Tuesday 31 August 2021

Damien B. Donnelly : part five

How does a poem begin?

Very often, for me, a poem begins when a fleeting visual image triggers that box of collected words in the mind, immediately forming an opening line or repeated phrase from the poem that's about to unfold. Most of these triggers for me are intimate, personal starting points that later leap out into a more generalized expression in order to draw the reader in, as if revealing a secret before letting the reader take hold of the lines so as to connect the poem with their own personal experiences. I am a constant picture-taker, always snapping photographs wherever I go, possibly trying to capture these moments of visual beauty in the same way that I capture later a poem on the page, everything is fleeting and sometimes poetry is my way of just keeping up and reminding myself of what I've seen before it's gone. The poem begins just before the visual fades. In the same way that sometimes I take a break from writing and paint until I’m inspired to write again, it is a constant circle of one thing ending and another taking flight.

Trish Bennett : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I did not engage with poetry at school. As a teen, I wrote poems under duress and never identified with the poetry of the Irish Intermediate and Leaving Certificate syllabuses. I completely switched off, although I did submit something to our school magazine. The Chaplin, Fr Charlie, singled it out to read at assembly and said it was brilliant. I was 16 or 17, sunk down in my seat as I was absolutely mortified! When I was approaching forty, I joined a Creative Writing class ran by Ruth Carr at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. Ruth was the first person to show me a world of written poetry far removed from what was enforced at school.

Monday 30 August 2021

Michelle Penn : part one

Michelle Penn’s debut pamphlet, Self-portrait as a diviner, failing (2018), won the Paper Swans Prize (UK). Recent poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Perverse, MIR Online, B O D Y and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. New work is forthcoming in The London Magazine, The Interpreter’s House, PN Review and Stand. Michelle plans innovative poetry/art/music events in London as part of Corrupted Poetry. michellepennwriter.com

Photo credit: Andy Tobin

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 share poems with a few small groups of poets. We know one another’s work well and have honest discussions about a poem’s strengths and weaknesses. (We also laugh a lot.) I tend to show a poem to at least one of these groups before revising it (and revising again and again and again…).

Thomas McColl : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I wouldn’t say I’m a great judge of when a poem is finished, but then I don’t think many poets are, and that’s why it’s good to have an editor. 

In terms of my latest book, Grenade Genie, it was the title poem that needed an editor’s input the most. By the same the manuscript was accepted for publication by Fly on the Wall Press, the poem, Grenade Genie, had already gone through dozens of drafts over a number of years, and each time I’d think it was finished and send it out to magazines, and then, each time it was rejected, I’d belatedly realise it needed further editing but, still, I couldn’t get it quite right or sometimes simply made it worse. So, having Isabelle Kenyon, the book’s publisher and editor, look over it, and identify what she thought was the crux of the problem, helped immensely. She came up with various suggestions regarding the poem’s middle section, and once we sorted that out between us, everything else then came together. At any rate, since the book’s publication, the poem Grenade Genie has turned out to be the one that people often mention as being the piece they like very much or even the most, and alongside that, the poem has now, finally, got published in a magazine – the legendary counter-cultural publication, International Times, no less – so I guess I can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that the poem, Grenade Genie, is, at last, after many years, finished. 

Sunday 29 August 2021

Alyse Bensel : part one

Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things: A Poetic Biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, 2020), and three chapbooks. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Southern Indiana Review, and West Branch. She serves as Poetry Editor for Cherry Tree and teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference. 

Photo credit: Mercedes Lucero

What are you working on?

Lately, I have turned to hybrid essays and fiction writing. My poems have taken more prosaic, elongated turns, and so I have followed that turn in my latest focus: the dead and the missing in my life and familial history. My paternal grandmother was killed before her 30th birthday in a traffic accident. Her death and her very existence have existed on the periphery of my family since I can remember. And friends have died from overdoses or made terrible decisions that have effectively cut them off from society. These subjects continue to morph in how I approach writing about them, as they border the line between poem and essay and speculation. It’s both uneasy and exciting to not know what final shape this new work will take.

Shiksha Dheda : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Well, to be really honest, I’ll admit that I was blissfully unaware that poetry has so many rules. In my ignorance, I had always assumed it was as Hemingway said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed”. I always thought of poetry as this comforting mistress when life was the embittered spouse! As it turns out, though, there are innumerable poetry forms, rules, writing methods  processes and so forth. I think, however, that I am going to stick my head in the ground and just pretend like those don’t exist. 

Saturday 28 August 2021

Shareen K. Murayama : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t know if a poem is ever finished because when I step back and squint a little, looking at a poem’s form, its bold strokes or highest point of contrast—sometimes even years after it’s been published—I tell myself to keep walking backwards, preferably out the back door, and maybe no one will remember I wrote this one. In fact, now I’m wondering if I’m rewriting the same poem, obviously using different words or scenarios, to replay-rewrite-finish new or arrive at a different landing in order to express what I feel compelled to share. Mechanically, I also feel like the poems need to be read out loud, claiming space (or not) as needed. Every turn or color or metaphor should be intentional or intentionally whimsical or exemplify some type of economy (or not). 

Klara du Plessis : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to work according to the idea of a self-contained poem. Now I’m no longer sure whether I write poems at all. It’s one of those (pretentious) slippages perhaps, but I find it useful to think of poetry as not quite being poetry and yet still inhabiting that space which is curious about and builds with language. The idea of the poem is a bit stifling, for me. There’s something adjacent, overlapping, and more expansive which is both simpler and much more interconnected with other disciplines—currently this mode excites me.

Friday 27 August 2021

Nathan Alexander Moore : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been mostly working on my research for my dissertation, so I sadly haven’t had enough time to read a lot of poetry this year. But my two favorite poetry collections that I read in the past year have been Nikky Finney’s Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry and Teeth Never Sleep by Ángel García. Both of these books are so open and honest and raw in their explorations of each poet’s life and how they have processed their experiences. Both also have such a grace to them, how they turn grief and uglier emotions into so much beauty. They really know how to incisively balance anguish and affection in their writing, to speak to both the hurt and all the wonder that happens simultaneously and that exceeds the pain.  I truly can’t imagine surviving 2020 without either of these works. They are both such possibility models for me.

Melinda Thomsen : part one

Melinda Thomsen’s full-length poetry collection, Armature, was an Honorable Mention in the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2019 Lena Shull Book Award and forthcoming in 2021 from Hermit Feathers Press. Finishing Line Press published her chapbooks, Naming Rights and Field Rations. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Rattle, New York Quarterly, Poetry East, Stone Coast Review, Tar River Poetry, The Comstock Review, and North Carolina Literary Review, among others. Other awards include 2019 Pushcart nomination from The Comstock Review, First place in 2019 Robert Golden Poetry Contest, and semi-finalist in the 2004 "Discovery" / The Nation poetry contest. She teaches at Pitt Community College and lives in Greenville, NC with her husband, Hunt, two cats, and one chicken. https://www.melindathomsen.com/

How did you first engage with poetry?  

In my late twenties, I worked as a fashion designer in New York City. I went into clothing design because I loved drawing and sewing, so I figured design would be a good career. Unfortunately, working for a fashion company was not as creative as I expected. Although my designs sold well, the owners stayed with the best selling designs season after season. They offered them in different colors and patterns until sales slowed down. As a result I spent most of my time in meetings with salespeople on what to keep in the line, checking the specs when the designs went into production, and confirming changes by fax (I know I’m dating myself here!) with our factories in Hong Kong and Macao.    

Because I needed to be more creative, I turned to writing. William Matthews says it all (except I wasn’t 17) in “Mingus at the Showplace:”  

I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen,
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem, 

and it was miserable, for that was how I thought
poetry worked: you digested experience and shat


William Mathews, Time & Money, Houghton Mifflin Press, 1995.

I scribbled my first poems on pages in my Bible. They were not good, but they let me pour out the disappointment that had been building over the years. Poetry also gave me a voice that I’d never used before. When speaking, I couldn’t verbalize my opinions quickly, and so others ran over me during a conversation. My role became listener, but writing gave me time to craft my words, so when someone read what I wrote, they got a clearer idea of what I was trying to communicate. Without poetry, I would lose the ability to express myself, and I’d shrink back into the background. 

Thursday 26 August 2021

Stella Lei : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It’s hard to say. Paul Valery said that “a poem is never finished, only abandoned,” so I guess the question is: at what point do I let myself abandon a poem so it can live on its own? Final lines/images tend to come quickly to me, whether they be a shift in a primary image or a conclusion of a thought. From there, I return the poem’s body to make sure the rest of it builds toward this ending—pruning redundancies and irrelevant lines to keep the piece moving forward. Once I feel like each line has earned its place, I put the poem down.

Greg Hill : coda

Read Patricia Smith. Read Anthony Etherin. Read Douglas Kearney. Accept that pineapple can be a pizza topping. Read Jody Gladding. Read Sydney Lea. Read Jonah Mixon-Webster. Black Lives Matter. Read Nasser Hussain. Read Luke Bradford. Read someone you never heard of. Read the truths women write. Read trusted news sources. Read recipes you won’t follow exactly. Read Mary Ruefle. Read Li Po. Tracie Morris. Tracy K. Smith. Read to children. The world exists behind you. Read your favorites again. Ammons. Saroyan. Frost. Read Eunoia. Paradise Lost. Heaney’s Beowulf. Whitman. Dickinson. Hughes. Read Su Hui if you can. Read new poetry. Read someone else’s list.

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Monty Reid : part one

Monty Reid is a poet based in Ottawa. His books include Garden (Chaudiere), The Luskville Reductions (Brick) and Crawlspace (Anansi) as well as recent chapbooks from above/ground press, corrupt press, postghost press and others.  Segments from his current project, The Lockdown Elegies, have appeared in The Quarantine Review, Train, Noon, Guest and other journals in print and online.  He is a contributing editor for Arc Poetry Magazine and the Director of VerseFest, Ottawa's international poetry festival. 

What are you working on?

As usual, I have a few projects on the go.  There are several book-length mss getting some touch-ups after their latest round of rejections - a lengthy book on espionage, since CSIS lives just across the street from me, with the usual themes of in/visibility, secrets and betrayals, and a book on parasites, which many poets seem to find profoundly distasteful as actual organisms but charming as metaphor.  And my squeaky little non-parasitical collection of Lockdown Elegies is nearing completion and getting some airplay currently.  And there’s a mistranslation of Nicolas Guillen’s El Gran Zoo still getting its annual upgrade. Plus unrelated poems now and then, songs occasionally, lots of gardening, and putting together the program for VerseFest2021.

Sunny Vuong : part one

Sunny Vuong is the founder and editor-in-chief of Interstellar Literary Review, and a poetry mentee of the 2021 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship program. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Diode, Strange Horizons, and Kissing Dynamite, among others. Find her on Twitter @sunnyvwrites.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

If poetry is the act of making something alive, then a finished product reflects this: does every question posed point to something else? Is the reader surrounded by the poem’s truth, or are they made to sit with it? How could an audience recontextualize themselves within the poem’s logic? How does the poem interact with itself as a body, a whole, made of parts? A final draft, to me, is dynamic—it breathes in every way that it can.

As for the technical process of getting there—I fine tune the symbols I use, make sure the poem’s form is supplementary to its content, and take recordings of myself doing a reading to make sure that each line’s rhythm is natural and that every line break serves a purpose.

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Damien B. Donnelly : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

For me, the musicality of poetry is essential. Since I started Eat the Storms, the Poetry Podcast, back in July 2020 and have been sharing my own poems along with my guests and have also been reading much more at spoken word events, my poems have become more like songs to perform. And with that, I have come to understand they have certain breaks, refrains, choruses that come back again. Each has its own rhythm, not only in their sound, but also in their structure, in their visual form on the page. The sound of how the words are spoken for me is vital to get across the emotion, to demonstrate the force, to be as the clear as the break of the last line. I was a very shy child and took a long time to find my voice. My poetry has equally taken many, many years to come out and find its confidence but slowly it is finding its place on the stage and its lyricism under the light. 

Trish Bennett : part one

Trish Bennett spent her youth changing jobs, careers, and cities, building a lifetime of shenanigans to tap into later on when she gave in to the urge to write. In 2021, she was a Winner in the Dedalus Press Local Wonders Poetry Postcard Competition, Runner-Up in the Roscommon New Writing Award, Shortlisted in Trim Poetry Competition, and Longlisted in the National Poetry & Mslexia Poetry competitions. She's working on her debut poetry collection. trishbennettwriter.com

Photo Credit: Sheerin Photography

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is art. Art is of great importance because it helps us express ourselves in a way that others can enjoy. Like many forms of art, poetry brings comfort and pleasure. We identify with the emotions of the story that the poet expresses. In my own case, poetry changed my life. I began to write to help heal mentally after a missed miscarriage. I still write to get tortures out of my head. 

Monday 23 August 2021

Mel Sherrer : coda

The forms in which I write are minimalist, and the tone sentimental. It seems necessary to me in an age of brevity to make a poem say something that affects the reader, and say it without much ado. My hope for my poems is that they turn on a dime, sucker-punch, and teleport through great distance and time in mere moments.

Thomas McColl : part three

How does a poem begin?

For me, it’s usually some unusual, arresting image that provides the spark. For instance, the origin of a poem from my book, Grenade Genie, called The Evil Eye – that’s about how controlling social media is – can be traced back to when I saw a cobweb stretched across the amber signal of a traffic light (a cobweb that could only actually be seen, complete with captured insects, when the amber light was momentarily lit).

On seeing that, I was inspired to write the following section, which employs the word ‘amber’ twice, in one sense representing something fleeting and in the other representing something that preserves – to illustrate how social media gives the impression that our lives will be preserved forever but, instead, is simply creating an illusion which is actually a very sophisticated trap:  

You’ve made a pact with the digital devil,
not even to be an insect preserved in amber,
but simply an insect that’s landed on a cobweb
stretched out directly in front of an amber signal
and as soon as you’re lit up, no-one hangs around.

You’ve allowed yourself to get caught in a cobweb
spun by a social spider that sucks you dry of information,
then leaves your hollowed-out exoskeletal frame
to rot on its website.

Anyway, like a lot of the initial sparks that begin my poems, that section ended up in the middle of the finished piece. But that’s the thing: once I’ve got that first bit written down, I’m usually on my way, and wherever it ends up getting placed, will very soon have a finished poem of sorts built around it.

Sunday 22 August 2021

M.S. Evans : part five

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

Poetry gives you a chance to jump right into a moment. There’s no need to explain, or rationalize what led up to it. I’ve found this particularly helpful when writing about trauma.

Shiksha Dheda : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t think I know when a poem is finished. I don’t think a poem is ever truly finished. There is always something new that could be added (or removed/omitted). Poems are never finished; they’re always a work-in-progress.

Saturday 21 August 2021

Shareen K. Murayama : part one

Shareen K. Murayama is a Japanese American, Okinawan American poet and educator. Her first chapbooks, HEY GIRL, ARE YOU IN THE EXPERIMENTAL GROUP? by Harbor Editions and HOUSEBREAK by Bad Betty Press will be published in 2022. She’s a 2021 Best Microfiction winner as well as a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. Her art is published or forthcoming in Pilgrimage Press, SoFloPoJo, SWWIM, Flash Boulevard, The Willowherb, and elsewhere. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming.

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

I’ve heard poets say, “I worship at the altar of poetry.” Love that! But I’m not that monogamous or rather I have faith that poetry’s the lover I run to when I need to feel special, feel love. It’s not that poems hold answers, but they inquire or shift your stance to see a part of the world differently. Poetry’s also intimate, like you’re stumble into bed with pillows fluffed, you turn to your partner, or in this case, a poem or book, and ask, “So, what’s on your mind?” And then you listen. 

Rebecca Irene : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry holds that rare ability to be simultaneously vulnerable & fearless. Poems can cause people to cry, fall in love, anger, or forgive. Poetry has exposed personal & political injustices, re-examined history, & almost always imagines a better world.

Klara du Plessis : part two

What are you working on?

I just finished a collaborative residency at Artexte with the U.K.-based artist, Kadie Salmon. We co-created a sculptural artists’ book in three parts, entitled, Incipit, Scree, Explicit. And so, over the past few months, I’d been writing a set of 20 experimental sonnets which belong to this work, pushing the project further, but also responding to Kadie’s visual work—a dialogue in creative growth. We’re hoping to exhibit the artists’ book in-person next year, if COVID19 allows, and while my writing process is mainly completed, I’m thinking of ways of publishing documentation surrounding the work or sharing it beyond the presence of the artists’ book itself. Otherwise, I’m working on three manuscripts. One is written translingually, also in collaboration, with Khashayar Mohammadi in English, Afrikaans, and Farsi. An excerpt was just published in Collusion Books. It hinges on the shared g fricative sound prevalent in both Afrikaans and Farsi, our respective first languages. This is a very playful work, but also has a lot to say about the interconnectivity of language and culture. It’s tentatively forthcoming in 2023. Independently, I’ve been working on a collection of long poems informed by my current doctoral research on poetry reading recordings and their archives, as well as my active practice of literary curation. Finally, I’m slowly compiling a book-length version of Unfurl—a collection of essays or informal literary criticism.

Friday 20 August 2021

Nathan Alexander Moore : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It’s really just a feeling. Just like how poems start for me is how they end. A poem will rush into my life and linger for a while. So, I know a poem is finished when I feel like the immediacy of it is over, when I feel like all the noise and heat has receded and I can see what beauty is left behind. That’s at least how a first draft goes. In terms of editing and revising, I know a poem is done when I can read it out loud without stumbling over a line. I’ve found voice is really important to me as a poet, so I pay attention to how the poem sounds spoken aloud, how it flows sonically. So, for me, I always read the poem out loud and when I feel like the flow is there, when it rises and falls, and dissipates naturally, then that’s the end for me. 

Ken Norris : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m standing in the doorway of Jack Spicer’s After Lorca. Peter Gizzi just brought out a new edition of it with NYRB. To me, it’s the most important book of the twentieth century. It has taught me more than anything else. So now I propose to reread it for the first time in twenty years. Will it blow my mind again? Quite possibly. Here’s hoping.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Stella Lei : part two

How does a poem begin?

Most of my poems start with a line or a strong sense of image that I feel an urge to explore. In the past, I wrote a lot more narrative poetry, and I would usually attach this line/image to a character to follow through the poem. However, I’m currently playing more with metaphor and incorporating personal experiences, so I like to use this initial image as an anchor point to circle back to through the piece.

Alan May : coda

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

A good poem can be multiple things at the same time--a cave painting, a sculpture, a silent film, a ditty, an opera, a message in a bottle... Other art forms seem to have a more limited range as to what they can do.  

Greg Hill : part five

Why is poetry important?

Hmm—I don’t… I don’t know… that—I don’t think… I don’t… Um… Mmm—Well, it’s… not… I mean… It isn’t… It’s not… important… really. Right? It’s not important… I don’t… think… No… No—I don’t know.

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Brandi Spering : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I am a little rusty with poetry as of late but am trying to strengthen that muscle again, which is difficult. Poetry is most therapeutic for me when I writing to process intense emotion, which is evident through my old work, which was written through anger and anguish. I am trying to find a way to write without negativity though, as I learn to be more positive as a person.

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Damien B. Donnelly : part three

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

Poetry, for me, gets to the essential quicker than any other form of writing. I'm currently working on a fictional novel and have written many short stories but the excitement of poetry, its uniqueness and also perhaps its greatest challenge, is to cut away all that is decoration and retain only that which is necessary. I'm a big musical theatre fan and know that some people question why they have to sing in the middle of a Play but, for me, the singing comes because simply speaking is not enough to convey the emotion, singing takes it to another level, accompanied by the music. Poetry, in a similar sense, is an extension of prose, a way of catching the light, of drawing attention, of saying look at me, both my beauty and my fragility, the shimmering way the words flow when contrasted against how few words there are to protect. A poem stands naked on a stage, there is no cover up, it simply is. We may not always understand it but it's definitely hard to ignore it.

Stuart McPherson : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

For me, the process is can be obsessive and that is sometimes difficult, in that I can’t focus on anything else until a poem is done, or at least the first draft is done. This can mean sleepless nights, lack of concentration on other things. This sounds like I don’t enjoy the process, I do, its just sometimes all consuming! I have a fairly obsessive personality!

Monday 16 August 2021

Mel Sherrer : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important because it is the only art from which must, by certain definitions, seek to evaluate the human condition. Poetry cannot simply narrate, fascinate, propose theory or philosophy. Poetry has to show us something about human nature that is worth keeping. I like to imagine that during the origination of language the first things we attempted as a species to say to each other were identity, but the first things we attempted to say about each other were poetry. Poetry is important by nature, because we will always need language for perceiving each other, and poetry is one of those languages.

Thomas McColl : part two

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

It’s the ability of a good poem to get to the emotional core of something in just a few lines. A good poem can essentially say as much (or maybe even more) in 40 lines than some novels can in 400 pages, and that’s why poetry will always retain its value as an art-form (even if it increasingly appears to be the case that less and less people are consuming it in any kind of sustained and meaningful way). 

Sunday 15 August 2021

M.S. Evans : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I have more faith in poetry, and respect for poets. It’s hard to write something good, truthful. For the most part we’re doing this for free, but it is work.

Shiksha Dheda : part one

Shiksha Dheda is a South African of Indian descent. She uses writing to express her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures. Sometimes, she dabbles in photography, painting, and baking lopsided layered cakes. Her debut poetry collection, Washed Away, is forthcoming with Alien Buddha Press

She rambles annoyingly on at Twitter: @ShikshaWrites. Her website is: https://shikshadheda.wixsite.com/writing

What are you working on?

Right now, as I have my debut poetry collection coming out soon with Alien Buddha Press, I’m feeling a little lost. An entire bunch of my poems have been placed in that collection, which is an extremely personal collection for me. As it focuses on my struggles with OCD and depression, I’m finding it slightly tough to kind of write about a)other topics or b)the same topics but in a vastly different manner, without the writing seeming like it should fit into the debut collection. 

So, I am actually trying something completely different and trying to work, or rather venture into the amazingly vast world of visual poetry.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Rebecca Irene : part four

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

Two books that are always close: Lois Dodd, Catching the Light, & Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder

The former celebrates the life & art of one of my favorite artists. Like me, Dodd was influenced by time spent in NYC & Maine. Her paintings reflect both an urban grittiness, & adoration for nature that many of my poems strive towards. 

I stumbled across the second book, a breathtaking curation of photography, writing, & interviews, whose pages never cease to astonish, when I was devouring everything Mary Ruefle had written. (She has several pieces in the anthology.) 

Also—the Portland Museum of Art is a balm for the burnt-out creative. When I can spend an hour wandering through the galleries, I always leave rejuvenated & eager to write again.

Klara du Plessis : part one

Winner of the 2019 Pat Lowther Memorial Award and shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, Klara du Plessis’ debut collection Ekke was published to critical acclaim. Her newest book is Hell Light Flesh, shortlisted for the 2021 Raymond Souster Award and released from Palimpsest Press. Klara is a PhD English Literature candidate at Concordia University, a researcher for SpokenWeb, and currently expanding her curatorial practice to include experimental Deep Curation poetry reading events, an approach which places poets’ work in deliberate dialogue with each other and heightens the curator’s agency toward the poetic product. Klara writes in English, Afrikaans, and translingually, and lives in Montreal.

Photo credit: Dean Garlick

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is language and thinking. Poetry is a way to be critical without discourse, to make more organic connections, to leave room for the flourish within the linear. This implies, in turn, that poetry allows for vast possibility, is a constant opening into the generative. All of this, while abstract, is crucial, on the individual level of expression, but even more so on the more collectively human level of speaking reality. 

Friday 13 August 2021

Nathan Alexander Moore : part one

Nathan Alexander Moore (she/they) is a Black genderfluid transfemme writer, scholar, and dreamer currently based in Austin, TX. They hold a master’s degree from SUNY Buffalo where they studied creative writing and Black literature and cultures. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin in the department of African and African Diaspora Studies. Their work has previously been published or is forthcoming from Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando from Damaged Goods Press, P-QUEUE, ode to Queer and Peauxdunque Review. Her poetry chapbook, small colossus, is new from above/ground press

How does a poem begin?

Usually with a random flash of inspiration: I’ll get fixated on an image, or even a feeling. Sometimes it’s a memory or experience that I can’t shake, that keeps floating around my skull. If whatever it is lingers long enough, I can hear the first line of the poem and then I just want to write the rest of it to see where I end up.

Ken Norris : part four

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

I like this question a lot. First of all, because it recognizes that writers require renewal. That is absolutely true—that is absolutely the case. Sometimes you’re just completely tapped out, and writing is just over. So . . . how do you recharge your batteries?

The two books I always go back to are Neruda’s Residence On Earth and Creeley’s For Love. And, often, I will take just a peek at HD’s Trilogy.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Stella Lei : part one

Stella Lei is a teen writer from Pennsylvania whose work is published or forthcoming in Four Way Review, Okay Donkey Magazine, trampset, and elsewhere. She is an Editor in Chief for The Augment Review, she has two cats, and she tweets @stellalei04. You can find more of her work at stellaleiwrites.weebly.com.

How important is music to your poetry?

I’ve found that I write in a very rhythm-based way, even though I don’t usually use meter. I like to find an internal rhythm that powers the piece and dictates my phrasing. For example, when drafting, I might put “[three syllables]” or “[fragment here]” as placeholders if I know the rhythm but can’t think of the exact line.

Another aspect to consider is the resonance between different sounds and how this affects the reading experience. Every word has a unique sound, and I love to play with how they bounce off each other to create certain textures or moods. Predictably, I adore alliteration.

Alan May : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The rejection. Seriously. My poems have been rejected over 98% of the time. 

Greg Hill : part four

What are you working on?

I don’t have a publisher, so I don’t have the benefit of someone threatening me with deadlines. But I am working on finishing and formatting two book-length manuscripts, one entirely experimental, one less so. I can’t even decide whether it’s really two manuscripts or one.

At the same time, I’m also working on a smaller project—I suppose I could make it larger—and which is conceptual in nature, about aleatory poetry.

I’m also more than half a decade into rewriting all of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under the constraint of using only five-letter words. (My best, most fervent, piece of advice to writers is: never start a project like this—complicated, consuming, frustrating, futile.)

I am working on a project of visual poetry. I’m not set about in what format I want these works to exist. This project is the least pressing but often the most fun.

Also, every year I have a goal to collect 100 rejections from literary magazines for poems I have submitted. I was on track for a while, but I have to refocus on that priority to meet the goal for 2021.

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Lynne Thompson : part five

How does a poem begin?

Almost any provocation can result in sitting down to start a poem: an overheard conversation, a billboard, a piece of music, another poem. If I can sit down in the moment of illumination, I’ll start writing lines or even just doodling. If I can’t put pencil to paper when the spark strikes, I might write a note in my phone or phone home and leave myself a message to ensure I don’t forget the inspiration. WARNING: if the inspiration comes in a dream, don’t ignore it; grab your journal and write it down—it will disappear by morning!

Brandi Spering : part four

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

When I write poetry, I feel that I am without boundaries. Poetry can extend beyond the words on the page, such as through the structure—knowing what breaths to take when reading, by the white space on a page, for example. With This I Can Tell You, I was able to address the reader within the text, as well as comment on the narrative. These aspects felt crucial, as the book discusses memory, perception, and reflection.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Damien B. Donnelly : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

For me, personally, writing is constantly a work in progress, looking for the voice and realizing that even that voice itself, when found, changes quickly. When I was younger, I had the impression that I had to write like others, like classic, beloved poets, I had to follow their style and their frame. The older I get, the more I realize the world is big enough for many types of frames and individuality is so much more exciting than conformity. When you grow up adopted and looking for the handle of sexuality’s closet, you learn to give yourself time to figure out who and what you are. My poetry is developing in the same way. Right now, in my 40s, I'm interested in the development of my own voice, where it has come from, what has altered it and where it is heading. Today, I am trying to be less of a control freak and this applies also to my writing of poetry. I now realise that a poem doesn't have to have a beginning, middle and an end. Sometimes a burst from the light midway through the first half is all that is needed and the rest of the poem can be edited back from overdone to just enough to attract attention.  

Stuart McPherson : part four

How does a poem begin?

A poem usually begins with a feeling, an image, a flashback. I then take that and apply some kind of frame of reference as in ‘what am I trying to say’. I then search for those crucial first lines, and just let it go from there. Sometimes the feeling can last for days, until I’m ready to write it down. I don’t scribble or riff or try different lines. I just wait until its ready and then it happens. I don’t have notebooks full of writing. It just doesn’t happen that way for me.

Monday 9 August 2021

Mel Sherrer : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find the attitude surrounding writing as a career to be the most difficult aspect about writing poetry. There is a scarcity mindset (and perhaps real scarcity as well) amongst writers which makes the career climate around poetry absolutely cutthroat. There is a lot of pressure in this socio-economy to capitalize on one's writing, and that response to fine art is exhausting. It makes creation difficult. I have to put a lot of intriguing ideas away for later, simply because they may not be marketable. 

Thomas McColl : part one

Thomas McColl lives in London, and has had poems published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Prole, London Grip, Atrium, The Poetry Shed and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and in anthologies by Hearing Eye, Eyewear and Shoestring Press. He's had two collections of poetry published: Being With Me Will Help You Learn (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and Grenade Genie (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020).  

How did you first engage with poetry?

There were only two books of poetry in the McColl family household when I was growing up: ‘Poetic Gems’ and ‘More Poetic Gems’, both by William McGonagall, so unfortunately, I had no choice but to first engage with poetry via an author widely regarded as being the very worst poet in the English language. But despite (or maybe because of) me being exposed at a very young age to McGonagall’s unintentionally funny dreadful doggerel, I got into writing poetry myself, and at first it really was even more dreadful than McGonagall’s and not even unintentionally funny. Eventually, though, my writing began to get good enough that, by my mid-twenties, I was starting to get poems accepted in reputable poetry magazines, such as Iota, Purple Patch and Psychopoetica, and though no-one was prepared, at the time, to publish my work as either a pamphlet or collection, I persevered, and now, 42 years on from when I first discovered William McGonagall’s books of poetry, I have a book of poetry out with Fly on the Wall Press, called Grenade Genie, that even includes a poem which references McGonagall by name, a poem ironically called The Greatest Poem, and while I do regard it as very possibly being my greatest poem to date, it’s actually about writing the worst ever poem.

Sunday 8 August 2021

M.S. Evans : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I let it sit for a few days or weeks, sometimes longer depending on the length or intensity of the piece. If I’m just tinkering with line breaks after that, then it’s ready to be offered up. 

Saturday 7 August 2021

Rebecca Irene : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

So many! Top ten: Denise Levertov, Louise Bogan, Muriel Rukeyser, Claudia Rankine, Akhmatova, Mary Ruefle, Jane Kenyon, Elizabeth Bishop, Wislawa Szymborska, & Anne Carson.  

Friday 6 August 2021

Ken Norris : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Oh, the way I think about writing gets changed all the time. It’s just a question of what have I fallen in love with lately. I loved Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry when I was thirteen. I loved Leonard Cohen’s poetry when I was seventeen. I loved Robert Creeley’s and Pablo Neruda’s poetry when I was eighteen. The list goes on and on, and now I’m seventy. Lorca was important. Artie Gold was important. Frank O’Hara, Jack Spicer. bpNichol as an editor was extremely important.

If I stay open as a reader, then everything I read changes me as a writer.

Thursday 5 August 2021

Alan May : part four

How important is music to your poetry? 

Pretty important, I think. Music led me to poetry. And sometimes I get ideas from songs. In my book Dead Letters, there’s a longish poem called “Juke Box Gothic.” Each section in the poem is mimicking a country song. 

Or maybe this question is about prosody, etc? I usually start out writing in meter with a certain set number of feet per line. When I’m at my best, I usually throw in internal rhyme and puns and keep riffing like that as I go. 

Greg Hill : part three

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

Like the nutritious dinners I make and serve to my young children, poetry has the ability to evoke disappointment, dislike, and disgust, even before it is experienced.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Lynne Thompson : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

frank: sonnets, Diane Seuss

& more black, t’ai freedom ford

DMZ Colony, Don Mee Choi

Under the Capsized Boat We Fly, Gail Wronsky

The Essential June Jordon

Brandi Spering : part three

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

I usually read all first drafts to my fiancé, as he is always just a room or two away. He’s my live-in editor. But I also share my work with a group of writer friends to workshop. Their critiques and line edits improve my writing, tenfold.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Damien B. Donnelly : part one

Damien B. Donnelly, 45, returned to Ireland in 2019 after 23 years in Paris, London and Amsterdam, working in the fashion industry. His writing focuses on identity, fragility and connection. His daily interests revolve around falling over and learning how to get back up while baking rather delicious cakes.

His short stories have been featured in A Page from My Life from Harper Collins Ireland, Body Horror from Gehenna & Hinnom and Volume 3 of Coffin Bell. His poetry has appeared in many publications online and in print including Eyewear, The Runt, Black Bough, Barren Magazine, Impspired, Neurological, The Adriatic, Fahmidan Journal, Prismatica, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fevers of the Mind, Bealtaine and 2 Metre Review. His debut poetry pamphlet Eat the Storms was published by The Hedgehog Press in Sept 2020 and he followed that up with a Stickleback micro poetry collection Considering Canvases with Boys in January 2021, also from The Hedgehog Press. He is the producer and host of the weekly poetry podcast Eat The Storms on Spotify, Apple, Podbean and many other podcast platforms. His pamphlet, co-written with Eilin de Paor, In the Jitterfritz of Neon will be published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press later this year. He is currently working on his 1st full collection which will be a poetic/photographic diary of his years living with Paris.

His poetry and photography blog is https://deuxiemepeaupoetry.com/ where you can buy his poetry collections

His podcast website is https://eatthestorms.com/

His Instagram handles are @damiboy and @eatthestorms 

His Twitter handle is @deuxiemepeau

His Tiktok is @eatthestorms and his YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/user/deuxiemepeau

What are you working on?

I’ve just finished working on a conversational poetry pamphlet, a poetic duet with fellow Irish poet Eilín de Paor. The collection is called In the Jitterfritz of Neon and will be published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press later this year. We wrote this collection during Covid, 20 poems sparked by memories of nights out, recalled at a time when we were asked to stay in. I'm very proud of this collection, which we emailed back and forth to each other and expanded on over zoom meetings, each session igniting something in the other person so it became a game of creative tag. Right now, I am working with a mentor, Anna Saunders, acclaimed poet and Director of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, to finalize my first full poetry collection called Enough, inspired by my years living in Paris. The collection is supported by The Arts Council Ireland. The collection is divided into 6 parts as I look upon the city of Paris as if we were in a relationship, exploring all the glitter and the guilt that slipped in, later. At the end of the year I will focus on a collection based on my experience of returning to live in Ireland after 23 years abroad, triggered by thoughts of other countries, other cities, other streets I found rooms in while trying to retrace my former footprints here, in my home country where I still feel like a foreigner. The collection will be loosely titled Back from Away and will be supported by the Fingal Arts.   

Stuart McPherson : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

For me, it was the poet, Aaron Kent. He redefined for me what was possible on a page, what was possible in terms of language. Not just structurally, but in terms of instilling meaning into the very aesthetics of a poem. After Aaron, I would say Frank Stanford / Ted Hughes, Frank in terms of fragility and feeling, and Ted Hughes (Crow specifically) in terms of sheer dark gnarliness!

Monday 2 August 2021

Mel Sherrer : part three

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

I love that poetry can convey a spot in time. I do not feel that any other form can better render emotion from a reader in the examination of a single moment. Also, there is a type of play poetry can accomplish that would render other forms unreadable. For me, poetry induces the most experimentation and innovation, because it allows the most play.

Sunday 1 August 2021

M.S. Evans : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was a kid I tried writing poems on an old Underwood typewriter. The click clack sound made me feel legit. I never shared any of my writing then though.