Friday 30 April 2021

Geoffrey D. Morrison : part one

Geoffrey D. Morrison is a fiction writer, poet, and critic. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Blood-Brain Barrier (Frog Hollow Press, 2019) and co-author, with Matthew Tomkinson, of the experimental short fiction collection Archaic Torso of Gumby (Gordon Hill Press, 2020). His work has appeared in Grain, PRISM, The Malahat Review, The Temz Review, Shrapnel, and elsewhere. He was a finalist in both the poetry and fiction categories of the 2020 Malahat Review Open Season Awards and a nominee for the 2020 Journey Prize. He lives on unceded Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh territory.

What are you working on?

Right now the main focus of my attention has been on revising and expanding a novel. That said, my approach to the novel as a form has been shaped pretty fundamentally by my earlier experiences writing and reading poetry. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot. 

There’s a remark attributed, perhaps in error, to Paul Verlaine – he apparently said he could never write a novel because then he’d have to write sentences like, “the count walked into the room.” I suppose he meant that being a poet entails the use of language at its greatest intensity and with an allergy to the commonplace ways of saying things – what’s a “count,” anyway? what’s a “room?” what does it mean to “walk into” one? On a deeper level he might be saying that a poet questions the basic narrative choreography of going from point A to point B. 

At any rate that’s how I interpret his remark – if he did in fact say it – because that’s how I feel, too. I couldn’t write sentences like that without feeling immense pain, and my first efforts to write a novel were badly compromised by my feeling I was supposed to do it in a way that pained me. But on the other hand I was attracted to the challenge of the novel and to what it would allow me to do and say. So I began again, resolving that I would not write sentences about counts walking into rooms (so to speak). I would design my novel such that utterances of that sort would be impossible.   

As I did so, I found models. I noticed that many of them – and in particular Thomas Bernhard, Gerald Murnane, Roberto Bolaño, and Samuel Beckett – had also begun to some degree or another as poets. 

I think poetry gave them all something really important and I don’t think it’s the obvious thing. They don’t necessarily “write poetically”; that is, they aren’t necessarily using language at the level of its greatest intensity all the time. But they proceed with an attitude to narrative and to meaning that is closer to a poet’s. A poet is often building meaning with the reader, or giving the reader the tools to build the meaning, and these novelists do too.  

Gregory Crosby : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

For me, music is poetry, and vice versa (which is funny, as I have zero actual musical ability). I’m always listening for the music in a poem, for the rhythms, whatever they may be. I’ve always felt you have to be a little in love with language (or at least consider it your Best Frenemy Forever) to be a poet, and part of that is recognizing that language is, in fact, a musical language: even on the page, the aurality of poetry should rise up and seize the reader like James Brown’s horn section, or slip under your consciousness like Debussy.

Lillian Nećakov : part one

Lillian Nećakov is the author of six books of poetry, numerous chapbooks, broadsides and leaflets. Her new book il virus was published in April 2021 by Anvil Press (A Feed Dog Book). In 2016, her chapbook The Lake Contains an Emergency Room was shortlisted for bpNichol chapbook award. During the 1980s she ran a micro press called “The Surrealist Poets Gardening Association” and sold her books on Toronto’s Yonge Street. She ran the Boneshaker Reading series from 2010-2020. She lives in Toronto and just might be working on a new book. 

How does a poem begin?

With a headline, a scene in a film, a broken robin’s egg, a visit to the emergency room with one of my kids, a scent, a snippet of conversation overheard on the subway, a memory, a walk with my dog, a nightmare, a death, a birth, anything really. But what I am excited about is how/where the poem ends. Where you begin and where you end are often two very different places. The big themes, if you want to call them that, are always there, in your sub-conscious, and even though you begin with a line about a magnolia tree or your son’s broken clavicle, that’s not what the poem is ultimately about, that’s not where you end up. I don’t usually sit down and think, “okay, today, I am going to write a poem about climate change, or my father’s funereal”. Those things might become woven into the landscape of the poem as I write. That journey is what I find so satisfying about writing poetry. And sometimes I end up surprising myself.

Thursday 29 April 2021

Jared Beloff : part five

How does a poem begin?

Please let me know. If I knew this secret it would be much easier to start. I am much more comfortable with the landing of a poem, that tension and release of a final line. My poems begin with description and I have to work to whittle them down. I don’t always know what I’m writing when I set out to write and the revised finished product never looks like what I thought it would when I started. I’ve tried several times to start with the particular curl of the snake plant on my window sill and ended up writing about my grandmother making pie or performing dissections in high school biology class. Beginnings are just the start, so the poem doesn’t “begin” until I have the landing, then I can figure out how to make it all cohere.

Raegen Pietrucha : part one

Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her chapbook, An Animal I Can't Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2022; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at and on Twitter @freeradicalrp.

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

There are a couple different angles to this question. For better or worse, there are poets one only knows on the page, and there are poets one knows in real life. And for better or worse, there is the work of poets that can change the way one thinks about writing, and there are the actions of poets that can change the way one thinks about writing. Experiences with particular poets in all these ways—both positive and negative—have made me think differently not only about writing but also about the poets themselves and the writing business in general. 

Systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, ageism, etc., poison the world, including the writing sphere. There are people, fellow writers, who actively work to deplatform others, to silence what is perceived as “less than” or “different,” and sometimes even appropriate others’ experiences instead of giving others the platform and space to share their authentic stories. My deepest hope is that every underrepresented writer will persist, despite such people, if one is in a safe enough position to do so.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve had tremendous female poets both in my life and on the page who have guided me toward my voice and ultimately toward the publication of my chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, and my forthcoming full-length collection, Head of a Gorgon, with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. Louise Gluck’s “Mock Orange” was the poem that got me interested in not just reading poetry but actually writing it. Finding a speaker like the one in that poem who was brave enough to say things I had felt but had never articulated myself was one of my earliest and most profound experiences with poetry. From there, I found inspiration and insight in workshops with Mong-Lan, Luci Tapahonso, Dorothy Barresi, and Leilani Hall. And then I had the privilege of Larissa Szporluk’s mentorship in grad school, which was transformational for me not only as a poet but as a person. She encouraged me to write the book I wanted to read, and that’s pretty much when I abandoned the po-biz/academia edicts and did just that.

Jaclyn Desforges : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

There’s the first kind of finished, the moment in which I can’t bear to look at it anymore. On a small scale, this is when I think, “Good enough, whatever” and shove the poem in a drawer. On a larger scale: At this time last year I was on Toronto island for a self-directed retreat with a writer friend, the brilliant Sara Mang. I was finishing my collection, and after a few days of focusing on nothing but that, I knew that not only could I no longer look at these particular poems, but also that I had lost whatever spark it was that had made me think I could possibly be a poet to begin with. I thought I was done, that maybe it would be published and maybe it wouldn’t, but that my poet days were truly over. I sent the manuscript off to my editor, Jim Johnstone. Then I submitted a package of poems to The New Yorker as a last hurrah, then moved on to writing short stories.  

This week, I read my book of poetry for the first time since the island. And it really is a book. It feels like a book — something a real writer wrote — even though the last time I looked at it, it felt like twelve million wriggling, disparate parts that made no kind of sense, rational or fantastical or otherwise. I was too deep into it to be able to see it. It spent many months unseen in the drawer. Looking at it now, I feel like the book needed that time to cure and become itself. 

Now Jim and I are doing edits and the book is coming out in fall of this year. It’s like my poet self is waking up after a long hibernation. And funnily enough, as I’m coming to the end of writing my collection of short fiction, I’m feeling like I can’t possibly be a fiction writer, that it’s too hard, that this short story collection is going right into the drawer the second it’s done. And suddenly poetry seems like fun again.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Kelly Weber : part four

Why is poetry important?

It feels really important in all writing to have language that engages with, resists, challenges, troubles, lives inside the language of all the other discourses of our everyday lives. For me, poetry is a kind of wakefulness, a sensitivity, a tuning in. And it feels important, in the midst of so much functional writing, to have poetry be fire and birdsong in my mouth. It’s an alternative way of being in the world. It’s almost this whole other sense or life experience in addition to, and part of, the dailiness of my life. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the ways I think poetry is important, but those are some the reasons it’s important for me.

Hannah VanderHart : part one

Hannah VanderHart lives in Durham, North Carolina, under the pines. She has poetry, essays and reviews published in The Boston Globe, Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry collection What Pecan Light (Bull City Press, 2021).

Photo credit: Della Hethcox

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

C.D. Wright showed me how disjunction and narrative work, and also showed me that I was a Southern poet in a way I had not acknowledged or understood for many years (you don’t see the water you swim in, or the language you have been discouraged from using, the accent you have been taught to harden over the years). Claudia Rankine taught me that hate and harm were personal—the power of the lyric I / the lyric we. Elizabeth Bishop showed me that describing the world is itself poetry: that poetry is attention. And long ago, e.e. cummings got me started by offering me language play, when I did not come from a particularly playful background, but from a sober and religious one. Linda Gregg made the world beautiful for me again. 

Michael Lithgow : part five

What are you working on?

My second collection of poetry, Who We Thought We Were As We Fell, is coming out this spring (Cormorant Books, 2021), so that’s exciting. Most of my creative energy for the past little while – in addition to completing this collection – has gone into longform fiction, a novel; such a difficult process, but it does continue to grow and find itself. The story is about disparate, broken people trying to overcome limitations - being forced to, really, or invited to by the circumstances of their lives – individually at first, and then with the possibility of collectivity, and in the face of the kinds of indifference to suffering that algorithmic cultures seem to propagate. I have also started working with visual artists on different projects – on an illustrated version of one of my short stories, and on a kids alphabet book, which is fun and whimsical. It’s my first foray into the world of combining my writing with visual expression, both exciting and challenging. 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Lauren Bender : part four

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

Answer 1: I think all forms can (and do) blend together – so we have the joy of prose poetry, novels in verse, visual poetry, and all other kinds of hybrids. In that sense, in the sense where other forms borrow poetry, essentially, they are also borrowing what poetry can accomplish. Answer 2: poetry in its “purer” iterations has a roominess and space and more air. It allows you to slow down. It compels you to slow down. So while prose might feel sometimes like rushing through a busy city (which can be both overwhelming and exciting), poetry is a calmer, quieter walk, maybe down a less populated path, one where you’re going to want to mindfully pause from time to time to appreciate your surroundings.

Matthew Lovegrove : part one

Matthew Lovegrove lives in the traditional, unceded territory of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation, works as a Curator in a small-town museum, and has released a series of folk albums under the name woodland telegraph. His poems have appeared in Red Alder Review, Train: a poetry journal, talking about strawberries all of the time, and elsewhere. Send help, learning to twitter @mwlovegrove    

How did you first engage with poetry?

After finishing a decade-long music project called the Canadian Landscape Trilogy with woodland telegraph, I took a break from writing songs. I was walking in my hometown one night, and out of nowhere, I was struck with the inspiration to write a piece juxtaposing the suburban landscape with the places I visit when mountaineering. I was surprised by how much fun I had, so I haven’t stopped since. 

Monday 26 April 2021

Ellen Adair : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with a thought with interesting words to it. The nature of their interest can be that the words feel so appropriate: that their sound encapsulates what they describe. It can be that they’re interesting because they sound beautiful, but that’s not necessary. Maybe they’re interesting because they are appropriately ugly, or appropriately distant. Maybe they’re interesting just because they’re not words you’d hear every day, but still: they came up in that thought, fitting what they describe so aptly that they can’t be ignored. 

If I follow the train of the thought, images bloom, and more words assign themselves. Sometimes I have a sense of where a poem will take me, sometimes I don’t. That’s what’s fun about poetry, versus narrative, where I’m usually steering. The form that the poem takes reveals itself. Even if I realize: this poem is a sonnet that will need to be completely restructured. I don’t usually begin by having that information.

Irina Moga : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I believe that only a minute percentage of my poems are truly finished. I’ve come to accept that some pieces reach a state where there is no benefit in re-writing them if the overall poem is acceptable. 

One of the thoughts I have is that poetry is, in a way, a continuous poem that keeps on writing itself. A “Perpetuum mobile” of words, which we should not attempt to stop.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Hannah Rousselot : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading contemporary poets! I write reviews of contemporary poetry books on and I discuss those same books on my podcast, Poetry Aloud. Some recent books I’ve loved are Fierce Aria by Maxima Kahn, Knock Off Monarch by Crystal Stone, and Glorious Veils of Diane by Rainie Oet. 

Michelle Moloney King : part six

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

Avant-garde poetry is can be more art than contemporary poetry and certainly has that same feeling of brain tingles. It can look like childsplay to a child's mind as it asks the reader to create their own meaning. It's a mirror of your inner life. If it's simple then what does that say about you? Relaxed? Naive? Chilled out? And that's fun, it's playground messing about with art history as the poets arsenal and crafted with informed design. 

Saturday 24 April 2021

makalani bandele : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult thing about writing poetry is finding the time I need to devote to it. All the research and background reading, listening, and watching that the poem requires is time-consuming, and I often do not get the chance to write a lot of poems because of this process. I am looking forward to winning some more residencies so I will have time and isolation necessary to give all the attention required to come up with ~10 poems and invent a new poetic form.

Jackie McManus : part four

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

I am not a believer in writer’s block. There may be blocks but writing is a path to unblock. So when I need renewal, I go to words. I read anything. Poetry, a nonfiction book, the newspaper, it doesn’t matter. I just get words in front of me and it invariably happens that I will fall in love with some of the words, so I’ll have to get out my Word Journal and jot them down, and often that is the beginning of a phrase, an entry into what may become a poem. I am not organized, though! I recall Ellen Bass admitting her messiness, and I can relate: that’s me! There isn’t one book or thing I return to. I dabble. I’m a dabbler. But I do make sure the author’s work I am reading is someone who is an excellent poet or writer, someone better so I can work on being better.

Friday 23 April 2021

Gregory Crosby : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Vievee Francis’ Forest Primeval rocked my world from the first poem onward—an amazing book. I tend to dip in and out of collections, but this is a book I read straight through. I’ve also been spending quality time with Kirsten Kaschock’s Explain This Corpse, Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems, and Rae Armantrout’s Conjure

Robert van Vliet : part five

What are you working on?

This last year has wreaked havoc on how we answer questions like How are you doing, not to mention What are you working on… I’d already been having some difficulty writing over the previous few years, and the fun-filled laff-riot that was 2020 only made things worse. So, starting last April, I committed to writing a poem every day. 

I turned to some writing exercises that relied heavily on chance operations. I rolled my old D&D dice to pick a handful of words from a very long list I’d collected. And using other chance operations, I selected a line from a book. These randomly chosen words and texts were the starting points for the poem I would try to build each day. 

Full disclosure: it hasn’t been every day. I quickly settled into a pattern of several runs, or series, each a few months long, with a month or two off in between. Before starting the next series, I would refresh the list of words and switch the source book, to keep things fresh. I’m in my fourth series now.

The point of using chance operations was to leave as much of the decision-making process until the very moment I began composing. I was too swamped by the quotidian to hear anything else; if I allowed myself to pick the words, I knew they would be nothing but fear, rage, mask, police, murder, racist, climate, protest, Covid, Covid, Covid — and that’s what most of each day already was. I knew, of course, that those concerns were going to turn up in my poems anyway, I just wanted them to knock first, not kick in the door. 

Before this year, it was not part of my normal composition method to rely so heavily on chance operations — I’m usually more of a bricolage guy, setting fragments from my notebooks next to each other, to see what slips and sparks. But I’ve been so grateful for this tool, which has allowed me to keep working even when working has, so often, felt impossible. And it has allowed me to write more poems in the last year than I’d written in the previous five. An unexpected gift in a year notoriously short on good news.

Thursday 22 April 2021

Jared Beloff : part four

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

My work can get dark and brooding or too filled with imagery (my go-to poetic technique) and I find that I return to Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Ross Gay (a dynamic duo: if you’ve ever seen them together, you know what I mean) to find joy. They both handle images and allow the speaker to turn those images into meaningful connections, genuine emotions. They make it seem effortless. There aren’t any seams in their work, so reading them helps me think about language and goals and the purpose of images in my own work, otherwise I might be happy to just keep describing a scene as specifically and beautifully as I can. Oceanic and Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude are required reading.

Jaclyn Desforges : part four

Why is poetry important? 

I’m going to answer a slightly different question: why is poetry important right now? Because it really is. We are seeing all around us the direct impact that lies have on society. Words are killing people, whether through covid disinformation or conspiracy theories that lead to violence or whatever else. People are using words willy-nilly out there, and it’s causing harm and destruction and confusion. So maybe poetry isn’t the answer, exactly, but it’s a potentially powerful response to these circumstances. It’s an art form that’s based on saying true things, symbolically and rhythmically, so we can to some extent bypass the intellectual mind, the mental blocks that stop us from being able to understand each other, and communicate directly through the heart. 

Poetry has been very much intellectualized. There’s a lot of gatekeeping around it, for both readers and writers. Every time I send a new poem to my mom, for example, she makes sure to preface her response with some variation of “I don’t understand poetry, but…” There’s a fear there that her interpretation or experience of the work is going to be wrong.

But the things is, even I don’t always fully understand the poems I write. They’re not intellectual exercises for me. Maybe they are for some other poets. But when I read a poem to someone, I don’t need or want them to solve it or figure it out or understand it. I just want them to listen and then feel something. Maybe it has something to do with the way poetry is taught in high school? I remember so much deconstruction. What is the author trying to say, what is the function of this metaphor, etc. Makes you think that a poem works like a machine. But it’s not a machine. It’s a magic spell, or some kind of organism. 

What I didn’t understand early on is that in poetry, meaning stacks. If a word in a poem triggers a feeling in you, or makes you remember something, that meaning goes into the poem. And in my head canon at least, that meaning becomes part of the poem, even if it’s a meaning that only you understand. So the more poems are read and shared and experienced, the more meaningful they become. It’s like that game Katamari, where the ball of objects grows bigger and bigger and bigger, picking up everything in its path. All that gatekeeping does is restrict the enjoyment and proliferation of poetry to a group of people who are supposedly in the know. But nobody really knows. I think poetry tries to put words to the great mysteries of life. And nobody has those answers. 

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Kelly Weber : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Everything! Kidding—but I think it’s difficult to let each poem navigate its way between lyricism and forthright articulation of its concerns, especially in the revision process when the first draft flush of discovery has worn off a bit. How to attend closely to the particular crisis of the poem and listen to it so carefully that we discover—let the poem discover—its deepest formal logic, to use Dan Beachy-Quick’s terms? I find myself often asking if I’m really revising toward that in a poem, or if in fact I’m just using craft to stay away from the most sensitive pressure point at the heart of the piece. There also comes a point I’ve learned to recognize late in the book drafting stage when I sort of hate everything about the manuscript. That’s usually when I know a book is almost done, but it’s hard to look at the massive amount of work and all the pages and think it wasn’t a waste of time. That’s when I know it’s time to probably let the book be done so we can both move on to other things, but then it becomes especially hard to go back and engage with the manuscript both generously and critically to accompany it through its final stages. With a little luck, it becomes a chunk of my heart other people can read.

Michael Lithgow : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding/creating language that happens, that allows language to come alive in the body, that invites a reader into an embodied relationship with my words, and with them my own body, my own experiences, my own sense of mind and self. Finding the language that can hold that tension, that thrives in the space between certainty and obscurity, that invites a reader to share that tension of being alive. Making language that stays alive like that, even on a shelf for a very long time -  

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Lauren Bender : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading online lit mags more than anything else lately, but one book I have been engrossed in for a long time (at least a year now!) is Shira Erlichman’s Odes to Lithium. That book is a masterpiece, and I have not actually finished it yet. I keep having to set it aside, because it’s so amazing it overwhelms me. It’s definitely going to join the ranks of my top 10 favorite books of all time.

Monday 19 April 2021

Ellen Adair : part four

How important is music to poetry?

To me, it’s crucial to my enjoyment. I feel that poems are meant to be heard aloud, and that the sound of a poem should deepen its meaning. The words chosen are ideally an onomatopoeia for what they describe. But I think most words are, naturally. Their sound is complementary to what they mean. I’ve often likened the meaning of a word to its body and its sound to its soul: related, but different.

So, generally I enjoy poems that employ rhythm--or meter, which is only one kind of rhythm--or rhyme, or other kinds of interwoven musicality. In my own writing, I frequently favor the use of resonance more than outright rhyme, which can feel so on-the-nose in my struggle to be a twenty-first-century human. Resonance, to me, is ending lines with words that pick up some of the sounds of its companion. Or it’s picking up rhymes not on line endings. Assonance is always my favorite; alliteration can feel like a club, sometimes, but assonance is both more musical and less intrusive. (And I couldn’t help but use it there.) And rhythm, the patter of words together, even if they’re not metrical, is key. 

Irina Moga : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

I think poetry, in its essence, is subliminal music – music hidden in the way we fit together sounds and meaning. And pauses. And rhythm – acceleration vs. deceleration, and so on. 

“Music first and foremost” is Paul Verlaine’s opening line in the poem “Poetic Art.”  

Sunday 18 April 2021

Hannah Rousselot : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The hardest thing for me is to avoid my own cliches. I tend to write with the same themes: the ocean, the body, nature. I’ve been trying to move away from those comparisons, to find new ways to engage with the language of the world. I want to expand my practice, to push myself further and further. I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone; I want to continually move forward and thicken my experience of life and poetry (they’re the same, after all).

Michelle Moloney King : 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?

It first enters the world through poetry journals publishing the work. 

I'm a primary school teacher with an undergraduate in computers….my mind is geared for quick answers and people knowing who they are...I'm not into sharing my work for feedback. I'm not going to grow from another's biased perspective but from reading widely and asking how I'd incorporate expansion into my own work. 

But I'm a firm believer in CPD so I'm doing workshops with Nikki from Streetcake and Mum Write. They're excellent for experimental poetry, playing with the visual form and techniques to create the first layer of your poem, which before, for me, were constructed in a very labour intensive fashion. 

And I've enrolled into Steven J. Fowler's asemic poetry course and cannot wait.

Life isn't about ego brain learning but chatting to people who are excelling in their field, supporting their work and lightly playing and expanding your own work.

Saturday 17 April 2021

makalani bandele : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music, particularly jazz, is foundational for the poems I write. Which is not to say that The Blues, Jazz, Soul, and Hip Hop musics don’t also find ways to slip into my poems. I developed an intimate connection to African American music as a child listening to the Hard Bop and Soul music my parents played at parties they held at our home. My poetics are largely made up of an experiment to try to capture and contain the nuance of the African American worldview and arts of African American speech and music within a nice, tight poetic line. One of my primary concerns when writing poems is how do I make this funky. I mean to write poems that boogie. I do not limit the way a poem can boogie to its rhythm or sonority; I also consider how an idea or series/collage of images might excite the reader’s imagination to dance. Thus, I tend toward lyricism as opposed to narrative. When I work narratively, it’s the way a bluesman would with a flow of images, a myriad of inferences, and quite bit of disjunction. 

With a new form I invented called ‘the unit” it is made clear how I sometimes even use music to construct the form and ethos of the poetics I am working in. “the unit” is a prose poem form I invented to explore the boundaries of language, syntax, form, and musicality in poetry. It was inspired by virtuoso pianist Cecil Taylor’s groundbreaking 1966 album, Unit Structures in so far as it desires to embody the feel of collective improvisation encountered in Free Jazz as a poetics. Even as a prose form, “the unit” approaches the lyric with the precision and abandon of an instrumentalist free improvising. The unit form attempts to imitate (or model) the musical conversation the instruments enjoy in Free Jazz as it is not bound by corresponding rhythms, same time signatures, conventional melody, or harmonics. What this produces in poetic terms is a collage of non-sequiturs, discordant images, and re or de-contextualized clichés. 

Jackie McManus : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Revision could go on forever! But there is a sense of finality for me when I know I have said what I intended to say, when my word choices are the best I can make them, when I’ve gone through the whole checklist of, is it developed enough, are the line breaks right for what I want to say how I want to say it, is the form the right form for this poem, etc, etc. I send it to my two writing groups for a final critique, and sometimes I will read a poet’s work that I admire, like say, Louise Gluck, Billy Collins or I go back to Sylvia Plath’s work because reading ignites the poet in me and helps to focus my own work. 

Friday 16 April 2021

Gregory Crosby : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

John Berryman taught me how to (partially) write my way out of suffering; Anne Carson taught me that any genre (any thought, really) can be rendered in poetry; Frederick Seidel taught me that rhyme can be put to strange and surprising uses. And Kenneth Koch reminds me, always, to have fun—that poetry is serious play, and should be approached as such. 

Robert van Vliet : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

It is so absolutely fundamental that it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve begun to fully grasp this, much less notice. I don’t mean, however, that I have to listen to music while I write. In fact, I usually don’t. I mean that music has always been part of my inner life; it’s where I started and where, if you’d asked me anytime before my early 20s, I thought I would stay. I started playing the violin when I was about four years old. I sang in choirs in high school. I picked up the guitar when I was seventeen and started writing songs. I even went to college thinking I might be a music composition major. 

Once I began writing poetry seriously, I came to think of poems as scores for unaccompanied voice. That is: as much as the text must be able to live silently on the page, it’s not quite complete until it’s read aloud. How does it sound? How does it feel in your mouth? How does it make you breathe?

Unlike a musical score, however, the text of a poem has no additional notation for, say, tempo or pitch; any sense of meter or rhythm is discernable only to the extent that it conforms to, or works against, the natural speech patterns and syllabic stresses in the language. There are no costumes or stage directions; there’s no soundtrack or laugh track. If I want a poem to be read in a certain way, I have only vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and line breaks to guide the reader. It is, in the end, up to each reader to decide how to perform the poem. This is the first of many moments where the writer and reader are collaborators.

The great Hal Holbrook died recently, and his obit in the New York Times closed with this wonderful quote: “[Twain] had a real understanding of the difference between the word on the page and delivering it on a platform. … You have to leave out a lot of adjectives. The performer is an adjective.”

I think this may be one of the reasons why poetry seems so minimal compared to other artforms, particularly the language arts of fiction and drama: poetry expects the reader to be an adjective.

Thursday 15 April 2021

Jared Beloff : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Rosebud Ben-Oni and Diana Khoi Nguyen have pushed me in workshops to expand my work beyond my comfort zone, finding better phrasing and form. Their written collections If This is the Age We End Discovery and Ghost Of are so powerful, experimental and raw. I am also always learning from my friends who share their poems with me in workshops or in our exchanges. Teresa Dzieglewicz, who was in my class with Rosebud, has a way of  thinking about very large things through her speakers’ everyday lives that I’ve learned from a lot. In my reading, no one has startled me in a more positive way than Diane Seuss and Jennifer Knox. I will read their work and often say aloud, “oh, we can do that?!” They are so refreshing in their fearlessness. That Seuss continues to do this in every imaginable way through sonnet memoirs or startling ekphrasis or a gritty free verse poem is just amazing.

Jaclyn Desforges : part three

What did you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The writing of poetry doesn’t align well with capitalist sensibilities. I’m not just talking about how poetry is less of a money maker than other forms, though that’s definitely a thing. But there’s a certain level of internalized capitalism that I’ve been struggling with for a long time. I’m terrified of my own repressed laziness, and for many years I had the sense that if I let go of the rope, if I stopped constantly pushing myself forward and forward and forward, writing a poem every couple of days, I’d just — poof! — disappear. I stressed about being in control of the process. I wanted to be able to pick some topic and then write a very logical book that made sense, based on that topic. I wanted to get up every day and drink my coffee and write a brilliant poem, edit it in the afternoon and have it sent out for publication the next day. A nice steady stream of dopamine, right? And validation of my existence. 

Unfortunately the poems that I pressured myself into writing — maybe before they were fully cooked — were never fantastic, and it turns out poetry isn’t something I can force or even want to force anymore. Once I drop down into as much peace as I can muster, this all feels obvious, and not stressful at all. I write poems when poems come, and when they don’t come, I don’t write them. Eventually I’ll have enough for another collection. My mentor Elisabeth de Mariaffi always says, “Writing isn’t typing.” I think the hardest part about writing poetry is accepting that there will be moments of nothing. There will be moments of staring out the window. There will be moments of no words and no brilliance and no insight. No clapping. You can’t have the rush and miracle of creation without also accepting — loving, maybe — the corresponding void. 

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Kelly Weber : part two

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

When I need renewal, I go back to my favorite books that remind me why I love writing: Joy Harjo’s She Had Some Horses, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ross Gay’s The Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude. I also try to attend readings or connect with friends in the community to kind of re-connect to my body in writing. When I feel at a low ebb, I think I find myself returning to works of writing and advice from friends and mentors that give me permission to be most honest in the poems. Not just remembering the magic of words, but remembering to link back to my body/heart/gut first and foremost, and feeling that in a community. Anything that helps the discovery feel fresh and wild again.

Michael Lithgow : part three

Why is poetry important?

Is it? I suppose the question could better be asked: how is it important? On a societal scale, my sense is that poetry is not that relevant for most people, that like opera or perhaps live theatre, it exists as an anachronism of sorts, a form of human expression that once may have had an ascendant place in the public imagination (and even then it would likely have been for narrow privileged audiences), but now thrives in more marginal spaces. 

But importance on an individual level is different. Poems have been for me at times life rafts, whispered evidence of hope from lives lived intensely within the maelstroms and possibilities of imagination. The poems I like most transform the existential discomforts of being alive into events of beauty. And the magic of a poem is that it can happen in the poem -- that transformation from crisis to resilience. Just like that. Like the sudden snapping of a tattered prayer flag on an old string, being in the wind.  

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Lauren Bender : part two

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

Absolutely, and what/whom I return to depends on what kind of renewal I’m looking for. For heart, vulnerability, I go to confessional poets, especially Anne Sexton (my original favorite, the first poet whose work I fell in love with) or the incredible Naomi Shihab Nye. For playfulness with language and musicality, Marvin Bell (The Book of the Dead Man and Ardor: The Book of the Dead Man Vol 2) or Amy Clampitt. I love the grab bag feel of anthologies, too, especially ones centered around a theme (like a nature / ecopoetry anthology), and I often dip into lit mags for inspiration in the same way. The weirdness of the work in Diagram always gets me going, for one.

Monday 12 April 2021

Ellen Adair : part three

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

My answer here is no more “cool” than my answer about Shakespeare, but it’s William Butler Yeats. I’ve got twin tattoos, and one is a line of Shakespeare, and one is a line of Yeats, so these Williams: they’re my boys. Yeats is particularly excellent for me, and my own weaknesses, because his language has force and fullness, but clarity. I struggle with a floodgate of words, many of them bordering on the archaic (it’s that Shakespeare, yo), but for me, Yeats is like drinking a glass of clear, cold water. 

Though others of his poems may mean more to me personally—my tattoo is from “A Dialogue of Self and Soul”—I remain convinced that I have read no better poem in the English language than “The Second Coming.” The punch of those words! Mere anarchy, slow thighs, the shadows of the indignant desert birds, vexed to nightmare, slouches. The central image is so clear, it pierces you, and the language he uses to describe it perfectly evokes, in sound, what he describes. The difference between “the blood-dimmed tide” and “the ceremony of innocence:” it’s like Shakespeare, that way. I remember years ago reading, and I can’t recall where, that Yeats liked his writing best when he came away from it feeling that it there was something cold in it, but passionate—I could be stealing his phrase from “The Fisherman.” Though I can’t recall the exact phrase and I can’t put my finger on it now, when I read it, it resonated with me, because I have a sensation that I would describe similarly. 

Irina Moga : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult part about writing poetry is attempting to change the way you write. To a certain degree, each poet tends to develop a style that becomes his/her literary DNA. But what if it’s time to trade this “voice” for something else? It’s an iffy situation – worth exploring.

Sunday 11 April 2021

Hannah Rousselot : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I’ve always loved writing. I started by writing stories with friends or in my personal journals. When I was young, my hamster died. It was difficult, and the way that I dealt with those emotions was to write a poem. I submitted it to the school magazine but they said it was too sad to publish! Luckily professional magazines have no such reservations.

I’ve been writing poetry ever since then. Poetry is a way for me to engage with my own feelings, for me to honor myself and my experiences. Poetry always allows me to connect with others, to give them an insight into my world. I’ve learned so much about others after they’ve read my poems; hearing what resonated with them is a gift. 

Michelle Moloney King : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

In a way, yes. I feel contemporary poetry is like a slave or a potion to raise poison from your soul. For me, it's almost manipulation from emotions being triggered. Which is beautiful and takes enormous trickery and talent of techniques. Avant-garde poetry….well wow it has opened my mind and has been like the actualisation of transcendental meditation on the page.

Saturday 10 April 2021

makalani bandele : part three

How does a poem begin?

In every possible way imaginable. The inspiration for a poem can come from some detail I catch in nature or a social setting. It can come from something I am reading, or a frame from movie I am watching. A poem can begin from an old note or phrase I wrote down that I discover going over my notes. A poem may find its generation in conversation I overhear or the inspiration to write a poem in a form I haven’t tried or don’t feel I have enough practice in. I see sitting down to just write when I don’t have a specific poem idea as an exercise that doesn’t always produce a finished poem, but inevitably parts and pieces of future poems. I feel like I am always writing poems, I am just at various stages in the “completion” of poems.

Jackie McManus : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I wanted to be a teacher when I was small but only because I loved paper and pencils and all of the paraphernalia associated with writing. In the fifth grade, I wrote a poem called ‘The Spy’. It had about ten 4-line stanzas. The teacher liked it so much she made copies and passed it out to the class. I wish I still had it. I was an introvert and liked holing up in my bedroom to write, away from my six siblings. I was very shy so writing was an outlet. I had notebooks full. And then our house burned down. That was my first book review. I always say poetry chose me. For instance, I tried writing my book Related to Loon: a first year teacher in Tuluksak, in prose, as nonfiction. That attempt stalled me for years, but when I took those pages and turned them into poems, I had a rough draft in one winter.

Friday 9 April 2021

Gregory Crosby : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

It feels like a cliché, but at the age of 15 I read “Prufrock” for the first time and was instantly obsessed with the voice of that poem; I’d never come across a voice like that in the poetry I’d been exposed to up until then (I’ve long maintained that Prufrock isn’t a middle-aged man but a young man who is unfortunately already middle-aged). It led me down the whole weird, wonderful rabbit hole of High Modernism. 

Robert van Vliet : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I was starting out as a teenager, I thought that a poem was a vessel I could pour my expressivity into. A message in a bottle. A poem was finished when it said what I wanted it to say. A big problem with this was I didn’t really know what I was trying to say. Not only that, but I believed I was supposed to know what I was trying to say before I started saying it. And, frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure whether the poem was the message or the bottle. If it was simply a message, why put it in a bottle specifically? Would it still be a poem if I put it in a mug, or an envelope, or my pocket, or the fridge, or the glove box, or the chamber of a pistol?

A little later on, I thought maybe the reader might be the vessel, so a poem was like a strange elixir that I would somehow inject into the vessel. The poem was finished when the vessel glowed, or levitated, or vibrated, or shattered, depending on the elixir’s alchemical composition. But I had no idea what the hell I was doing: I couldn’t tell the difference between a reaction and a side-effect; was I out to heal or to harm? And I had just moved the problem around — was the poem the elixir, or the vessel, or the reaction, or the syringe?

And there was a certain hubris underlying these attitudes that I found more and more troubling the older I got: both attitudes implied, whether I realized it or not, that I wanted to remain the most important corner in the triangle of author/poem/reader. More authoritarian than author. This flew in the face of my experiences as a reader, where my own engagement with and interpretation of the poems I read was just as important as the author’s intent. Thanks, Author, I’ll take it from here: you’re not the boss of me.

Once I accepted that the writer is only one part of a vast, ongoing collaboration, and I let go of the idea that poems are necessarily vehicles for (and that readers are passive recipients of) my “self-expression,” I could finally let poems be themselves. As Grace Paley said, “Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” Poems deserve this, too.

And just because poems are made of language does not mean that they are always trying to communicate. Communication isn’t the only thing we use language for, and language isn’t the only thing we communicate with. So why should art-forms built with language always be about “communication” — much less its solipsistic sidekick, “self-expression”?

Poems are events. It’s not so much what I’m saying or how I’m saying it that makes a successful poem, but how well I laid out a path that the reader finds compelling enough to follow. A poem is finished when I believe I’ve built something worth exploring, an event worth experiencing.

Thursday 8 April 2021

Jared Beloff : part two

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

I have developed a co-dependent rhythm to my writing. I try to finish a solid draft solo. I don’t like workshopping things that are incomplete. I know the work will need improvement but I want to hand off a draft that has a clear direction. Once that is together, I have a small group of people who read my work. Amy Penne sees everything and pushes me without remorse. Moriah Cohen, Troy Wennet and Rachael Combe meet with me weekly for a zoom session that we started after participating in a Poet’s House workshop last summer in the middle of the pandemic. We share one poem each and give feedback live on zoom. The hardest part is working around our kids’ schedules or through the slog of our week, but it is wonderful to see this group of friends weekly. If I need feedback more quickly from multiple eyes, I will go to the lit community on twitter (you can’t find a more generous and encouraging corner of the twitterverse) and send out a tweet that asks for help: Lindsey Heatherly, Elizabeth M. Castillo, Nicole Tallman, Jay Parr and Louise Mather will usually take a look. I try to return the favor or pass it forward for other poets who need someone to give feedback. You can learn a lot this way.

Jaclyn Desforges : part two

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

The thing about fiction — traditionally, anyway — is it’s full immersion. You want so bad to know what happens next that you forget your problems. You forget your life. But it’s hard these days for me to get immersed in anything. Since the pandemic began I haven’t been able bear the thought of reading fiction, or even watching anything deeper than Rick And Morty. I can’t handle that kind of full-throttle empathy in this moment — I don’t want to step into anybody else’s hero’s journey. I’m wading waist-deep in my own. Maybe I’m afraid of losing control. Maybe I’m afraid if I stop looking directly at the world right now I won’t be able to recognize it when I finally lift my nose up again.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not necessarily my desire right now to escape. And maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way. There are too many things to keep track of.

I think it’s for this reason that poetry is offering me immense comfort in this moment. It doesn’t ask anything of me but to read the words and hear them. It doesn’t swallow me down like fiction does. It is written to resonance. It’s something I can hear and feel even if it’s not something I fully understand. And it’s written in the language of the unconscious mind, the language of the soul. You can spend five minutes in the morning reading a poem and then it rattles around in your head all day, the way a dream does. You might not understand it, you might not even remember it. The truest truths don’t always make a domino kind of sense.

As a writer, the thing I love most about poetry is that there are no rules — writing a poem is a process of deciding what a poem is. There’s immense freedom there. Of course, that can be nerve-wracking. 

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Kelly Weber : part one

Kelly Weber is the author of the debut poetry collection We Are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place (Tupelo Press, 2022) and the chapbook The Dodo Heart Museum (Dancing Girl Press, 2021). Her work has received Pushcart nominations and has appeared or is forthcoming in The Laurel Review, Brevity, The Missouri Review, The Journal, Palette Poetry, Southeast Review, Passages North, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Colorado State University and lives in Colorado with two rescue cats. More of her work can be found at

Photo credit: Mark Weber

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was really hesitant to engage with poetry when I was young. My mom bought me a collection of poetry deemed suitable for children and I think there was some Dickinson, Whitman, etc. in there, but reading poems felt more like a duty than a joy for a long time. It wasn’t until late in high school that I discovered more contemporary poets and began to take an interest in the form. When I first engaged with poetry, I was interested in it as an intellectual exercise in word play, but I didn’t really engage with it as a vehicle for emotion or thinking about the things that mattered to me. Then I finally took some introductory poetry classes in college and met real, living poets who introduced me to the poems of Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, etc. When poems stopped being just perfunctory word games and became a practice of living in the world, I became hooked. It’s surely no coincidence that my interest took off when I was invited into community.

Michael Lithgow : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

WC Williams taught me the simplicity of language, the power of the clear clean line, of how the clear clean line can offer such visceral pleasures. Williams was a family doctor in a poor community. He made poems from the mundane stuff all around him and with them crafted vessels to hold the profound feelings he experienced. I only understood later how antisemitic his work is – and so I’ve abandoned it. But the pleasure in a clean, unadorned line still remains, even if I don’t always strive for it.  

The confessional poets all taught me it was OK to confess, but more importantly, to do the intimate, complicated and fraught work of subject formation in a poem. Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsburg, Robinson Jeffers, James Wright. My love of poetry was forged in the crucibles of these poets who shared their own excruciating and beautiful attempts at being human.

Sylvia Plath deserves special mention in this regard. Like so many others, I have been deeply affected by Sylvia Plath’s work. Plath taught me to listen to syllables, meter and rhyme in more complex ways. Plath also demonstrated that enduring feelings of hopelessness, loss, being lost, confusion, uncertainty and horror at the raw existential truth of being alive can be transformed into sudden, alert and surprising sensations of resilience and transformation. But it’s the complexity of her images as almost a language of their own than continues to beguile. I continue to learn about writing from Plath.

From Gerald Stern I learned to leap around more, to let the insane links between images and words and feelings and memories and thinking loose in a poem, that that looseness can fill a poem with terrific energy and surprising sense-making. Stern is a storyteller in a kind of homespun, mythic way. His poems create myths of his own life, and by doing so, allow us into a world where we can consider our own lives in mythic terms, by which I mean on terms more meaningful than, say, what the Dow Jones tells us about the worth of our days. 

A recent influence is Tongo Eisen-Martin. His poetry opened up for me an exploration of form and discovery of its epistemic consequences. It’s fair to say my approach to form has tended to be conservative, or perhaps conventional, and opening up form to something more organically or ecstatically formal allowed me into a poetic exploration of almost violent tensions trying to unhinge my own critical sense of self from their foundations in certain kinds of privilege. 

Cvetka Lipuš is also a recent influence. Only one of her books has been translated into English, so there is so much more to learn. Lipuš teaches me to leap further, letting scraps of the remarkable in day-to-day details bubble up into almost-dreamscapes. ‘Almost’ is where the magic lies for me, somehow tethering the power of dreaming – the power of how dreams make meaning - in the recognizable debris of a life. Lipuš’ first translated collection (Athabasca University Press, 2019) was the inspiration to complete the manuscript for my second collection of poems. 

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Lauren Bender : part one

Lauren Bender is a queer poet living in Burlington, VT with her wife and rudely adorable gray cat. Her work has appeared in IDK Magazine, Yes Poetry, Nat. Brut, Rogue Agent, Wine Cellar Press, and others. Her poem “#wife” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Pittsburgh Poetry Review. You can find her on twitter @benderpoet.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I never feel fully committed to the idea that a poem is finished (until, perhaps, the poet is no longer alive?), since it comes from a person, and the person is not finished. I usually see my poems as snapshots of moments in my life, but in (mostly) a more internal sense, like a snapshot of my state of mind at that moment – a particular period of my life, state of wellness, mood, level of talent, body of knowledge, etc. So there is a fixity implied in that (you could say that draft is fixed/finished), but I’m not the same person, looking back at them, and I want to make alterations, to try to integrate those selves with my current self, I suppose. I have often made changes to poems even after submitting them or having them published.

Kristy Bowen : coda

How does a poem begin?

In the best circumstances, the first line that springs up like a bone I build the rest of the project on, whether that's piecing collected fragments together or just seeing where one line to another takes me.  Since I do tend to write in series, once I am a couple pieces in, I can usually find my way out or follow it to it's natural conclusion. Where that bone or first line comes can be anywhere. Something I read. Something I see. A phrase that just comes to me as I'm in the shower or drifting off to sleep and not poeting at all.  A memory that seems unusually vivid somehow. Many of my projects wind up being heavy with research or "inspirational reading." Of the last few series I worked on, the inspo came from different places. I was watching The Shining with my boyfriend and  was sort of high and noticed things I hadn't quite seen before (Overlook). I was scrolling though social media and spotted a funny Weekly World News with a great headline ("Babies Living On Board the Titanic"). I was listless during lockdown and mourning the spring flowers along my route to work (bloom) I think once I'm mid-project, it sort of continues on its own momentum.

Monday 5 April 2021

Ellen Adair : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My first engagement with poetry was with Shakespeare, but not in school. I must have seen my first Shakespeare play before I could read anything, much less Shakespeare. I know I’d seen a few live productions by the time that my parents took me to see the Kenneth Branagh’s film of Henry V, which I think was when I was in first grade. I loved it so much, I made them take me back five times. O for a Muse of Fire! There’s such excellent poetry in that play. 

And actually, I was performing in Shakespearean plays before Shakespeare was part of my grade-school curriculum, too, before it could get stodgy and desk-bound. And years before I read other kinds of poetry. I remember roundly hating Percy Shelley when we read his poetry in seventh grade, which, with great dramatic irony, I would end up loving so much as a young adult that I wrote my college thesis on both Shelley and Keats. But I think that this very nearly lifelong sense of poetry as a thing to be spoken, as part of a three-dimensional, red-blooded conversation, is incredibly important to me. And that it can be full, and musical, and muscular. The very most important thing about either poetry or prose, to me, is that the action of the language fits the action that’s being described, rather than one style blanketing the detached and the passionate, the complex and the simple, alike. That’s what Shakespeare does, and I think it set a pattern for me desiring that out of language.

Irina Moga : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, it has and quite a lot! 

My circumstances brought about this change – I moved from writing in my mother tongue to writing in English and French; the process taught me the significant effect cultural substrata have on poetry writing, something I hadn’t given enough thought to earlier.  

While poetry is a “universal language,” its value also comes from integrating local cultural contexts with daily activities and moods.

The second change is a change of perspective; in my early years, I favored a lyrical, somewhat “serious” approach to poetry. 

Later on, I found myself attracted to humor and irony as means to craft a poetic message.

Sunday 4 April 2021

Hannah Rousselot : part one

Hannah Rousselot (she/her) is a queer French-American poet, writer, and educator. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Parentheses Magazine, The McNeese Review, The Blue Nib, and The Broadkill Review. She has published two long works, Fragments of You (Kelsay Press) and Ocean Currents (Finishing Line Press). She also reviews other poet's works on and is the host of Poetry Aloud. You can follow her work on or @hannahrousselot, or

What are you working on?

Right now, I’m trying to write a book about love. I’ve written about grief- Fragments of You- and I’ve written about my struggle and triumphs with mental illness in Ocean Currents. My life has changed quite a lot in the past couple of years, and I want to highlight the love in my life- the love I receive and the love I give to others and myself. I’m eager to add this new perspective to my life. It took me a long time to accept myself, and now I am moving forward to love myself. This has allowed me to love others more completely, and I cannot wait to celebrate that.

Michelle Moloney King : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When I read it back and snort with laughter at the pure audacity of its break from lyrical norm. I view my written poetry as painting as I work on it in layers to subvert the flow, add dabs of pop culture, washes of high culture. Whereas my visual poetry...I view that as writing with words as it is created as one writes a page of notes, in one sitting and either in heavy fat waxy pigments with asemic language scraped into it or my own handmade inks with scrawl.

Saturday 3 April 2021

makalani bandele : part two

What are you working on?

Among several things I am really excited about, one is a collaborative project I am working on with a Free Jazz musician/composer and a videographer. Often collaborative efforts produce artwork that is not democratic or organic. One discipline takes centerstage and commands more of the audience’s attention. Though somewhat unavoidable in the intermixing of mediums, there is an added layer of inequality when the mediums are operating in different modes (i.e., Jazz with narrative poem, where the lyric less music becomes little more than background sound for the narrative). In this collaboration, all the mediums operate under the principle of abstraction—detail without context. The visual language in the video will be brief, disparate shots; each poem will be a series of non-sequiturs; and the music will be free improvisation. Have you ever heard of a multimedia abstract piece? What we are creating are highly interpretive constructions where non-linear conversation is taking place between 3 disciplines in one work of art. Within the piece, sometimes it is working like three monologues, sometimes you get an a to b conversation with two mediums while the third is having a monologue, and finally you get moments when it feels like all three are in conversation. What is beautiful about it is that where people see the conversations and connections will be different for each person. I love when works of art are open enough for people to have multiple points of entry.

Jackie McManus : part one

Jackie McManus is the author of The Earthmover's Daughter and Related to Loon, based on her teaching experiences in a Yup’ik community in southwestern Alaska. She has been published in Cathexis Northwest, Sky Island Journal, Barstow & Grand, VoiceCatcher, Thimble Literary Magazine, among others. She resides in the NorthWest.

What are you working on?

Finishing Line Press just published my book, Related to Loon: a first year teacher in Tuluksak about my experience teaching in a Yup’ik community in southwestern Alaska. So I am busy getting the word out, marketing, the thing every poet or writer wrestles with. It’s in presales which means it can be purchased on their site with the hard copy shipping out in June.

Besides marketing the book, I have been revising my next chapbook, ‘Curses & Delights’ that I hope to have ready for publishers by summer. I am also working on a memoir with my daughter tentatively titled, ‘Blindfolded.’ 

Friday 2 April 2021

Gregory Crosby : part one

Gregory Crosby is the author of Said No One Ever (2021, Brooklyn Arts Press) and Walking Away from Explosions in Slow Motion (2018, The Operating System). He teaches creative writing at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and in the College Now Program at Lehman College, and leads poetry workshops for Brooklyn Poets ( 

What are you working on?

I’ve just put the finishing touches on a manuscript of prose and poetry about the pandemic; unfortunately, the last thing anyone wants to read at the moment is poetry and prose about the pandemic. So I’m turning back to an older manuscript, revising and rearranging. 

Robert van Vliet : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I could mention quite a few poets who have expanded my understanding of what can be done within the form; who, as it were, gave me permission to go where I wanted to go (even if I didn’t necessarily end up going even remotely where they went). A few of them: Arthur Sze, Joanne Kyger, Harryette Mullen, Lyn Hejinian, John Taggart, Robert Bringhurst, Louis Zukofsky. 

But I’m not sure that’s quite the same thing as changing how I think about writing. For that, I’d have to look to my poetry teacher, the late John Engman. He was the first poet to help me see that poems are not accounts of our experience but are experiences in and of themselves. Even when a poem is “telling a story,” the poem is primarily an event that the reader experiences. This was the first necessary step for me to realize that “self-expression” generally takes care of itself and is therefore not on my checklist for what makes a poem, much less a successful poem.

Thursday 1 April 2021

Jared Beloff : part one

Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in The Westchester Review, littledeathlit, and the forthcoming issues of Contrary Magazine, Gyroscope Review and others. You can find him online at Follow him on twitter @read_instead

What are you working on?

I have two chap ideas that I keep tinkering with and expanding and redacting depending on the week. I am learning to let go of the poems that I love but just don’t fit. The first and more complete chapbook is “Who Will Cradle Your Head?” a collection of about 25 poems that try to make sense of my role as a father, husband, and son. The other collection is “Ruthless” which is an offshoot of this project but through a more experimental mix of photography, concrete poems and visual poetry about my late bubbah, Ruth Beloff. She was this glamorous monolithic personality in my family, but I barely got to know her. She died of lung cancer when I was seven. The project explores her absence and the haunting presence she still has over my family.

Jaclyn Desforges : part one

Jaclyn Desforges is an award-winning poet and the author of a picture book, Why Are You So Quiet? (Annick Press, 2020), as well as a forthcoming poetry collection with Palimpsest Press. She is an MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia, and her writing has been featured in literary magazines across Canada. 

What are you working on?

Right now I’m working on edits for my full-length poetry collection, which is coming out this fall with Palimpsest Press. I’m also doing promo for my picture book, Why Are You So Quiet?, which was published by Annick Press last year. That book is all about the inner feeling of being a quiet, dreamy, introverted kid. And how other kids and teachers and parents sometimes react to those qualities. And how it’s okay to be different.

I’m also working on a collection of short fiction with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts. As well, I’m almost at the end of my MFA program at the University of British Columbia, though I didn’t take any classes this year because I’m homeschooling my six year old. I also just took a gig as Poetry Reviews Editor at the Hamilton Review of Books, which I’m really excited about. 

Also: Survival. Missing people I love. Trying my best to stay calm and in control for my partner and daughter. Reading too much Reddit and obsessing about American politics.