and a job I also do from home. I’m most creatively productive when I’m feeling rested and calm. This hasn’t happened in months. But in more “normal” circumstances, the most difficult part of writing poetry for me is trying to avoid treading the same path repeatedly in what I write. I seem to address the same topics or ideas, even when I don’t intend to, or use the same language or similar metaphors in different poems. So, finding ways to recognize and avoid falling into these poetic ruts can be a challenge.