Sunday 31 October 2021

John Elizabeth Stintzi : part five

Why is poetry important?

I think a big part of poetry’s importance is that it is pretty unimportant. There aren’t many forms that take up space and time, jab out in surprising directions, and then disappear like the poem. A certain poem can certainly be sharply important to a certain reader, but I think it’s unpredictable and often a poem here and there rather than most poems, so I’d hesitate to say the form as a whole can be dubbed capital-I Important because of that. I do think, though, that a poem can often contain a certain uncertainty and inconclusion in a way that can feel more useful than an essay that purports to know something, which is good. (Though I of course distrust the poets who purport to know things, and anything I say that poetry doesn’t do someone is trying to do with poetry and proving me wrong—such is the form!) In that particular context—giving space for uncertainty—I suppose I could agree that poetry is important.

Neil Flowers : part one

Neil Flowers was born in Montreal.

His published works include Taxicab Voice, Suite for the Animals, Some Kinds of Earthly Love, A Signal through the Flames, and an account of a near-death experience that appears in Ostomy Canada, Summer 2020.

He is at work on a novel, Acts of Treason, and freelances as a screenplay doctor and editor of medical texts.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I had what you might call three firsts. When I was eight or nine, in our house was a copy of The Golden Book of Children’s Verse or one very similar. “The Owl and the Pussycat” was in it and “Jabberwocky.” I was a lonely kid. I sunk right into the worlds of those poems and that book. Imagining the characters in their pea-green boat with Owl serenading Pussycat, it was entrancing, funny. I read the Lewis Carroll poem quite a few times puzzling at the language, later enjoying the silliness. And there were colourful illustrations! The lyrics to “John Henry” were accompanied by a watercolour of this huge black man swinging a hammer with a steam locomotive in the background. When I was fourteen, I had my first encounter with canon poetry. Our grade ten English teacher taught us the form of the Petrarchan sonnet and had us read “Ozymandias” and “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” I remember that day with perfect clarity: The class room at Etobicoke Collegiate in Toronto where we read the poem; the teacher (Mr. Cooper), who was handsome but cultivating a short, dark widow’s peak; being riveted by both poems, one about the ephemerality of everything and the other about the glory of reading—big ideas in dense little packages; and turning from the poems to look through the windows at the sunny day and the football field outside. In that English class we also read Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, which had a profound effect on me in how a poem could consist solely of a character talking and that character damning himself. When I finally understood the irony, when I got the poem, I thought it was the greatest poem I’d ever read, which it probably was for me to that time, and it was about a narcissistic loathsome murderer. You can feel his obsequious, evil, pinched soul every time you read the poem. When I went to university in Ottawa, I had the very good fortune to take a class in modern/contemporary poetry from the Canadian poet Robert Hogg. We read the big Americans—Williams, Pound, Olson, Ed Dorn, Levertov, Creeley—and a bunch of Canadians like John Newlove, Daphne Marlatt, and Frank Davey. In terms of my own work, taking that class and reading those poets made all the difference. A poem could follow its own path, its own energy, whatever that might mean. “Who knows what a poem is until it’s THAR, it walks it talks it struts its green barazzo”, Olson says, summing up nicely what WCW and Creeley said about composition by field and that form is an extension of content.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Ae Hee Lee : part one

Born in South Korea and raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the United States. She holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, where she was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize, and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021) and Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017). Most recently, her work Connotary was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry can be found at Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, and New England Review, among others.

What are you working on?

Aside from writing more poems for a full-length that expands on my latest chapbook, Connotary, I’ve been working on spacing out more often.

Friday 29 October 2021

Sara Moore Wagner : 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 always send every poem I write to my husband first and have for almost a decade. He is my first reader and reader of everything. Of course, he always just praises, so I then will send things to my closest circle of poet friends—Christen Kauffman, Rae Hoffman Jager, and Caroline Plaskett. We’re not really workshopping friends, more encouraging and questioning, but that’s what works for us. We love to talk through our ideas and passions! 

Tim Moder : part five

What are you working on?

This should be the easiest question to answer, but I keep changing my mind. I have a sizable stack of poetry notebooks. I dusted them off last January and started sending out some poems.  I guess the idea was to have some published. I have had a few accepted this year as well as some positive feedback on some of the rejections. I have been thinking about publishing a chapbook. Or two. Or a chapbook and a full book. I have about 100 that I think are finished. Of the old stuff. Most of it goes back 20-30 years. I also have about 20 new ones that I’ve written this year. My dream publication is any place that publishes poetry, so I send some to the big-name places, but I also send some to small presses, and universities. I am having a great deal of fun at the present time.

Thursday 28 October 2021

Kerry Ryan : part one

Kerry Ryan has published two books of poetry, The Sleeping Life (The Muses’ Company) and Vs. (Anvil). Her poems and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada. In 2020, she was long-listed for the CBC poetry prize. She’s currently at work on a new poetry manuscript and a novel. She lives and writes in Winnipeg.

What are you working on?

It feels wrong to admit this here, but right now I’m primarily working on a novel. Of course, I’m always writing poems – sometimes more actively than others – and I’m currently looking for a home for a new poetry manuscript that collects several years’ worth of work.

Morgan Harlow : part three

How does a poem begin?

It begins with a word. A thought. Notes. A line or more. Hours, or many months, years later, a poem.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Elizabeth M Castillo : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Warsan Shire definitely- I suspect her poetry is quite autobiographical and I felt like reading her work about motherhood and woman gave me permission to write the feelings that I carry on the same topic- sentiments which aren’t always very welcome, or very easy to read (or write). 

I love the simplicity of Lucille Clifton- her words are never contrived, her poems never overdone. The are understated, because what she says is so important, and her economy makes her work so much more meaningful.

And Roque Dalton- I how his poems volley between playfulness and flirtation, to burning intensity and desire, to powerful political and social advocacy. I love that he wasn’t afraid to let his poetry showcase all the different facets of his personality.

And I love what multilingual poets like Tanya Huntington, Manuel Iris and Andrés Piña are doing with language! Reading their work was eye-opening to me, and my collection “Cajoncito” wouldn’t have been written without it!

Arden Hunter : part five

How does a poem begin?

I’m going to go with practicalities for my answer here – so many people tell me they wish they could write poetry, or they wish they could start a poem, or they wish they could get their ideas on paper. To all of them I say: there is nothing stopping you. A poem begins when you write a word: be it on paper, on your computer, or on a napkin. It starts when you get out of your own way, and you put that idea that’s been floating around inside your body and mind down in some format that other people can absorb. Start with one word, one phrase, one sentence, and go from there. Write it down, leave it alone, come back and write more. So, I guess my real answer to this is, a poem begins when you believe it can. 

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Perry Gasteiger : coda

Poetry is personal.

When you create, you are exploring your self and your world and it will open up universes of opportunity for you to expand yourself if you let it. If you let your mind slip through the cracks of social rhetoric you can see the veritable infinity of truths and unifying factors that are vibrating just beyond what we’re told to look at. Find something for yourself when you write. Write to learn, to answer your own questions through the process of writing. Your poetry is for you.

And it is not yours.

It never was, and it never will be. What you create becomes a personal experience for everyone who comes across it. It takes on its own life in the hundreds of individual realities it happens to fall into. We must all cut the cord eventually, let our work grow into its place in the world. Give your words and your art the space they need to expand and outstrip themselves, to become more than you made, to affect the world the way only ideas can. If you hold too tightly, you’ll find yourself with a pile of broken sentences and misused words. Just let it go.

Saba Pakdel : part four

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

That’s a great question! I tend to read Persian classic poetry although I do not write in that particular form. What matters to me is not necessarily the technicalities, but the perspectives, positionalities, and approaches a poet proposes in relation to phenomena. Persian culture is intertwined with poetry and that fascinates me when a grandparent with no background in literature knows some poetry by heart and reads them to their loved ones. Last time I needed such “renewal,” to use your words, I went over Khayyam poetry. That said, I read modern and contemporary Persian poetry for renewal and other purposes, too. Last summer, my partner and I had a scheduled Simin Behbahani ghazal reading every night. In my last visit to Tehran, I bought some poetry books, including Rasool Rakhsha’s most recent publication, to keep up with ongoing poetry streams in Iran. 

Monday 25 October 2021

Joel Robert Ferguson : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m not certain if I believe a poem is ever entirely done. I really enjoy the process of editing my work, going over every poem dozens of times (sometimes over the course of several years) and making corrections, changes, trying new things with lines, style, word choice etc. Even when a poem is published, I will still come back to it and play around with it, letting it grow and change as I do as a writer.

Elee Kraljii Gardiner : part seven

How does a poem begin?

It begins with a problem, a feeling, an issue that boils around inside me. 

I build a train track on the digital floor and tie the idea down.

Elsewhere, a form, constraint or proposal occurs: this is the train. 

The poem is the collision and the aftermath.

Sunday 24 October 2021

John Elizabeth Stintzi : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Poetry is hard for me because I feel like I’ve got to be reading it to have my brain wired to write it, otherwise it can be quite a long time between writing poems. It’s hard to find time with life and my fiction “career,” particularly because fiction is an easier “day job” in the sense that I can more easily return to it day after day. I also find myself limited—and this is a me problem—by the idea that I need to have some sort of project in mind in order to bother to write poems. Finally, I think I’ve been struggling a lot with being “present,” which makes it harder for me to see poems emerging in my life, which when you are a lyric poet like I currently am, is pretty much the only way you’ll find them. But more than anything I think I just so easily fall out of the habit of reading poetry, which leads to my being unable to find them squirrelling through the world. 

Andy N : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

It tends to vary from piece to piece that really if I am honest whether it is the title or how I finish off the piece. 

My next full length book Changing carriages at Birmingham New Street is a big case in point here. In contrast to my second and third books The End of Summer and Birth of Autumn which was theme linked, my next full length book is story laced  about a man and woman who reconnect after being friends as children only to then get start going out as a couple. 

When I first started really involved with poetry back in 2005 or 2006, the problem was trying to find the voice of each poem, but in the case of this book, it is trying to find the voice of not one poem but a full book of them. 

Over the near three years, this book has being developing I have found almost like the characters have being doing this themselves has changed like a complex novel and has proved one of the most challenging projects I have ever tried, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Katie Schmid : part five

How did you first engage with poetry?

I think I first started writing poetry because it was short and I got praised for it. Being “good” at something was the only time I ever felt safe as a child, so I learned how to highlight beautiful things in my writing so I could keep the praise coming. I didn’t have a sense that I should want to say something in particular, I just liked how it felt and what it got me. 

I remember reading an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem and being “tested” on the meaning of it. Most of the teachers who taught poetry taught it like that: you put a coin in and pulled the lever and meaning came out, hooray! Then Li-Young Lee came to my school and read all these tender poems about bodies, and love, and his feelings about his father. So then for a while I thought about poetry as homage. I think that’s definitely a reductive 16-yr-old’s reading of what Li-Young Lee does in his work, (it’s often far closer to worship/ecstatic communion) but it got me thinking about how I could expand my ideas about what poetry could do. 

I did have a sense that poetry was something that someone did when they were bruised too easily, so I had a sense that it could be for me because I was always being told I was too sensitive. 

In high school I took a drawing class where the teacher told us that it took a really long time to be able to see something accurately, you had to stare for a long time. That was my first introduction to what art asks of you, to dig in and cultivate an angle of approach. That was one of my first lessons in writing, even if I didn’t know it. 

J. D. Nelson : coda

How does a poem begin?

Most of my writing is created through a process which involves the cutting-up and collaging of my own daily freewriting. My process is a combination of the spontaneous prose techniques of Jack Kerouac, and the cut-up technique pioneered by William S. Burroughs. I start by freewriting a section of text, not stopping to punctuate or worrying about whether or not what I’m writing makes any sense. I simply try to empty my brain, usually typing as quickly as I can, following Kerouac’s advice to “blow as deep as you want to blow.” Then I go through what I’ve written and highlight words or phrases that stand out to me. I begin to play with these pieces, putting them together, rearranging them, and looking for unexpected juxtapositions. I keep adding pieces which I’ve taken from my freewriting, collaging things together. This is most often the method I use to create a poem.

Jack Kerouac – Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

Jack Kerouac – Essentials of Spontaneous Prose

William S. Burroughs – Cut-up Technique

Friday 22 October 2021

Sara Moore Wagner : part one

Sara Moore Wagner is the winner of the 2021 Cider Press Review Editor's Prize for her book Swan Wife (2022), and the 2020 Driftwood Press Manuscript Prize for Hillbilly Madonna (2022). She is also 2021 National Poetry Series Finalist, and the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Sixth Finch, Waxwing, Nimrod, Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Cincinnati Review, among others. Find her at

What are you working on?

I am working on a full-length manuscript focused on the life of Annie Oakley. Poems I’ve written so far explore the nature of gun worship in America, how guns shaped America, along with America’s deeply embedded patriarchal values—what we expect from our female superstars. I’ve really gone all in with my research of her. I have read pretty much every book with her in it, I’ve visited her museum and her grave, and I even attended the Annie Oakley festival! 

Tim Moder : part four

When you require renewal is there a particular poem or book that you return to? Author?

If I truly require renewal, poetry alone will not do it for me. I have to be in nature somehow. Hiking or camping. Weeks of that will balance out whatever problems prevent me from writing.  But I will return to Eliot over and over. As well as other Imagist poets. Almost as a spiritual exercise. Spiritual as in I can get lost in the rhythm and the sound in the word choices, not in the nature of the poets. I also intend to spend a great deal of time this winter reading the poetry of Denise Levertov. I expect to have a similar experience. 

Thursday 21 October 2021

Bruce Whiteman : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Technically, it is the central quality of my work, and one of the aspects of poetry that distinguishes it from prose and makes a poem great rather than good (or lousy). Music is what we mean when we talk about a poet’s ear. I understand that not all or even most poets have actual musical training, but the best, trained or not, have an instinctual ability to find the musical reality of language. I do have musical training, and classical music is, along with poetry, one of the two main passions of my life. So I feel hypersensitive to the music inherent in “the best words in the best order,” to cite that famous Coleridge bon mot. As readers we tend to notice music most when it is overdone, as it is in many of Poe’s poems. But unconsciously it is there at work in any great poem, and usually when a reader comments that a poem is “beautiful” that is what they are responding to. 

Morgan Harlow : part two

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is everything, and nothing. It's as important as a leaf falling to the ground. The leaf noticed, or not, wondered at, or not, the experience of the leaf fleeting and turning into something new.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Elizabeth M Castillo : part three

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

I believe poetry is one of the most accessible forms of writing, in spite of the reputation it’s gained in the last century, or maybe longer. A poem is a collection of words that make you feel something, like a song whose melody will sound different to each person that reads it. Poems are shorter, often more abstract, so can take whatever meaning the reader needs at the point of reading. 

I’m not sure what happened with poetry, that it’s come to be considered as so unattainable to the average person. I think paid poetry competitions, the obsession with literary qualifications like MFAs, and our continued veneration of the same small circle of literary publications and platforms are not helpful in handing poetry back to the people. I’m a firm believer that good poetry is poetry that speaks to you, whoever you are and whatever you’re going through. 

Arden Hunter : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find it very difficult to re-draft or edit poems when they are rejected for publication. Sometimes I do because the feedback I get from kind editors makes sense to me, but often I don’t, I just send them as they are to someone else. Thankfully they usually get picked up on the third or fourth round, though I have a few that have been rejected 8 times or more. I still love them the way they are though. Aside from that it’s walking that line between showing enough that the reader can understand what I am trying to convey, but also leaving enough space for them to be able to connect with the words in their own ways. Sometimes I think I’ve said enough when I haven’t. Other times I say far too much, and then it becomes a passive experience for the reader. I’d rather it was an active one, a collaboration. 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Perry Gasteiger : part five

Why is poetry important?

To me, poetry is important because it is a questioning, a wondering, a searching. The poem is a site of discovery -- of oneself, of one’s understandings of life, the universe, and everything… Poetry is important because not only does it first engage the writer in authentic questioning, asking them to gently dismantle their view of the world and reconstruct it in a beautiful way, but it also engages the reader. When poetry is successful, it makes you feel something in your bones, behind your eyes, wherever your truth hides… Poetry finds your truth, yanks it up by its hair, and screams at you to see it. Whether or not we’re ready for that truth, we know it’s there, inside of us somewhere, and somewhere else somebody else figured it out, and maybe we can too. And I think feeling that connection to something big is important, to remind people they’re not alone.

Saba Pakdel : part three

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that the other forms cannot?

I don’t think there is an exclusivity about the genre and that is the very reason poetry is accessible to different writes with a nonlocalized, non-hegemonic, and flexible quality. You can express your ideas in an interdisciplinary manner which complicates the relations and blurs the distinctions between genres and schools / boundaries of thought. The point is what one particular piece of poetry accomplishes cannot even be replicated by another poet let alone another genre. So, I think it is not about the medium as it is about the form that makes one accomplishment different from the other. 

Monday 18 October 2021

Joel Robert Ferguson : part one

Joel Robert Ferguson is a Canadian poet of working-class settler origins who lives in Winnipeg, Treaty One Territory. His poetry has recently appeared in The Columbia Review, EVENT, Riddle Fence, and Wells Street Journal. His debut collection, The Lost Cafeteria (Signature Editions 2020), was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

What are you working on?

Just now I’m editing the manuscript for what I hope will become my second book, called Cold Pastorals. Having grown up in a village in Nova Scotia, I’m interested in the ways that rural and small-town life are (mis)represented in literature, art, and film, especially now, as the pandemic and urban housing crisis seems to be sending plenty of young urbanites “back” to “the land”. I was fortunate enough to receive a grant with the Winnipeg Arts Council to work on Cold Pastorals with a professional editor, which has been a great experience.

Elee Kraljii Gardiner : part six

Why is poetry important? 

I don’t know why poetry has to defend itself—novelists aren’t asked to prove fiction’s worth but poets routinely have to speak to the relevancy of poetry. Who cares if poetry is or isn’t important! 

Sunday 17 October 2021

John Elizabeth Stintzi : 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?

It depends on the medium. I tend to send my (short) fiction to my writer friends, or my writing group here in Kansas City. I don’t really share as much when it comes to poetry or my novels. With novels it is partly that I don’t want to suck up so much of someone’s time, and I also don’t generally want so many different points of view on it either. With poetry, I think it may come down to the fact I’m not sure I care what other people think about them, because I am much more comfortable just writing and revising it to myself. I have some friends I share my poetry with, but part of the reason those who get the poems get them is that I trust they aren’t going to try and give me a bunch of feedback on it. They will just be like “this rules,” and that’s really almost all I need.

Andy N : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yeah, it has a lot. Although I did start writing when I was 10 or so, it took me until I went to university in 1998 to start looking at it in a different way in a more measured way. 

After I left university in 2001, I then joined a poetry feedback group in 2006, and from that I began to start measuring my poetry sometimes spending weeks writing a particular piece instead of almost just throwing all of my words down onto paper in a mad hurry almost. 

Now of course, all poems are not the same and I still write some pieces a lot quicker than others but the way I consider poems certainly has by the way I think about them, think about the beginning, the middle and the end and how you lead a reader into it and take them out off it. 

It sounds more complex than what it is I guess the above, but it’s a case of how you look at everything really. I used to really hate a lot of the forms with poetry when I was younger, but my last two full length poetry books have being collections of Haikus which is something the writer from 20 years, even 5 years would have refused completely to even consider, but the older I get and the longer I write, it’s helped me think more be more considerate of my work. 

Saturday 16 October 2021

Katie Schmid : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I like this question because I think asking it of poets is a really interesting way to think about their poet family tree, and because it’s interesting to think about the ways that poets are formed from other writers who might be stylistically very different. 

I fell hard for Sandra Cisneros as a teenager. Loose Woman was the first book of poetry I read cover to cover. I was raised conservative Christian and I had never heard a woman talk like that! I had never seen poetry that seemed to speak to parts of my experience like that. 

Li-Young Lee was another early favorite. He came to my high school to speak because he was a Chicago poet, and he completely blew my mind. I skipped class to hear him talk to the AP kids after his reading. He wrote about the sacredness of the quotidian in a way that made me understand that other people saw that too, other people were sensitive like that too—it was very freeing. 

Frank Bidart came next. I write nothing like him, but I think his poems are so muscular, sharp and tender. I love the way he writes certain poems like logical proofs. Music Like Dirt is fantastic, and one I read often. 

Atsuro Riley for the playfulness and the seriousness of his language, for the way he reveals that the violence of childhood coexists with childhood’s sense of play. We like to think that childhood is safe, that it isn’t scary to be a child, but it is far from safe, and it is very scary to be a child.

Claudia Rankine for the way she can zoom out and see systems and landscapes in her poetry. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is a wonderful book.

Lucille Clifton for writing about the body. And she’s so funny! I’ve memorized the poem/excerpt oh antic god and return to its oracular voice and its knowledge about lineage and death often. 

Aracelis Girmay is who I’m most obsessed with right now. The Black Maria utterly rearranged my sense of what poetry as a practice of mapping ancestry could do. She’s changing what poetry is capable of. 

J. D. Nelson : part five

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

I love the poetry of Gary Snyder. His poem, “How Poetry Comes to Me” is one of my favorites. I often return to his work, especially this poem, for inspiration.

Friday 15 October 2021

Jane Zwart : part five

Why is poetry important?

What a giant question to put in a mini-interview! Here is a very partial answer.

One reason for poetry (and perhaps for art generally) is this: it adjusts our grasp. My tendency is to want to hold onto everything and everyone I love so tightly. There are also times, though, when I am all hurry and let things slip by too unnoticed, not loved enough. And poetry (reading it but perhaps, even more, writing it) loosens my deathgrip on the things I am afraid of losing. And it keeps me, at other times, from letting beauties and wonders fall through my hands.

Tim Moder : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I think I started writing poetry because I was in love with Shelley, Keats, and William Blake.  Later It became Ferlinghetti and Rexroth. More recently Mallarme, Neruda and Balmont. I’ve never written criticism, or studied poems critically, but I’m probably more attracted to poetry that doesn’t appear to follow rules. I’m sure they are following the rules. They make it sound so fluid and flawless. I recently heard a reading by a poet named Richard Berengarten, he was reading his long poem Goodbye Balkan Bell/Do vidjenja Danitse. I bought the book and it’s a great poem. He had two people shouting out place names as they related to the reading he was giving. A performance, but electric rather than expected. There are so many. 

Thursday 14 October 2021

Bruce Whiteman : part four

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

Oh yes. There are a lot of poems I read and re-read, that are like emotional support animals. Given that my poetic roots are in Anglo-American modernism, I often go back to Yeats and Stevens and Williams. Poems like “Sunday Morning” and “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Lapus Lazuli,” much of Pictures from Brueghel and Spring & All, boost me up and renew my faith in poetry. Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts is another example, and many of Creeley’s poems, especially the early ones. These are all poems with an intense sense of music, a quality that I aspire to in my own poems.

Morgan Harlow : part one

Morgan Harlow studied English literature, journalism and film at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed the MFA at George Mason University. Her work has appeared in Blackbox Manifold, Tusculum Review, Washington Square Review, The Moth, Seneca Review and elsewhere and is forthcoming in Cordella Magazine and The Oakland Review. Harlow is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Midwest Ritual Burning (2012). Find her on Twitter @morganharlow.

Photo credit: Jon Harlow

What are you working on?

I'm writing short stories and making progress on two longer works of fiction. A second book of poetry is taking shape.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Elizabeth M Castillo : part two

Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with? 

I live in Paris, and write in English and Spanish, and only started writing seriously during the pandemic, so I really only found my "people" online through social media. I started out just throwing a request on twitter for a fresh pair of eyes on some of my work, and people started responding, and connections were made. I didn't think much of it until I attended a workshop and the facilitator commented on how much she admired the fact that I didn't shy away from asking for help and support. 

Since then I've got an informal circle of people I know I can ask for help and support, some of which I can also use as a sounding board new ideas for writing or promotional work (I also run several short interview series to showcase fellow indie/small-press creatives and their work- check out my website It basically works both ways, I'm always happy to help look their work over and give them whatever feedback they need. At the moment I've got 2 full collections and a chapbook sitting in my inbox waiting for my attention. And I can't wait! 

That being said, I also use @TheMumPoemPress's monthly feedback circles religiously, and have participated in some @mumwrite workshops where exchanging work was a part of the exercise. I'd love to network with more locally-based creatives, but who knows when (or if!) that will be possible given the way things stand pandemic-wise. 

Arden Hunter : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Oh definitely! I used to follow way too many ‘rules’ that it turned out I was imposing on myself – they weren’t coming from anywhere else. I would get stuck in alliterative traps (and sometimes still do, though usually by choice), worry too much about meter and rhythm and rhyme… I have had some really amazing feedback from editors, often just from the kindness of their hearts, that has encouraged me to stop holding myself to these arbitrary standards and just write what I want to write. The other thing that has changed is how much poetry I am now getting to read since getting involved with the online poetry community. Every day there are these amazing outpourings of words and it is so inspiring to me to see how everyone approaches this art form. 

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Perry Gasteiger : part four

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

I have 4 poems that are very important to me:

#53 “May my heart always be open to little birds” - e.e cummings

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - T.S Eliot

The Goblin Market - Emily Brontë

Nuns Fret Not - William Wordsworth

These poems always remind me of why I write, why I create -- not the content of them so much as how they make me feel. Every one of them punches me in the gut, brings tears to my eyes, and that kind of asynchronous connection across (excuse the cliché) space and time really is what gets me hooked on writing and art.

Saba Pakdel : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

There’s an idea, particularly a raw one, which requires a certain construction, or you’d call it a form, in order to be presented. I guess the moment that idea gets its very form through multiple edits in time, the poem is relatively finished. However, there’s an argument that a poem is never fully finished because the next one is in a conceptual sense in continuation of your series of works as an author. Well, it’s maybe best to think that the idea is exhausted in one form within the body of a poem, but it may reappear in another form elsewhere. 

Monday 11 October 2021

Elee Kraljii Gardiner : part five

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

e.e.cummings. A poem like somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond expands year after year, just like those petals in the poem. In other poems of his, the freedom in his lines and the unabashed exuberance of his loopy syntax just sends me. They feel so modern, and so out-of-time, too.

Sunday 10 October 2021

John Elizabeth Stintzi : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

It has shifted a few times, I think. Early on, as noted previously, it was a lot more self-hating and melodramatic, and in college (alongside continuing to be pretty hopeless romantic, but a bit more chill about it) my poetry shifted into pretty much writing—for lack of a better word—fictional poems. These included poems where the speaker simply wasn’t me (but may not have been hugely clear it wasn’t) to poems which were about absurd and more narratively fictional situations. One example of the latter I remember was a poem called “Lovesong for My Giantess,” which was about a very small person falling in love with a literal giantess in their microbiology lab in college. I suppose in that middle period I was most in touch with trying to be funny as well, or at the very least starting with a funny premise and trying to be completely serious, as I have found even what I consider my most serious work can make people laugh. As I was heading toward grad school, things began to get a little more solely lyrical/personal again, which I think because I started writing a lot more fiction, which tended to suck up a lot of ideas like that of the Giantess. These days, I tend to use poetry more as a lyrical space, in part because I have so many other venues for fictional work where I feel like those ideas can do better. Maybe one day I will return to that middle-space, though, reviving work like “Lovesong for My Giantess” or “The King of Antarctica’s Open Mic.”

Andy N : part three

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

I have lots of writers I admire, not all poets or who don’t always write poetry - Paul Auster is one such case who has directed films, done non fiction, a series of novels as well as poetry whose work always leaves me stunned. My favourite poet is probably Hugo Williams mostly because of his book Billy’s Rain

I got into this book by chance after going to a poetry reading at a local bookshop in Bolton to see a local writer, and the bookshop staff decided as we were all doing a course on writing poetry for us all to pick out a poetry book to try and help us understand poetry a bit more.

I have forgotten over time why I chose Hugo Williams’s Billys Rain instead of one of the many other titles that were there.. I suspect it was probably the cover but maybe also the title. What is Billy’s Rain? But whatever reason I chose the book, just to show you how you get your own meanings out of books (Like with some of your favourite music albums), I took Billy’s Rain about being a love story that went wrong only to find out about two years (I got the book almost new in 2000 originally) it was about a affair the writer had behind his wives back. Oops. Either way, the use of language has a slightness that always pulls me back into poems whenever I am feeling blank or thinking I’ve had enough.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Katie Schmid : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I just finished reading Jazz by Toni Morrison as part of this literary correspondence program I do with Pen City Writers, a writing program that I’m lucky to be a part of, where I get to talk about writing with writers living in maximum security facilities in Texas. Toni Morrison writes pure poetry. The lyricism in that book, in particular, is out of this world. I don’t know how she does it: the language is exquisitely wrought without feeling artificial. It’s stunning. It’s a place I want to live. You know that kind of writing where it feels like prophecy? That’s what reading Toni Morrison is like, for me.

I’m reading Ana Castillo’s new book, My Book of the Dead, and enjoying it very much. It reads like a book of this particular moment, and I’m finding it comforting, that women smarter than me will keep casting their minds into the future and coming back with wisdom to tell me how to live.

I’m also reading Natalie Shapero’s Popular Longing. I thought Hard Child was one of the darkest, funniest books of poems I’d read in a long time and I’m looking forward to reading more of this one. It really was so pleasurable to read a book that engaged in the dread of being a woman and a mother and a thinking person, and not only that, but it somehow made that dread funny! I’m not sure how poets write funny poems. It’s amazing to me. 

I’m also reading Heavy by Kiese Laymon and I think it’s one of the more brilliant books I’ve ever read. I’ve been a fan of his since I read an essay a while ago on Gawker, but I finally picked up this book because my dad recommended it to me. I think it’s oracular, almost. The prose is exquisite and the tension that he manages to build in the work is stunning. He’s got such a sense of pacing, and I think he’s one of the best writers that I’ve ever read on navigating received family narratives, received narratives about race, and thinking about how truth lives underneath the stories we tell ourselves and underneath the stories that are told about us. 

J. D. Nelson : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I am always returning to many books from the mOnocle-Lash Anti-Press catalog, including the work of Olchar E. Lindsann in its Tacky Little Pamphlets series.

Keith Higginbotham – Prosaic Suburban Commercial (E·ratio Editions, 2010)

Michael Jacobson – Hei Kuu (Post-Asemic Press, 2020)

Barton Smock – Skin to Skin in an Unmarked Life (Trainwreck Press, 2021)

Marzi Margo – Blueberry Lemonade (Be About It Press, 2021)

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal – Make the Water Laugh (Rogue Wolf Press, 2021)

Paul Corman-Roberts – Bone Moon Palace (Nomadic Press, 2021)

Wayne Mason – Automation, Man! (Bold Machines) (Sweat Drenched Press, 2020)

Warren Dean Fulton – the coronation & inevitable dethroning of the tiger king (hiccup press, 2020)

Heather Sweeney – The Book of Likes, Winner of the Tiny Fork Chapbook Series (The Hunger Press, 2021)

Phillip Hall – Cactus (Recent Work Press, 2021)

Laura Ortiz – Unwritings (Post-Asemic Press, 2021)

Tameca L Coleman – an identity polyptych (The Elephants, 2021)

Friday 8 October 2021

Jane Zwart : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I take this question to be about how you know when a poem is “done,” not a question about how you know where a poem’s ending is. 

First, to repeat what many writers have said, knowing a poem is finished often costs time. You have to set it aside and become almost a stranger to it so that you can come back to it as its reader as much as--maybe more than--as its writer. Time buys you the chance to fall out of love with your own whimsy or cleverness, for instance, and if you’re smitten again, that’s a sign. And if you’re put off, that’s a sign, too. Of course, coming back to a poem once it feels less familiar also makes you aware of its troublesome gaps and/or heavy-handed excesses.

But I’ll add this. Once in a while, I can trick myself into that kind of remove--that readerly approach to even my newest writing--by pasting the poem into the body of an email addressed to a writer whose work I love. I don’t send it to them; I just borrow the jolt from seeing their name after “to.” And, magically, presuming on what I imagine to be their consciousness, their angle of vision, is enough. I can tell where the poem snags or misses, and I can fix it.

Tim Moder : part two

What do you find the most difficult about writing poetry?

Understanding the rules regarding rhyme scheme, meter, etc. is very challenging for me. I went to one semester of college in 1990, so I have no formal training in writing.  I have read a lot of poetry, but I don’t know much about line breaks, phrasing or what kinds of poems there are. I’m not even aware of all the things about writing poetry that I don’t know. But I know they exist. I bought Jorie Graham’s Sea Change a while back and I remember thinking “You can do that?” The way the lines are formatted. I haven’t tried it, but I was blown away. I never learned about feet and meter, so I just wing it. 

Thursday 7 October 2021

Bruce Whiteman : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I do a lot of book reviewing, mostly for quarterlies but also for newspapers. So I read a lot of poetry, both Canadian and American, for review. I recently reviewed Margaret Atwood’s latest book of poems, Dearly, and Don McKay’s new book, Lurch, both of which I liked a lot. I reviewed Steven Heighton’s Selected Poems for a newspaper review last spring, and found much to like in it as well. I often get assigned the poetry chronicle in The Hudson Review. They send you thirty or forty poetry books, from which you choose four or five, and there are often pleasing discoveries among them. Most recently, I thought Kim Addonizio’s Now We’re Getting Somewhere accomplished and high-spirited. Ken Norris’s South China Sea is a fine book.

Deborah Rosch Eifert : coda

What are you working on? 

Bodies - My husband has epilepsy, lung issues and Parkinson’s, and I have considered creating a microchap with poems I have written about our journey with that. I have two more manageable chronic issues (migraine, in particular, affects my quality of life); I also have had my body encounter a lot of coerced invasions – rape, sexual abuse, and a very minor cancer brush.  I am thinking of doing a chap or collection about being embodied, about bodies, caring for them, healing them, accepting them, struggling with them. I just had a piece in Feral, Issue 9 called “History of My Relationship with My Reproductive Tract.”

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Elizabeth M Castillo : part one

Elizabeth M Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer, indie-press promoter. She lives in Paris with her family and two cats, where she writes a variety of different things under a variety of pen names. In her writing Elizabeth explores themes of race & ethnicity, motherhood, womanhood, language, love, loss and grief, and a touch of magical realism. She has words in, or upcoming in Selcouth Station Press, Pollux Journal, Revista Purgante, Lanke Review, Streetcake Magazine, Fevers of the Mind Press, Melbourne Culture Corner, Epoch Press, among others. Her bilingual, debut collection Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss, y Otras Locuras is available for preorder/sale on amazon and through her website You can connect with her on Twitter or Instagram as @EMCWritesPoetry

What are you working on?

At the moment of writing this interview, I'm putting the final touches on my first full poetry collection Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss, y Otras Locuras. It's mostly formatting and marketing at this stage, as I'm self-publishing. It's a bilingual English/Spanish collection that came together almost entirely by itself, and is very close to my heart. Each poem in the collection is the expression of a feeling or an experience that needs to be felt, but in time will also need to be put away in a drawer or box (or Cajoncito, incidentally) in order to move on with life. I think we all carry a few of those...

Although I initially wrote most of these poems as my own personal form a therapy, soon I had enough for a chapbook, then a full collection, and people started to respond to the pieces that were picked up for publication here and there. At that point I had also begun writing in Spanish, which isn't my mother tongue, and three clear themes of love, loss and madness started to take shape. In the end it's been incredibly satisfying, cathartic even to have people tell me they find something of themselves in these extremely personal poems, and to see that there are in fact so many ways to love, so many ways to lose, and so many forms of madness that make up the in between. 

Arden Hunter : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

This is going to be different depending on who you ask, but what it really comes down to is I think it is finished when I’m happy with it. If I read it, whispering under my breath, and at the end find myself giving a little nod of satisfaction, then I’m finished. If something is still niggling at me, it’s not. I know that’s not very helpful, but poetry is so subjective and there is no wrong way to write it, so you can’t say, ‘oh when there are X amount of words,’ or ‘when there are X amount of metaphors.’ It’s a gut feeling, I think. Part of it is, ‘Does this say what I wanted to say?’ From a more pragmatic point of view, I do spend a lot of time over the endings. Those last lines are often the ones that linger in other people’s minds, so though of course I take care over the whole poem, once the last line is crafted to my satisfaction I’m usually done. 

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Perry Gasteiger : 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?

Usually my work first comes into the world as an overly excited message to my sister or my partner saying, “YOU WANNA READ WHAT I JUST WROTE???” haha… But yes, I believe that having a solid group of people that you can go to for soundboarding, editing help, idea generation & development, and just a fresh pair (or two, or three!) of eyes is extremely important. Having a community helps build everyone’s skills and work.

Saba Pakdel : part one

Saba Pakdel was born into a family of artists in Tehran, Iran. Growing up in a home of theatre, literature, and cinema, Saba breathed in the quality air of arts from an early age. She completed her BA and MA in English; attended and coordinated literary workshops and poetry readings; published poems, translations, and essays in Persian journals before leaving her home country to Canada in 2017. Once settled, she continued her studies at Simon Fraser University where she worked with Dr. Stephen Collis, Canadian poet and professor. She is currently studying her Ph.D. in English at University of Victoria under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Ross, modernist scholar and professor.

Photo credit: Hossein Pakdel

What are you working on?

My current project is my sweet struggle with the composition of a bilingual book of poetry that gives equal space to both English and Persian languages. The thesis is to use both languages semantically while I strongly intend to avoid exoticizing Persian as an unreadable language in an English environment. The tricky concept here is when a language is unreadable to some, it is ornamental, decorative, and objectified. I started thinking through conditions of possibility for a project as such after attending Summer Writers Session 2021 at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity last summer which included one-on-one sessions with Dr. Jordan Abel and Kaie Kellough. Also, I am currently working on my PhD project which overlaps with the idea of language stuck in a state of in-betweenness in migration theories. Hopefully, the two projects on both sides of research and poetry meet somewhere in the middle to help me with that struggle!

Monday 4 October 2021

Elee Kraljii Gardiner : part four

What other (poetry) books have you been (thinking about) reading lately?

Jordan Abel’s Nishga, Doireann Ní Ghriofa’s A Ghost in the Throat, Joan Naviyuk Kane’s forthcoming Dark Traffic, and Fair Play by Tove Jansson.

Sunday 3 October 2021

John Elizabeth Stintzi : part one

John Elizabeth Stintzi is a non-binary writer and artist who grew up on a cattle farm in northwestern Ontario. Their work has been awarded the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, The Malahat Review’s 2019 Long Poem Prize, the Sator New Works Award, and has been shortlisted for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award and the Raymond Souster Award. Their work has appeared in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Best Canadian Poetry, and many others. JES is the author of the novels My Volcano (2022) and Vanishing Monuments, as well as the poetry collection Junebat. They live with their wife in Kansas City.

Photo credit: JES

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first engaged with poetry, outside of a class-setting, as any angsty teen would (particularly growing up around the heyday of emo music/style): writing terrible, fire-and-brimstone, hopeless romantic poetry. I think the poem that set me off, with its very dark tone, was “The Destruction of Sennacherib” by Lord Byron, which I read and didn’t hate in my English class. I feel like my apocalyptic hopeless romanticism (paired with my terrible use of rhyming) definitely sprung out from lines like “For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, / And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.”

Andy N : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I know not everybody does this, but I’ve got little A5 hard back books which contains every completed poem I have ever completed whether great, average or frankly dreadful and I know the first one was wrote in there when I was 10 (I’m now 49 which gives a clue of how books I have completed). 

I don’t remember where the first poem came from if I am honest but it would have being some kind of class exercise I can see from reading it (It was called ‘Colours in the sky’ and was quite a basic romp through all of the colours in the sky). It wasn’t very good. 

The second poem ‘The Kill’ which followed six months or so in 1983 just after I reached I wrote after a trip to Chester Zoo (A Zoo nearish my primary school). The day after the trip we got asked to write a poem about our trip to the Zoo, and I wrote one about the lions breaking out of the cage and eating one of the teachers. They didn’t like it a lot it had to be said and I got a weeks detention. I however, loved it and the bug bit there I guess.

Saturday 2 October 2021

Katie Schmid : part two

Why is poetry important?

As a practice, it’s like writing proofs or doing algebra. You build something based on some half-heard scrap of something that has its own rules, its own logic. You’re trying to delve into it, to come to the illogical conclusion. You work in concert with it, or let it lead you around on a leash to where it’s going to go. It has made me more sane to write this way. Frank Bidart in that famous interview in In the Western Night talks about using poetry to think his life, and knowing that if he could do that there was everything yet to be done. I’ve been listening to a lot of J. Krishnamurti recently and he has this beautiful thing that he says to his students or querents, “Don’t just guess! Go into it! Carefully!” That’s what I’m trying to do when I write a poem: I’m trying to go into it carefully, and then all at once, and come back with something that helps me understand myself and the world a little bit more. I think that’s really the only kind of peace I know outside of being outside or having sex. I mean peace in the sense that I’m not trying to escape myself, but am deeply, deeply present to myself.

J. D. Nelson : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Letting go of a poem can be very difficult. I often find myself thinking, maybe I should just hold onto it for a little longer and keep tinkering. I’ve learned to get better at recognizing when a poem is finished, or when it is time to let go of it. I find that this is a function of intuition; a poem just “feels right” when it’s time to let go.

Friday 1 October 2021

Jane Zwart : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Very, I hope. But perhaps what I am after when I fit words into verse is something just shy of music. When I write a poem, there’s a lot of muttering the lines aloud; it’s how I test repetition, how I scoop out little hollows of assonance, how I arrive at echoes, how I figure out the poem’s tectonics. 

Muttering aloud is also the only way I can refine line length. Which must mean that rhythm does matter to me even though I’m terrible at scansion. Maybe it’s not feeling at ease with poetry’s music theory that makes me doubt my poems’ claim to music. 

Anyway: I do hope to keep learning, little by little, more about rhythm. And rhyme, too.

Tim Moder : part one

Tim Moder is an Indigenous poet living in northern Wisconsin. He is a member of Lake Superior Writers. His poems have appeared in various publications, including Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, South Florida Poetry Journal, Penumbra Online and In Parentheses Literary Magazine. Find him on Twitter @ModerTim and Instagram @moder_poet_tim

How Does a poem Begin?

That’s really the question, isn’t it? The beginning could come from anywhere, an overheard comment, watching someone cross the street, a line in a song on the radio, organic natural life, what they call soft fascination. Something sparks a nerve, it gets your attention, it sounds different, or something you are more attracted to than usual. So you write it down. Sometimes just one or two words, or a sentence. On a napkin, a receipt, in a notebook. I’m in love with index cards. I use them for everything. So then when I get home I’ll add them to the notebook. THE notebook.  They go in there with all the rest and maybe get looked at again in a week or a month. Unless one comes all at once. But mostly the start is random.  Later comes all the hard work. Crafting it into a poem.  Initially it doesn’t appear to have very much to do with me at all. Then again sometimes I sit down to write a specific poem about something I’ve been thinking about.