Monday, 31 January 2022

Bára Hladík : part four

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

Poetry is deconstructivist and has a way of tearing down language and building it back together, often in a way that is healing or transformative. It’s power is to take narrative into multidimensional time, more like how we experience time than through a regular narrative. Poetry is a way to show a whole universe. I also love it because poetry is accessible. Poetry is an artform that can be with you anywhere, anytime, even if you don’t have a pen. Most people can jot down a few poignant lines on a napkin or swirl some words around their minds. For me, as someone who is chronically ill, a lot of my poems come from when I am in a space between waking and dreaming, when my body needs to power down for several hours, but my mind is still processing, dreaming, writing. I write a few words when I come out of my dream space, and slowly build a poem over time. I am able to create even though it looks like i’m dead asleep. I love that you don’t need instruments, tools or money to write poetry. Poetry is with you.

Aysegul Yildirim : part four

How does a poem begin?

I like it more when it gives me a nudge to begin, that I know it’s ready to jump out into the world. But it’s no magic and requires a great deal of preparation: watering, fertilising, weeding, providing shade or sunshine, etc. It might take months or years. Other times, when there is a great deal of ‘writing hygene’, quietude-plus-solitude, I let it flow. I might need to give it a nudge by reading, contemplating, etc. 

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Joseph Fasano : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

When a poem is finished, it banishes its creator.  For better or worse, there is no more the maker can do.  I imagine in this way a poem is not unlike the world. 

E.J. McAdams : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes and no.  I have always wanted to be a vehicle for a poem – to get E.J. out of the way.  In the beginning that was mostly through intoxicants. Since, I have tried chance operations, procedures, mediation, non-writing, somatics, citations/sampling, GPS, bird song, scientific techniques, prosody, etc.  Some have worked better than others, but the seeking remains.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Isabel Sobral Campos : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Ed Roberson teaches us about the wonders of semantic deferral. This deferral results in a surprising reconstruction of meaning – you think the line is heading in a particular direction but soon discover it both is and is not going where you expected. He’s a master of the line break and of the long line, but also of rhythmic variation. Many of his poems are oblique lyrics – flawless mixtures of the tangible and abstract.  

Kate Siklosi : part three

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

I’m not sure poetry “accomplishes” anything because to me that implies completion, and I prefer to think of poetry as a practice of leaving breadcrumbs or string to give us clues as to what came before and what comes after, but with no fixed destination. I live for that messy in medias res life, and ain’t sorry for it either 😉.

But I do think poetry does things other forms cannot, or does it differently. For me, poetry has a way of writing through the human experience without necessarily needing cohesion or precision—it is a way of suturing the gaps and absences of our individual and collective stories not to make them neatly whole, but to make their fragments and fissures sing, contrast, fugue. 

And, because I tend to work with precarious, decaying materials, I feel that poetry teaches us to listen and to let things be as they are without the need to over-narrativize them or fit them into something we think they should be. Like, for me, I can just let a leaf or a thing speak with the other objects I bring it into encounter with—it doesn’t matter if I or we recognize the language produced or not, or whether it forms a human-centric logic, but that it exists, it is as it is. There’s something very humbling about that. 

Friday, 28 January 2022

Matt Robinson : part one

Matt Robinson has published six full-length poetry collections, including Tangled & Cleft (Gaspereau Press, 2021) and Some Nights It’s Entertainment; Some Other Nights Just Work (Gaspereau Press, 2016), as well as numerous chapbooks. He has won the Grain Prose Poetry Prize, the Petra Kenney Award, and The Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, among others. Robinson is on the poetry editorial board of The Fiddlehead and he plays a fair bit a beer league hockey when pandemic restrictions allow. He really likes dogs and cats and sandwiches. He lives in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, NS, Canada), with his family.

What are you working on?

Right now? Well, as of now I’m just starting to write random poems again—the odd poem here and there—having just published a new book in Fall 2021. For the last while I was mostly revising and editing poems from that collection. Generally speaking, I work through times when I am mostly editing / revising OR mostly writing new poems. 

But in the last few weeks, having done my usual recharging—which involves a LOT of reading—I have started to cobble together some new poems. Shorter, lyrical pieces, mostly: which is also fairly normal for me.

If I’m being honest, I am not a particularly disciplined or “regular” writer. I don’t have a strict schedule of any sort. I write and edit in fits and starts. It’s always been that way. I suspect that will remain the case. As poems start to accumulate, I’ll eventually look at collecting them and organizing them in some fashion. In all likelihood, that’ll look like a chapbook manuscript at first. 

This is all to say in a round-about way that I don’t have a particular project that I am currently engaged in.

Beth Mulcahy : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? I first engaged with poetry when I was a child. I was about ten years old when I started to read and write poetry. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and write novels, poems and stories. This desire was inspired by a movie I saw called 84 Charing Cross Road based on the life of writer Helene Hanff.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Ankh Spice : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Enormously important. I think in a way music *was* the beginning of poetry for me - my mother sang to me even before I was born, and right through my childhood. Story-songs, poems-to-music, an enormous and eclectic range; opera, folk, songs in te reo Maori, in Irish, cowboy ballads, Victorian-era weepies. Her own mother was a comic-opera singer, and she carried that particular delight in sound-word weaving in her blood, and passed it to me, and I think all of that early immersion still resounds in my work. I learned to read music at the same time I learned to read words, very early, well before I started school. I play three instruments, and like the house I grew up in where the record-player or radio was a constant, under our roof it’s very seldom there’s no music playing. I write much of my poetry in my head as I run, swim, move around, and that’s always with headphones in, music on. I think it’s two types of flow state in confluence there – our brains find one momentum in movement and one momentum in music, and together they’re a powerful crucible for an art form where rhythm and sound is so key. It’s always beautiful to me when people have said, hearing me read, that they hear the rhythm, flow, and music through my work. I do think the rhythms of our head-voices, if we can translate them into poems, find synch with the ones inside other people’s heads, and when that happens, it’s special. There are a couple of poems in the book that very directly reference music – Songbird requiem (Liberae me), after Haroula Rose, and Ninth Wave (IV: Finale, D minor), which is a reference to Beethoven’s Ninth – but it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that almost every poem in the book contains music in one way or another.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Douglas Piccinnini : part one

Douglas Piccinnini is recently the author of The Grave Itself (Ethel, 2021) and his newest collection of poems, A Western Sky, is forthcoming with Greying Ghost. Previously, he is the author of two full-length collections: Blood Oboe (Omnidawn, 2015) and Story Book: a novella (The Cultural Society, 2015). New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Dreginald, Fence, Hot Pink, Lana Turner, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prelude, Tupelo Quarterly and Volt. More at www.douglaspiccinnini.com

What are you working on?

Beautiful, Safe & Free is a manuscript that I began working on almost a decade ago. It’s been called many things – I think I am ready to leave it behind and take on a new paramour. And, I’ve fought with it in some ways to mean correctly or remain free of the influence of more profitable editing. At this point, I believe that it may have found its rightful home – more on that soon. Omnidawn published my first full-length book Blood Oboe in 2015 and lately, I’ve been thinking of rewriting that. A long, serial poem about loss called A Western Sky is forthcoming with Carl Annarummo’s Greying Ghost. Carl makes beautiful books and I’m lucky to be working with him.

Maureen O'Leary : part one

Maureen O’Leary lives in California. Her recent and upcoming work appears in Coffin Bell Journal, The Black Fork Review, Bandit Fiction, The Horror Zine, Archive of the Odd, Train Poetry Journal, Live Nude Poems, The Esopus Reader, Hush Lit, Passengers Journal, Penumbric Speculative Fiction, Black Spot Books' anthology Under Her Skin, and Sycamore Review. She is a graduate of Ashland MFA.

What are you working on?

In my novel revision, short stories and poetry I’m trying to get to the bottom of an idea I have that we are all ghosts haunting the people and places holding our unfinished business. For example, I am the ghost haunting the people who are living in the house where I grew up. I’m obsessed right now with unfinished business and longing and wishing things were different than they were. The writing keeps coming out poem-shaped.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Kathleen McCoy : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Like most writers I know, I find revision quickening, life-affirming, and submission grueling, enervating. Reworking a poem is both physical and metaphysical for me, by which I mean I taste the words, play with line breaks, make substitutions, rearrangements, enlargements, and condensations. That process is exciting, like working bread dough--you feel the warm pliability of it, the forgiveness, and the point past which you must not go lest your bread-poem become too difficult to chew. 

Submission, on the other hand, feels like a hamster's wheel. You jump in, cycle around, cycle around again and again and sometimes have to jump off before you lose your lunch. It can be dispiriting. I tend to get a lot of "almost" rejection letters, where I'm dubbed a semi-finalist or finalist in a contest or submissions round. It's enough to keep me going, but it takes a push to jump back into the wheel and go around some more. So many have said this, but it's true--you keep at it for love. Nothing less, nothing more. If your love fades, you should get out of the game. If your love persists, nothing can stop you. Stall you, yes, but not stop you.

Another difficulty for me is physical. Anyone who has spent adulthood trying to balance family, work, and writing knows that this is enough, and when you add chronic illness(es) to that mix, the balance is easier to throw off. I've learned to give myself permission to take my time, to get it right, to take time off for self-nurturing when I need to. I don't buy the old saw that you have to write every day to call yourself a writer. Martin Espada says he writes in spurts sometimes; at least he did when his son was very young. Any family woman/poet I know who is still teaching also expresses this frustration/need to alternate energies, to spend some periods on work or self/family nurture and others on nurturing the craft. I comfort myself in the knowledge that ideas are always brimming in my subconscious, even when I'm not hitting the page as regularly as I would like. 

It helps that I always try to write when my students are writing, too. I often give a ten- to twenty-minute writing prompt for idea generation in creative writing classes, so I practice my craft along with my students. While this practice rarely produces finished work, it often spearheads a new piece, or gives me lines or images for work already in progress. 

Monday, 24 January 2022

Bára Hladík : part three

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

I am a lonely poet. I live in a box of cut up words. Sometimes I share bits of poems with friends. I never workshop them. I am my own ruthless editor. My poems tend to sit in forgotten word docs for several years, then I tear them apart and make them into new poems. then i abandon them again in some god-forsaken file. Eventually I am satisfied and I submit them somewhere for a third fermentation period. Over time I work my poems into a small thematic collection and make a new file. It’s a very slow process. My poetry process is a file within a file within a file. 

Aysegul Yildirim : part three

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

It puts the language in a contained space and maximises the speed of it. Calvino elegantly explained this acceleration. Prose-time slows down endlessly. But either way, we get to an infinity. 

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Joseph Fasano : part one

Joseph Fasano is the author of the novels The Swallows of Lunetto (forthcoming, Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020), which was named one of the “20 Best Small Press Books of 2020.”  His books of poetry include The Crossing (2018), Vincent (2015), Inheritance (2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (2013).  His honors include the Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle Poetry Prize, seven Pushcart Prize nominations, and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize, “awarded annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet two years prior to the award year.”  He is currently working on a “living poem” for his son and live-tweeting it at @stars_poem.  

Photo credit: Laura Rinaldi

What are you working on?

I’m writing a “living poem” to my son and posting it on Twitter, a line at a time, as it happens.  Parenthood can teach us about the beautiful messiness, the good cracks in the daily bread, the whole organic process of living.  My hope is that this poem speaks to my son and to all who still keep a seed of childhood’s mysteries in them.  It can be found on Twitter at @stars_poem.

E.J. McAdams : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t always.  However, I remember a line that I believe poet Tracie Morris shared at a workshop I took at the Poetry Project here in NYC that went something like: the poem is finished when you stop working on it.  I always liked that.  There is no victory, only some kind of surrender that comes at the end.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Isabel Sobral Campos : part one

Isabel Sobral Campos’s most recent book is How to Make Words of Rubble (Blue Figure Press, 2020). Other works include Your Person Doesn’t Belong to You, Material, and Autobiographical Ecology. Her poetry has appeared in the Boston Review, Brooklyn Rail, in the anthologies BAX 2018: Best American Experimental Writing and Poetics for the More-Than-Human World, and elsewhere. A translation of Salette Tavares’s LEX ICON is forthcoming with UDP in 2022. She is the co-founder of the Sputnik & Fizzle publishing series. 

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find myself often waiting for a mental place, which resembles the feeling of being carried by water. It’s a state where self-consciousness recedes in the mind, allowing for other mental processes to come forth. My best writing occurs when I inhabit this half-meditative space and stay there without realizing it. Our minds are made of this water from which poems emerge. It takes effort getting there, even though being there is an effortless experience, and you only realize it retroactively.

Kate Siklosi : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

This is a particularly interesting question for visual poets in my opinion, because you can always add but often can’t take away…for instance, when working with Letraset, there’s no editing out that extra letter snake that awkwardly protrudes into white space that should maybe just be white space. But then again, for me, visual poetry teaches a balance between “okay, that’s enough” and also “what the hell, live a little and add that extra thing cause yr heart or hand wants it—you do you.” 

I find knowing when to end more traditional lyric-based poetry to be a similar but different beast, because you’re not often relying on visual cues but can still, in similar ways, whimsically avoid or defer conclusion. I think in all my work I prefer to think of what’s enough for the time being, rather than what endings look, sound, or feel like. I like to leave a little left unsaid, too—it’s a way of inviting others in. I feel uncomfortable having the final word in much of anything creative. After all, aren’t we in this to create lines of connection and conversation? I want to know what others think about the thing I’m gesturing toward and make space for them, their ideas—I like leaving some room for the poetry to wander beyond the page and comingle with others.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Kevin Varrone : part five

Why is poetry important?

Because it’s never really been important and yet it has always been there, in all cultures and at all times. It’s something we always seem to believe we can live without yet we never live without it. 

Beth Mulcahy : part one

Beth Mulcahy (she/her) is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and writer whose work has appeared in various journals, including Full House Literary and Roi Faineant Press. Her writing bridges the gaps between generations and self, hurt and healing. Beth lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and works for a company that provides technology to people without natural speech. Her latest publications can be found here: https://linktr.ee/mulcahea.

What are you working on? I am working on trying to publish my first chapbook of poems, called Firmer Ground. I always have poems in progress. Aside from poetry, I am working on an historical fiction novel based on the lives of my maternal ancestors.  This year, one of my writing goals is to become more comfortable and confident with short story writing so I am focusing on learning and practicing that form as well. 

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Ankh Spice : part three

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

There are poems (and collections) I read over and over again. Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s ‘Song’, Glenn Colquhoun’s ‘The Art of Walking Upright’. I’m fortunate to own multiple collections from Linda Pastan, Joy Harjo, Wislawa Szymborska, Hone Tūwhare, and a riffle through any one of them will often land me right where I need to be in that moment. Aside from poetry, I’m a lifelong fan of Sir Terry Pratchett, and I read his books over and over again – they feel like being welcomed home, every time, to a home you needed but weren’t lucky enough to have. His book Nation, along with Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, are two of my favourites, I’ve read them each at least twenty times - for the depth of the human condition they contain and the very wry, very real and tender way they hold this weird living thing we’re all doing in hands full of mourning/rage/humour/respect/wonder – much the same way my favourite poems do. And when I can’t decide if I need poetry or prose or reality laid bare, Robert Macfarlane’s Underland is all three, beautifully woven into something as close to magic as any writer could ever touch.

Victoria Toykkala : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is extremely important to my poetry. There are certain songs that just get me in a mood for writing specific kinds of poems and it really inspires and spurs me on, especially when experiencing writers block. Lana del Rey is a huge influence on my writing because I believe she is a lyrical genius!

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Abigail Wender : part ten

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is an element of highest importance. I don’t think there is poetry without music. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Kathleen McCoy : part two

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

I love this question because I actually think about it a good bit. While I enjoy all forms of creative writing and art in general, poetry is to literature what music is to the performing arts--a sacred space, a language of its own, a touchstone, a portal. Poetry is the first place I go for consolation and the one place I work out my own voice, my way of saying something true, something that's both grounded and, well, transcendent in the sense that it starts with the banal, the fractal, the quotidian, and spirals down and up again to a kind of song that enlarges the perspective. At least, that's my aim; it's what I find the poems do that inspire me most. That's what Seamus Heaney does in "Digging," when an image of his father digging potatoes finds analogy in the poet's pen which is then compared to a gun. It's also what Audre Lorde does shockingly well in her little-known poem "The Women of Dan Dance with Their Swords in Their Hands to Mark the Time When They Were Warriors" ("I come as a woman/dark and open . . . .") 

Literature in general can tell the truth "but tell it slant," as Dickinson wrote, but it's poetry that springs from oral tradition, from music, from storytelling, and from history/herstory. The rhythm, the images, the finely wrought phrases make earworms and mud pies to delight the senses and haunt the memory.

Poetry has to speak to the spirit in content and in form, however trifling the subject may be. I remind my students that this is the difference between subject and theme, that you can write about absolutely anything, but what you say will be larger, greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, this can be said of a novel or story or play or song as well. However, in poetry, the theme and the form are so intricately interwoven, so compacted, so layered that it can make more memorable music. In that way, poetry is the most intimate guest. It comes for just a minute but its presence remains for many years like pleasant scent that just will not dissipate.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Bára Hladík : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My first encounters with poems was writing song lyrics in my diary when i was a kid, then writing my own angsty songs and poems. Some early lyrics I remember writing down were Pink Floyd and Heart. I read a lot of novels and wrote stories as a kid, but I didn’t really find poetry until i was in my first year of college and found a stack of literary magazines at the writing centre. It really shook me to my core, I was changed forever. Until then I thought poetry was all roses and violets, and I realized suddenly it was a really powerful way of telling stories and reshaping the world. I swiftly joined a literary magazine as an editor and changed my major to literature. Poetry became a protective power i had with me through the hardest times in my life, that was with me everywhere i went, create meaning out of my existence as a sick person and reclaim language that was being used against me. It helped me connect with voice, not only mine, but the voice that resonates from all of us. The voice of our spirits. 

Aysegul Yildirim : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Finding my own voice, and I understand this takes time. Also, when drafting or editing, it’s sometimes too agonising to realise that what I really want to say is not in synch with the theme or the particular form/resonance I’d like the poem to have. When this happens, there’s usually a degree of forcefulness into a the poetic space that doesn’t allow certain things in. And you don’t know what these things are. You may never know! The thought process can be a mess. But it’s part of the deal. And I also think there’s a beauty in this pain - the most beautiful pain among other pains of writing!- and I reckon I lot of artists like it too. 

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: https://femmesalvebooks.net/the-water-engine-by-ankh-spice/

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

Website: www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com

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.