Sunday, 16 January 2022

E.J. McAdams : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

One of the few poetry books in my house growing up was a copy of An Introduction to Haiku by William Higginson that was my Mother’s. It was a small book with a very attractive cover of a woodcut print of ducks floating on hilly waves.  I was taken by the specificity of the images and the connection to the surrounding environment in those three 5-7-5 lines, and the way the poems telescoped (or was it microscoped) seeming to unlock something cosmic.  I tried imitating some of those haiku. 

Then I got serious about poetry in my last year of high school.  I was not a very good composition writer and so my worst class was always English.  Because I was in the low-level English class I was introduced to creative writing while everyone else had to work on their AP tests.  I liked that poetry had no rules and low expectations.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Paolo Bicchieri : coda

What are you working on?

Getting words into people’s lives in lots of ways. Familial Animals is out in the world and I’m finding more and more homes for it. I’m writing loads of articles these days on the politics of food, culture, commodities and business. Wrapping up graduate school at the University of San Francisco in May, as well!

Kate Siklosi : part one

Kate Siklosi lives, thinks, and creates in Dish With One Spoon Territory / Toronto, Canada. Her work includes leavings (Timglaset 2021), selvage (forthcoming, Invisible 2023), and five chapbooks of poetry. Her critical and creative work has been featured in various magazines, journals, and small press publications across North America, Europe, and the UK. She is also the curator of the Small Press Map of Canada and a co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press.

Photo credit: Jesse Pajuäär

What are you working on?

I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with different mediums and how they interact—mainly water, ink, and watercolour paints. I am currently finishing up a small series of petri dish poems that incorporate water, india ink, found objects, and fragments from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I’m currently really loving experimenting with how different artistic media, different fluidities and reactions, interact with and undermine the presumed fixity of text. 

Friday, 14 January 2022

Kevin Varrone : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Fighting against the ingrained urge to be logical/make sense. By this I don’t mean to imply that poems are illogical––rather, that poetry has its own kinds of logic, and they aren’t the kinds that we tend to use to be on time to work or get everything on our list when we go to the grocery store. I spend so much time doing these pragmatic kinds of things, thinking in those ways, trying to proceed reasonably through the world that it’s a real challenge for me to let other things happen––especially in writing, because language, as we tend to use it, is very much a logic-based make-sense kind of tool.

Kevin Carey : coda

Title poem from my latest book of poems.

Set in Stone

A rosary that was my mother’s
tucked in the glove compartment of his car
and a copy of Exile on Main Street
with instructions to play track 6
when he hit some lonesome desert highway.
I love him so much my chest hurts,
thinking of him riding off into his own life,
me the weeping shadow left behind (for now).
I know I’ll see him again but it’s ceremony
we’re talking about after all—
one growing up and one growing older
both wild curses.
A train blows its horn
the light rising beyond the harbor,
a dog barks from a car window,
and the nostalgia (always dangerous)
hits me like a left hook.
I’m trapped between the memory
and the moment,
the deal we make
if we make it this long,
the markers of a life,
the small worthwhile pieces
that rattle around in my pockets
waiting to be set somewhere in stone. 

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Ankh Spice : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

An English teacher introduced me to the work of Janet Frame when I was about 12. Although most of her well-known work is not poetry, she did write a great deal of it. Many writers and poets have signposted new pathways in my brain, but Janet was the one who affirmed that the steps into weird-shadow, into the strangeness of personal-lateral, and into being shaped by the particulars of place and different-brain attention to small details as very significant, all those steps I was already taking even at that age, were valid. During that year, I was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit for the first time, deeply unwell, and surrounded by deeply unwell adults, because there were no adolescent-specific inpatient services at the time. I took a few of her books with me, including a copy of ‘The Pocket Mirror’’, the only volume of her poetry published in her lifetime. My own story echoes hers to a mild extent – she was famously saved from a lobotomy when a doctor learned she’d won a literary prize for that book. I was spared electroconvulsive therapy at 14, partly because a psychotherapist fought against it after reading my poetry journals. I suppose this is a lateral answer – perhaps Janet Frame didn’t change the way I thought about writing so much as let me know that perhaps there was already worth in the ways I couldn’t help thinking about it and everything that feeds it. And I think she gave me permission to write from the deeply personal, sometimes scary places – conscious that there’s little silver hooks of universal hung all the way through the net of the confessional. Other people who have been caught on them recognise their glimmer, and know they’re not alone in being caught, that when the poem allows itself to swim free (there is a redemption in most of my work of this type), just maybe they might, too.

Victoria Toykkala : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Some of poetry books I have been reading lately have included Erin Moure's Furious, Richard Siken's Crush,  Anaïs Nin, along with some classic Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and e.e cummings.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Abigail Wender : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

On my desk right now: Breathturn, Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris; Rehearsing the Symptoms, Ann Cotton, translated by Rosmarie Waldrop; The Voice, Robert Desnos, translated by William Kulik with Carole Frankel; and Pale Colors in a Tall Field, Carl Phillips. 

Nikki Dudley : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

So many great ones – Some Murmur by Lydia Unsworth, Cajoncito by Elizabeth M. Castillo, Superstitions by Michael Sutton, The Dredging of Rituals by Louise Mather, and so many more. My TBR list is huge!

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Kathleen McCoy : part one

Kathleen McCoy teaches and lives at the edge of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York where she lives with her husband and the cats who own them. Her poetry has appeared in publications in the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S. Her poetry collections include Green and Burning, More Water Than Words, and Ringing the Changes.

Photo credit: David Graham

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

As far as primal genesis goes, I think of poetry as an evolutionary form of life and imagination, one that can be generated initially by language itself, by the image, or by the idea. Sometimes, a poem begins to form around a line culled from a dream or the music that was a constant source of creation in my child-mind. My twin sister and I used to play on the stairs of our two-story house, traipsing up and down all afternoon, singing folk songs and making up our own. We learned a kind of back-and-forth and separate solos way of improvisation that I think carried on into adulthood; for her, it led to a career in music education and singing, and for me, to literature education and writing. It's enjoyable to work from sound, which conjures images, which conjure stories, which lead to ideas. But poetry can spring from anything--a memory, a bit of overheard conversation, an image recalled from the day, a phrase that pops into existence, a few bars of a new tune that won't go away. But I don't think in plots, just in ideas and images and musical phrases, so for me the end goal is generally a poem.

My work enters the world at its own pace, quite unrushed. I do keep a journal, rather loosely, in which I enter scraps of imagination, dreams, ideas, or images that arise during a walk or reading or even in the tub, at times when my consciousness can slow down and allow whatever needs to bubble to the surface to do so. I usually pound out a draft fairly quickly--between twenty minutes and three hours--and then compulsively rework it over months. I keep most of my drafts digitally, so that when I'm up to number 6 or even number 15 and am satisfied that it's gone as far as I can take it, I know it's time to send it out. I submit my work sporadically, working it around my teaching and civic responsibilities.

I am fortunate to have a writer's group with four to five other women who are incredibly talented, consistently encouraging, and gently honest about each other's work. We met every month for about thirteen years before the pandemic. Now we meet when we can, on a few days' retreat we make for ourselves when the pandemic is relatively under control in our area, or via Zoom. If it weren't for their sage counsel and urging, I'd probably have a couple drawers filled with drafts that few people would ever see. But now that just isn't enough. The writing isn't complete, is it, until it has earned an audience? It feels that way now. I write for myself, but the final draft has to speak to a wider world. When it's going well, there should be a sort of balance between timelessness and hitting at least a glancing blow at the zeitgeist for me to be satisfied with a body of my own work.

David Bradford : part five

What are you working on?

I’ve got a second book coming! Bottom Rail on Top (Brick Books, 2023) is something I’ll be editing likely in the spring and summer, a dense sequence of sequences about central conceptions and narratives of Blackness—from my own here and now, and looking all the way back and down to the South. I’m lining up a few things for that. But lately, I’ve mostly been working on a translation, also for Brick Books, of Désormais, ma demeure, Quebec poet Nicholas Dawson’s third book. It’s a collection of hybrid essays, prose poem and photos so eerily familiar to me in terms of depression, diasporic contexts, and, among other things, masculinity, all inquired into with a kind of languid, readerly, lush, run-on lyrical essayism and interdisciplinarity I'm revelling in all over again as I work my way back through it. 

Writing-wise, I’ve been increasingly trying to lean toward keeping it top secret / full in-the-dark mode. I’ll just say I’ve been thinking about the gravity of dominant groups as a subject for the dominated, and about dominant group readerships wanting to be addressees, wanting the symptoms of their gravity addressed, wanting to hear the dominated group describe the domination’s effects in heavy detail. I’ve been thinking about this particularly in terms of certain white people and whiteness and trying to cut across performances of all that and move on from them in a big way. I’ve got something cooking that’s working on that.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Bára Hladík : part one

Bára Hladík (c.1992) is a Czech-Canadian writer and multimedia artist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from the University of British Columbia and her work can be found in EVENT Mag, Hamilton Arts and Letters, Bed Zine, Empty Mirror, Cosmonauts Avenue and elsewhere. Bára is the founding editor of Theta Wave, a digital magazine of experimental arts. She was born in Ktunaxa Territory and is now a guest in Esquimalt, BC. Her first book New Infinity is forthcoming with Metatron Press (2022).

What are you working on?

I’m working on editing my first book New Infinity, out this spring with Metatron Press! It’s a hybrid novella/collection that follows a woman as she lives and dreams with autoimmune disease and finds herself healing through the process of bibliomancy. In the process of editing i’ve suddenly began writing a acu-if novella. I’m also writing personalized dream divinations, a collection of tiny spells, and an illustrated zine about my experiences in radioactive treatment. 

Aysegul Yildirim : part one

Aysegul Yildirim’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Maynard, Beir Bua, Strukturriss, The Babel Tower Notice Board, Lothlorien and Otoliths, among others. She had her work shortlisted for Streetcake Innovative Writing Prize 2021. She is a PhD candidate in sociology in the UK. 

How important is music to your poetry? 

Although I haven’t had any formal education in music, I used to play the violin in orchestras and ensembles. This has had a significant influence specifically on how I go about in the first draft. I think how you start heavily depends on the senses and the unique ways we trained them, consciously or otherwise, have huge consequences for the work we produce. There have been instances where the piece started solely as a resonance responding to a certain image in my mind. And the form of the poem would then depend on how I organise these resonances. Then the existing language tools, to the extent they are available to me, will capture and transcribe this sound-image assemblage onto the page. The examples of these resonance experiments have been published on The Babel Tower Notice Board.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

E.J. McAdams : part one

E.J. McAdams is a poet and artist, exploring language and mark-making in the urban environment using procedures and improvisation with found and natural materials. He has published five chapbooks: '4x4' from unarmed journal press, 'TRANSECTs' from Sona Books, ‘Out of Paradise,’ an e-chapbook from Delete Press, ‘Close-range Divinities’ from Shirt Pocket Press, and most recently, 'Middle Voice’ from Dusie Kollectiv.  UDP published his 4x4 – “BOOM/BOOM/BOOM/BOOM” – in its Poste series. He had a solo exhibition, an installation called Trees Are Alphabets, at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and a mail-art piece in a group show at Phoenix Art Museum. His poems have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, Pamenar Online Magazine, The Paris Review, EOAGH, eccolinguistics, About Place Journal, unarmed journal, and others. Recently, a selection of poems were collected in the anthology Poetics for the More-than-Human World. He was chosen by Laura Mullen and Angela Hume for 'Heir Apparent' in The Volta's Trash Issue which featured a visual TRANSECT. Another visual poetry project, ‘Wayfaring,’ was covered by author Robert Sullivan on A Public Space's blog. He curated the Social-Environmental-Aesthetics reading at EXIT ART from 2009-2012 and was a founding board member of the interdisciplinary Laboratory of Art Nature and Dance (iLAND).  

Photo credit: : Stephen DeVita

What are you working on?

It is tentatively called Bird Opera.  If “Hope is the thing with feathers,” Bird Opera is the thing with more feathers.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Paolo Bicchieri : part five

Why is poetry important? 

This question got some Twitter attention the other day, and I think in itself it’s an important question: why does any art form matter? For those who engage with a medium, the medium’s output needs to be ethical, restorative, and critical – determinants of quality. While semi-relative, and the worth of the poem can be relative, the quality is there or it isn’t. To showcase to audiences why poetry is important, a writer just has to write something that can spark interest, the quality of the poem resonating or not. Westside Gunn’s Buffalo, New York stories resonate broadly. Joy Harjo’s vignettes of Native American worlds also connect with millions of people. No need to split hairs: poetry has been around, will stay around, and will continue to be important when it is done well and brings enlightenment to folks.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Kevin Varrone : part three

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

I feel that poetry has a kind of permission to be inarticulate––to stammer compellingly through all the things we see and hear and feel and experience that are beyond the capacities of lucid speech and articulation. I don’t know if other written art forms have that kind of permission. 

Kevin Carey : part five

How does a poem begin?

So many things come to mind when I think of how poems begin. Sometimes for me it’s a story, something that happened to me, or to someone I know (after all I may not be much but I’m all I think about, ha ha). So I may begin with the details of a scene in that story. It could be a description of a place, a conversation, or an image in that scene. Perhaps an establishing shot of the scene. The memory expands from that initial spark, and drives me into the poem, writing down as much of that experience as I can remember, trying to recapture (and relive) the scene, then making some kind of narrative form out of it. I often write to the sound of my own voice, picturing myself reading the poem to someone, or to a group. Eventually I will do that, at a writers group I belong to, or to a fellow poet. Then there are times when a poem gets launched because I have the inspiration to write about a certain person. I’ve known some interesting folks in my life. They always seem to be waiting around to jump into a poem. 

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Ankh Spice : part one

Ankh Spice is a poet from Aotearoa New Zealand. He’s completely obsessed with the sea, and he insists that our natural environment, and those old stories we don’t even know we know, mingle in magical ways to shape the human beings we become – and that sometimes we’re allowed to notice it happening.  

His poetry has been widely published over the last two years, with eight nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His poem ‘New Cloth’ was joint winner of the Poetry Archive’s WorldView2020 competition, and a video of him reading it now lives in perpetuity in the Archive. He co-edits at Ice Floe Press and is a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine.

Ankh’s debut full poetry collection, The Water Engine, was published in November 2021, and is available from Femme Salvé Books:

He also has a Stickleback micro-chapbook due out shortly with Hedgehog Poetry, and a two-part chapbook of imagistic poems paired with his own photography forthcoming with a small independent UK press – dates to be advised.

Twitter: @SeaGoatScreams

Facebook: @AnkhSpiceSeaGoatScreamsPoetry


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

Poetry is unique. I feel a freedom inside it to play with all the aspects of language, in a way I don’t feel with other forms of writing. It’s possible to suffuse a poem with multiple subtle meanings, feelings, concepts, leaps beyond and sometimes apart from the literal meanings of words. To use cadence, shape, word order, enjambments to encourage a miniscule pause of contemplation in a particular place, or to emphasise a word that puts a whole new twist on the meaning of a phrase, a riff based on a very lateral sideways slide from just the sounds in a word – all of this is like having a magical paintbox with endless colours to layer ‘brainfeel’. It has the feel of that ‘animal of the possible’ - far more subtle and complex than its parts would seem to allow. Words are the bones, but even the shape of the skeleton is not a given, and a poem doesn’t have to evolve by the rules in ways that other writing seems to. Even more beautifully, poetry permits and opens up the personal response door inside a reader, with so much wiggle-room for meaning: one person looks and perceives the elephant, one the ant, one something completely alien. You don’t get that so much with prose – it tends to lead you where it wants you to go. I greatly value permission to take the paths less seen - in every sense.

Victoria Toykkala : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I think the most difficult thing about writing poetry, for me personally, is actually putting my thoughts onto into words sometimes. I live in my head and I seem to constantly have new ideas floating around up there, and they don't come out the way I think of them if that makes sense. 

Told you, big mess up there!

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Abigail Wender : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

In random order: Ellen Bryant Voigt, Martha Rhodes, Emily Dickinson, Kimiko Hahn, Carl Phillips, Sappho, James Merrill, Eleanor Wilner, Geraldine Brooks, Paul Celan, Elizabeth Bishop, Catherine Barnett, Wislawa Szymborska, Cammy Thomas, Mary Jo Thompson, John Ashbery, Anna Akhmatova, Elizabeth T. Gray, Maeve Kinkead, Louise Glück, Sally Ball, Reginald Gibbons, Ingeborg Bachmann, Sarah Kirsch, Sharon Olds, Ann Cotten, and on and on and on. 

Nikki Dudley : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, my consideration of poetry is ALWAYS changing. Since I like experimental writing – there’s always new forms and styles to discover. This is what I love about it. Of course, I read more traditional poetry when I was younger and I still read it sometimes – I think poetry is one of the best things and even though we may like different brands of it, we can still have love for all different types.    

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Cam Scott : part five

How did you first engage with poetry?

My mother was a professional storyteller in libraries and schools, so I grew up within earshot of a fairly ageless poetry. There were lots of other familial inputs as well, from my aunt in particular, but my first personal engagement was with a little anthology of William Blake. The Songs were familiar but the heretical, metaphysical stuff appealed to my sense of religious seriousness and perversity at once. I remember carrying that book around as if I could grasp it by gradual absorption—so my first self-directed engagement with poetry was more or less talismanic. I eventually learned how to read poetry by staring at it for many years without a clue. Probably the lyric sheets of favourite records were another point of entry—there seemed to be such a wide gulf between the weight of the words transcribed and their life in song, sometimes I would just stare at the lyrics and try to guess the delivery. 

David Bradford : part four

Why is poetry important?

You know, I think it’s healthy to seriously adjust your expectations for the perceived importance of poetry, and I definitely balanced that with this first book, Dream of No One but Myself. Then suddenly people are calling you up crying about it, and people you haven’t much spoken to in a decade are dropping deep confessionals in your DM’s, and your communities and your people within those communities are reaching out, reaching you anew, are telling you this put words to something they wanted words for in a big way.

It’s a touchy-feely thing but this is all touchy-feely stuff: if it’s important enough to you and you get deep enough with it, it’s going to be important to someone else. A lot about being alive isn’t easily legible, even when the details are as sharply organized as they can be, and poetry can be a tiny, deliberate enactment of that—the intense drama in making sense of things, in making sense in and out here, in making sense at all. Poetry is the drama of still getting after IT, whatever IT is, and getting that “still getting” to someone else that really wants it.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Danielle Wong : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

There is a strong relationship between music and poetry because they possess many of the same traits. They both have rhythm underlying the piece. They can stick to it for the most part, but escape it by speeding up or slowing down, or by changing the number of beats or syllables for a bit before returning to the starting rhythm. They stress specific beats and specific words. There is the element of crescendo, getting louder, and decrescendo, getting softer. Some poems, when read out loud, have words that sound so musical that it is hard to focus on the meaning; it is as if the words are adding to the music at music’s level. Some songs, when sung out loud, have lyrics so powerful they drown out the melody; they melody is there, but it is merely supporting the words. 

I listen to a lot of music. Some of it is purely instrumental. Some of it has lyrics. I have come across many songs with lyrics that I felt close to; I only understood why after I read the lyrics. When that happens, I end up reading the words over and over, and listening to the song on repeat. Over the years, I have admired many musicians for their ability to write meaningful poetry. I have found several songs where the music is overtly happy while the words evoke a lot of pain, but the words are hard to make out. The juxtaposition of opposites is a perfect reflection of someone who is experiencing depression, but who can mask it to the rest of the world. I love artistry like that. 

Sometimes I listen to music to help me write. I often I listen to calming, instrumental music. It helps me to relax, to drift off. It gives me the clarity I need to be able to put the words together. 

Occasionally, when I listen to music, I play a piece on repeat and focus on how the music is affecting me, what it reminds me of, what emotions it is stirring inside of me. The poem, or poems, that come from listening to the one song are the reactions I have to the melody or the reactions I have to the words. It is funny, though; it is never a reaction of both the music and the lyrics.

Although I don’t think of any kind of melody when I write poetry, I often do pay attention to elements of music with my ordering and choosing of the words. The placement of the words on the paper, the line breaks, the spaces between stanzas, are the musical rests that give the ear a break and the breath to catch up. 

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Charlene Kwiatkowski : part five

How did you first engage with poetry?

I wish I had a clear memory of this. I’ve always loved rhyme and would write short, pithy poems for family members’ birthdays on brightly coloured pieces of paper or in handmade cards. I’m noticing as I answer this that from a young age, I saw poetry as something to share. I frequently gave poems to others, whether they wanted them or not! I even asked for a rhyming dictionary for one of my birthdays in grade school (not the last dictionary I would ask for as a birthday gift). What is a child’s first engagement with poetry? Again I go back to music and song, of my mom and dad singing lullabies to me in the crib and then tucking me into bed as I grew older, welcoming the night with song and prayer. Surely these rituals—this early encounter with imaginative language—left their mark on me.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Paolo Bicchieri : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Super important. I’m guilty of hearing a word or line sung in a certain way and jotting it down for further study down the road, the intonation or the sonics serving as inspiration. Hip hop, of course, is a big part of what I listen to: BROCKHAMPTON, Lauryn Hill, Noname, Tierra Whack, Baby Keem are a few on rotation. I put on lo fi or jazz to write to music, though, to get more flow-y with the whole thing. It’s heavenly to be in that space.

Nathan Anderson : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me a poem begins as an enduring image or idea. These are more often than not very mundane. To anyone but me they would be hardly worth noting. They stay with me for one reason or another and so I must write about them. Simple as that.