Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Andrew Michael Gorin : part two

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

I think poetry often operates outside of capitalist economies of value and exchange, simply because it’s not deemed valuable by the broader culture. Many people know James Sherry’s old joke (as retold by Charles Bernstein) that “a piece of paper with nothing on it has a definite economic value. If you print a poem on it, that value is lost.” Of course, poetry in the age of social media and the academicization of the literary arts has a cultural capital which increasingly translates into actual capital. So I should say that poetry can operate outside of conventional economies of exchange, perhaps more than other forms.

This is good and bad. It’s bad because poets have trouble making ends meet, and those with independent resources have an easier time of it. It’s good because poetry may be somewhat less beholden to the economic interests of powerful institutions and corporations, especially given all the small press and self-publishing that goes on. To put it in more personal terms, I regularly feel the dismissal of poets and poetry that comes from the American professional elite and even from many sectors within the academic humanities. There’s nominal approval of our supposedly noble endeavor, sure. But deep down the lawyers, doctors, scientists, policymakers and other members of the middle or managerial class think poets are lazy masturbators. 

Because of this, many poets are able to write against the status quo, and many become activists in one way or another. Compare the number of formally experimental and/or politically active “successful" poets to the number of successful novelists who fit those characterizations. Whereas in my scholarly work, I’m constantly aware of and influenced by the demands of “professionalization” and the list of things humanities departments are currently looking for from prospective faculty, in my poetry, I tend not to think about these things, for lack of expectation that I will be rewarded if I do. This is probably naïve, because English departments are now virtually the ONLY places in the US where experimental poets can be financially supported for what they do.

Joanne Epp : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading Leaving Holds Me Here: Selected Poems by Glen Sorestad, whose poems about his mother resonate with me right now. Also Time Capsule, a posthumous collection of new and selected poems by Pat Lowther, whose work I am just getting acquainted with. And I just bought David Yerex Williamson’s brand-new first book, Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is the creation of a space, a vessel, a vacuum, that can hold whatever it is you need held. Besides that, I find myself pretty allergic to statements of what poetry is or is not. For a genre that is so unbelievably varied in its contemporary existence, how can poetry be one or the other thing? All of which to say, poetry is more important or less important depending on the context of the poem, the intent of the poem, the community of the poem, which way the poem allows power to flow. I personally gravitate towards poetry that refracts the gaze of the universe, that catches the glare of our world’s multiple violences and throws it back, that laughs defiantly and off-kilterly at this place we call the now. It’s held as common knowledge, at least for the last number of decades, that poetry (and literature in general) doesn’t do anything, especially in the world at large. I wholeheartedly reject this viewpoint. I know what poetry, what novels, have done to me. They’ve rewired me at the molecular level. If that isn’t important, then what is?

Katherine Lawrence : 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 seem to wait for two things to occur. First, I get a feeling sense of something. Next, I read or hear a word or phrase that somehow aligns or reminds me of that feeling sense. I may not keep the phrase but the ‘found’ language gets me going. 

I’ve always been part of a writers’ group. I currently hang out with two groups of trusted writers. The back and forth, the feedback we exchange with each other, is gold.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Lauren Theresa : part five

How does a poem begin?

I hear the inner voice. It’s my voice but at a different vibration—softer, deeper, and more graceful almost. I hear the first line and know I have to grab a pen or open my app because the rest is coming.

Jennifer Bartlett : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

It tells me.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Fizza Abbas : part one

Fizza Abbas is a writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her work has appeared in more than 100 journals, both online and in print. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Idle Ink, Poetry Village, The Cabinet of Heed, Petrichor, Riggwelter Press, Poetry Pacific, One Hand Clapping Magazine, London Grip, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook, Ool Jalool, won the Fahmidan Publishing 2021 Chapbook Competition and was released the same year, whereas the second collection, “Bakho” (A girl with unkempt tresses) has been published by Ethel Press in 2022. She has also been a Best of The Net nominee and Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2021’s shortlistee. She has also won a monthly poetry prompt contest organised by Oxford Brookes University. She is currently working on her goal to get published in 10,000 by the end of 2030. Besides writing, she runs an interview series for writers on her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZrZRCg9m_Nk5HR3MOkLfsA). She can be reached out to at @fizzawrites on Twitter.

What are you working on?

Thank you for asking this question. I've recently completed my third chapbook, ''Lament of The Sunken'' which comprises over 30 nautical-themed poems written in a soliloquy-esque manner. Each of these poems expresses and alludes to different phases, trials and moments of my life. Aside from that, I'm working towards my goal to get published in 10,000 journals by the end of 2030.

Kelly Krumrie : part one

Kelly Krumrie is the author of Math Class (Calamari Archive, 2022). Other creative and critical writing appears in journals such as Annulet, DIAGRAM, La Vague, Black Warrior Review, Full Stop, and The Explicator. She also writes a column for Tarpaulin Sky Magazine called figuring on math and science in art and literature. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. https://kellykrumrie.net/

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

There’s something about answering these questions that feels intensely personal to me, and private—they feel impossible to answer and also I kind of don’t want to. This is probably part of why I’m more drawn to fiction: a character can be like a telephone pole I’m hiding behind, which is easy because I’m tall and thin. 

What’s most difficult about writing poetry for me is that I don’t really ever feel like I’m writing poetry. I don’t think I do, to be honest. When I set out, I’m writing a short story or a novel or a novella, whatever, and I shake loose from that form. I know we’re more flexible on genre these days, and in some way it’s a boring topic, we can use words like “hybrid” and so on, but I do think there’s such a thing as a short story and a poem and that they’re different: they take different shapes, have different ways to go about reading and writing them, and that’s interesting to me and worth holding on to. However, often the texts I write—though I imagine them to be fiction and I work within and through certain fictional constraints—aren’t quite fiction enough, we might say, or someone might say, or a journal might take them in their poetry pile rather than their fiction pile. “Poetry” can be a big bucket where we toss in writing we’re not sure what to call, and that’s generous of poetry, it’s kind of nice! But it also makes me feel a little guilty, or sick to my stomach, like I’m cheating. This feeling will probably change, will probably lighten, tomorrow or a year from now—I admit that it’s and I’m mutable (and so’s art).

Friday, 24 June 2022

Jessica Purdy : part one

Jessica Purdy is the author of STARLAND and Sleep in a Strange House, both released by Nixes Mate in 2017 and 2018. Sleep in a Strange House was a finalist for the NH Literary Award for poetry. She is the author of the chapbook Learning the Names (Finishing Line Press 2015). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals including The Night Heron Barks, Radar, Menacing Hedge, SoFloPoJo, Harpy Hybrid, Lily Poetry Review, One Art, Poemeleon, and Museum of Americana. She is poetry editor for the anthology, Ten Piscataqua Writers: https://www.tenpiscataqua.com/writers/. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaPurdy123 and her website: jessicapurdy.com

What are you working on?

I have multiple manuscripts looking for homes. One I’m particularly excited about is a chapbook entitled “The Adorable Knife: Poems on Frances Glessner Lee’s The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” I am obsessed with the Nutshells enough to have seen them when they were exhibited at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

The poems are named after each “Nutshell,” which are meticulously crafted miniature crime scene dioramas meant to help police officers hone their observation skills. It is my intention to honor Frances Glessner Lee’s own attention to detail in crafting these, as well as to imagine possible “solutions” by giving voice to the stories told in the crime scenes. In some of the poems, the speaker is the victim, and in some, the speaker could be the perpetrator. In still others, it is the poet’s voice speaking.

Another manuscript entitled “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” explores the anxiety of motherhood.

“Annual” is a chapbook of poems written in response to Sylvia Plath’s poems.

“You’re Never the Same” is my ekphrastic manuscript. 

I am generating more poems than I know what to do with these days!

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Magus Magnus : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Towards the Primeval Lightning Field, Will Alexander

Dancing in Odessa, Ilya Kaminsky

Yr Skull a Cathedral, Param Anand Singh

Stretched Warp, Maria Damon & Alan Sondheim

Split Series (chapbook), Christophe Casamassima

Share the Wealth, Maureen Thorson

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important for many different reasons to different people. For me, it is a vehicle or a voice or an outlet for my creative and philosophical ideas. I always wanted to be an artist growing up. I wanted to be a musician or guitarist. I wanted to be a painter. I wanted to be a short story writer. When I discovered contemporary poetry at the library and I saw Octavio Paz, Rosario Castellanos, Francisco X. Alarcon, Lorna Dee Cervantes, I saw that I could do it, too. Folks like me had done it before and done it well. Why couldn’t I do it? 

Poetry is like a religion to me. So long as I can write poems and prose poems that I’m proud of, my life will have meaning. Writing poetry fulfils my dreams of becoming an artist. It gives me new dreams of teaching, editing, and leaving doors and possibilities open. Poetry is dreams. Poetry is important because without it the world would lack part of its soul.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Michael Joseph Walsh : part four

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

Having required a bit of renewal lately, I can answer this directly, although not exhaustively: John Ashbery, Emily Dickinson, Laura Riding Jackson, Clarice Lispector, Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley, Lisa Robertson, Jack Spicer, and on and on. A more exhaustive list would probably have 20 or so poets and writers on it, give or take. The test is simply whether reading a given author makes me want to write—not to write like them, exactly, but just to participate in the same activity—to be among them, in however small a way.

I think most writers have a roster like this. I otherwise read broadly, and I enjoy a great deal of what I read. But we all have our little pantheons, and I think it’s good to remind yourself that that source of renewal is there, and not to be shy about returning to it.

Bex Hainsworth : part one

Bex Hainsworth (she/her) is a poet and teacher based in Leicester, UK. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, Ethel Zine, Atrium, Okay Donkey, Acropolis Journal, and Brave Voices Magazine. Find her on Twitter @PoetBex

What are you working on? 

I’m currently dabbling with the drafts of two poems which retell famous stories from a female perspective. One is narrated by Helena, a character from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the other is in the voice of Thetis, nereid and mother of Achilles in Greek mythology, exploring the events which led to the hero’s birth. I am also working on my debut pamphlet of ecopoetry, which features a collection of odes to marine life, and highlights the threats they are facing. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Andrew Michael Gorin : part one

Andrew Michael Gorin (andrewmichaelgorin.info) is a poet, scholar, and Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the New York University English department, where his work focuses on the intersection of American literature and culture, media studies, and theories of the public sphere. He is the author of Someone Like You (Gauss PDF, 2017), and the creator and co-editor of the collaborative writing project Executive Orders (The Operating System and Organism for Poetic Research, 2016-2020). His critical and creative writings have appeared or are forthcoming from journals and periodicals including Chicago Review, Criticism, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and Urban Omnibus, among other publications, and he has been a Writer-in-Residence at Millay Arts and Yaddo. He also serves as an organizer and editor for the multi-sited poetics working group and small press, the Organism for Poetic Research, and as an editor for the climate-crisis-and-culture platform, The Distance Plan. Since 2012, he's taught courses on literature, critical theory, and creative writing on the campuses of CUNY Brooklyn College, CUNY Queens College, and NYU. In the fall of 2022, he will be teaching a course on “Media and the Environment” in the NYU department of Media, Culture, and Communication. 

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

The important shift for me came when I figured out that I think poetry should do more than be clever, or interesting, or beautiful, or weird, or funny. I got tired of readings where the most rewarded work was the kind full of clever one-liners that got laughs, or work that rebelliously disrupted the high-seriousness of the genre through inappropriately jejune or surreal images and tones (I’m certainly guilty of writing like this at times). I’m all for humor, strangeness, linguistic play, youthful freshness etc.. But the ivory tower of poetic self-seriousness was toppled long ago. Poets should set their sights on cultural problems beyond the literary ones, even if academic battles are often proxy wars for larger social conflicts. 

People tend not to think of him as a “political” poet, but oddly enough it was probably the time I spent reading and writing about Frank O’Hara that made me most interested in poetry that intervenes in oppressive norms of representation in the public sphere. I wrote an undergraduate thesis on O’Hara and the queer experience and politics underlying what I called his “dialectical sincerity.” I also gravitated toward the experimentalism of the Language writers, though it took me a long time to understand and critically assess the political implications of their work and theoretical writings (there’s plenty I now disagree with there). In general—and I think that many people who didn’t already feel this way have come to do so in the last 10 years—there’s too much at stake for any artform or cultural worker to neglect getting concertedly involved with the fight for social and environmental justice. And I absolutely disagree that there’s a necessary division between politically committed art and art that promotes some liberal ideal of aesthetic freedom from the exigencies of politics or the requirements of self-preservation. Sabotage of an oil pipeline is a very beautiful poem. 

Joanne Epp : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I was about twenty-three when I decided to take poetry seriously, but the roots of that decision go back a long way. I read poetry in school, both elementary and high school, and can still recite lines from some of the poems I read then. At home we had a few books of children’s poetry, but we also had my dad’s old poetry anthologies from high school and college, and I read from those as well once I was a bit older. I wrote a handful of poems in my school years, and then gradually began writing more as I entered my twenties. It seemed to be a natural means of expression for me.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Since Shifting Baseline Syndrome came out, I’ve found myself devouring recent Canadian poetry. I thrilled at Bardia Sinaee’s Intruder. I’m currently reading Noor Naga’s Washes, Prays, which is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. A real accomplishment of vision, language, and voice. I am a massive fan—and good friends with—two of Canada’s preeminent visual poets, Eric Schmaltz and Kate Siklosi. Finally, I feel a major rereading of Allen Ginsberg coming on.

Katherine Lawrence : part one

Katherine Lawrence is the author of three collections of poetry for adults and a young adult novel-in-verse. Her books have won and been nominated for numerous awards. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Katherine has lived in Saskatoon for over thirty-five years with her husband and their two daughters.

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Today I understand that I am forever a student of poetry. It’s a relief to arrive at this place. I bring the same attitude to reading other poets. A good poem will always prompt me to ask what I can learn. 

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Lauren Theresa : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Creating space to listen. My poetry has always been a process of quieting and hearing the words come through. I need to consistently create the time and space to be in that flow.

Jennifer Bartlett : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My father, Lee Bartlett, is a critic, poet and professor. I grew up with people my father knew, such as Galway Kinnell. and Michael McClure. William Everson was my father's mentor. The first poet I loved, like many people was Allen Ginsberg. The second poet I loved, strangely, was Jorie Graham.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Where do I begin? I currently work for a music label and have been helping with music in one way or another (blogging, curating, interviewing, marketing) for about ten years. 

If I'm writing, I'm listening to music. If I'm not writing, I'm listening to music. Music has always been there. Before poetry and certainly after. Music is a large part of my life, arguably larger than my writing, and I don't know where I'd be without it. It calms me, it inspires me, it gives me energy, it makes me feel like I can take on the world. Rather than cover the expansiveness of my love for music, I'll break it down into two categories.

Some favorite artists to listen to while writing poetry:

Jon Hopkins, Ludovico Einaudi, Toumani Diabete, Olafur Arnalds, Molly Drake, Black Taffy, Blockhead, Duendita, Al Bowlly, El Michels Affair. 

Some favorite poetic artists (whether that be the lyrics or the world-building)

CocoRosie, R.A.P. Ferreira, King Creosote, billy woods, John Frusciante, Cake, Blind Pilot, Boldy James, Zelooperz, Pink Siifu, Celeste.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Tariq Malik : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Andrea Cohen’s minimal and elegant poetry demonstrates how few words are required to communicate effectively, Valzhyna Mort uncovers unexpected layers of resonance in the state of mind of a character performing a mundane task, Yusuf Saadi invents words and phrases when traditional language fails him. 

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Magus Magnus : part two

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

Poetry in its experimental and contemporary freedom – also, on the level of context and genre, with its embrace of hybrid forms – allows us to draw nearest to the present as it is happening, to the actuality of the imagined, and to the flow of thought, of mind, brainstorm; it allows us to approximate each of these phenomena (presence, imagination, thinking) through words. Indeed, even the ancient and traditional forms, through their constraints, provoke a freedom that defines the edges of what arises in the world and in the mind. 

Poetry, as it is the literary art working closest with language and syllables and letters themselves (the latter at least since Dada and, later, the Lettrists), has the capacity to break language off from the rest of existence as its own plane or, alternately, to fuse itself with thought and knowing – consciousness itself coming to words and resonance. This is when the poet aligns with the plasticity of the medium: language itself as a self-proliferating, fractal, unfolding, which has the capacity to form and be formed, informed, as or in accordance with thought-as-it arises and, ultimately, reality. 

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’d say James Tate and Alberto Ríos. With Tate, I had never read surreal prose poetry. His unique, understated approach to prose poetry spoke to me right away. I was fascinated by his dry sense of humor, sense of alienation, and accessibility. Less was more with Tate. I immediately felt inspired to write some of my own. Mine were shorter pieces, about half a page long (his were about an entire page long), and mine also often had Mexican American imagery. Still, he lit a fire in me that continues to this day.

With Alberto Ríos there was less of an influence in terms of the initial writing process. I read Ríos later in life. However, when I saw that he was writing in couplets and in an understated way about his upbringing as a Mexican American, I felt it made me feel similarly validated in writing couplets with a similar backdrop. I was already writing a similar style as Ríos, however, the fact that his style was so celebrated gave me the stamp of approval that I was on the right track. When someone said I reminded them of Ríos early on, I thought it was just an easy comparison because we are both Mexican American. Later, as I read him more, I started to see what a high compliment it was because I’m trying to do a lot of similar things on the page. If I had to describe my writing style or aspirations to someone, I’d say a mixture of Tate and Ríos would be ideal.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Michael Joseph Walsh : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I very recently read (and then reviewed) Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s new book, Aerial Concave without Cloud, which (spoiler alert) is terrific. I’ve also been re-reading a lot of Lisa Robertson, and am looking forward to reading Boat, her new book, which just arrived through the mail.

Anna Lee-Popham : part five

Why is poetry important?

Poetry invites the writer and reader to determine the expansiveness, the constraints, the air, the textures of a language. Poetry takes none of that for granted. Poetry breaks what could be seen as cemented, permanent, resolute, immobile in language and so points to that possibility throughout language and also throughout our social, political, personal lives and the broader landscape we live within.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Monica Mody : part five

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

To name just two of many—reading Raul Zurita’s Song for His Disappeared Love (translated by Daniel Borzutsky) was for me like remembering poetry’s original task. Then there is Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette—intensely archetypal, moving through naming/healing not as a given but as an experiment. 

Joanne Epp : part one

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Joanne Epp has published poetry in literary journals including The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, and Canadian Literature. Her first book, Eigenheim, earned her a nomination for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Married with two sons, she spent several years in Ontario and now makes her home in Winnipeg. Cattail Skyline is Joanne’s second book.

Photo credit: Anthony Mark Photography

What are you working on?

For quite a while I’ve been working on a series of poems based on letters and diaries written by my grandmother and great-grandmother, and I hope to actually have a manuscript to show for it some day. This year, with prompting from Ariel Gordon’s workshop series, I’ve also been paying particularly close attention to the slow process of winter moving into spring—the snow diminishing, the changing light, the returning birds—and have been writing about that.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part three

What are you working on?

As always, I have a number of projects on the go, both poetical and not. I recently finished a new draft of my novel, Lake Burntshore, which should be on submission soon. The novel is about Jewish summer camp, settler colonialism, love and hatred, making a better world—you know, my usual things. My rewriting mantra while I was finishing the new draft: More Jewish. More Strange. For the first time in a number of years, I have a new batch of poems in the process of coming into the world. I think it has something to do with Shifting Baseline Syndrome finally being published, it cleared the poetry decks for the slop and entrails of making new work. The new poems seem to be concentrated around a number of different nodes: language; settler colonialism; the CIA; grasses, trees, carpets; soft planets; the golden age of malls. You know, the eternal subjects of poetry. I feel like these new poems are the apotheosis of something, whether the particular style and voice I’ve been digging into for more than a decade, my obsession with the possibilities of the prose poem, my growing sense of fear and loathing, what my friends call Kreuternoia. Perhaps these first three books will end up constituting a loose trilogy. Or, perhaps not. 

Carol Harvey Steski : coda

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding time and mental space to let my mind play is my current challenge. Also, wrangling the form can be daunting, knowing whether the path I’ve taken is the right fit for the ideas I’m trying to convey. 

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Lauren Theresa : part three

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

Poetry can seep through our defenses. When I write I’m not concerned about how it will come out or if it “makes sense” so I can allow whatever needs to come through to come to the surface. When folks read poetry, they aren’t entering a debate. It doesn’t explain or tell any opinions, it’s something else entirely. So the reader can rest their defenses and just let it in whatever the poet is presenting. When defenses are lowered, new ideas are readily shared and real shifts can happen.

Jennifer Bartlett : part one

Jennifer Bartlett’s most recent book is Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography (theenk Books, 2014). Bartlett also co-edited, with Sheila Black and Michael Northen, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. She also cofounded Zoeglossia, the first organization in the United States to promote and nurture the work of poets with disabilities. Bartlett has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Fund for Poetry, and the Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is currently writing a full-length biography of Larry Eigner.

What are you working on?

I actually have not written a poem in about four years. Somehow my experience with the lock down due to Covid in Brooklyn had a huge effect on me. I have learnt that I am a highly social being and this had a huge effect on my mental health. I have been telling people that I have to feel safe to write a poem, and I haven't felt safe in awhile, but I am also beginning to feel like my language, the language of poetry, has been taken from me. 

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part four

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

There is a poem by John Maradik called “They Found the Python” that bewilders and flabbergasts and impresses me every single time. It's my favorite poem and I'm going to read it out loud right now and it's one you should read out loud every time you get a chance. It makes me teary-eyed sometimes and always it makes me smile. The ending! John Maradik is my favorite living poet without a debut collection. 

It's also the title poem for Maradik's mini-mini chapbook (three poems): http://www.factoryhollowpress.com/scram-press-books/they-found-the-python-john-maradik 

Friday, 10 June 2022

Tariq Malik : part four

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

Poetry compresses the time, thought and emotion of a lived experience so that it is able to resonate beyond its spatial and temporal frame. Poetry, thus, allows its reader to relive and recreate the heightened state of mental and emotional arousal in a distant future. 

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Magus Magnus : part one

Magus Magnus sources poetry and “the poetic” as central both to the extremes of interiority (thought, philosophy) and exteriority (performance, deed). Books include The Re-echoes, Idylls for a Bare Stage, Heraclitean Pride, and Verb Sap, as well as, on Kindle, The Free Spirit. His Substack newsletter, Poetry, Thought, Word Magick, is an ongoing writing project designed to track in real-time the creative process and its confrontation with impinging circumstance. 

What are you working on?

My focus into Fall 2022 is to complete the manuscript of The Killing Joke, a poetic hybrid that frolics in poetic forms, philosophy, and cultural criticism. The book is forthcoming from The Mute Canary. 

The Killing Joke traces the history and concept of the "Killing Joke" upon three pop cultural nodes: Killing Joke, the band; the Batman/Joker comic by Alan Moore; and the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with its lethal joke sketch – “no one can hear it and live.” In so doing, the ancient archetype of the Trickster - in the guise of Jester or Evil Clown – emerges. Laughter isn’t so much an antidote to our increasingly unanchored, deranged, chaotic times as it is a looming, cackling, echoing, funhouse mirror, non sequitur non-answer. 

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I first started writing poetry in my 20’s, I tended to write about politics and trying to change the world. As I got older and the world continued to burn, I started to write more odes or homage pieces to the people in my life, like my parents, that I wanted to thank or everyday experiences about growing up first-gen Mexican American as opposed to broader political rants with agendas. Also, as I finished graduate school, I started writing prose poems both surrealist and absurdist. Many of these prose poems were written in the third person which was new to me having only written in first person before that (other than fiction). The third person allowed me to be less personal, to write more in persona or as a mask or sorts, avoiding the confessional of my personal life.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Michael Joseph Walsh : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Many have, but I remember in particular having a revelation after reading a lot of Wallace Stevens for the first time. It’s hard to read a lot of Stevens and not come away feeling that a lot of the time he really is just playing—I think I said something to myself along the lines of “He’s just making things up!” And that was incredibly liberating, the idea that you could just make things up, just play. This seems obvious now, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I was 20. I had this very unhelpful idea, which I think I got from misreading Eliot, that to write a really good poem you had to know beforehand what the shape of it was, and what you were aiming at—when you wrote something down, you had to already have a sense of how it fit into an architecture that you had already pre-drafted in your head. I could almost never do this (obviously), so I rarely wrote, and when I did, I found it very stressful, because in order to get anything done I had to (of course) just make things up, which felt like “cheating”—how could the poem “mean” anything, if I wasn’t sure what I was doing when I wrote the words? If anything, I’ve since moved closer to the opposite extreme; if you ask me what one of my poems “mean,” I’ll certainly have things to say, but I’ll come to those conclusions just like anyone else would—by reading the poem and thinking about it. I don’t think much at all (at least not consciously) about what my poems mean as I’m writing them, and certainly not before. Which doesn’t, I hope, prevent them from meaning a great deal (or having the capacity to generate meanings, which amounts to the same thing).

Anna Lee-Popham : part four

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

Dionne Brand’s Inventory or The Blue Clerk

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Monica Mody : part four

What are you working on?

I usually find myself working on many projects at once. Soonish, I would like to turn my attention to putting together my next manuscript. I have been writing away since the manuscript of Bright Parallel went out, albeit without concerning myself with the shape of how these poems flow together. Assembling a book can be a transfiguring project, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will show up through its frame.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part two

How does a poem begin?

For me, each poem begins differently. A poem could come as a single image or idea that I then carry around for weeks, months, years, before giving it shape. Often enough a poem comes as a title. Images, lines, jokes, insights, questions, conundrums, phrases, rages large and small accrue and accrue until gravity kicks in. Poems come in ones, twos, threes, twenties. Take a poem like “Cousinage,” from Shifting Baseline Syndrome, for example. I had been joking that my partner Steph and I were eighteenth cousins for years, but it wasn’t until I came across the word “cousinage” in a French dictionary that the poem took form and combusted; after that, it more or less spooled out of me. This is opposed to poems such as “Eighteen Ways of Looking at Magneto Destroying Auschwitz in X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Hydrophobia,” or “Off-Screen,” which I had to work on for many months.

Carol Harvey Steski : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

It’s a critical part of my process. I’m a passionate lover of music, all kinds. Rhythm features prominently in my poems; I love to make words bounce. To me, poetry and music come from the same place, a primal source; they’re connected. Listening to music while I write fuels me, and it can jump-start stalled creativity, which is cool (and very helpful).

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Lauren Theresa : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I often get chills when a poem ends. When editing, there’s a feeling I get in my chest like a switch flipped, and a deeper knowing that it’s right.

Jennifer Hasegawa : part five

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

Poetry requires a lot from its readers. For example, for me, at its best, poetry doesn’t provide answers; it asks questions. The reader must mine the poem for meaning and the meaning resides in the reader. Other forms might provide facts or build out fantastic worlds, but I think poetry questions the facts and asks readers to build their own worlds out of the atoms in a poem. That’s hard work, but that’s also why poetry can start revolutions.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

To make this list would be a massive undertaking. If a writer is on their A game - if a book is really captivating me - then the lines and paragraphs are steadily changing the way I think about writing. This happens to me every week. Every week I learn a new way to approach a poem or a new technique or a new trick just by reading more than I write. That being said, the one's who made me throw my hands in the air, burn my manuscript, and realize anything was possible on the page?

Eric Baus. He has a poetry collection called The Tranquilized Tongue where every line starts with 'The'. 

C. Dylan Bassett. He has a book of one-act plays called The Invention of Monsters where each piece is titled [scene] yet it'd be nearly impossible to adapt a single one of them onto the stage.

Joanna Ruocco. Some may say she only writes prose but oh no, she is a poet. Her lines. Her lines. Every damn line. 

CAConrad. Have you read CAConrad? My god.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Perhaps the most musical poet I've encountered, where jazz bleeds on the page. Psychedelia and surrealism frequent the page and jazz, jazz, jazz runs rampant. His poetry collection The River in the Belly is the wildest poetry collection you haven't read, and his novella Tram 83 is still rattling in my brain. The late night jazz, the grass, the mines. He has another novel out called The Villain's Dance (2020), I'm just waiting (impatiently) on the English translation to be released. 

Zachary Schomburg and Mathias Svalina. I'm going to clump these two together like I would James Tate and Charles Simic, not only because I started reading them at the same time but because it was my first time finding story inside of poetry. A paragraph with captured tale. A prose poem tiptoeing in dreamland. Richard Brautigan introduced this sideways world to me, but Schomburg and Svalina crystallized it, pumped it full of more heart and more darkness and more sorrow and more loneliness and more joy and more beauty. I consider these two my poetry father and mother. You can decide which is which. 

Jean Van Loon : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I can't write even a grocery list while listening to recorded music. Music is too compelling to my ear and distracts me. But while I write, I listen in my head for rhythm, phrasing, emphasis, and sound. When reading poetry, I hear it in my head, and feel cheated if I don't hear music. To me it is a necessary ingredient.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Tariq Malik : part three

How does your work first enter the world? 

I have developed a form of bi-phasic sleep, where no matter what time I go to sleep at night, I am awake after midnight for a few hours during which I read poetry that inspires me. The reverberations that this activity sets off puts me in a certain frame of mind that is conducive to creative writing, a kind of sympathetic resonance from which new ideas materialize, and old ones emerge set in new patterns. Once I have set down the newly emerging pattern of words, I am able to return to sleep; over the subsequent nights and days I am able to polish the evolving work.

Catrice Greer : part five

How does a poem begin?

It seeds itself. It blossoms or it sings its voice as a whisper or loudly.
It may be a single thought or a stream.

For me it is all of these things, a frequency and I ride it obediently where it asks to fly, swim or dive.
I am an assigned steward and work hard to pull the weeds to retain only the story. 

Basically, I hear my poems or sense them. That is how most begin. I can and sometimes do write from a prompt in a workshop.  I have a literary skillset I work hard to study and learn over decades so some of that is a strong foundation and allows this intuitive freedom in the beginning. As with all crafts, skill, editing, knowledge, form are foundational necessities.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : 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?

My first and only reader is my wife Cheryl, a visual artist who, as a teenager, attended readings by Robert Creeley. He was famously generous towards other poets, but she is tough, so I have to pay attention and carry scissors, for excisions.

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When the poem flows as well as it can. When the poem jumps off the page and demands to be read in one sitting. After this reading in one sitting, if there are no hiccups or errors, one knows it is finished and ready to submit. I feel that figuring out when a poem is complete is like when you’re making oatmeal in the morning without instructions. It’s not your first rodeo. You know what it takes to get it just right. Before a poem is ready, you tinker with it. You add spices or specificity (of imagery, for example) to the initial writing. You make sure the punctuation accentuates the pace and tone. You add a little of this; take out a little of that: until it's just right. Sometimes poems require very little editing. Others require a more hands-on approach,

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Michael Joseph Walsh : part one

Michael Joseph Walsh is a Korean American poet. He is the author of Innocence (CSU Poetry Center, 2022) and co-editor of APARTMENT Poetry. His poems, translations, and reviews have appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Guernica, FOLDER, Fence, jubilat, and elsewhere. He lives in Denver.

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

I’m not sure it can accomplish anything that other forms can’t, but it certainly accomplishes some things more readily. One is density of meaning. Other forms can achieve it, but it’s hard to compete with poetry in terms of the ratio between the meaning conveyed and the number of words employed. Of course, that’s partly why poetry tends to be “hard”—it’s “hard” because it’s dense; it’s overloaded with meaning, relatively speaking. And insofar as this level of density can be achieved in other forms, it tends not to be sustained (since it’s hard to write, and takes effort to read). And we tend to describe the result, appropriately enough, as “poetic.”

The other thing that I look to poetry for, which may or may not be related to what I’ve written above about density, is its relative freedom from the injunction that writing should “make sense.” Wittgenstein once wrote that “a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.” This of course applies to all genres of literature, to varying degrees. But poetry seems to me the most liberated from the information-provision game (which isn’t to say that a poem can’t convey information, if that’s what the poet wants it to do). There are many ways to mean without at the same time making much in the way of denotative sense, and in fact, jettisoning some amount of denotative sense might be a prerequisite to our being able to clearly perceive these other kinds of meaning. I think these kinds of investigations are important, and I think poetry is the genre in which one can explore these outer dimensions of meaning most freely.

Anna Lee-Popham : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

A chance to lift up and appreciate poetry books that I’ve been reading is too good to pass up – so I interpreted “lately” expansively. I’ve been reading, and often returning to re-read, these books over the past year or so. 

Jordan Abel’s Un/inhabited

Yassin Alsalaman’s Text Messages

Daniel Borzutzky’s Lake Michigan

Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (not always categorized as poetry, but vastly poetic)

Don Mee Choi’s DMZ Colony

Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters

Renee Gladman’s Event Factory

Liz Howard’s Letters from a Bruised Cosmos

Kim Hyesoon’s Autobiography of Death

Doyali Islam’s heft

Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas

Sachiko Murakami’s Get Me Out of Here

Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead

Raquel Salas Rivera’s while they sleep (under the bed is another country) 

Solmaz Sharif’s Look 

Rita Wong’s forage 

C.D. Wright’s Rising, Falling, Hovering 

Raúl Zurita’s Song for his Disappeared Love 

I also recently read Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police and, while not necessarily a poetry book, it has expanded my understanding of poetry. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Monica Mody : part three

How does a poem begin?

When a poem wants to begin, it often arrives—as image, clustering words, phrases /marked/ notch of significance, uncanny palm pressing outward against the heart. 

Monday, 30 May 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part one

Aaron Kreuter is the author of the short story collection You and Me, Belonging and the poetry collection Arguments for Lawn Chairs. His writing has appeared in places such as Grain Magazine, The Puritan, The Temz Review, and The Rusty Toque. Kreuter lives in Toronto and is a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University. His second collection of poetry, Shifting Baseline Syndrome, came out this spring with Oskana Poetry and Poetics.

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

At the moment, I am not in a writer’s group, though I have been in them before and I believe they’re an important part of the writing community. That being said, the work of writing a new poem is similar to being in a writer’s group of one: every time I return to the poem I’m a different person, in a different mood, with different sectors alit, with different levels of chemical and linguistic attention. The goal, in some ways, is to work the poem again and again until all the various members of myself are pleased—or, at least, indifferent—to the poem. After that, I’m a strong proponent of sharing my work before I submit it; I’ll read it to my partner, my family, my friends, the dog, the plants, basically anybody who will listen. (I will also read a poem I’m working on aloud to myself many, many times.) If I can’t get something quite right in a poem, I’ll share a written copy to get feedback. My poetry writing process is one of repetition, of experiment, of play; of, in a word, rewriting. I just go and go and go at a poem until there seems nowhere else to go. Then I wait a bit, come back to it, and go some more. 

Carol Harvey Steski : part four

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

It’s visceral, and efficient. A poem can ignite the body like a livewire. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Lauren Theresa : part one

Lauren Theresa (she/her) is a queer divergent writer, plant witch, and archetypal therapist living in a NYC-ish corner of NJ with her husband, daughters, and maybe-dingo. She is a poetry editor for Olney Magazine and the author of LOST THINGS (Bullshit Lit ’22.)  Her writing has appeared in HAD, Maudlin House, awkward family gatherings, and more.

What are you working on?

I have a few works in progress at the moment including my chapbook All the Ways I Killed Myself When Killing Myself Didn’t Work and the novels-in-verse/prose essay collections This is Not Medical Advice and the Poetry of Plants. I tend to work on many things at once to give the muses some room to move around.

Jennifer Hasegawa : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

My poems are never finished. That’s the beauty and the pain of the practice. Ever-questioning, ever-evolving, even after publication, all of my poems are unfinished.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : 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 freewrite like a madman, edit with a chainsaw, and then when I have something I'm excited about or think is worth sharing, I'll share it with some writer friends. Poets (and overall great humans) Evan Nicholls and Evan Williams see a lot of my work in its early stages, and they're always sending me great and inspiring stuff. Same goes for C.T. Salazar (although I'm more selective because with C.T., you have to bring the HEAT) and a handful of other writers in the Twittersphere. I'm grateful to be part of a tiny community of like-minded and kind-hearted absurdists. 

Jean Van Loon : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Metaphor. Several poets I know spill glorious metaphors from their pens, implying worlds. 

When I speak, I often resort to metaphor. But when writing - perhaps because of decades of work in analytical, expository, and advocacy writing - my first instinct is to the direct and simple, with a goal of clarity. That is not what poetry is about! Where metaphor does appear in my work, it often takes the form of a verb or adjective that applies to another domain than the one under contemplation, and so implies a comparison. Metaphor is something I want to work on in future, with its scope for multiple interpretations and opening up the work.

Friday, 27 May 2022

Tariq Malik : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I initially began reading and writing poetry on a personal level, I did not demand anything of it beyond its surface beauty. Now, the nature of my poetry has evolved where it has to resonate beyond the immediate page, and reveal new layers of meaning and engagement beyond the surface. I want readers to obsess over its content and keep returning to engage with it.

Catrice Greer : part four

How important is music to your poetry? 

Music is the foundational frequency of many of my poems. Some of my poems are part lyrics and part spoken word. My page poetry has lines with lyrical undertones. 

The music is another way to let my poetry come alive. 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

Yes. I started out thinking that poetry was shorter, easier, and so enigmatic that you could skate around ideas and emotions without commitment. In fact, poetry turned out to be more exacting, exposing insincerity and technical incompetence without mercy, poorly chosen words glaring back from the white page, J’accuse.

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part one

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, Conduit, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Gigantic Sequins, Huizache, Iowa Review, The Journal, The Missouri Review, Poetry, Porter House Review, Southeast Review, The Southern Review, Witness Magazine, The Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011. He teaches creative writing online and edits for Frontier Poetry. More at JoseHernandezDiaz.com.

What are you working on?

Right now, I have two full-length manuscripts that I’m submitting. They both contain poetry and prose poetry. The poems tend to be about my real life: odes, homage pieces, poems about growing up first-gen, low-income in Southern California. The prose poems tend to be surreal, absurdist, sometimes with Mexican or Mexican American imagery or settings. 

I’m also teaching a couple generative workshops online. For these workshops I like to write new prompts for prose poetry. For each prompt, I write a new prose poem, so I have been producing about 5 new prose poems per week. I also edit poetry and poetry manuscripts on the side. I have been privileged to work with writers at many different levels. I’ve worked with writers that are ready to submit to the top journals and book competitions in the world. I’ve also worked with writers where instruction is more paramount, and through a collaborative approach, we reach our writing goals.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins as a puzzle of images—usually moored to an idea, a feeling, a memory, an experience, or a response to something read, viewed or listened to. Less frequently, a poem begins as a line (a beginning or an end)—and I’ll animate a world of images around it. 

Anna Lee-Popham : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Dionne Brand, every day. Canisia Lubrin and Daniel Borzutzky. Don Mee Choi and Claudia Rankine. Jericho Brown. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Audre Lorde. Raymond Antrobus. Cornelius Eady (Brutal Imagination …!). Illya Kaminsky. Adrienne Rich. Soraya Peerbaye. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Monica Mody : part two

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

The Penguin Book of Indian Poets, edited by Jeet Thayil, just arrived in the mail—it is the first book you will see on my coffee table stacked with reads—not the least because it is an extensive compilation, featuring 94 poets—including some of my work! 

Also: rob mclennan’s chapbook Autobiography. Katie Schaag’s chapbook The Infinite Woman. Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s A Treatise on Stars.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part five

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

I find renewal, to write, in the poetry of John Ashbery. His work reassures me of poetry’s possibilities – especially for play, humour, and queerness. If I feel pressure to write more like others, Ashbery sets me back on my own track. 

I also find the work of Keats – especially reading it aloud – reminds me to breathe more fully, and that’s restorative both in terms of writing and living more generally. 

If I’m looking for renewal in a more general sense, and not just as a writer, I find it in the forest. I grew up next to a forest along the Ottawa River where the trees taught me that their company is a great salve for the weary self. Most of my best ideas for writing come when I’m alone (or quiet with a friend) in a forest or near some trees. 

Carol Harvey Steski : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When it haunts my every waking thought – and even my sleep, actually. It plays in my head on a loop. That’s when I know I’m finished or very close. 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part five

How does a poem begin?

In Victoria Chang’s epistolary book, Dear Silence, she writes that a poem begins after a silence. My poems begin in the almost same fashion, but I would much rather call my silence an emptiness. When I feel like I have given up or depleted myself of everything, I write a poem to fill that emptiness.  

Jennifer Hasegawa : part three

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

I return to Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. Specifically, the chapter “RED MEAT: FRAGMENTS OF STESICHOROS.” I return to it because it reminds me of two of my favorite things about reading and writing poetry: 

1. Breaking down conventional language to reveal new modes of seeing and feeling

2. Building mythologies out of the everyday

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part one

Benjamin Niespodziany's writing has appeared in FENCE, Sporklet, Fairy Tale Review, Puerto del Sol, and others. Along with being featured in the Wigleaf Top 50, his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. His debut chapbook, The Northerners, was released at the end of 2021 through above/ground press. More can be found at neonpajamas.com.

Photo credit: Michael Salisbury

What are you working on?

I'm fine-tuning a few manuscripts that were written over the last few years. One is a collection of domestic poems, one is a collection of one-act plays, and one is a woodland novella told through linked prose poems. While those are 99% done, I have a few other ideas in the middle/early stages, including an ekphrastic manuscript, a manuscript on film, and a tiny collection of nursery rhymes. 

Jean Van Loon : part three

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

I'm not sure that other forms can't achieve this, but I think poetry does it most consistently: combine brevity with complexity. I marvel at how an accomplished poet can suggest so much with a few words along with creative use of white space to suggest such things as the passage of time, another voice, another angle of view. A good poem also, more deftly than other forms, penetrates to the emotional heart of a subject.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Tariq Malik : part one

Pakistan-born, Vancouver-based BIPOC author Tariq Malik works across poetry, fiction, and art to distill immersive, compelling, and original narratives. His working English is a borrowed tongue inflected with his inherited languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi. He writes intensely in response to the world in flux around him and from his place in its shadows. He came reluctantly late to these shores, having had to first survive three wars, two migrations, and two decades of slaving in the Kuwaiti desert. 

Author: Rainsongs of Kotli and Chanting Denied Shores. Debut poetry collection Exit Wounds to be published by Caitlin Press on 16 September 2022.

What are you working on?

My new poetry is evolving under the working title of Kotli Petrichor. It is based on the microcosm of my 1000 year-old ancestral Punjabi hometown of Kotli, and reflects on the lives of its inhabitants as they encounter global subjects of displacement, social inequality, injustice, and social exploitation. 

Catrice Greer : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Toni Morrison “Honey and Rue” song cycle. — I always knew poetry was music to a degree. But Morrison taught me that there are no limits and no boxes for me as a creative woman. She led by example. 

TS Eliot — long form stories can be interesting and dense, but on target.

Tracey Chapman - masterful storytelling via her lyrics

Wislawa Symborska - Her skill, her mix of humor and realism.
Andrew Marvel - Be unconventional and do it your way. 

Sonia Sanchez - she was my introduction to spoken word after many years of studying and writing traditional poetry.  I learned that using my voice in interesting ways on the page and in performance was possible and freeing— My poem MommaMendsUs is a spoken word performance poem.  

June Jordan - said I can be powerful. Her poetry taught me to speak of social issues with personal power.

Maya Angelou’s work -  Taught me that  I can empower myself and others with dignity

Sitkala- Sa’s work taught me lyricism and spirituality can exist comfortably in the work

Jamaica Kincaid’s poem “Girl”. Taught me that there was room to speak of my Caribbean cultural influences and familial relationships via that cultural reference and lens. I learned that vernacular and identity had a place in poetry. I learned how to take up space on the page and let the work exist as it needs to speak intuitively. 

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When, after multiple edits, I can read it aloud and still like it, or love it. The ending loops back to the start, like a coiled snake. Most of my poems are prose poems, breathless, without periods or semicolons, only with commas, so that helps also, when the writer and reader need to breathe, it’s over.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part four

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is an ancient, sacred craft—one of the oldest forms of written expression. I think of poetry like a stream. This stream began thousands of years before me, and will continue for thousands of years after me. But poets of all eras are connected synapses, building on our predecessors, and moving our collective understandings of what it is to be human, forward. 

Anna Lee-Popham : part one

Anna Lee-Popham is a poet, writer, and editor living in Toronto. She is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, and a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education Creative Writing Certificate, where she was a recipient of the Janice Colbert Poetry Award. Her recent writing received second prize in PRISM international’s Pacific Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for The Fiddlehead Creative Nonfiction Contest; and has been published in Riddle Fence, Canthius, and Autostraddle. Anna co-hosts the Emerging Writers Reading Series and is a contributing editor at Arc Poetry Magazine.

What are you working on?

I am working on a collection of poetry, titled Empires of the Everyday, that looks at how imperialism is ever present and often operates invisibly in the contemporary quotidian. The “I” of the poems is the voice of a piece of AI machine technology that is fed news and spits out text exposing the history and ongoing presence of colonialism and state violence.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Monica Mody : part one

Monica Mody is the author of Kala Pani (1913 Press), the forthcoming Bright Parallel (Copper Coin), and three chapbooks including Ordinary Annals (above/ground press). Her writing appears in numerous international literary journals and anthologies (including The Penguin Book of Indian Poets edited by Jeet Thayil, and the soon-to-be-published Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing edited by Anjum Hasan and Sampurna Chattarji), and has won awards including the Sparks Prize Fellowship (Notre Dame), the Zora Neale Hurston Award (Naropa), and a Toto Award for Creative Writing. To learn more about her work, visit her at www.drmonicamody.com.

Why is poetry important?

If we are to steal (or claim) what will be lost to (or stolen by) three-dimensional temporal thoroughfares, we need devices and forms that blend both trickery and sincerity. Poetry can do that. It can also amplify—and celebrate. 

Andrew Hemmert : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Just today, I finally read Magdalene by Marie Howe. It’s an astounding book. Short poems, for the most part, that manage to avoid feeling sparse or lacking. She’s capable of telling these heartbreaking stories, capturing so many details of a relationship in a miniscule space. They feel like shadow boxes, or dioramas. Given I’m exclusively writing sonnets at the moment, her economy of space is very intriguing to me.

Historically I had to focus on finishing one book at a time. Now I’ve found myself able to keep multiple in-progress books on deck. I’ve long suspected that my ADHD changes how it expresses over time, and it may have something to do with that new ability. But there’s an embarrassment of wonderful poetry coming out this year. I just finished reading Constellation Route by Matthew Olzmann, which was fantastic. Playful and grave in its approach to letter writing and ode. Before that I read Rise and Float by Brian Tierney,  Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens by Corey Van Landingham, and The Echo Chamber by Michael Bazzett. All spectacular collections, in their own ways attempting to navigate the new and terrifying world with an eye trained on joy.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

A few books of poetry I’ve thoroughly enjoyed recently: Richie Hofman’s A Hundred Lovers; Raymond Antrobus’s The Perseverance; Carl Phillips’s Then the War

I also recently listened to Susan Howe and David Grubbs Woodslippercounterclatter while driving through the countryside at dusk – an inspiring, chilling experience. (It’s on Apple Music, but I think it can be found elsewhere online, too).

Carol Harvey Steski : 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’m a lone wolf, probably to my detriment. Likely I could benefit from the support, energy and accountability of a group of other writers, but so far, I’m a solo project. I’ve always been a keen observer so when something strikes me as interesting to explore – images, objects, sayings or memories – things that fascinate me or that enter my head and won’t leave, that’s how a poem starts for me. Often these are rich visually, rhythmically and/or in their meaning, so are good fodder for obsessive examination. And I dip my toes into exploring my own medical traumas, of which there seem to be no shortage (cancer, endometriosis, infertility, pregnancy loss, a disfiguring autoimmune skin disease called morphea). On that front, I alternate between avoiding dredging up unpleasant feelings and the eventual need to release them out of me. 

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part four

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

I love to read Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things. The first poem in the collection always makes my heart gallop because the poem, “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” has such swagger and grace in language and images. I will often read this poem more than a thousand times (yes, an exaggeration--! I just love it so much though) because it is a reminder of what poetry should feel like, both in my head and heart.

Jennifer Hasegawa : part two

How does a poem begin?

Chance? A hypothesis? Every poem I start is an experiment to find out if something meaningful to me will come of it. Will this feeling, vision, sound from the unconscious, from the primal mind, when explored and unraveled, be able to hook into the web of the world to contribute something, move us toward understanding, grace, or forgiveness?

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Jean Van Loon : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Almost every day. Each new poet I read (well, almost each) offers new possibilities - innovative use of language or image, new ways of seeing things, new attitudes, new forms or just new levels of enjoyment. Some spark an urge to write myself. In moments of frustration with my own work, I have sometimes thought - this is way too difficult.  Followed almost immediately by - if it were not difficult, you'd be bored, so suck it up. In the past few years, I've experienced the deep satisfaction of seeing my work offer solace to friends in pain, something I did not anticipate when I started on this path. Poetry keeps me growing.

Mary Mulholland : part eight

How does a poem begin?

So many ways. A line might wake me at night. I might be walking. or driving. I might overhear a half-sentence on a bus. It might start from a prompt or creative workshop. Or when looking at art. Or in the supermarket. Most often it's a thought that arises while I'm reading something else, usually poetry. I used to write 'morning pages' (freewriting without stopping for 20minutes) and a line there would set me off. Often I have no idea where the poem is going at first, and I rarely know what it's fundamentally about until quite some time into the editing process. For me, it's very much about freeing up the unconscious. The poem generally knows more than I do, so I try to let it be what it wants to be. A bit like bringing up children. Give it a loose enough rein, yet check it's not gone wild.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Adam Lawrence : part five

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

Seamus Heaney’s North (1975) was probably the first poetry book I got really excited about in my early university days (late 1990s). Something about those “bog” poems, the idea of “digging” down into the past (personal, historical, geological). And then I didn’t think much about it for a couple decades—until 2021, when, one fall evening, I picked up North again and (admittedly under the slight influence of a fermented grape) found it stirring up a lot of ideas. It’s since led to a chapbook-sized project.

Lately, the authors that get the creative juices going (and I’m sure this will change next year) include Stuart Ross, James Tate, John Ashbery, Charles Simic, and Alice Burdick (and probably Spicer). Okay, that’s more than one “particular author.” If I was forced at gunpoint to pick a single author? Mr. Simic (around Christmas/early new year, I read his New and Selected Poems, 1962-2012).

Catrice Greer : part two

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

For me, poetry is like a zoom lens into a snippet of life or an amplified emotion.
Other forms of writing I participate in have other functions to tell a story through a different lens. 

All forms of writing are equivalent, valuable, and important to me. Some resonate more with my way of storytelling than others.  Writing in general can be a form of healing, introspection and documentation in many ways.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

My mother knew hundreds of poems by heart. She had prize medals for her accomplishments.

I wrote my first piece (age 7) when my father, transporting a case of beer on a bicycle, crashed in the middle of the street. 

In University (age 19) I wrote two plays in Alexander Pope-ish rhyming couplets, performed for laughs in the annual theatre review. 

Decades before #MeToo, a relation, Margot Ruddock (age 26), in Dublin, was physically and emotionally injured by an affair with W B Yeats (age 67). He recovered his potency, she lost everything. He published six of her poems in the Oxford Book of Verse, 1935.

Those were my first personal engagements with poetry, outside the walls of school.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part three

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

I am intimately inspired by magical realists and drawn to art that plays with possibility. I am reminded of a Robert Burton quote: “Finitum de infinito non potest statuere [the finite cannot decide about the infinite.]” I respond to magical realism because it dares you to suspend belief about what you think you know. Our knowledge is finite. A few authors I come back to are Márquez and Bolaño. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

David Epstein : part seven

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

First of all, for a number of years, I’ve been writing in the middle of the night. Every night. You can read more about this here:  https://mysmallpresswritingday.blogspot.com/2020/02/david-epstein-in-closing-let-me-just-say.html. It’s mentally free space.  I rarely stagnate, rarely “require” renewal.  This is work, and I take it seriously. My writing partner calls me a fire hose.  I might write clunkers, what Lee and I call “dotp”s, for “dead on the page,” but I will keep on writing, using the tools. And I’ve also learned that, if in the context of a given week or month, life intercedes and less comes, it’s usually because a subconscious rearrangement is going on.  Counsel patience.  If I do find myself stagnating, I don’t rely on an author: I rely on forms. They’re kind of the jigsaw puzzles for the rainy day of poetry production. I’ll run to ballad measure, to Petrarchan sonnets, and to my own version of that, the Fifteener, which is a Petrarchan with an extra line, the septet end-rhymes most often going down as c,d,c,d,e,d,e.  And the more I work with slant-rhyme, the more satisfying I find it.  To the point where a dead-on end-rhyme feels like nested bowls: it’s hard to get them apart sometimes; whereas skewed end rhymes are like puns: they can be good or bad, but it’s the reader who takes delight in them, by apprehending the skew, completing a deliberate distortion. So, renewal, for me, inheres in getting back to the delight in language.  The rest follows.  

Andrew Hemmert : part four

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

Larry Levis is definitely one such author. At one point I actually had to take a year-long break from reading Levis’s poetry, because it was overtly influencing the direction of my work. If I ever feel like my writing is at a standstill, I’ll read all the way through his bibliography. It’s refreshing to see how different his poems are from collection to collection. And it’s relieving to recognize similar themes and obsessions from the beginning of his career to the end. It makes me less self-conscious about retreading my primary subjects of interest.

Carl Philips’s work operates for me in much the same way. I am constantly astounded by the syntax of Philip’s poems, as well as the way meditation begets scene and scene begets meditation. I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Then the War. In addition to being a book of selected poems, Then the War also contains an entirely new collection, and a chapbook I’ve never read. It’s a rare occasion that I come away from Phillip’s books without some spark of a new poem draft. His work always seems to fire up whatever neural pathways are required for me to write poems.  

Monday, 9 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Carl Phillips taught me in a Kenyon Review Writers Workshop several summers ago – a defining moment in terms of how I approach writing. Chiefly, he taught me how to read poetry as a writer of poems, fostering an eye for what I might borrow from others for my own work. But I also think he gave me a lot of permissions, if you will: permission to trust my impulses, permission to have fun with poetry, permission to share my poetry. 

I’ve read too many poets whose writing changed how I think about writing to list here. That said, I read Michael Ondaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler at 16 and felt overwhelmed by both its beauty and sense of play and fun. That inspired my early attempts at poetry, beyond those from childhood. And after I stumbled away from writing poetry for a few years in my early twenties, the work of John Ashbery drew me back. I often return to his poem “How to continue.”

Carol Harvey Steski : part one

Carol Harvey Steski’s debut poetry collection is rump + flank (NeWest Press, 2021). Her poems have appeared in Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology and literary magazines including The Temz Review, CAROUSEL, FreeFall, Room, untethered, Prairie Fire and Contemporary Verse 2. She won the 2019 FreeFall annual contest and was nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Her work was also featured in Winnipeg Transit’s Poetry in Motion initiative. She grew up in Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg) and now lives in Tkaronto (Toronto), working in corporate communications. Find out more at: carolharveysteski.com and connect with her on Twitter: @charveysteski and Instagram: @carolharveysteski.

Photo credit: Anil Mungal

How did you first engage with poetry?

In post-secondary creative writing class in the early 90s, our instructor was the incredible poet, Patrick Friesen. He opened my eyes to brilliant contemporary Canadian poets, many women, writing about whatever the hell they wanted. Just as my mind was opening to this dazzling, rich new world, I was diagnosed with melanoma and the terrifying prospect of death and disfigurement. I viewed this timing as a gift from the universe and began writing poetry to help process the trauma I was experiencing. Worlds colliding, but in a super-productive way. 

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Sometimes, I struggle with hiding behind figurative language—I want to jump out of the closet that is poetic language and just be as plain and direct as possible. When this happens, I try to experiment in prose.

Jennifer Hasegawa : part one

Jennifer Hasegawa is a poet, photographer, and community archivist. Her manuscript for La Chica’s Field Guide to Banzai Living (Omnidawn 2020) won the Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award and the collection was long-listed for The Believer Book Award in Poetry. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Bamboo Ridge, Bennington Review, jubilat, Tule Review, and Vallum. Hasegawa was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and lives in San Francisco.

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Getting out of the way. Sneaking past my logical mind is the hardest part. Sometimes it takes hours of “preparing to write.” Reading. Listening. Playing. And then an opening will present itself, the logical mind has its back turned, and I might be able to catch a poem coming through.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Jean Van Loon : part one

Jean Van Loon is an Ottawa writer of poetry and short fiction. Her first poetry collection, Building on River (Cormorant, 2018), was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second, Nuclear Family, was published by McGill-Queen's University Press in April 2022.

How did you first engage in poetry?

Following a long-time casual interest in poetry, my first true engagement came through a workshop led by Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell. I signed up in hope of a shakeup of my brain, and that I got! But my deep focus on poetry came about through the magic of a weekly poetry critique group of supportive but clear-eyed women, the Ruby Tuesdays group. We offer each other not only critiques, but introductions to new poets, prompts to new writing, information about workshops and publishing and reading possibilities - and of course moral support through the ups and downs of writing. Plus we laugh a lot.

Mary Mulholland : part seven

Why is poetry important? 

It feels like coming home.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Adam Lawrence : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

1. Nick Thran’s Earworm (2011; winner of the Trillium Award).

- This guy is just amazing—so much wit and intelligence. I mean, he wrote a sort of apocalyptic poem about a pineapple. Amazing. (Bonus shout-out: Thran’s Mayor Snow [2015].) 

2. The Best American Poetry 2016 (ed. Edward Hirsch).

- This was a special year, it seems. It included poems by recently deceased masters like Philip Levine (d. 2015) and James Tate (d. 2015). But there’s also some terrific stuff in there by contemporary poets John Koethe, Debra Marquart, and Cate Marvin—all poets that are new to me.

3. My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian)

- I can see Spicer becoming one of those poets whose work I come to for renewal (e.g., when I’m getting too prolix, when the lines are too thick, when the rhythm is becoming boring).