Saturday 31 December 2022

Samantha Jones : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

I love music and I think that music and poetry are intertwined and often borrow from and show up in one another. Music intersects with my work in several ways. Sometimes I write to music, typically instrumental or mellow electronic tracks or music in a language I don’t understand so I don’t get caught up in the story. I select music with pace and mood that match the tone of the project I’m working on. 

I’ve experimented with using music symbols in some of my work. I have OCD and I noticed that there was a rhythm to some of my checking routines. I wanted to document those “incantations” and used rests and other music notation in the text to instruct the reader. I also use music to conjure memories that inspire a lot of my work. Road trips to visit family were a summer tradition when I was a kid and listening to the albums that we played in the car, like Sade and Toni Braxton, bring me back to the people and places that were such an important part of my childhood. 

Friday 30 December 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : coda

I’ve been writing poetry since I was an undergraduate in the seventies, then did an MFA in my late thirties. So poetry has been a nearly lifelong pursuit for me. I’ve taken breaks from submitting work for publication a few times in my life but never from poetry itself. I think of Rilke’s question to his young poet: could you live if you didn’t write? For me the answer is probably! But not nearly as fully. 

Thursday 29 December 2022

S. T. Brant : part four

Why is poetry important?

It isn’t, which is why it is. I’ll divide my answer to this in a pretty banal dichotomy: to those that consider literature Life and those that don’t. For the latter, if poetry has any importance at all, it’s minor- which could still be admitting to some importance, sure, but the qualities that make it important are different than what make it important to other people and maybe even what the writers thought would be the important chords they played. I think if poetry can be even the least important and serve as a distraction from life and a path inward, then it has already done enough- and in fact is likely more crucial than is outwardly acknowledged. Poetry sneaks up on you. Reading may never be their seminal recreation, it may be a chore, it may not be something they spend their whole day and night contemplating, and they may not spend all their time in bookstores, or consider visiting all the bookstores in the places they travel to vacation-worthy: in which case, poetry isn’t Important, but it can still be important. In those cases, poetry does have to be sneaky; it has little time to operate, and in that time it has to garden quickly: something in it needs to take root, it needs to leave something within that invites that person back, back within, where maybe they don’t spend much time, and invite them to investigate, to get to know that dark interior. But that time in solitude, when someone spends time with themselves in a part of themselves unfamiliar and learns to be alone, kicking open a new dimension to themselves- this poetry can do and is why it’s important. Letting someone get to know themselves better and become a richer character. For those that deem literature Life- what’s to say? The model of Important is Poetry. I don’t like the whole ‘what can poetry do? ‘how necessary is poetry?’ ‘is poetry dead?’ yada, yada, yada. It’s always Nothing/Everything; No/Yes; Yes/No. The words and I are often in strife, which is probably as it should be, because they don’t need me, and the contest is to prove them wrong and force some admission on their end that I made some inroads into what’s possible with language that even they didn’t anticipate, when all is said and done. But Poetry is important in that regard to me and me only because that’s the battle. Maybe if I say the right thing and get the idea right and the poem comes out as I have a vision of it, then maybe it can become important to someone for whom poetry isn’t generally important, or even maybe to someone for whom poetry is life. But I really only care about how important Poetry is to me and make no bones about convincing others. Even with my students, my goal isn’t to lecture them into assent, but to, sneakily, by the end, hopefully have demonstrated, whether through example or some blossom blasting through the dry season of the year, that there’s power in moving and being moved. I probably didn’t answer this question well. It’s hard. I’ve rambled and landed back at the beginning that it’s important to me. There’s a million anecdotes of it being meaningful in the world and being nothing in the world, and I think that’s how it should be. It’s the shadow-king. 

Wednesday 28 December 2022

Stephanie Henson : part five

How does a poem begin? 

For me, a poem begins with a feeling and then I build upon that emotion and layer it with different poetic devices. At the start of every one of my poems there is heart and intent. I may not know exactly where the poem is going when I sit down to draft, but I have a general idea of the trajectory as I am writing. I rarely plan out my poems ahead of time or what I am going to say. I don’t generally outline. I let the feelings guide me and then I expand/enhance the piece accordingly. When I write for kids, I often delve into my own past experiences and the lessons I wish I would have had at that age, and put it in poetic form. I pay special attention to the words I use when writing for children. It’s ok if kids do not understand every single word of the poem you are writing for them, but they should be able to follow along with the theme and get the overall point of the piece.

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Sarah Ens : part one

Sarah Ens is a writer and editor based in Treaty 1 territory (Winnipeg, MB). Her writing has appeared in Prairie Fire, Arc Poetry Magazine, The New Quarterly, Contemporary Verse 2, Poetry Is Dead, Room Magazine, and SAD Mag. Her debut collection of poetry, The World Is Mostly Sky, was shortlisted for the 2021 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and the 2022 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. Flyway is her second book of poetry.

How did you first engage with poetry?

My first encounters with poetry happened in church, with hymns and scripture as the points of entry. I remember, during congregational singing, being struck by figurative language—how it can give shape to abstract ideas or amplify the enigmatic—and wanting to repeat certain lines over and over. “Let Thy goodness like a fetter / bind my wandering heart to Thee,” for example, made me excited about simile and how good a verb can feel.

The first poets I engaged with on the page were ee cummings and Di Brandt. Poems so passionate they eschewed the rules of punctuation appealed deeply to my teenage sensibilities! Brandt’s questions i asked my mother, that slim, bright, potent book, also opened the idea that maybe I could write poetry. 

Monday 26 December 2022

Matthew Kosinski : part one

Matthew Kosinski is a poet, socialist, and occultist from Philadelphia. Alone in the White Marble City is available from New Delta Review. Your Human Shape is available from Broken Sleep Books.

What are you working on?

I’m working on a couple of things right now. The first is a series of poems grouped under the tentative title of I Want to Eat My Clone. The idea arose out of a discussion I had with a couple of friends a while back. Some years ago, there was a somewhat famous internet story about a man who had his foot amputated following a motor vehicle accident. On a lark, he and his friends decided to cook and eat the amputated foot meat, figuring it was their once-in-a-lifetime shot at trying some ethical cannibalism. 

My friends and I were discussing this story, considering whether we, too, would eat the foot if we were in that scenario. I’m pretty confident that I would, and I said as much. So one of my friends decides to escalate. He asks us, “Okay, you’d eat the foot. But how about this: Let’s say one day you woke up and walked into your kitchen and there, on the ground, was the deceased body of a perfect clone of yourself. Would you eat it?”

I’m less confident that I’d eat the clone, if only because that’s a lot more meat than a single foot. But I like the thought experiment. 

At the time I was also reading a lot about quantum mechanics – specifically, Philip Ball’s Beyond Weird – and I was really interested in John Archibald Wheeler’s “it from bit” theory, which basically proposes that the universe exists, at a fundamental level, as information. The physical world we inhabit essentially arises from the process of observing and interpreting that information. I’m greatly simplifying here, but under Wheeler’s theory, one can consider the human body a great big observational instrument: It moves through the world recording data, processing it, and rendering it legible as a physical environment. 

And so when my friend proposed this thought experiment – eating one’s clone – I thought about it in light of the “it from bit” theory. If the human body is an observational instrument, then perhaps by eating it, one could gain access to the raw universal data it’s been processing. That data has to be stored somewhere, right? Like eating a computer to learn what’s on its hard drive. 

Thus we have I Want to Eat My Clone, a series of poems about an amateur scientist discovering his own clone and deciding to eat it, piece by piece, in order to access the raw universal data it might be hiding. Each poem in the series corresponds to a different body part: eyes, heart, fingers, lungs, genitals, etc. 

The other project I’m working on is what I’m calling the “poetic equivalent of a Metroidvania.” For those who don’t know, “Metroidvania” refers to a genre of two-dimensional platforming video games that emphasize exploration. A Metroidvania takes place in one big connected world, and you, as a player, have to explore that world, filling out a map as you go along. 

I love these games for the way they tell stories through environmental cues and flavor text rather than narrative exposition; the player is an active participant in uncovering the story as they scour every inch of the world for hidden treasures, secret passages, and new areas. I’m thinking about, for example, Ender Lilies, where the player learns more about the protagonist’s origins by stumbling upon a secret laboratory. Or Blasphemous, where every item you pick up has an attached bit of lore that sheds some light on the post-apocalyptic world you’re traversing.

So I’ve become a bit obsessed with translating that kind of experiential, fragmented, exploration-heavy storytelling into a poetic framework. I can’t say I’ve figured out just yet how I’ll do it, but I know it’s going to rely on the visual composition of the poem. I want the poem to feel like you’re filling out a Metroidvania map as you move through it. And I’ve got a loose narrative right now, something revolving around a dystopian internet jail called the “paranet.” But all in all, this one’s still a bit embryonic.

Sunday 25 December 2022

James Davies : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Not really. I’ve long considered poetry to be rich in its possibilities, a really exciting place, not just biography or triviality in lineated form, or something dragged out at weddings and funerals. A lot of people’s conceptions of poetry is based on the stuff they read at school. And in the UK most of the twentieth and twenty-first century stuff is really the study of the topic of the poem and the spot-featuring of the poetic devices – that is to say that poetry’s not given a fair shot at school because of the selection of poems on the syllabus. I was lucky enough to come across/be directed to poetry that breaks the mould early on and see its connection to the wider picture of innovation in the arts.

Saturday 24 December 2022

Samantha Jones : part two

How does a poem begin?

For me, usually with an observation. Either something that I experience with one of my senses, or an idea or concept about my surroundings. This could be as small as seeing a discarded item on the ground or as big as thinking about something like humanity’s emotional responses to climate change. I keep lists of things that I notice, interesting words, and situations that evoke emotion. For example, it started raining one evening last week, and both my spouse and I ran (from different parts of the house) to the door, flung it open, and stuck our arms outside to feel the drops on our skin. I told him that I knew the water would be cold from the hard sound it made when hitting the window. We’re from Nova Scotia, but have lived in Alberta, a very arid province, for about sixteen years. This moment is certainly the start of a poem, both of us connecting with a distant home, and each other, through nature in that moment. 

Friday 23 December 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : part five

How does a poem begin?

Poems begin in my body. I’ve often compared it to the sensation just before a sneeze. Sometimes, a feeling comes over me and it’s luckily often combined with an opening or triggering phrase. I spend a lot of time hiking in the hills behind my house with my dogs, and I will often find that a phrase comes to me that leads me into a new poem. I find that if I pay attention to this confluence of feeling and sound, if I stop what I’m doing and write it down, a poem will flow fairly easily onto the page. 

Thursday 22 December 2022

S. T. Brant : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Right now, it’s the trope, par excellence. The mythology of this book centers on the ideas of ‘Harmony’ and ‘Melody’, and then musical metaphors abound. It makes sense since poetry is musical, but it’s also funny because music isn’t really that important to me in life, in that, I don’t actually spend a lot of time listening to music. Only when I’m driving. Even at the gym I’ll just listen to whatever is playing over the speakers but don’t listen to my own music. I prefer silence to music when I’m working or even just sitting around, and I can’t read with music playing at all. I just can’t seem to push it to the background; it’s always drifting too far forward. I’m probably pretty unsophisticated musically, even. A real plebian. Try as I might, classical music eludes me. It sounds beautiful, sure, but I can’t sustain listening for long periods. Same with jazz. I’m still trying to get into jazz because I like everything about jazz when I read about jazz, but I can never sit down and listen to jazz. Dylan, Springsteen, Costello, The Gaslight Anthem, those are my staples. The Clash. Artists like that. But even them, they’re for driving or when I’m doing something in my classroom, like decorating it or doing the end of the year chores that need to be signed off on. All that’s to say that music is more important to me as a trope than an actual source of joy in life. I guess like most things, I enjoy them idealistically above enjoying them sensually. 

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Stephanie Henson : part four

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is a form of self expression. It’s therapeutic in a way to lay your feelings bare on the page and for people to have access to that exposed part of you. It’s very personal and engaging. Also, there is a love and mastery of language that is very important, especially for kids to understand at a young age. Lovely Lyrical language is a vivid sensory tool in poetic storytelling for kids and can improve their vocabulary and comprehension of text. 

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Jaeyun Yoo : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Sharon Olds, Joy Harjo, Ocean Vuong, Yun Dong-Ju. 

Monday 19 December 2022

Ryanne Kap : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Neil Hilborn was one of the first poets that taught me a lot about “loosening up” and not assuming that poetry had to use a certain vocabulary. I’ve also been stunned by the possibilities that Danez Smith and Victoria Chang create in their work. Last but not least, I am continually learning from my friends, who are the poets that I love to read the most: Victoria Mbabazi and Sarah Hilton keep showing me what beautiful poems can be. 

Sunday 18 December 2022

James Davies : part two

What are you working on?

Funny, if you’d asked me this a month or so ago I would have said nothing at all, and then all of a sudden, after a long barren patch, something clicks and you start writing again (though it has to be said, I’m not writing as prolifically as I used to and that’s a strange space to be in). I’m working on a new sequence of snowballs, a form I’ve worked with before. Snowballs are perhaps most associated with Oulipo and usually have ten lines. Typically, in a snowball, line 1 has one letter, line 2 two letters and so on until ten letters in the tenth line. Rather than letters I’ve changed the form by increasing the amount of words per line. There’s a lot of flexibility in the form and it shares a similarity to the sonnet in its effects. A few months ago I finished editing my collection it is like toys but also like video taped in a mall, which is out with Pamenar Press. I’m really pleased with it. It’s a series of 201 two-line minimalist poems, which took around five years to write and edit.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Samantha Jones : part one

Samantha Jones (she/her) is a scientist, poet, and editor based in Moh’kins’tsis (Calgary) on Treaty 7 territory. She is a magazine and journal enthusiast with writing in THIS, Room, Grain, CV2, Arctic, GeoHumanities, and elsewhere. Her poetry has garnered international attention including the poem, “Ocean Acidification,” which was first published in Watch Your Head, and later featured in the Virtual Ocean Pavilion at COP26. Sam is a PhD Candidate in Geography at the University of Calgary and has a background in geology. Her work also documents her experience living with OCD; her OCD visual poetry chapbook, Site Orientation, is available from the Blasted Tree (2022). Sam is white settler and Black Canadian, and is the founder and facilitator of the Diverse Voices Roundtable for BIPOC Writers at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (Calgary). 

Twitter: @jones_yyc 

How did you first engage with poetry?

I first engaged with poetry in childhood through books and stories like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I remember creating an illustrated poetry project in elementary school with a classmate. Around the same time, my grandfather was helping at a used bookshop and would bring me there on occasion. He was always interested in poetry and the shelves in his study included leather-bound books with verse by folks like Longfellow. In adulthood, I learned about the diverse expanse of poetry and was drawn in once again, but this time by the styles and stories that spoke to my experiences and ways of navigating the world. I’ve been reading a lot during the pandemic, and in some ways, I feel like the last few years have been my first true immersion in poetry. 

Friday 16 December 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s Water I Won’t Touch, Jennifer Martelli’s Queen of Queens, Dana Levin’s Now Do You Know Where You Are, Jill McDonough’s Where You Live, Dustin Pearson’s Millennial Roost, Derrick Austin’s Tenderness. I’m anxiously awaiting Suzanne Frishkorn’s Fixed Star and Luther Hughes’ A Shiver in the Leaves

Thursday 15 December 2022

S. T. Brant : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I started out writing songs for a band I was in in middle school. Terrible songs. They’ve thankfully vanished. I know youthful writings are generally embarrassing, but… yikes. I was never a great musician, either. My friends that I was in the band with are actually still playing! I’ve lost touch with them, but they’ve stayed close and, I think, still play together. So that’s pretty cool. But I began writing songs, then when I left the band in high school and dropped all musical ambitions, I stopped writing anything. Then there’s a blank until I met this one girl. Her and I become close, and I start telling her about my band days and show her the current music of the guys I played with, which impresses her, which makes me jealous; so I mention that I wrote songs and show her some of the lyrics. She assigns me homework: write more. She gives me a deadline: a new song by next week. For years I always called poems ‘Deadlines’ because I would always say I can’t write poems, so I called them songs, then called them ‘deadlines’ (even though I was always late turning them into her). Now it’s become about trying to impress Time, but it all started out trying to impress a girl. 

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Stephanie Henson : part three

How important is music to your poetry? 

Music is an integral process to my poetry writing, as well as to my writing process in general. Music is a language all its own. The beats, the sounds, the rhythm, the lyrics, the cadence etc.  - it’s all very poetic by nature. I am greatly inspired by Lin Manuel Miranda, so when there are times where I hit a writer’s block, the first place I turn is to his music. I am almost overwhelmed by his talent. He has a way of incorporating many poetic devices into his work and the flow and intelligence of it is energizing. Of course, Hamilton is a favorite but I also enjoy In the Heights and the Encanto soundtrack as inspiration. The way he weaves central themes throughout his pieces whiie maintaining that overall connection and cohesiveness to the material is genius.

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Jaeyun Yoo : part four

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

Precision. As poetry is often about compression rather than expansion, a poet’s job is to figure out the best way to capture a message or an image with limited words. Having said that, I am interested in writing that is not bound by literary rules and enjoy the cross-pollination and genre-bending between different forms.

Monday 12 December 2022

Ryanne Kap : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I usually write poetry out of an abundance of emotion. I find it hard to then articulate those feelings in a way that resonates outside of my subjective experience. I love confessional poetry that reads like it’s staying true to a feeling while also elevating it into something artful. I struggle to write my unfiltered feelings into more than just a rant on the page. 

Sunday 11 December 2022

James Davies : part one

James Davies’ writing includes the poetry collections stack, published by Carcanet, which is a book-length, minimalist poem, that explores and documents experimental walking practice, as well as Plants from Reality Street, a set of conceptual poems. He is also the author of two novels: The Wood Pigeons from Dostoevsky Wannabe, which is a tale of a night-in, where chapters are slenderised page by page, and When Two Are in Love or As I Came To Behind Frank's Transporter (from Crater Press, written in collaboration with Philip Terry), an Oulipian psychedelic romantic comedy. His latest prose is the short story The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton from Ma Bibliotheque, ten rewrites of the first page of Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Find out more at

How did you first engage with poetry?

Although retrospectively I can remember reading poetry as a young child, a standout moment as a writer was reading Salvador Dali’s poem Dandled Brochure and other poems by surrealists in the Surrealist Manifesto when I was about 16. e.e. cummings books were around the house also, amongst a small selection – they were important too. These poems confirmed for me that poetry (writing) could be stretched, and then I wrote and wrote in a multitude of styles and forms, many of which were my own experiments. Around the same time that I read the Surrealist Manifesto I studied Keats at school and enjoyed it, although not as much as the surrealist writing – joy over moodiness most days for me. I’d cite these things as initially turning me on to the ethereal power of poetry.

Friday 9 December 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Diane Seuss is the contemporary poet who has had the biggest, most recent impact on my understanding of and thinking about poetry. She combines contemplation of quotidian realities of being alive with what I might call big ideas in a way that is alchemical. We are the same age, so I find in her work familiar references to people, places, and particularities of being an American woman that I’ve found liberating and inspirational. Others are Erika Meitner and Kendra Decolo, both BOA poets, whose catalogues of female experience have also loosened up some of my self-imposed restrictions in style and content. This is also true of Levin’s Now Do You Know Where You Are.

Thursday 8 December 2022

S. T. Brant : part one

S. T. Brant is a Las Vegas high school teacher. His debut collection Melody in Exile will be out in 2022. His work has appeared in numerous journals including Honest Ulsterman, EcoTheo, Timber, and Rain Taxi. You can reach him on his website at, Twitter: @terriblebinth, or Instagram: @shanelemagne

What are you working on?

Everything and nothing, it feels like. I’m trying to make a point to review more work, so I have a few poetry reviews on the docket. Otherwise, I have a poetry manuscript in the works. Life Between Transmigrations. That title will change but for now it helps me keep track of the idea. It’ll be the first note in a big song. Told through a series of dramatic monologues and narratives, an ‘epic’ in psychic fragments, traversing mythical, literary, historical personas, the same soul’s journey from the origin when he broke off from god to now, the day it All ends, and he confronts his exiled source. We’ll see what becomes of it. I have a few things written for it now. But it may wind up being multiple volumes because I also have a gnostic treatise of epistles written from one of Paul’s rivals going, St. Brant, which was supposed to be part of that manuscript but has seemed to take on a life of its own. These poetic works are supposed to complement the dramatic as well. Like O’Neill’s plan to write a huge cycle, I have a Vegas cycle: Meadow the Shadow of Golgotha. Also a title I’m not married to but helps keep me grounded to the concept. To turn Vegas into Dublin, that’s the plan, and be synonymous with Sin. Plays and poems: those are the projects, with the littlest bit of critical prose to help fight off the indolence. These ideas probably sound like unpublishable hodge-podge (most journals agree with you!), but hopefully not. If I get it right… that’s the thing… if I get it right, it’ll be Great. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Stephanie Henson : part two

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

I feel poetry connects people. It is built on the foundation of emotion. People need connection, now more than ever. We all have been separated, literally and figuratively, by the events of the past couple years so it’s important to have creative outlets that can fill the gaps when people need it the most. Poetry provides love and comfort and a deeper understanding of feelings - the things people long for right now. Children, especially, have been greatly affected and are in need of pieces to help them understand and find their place in the world, a world that looks much different than it once did.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Jaeyun Yoo : 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? 

Once I write the first draft, I let it rest for at least a few days before looking at it again. I bring my draft to workshop groups for their thoughtful input. Afterwards, I edit the poem again. This may take a few days or years! Depending on the poem, I may submit it to literary magazines or add it to my manuscript in development. Poetry is a paced process for me.

I recently completed The Writer’s Studio, which is a creative writing certificate program at Simon Fraser University. My classmates and I still meet monthly for workshopping which I find very enriching. I am also part of a collective of emerging poets called Harbour Centre 5 ( We met through a continuing education poetry course at Simon Fraser University and have been workshopping together for several years. We recently produced a collaborative chapbook called Brine. The sense of community has been so valuable in my development as a writer.  

Monday 5 December 2022

Ryanne Kap : part three

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

I view poetry very similarly to short stories. It’s like a burst of feeling that you can communicate without losing momentum over pages and pages of writing. But whereas short stories require more of a framework, with poetry you can focus on the foundation alone. That isn’t to say that poetry is “simpler” than fiction; as someone who predominantly writes fiction, I find that poetry has a level of complexity that remains both inspiring and challenging to me.

Sunday 4 December 2022

Grace : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important because—and this is somewhat related to the fact that it can accomplish what other forms of writing can’t—for me, it requires me to look at and think about my world in a different way.

You could technically make that argument that sci-fi (which I also love) and other types of writing can do something similar, but there’s an immediacy in poetry for me that really gives you that “punched in the gut” feeling.

I think it’s because whether you’re writing or reading poetry (or listening to a song), the sounds and rhythm, the creativity with which the sentences and phrases are formed—all of that works together to suck you in, and invites you to consider the world around you in a way that maybe you haven’t considered before.

Allison Thung : part five

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

I share some of my WIP work with two of my closest friends, but writing tends to be a solitary act for me. I need silence, to be alone, and a blank Microsoft Document. I do wish that my process was a little more romantic though, like a walk in the woods and the first draft scribbled on the pages of a leatherbound notebook. 

Friday 2 December 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : 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 belong to two workshop groups. One is a group of local poets and the other is a small group of friends from my days in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. The first group is a place where I can get a sense of a poem’s nearness to completion. The second group is the place where my most challenging poems get read and responded to with laser precision. These friends have often helped me to find the best logical ordering of my somewhat wabi sabi lyric narratives. Both groups are indispensable. Of course, I don’t have every poem critiqued before I submit it for publication, but I typically feel more confident submitting work that’s been vetted this way.

Thursday 1 December 2022

Emily Osborne : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is one of the oldest and most widespread of human traditions and creations. Before writing, oral verse was a means of storing data, of communicating value, of bringing people together, of recreating the known world and imagining it better or worse. Children instinctively respond to poetry and yet I know many adults who say they cannot stand to read poetry. To include poetry in one’s life seems to me almost an essential part of being human and recognizing how humanity has (or has not) evolved.

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Stephanie Henson : part one

Stephanie Henson lives with her family in Southeastern, Pennsylvania, but is originally from Central, New Jersey where she studied Communications at Rider University. She is back at Rider pursuing a Certificate in Publishing and Professional Writing. Her background is in Advertising/Marketing and most of her writing experience is through those professional roles. Writing and storytelling has been her passion for a long time. She has been published in print and online through various publications and has had several children's poems published by The Dirigible Balloon and Buzgaga Online, among others, as well as the occasional "grown-up" piece. She also has a Children's Poetry book scheduled for release in affiliation with Experiments in Fiction, an independent publisher in the UK.

Stephanie enjoys reading, theatre, mindless web searching, Netflix binges, sunflowers, sports, and anything related to coffee!

What are you working on?

I just finished up my debut children’s poetry collection. The book is entitled In the Right Lane and is an SEL-based poetry collection that includes many confidence-building and motivational pieces for the Middle-Grade audience (ages 8 to 12). Every kid should have a dream, a plan, a path, and a future.  This Social Emotional Learning based collection of poetry is meant to inspire a new way of thinking to help kids find their path through poetry and help them navigate life on the road to happiness. Confidence building, managing emotions, and finding your place in the world are themes that are explored. These pieces also capture the pure joy of being a kid. Experiencing nature, feelings of love, and - of course - acceptance of self. This book is a guidepost for upper elementary and middle school-aged children on those topics. It is scheduled to release on December 3rd via Amazon in paperback and e-book. 

Aside from that, I also write SEL Picture Books and Middle-Grade Fiction. I have a few pieces on submission right now that I am waiting to hear back on, as well as working on drafts of new stories.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Jaeyun Yoo : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

A couple of years ago, I asked one of my poetry mentors this same question. She chuckled and told me about how she recently dug up the Microsoft Word file of a poem that was published many years ago and started editing the poem again, because she “felt like it.” That was incredibly liberating for me. My relationship with poems became much more fluid once I understood that a poem may never be finished and instead, I could aspire for the poem to be good enough. 

Monday 28 November 2022

Ryanne Kap : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I know when a poem is finished when I can stop thinking about it. There may always be a word to tweak or an image to improve, but when I can submit it or share it and not feel the need to provide any caveats, I feel like it’s done. When I’m writing confessional poetry, and I feel that whatever emotion sparked the poem has been contained by it, I can walk away.

Sunday 27 November 2022

Grace : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Extremely. Hip hop was how I really learned to master English in the years after my family immigrated to Canada, and it was probably my first “favourite genre of music” growing up. There are poems that I enjoy, even though they have no musical elements—but to be honest… The consonance and assonance, rhythms, and (gulp) rhymes in a poem are often just as pleasurable to me as a good metaphor.

Allison Thung : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m waiting for my copies of Chen Chen’s Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, and Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet, to arrive. In the meantime, I’m revisiting Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Lucky Fish.

Friday 25 November 2022

Subhaga Crystal Bacon : part one

Subhaga Crystal Bacon is a Queer poet living in rural northcentral Washington on unceded Methow land. She is the author of four collections of poetry including Transitory, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Award for Poetry, forthcoming in the fall of 2023 from BOA Editions, and Surrender of Water in Hidden Places, winner of the Red Flag Poetry Chapbook Prize forthcoming in the spring of 2023. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in 45th Parallel, Rogue Agent, The Indianapolis Review, and Rise Up Review. She is a lover of nature who spends most days contemplating what's moving, growing, or arriving around her.

What are you working on?

I’m working on a new manuscript that follows up on and develops themes of Queer identity begun in my forthcoming BOA Editions collection, Transitory. It’s a chronicling of and reckoning with murders of transgender and gender nonconforming people in 2020 that’s interspersed with personal poems about gender and sexual orientation. The new manuscript is (so far) a strictly personal exploration of the forces and projections of family and culture on my identity as a Queer person throughout my life. 

Thursday 24 November 2022

Emily Osborne : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Poetry without rhythm and sonic appeal is like food without flavour – something I would rather not make or consume. Poetry so often used to be sung, but now songs-with-lyrics and poetry are generally approached as two different art forms. I think something has been lost in this separation. Perhaps this feeling comes from a background studying music (piano, flute and cello) and dance (ballet). I often compose lines while walking, to feel the beats throughout my body. I vocalize lines with different rhythms and intonations to feel their true hearts. Although I never willingly play music while writing, background music from a coffee shop or within the house has frequently altered the sound and sense of what I am writing, from the frenetic energy of dance music driving forward lines to the predictable lull of a nursery song reminding me of the power of brevity and familiarity. 

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Katerina Canyon : part thirteen

How does a poem begin?

For me, the poem begins with the observation, that one thing that strikes me in the heart to tell me that this (this experience, this moment, this feeling) is a poem. A lot of the time it is an injustice that I experienced. It could also be a feeling that comes across me, like a breeze grazing my skin.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Jaeyun Yoo : part one

Jaeyun Yoo is a Korean-Canadian poet and psychiatrist living on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, also known as Vancouver. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in Canthius, The /tƐmz/ Review, Prairie Fire, Grain, CV2, EVENT and others. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. She is a member of Harbour Centre 5, a collective of emerging poets. Their collaborative chapbook, Brine, was published in 2022. @jaeyunwrites on Twitter.

How did you first engage with poetry?

When I was in elementary school in South Korea, we were required to keep a diary which was reviewed regularly by the teacher. I used to procrastinate until the day before the deadline. I remember my mom looking stern but slightly amused at my scramble to fill the pages, then suggesting: Why don’t you write a poem for a diary entry? It would be shorter but still meaningful. 

So I first engaged with poetry as a “shortcut.” It quickly became fun and special to me. As I became more intentional about the elements of poetry, it often took longer than writing narratives!

Monday 21 November 2022

Ryanne Kap : part one

Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain, carte blanche, Canthius, and elsewhere. Her short story “Heat” won first place in Grain’s 2020 Short Grain contest and was selected as a notable pick in the 2021 edition of Best Canadian Short Stories. Her debut chapbook, goodbye, already, was published by Frog Hollow Press in 2021. Ryanne is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Calgary. She is also the managing editor at The Puritan. You can find her online at or on Twitter and Instagram @ryannekap.  

Photo credit: Abynaya Kousikan

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a short story collection, as I’m definitely a fiction writer first and foremost. In terms of poetry, I’d like to try writing another chapbook; I feel like I’ve learned a lot since my first one, and I want to write poems that reflect how my writing style has changed.  

Sunday 20 November 2022

Grace : part three

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

Lately, Mary Oliver. We have a few of her books, so I’ll just pick one off the shelf at random. There’s an optimism in her poems and a grace that I’ve needed a bunch these past couple years. I never really cared much for nature when I was a kid, but as I get older, it’s something that I think about a lot more. There’s a great sadness that comes with this change—or maybe it’s just the sadness of growing up—that Mary Oliver’s poems have a knack for soothing.

Allison Thung : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I think of a poem as finished when it is telling the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to tell it. I think of it as really finished when it has been published and I can’t realistically make any further changes. Overall, I’d say it’s instinctual; based on gut feel. 

Saturday 19 November 2022

Frances Klein : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem can begin one of two ways. Sometimes I get a moment of inspiration, a line or an image that leads to a poem. More often, though, I use a prompt or writing activity to get a draft started. I’ve found that, between work and parenting, my mind is often out of the writing mode, and prompts help me get back to that place.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Emily Osborne : part three

What are you working on?

After a two-year hiatus in writing (due to parenting a 3yo and 1yo without childcare during the pandemic), I have just begun to write again while my baby naps and my 3yo attends preschool. My question the past few weeks has been what I can effectively work on given time constraints. Before my children were born I was working on a volume of Norse verse translations. The unpredictability of baby naps has made it nearly impossible to return to this. What surprised me was having inspiration for a fantasy novel and actually being able to write chapter drafts. Holding scenes and characters in my mind until I can work on them again has proven easier than holding the intricately-woven webs that are skaldic poems, with all their linguistic and historical threads. 

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Katerina Canyon : part twelve

Why is poetry important? 

That is such a big question! Poetry is our conscience. Without it, we would not be human.

Tuesday 15 November 2022

john compton : part five

How does a poem begin?

mostly spontaneously. i used to sit and try to write in the beginning of my poetic life and usually i would wait long enough i'd get upset and write some drivel. just to say i wrote a poem. 

now i just let it come to me. a word, a sound, an image or line. it bursts into my head and i begin to write. i let it overcome me. with doing this i don't just sit waiting. with the time i do sit, it is for rereading poems and editing. 

letting the poem come makes it more organic. less puppeteering. 

Sunday 13 November 2022

Grace : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I just finished Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky. Had no idea what I was getting into, and I’m just floored by the concept of the book and how it’s not your typical collection of poems. Also Sanna Wani’s My Grief, the Sun and Conyer Clayton’s But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. I’m very behind on my book stacks…

Allison Thung : part two

How does a poem begin?

Often as a resurfaced memory, weird dream, or conversation. Sometimes, born of a line or imagery that comes to me from out of the blue and refuses to go away until I turn it into a poem.

Saturday 12 November 2022

Frances Klein : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I recently finished Sandra Lim’s collection, The Curious Thing. I found so much to learn from her unexpected images and language choices. I’ve also been teaching Matthew Henry’s The Colored Page, and it’s sparked incredible conversations with my students.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Emily Osborne : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

So many for so many different reasons… this insufficient list is baroque! Tomas Transtromer, for unexpected images that haunt with their use of familiarity and alterity. Egill Skallagrimsson, for boldness in wrestling with death and the gods in poetry. Amy Clampitt, for writing with a kaleidoscope of references and sonic effects and still making it all work and build to that perfect pitch. Lucille Clifton, for how she combines directness and nuance with such economy and effect. Marosa di Giorgio, for crafting a world in verse both fantastical and mundane. John Donne, for showing how a conceit can express a thing and then turn on itself again and again.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Katerina Canyon : part eleven

How important is music to your poetry? 

Many of my poems are inspired by music. In my latest book, Surviving Home, you will find allusions to certain songs I listened to as a child. Music in and of itself is poetry.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

john compton : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

the editing. i worry i will end up destroying the poem. the poem needs refining but also i usually love everything about it. 

i am the poet who edits each line as each line is written, as the poem comes. the edits after several days are the ones that tinker my brain.

small edits are different. using the word "the" too much and thus having to remove it is easy. but a line that really brings a powerful punch and having to remove it because it is something that doesn't quite fit, that is much harder. the lines i love but are not relevant to the poem. i always try to tell myself how can i work it in even though i know there is no hope. but i worry the line may never see the light of day otherwise.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Grace : part one

Grace is a settler living in Ontario on the traditional and Treaty territory of the Anishinabek people, now known as the Chippewa Tri-Council comprised of the Beausoleil, Rama, and Georgina Island First Nations. Her debut collection of poetry, The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak, is published by Guernica Editions and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her work can be found in Grain Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry, and elsewhere. Find her on social media at @thrillandgrace.

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

There are so, so many! Amber Dawn’s collection of glosas really opened my eyes to the magic of form beyond sonnets, and how poets can have all these conversations with each other—sometimes even crossing space and time—by getting their poems to talk to each other!

Reading Chrystos for the first time was also amazing because it completely up-ended what I was taught in high school, and even university, when we studied poems. The subject matter, her tone of voice, her humour and brilliance… It had a huge impact on me in terms of showing the power of poems to not only teach you, but also make you feel things. Uncomfortable things, happy things. It definitely expanded my own approach to writing when I was first starting out.

Allison Thung : part one

Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in ANMLY, Emerge Literary Journal, Lumiere Review, Juniper, Brave Voices Magazine, Roi Fainéant Press, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @poetrybyallison or at

What are you working on?

I’m putting together my first chapbook, with the goal to start sending it out by January of next year, if not sooner. I’m excited, but also semi-terrified, because my poetry is inherently very personal, and having so many pieces in such proximity to each other, conversing with one another, inspires different sentiments depending on the kind of day I’m having. 

Saturday 5 November 2022

Frances Klein : part three

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

The compact nature of poetry allows readers to really focus on details of the language, both the individual word choice and the images created. I also find the use of line and line breaks in poetry so interesting; you have an incredible amount of power to control where the reader’s attention goes.

Friday 4 November 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : coda

How important is music to your poetry?

It’s a huge catalyst. I’ve written before about being a Jim Morrison and Doors fan and I started writing under their influence, particularly their very first album. I listen to a wide variety of music ranging from John Taverner to Muse, Nirvana, Duran Duran, OMD and Fleetwood Mac. I don’t write directly from the inspiration of lyrics but music often gets me into that mediative poetic state – not a trance exactly – but in that heightened emotional state, which kickstarts writing. 

Thursday 3 November 2022

Emily Osborne : part one

Emily Osborne’s poetry, fiction and Old Norse-to-English verse translations have appeared in journals such as Vallum, CV2, Canthius, The Polyglot, The Literary Review of Canada, and Barren Magazine. Her debut book of poetry, Safety Razor, is forthcoming from Gordon Hill Press (Spring 2023). She is the author of the chapbook Biometrical (Anstruther Press) and winner of The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Award for Poetry. Emily has a PhD in Old Norse Literature from the University of Cambridge. She lives on Bowen Island, BC, with her husband and two young sons.

How did you first engage with poetry?

My childhood home was filled with poetry books, thanks to my mother who had done graduate degrees in modern American poetry and Sylvia Plath. I remember being six and trying to muddle my way through verse that was totally abstruse and yet which seemed desperately important for me to understand. And yet, the first times I concretely remember writing poetry began in emotional responses to aesthetic experiences that seemed inexplicable in language. How could these feelings be communicated? I think many people first create visual or verbal art because of this instinct that a feeling, thought or experience requires an altered form of language or visualization in which to exist and be given to others, even if this instinct is unconscious. I was also lucky to have early experiences with literary criticism, which came from the late Fred Cogswell, who was a close family friend. I would send my poems to him and he would write back with annotated comments and suggestions. As an adult I look back and think of his phenomenal kindness in doing this, considering how busy he was with The Fiddlehead and teaching and everything else life throws at us. His legacy inspires me. 

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Katerina Canyon : part ten

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

Lately, for me, it is all about Audre Lorde. I have her complete collection. I'm re-reading The First Cities right now. One of my favorite poems in that collection is "Echo." It is a poem about being stuck, about the desire for renewal.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

john compton : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

yes. my poetry has grown and the knowledge of what i understand with poetry has grown. when i first began writing poetry i knew very little of what i was doing or what poetry was. i enjoyed the words. now that i have been writing poetry for over 20 years i not only enjoy the words, but the look of the words, the sounds, the definition. i enjoy creating an expense ecosystem with few lines. i enjoy the manipulate of creating. the abstract and metaphor.

Monday 31 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

The burden of finding the best word and syntax, along with the awareness that revision may be perpetual. 

Sunday 30 October 2022

Diana Rosen : coda

As a journalist and nonfiction book author, I’ve written primarily about tea for many years. As the Chinese saying goes, “One never lives long enough to learn everything there is to know about tea.” I feel the same way about poetry. Every poet I read, every class I take, every textbook I peruse tells me something to consider in the reading and the writing of poetry. While I feel most comfortable writing free verse, the discipline and challenge of switching it up by writing the occasional villanelle or a sonnet, the charm of learning alternative international forms like ghazels or haiku continuously excites me; it’s always a thrill to try something new to me. 

Saturday 29 October 2022

Frances Klein : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I use the strategy of micro-edits to revise poems--doing targeted revisions on just one aspect at a time (sound, line, word choice). After I’ve gone through my normal edits, I’ll let the poem sit for awhile to get some distance. After some time away, I can tell that the piece is either done, or that it needs to be totally reimagined.

Friday 28 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Where do I start? I have some cracking anthologies. I’ve been reading 100 Poems to Save the Earth by Seren Books. Some beautiful, heartbreaking work in there; also the inaugural issue of The Storms, which is full of excellent work – a glossy publication. Arachne Press have the A470 Road anthology, which is bilingual and is made up of poems on the theme of this Welsh road that crosses South to North.

I often read R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet, and would recommend No Truce with the Furies, blistering poems at the end of this priest’s life. I’d recommend Rae Howells’ first collection with Parthian, The Language of Bees, and I’ll be reading Mari Ellis Dunning’s 2nd collection soon.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Jenna Jarvis : coda

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know that ‘coda’ is a musical term. I have questions of my own. What comes after graduation? If I missed half of the Y2K revival era’s Y2K bug–if I missed half of the COVID-19 pandemic because I was in Taiwan, where community transmission wasn’t a thing until the rest of the world’s fourth wave–have I missed my chance at relatability? Would people like to do poetry karaoke? Did poetry karaoke happen without me?

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I recently discovered a poet by the name of Matthew Johnson. His collection Shadow Folk and Soul Songs is spectacular. I highly recommend it. I'm also slowly reading Tracy K. Smith's book Such Color.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

john compton : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

when the poem tells me it no longer wants more length. when that last line bursts and to add anymore would be to ruin the whole poem. there is no definitive answer for me to this question. sometimes i am afraid if i move forward the poem will no longer be what it set out to intend. after i take a few breathes, i begin editing.

Monday 24 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Lately, the following quote from Jack Hirschman has convinced me more that one of poetry’s noble purposes is propaganda for progressive politics:

“I don’t have the negative association with the word, ‘propaganda.’ I believe all poetry is propaganda. For one or another reason, a love poem is a propaganda for love.” 


Marie Marchand : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I love this question! Music is one of the most important things in my life (even though I don’t play an instrument or sing, but not for lack of trying). I cannot imagine life without music! That may be why musicality is what draws me to a poem and why reading my work aloud during the composition and editing processes is such a valuable exercise to me.

Sunday 23 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part five

How does a poem begin?

Most of my poems begin either with an observation (people, places, things, incidents) during an ordinary day especially as someone who travels frequently by public transportation. Sources for narrative poetry like I enjoy writing are everywhere! The other way my poems begin is via prompts. One of the benefits of attending many freewrite workshops in person and online is that I no longer ponder when given a prompt, but immediately deep dive into subconscious/memory to bring up a topic whose time has arrived to be told.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Frances Klein : part one

Frances Klein (she/her) is a poet and teacher writing at the intersection of disability and gender. She is the author of the chapbooks New and Permanent (Blanket Sea 2022) and The Best Secret (Bottlecap Press 2022). Klein currently serves as assistant editor of Southern Humanities Review. Readers can find more of her work at

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on putting together my first full-length collection, which is both intimidating and exciting. At the moment the process involves selecting previous works to include, as well as writing and revising new poems to fit with the themes and motifs I want the collection to center.

Friday 21 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Creative tensions abound in writing poetry. When poets start out and are unpublished, there’s often more freedom and risk-taking. I think a lot of writers would agree that once they start to get their poetry published they become more aware of editors and readers and dissect their own work. This has pros and cons because it means the quality control antennae are out but this can also be inhibiting. I’m generalising here – everyone is different - but having spoken to a lot of writers and read accounts of the process, this seems pretty accurate to me. 

It's also easy to rehash and refashion earlier pieces of writing and regurgitate ideas and themes. You can see this as development and playing with ideas but there are times when I see repetition in my own work and have to take out the surgeon’s knife. This is about discipline and trying to be expansive. All too easy to be circular in subjects and themes and play it safe.

Finally, I’d say putting together a collection is difficult. You can be blinded by choice in terms of pieces of writing to choose for a book and also go down a certain route (thematic, non-thematic), then want to park this approach and start again. Taking time and getting second and third opinions helps with coming to a more concrete idea of what you want to create. There’s no such thing as perfect or right so it’s all about choice in the end. Changes can be made in a second edition so being calm about it is best!

Thursday 20 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I have an interesting reaction to this question, because in addition to being a poet I’m a musician and songwriter, and while for many folks those art forms are siblings—or maybe cousins—writing songs feels very different to me than writing poems. I’ve really struggled to write decent song lyrics! I want to approach a song like I approach a poem, but that doesn’t work so well. To me, it feels like a totally different muscle, and I’ve been humbled by the incredible songwriters in the world who manage to rhyme and give us an ear worm and yet also do something lyrically fresh.

But maybe that’s not what you meant. Musical language is incredibly important to me; I’m always reading my drafts aloud to listen for off-rhyme and syllabics and line length (and sometimes I purposefully mess with all of that, and create lines that aren’t so musical, to indicate distress or ugliness or the like). When I had a first draft of my current manuscript, “Refloating,” I tried to create a sense of music not just within each poem but between them throughout the manuscript. This meant being careful not to repeat adjectives, say, but to purposefully repeat certain nouns and verbs, to create echoes. I remember discovering after I’d sent it out that I’d used the verb “coax” in two poems that were too close together and kind of freaking out. Ha!

I love playing with stuff like that. It’s the joy of the work, to me.

Jenna Jarvis : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Call me sophomoric, or call me Manahil Bandukwala’s evil twin. Pop music helps me figure out popular sensibility. Specifically, pop music lyrics attune me to that pop sensibility. What do people like? How do people read, listen, consume? Not to contradict Jarvis Cocker, whose lyric sheets ask audiences to compartmentalize reading and listening, but, when it comes to pop music and karaoke renditions, I and most people I know read the words and listen to the song simultaneously. When Manahil launched MONUMENT, I followed along with my copy. Reading her words and listening to her intonations and pauses stuck the poems in my mind. I dream of doing a karaoke-styled reading with poems scrolling through a display. 

(I really don’t mean anything by contradicting Jarvis Cocker. I have been a Pulp devotee ever since my elementary school teachers banned me from searching for my first name on Google because of Jenna Jameson and suggested that I Google my surname.)

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Audre Lorde and her book Sister Outsider changed the way I saw myself and the way I saw poetry. I learned how poetry belonged to Black women because it was something that we could do anywhere. It is an art of economy. It is an art that gives us power. You can write poetry on a napkin and stick it in your pocket. It can carry the weight of the world, and it can fit on the tiniest slip of paper. How amazing is that?

Tuesday 18 October 2022

john compton : part one

john compton is a gay poet who lives in kentucky with his husband and dogs and cats. his 3d full length book is the castration of a minor god [ghost city press; dec 2022]

What are you working on?

i am currently working on my fourth full length collection "the calling hour & an exposition of the dead." it is a collection of poems about the dying, dead and death — in various forms and stages. it is finished as a collection, now i am in the editing process. 

i am also working on promoting my third full length book the castration of a minor god [ghost city press: dec 2022]. it is the first book that i will be able to hype up with poetry readings, send to reviews and awards and be that real type of poet!

Monday 17 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Numbers matter. The longer the poem, the more words, lines, and stanzas that have to be kept in check. Monostichs, couplets, tercets, and quatrains, I can consider being in their final and eternal form in less than an hour. Longer ones, let’s say any poem of at least 10 lines, may take me and our Rat’s Ass Review online poetry workshop a few days.

I’m sure that it’s normal for serious writers to give any work a second to nth look, and revise accordingly until they are satisfied. The various modern poetic forms and styles aside, I’m still particular with “traditional” grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If there appears to be any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation error in my poem, most likely I’m just plain wrong – and not because I’m experimenting or “practicing” literary license or whatever. And until I’ve edited out such errors, a poem remains unfinished.

And like any poet, I have my own subjective standards on what makes a fine poem. Achieving its finest form is like ironing clothes: once I‘ve removed all that I perceive as wrinkles, it’s final and good to wear outside. However, I’m always more confident with poems that are workshopped, that benefited from the inputs of my incisive peers. But sometimes, an awkward line goes unnoticed even in a most extensively workshopped poem. One poem that was workshopped for three days was eventually published with the following problematic line: “I am ‘not (nor) sweet like Mary.’" (I’ve rectified this line and the poem will be included in the website I mentioned in the first part of this interview.)

Marie Marchand : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Having inspiration and discipline meet up at the same place and time. Because I work full-time, I write every day 5:45-7 a.m. with more time on the weekends to really develop any seeds of poems I collect during the week. I still have yet to discover the art of funneling inspiration into the routine that I have available to me. Most often, my morning pages aren’t poetry, but more journaling, processing, and even jotting to-do lists. If I’m lucky, I plant some seeds to return to when I have more free time.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part four

Why is poetry important?

The concision of most poems crystalizes moments of emotions/transitions/connections that humans need to help them through both the everyday and the extraordinary occasion. It’s been wonderful to learn that people who do not ordinarily read poetry turn to it when they need emotional relief during political upheavals or a crisis of illness. We are lucky to live in an area where access to the Internet and online resources in local libraries give people increased access to so many poets around the world. That is important, and possibly unifying, in helping us all move toward understanding that the appearance of differences in culture and creed is superficial; that underneath all of us are similar desires to ease loneliness, give us courage, find love, nourish ourselves with the written word. The poet, Ukrainian-born Ilya Kaminsky, wrote in the New York Times, “I ask how can I help…Finally, an older friend, a lifelong journalist, writes back: ‘Putins come and go. If you want to help, send us some poems and essays. We are putting together a literary magazine.’” Kaminsky adds, “In the middle of war, he is asking for poems.”

Saturday 15 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part five

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

May I be greedy? The truth is that I return to several poems and poets when I feel in need of a lift. 

Perhaps I can begin with George Herbert, whose marriage of craft and content seems to me to be exemplary. I admire the concrete nature of ‘Easter Wings’. As a child I was fascinated by the final verse of ‘The Elixir’ (‘This is the famous stone ...’). As an adult, I find myself returning to the poem we know as ‘Love’ (‘Love bade me welcome ...’).

I have already mentioned ‘The Lady of Shalott’ in an earlier question, but I feel I must include Tennyson’s classic poem here. I can recite parts of it by heart and am often drawn back to this poem by the narrative, the fairytale element, the imagery of the mirror and the web, not forgetting the wonderful ‘soundscape’ evoked by the shivering aspen and the quiver of raindrops in the stream. 

I have known and loved Cornwall all my life, and would like to mention two poems here that I read over and over again. There are, in fact, many poems about the county that I could mention, written by a variety of authors ranging from Betjeman to Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hardy to W.S. Graham; but for the purpose of this interview, I will restrict myself to ‘Cadgwith’ by Lionel Johnson and ‘Zennor’ by Anne Ridler. Cornwall was home to my elderly relations when I was a young child. It was the setting for family visits, and later for holidays on the Lizard. I chose a verse from the Johnson poem as my epigraph at the front of Driftwood by Starlight, my first full poetry collection, and I nominated ‘Zennor’ as a favourite poem for the BBC’s Poetry Please programme some years ago. ‘Cadgwith’, it seems to me, evokes in a few short lines something of the sense of wonder that I have experienced on the occasions when I have stood under the stars, listening to the waves breaking on the shore of a Cornish cove. ‘Zennor’ fascinates me with its ever-shifting coastal perspectives. The mention of the rocky, sloping hamlet of ‘Amalveor’ in the final stanza seems for a moment to ground the poem, before the sea forces its way back in again in the final line. I find the very name, ‘Amalveor’, evokes the rugged landscape of Penwith, a place that means so much to me.   

Friday 14 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, since taking poetry seriously in 2018 I realise more and more how many talented writers are out there and how few ever make it – by this, I mean win awards, get a collection published by a press, get circulated, read and reviewed, earn any kind of royalties from their work, etc. 

Some of the most compelling, inventive, fresh writing I have encountered has been by completely unheralded writers who will probably stay that way because they’re not fashionable or good at promotion. The resources are pretty low in poetry – a tiny amount of poets get any sort of meaningful support that gets them any sort of following and readership and it’s a shame about the talent-drain – you can see on social media that a lot of writers get disheartened and turn away. But you have to be tenacious and work hard, then have that bit of luck that people will recognise your talent and push you up above the parapet. The rewards in poetry are pretty vague but, as I say, one of them is to get some appreciative readers, shift some books and get asked to be involved in different projects.

I assumed that the most talented were the ones with the highest accolades but this is exceptionally naïve. Like any industry it relies on talent and persistence but also what you know, who you know and whether your work is a viable product.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem can begin with a memory, desire, observation – a message the poet want to convey. Often, I would write a preamble to ‘set up’ the poem. I had a wonderful mentor who would read my preamble, and promptly strike it out, saying “your poem beings here.” The first 2/3 of the poem may have been taken out. The beginning of the poem should be the crux of the poem; the core experience of the poem where the moment is occurring, even if the moment shifts from that point.

Thursday 13 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Recent collections that have made a deep impression on me include The Tradition by Jericho Brown, Instant Winner and The Life by Carrie Fountain, The Carrying by Ada Limón, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke, Hundred Year Wave by Rachel Richardson, In the Time of PrEP by Jacques Rancourt, and some essential ecopoetry anthologies, like Black Nature (edited by Camille Dungy) and The Ecopoetry Anthology (edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street).

Jenna Jarvis : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t. I outsource that decision-making to friends (er, ‘peers’). When they run out of feedback to offer, I’m done. When my attention runs out, I’m done. I write in an abbreviated medium and call the habit pithy instead of inattentive, but I don’t hold editing for conciseness to be the only kind of editing. I don’t think that ‘additive’ is a dirty word.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part seven

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

Writing good poetry requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. Opening yourself up like that is very difficult. It is the hardest part of the job.

Monday 10 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I started writing poetry with confidence around 1988, when my sophomore high school English teacher Ms. Ilonah de Jesus complimented me after a haiku writing exercise. I’ll never forget that moment because at that time I still lacked confidence in my writing skills. So it was a sweet surprise when she declared, “So, we have a poet in our class: Karlo Sevilla.” 

Marie Marchand : part three

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is a doorway to sacred expression. The Chinese character for poetry (shih) combines “word” and “temple.” The sacredness comes from honesty about deep things (thoughts, fears, traumas, even hopes) that might normally stay hidden by the human psyche. Through the brave act of revealing, we connect with others. This is the where the redemptive value of poetry resides—as a reminder that we all belong.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I always have a pile, and dipping in is my reading style, but several books lately have mesmerized me: Kim Dower’s I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom which showcases her delightful wit and sense of irony and a good dash of pathos. She is a master of the twist ending. An older work is Picnic on the Moon from Charles Coe who is both a poet and a singer and his musicality rocks these poems like “Get on Up!” about taking his mom to a James Brown concert. It cheers me no end to re-read it on dark days. I love reading memoir and bios and a version of that in poetry and prose is Marcela Sulak’s Mouth Full of Seeds which I still have not completed. It is so intense a view of sorrow and joy, a meditation on life, especially that of a woman with many roles thrust upon her. Each summer, for my birthday, I buy a coveted book, and this year’s is The Heart of American Poetry edited by Edward Hirsch whose interview on a Library of America zoom-cast delighted and intrigued because he has chosen such a lovely and atypical variety of poets to embrace.

Saturday 8 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part four

What are you working on?

I am in the final stages of preparing my crown of sonnets for publication in 2023. It is entitled Polar Corona and was awarded First Prize in a Hedgehog Poetry Press Competition earlier in the year. The interlinked sonnets that comprise the crown concern Antarctic exploration and penguins. Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021), my first full poetry collection, included poems that touched on conservation issues and the climate crisis. These are themes that will surface once again in Polar Corona. 

Homer continues to be a source of inspiration, and I have a file in which I place my Odyssey- and Iliad-inspired poems as they appear. Perhaps one day they will be published in a pamphlet. And meanwhile, I have enrolled on a Poetry School course on Robert Frost, so I look forward to studying his work and responding with poems of my own in the coming weeks. 

Friday 7 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t think poems are ever finished, even if they have a finished, complete feel to them. If you give your poem to different editors, most of them will easily be able to identify things they’d modify and often they have a point! The idea of completing a poem is probably an illusion but a satisfying one in terms of a sense of achievement. For me, it’s important to identify in the first place that genius words don’t just pour forth from an inspired poet but that it takes concentration, focus, a degree of control and patient drafting before a poem has that hard-to-define special, finished quality. Then there’s gauging responses from an audience and getting feedback – if that matters to you as a writer. I find that running poems by honest poetry friends is really useful in tightening up your work and clearing up any confusing, sloppy and non-sensical parts. It’s key to find the right poetry friends who are fantastic writers and constructive readers. It takes this growth mindset and looking at your work over time that ensures progress in poetic development.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part four

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

Poetry evokes emotion, and a way to access complex emotions, by using rhythm, cadence and emphasis on language and sound. As well, through the use of metaphor, a poet can liken their experience, concrete and abstract, to tangible objects or concepts that are relatable for the reader.

Thursday 6 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

So many. The first poem I ever adored, in part because it was familiar and yet also mysterious to me, was Muriel Rukeyser’s “Effort at Speech Between Two People.” Then I got into e.e. cummings. This was in high school, when I first started writing terrible abstract poetry (at least I was writing). Contemporary and Modern poetry blew my mind when I discovered it in college. Some of the poets who opened that world for me include Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and of course William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. Later, I began to love Robert Hass, Mark Halliday, Charles Wright, Anne Carson, Li Young Lee…I could go on forever. I have shelves upon shelves of poetry books. Looking back, it’s notable how few poets of color I read in the beginning. Luckily, that’s changed. 

Jenna Jarvis : part three

What are you working on?

Singles. Individual poems, although I’m following a life line: academia, expattery, (un[der])employment… at this stage, I should develop a manuscript. Should develop my internet presence on LinkedIn and Twitter (that is, LinkedIn for writers).

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part six

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

Poetry works very hard to earn our trust, and once the trust is earned, it strikes the heart. It is hard to get that trust in other forms because the audience is often waiting or looking for the hook. Poetry does not have a hook. It is pure.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Jared Povanda : coda

I’m still so new to poetry, and I still have a lot to learn, but one thing I do know is that poetry is a beautiful art form that challenges and inspires and gets to the heart of humanity in such strange and true ways. I hope I can keep writing poems that resonate with readers, and I hope that poetry will always allow me to keep learning about the world.

Monday 3 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part one

Karlo Sevilla of Quezon City, Philippines is the author of the full-length poetry book Metro Manila Mammal (Soma Publishing, 2018) and the smaller collections You (Origami Poems Project, 2017) and Outsourced! . . . (Revolt Magazine, 2021). In 2018, his work was recognized among that year's Best of Kitaab, won runner-up in the Submittable-Centric Poetry Contest, and placed third in Tanggol Wika's DALITEXT poetry contest. In 2021, his poem made it to the shortlist of the annual Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. His poems appear in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, DIAGRAM, Protean, Better Than Starbucks, and elsewhere. He is currently a student in the Associate in Arts program of the University of the Philippines Open University.

What are you working on?

I have just submitted almost 70 of my previously published poems (in several literary magazines and other platforms) for a website that will be put up exclusively for them. The website is a side project of a group of undergraduate university students who major in Multimedia Arts. It will serve as accompaniment to their final thesis: a short animated film inspired by my other poems. In short, both their final thesis and its side project are all about my poetry. These students are risking their college graduation by choosing my poetry as main source material for their thesis, haha! Seriously, I’m grateful to these young people for reaching out to me from out of the blue with their emailed proposal, and now they’re halfway done with their short film.

At first, I was ambivalent because I have long considered gathering my poems in a manuscript again for consideration for print publication as my second full-length poetry collection.  But I ultimately favored this student project and have a third of my previously published poems freely accessible in one website. I opted for the latter because I feel the urgency to make available online more texts that heighten awareness of human rights violations and social injustices in the Philippines that remain unresolved from the infamous Marcos dictatorship to the likewise murderous Duterte administration. Under our current president who happens to be the son and namesake of the late dictator, the administration has been lying and denying that such atrocities happened during his father’s reign. Worse, the son claims that the years under his father’s iron rule that was also marked by economic crisis was the Golden Age of our country. 

The poems I selected are invariably political propaganda pieces – on “different levels.” Collectively, they are a small voice/counter-propaganda, among others that give the lie to the government’s false narratives. (I’m also glad for this project because it gives me the chance to share my poems again, with needed revisions in some of them.)

Marie Marchand : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I suspect a poem is nearing completion when I start writing less and reading aloud more; it’s a sign that the poem is coalescing and coming into its own. When it’s finished, there’s a whole-body experience of satisfaction—a celebration and, oftentimes, a desire to share the poem. So, I’ll give it to someone as a gift, publish it online, or submit it to a journal. Also, there’s a strong sense—a deep knowing—that the poem now exists as its own entity, almost like a child with its own identity, and it has an opportunity to go out into the world and have an impact outside of me. 

Sunday 2 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Line breaks! So many factors go into the decision making, from the visual appearance on the page to the rhythm of them when reading the poem aloud, to choices of stanza styles. I’m sure that’s why a prose format with poetic turns is so appealing, especially when the basis of the poem is narrative rather than lyric.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I had the chance to explore John Clare’s cottage and garden in Helpston, UK, a few years ago and was enchanted with the setting. The visit made me keen to engage with Clare in a new way, so when I heard about The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet, 2013) by David Morley, I was delighted to be able to do just that. I have read Professor Morley’s collection several times and have discovered something fresh on each occasion, often in terms of the characterisation and dialogue between John Clare and Wisdom Smith. How wonderful it would be to sit outside in the firelight, joining in the colourful conversations between the protagonists.   

When I saw an advertisement for The Craft of Poetry: A Primer in Verse (Yale University Press, 2021) by Lucy Newlyn, I knew at once that the book would appeal to me. Newlyn, a poet and Emeritus Fellow in English at St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, set herself the fascinating and ambitious task of ‘building a bridge between academic and practical methods of instruction’ in poetic techniques by writing new poems to illustrate the points she hoped to make. Curiously (in the light of my previous paragraph), the resulting volume is hailed as ‘a masterpiece about poetic process’ by David Morley. Poems, notably ‘The Thought Fox’ by Ted Hughes, about the writing of a poem, are not hard to source; but who would have thought of writing a Villanelle to describe, and indeed to show, the actual process of writing a poem in this form? Newlyn employs the same ‘verse-form specific’ approach when she tackles other forms, such as the Terza Rima, the Found Poem and the Sestina, in a seamless ream of words.  

At this point I would like to mention poetry collections by two poets who live in South Wales. What the Turtle Taught Me (Cinnamon Press, 2018) by Susan Richardson was Shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and was written during the poet’s residency with the Marine Conservation Society. Each of the thirty poems concerns a threatened marine species. These poems are often witty and wistful at the same time. They are accompanied by an excellent essay entitled ‘Thirty Ways of Looking at the Sea’ in which the reader encounters not only the poet’s wonderful dexterity with words, but also her wildlife activist’s heart. 

The other collection with strong South Wales associations is Garden of Clouds, New and Selected Poems (Cross-Cultural Communications, New York, 2020) by Peter Thabit Jones. The poems range from lines that invite us into the poet’s childhood home, where he lived with his grandparents on the edge of Kilvey Hill in Swansea, to verses that whisk us across the Atlantic to California. Peter has enjoyed many two-month residencies in the famous Cabin at Big Sur above the Pacific Ocean. In ‘Edward Thomas in Swansea’, one of the poems in this collection, Peter (or the voice of the poet) explores the sense of dissatisfaction experienced by Thomas prior to the unleashing of his poems. 

The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy (Matador, 2021) by Jill Stanton-Huxton is a delightful book, and one that has left its mark on me. It was composed, at least in part, as a personal response to The Lost Words (2017), which was written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. Like me, Jill was saddened to learn that the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed a significant number of ‘nature’ words to make room for ones that were felt more suitable for a technological and digital age. Jill’s enchanting poems were inspired by a chance meeting with a hare. They will appeal to adults and children alike. 

I have also been enjoying a couple of mini-anthologies in pamphlets produced by Candlestick Press. These exquisite pamphlets come with an envelope and a bookmark and are intended to be sent ‘instead of a card’. My choices, Ten Poems about Wildlife (2022), selected and introduced by Pascale Petit, and Ten Poems from the Coast (2022), selected and introduced by Miriam Darlington, come highly recommended, with their characteristic blend of the best of the old and the best of the new.