Sunday 31 January 2021

Katie Jenkins : part three

How does a poem begin?

In my head. Somewhere in amongst the endless chatter there might be a phrase or an image that keeps reasserting itself, sufficient to overcome any inertia I may have to sit down and try to make something of it. Recent examples include: a discarded scrabble tile with my initial on it, an unusual menu item and a re-remembered school chemistry lesson. These fragments may sit in a notebook for some time before I pick them up, but eventually I find I must.

Saturday 30 January 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : part three

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

Poetry can slip seamlessly into daily life. It can be written on public walls, embroidered on scarves, tattooed on skin, sent as a postcard, quoted in scientific papers, and sung as a song. It can be tweeted or written out by hand in a love letter. Poetry can be part of a movie or a novel.  Poetry can ride the bus or subway as a poetry poster. Poetry can be memorized and carried anywhere in one's mind. Poetry can combine and contain fiction and fact, philosophy and science, music and art and much more.

Daniel Scott Tysdal : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to believe in some combo of “great poetry above all else” and “writing/reading poetry makes people better people.” Oops. I don’t know. I still really do believe deeply in the process. I really do believe there is something inherently valuable about the practices of attention, expression, imagination, and openness nurtured by reading and writing poetry. I guess it’s when we move from process to product, from practice to profession, that things go awry.

Friday 29 January 2021

Phoebe Anson : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m always looking for new poets to read and explore and, luckily, on my course I get the chance to explore a range of people and their work both on the module reading but also by exploring and finding new writers for assessments. Recently I have read Alice Oswald, Ada Limon, Rachel Allen, Denise Riley, Pascale Petit, Kimiko Hahn, and so many other amazing poets. There’s nothing better a poet can do than reading other poets' work. It is truly beneficial to see what other people are doing both to inspire your work and for the sheer joy of reading poetry. 

Roisin Ní Neachtain : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

There are so many. Going way back to the very beginning, I think of Eavan Boland and Samuel Beckett. Eavan Boland was pivotal to my writing because for the first time I became aware of what it really meant to be a woman writer and to explore issues relating to my gender. She was a fierce advocate of women poets, a light-bearer. On a personal level, I always felt a kinship because I grew up abroad (my father was also a diplomat) and that disconnect from a home/homeland and my cultural identity has always been something that I really struggled with. I am also a painter and I have always loved that connection between Eavan and her mother, the painter Frances Kelly. The description of colours and details in her poetry have that connection. I go to Boland for language and connection. However my poems have little of the domestic “dailiness” that marks so much of her work. 

Samuel Becket because I am attracted to the experimental, abstract and intellectual nature of his work. I love his poetry as much as his plays. Nearly all of my early poems were abstract and quite avant-garde and I would never have written them without studying Samuel Beckett. I still enjoy playing with allegory and pushing language and form.

Ellen Hagan : part five

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

I return often to TEETH by Aracelis Girmay and Tougaloo Blues by Kelly Norman Ellis. Those books feel central to my work in that they build community with their poems – they welcome and gather people to the table. They celebrate and honor – hold up and hold close. I love everything about those collections. And I am returning often to the writers that mix genres and write and experiment with their work like Renée Watson, Krista Franklin, Fatimah Asghar and Rachelle Cruz. Often, I am returning to their work and seeing how they shape the future with their words.

Thursday 28 January 2021

Lindsay B-e : part two

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

The Staying Alive anthology, edited by Neil Astley, has got me through some hard times. Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith is probably my most-returned-to poem, along with Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H. #54.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Tyler Dempsey : part two

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

It shows “how” it should be read more than other mediums.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Richard LeDue : part one

Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives and teaches in Norway House, Manitoba. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2019 and 2020, and more work is forthcoming throughout 2021. His chapbook, The Loneliest Age, was released in October 2020 from Kelsay Books.

What are you working on?

I write every day. What makes poetry so appealing to me is that it's a type of writing you can work on for twenty minutes and get something done. I dabbled in short story writing this past summer, and found I needed larger chunks of time to accomplish what I wanted to do. However, I've written poems while my son has had the TV volume turned to maximum and is dancing in the middle of the living room. Because of poetry's versatility, I send out at least one submission a week (usually on the weekend). So in a sense, I am always working on something. As I write this, I have twenty submissions I am waiting to hear back on. I also have three different chapbook manuscripts submitted to publishers. Ever since I had my first chapbook published, The Loneliest Age, I've had a strong desire to have another book published. My approach has lead to a lot of publication, but also to a lot of rejection. However, rejection is just part of writing.

Jennifer Bowering Delisle : part one

Jennifer Bowering Delisle (she/her) is the author of Deriving, a poetry collection, and The Bosun Chair, a lyric family memoir. She is a member of the board of NeWest Press, and regularly teaches creative writing. She is a settler in Edmonton/Amiskwaciwâskahikan/Treaty 6 territory. Find her at or @JenBDelisle.

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

As a reader, I like how poetry asks me to slow down, pay attention, reread—I enter a different headspace, where deeper engagement and reflection are possible. As a poet, I like how poetry’s compression, sound, and figurative language can enable multiple layers of meaning. I can convey so much more in a few words.

Monday 25 January 2021

Kelli Stevens Kane : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Pretend you’re dead. If you can rest in peace, the poem is done. If you’re still rolling in your grave? Not done. Be careful. You may get that RIP feeling and think you’re done. But if that rotisserie cranks up again? Get rolling. Also remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You just wanna be able to RIP.

Amish Trivedi : 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?

My friend Ben and I generally share poems back and forth. We have a love/hate relationship with each other’s poems: he hates mine and I love his (and we both hate our own). Once I have a larger stack of poems, I usually end up sending something along to GC Waldrep.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Katie Jenkins : part two

What are you working on?

I completed a 300-line poetry portfolio in the summer as part of my creative writing diploma, and am still tinkering with some of the unpublished poems. Generally speaking, I am not prolific. Life can be hectic and I tend to write no more than a couple of new poems a month. I’d like to say this might change if I had more free time, but it’s possible that it is simply my rate of work. It’s also a job in itself to send work out – I try to balance the administrative with the creative!

Donatella du Plessis : part five

How important is music to your poetry? 

I find it impossible to listen to music while writing poetry: I always end up wanting to sing along and bob my head. However, it’s important to me that poetry “sounds” right and in time, so in that respect, music is very important to my poetry. It has to sound good, not just look good.

Saturday 23 January 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I can carry a poem in my mind fully memorized with comfort and with pleasure along with tugs of language tension (those ah moments) then I know or hope that the poem is complete.  This happens after first mentally composing the poem and then I rewrite the poem many times by hand.  With each rewrite a subtle small change in the poem occurs. I also recite the poem out loud multiple times. When I'm writing, my thoughts are often beyond my own thinking and it is this beyond that I'm striving towards. I never fully arrive in that beyond but it's the striving that matters.

Daniel Scott Tysdal : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I’m finished—done, toast, kaput. When I can’t bring myself to hardly even look at the thing, though usually, obsessively, I do read the poem over, and tweak, again.

Friday 22 January 2021

Phoebe Anson : part four

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

I think there’s a freedom with poetry that allows you to explore so much. My work is quite experimental and tends to explore the space of the page frequently. Poetry allows for me to do this and present a visual aspect as well as the language. In poetry, I can explore a single idea or thought or an entire philosophical concept with the freedom to present it however I wish. Poetry is constantly being developed, deconstructed and rebuilt, and it’s fascinating to see the variety of ways this is done. Poems can look completely different to one another and yet still both be valid ways of writing. 

Roisin Ní Neachtain : part one

Roisin Ní Neachtain is an emerging Irish-Scottish artist, poet and translator.

She was born in Geneva, Switzerland and, though mainly self-taught, was briefly educated at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and then at Trinity College Dublin before studying under Irish artist Gill Berry for two years. She formerly exhibited under the name “Georgie Wren” and is the creator and editor of the art and poetry journal Crow of Minerva

She is currently working on her first collection of poetry, “The Earth that Flaked to Ashes.”

What are you working on?  

I have spent the last year and a half working on my first collection of poetry. I think it’s finished but I have applied to a number of programs and mentorships and am open to reworking the collection. I have been studying French poetry more intensely and am hoping to begin my first French collection soon. I am also looking into translating some French poets into English.

Ellen Hagan : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Reading has been the best work for me as a writer. It is instrumental in everything I do – and I try to read as widely as possible and get as much exposure to language and craft as possible. I have been reading Horsepower by Joy Priest, which I absolutely love. Her voice stands out to me so much. The way the South shows up in her poems is stunning and needed. Other books that have stayed with me this year are: Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, TERTULIA by Vincent Toro, FINNA by Nate Marshall and The Pink Box by Yesenia Montilla. I also love Elizabeth Acevedo. I read With the Fire on High this year, and even though it is not a novel in in verse, there was poetry in every sentence. I love books that shift my perception and make me see poetry or poetic language in a new and unique way. 

Thursday 21 January 2021

Lindsay B-e : part one

Lindsay B-e’s first full-length poetry collection, The Cyborg Anthology, was published by Brick Books in 2020. Lindsay is a writer and filmmaker from Saskatchewan who currently lives in Toronto. They are married with two kids, two dogs, and two cats. They can be found online at

How did you first engage with poetry?

The first poetry collection I ever read was The American Night by Jim Morrison, at around age 13. Afterwards, I started copying poems into a notebook with that religious Footprints meditation on the cover. There was a lot of Morrison in there, a lot of Alden Nowlan, along with original poems by my teen friends. 

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Tyler Dempsey : part one

Tyler Dempsey is the author of a book of poetry called Newspaper Drumsticks. His work appears in Heavy Feather Review, trampset, Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Gone Lawn, and the like. He is a fiction reader at X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. Find him on Twitter @tylercdempsey.

What are you working on?

I’ve put aside poetry to focus on flash fiction/CNF, my work from the past 13 years, trying to discern which are glued to one another thematically. I started a surreal crime novella back in March that I’m about to flesh out, too. All is part of a larger ‘collection.’

Jai Hamid Bashir : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Incredibly. I find a lot of inspiration in Karen Dalton, Joni Mitchell, Lucia Williams, Gillian Welch, Vashti Bunyan, Cat Power, Nina Simone, Marissa Nadler, Stevie Nicks,  Devendra Banhart, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Hozier, etc. A great deal of Hindi classical music. Old Bollywood tunes my Ma and Dad love. 

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Carrie Olivia Adams : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

On my desk at the moment is People You May Know (Saturnalia Books) by Michael Robins, which is stunningly beautiful and has a perfect balance of sound and syntax. I’m also reading Sawako Nakayasu’s Some Girls Walk into the Country They Are From (Wave Books), which I love for its intensity and its use of foreign language—as someone who’s been studying Japanese for many years (and is still terrible), I delight in poems like “Laid Out Along the Road Like Attenuant Parts” that feel both familiar and foreign. I’m about to start Karma Poems (Tolsun Books) by Yin Lichuan and translated from the Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, which seems to promise compression, shock, and an honest gaze.

Michael Edwards : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem begins on impulse. It’s become like an automatic or involuntary response, almost synaptic like a force of energy jumping across a void. This reaction often comes as a result of either being lost in some daydream or having paid attention to some detail, image, or moment, then parsing out that detail, image or moment into a pattern of language. This is language that finds form and accumulates as scrawl in my notebook, which is simultaneously etched somewhere in my cortical matter. Then the webs of neurons get to work. The excitement is to see where things go.

Monday 18 January 2021

Kelli Stevens Kane : part one

Kelli Stevens Kane is a poet, playwright, and oral historian. She’s the author of Hallelujah Science (Spuyten Duyvil, October 2020). Kane is a Cave Canem Fellow, an August Wilson Center Fellow, and a recipient of Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grants from The Pittsburgh Foundation.  She's studied at VONA, Hurston/Wright, and Callaloo.  Her work has appeared in North American Review, Little Patuxent Review, Under a Warm Green Linden, Painted Bride Quarterly, African Voices, and Split This Rock. Kane has read her poetry and oral history, and performed her one woman show, Big George, nationally. For more info visit

How did you first engage with poetry?

Poetry engaged with me before I engaged back. When I was a child and other parents bragged about their kids, my dad would clap back that I wrote my first book of poetry at the age of three months. I have no idea why he picked this, of all achievements, but I imagine in doing so, he marked me for poetry.

Amish Trivedi : part one

Amish Trivedi is the author of Sound/Chest (Coven) and Your Relationship to Motion Has Changed. He lives in Maryland.

How did you first engage with poetry?

At maybe 5 or 6, I wrote a song for my brother’s band about a wolf. He didn’t like it. I kept writing from there, whatever I felt like writing. Reading, of course, too.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Katie Jenkins : part one

Katie Jenkins lives in Gloucestershire, England, with her husband and son. Her poetry is in print in Everyman’s Library’s Pocket Poets collection, Villanelles, and in the Wage Slaves anthology from Acid Bath Publishing. She has poems online with Floodlight Editions, Twist in Time, 8 Poems, Q/A and Sonic Boom. Her travel writing has featured in the UK's Guardian newspaper. She has a creative writing diploma with distinction from Oxford University, England. You can find her on Twitter @liljenko and her published work at

How did you first engage with poetry?

It might be stating the obvious, but I was first introduced to the musicality of language as a child through nursery and playground rhymes. I had a frieze around my bedroom of nursery rhymes which I memorised (the joys of life pre-devices?!) and took part in many a rousing clapping game in the school playground. As a child of 1980s Britain, my first actual poetry book was naturally Allan Ahlberg’s Please Mrs Butler (including the iconic poem ‘Dog in the Playground’). I composed my own first poem at nine years old, leaning against the side of my house staring at a sunset, while chaos reigned indoors. I can still remember it word for word (it began: ‘How many people have passed here?/ How many people have stood/ And watched the pale sunset/ And seen the changing wood?’) I suppose it was at that moment that I came to experience poetry not simply as entertainer, but also as interpreter, healer and friend.   

Donatella du Plessis : part four

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

Invictus, by William Ernest Henry. I know it’s a cliché, but when I’m feeling depressed, I don’t have much time for worrying about a poem’s reputation, only for how it’s going to make me feel, and there are few things more comforting than that final stanza:

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

I also like to take refuge in works that are so familiar to me that I feel as safe inside them as I do in my own home. I feel this way about Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

Saturday 16 January 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : part one

Canadian writer Eleonore Schönmaier’s new collection Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete is forthcoming in 2021 from McGill-Queen's University Press. Greek composer Michalis Paraskakis is weaving selected poems from the collection into the music-theatre multimedia work Field Guide for one piano, two pianists, electronics and video. Wavelengths of Your Song (MQUP, 2013) was published in German translation in 2020 by parasitenpresse (Cologne).  Schönmaier is also the author of the critically acclaimed Dust Blown Side of the Journey (MQUP, 2017) and Treading Fast Rivers (MQUP, 1999). Dust Blown Side of the Journey is a finalist for the Eyelands Book Awards 2020 (Greece). She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize (second place) and the 2019 National Broadsheet Contest among others. Her poetry has been included in the League of Canadian Poets and the Academy of American Poets Poem in Your Pocket Day Brochure, and has been widely anthologized including in Best Canadian Poetry.  Born and raised in a remote settlement in the northern Canadian wilderness she now divides her time between Atlantic Canada and coastal Europe. She is currently studying music with the Greek composer and pianist Panos Gklistis.

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is an integral and interwoven part of my life and my poetry. Greek, Scottish, American, Dutch and Canadian composers have set my poetry to music including Michalis Paraskakis, Carmen Braden and Emily Doolittle. I've performed on stage with musicians where I recited poems from memory or as part of composed scores. When I write poems the sound of the words and the rhythms of the language are essential to the process. I usually write poems in my mind, often during walks. Only after the images and sounds of the words are almost fully formed do I place the poem on the page.  Many rewrites follow but the essence of the poem, the imagery and sound-language is there from the start. Many of my poems contain musical references: some are overt and some are layered in the depths. About ten years ago I started to study music, specifically the piano. How my poems have changed during the subsequent years is difficult for me to disentangle but I think the influence has been substantial. I never listen to music when I'm writing because when I hear music my mind is fully engaged with the music and when I write poetry my writing brain is full on and the music is already part of my mind, my memory, my breath. 

Daniel Scott Tysdal : part one

Daniel Scott Tysdal is the ReLit Award-winning author of three books of poetry, the poetry textbook The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (Oxford University Press), and the TEDx talk, “Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How It Can Save a Life).” His short films have screened at festivals in Canada, the US, Mexico, and Australia. Most recently, his short film Wave Form won Best Experimental Short at the Arizona Underground Film Festival and Frog Hollow Press published his chapbook, Mad Fold-In Poems. He teaches at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Photo Credit: Katie Fewster-Yan

What are you working on?

I recently published a chapbook with Frog Hollow Press, Mad Fold-In Poems, and now I’m working on finishing a full-length collection of fold-in poems. I’m also working on a short sort of documentary/film poem about the chickadees I befriended in early autumn. Sadly, I no longer live where those chickadees live, and I miss them.

Friday 15 January 2021

Phoebe Anson : 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?

As I’m currently a university student, some of my work goes towards assessment so I will get feedback both from my classmates and my tutor. The creative writing modules I’ve taken have really helped me improve my work and get valuable insight on what works and what could be developed further. And working under an established poet also has its clear advantages. So, I will often send my work to friends or classmates but also submitting to various arts and literary journals allows me to get my work out there and often get feedback from them too. 

Ellen Hagan : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

The first poets who really shaped the way I saw my own writing were my teachers and mentors: Kelly Norman Ellis, Crystal Wilkinson and Karen Harryman. They showed me how to write about identity, landscape, where I’m from and who and what I write for. They introduced me to writers like June Jordan, Naomi Shihab Nye and Nikky Finney. The Affrilachian Poets were also instrumental for me. I am thinking specifically of Parneshia Jones, Asha French, Mitchell L. H. Douglas and Danni Quintos – all artists I have worked with – and who encouraged me in different ways in craft and experimentation. I am also thinking of my former students: Alondra Uribe, Olivia Cole, Yvonne M. Johnson and Marissa Davis. They are constantly changing the way I see my own work. I am so moved and lifted by watching the way they create. It makes me want to keep rising up in my own work. 

Thursday 14 January 2021

Charlotte Newbury : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

Usually I hit a point that feels final, like the idea has travelled full-circle or I’ve expressed all I had to say on something. People do debate whether poems are ever really finished, though. I have old pieces I read now and would still edit, but at the time I set them down they felt complete. I suppose it’s more true that it’s us who might not be finished with the poems, rather than the other way around. 

Noah Falck : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry has the ability to teach you to read. Quite literally, several years ago when I was an elementary school teacher, poetry was the only text that many of my struggling readers felt comfortable enough to approach. It let them find language at their own pace, while simultaneously growing their confidence, curiosity, and joy. So that’s cool. 

Poetry also acts as a vehicle for empathy. It offers up a space to investigate our histories, both personal and political, through imaginative and emotional patterns of thought. It voices the complexities, the beauty, and the whole wildness of life.  

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Jai Hamid Bashir : part four

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

I read Meditation at Lagunitas by Robert Hass daily. I also am endlessly inspired by Paul Celan, Marina Tsvetaeva, Cecilia Vicuna, and Anne Carson. Here are texts I’ve read possibly over ten times: Ariel by Sylvia Plath; The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson; Odes by Sharon Olds; Late Wife by Claudia Emerson; What the Living Do by Marie Howe; Where Now: New & Selected Poems by Laura Kasischke; Orbit by Cynthia Zarin; Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon; & Certain Magical Acts by Alice Notley.;  Hidden Water by Frank Stanford; On Walking On by Cole Swensen; After Nature by W.G. Sebald; The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Haas; One With Others by C.D. Wright. 

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Carrie Olivia Adams : part four

What are you working on?

My new curiosity is medieval tree diagrams, ways of visually organizing larger concepts or even ways of organizing one’s marginal thoughts within a work. I sit on the Editorial Committee of the University of Chicago Press, where I work, and I became aware of a book we are publishing this spring, Lines of Thought: Branching Diagrams and the Medieval Mind by Ayelet Even-Ezra. It immediately intrigued me, both as a lapsed medievalist and as someone who once very happily diagrammed every sentence she could find. I am currently experimenting with adapting the form of a branch diagram to a poem, which brings its own new challenges of having to work by hand and wishing I had somewhere to lay out some very large paper. I don’t yet know in the end how these will translate to the page—or if they really can—or if they will just be a way for me to reshape my own thoughts and approach to the poems themselves. Time will tell, and I work very slowly these days.

Michael Edwards : part four

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

I generally pickup a book of poetry that is new to me. The novelty, the discovery of new work is often enough to jumpstart the dead battery of my creativity. I also have four individual poems pinned up above my writing desk, pieces by James Tate, Wendell Berry, David Berman and Nelson Ball, all which I know by heart. Rereading those, reading them aloud, reciting them like an incantation, each very different from the other, often gives me some shift in perspective that I need to move forward. Usually it’s simply a reminder that a poem can be many things and anything.

Monday 11 January 2021

Michael Igoe : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

What I’ve been reading- I’m really enthused about Anna Akhmatova at the moment.  

Sunday 10 January 2021

Donatella du Plessis : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I do not like the way a poem that seems passable one day magically becomes dreadful the next. It’s like being demoralised by one’s own brain. Virginia Woolf says it best: 

Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings,’ etc.

Pascale Potvin : part five

What are you working on?

A batch of poems that would get me in trouble if I published them.

Saturday 9 January 2021

Adam Ai : part five

How does a poem begin?

I don’t know anymore. With hope, I think. Writing a poem is a life-affirming act. I am here, and I care, it matters to me even if nobody else does – even if it’s not a very good poem or has dark intentions or is misguided in some way. If I write something I must think it’s something worth writing. So something in this world is worth writing about and maybe I can survive the day because I found something worth keeping, worth redeeming. If I share it with someone I must think there’s something of value to others in there, too. But I never know. 

Everyone wants to be seen somewhere. Yet devotion to poems have helped me to see myself. The reward for being the writer who stays in the chair seems to be the poems come looking for you. There are so many I want to write now I struggle through anxiety – there’s never enough time. And there isn’t, of course. And it goes fast. 

If you have something to say, now’s the time. Now is always the time – tomorrow never comes. It will not be perfect. There will always be more to learn and challenge yourself with, right – but you still have to dive in and swim because you may not get another chance. The feeling you have today may be gone tomorrow. Someone you love, someone you might have shared yourself with may be gone tomorrow. You’re here now and real and you, and no matter how bad you think you are your voice is worth being heard. So don’t self-reject. Time is the monster. There is no cure for this. Staying solitary can be a curse but you can break through. Never stop working, first.

Home is where you stand with love, and maybe a poem is where you stand most bravely. Poets don’t get backing vocals and a rhythm section. So for me a poem begins with love, I think. The best kind. Radical self-love in the face of devastation – and the monster comes for us all sooner or later – is among the finest impulses of the human spirit. In the past I was overrun by the intensity. I don’t fight it now and it goes easier. I fight no more but to surrender. 

In defense of love, you poets out there – you honor us with your bravery. This is important work and I think probably the most important. You’re actually saving lives in the places no-one else can go. 

You’re saving mine, every day.

So back to work!

Matthew Carey Salyer : part five

Why is poetry important? 

The question’s a bit of a Rorschach test. Consider how Percy Bysshe Shelley might answer it: “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind.” What grand, aphoristic nonsense. Shelley’s father, Sir Timothy, was an MP for Horsham – and later Shoreham – who sent him to Eton and Oxford. We should not be surprised to see Sir Timothy’s son assuming a close correlation between imaginative speech and his right to legislate. Great privilege often assumes a promethean ethos, then as now. Compare this to John Clare: “I am – yet what I am none cares or knows.” There is something far more radical and more democratic in Clare’s line than in all of Shelley’s poetics. The speaker of “I Am!” – the self-described “self-consumer of my woes” – is not useful to others but neither can he be used or made useless to his own poetic act. “And yet I am,” Clare reflects, “and live.” So much of the commercial and political – and, yes, literary – language that we encounter on any given day, oriented to what Orwell called “the defense of the indefensible,” legislates us without our acknowledgement. We use it to self-legislate and legislate others without mutual recognition. A poem can be remarkable because it confronts us with the real choice of submission to language. In Clare’s case, for example, we grant brief precedence to a voice about which “none cares or knows,” but that nonetheless “is.” Otherwise, we cannot read Clare. In other words, reading frees us, it dignifies us as something other than consumers, when we decide to accept what for lack of a better word is the poem’s alternative “consciousness.” I have been thinking about this in terms of my own work. Some reviewers find it pugilistic or “inaccessible.” I am not sure what to make of this. The function of the lyric poet is to build a proper house for the speaker, not the reader. In that context, I assume the risk of determining the right relationship between the occasion of the poem and the world that occasioned it, but I would not presume to know anything about something as gnomic as “the reader.” Any actual reader is a guest in the speaker’s house. Wipe your feet at the door. Milk and two sugars, ta.     

Friday 8 January 2021

Phoebe Anson : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

This is interesting because I see poems as being a snapshot of an idea or a thought. So, in this light, my poems are never “finished”. They may come to an end but that’s simply the end of the written aspect of the poem. The idealisation of the poem goes on, perhaps indefinitely. So when I bring a poem to a close, or, perhaps more accurately, when the poem itself comes to a close, this isn’t necessarily the definitive end of the thought. I like being able to come back to a poem and continue it in a new lighting with a new frame of mind. And when I do put an “end” to a poem, I try to finish it off with a flourish, something memorable that ties it all together or perhaps, paradoxically, leaves the reader in the dark or even more curious about something.

Ellen Hagan : part two

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

For the last six years, I have been part of a collective called: Elma’s Heart Circle – founded by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. It is a group of poets who write every day in April and weekly throughout the year. In this way, I am always creating work and feel so lucky to be part of a group that is so generous and inspiring to my work. This has been transformative for my poetry. The act of writing, crafting, editing, sharing and commenting. It nurtures and holds the work in such clear and beautiful ways. 

Thursday 7 January 2021

Charlotte Newbury : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Definitely. At the start, at school, I thought every poem had to be making some hugely groundbreaking argument. Then when I started to write I inserted myself into every poem until they were basically just diary entries with line breaks. Now I only include either of the above if they work for it in the poem. I enjoy experimenting with different voices and using those voices to say different things, and I especially enjoy the revelation that the little things sometimes are the hugely groundbreaking ones. 

Noah Falck : part four

How did you first engage with poetry?

The first engagement had to be through song. As a toddler my parents would spin the Beatles and the Stones. I would sing along knowing most of the lyrics by heart, but not fully realizing the layers built into them, the time period in which they grew out of. 

Later, in high school I became obsessed with Bob Dylan at the height of the Grunge era. I would deconstruct his songs, make my friends listen continuously to “Desolation Row,” “Jokerman,” all of Blood on the Tracks, when they were all pining for some Pearl Jam. It’s funny to think about now realizing this sort of obsessive Dylan time period had, I think, a lot to do with a desire to play with language, and to be immersed in a world of discovery and invention. At that time, I didn’t really know anything about poetry or that poets were actual people walking up and down the sidewalks of our world. 

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Jai Hamid Bashir : part three

What are you working on?

I am almost finished with a chapbook called, “In the Primate Room With the Beloved” which integrates poems from the perspective of Lord Hanuman from The Ramayana, with poems about evolution, climate change, and our relationship to this planet as human and more-than-human.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Carrie Olivia Adams : part three

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

There is something about poetry’s simple ability to just exist that makes it incredibly beautiful to me. It doesn’t have to tell a story. It doesn't have to reveal a perfect image. It doesn’t have to make you want to dance. It’s small, it’s precise, it’s unassuming, and yet, in its tiny package it can carry the emotional weight of a life. There are times when I could have curdled up within a single line and bedded down for the winter with enough to nourish my thoughts for months. 

Michael Edwards : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Shaun Robinson’s If You Discover a Fire, D.A. Lockhart’s collection of haiku and haibun, Tùkhone and Souvanhkham Thammavongsa’s Cluster.

Monday 4 January 2021

Michael Igoe : part four

How does your work first enter the world?

My work came into the public eye when I started open mic readings on the North Side Of Chicago. I was to engage with the late Allen Ginsberg as a mentor, who gave me much direction. I published under the wing of Shambala Press. 

Sunday 3 January 2021

Donatella du Plessis : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Shabbir Banoobhai. 

When I first started reading Banoobhai’s work in high school, the images in my head would always appear as through a lens made of blue glass. He made me see that poetry could have colour in ways that were different from what I expected, or from what I had been taught to expect. I should point out, however, that since then I have never had the same experience with any colour other than blue, and that only certain poets have this colour. Ezra Pound's rip-offs of Li Bai are blue. So is Pound's own poetry. Li Bai, on the other hand, is not blue at all; at least not in any of the translations I have read.

Pascale Potvin : part four

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

I think that to read prose is to get drunk, whereas poetry’s like snorting a line. (Get it? A line? But, really, though.)

Saturday 2 January 2021

Adam Ai : part four

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

My own poems, usually. Although this year I discovered Jericho Brown’s poem Duplex after I heard on Twitter about his Pulitzer prize win, along with a handful of other modern poets and that’s been big for me. A real education. So much is possible. Even coming from dark places it’s possible to carry light and shed it into the world, maybe even in places it’s needed.

When I need to get away from poems I get far away as I can and don’t read anything at all. When I write I write hard and overwrite and I’m long-winded anyway so I exhaust myself with it – I’ll do something else then that I enjoy and can focus on when I need a breather – painting usually. It’s the only other pursuit I can happily lose hours doing. I also find it centering, in a way that comforts me. I would recommend it to anyone writing poems. I’m learning conscientiousness, patience, and attention to detail in a way I never had, not to mention the joy of color and of just getting paint all over your hands like a kid. It’s really lovely. I tend to extremes and have always had trouble handling emotion. I’m moody and mercurial. Anti-social and sensitive. But I’m starting to find that I’m okay despite all that. Another blessing of finally taking a chance on publishing. If there’s anyone out there hesitating – stop it. Rejections don’t hurt as bad as you think. After losing mom I don’t feel much about them anyway. When they say no but ask to see more during the next reading period I give them a mental hug and put them on a list. I hope I can get submissions to that list some day! Time is such a factor. There are many more literary magazines than I ever imagined and submitting a poem to every one of them is taking some time. I don’t even know why that’s the goal. The amount I don’t know about poems is more evident daily. I love it – I’ve learned more this year than any other in my life.

The only other thing that snaps my head into place seems to be getting my ass kicked but one way or the other I’ll take it. I’d prefer to avoid taking the hits I do but that’s just how it is for me. Sometimes it’s all that works. Hard-headed, you know.

When I was younger I would have rattled off a list of poets, back when I thought I had a lot to say (but nobody was asking me for interviews, then. I had a lot to say – but maybe it wasn’t anything anyone needed to hear.) I try to keep young Adam’s voice in check around here these days. Still you’ll note this answer just got long too. They get away quick.

Because it’s the poems that save me. What they’re giving me now, I don’t even feel I deserve. It’s so much. The growth I’ve had just this year is astonishing and I’m losing touch with old poems daily because of it but happily. It’s making me better. It quiets the ghosts. I’ve been haunted so long the ghosts and I are more long-time associates, rather than having your usual haunter-hauntee relationship. I think the dead are learning too.

Or so I pray.

Matthew Carey Salyer : part four

What are you working on?

A novel or whatever comes out of attempting one. I do think that there’s something to Laura Miller’s warning about writing a “poet’s novel” – something “replete with long passages of description, and scant of plot” – but that’s also a bit of a cliché. Robert Penn Warren and James Dickey made steel-trap plots. Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries is a straightforward growing-up tale. I think the secret is being willing to do something unfamiliar with familiar tools. Weightlifting’s the immediate analogue that comes to mind. Powerlifters and fighters, for example, push the same iron, but with different regimens suited to different outcomes. What I am working on is a historical novel, and the past has moved toward us in its unalterable course. Its plot exerts the constant forces of verisimilitude and change against my introspective tendencies. In this instance, I retrain myself for it.

One strand of plot follows the “missing” years of James Fenimore Cooper’s mythical Leather-Stocking during the American Revolution. A second strand takes place in New York’s infamous Five Points neighborhood during the 1830s. The frame narrative follows a twenty-four-hour period in the life of a suspended NYPD detective this past summer. I think of these like geological stratum. In the United States, there seems to be a heightened awareness of how institutions and civic mythologies mask forms of originating violence. René Girard would call these “things hidden since the foundation of the world.” For John Henry Newman, this is because the “human race is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity. It is out of joint.” As a novelist, I pick a limited instance of this and cover it over with progressive times, situations, and descriptions. The poet in me is more aligned, though, with the characters I invent who must dig it up again through reflection. 

Friday 1 January 2021

Phoebe Anson : part one

Phoebe Anson is a third-year university student studying English literature. Her poetry is often concerned with representations of the self and deconstructing abstract spaces and ideas. Her work can be found in Streetcake Magazine, Quince Magazine, Nymphs Publications, with more publications coming soon. She can be found on Twitter (@PhoebeJAnson) and Instagram (@bizarre_femme).

How does a poem begin?

For me, it can be a range of different ways. Sometimes I do automatic writing tasks where I find a prompt somewhere or a vague idea or even a line from a book. From this, I give myself a set amount of time to write without putting too much conscious thought into it. I think this is a good way to start writing something and it allows you to write what you perhaps are feeling or thinking that you aren’t aware of. And then, sometimes, I will randomly have an idea for a poem so I’ll either jot it down in my notebook or on my phone but, if I’m able to, I might just start writing it there and then. I think some of my best poems have come out of this. But I wouldn’t say there is a definitive way a poem  begins to take shape. It completely depends on what inspires the individual.

Ellen Hagan : part one

Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the co-author with Renée Watson of Watch Us Rise. Her books include Blooming Fiascoes, Reckless, Glorious, Girl, Hemisphere & Crowned.  Her work can be found in ESPN Magazine, She Walks in Beauty, and Southern Sin. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry in 2020 and has received grants from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Raised in Kentucky, she now lives in Kentucky and New York City with her family.

What are you working on?

I am currently working on a Young Adult novel in verse about a family in Long Beach Island, New Jersey who lives through Hurricane Sandy. There is a focus on environmental justice and our rapidly changing climate. It is a story of family, community, the changing ocean tides and what it means to fall in love with someone who sees the world in a different way – and how to come together. It is also a love story – for the people and places we come from – and is a journey to preserve what we love most about home.