Sunday 28 February 2021

Ren (Katherine) Powell : part three

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

There are several poets I turn to for different reasons. When I am feeling vulnerable and need a hug, I pull out my worn copy of Patricia Fargnoli’s Necessary Light (Utah State University Press). She worked as a counselor before she was a poet. I don’t think she ever stopped comforting people. When I’m feeling insignificant, I pull out Elisabeth’s Bishop’s collected poems. Her humor is sly, and her humanity all over the page. When I need to be reminded of resiliency I reread “Song” by Brigit Peegan Kelly. It’s a painfully sweet poem to read again and again. Can you imagine turning out just one such perfect piece of art into the world? 

I have to say, reading these poets doesn’t directly renew my writing life. All of them intimidate me as a writer. But their poems renew me as a person. So it’s just one slow circle.. I come around in the end to a blank page.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Stephen Jackson : part two

How does a poem begin?

Most of what I write is written in that weird state between sleep and waking. This is where my raw material comes from. Later in the day I will type it into a document that won’t get opened again for three months (I used to wait six). Part of my daily schedule is to open the document created three month prior to that day and give it a first revision and a title, if it doesn’t already have one. This keeps things interesting, because I have no idea what I’m about to open up and work on. And I usually have only a vague remembrance of writing it. It’s a little like revising someone else’s poems. Occasionally, the writing is promising, oftentimes it is less so. One way or the other, I require myself to work with what I have before me until I’ve turned it into as good a piece as I possibly can. If it’s still promising, this can go on for days, weeks, months, or years. 

Friday 26 February 2021

Christopher Merrill : part one

Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, numerous translation awards, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2018, and in April 2012 President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.

Photo credit: Ram Devineni

What are you working on?

I have just sent off the galleys for a new book of prose poems, Flares, which White Pine Press will publish in May, not long after the University of Iowa Press issues “The Million Dead, Too, Summ’d Up”: Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings, A Selection with Commentary, which my colleague, Ed Folsom, and I wrote. Meantime I am writing The Trials of Roger Williams, a biography of my first relative in the New World, while remaining alert for something that might become a poem.

Nathanael O’Reilly : part three

How did you first engage with poetry?

My father was a high school English teacher and I grew up in a house full of books. I read voraciously from a young age, but I mostly read fiction until I was in my mid-teens. I was raised in a Christian household and read the Bible frequently, so the first poetry I would have engaged with would have been the Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Isaiah. The first poets I remember reading on my own and really falling in love with were John Keats, W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, John Donne and Seamus Heaney. I had a fantastic high school English teacher, Rob Robson, who gave me permission through his passion and example to immerse myself in reading and writing poetry. He introduced me to Heaney, Donne, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Robert Lowell, Phillip Larkin, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Les Murray. I lived in a large country town in Australia where most people only seemed to care about Aussie Rules football, drinking beer and fighting, so reading and writing poetry felt like a radical, subversive, secret pursuit. 

Thursday 25 February 2021

Tom Harding : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

My beside currently has books by Selma Hill, Claudia Rankin, William Stafford.

My favourite book of recent times is a collection edited by John Brehm entitled The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness.

Jessi MacEachern : part one

Jessi MacEachern lives in Montréal, QC. Her writing on the contemporary feminist poetics of Lisa Robertson, Erín Moure, and Rachel Zolf has been published in Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature Canadienne and CanLit Across Media: Unarchiving the Literary Event. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Is Dead, Vallum, MuseMedusa, Canthius, PRISM, and CV2. Her first full-length poetry collection, A Number of Stunning Attacks, is forthcoming with Invisible in March 2021. She is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Concordia University.

What are you working on?

I don’t have a specific project in mind, I never do, the “project” is almost always discovered after the thing is completed, but I am attempting to write a poem a day in 2021. I say this at the beginning of the year, with full awareness that it is a terrible thing to make a public promise you are unlikely to keep. With these first poems, there is the undercurrent of our present tumultuous moment in time, it’s unavoidable, but I’m trying to come at it slant: an investigation into slow time or a foray into the interior lives of household objects.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Jamie Townsend: part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I start first as a reader and in fact didn’t start a regular writing practice until I was a senior in High School. Reading poetry is still the number one fuel for writing my own, so I am seldom in a moment of sustained writing without also reading a variety of things at the same time.

Poets who really changed my conception of what poetry could do started with reading people like Charles Olson and George Oppen. Discovering these writers lead me to apply for the writing graduate program at Naropa University, where there were an abundance of classes were specifically focused on contemporary experimental writers (I love their commitment to teaching poets who were/are still actively writing, younger writers with a sometimes slim publishing history, and supporting underrepresented individuals and communities within poetry world). Naropa introduced me to New Narrative writing, which has subsequently become a central influence on my work. Also, while I was a student there I studied with Bhanu Kapil, Anselm Hollo, and Bobbie Louise Hawkins, among others, who introduced me to the New York School and the Berkeley Renaissance. Today I still read a lot of writers within those eras, particularly James Schuyler, Tim Dlugos, Hannah Weiner, Bernadette Mayer, Lewis Warsh, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, etc. 

Moving to Oakland 6 years ago helped me immensely in connecting with a group of younger writers, among whom are some of my favorite contemporary writers: Ivy Johnson, Sara Larsen, Wendy Trevino, Lauren Levin, Laura Woltag, Angel Dominguez, Ted Rees, Oki Sogumi. I tend to like writers who start from personal inquiry/narrative and use that to connect to larger systemic social issues or concerns; a lot of Bay Area writing fits this mold.

If I were to pick one poet who is my main source of inspiration as a writer it would have to be John Wieners. If I were to pick two I would add Kevin Killian. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Richard LeDue : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

The short answer would be when a poem is accepted for publication. Unless there's a typo, I won't change a poem after that. I know some writers are constantly editing and revising, but that just isn't my style. My own approach is to do most of my editing at the computer as I type a poem. There has been times that I wrote something earlier in the week and when I type it up, I decide it isn't worth sending out as part of a submission. These poems will usually go into a word file and sit for awhile. Sometimes, I'll revisit these poems if they match a theme for a submission, or if I remember to go back to them. I am a terrible poem abandoner. If a poem also gets rejected 3-4 times, I'll often let it sit for awhile. Again, sometimes I come back to these poems, edit them and resubmit, but there have been many poems left to rot on my hard drive. Because I try to write so much, I try not to dwell on poems that can't find a home right away. There have been some pieces that I actually quite liked, but I've let sit or are still sitting because of multiple rejections. These poems might be edited some day, so it would be unfair to call theme “finished.”

Jennifer Bowering Delisle : part five

Why is poetry important?

When I read poetry I’m always looking for that simultaneous flash of recognition and wonder—something so familiar being expressed in a completely new way. In those moments, poetry is a powerful form of empathy, and also has the potential to make us look at ourselves or the world with fresh eyes.

Monday 22 February 2021

Erik Fuhrer : part one

Erik Fuhrer (he/they) is the author of in which I take myself hostage (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021), At Root (Alien Buddha Press, 2020), not human enough for the census (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2019), every time you die (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), and VOS (Yavanika Press, 2019). He holds an MFA in poetry from The University of Notre Dame and will be completing his Ph.D. in creative writing this year from the University of Glasgow. He is from Long Island, New York, and currently resides in South Bend, IN where he teaches writing and gender studies courses.

What are you working on?

I am hesitant to call anything I have written “quarantine poems” but the collection I am just now finishing was born in March, when quarantine had compounded the depression that had landed me in the hospital in February. These poems were a way to grapple with the world I was, as many of us were, feeling estranged from. They are often bizarre, surrealist inspired poems that sometimes evoke an apocalypse that is both otherworldly and of earthly. They shift between short and squat and long and slender—though are never more than a page each. I’m currently playing around with the spacing and order of the poems, but feel like this one is soon to enter other orbits.

A book of poems exploring personal trauma that includes Buffy the Vampire slayer as both character and metaphor is currently taking up the majority of my writing time. The desire to write about personal trauma, to lift it from my body and onto the page in some way, just felt necessary for these poems, and Buffy felt like a natural companion, as that show, and the fact that her character was consistently forced to carry and process trauma, helped me, often subconsciously, process my own trauma. I started writing these poems in quarantine as well, and I have probably just under the length of a chapbook right now. This is the first time I have written poems that I find to be narrative, and part of the slow progression my poems have taken from being more abstract to more personal. 

I am also continuing to write a long poem in the skin of a play, because it feels like multiple voices need to speak it, but that these voices need to remain voices—to give them shape I think would rely too much on articulate bodies, despite the fact that this particular poem is drenched in questions of embodiment, but also disembodiment: what does it mean for a body to stop being a body, what about the transmissions in between flesh and ether? I think this project might stay in my pocket for a while, gestating.

Alicia Wright : part one

Alicia Wright is from Rome, Georgia, and her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Ecotone, and jubilat, among others. She is a PhD candidate in English & Literary Arts at the University of Denver, where she serves as the Denver Quarterly Editorial Fellow (Associate Editor).

How did you first engage with poetry?

In the most beautiful and obvious childhood, then teenage way: I had many, many feelings and no form for them. So entered Emily Dickinson’s meter into my heart, which picks you up like an ocean wave and shapes your inner thought for you. It was a way of being held. I wanted so much to see myself in others’ lines and images—I’d found Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Marianne Moore—which I did fleetingly, but nothing compared to Dickinson’s drum and soaring scope, her singular voice. I wrote her lines as graffiti in my closet, on the planks of upper bunkbeds, over Phish lyrics and lewd verses scrawled in the back of a densely graffiti’d school bus. The more I loved her poems, the more I realized the experience I could use for my own poems was limited—so I decided to go out and get some.

Sunday 21 February 2021

Katie Jenkins : coda

I have been utterly wowed by the writers I have discovered on Twitter this year and would like to thank everyone for collectively creating such a diverse and supportive online community. It is a force for good in a murky world. There are too many incredible independent poetry journals and presses to mention them all – but I have special soft spots for Butcher’s Dog (@ButchersDogMag), Q/A (@QaPoetry), Under the Radar (@NineArchesPress), 192 (@PoetsDirectory) and the Broken Spine (@BrokenSpineArts). I’d encourage anyone reading to look them up if you haven’t already.

Ren (Katherine) Powell : 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?

About fifteen years ago (oh my!), back in the days of listservs, I was fortunate to be involved in a workshop group that met through Annie Finch’s WomPo listserv. They were then and still are phenomenal poets, all of them very well known now. 

I learned a great deal from these women, many of whom are still working together in the same way. But after a few years, I began to think that too much of my editing process seemed to more of a kind of homogenizing process. Not that our work became interchangeable, but that there did seem to be some unifying style aspects that bordered almost on being a “school”. At the time I thought I wasn’t fitting in well because I was the only member who wasn’t living in America. Or that it had something to do with the fact that I was one of two who didn’t have a university teaching career. Or that I was a bit younger than the others. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they will just always be better poets than I am, but I think it was time for me to be true to my own ear.

These days my husband is my first reader. He isn’t a native English speaker, so he’s never had an inclination to try to rewrite my melodies or suggest tinkering with tone. But since he is someone who reads and loves literature, if he finds something mysterious or confusing in a poem – well, I know that I need to give it a hard look. Did I leave something vital out? (My editing process is almost always a matter of addition not subtraction.)

Saturday 20 February 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : coda

What poets changed the way you thought about poetry?

Armand Garnet Ruffo, Robyn Sarah, Paul Celan, Gerrit Achterberg, Elisabeth Bishop, Carol Ann Duffy, Constantine Cavafy, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Sadiqa de Meijer, Mark Strand, Robert Haas, Tomas Transtömer, W.S. Merwin, Daniz Smith, Carolyn Forche, Anne Michaels, Don McKay, Seamus Heaney, Menno Wigman, Jack Gilbert, Nelly Sachs, Robin Robertson, Marilyn Dumont, Saskia Hamilton, M. Vasalis, J. Mae Barizo, George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Anna Akhmatova, Zbigniew Herbert, Mark Doty and Emily Dickinson.

Stephen Jackson : part one

Stephen Jackson is a working-class poet who lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. As the originator of the Seattle small press So Many Birds publishing (SMBp), he created poetry chapbooks for local writers, featured the work of national and international writers in Harness (a quarterly literary magazine), and showcased previously unpublished writers in Future+Present (a biannual chapbook). More recently, he began submitting his own work for consideration. His poems now appear in a variety of online and print publications, as well as on the 2019 International Human Rights Art Festival Publishes platform, and in the PoetRhy garden. You can find him on Twitter @fortyoddcrows

How did you first engage with poetry?

In my early teens, my older brother turned me on to quite a few poets. Of course, I’d pretend not to be interested and then go search them out on my own at the library. I specifically recall Rimbaud and Ginsberg, how transfixed I was by their words and the way they lived their lives. Awkward and queer in small-town Ohio, I began writing my own poems at the age of fifteen as way to wrap my head around what there was, quite literally, no other way to express. Ever since then, I’ve written fairly regularly throughout my life, with periods of varying lengths in which I was either immersed in the written word or completely caught up in the process of living a life. These days, in semi-retirement, I am pleased to give writing my utmost attention. 

Friday 19 February 2021

Roisin Ní Neachtain : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important because it is a form of universal communication. We all look to the stars and want answers and connection. In the best of poems, the poet reveals their deepest self and perhaps something of the deepest mysteries of humanity. Poetry is a form of healing and healing others. It carries our most powerful messages of pain, hope and love and reminds us we are not alone.

Nathanael O’Reilly : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I started 2021 by reading chapbooks and journals published by Ottawa’s above/ground press, including Dennis Cooley’s I see I said, Gary Barwin and rob mclennan’s Some Leaves, Geoffrey Olsen’s The Deer Havens, Baron Rocco Fleetcrest-Seacobs’s Man Agar, and issues of Touch the Donkey and Guest. Most of the chapbooks and the poems in the journals were written by Canadian poets, so it’s been enlightening to expand my knowledge of contemporary Canadian poetry, which was pretty slight. I also recently read Indigo, by Ellen Bass, which amazed and impressed me on every page. I’m about to re-read Seamus Heaney’s 100 Poems along with my students. 

Thursday 18 February 2021

Tom Harding : part two

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

Poetry is intimate. A dialogue is created between the writer and the reader. Even the most irreverent poems are sincere in their desire to communicate. 

Poetry illuminates the world around us. It can magnify the banal and open up observations of time and the universe. Like putting your favourite coffee mug under a high powered microscope. It’s nearer to science in that respect. 

Lindsay B-e : part five

What are you working on?

I haven’t been able to write much poetry during the pandemic. It requires accessing an emotional part of myself who’s just too overwhelmed right now. So, I’ve been writing fiction instead. I’m currently working on two novels. One is a reflective story that takes place in a fictional small town in Saskatchewan. The other is a middle-grade novel with magic and talking animals that takes place in High Park in Toronto. 

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Tyler Dempsey : part five

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

Not poetry, but has that ‘feel’—The Little Prince.

Jamie Townsend : part one

Jamie Townsend is a genderqueer poet living in Oakland. They are the author of Shade (Elis Press, 2015) and Sex Machines (speCt!, 2020). They are also the editor of Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader (Nightboat, 2019) and Libertines in the Ante-Room of Love: Poets on Punk (Jet Tone, 2019). With Nick DeBoer they curate Elderly.

What are you working on?

Late last year I had a perfectbound book “Sex Machines” and a chap “Sad Boi Merzbau” published, both of which were collections of discrete but thematically interconnected poems, mainly concerning gender essentialism, commodity culture, and queer resistance. Some of them are surprisingly funny. 

I am currently writing a book length poem titled “Glamor,” a section of which is being published as a chapbook later this year. Over the last several years I have also been doing a series of occasional interviews with other poets. Since 2013, I’ve designed and edited a quarterly creative commons literary and visual art magazine called Elderly with my friend, the brilliant poet and artist Nick DeBoer.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Richard LeDue : part four

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

I've read almost every Charles Bukowski poetry book, and I always return to him. My favourite Bukowski book would be Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. Although I think Purdy and Atwood have better command of language than Bukowski, he just knocks me over sometimes with a line or an image. An example of this would be the poem, “True Story,” which is about a man who disfigured himself. Somehow, Bukowski turns the poem into a great story of sympathy, but not just for the man in the poem, but for all of humanity. Then there's “the tragedy of the leaves,” which reeks of humanity and our inevitable failures that come with age. This sort of connection, even if focused on a dark side of people, resonates with me. 

The other reason Bukowski is a poet I often reread is because he wrote so many bad poems. Some of his later books are collections of poems that his editor kept over the years. These books do have some gems, but there are also some that don't do much more than fill a page. Bukowski's bad poems, however, remind me that not everything I write has to be perfect. This idea is actually quite freeing for any type of artist.

Jennifer Bowering Delisle : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I often find that I call a poem finished, but there’s one line or one image that doesn’t quite work. I ignore it like a sliver for a while—it irritates me but I don’t yet know how to fix it, so I pretend it’s fine. When I finally find a way to sit down and deal with that last thorn, that’s when it really feels complete.

Monday 15 February 2021

Kelli Stevens Kane : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I'm trying to finish a poem I started ten years ago. I haven't been working on it continuously, but I just made some progress. Ironically, what I find the most difficult is remembering the spirit of "playing with” a poem rather than "working on it” or "trying to finish” it.

Amish Trivedi : part five

Why is poetry important?

Is it?

Sunday 14 February 2021

Katie Jenkins : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Everything! If I think about it, I find it incredible that anyone even tries. There are so many variables. How will it start? How long will the lines be? Will there be stanzas? Will there be rhyme? Rhythm? Metre? Shape on the page? What words will I choose? What sounds? What voice will emerge? What am I actually trying to say? How clearly should I say it? I could go on… It’s mind-boggling. And that is why it is so absorbing and so wonderful. 

Ren (Katherine) Powell : part one

Ren (Katherine) Powell is a poet and teaching artist. She is a native Californian – now a Norwegian citizen settled on the west coast of Norway.

Ren has published six full-length collections of poetry and more than two dozen books of translations with traditional publishing houses. Her sixth poetry collection The Elephants Have Been Singing All Along was published in 2017 by Wigestrand forlag.

Her poetry collections have been purchased by the Norwegian Arts Council for national library distribution, and her poems have been translated and published in eight languages.

Ren is currently focusing on handbound poetry collections and mixed media experimentation.

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Oh, yes. And please, may it keep changing. 

The wonderful poet Theodore Deppe was my tutor during my MA studies. He told me that every poem needs to teach the reader how to read it. As a poet, I try to keep that responsibility in mind. And as a reader, I also try to keep this in mind. I try to approach each poem without a checklist in hand. 

As I write this, there’s a bit of a po-biz buzz on social media about the inaugural poem. People are throwing around that often-used critique: “prose with line breaks”.  If we're going to get academic about it, poetry existed before the written language was its primary means of conveyance. It was metered language. It was spoken. I think critiquing performed poetry using a rubric for written work is weird.

There are many poems that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t live up to some objective, formal standards. I can live with that - without getting insecure about my own competence and searching for “legitimate” reasons not to like something. And the fact is that I like a lot of poetry that doesn’t measure up to prescribed rules. It seems like when that kind of thing happens, some people claim those poems have a “transcendent” poetic quality: too good for mere rules, ladeeda. 

I think there is always room for subjectivity – room or it, and a need for so many diverse voices.

There are days when I’m very happy that I don’t work in academia. I can just wallow in my subjective love/hate of all the poems out there and not have to justify it for anyone. 

You can’t talk someone into (or out of) loving a poem. 

Saturday 13 February 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : part five

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

Adam Zagajewski's Another Beauty. He writes, 

Imagination--that same imagination which brings music and poetry to life--is neither perfect nor self-contained.  How often it errs, veers off course, perhaps especially in our day, when it has taken its cue so often from demented ideologies. It needs to work in consort with honesty, common sense, reason--as long as they don't gain the upper hand.

Daniel Scott Tysdal : part five

How does a poem begin?

Pretty much like so.

Friday 12 February 2021

Roisin Ní Neachtain : part four

How important is music to your poetry? 

I have a complex relationship with music. I didn’t grow up in a musical family, there was very little music in the house, it was always classical and it was rarely played. However, my  sister and I were encouraged to study music and we played a couple of instruments and were in choirs. I had no talent whatsoever. I felt I could never understand music and this fascinated me. Music remains a great mystery to me. I listened to a lot of rock and metal in my late teens and early twenties until I discovered opera and it changed my life. I stopped listening to music when I was 30 after being ill. I didn’t listen to any music for about five or six years nor was I writing, they seem interconnected. I write about music in my poetry on occasion (for example, in “A Shorter Flight than Air” I write about meeting music in an abstract sense).  Music is important to me because my poetry, not only the lyrical, always starts with a rhythm in my head that I then form words from. It has always been like that even before I ever studied poetry. At first the sound of words seems more important and I have to force myself to really think about their meaning. Perhaps poetry is the only form of music that I have a real connection to. 

Nathanael O’Reilly : part one

Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian poet; he is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Arlington. His books include (Un)belonging (Recent Work Press, 2020); BLUE (above/ground press, 2020); Preparations for Departure (UWAP, 2017); Cult (Ginninderra Press, 2016); Distance (Ginninderra Press, 2015); Suburban Exile (Picaro Press, 2011); & Symptoms of Homesickness (Picaro Press, 2010). More than 200 of his poems have appeared in publications from thirteen countries, including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Antipodes, Anthropocene, Apricity, Cordite Poetry Review, Headstuff, Marathon Literary Review, Mascara Literary Review, Rochford Street Review, Skylight 47, Transnational Literature, Westerly and The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2017

Photo credit: Gregory Beck

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a book-length collection of poems about the street I live on, called Boulevard. I’m really interested in place and the local, and one of my favourite poetry books is Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts, a big inspiration for the project. I’ve written about seventy poems so far, spanning the four seasons. The poems won’t have titles, just numbers, and I plan to arrange them according to the season in which each is set. My previous poetry collections have almost all been transnational and have contained poems set in multiple countries on three continents. Boulevard will be my first collection in which all of the poems are set in the United States. Narrowing the focus down to a boulevard less than a mile long is quite a departure for me. Being stuck at home due to the pandemic forced me to find new subject matter just outside my door and to appreciate my immediate environment, rather than always yearning to be elsewhere.  

Thursday 11 February 2021

Tom Harding : part one

Tom Harding is a poet and illustrator based in Northampton, UK. His second collection of poetry and drawings, Afternoon Music, is available now from Palewell Press. He is also the editor of the Northampton, UK poetry magazine Northampton Poetry Review.

What are you working on?

I recently published my second book of poetry, Afternoon Music, with Palewell Press. I’m someway into finishing another collection. My first book was Night Work, the second Afternoon Music so I suspect this one needs to be about the morning. 

Lindsay B-e : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

That’s what I love about poetry! I feel like almost every poet I read changes the way I think about writing. Recently, I’ve been changed by poetry books by Alok Vaid-Menon, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Danez Smith, RD Laing, Anne Carson, Tyler Pennock, bpNichol, Arielle Twist, Andrea Gibson, Irfan Ali and Tracy K Smith. 

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Tyler Dempsey : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

City of Incandescent Light, by Matt McBride (Black Lawrence Press) walloped me. The “Acknowledgments” is more poetic than anything I’ve written. You immediately want to get it in the hands of everyone you love. I can’t say enough about it.

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Richard LeDue : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I finished The Woman on the Shore by Al Purdy in December. This was Purdy's second last book, but he still had a potency with words that makes me envious. I also read one of his older books, “Wild Grape Wine,” back in November. That was my favourite Purdy book I've read so far. A lot of it is about Purdy's life in Ontario sixty years ago, and I find it fascinating reading about his views (political and otherwise) on life in the 1960s. It contains one of my favourite Purdy poems, “Interruption,” which is about him and his wife's new house in rural Ontario, but also deals with humanity's place within nature. 

Another book I finished recently was Dearly by Margaret Atwood. Some of this book is about Atwood dealing with the loss of her longtime partner, Graeme Gibson. Whenever Atwood writes about relationships, she's at her best. The sadness and sense of loss in this book actually slowed me down reading it (but in a good way). That is one of the strengths of poetry, however, the way it can convey emotion so much more succinctly than prose. Atwood's also a master at language, so I always learn something whenever I read one of her poetry books. 

Jennifer Bowering Delisle : part three

How does a poem begin?

I used some self-imposed prompts or constraints for a number of the poems in my new collection. A lot of the poems began with a single word and its etymology, which is a theme running through the book. One section, called “Shoebox Photos,” began when my husband’s aunt was looking through old photographs after the death of her father; so many of the people in the pictures were unknown, but already telling me stories. But most of my poems begin with a moment—a dead bird in the grass, the posture of a stranger on the street, the pattern on my baby’s washcloth—that memory or gesture or object becomes a way of expressing a larger experience or idea.

Monday 8 February 2021

Kelli Stevens Kane : part four

Why is poetry important?

Because we need passports we don’t have to apply for and the next thing you know you’re already back but—something's different.

Amish Trivedi : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is more important to me than poetry. I spend many more hours considering what I’m listening to (and who I’m listening to) than I ever will poems/poets. The only reason I’m not a musician professionally is— why ruin a good thing?

Sunday 7 February 2021

Katie Jenkins : part four

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

I was privileged to work closely with two wonderful poets during my creative writing diploma course at Oxford University – Matthew Barton and Sue Leigh. They provided inspiring writing prompts in class and engaged forensically with my work during a series of one-to-one tutorials, which really helped me develop and sharpen my poems. I recently joined the Poetry Society and joining one of their local stanza groups is next on my to-do list. I try to get along to online events organised by the Gloucestershire Poetry Society – they are a lovely bunch based in my beloved home county. I am so looking forward to attending their events and workshops in person again when they can return. I am in touch with the other alumni from my course and we also share work from time to time. My go-to reader is my very talented friend Jane Thomas (@JaneThomas33) who was a runner-up in The Rialto’s latest pamphlet competition. She spurs me on when I feel like I am not poet (what a rotten nuisance imposter syndrome is!)

Saturday 6 February 2021

Eleonore Schönmaier : part four

Why is poetry important?

Poetry survives in Canada under the radar. It is under the radar that our true selves are able to flourish both as readers and writers. Shostokovich's string quartets evaded/eluded censorship under the radar in the former Soviet Union.  The difference between Canada and the Soviet Union is that poetry in Canada is under the radar due to indifference rather than dictatorship. By showing up on the radar, poets throughout history have been at risk of persecution and imprisonment.  In prison a memorized poem can keep one alive or I like to hope this is possible. 

W.H. Auden's thoughts are also important. In 1938 he wrote, 

The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us.  I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient:  I hope not. 

I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain it makes us more difficult to deceive, which is why, perhaps, all totalitarian theories of the State, from Plato's downwards, have deeply mistrusted the arts.  They notice and say too much, and the neighbours start talking. (From The Later Auden by Edward Mendelson).

Daniel Scott Tysdal : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

For this answer, I’d like to share what I have been teaching lately and what I will be teaching. There is nothing quite as sustaining as seeing how emerging writers learn from and are inspired by contemporary poetry. This term I taught Kirby’s This Is Where I Get Off and What Do You Want to Be Called?, El Jones’s Live from the Afrikan Resistance!, and The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry, edited by Jim Johnstone. Next semester, I will be teaching Jones again along with Randy Lundy’s Field Notes for the Self, Natasha Ramoutar’s Bittersweet, Rasiqra Revula’s Cephalopography 2.0, and Dani Spinosa’s OO: Typewriter Poems. Happily, all the poets who’s work I teach also visit our classes, so there are endless rewards and highlights each term.

Friday 5 February 2021

Phoebe Anson : coda

My poetry is constantly developing and explores a range of different ideas or concepts. My poem ‘[emote]’ (published in the August 2020 issue of Streetcake Magazine) is very different to my poem ‘Feminine Terrains’, my most recently published poem in Nymphs Publications. While both are very different, they still stay true to who I am as a poet.

Roisin Ní Neachtain : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately? 

I am currently reading and rereading the commemorative anthology Hold Open the Door, from The Ireland Chair of Poetry, and Stephen Watts’ Republic of Dogs/Republic of Birds which was recommended by Sasha Dugdale on Twitter. 

I would recommend both of these to anybody. Hold Open the Door is an important collection which reflects, as Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin put it, “the meaning of influence and originality.” I think it will be of particular interest to emerging poets.

It would be impossible for me to summarise Watts’ book in a few sentences, I will only say that I have never read anything like it and I am in love with every word. I wrote a prose poem for the introduction of my collection that I was thrilled with but, after reading Watts, I am plagued with the best doubts!

Thursday 4 February 2021

Lindsay B-e : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t know if my poems are ever completely finished. There’s always the chance that they could be edited or updated or repurposed.

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Tyler Dempsey : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Edmond Jabés, Michael Ondaatje, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, ee cummings.

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Richard LeDue : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

The three most influential poets for me would be Charles Bukowski, Al Purdy and Margaret Atwood. All three made me realize how you can really write about anything, whereas before I always thought a poem needed some measure of epicness to it. An example of this in my own writing would be my poem “The North is No Place For Love,” which was literally written from me watching a leafless tree sway outside my classroom window during a lunch break. It dives into the idea of the fragility of new love, but I don't think I could have written this poem without starting out with just the simple image of a naked tree.

Of the three, I've probably read Bukowski the most, but that's due to a lot of Atwood's and Purdy's older poetry books being out of print. Both Purdy and Atwood are giants in Canadian poetry, but they also changed the way I thought about being a Canadian poet. In school, we mostly focused on the “greats,” such as Shakespeare, the Romantics, the Victorians, and while they were immensely skilled writers, I find I relate more to contemporary subject matter. I actually beamed with pride when I discovered an old Purdy poem a couple of months ago called “Three Thousand.” It was written about the steel plant my father worked in in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. That poem made me realize the connection poetry can create, and how potent that is within any country. As well, Atwood's The Journals of Susanna Moodie is as valuable as any history textbook when trying to discuss Canadian identity, and showed me how one can write about the past without it sounding like the past.

Jennifer Bowering Delisle : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The vulnerability. The subject matter of much of my work is personal and raw, and so is the craft itself. Sharing it with the world feels necessary but also terrifying.

Monday 1 February 2021

Kelli Stevens Kane : part three

How does a poem begin?

Put your boots on. Step the blade of your shovel into the earth. You are the earth. No—you’re the shovel. I mean the boot. You’re the neighbor wondering why that jerk is digging up her tulips. I mean you’re a tulip. 

Amish Trivedi : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

After 17 years of defining myself regularly as someone who writes poems, I still have no idea why I’m so bad at it. I find it difficult to keep doing I know I’ll never be good at.