Thursday 31 March 2022

Saeed Tavanaee Marvi : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

To live as a poet.

Kim Fahner : part one

Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. Her most recent book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019) and her next book is Emptying the Ocean, which will be published by Frontenac House Press in Fall 2022. She was the fourth poet laureate of Sudbury (2016-18) and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario Representative for The Writers' Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She may be reached via her author website at 

What are you working on?

I’m working on edits and rewrites of the poems that will be in my next collection, Emptying the Ocean, which is being published by Frontenac House in Calgary this fall. Beyond that, I’m finishing my new novel and writing poems for a manuscript that centres on bees. So, it seems I’m drawn to the elements and the natural world in terms of the poems I write. Birds, water, bees. I’m fascinated by the environment, as well as by the ways in which the natural world and its elements influence me as a woman, and as a writer.

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Ryan Black : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been re-reading Sandra Lim’s The Curious Thing, alongside George Meredith’s Modern Love, for a new manuscript I’m working on. And Vanessa Angélica Villareal, as well. And Anne Carson. And Thomas Hardy. And Donika Kelly. And George Herbert. My desk is a little crowded right now.

Marcus Slease : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

The lyrics of indie music sometimes leaks into my poetry. For example, The Shins. The Shins have leaked into my poetry, lately. Other times it is something ambient slash psychedelic. Music to travel inwards. Deep sea diving or a diversion to bypass the little man who blocks the way for retrievals and discoveries from those undiscovered countries of the mind slash universe. 

Tuesday 29 March 2022

David Epstein : part one

David Epstein holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature.  He is on the Board of the Greater Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, and has taught creative writing at the University of Hartford.  He has three children, and lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has reviewed for Harvard Review and Shofar, as well as recent reviews for Tupelo Press appearing in Heavy Feather and elsewhere; his poems have appeared in such venues as The Bellingham Review (where he was a Featured Poet), Authora Australis, Marsh Hawk Review, Arc Magazine, CV2, New Square, and Coastal Shelf. He won three poetry prizes in 2021.

What are you working on?

I’m doing a number of things at the same time: I’m a first-time Grinder, the invitation-only groupings where, along with about eight or nine others, you commit to sharing a new draft, every 24 hours, for a month.  No critiquing, just production.  I happened to have lucked into a terrific and talented group.  It’s very inspiring. Overall, I tend of write in the middle of the night anyway, so the Grind was almost tailor-made for me, although having the in-place group to share with, and who send you theirs, that’s new.   Next, I have an ongoing collaboration with the writer and editor Lee Parpart.  We agree on an opening line or phrase, then go off and write our own poems from it.  We get back together over them and edit and polish them.  The idea is to produce a volume of paired poems from the same starting point.  This too is tremendously energizing. You want to make something good for your writing partner, to give and receive the same kind of quality drafts and feedback.  I am also on the Board of the Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, so we’re often designing events and other things related to poetry, Stevens, and the City of Hartford, Connecticut. I have a backlog of books to review for Tupelo Press, which I was doing better on earlier in the pandemic, but not so well of late, having gotten back to business lately. 

Monday 28 March 2022

H.E. Fisher : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I live in the Hudson River Valley in New York. We have a wonderful library system here. I’m always checking books out. I love reading multiple books at once. I try to mix it up so that I’m reading new work while familiarizing myself with older texts. There’s a growing stack on my floor, which right now includes The Beauty, by Jane Hirshfield; Trilce by César Vallejo; What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems by Ruth Stone; What Happens is Neither by Angela Narciso Torres; and How to Make Pancakes for a Dead Boy by Joan Kwon Glass. Among many others. There are some poets I circle back to often: John Murillo, Diane Seuss, and Cynthia Cruz, to name a few.

One of the beautiful things about following poets on different social media platforms is that they often post poems. Ilya Kaminsky and Chen Chen, for example, often post amazing poems, which then leads me to discovering someone new to read. Or poets will share their own work and that’s another resource. 

Sunday 27 March 2022

Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

A Facebook friend of mine shared a poem from Brad Aaron Modlin’s Everyone at this Party Has Two Names and I immediately ordered the entire collection.  I think it’s a brilliant exercise in extended metaphor. Nickole Brown’s chapbook To Those Who Were Our First Gods was a Rattle Chapbook prize winner; it’s such a smart book about the relationship between humans and animals and our responsibilities to the earth. Very timely.  I also have to mention Willa Carroll, who is doing all of this interesting experimental hybrid stuff with music and video and poetry; it’s a direction I haven’t gone in yet but want to.  I just finished her book, Nerve Chorus. I also love the work of Al Abonado; if you can get your hands on a copy of Jaw you won’t be sorry; I’m so impressed by how he plays with repetition to build tension; there’s such humanity in every poem, so many familiar images that he is able to defamiliarize. More collections sitting on my desk as I type this: Jericho Brown, The Tradition. Maggie Smith, Lamp of the Body. Natalie Diaz, Postcolonial Love Poem, Brenda Shaughnessy, Our Andromeda, Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. I’m a pretty voracious reader, so if someone recommends a poet, I buy the collection.  

Speaking of which, everyone should rush to buy How to Love the World, Poems of Gratitude and Hope, edited by James Crews. The poems in this are a powerful antidote to the frustration, fear, and malaise brought about by the current social moment and which admittedly, I sometimes find myself tangled up in. Every single poem in the collection—like Sarah Freligh’s widely anthologized “Wondrous”-- makes me feel more grounded, more optimistic. I keep it by my bedside; I try to read one before I go to bed and one when I wake up.

Richard Hamilton : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

It’s important. It’s like the veins, connective tissue, or interstitial fluid. It can carry one’s “story” or anti-story. Cacophony and euphony elucidate themes in the work, for example. Think about Robert Hayden’s famous poem, Those Winter Sundays. The repetition of consonant letters in “blue black cold,” “cracked hands,” “breaking,” and “chronic angers” taken together help us register the anger and love of the speaker’s father whose house, not unlike the father, thawed daily amid indifference and class-based racial animus. 

Saturday 26 March 2022

Maryann Corbett : part five

What are you working on?

I hope I’m allowed to interpret “working on” broadly. 

With the publisher now, and due out late this year or early next, is my sixth book, called The O in the Air. It’s largely about growing up Catholic in a family with too many secrets, but it also includes other family-centered poems.

Because I’ve always found it difficult to find places in collections for my lighter poems, quite a few of them remain uncollected. But I like them, so I’m now pulling together from the uncollected pile a book of light-hearted poems, tentatively called Airheads.

When I’ve done all this collecting, the poems left in the pile will—I hope—tell me what I should be writing about, so that the next book has a shape. But I say “I hope” because I’ve never yet been able to write “a book.” I write individual poems and then hope I can make them speak to each other. This often works because I have, shall we say, some recurring obsessions.

Longer term, and even more tentatively, I hope to do more translations of the poetry of Christine de Pizan for a possible collection. She lived in the late 14th and early 15th centuries and wrote in Middle French. She’s best known for her feminist prose. Her poetry deserves more attention, and it should be translated in rhyme and meter, as she wrote it.

Mary Mulholland : part one

Mary Mulholland’s poems are widely published, for example in AMBIT, Perverse, Arc, London Grip, Marble, Finished Creatures, MIROnline, Aesthetica, Under the Rader and elsewhere. Among many other mentions she was recently highly commended in AMBIT’s 2021 Competition, shortlisted in Live Canon, 2021, a winner in the Poetry Society Members’ Competitions, 2021 and 2020. Former journalist and psychotherapist, she co-co-edits The Alchemy Spoon, founded Red Door Poets and is a member of the Crocodile Collective.

In January her pamphlet collaborative with Simon Maddrell and Vasiliki Albedo (All About Our Mothers) was published by Nine Pens, and her debut pamphlet, What the Sheep Taught Me, will shortly be published by Live Canon.

What are you working on?

I was recently part of a collaboration with Simon Maddrell and Vasiliki Albedo, All About Our Mothers (Nine Pens). Collaborating is a really fun exercise. Right now, I am finishing off my debut pamphlet, What the sheep taught me (with Live Canon), loosely about time I spent farm-sitting (Barbados blackbelly sheep) but also about relationship. I'm also writing and submitting, plus working on three other pamphlets/ collections, one about my maternal side in Guyana, one challenging the prejudices about ageing, and a collection about our connectivity: to the world, to 'other' and to ourselves. I've recently finished a Faber Course which was great, and am also co-editor of a magazine, The Alchemy Spoon (, and do interviews and book reviews for that, too. We're currently putting issue 6 to bed. Finally, I am busy with a collective I founded, Red Door Poets: we host regular readings on Zoom. 

Friday 25 March 2022

Jessica L. Walsh : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Poetry is a scalpel. It’s precise, sharp, and piercing. At its best, the scalpel helps me take something—a feelings, a story, a person—and isolate it, understand it in a deeper way. But the scalpel necessarily has to go towards painful places at times, too. Having emotional energy to turn the scalpel on myself is the challenge, over and over again. 

Thursday 24 March 2022

Saeed Tavanaee Marvi : part three

How does your work first enter the world?

Well I published my poems as a radio drama on my Instagram and twitter, Khashayar Mohammadi my friend found it interesting and he started to translate it, am so appreciate of him.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Ryan Black : part one

Ryan Black is the author of The Tenant of Fire (University of Pittsburgh Press), winner of the 2018 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and Death of a Nativist, selected by Linda Gregerson for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. He has published previously or has work forthcoming in Best American Poetry, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York. 

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

Is poetry uniquely capable of accomplishing more than other forms? I think it’s uniquely comfortable remaining in a place of unknowing. Or maybe it’s unique in that it’s sense of accomplishment or completion is different from other forms, but we’d have to ask a painter or an architect or an athlete about that.

Marcus Slease : part four

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

1) To Feed the Stone by Bronka Nowicka (translated from the Polish by Katarzyna Szuster)

2) Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell by Charles Simic

3) Forty-One Objects by Carsten René Nielsen (translated from Danish by David Keplinger)

4) Mortal Trash by Kim Addonizio 

5) Animals Children by Hugh Behm-Steinberg

6) Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Hollay Ghadery : part five

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

Poetry is thought and feeling distilled and sharpened, and, I believe it’s better at achieving those intense shakubuku moments. I think of shakubuku as a swift spiritual kick to the head that alters one's perception of reality forever. A more official definition can be found with Wikipedia, which defines shakubuku as such:  “Shakubuku "break and subdue" is a term that originates in the Chinese version of the Buddhist text, Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra. The term has historically been used to indicate the rebuttal of false teachings, and thereby break negative patterns in one's thoughts, words and deeds.”

A novel can do this; so can a memoir or a short story. But poetry can do it quicker; more ruthlessly (which is not to say any less beautifully). 

Monday 21 March 2022

H.E. Fisher : part four

How does a poem begin?

A single image, a word I like, a line that comes to me, a particular experience, something I read in the news, a memory—there are many ways a poem finds me. Then a kind of obsession takes over and I am drawn to it, to working it, revising it. I also love research. It can be anything from researching wildflowers to the Industrial Revolution to a kind of bird. Some poems begin with research if I have an idea about something; or something I write might lead to research. 

Sunday 20 March 2022

Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

When I was 19, my father set me up with a much older man (his college professor actually, who is now a high-profile government actor-- there’s a funny story there I really should write about); we had nothing in common but when he learned I liked writing poetry, he gave me Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. I’d never heard of Rilke, and it changed my life.  I had taken a gap year and was floating from one service job to the next.  When I read that famous passage that begins, “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?” I realized that this is what I was called to; that I had to write.  I re-enrolled in college and started taking creative writing classes.  

Of course, anyone who has read my writing is going to hear echoes of Plath, Sexton, Carter, Atwood—I’m obsessively drawn to retellings of myth and fairy tales.  I love a witty poem, when a poet uses dark humor to engage in conversation with popular culture.  Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife is extraordinary; it’s an entire collection of persona poems told from the perspective of the wives of famous (real and fictional) men. Patricia Smith’s poetry—the rhythm and lyric directness of her lines, the fearlessness of diving into a complicated persona like in her “Skinhead.” Denise Duhamel’s Kinky—love those Barbie poems, such a superb blend of sarcasm and sorrow. The Adam & Eve poems of Eavan Boland, Ansel Elkins, Danusha Lameris…. How one figure from history/myth can be imagined in so many ways, all those representations in conversation with each other. And then there’s the lightness of poets like my friend Melissa Balmain whose The Witch Demands a Retraction is just so fun. Melissa writes almost exclusively in form; we had lunch a few week ago and since then I’ve been trying my hand at more sonnets, sestinas, etc. The inventiveness of Terrance Hayes (his golden shovel poems) and Tony Leuzzi (his zipcode poems) inspired me to come up with a new form for my current project.Ta’I Freedom Ford’s How to Get Over, blew me away; Tyehimba Jess (also fantastic) praised its “boomboxed declaration of living filled with all the grit and spit”—and I’m not sure there’s a better way to characterize these poems.  To write with bombast, to be so direct and vulnerable and simultaneously unapologetic—that’s what I want for my writing, too.  When I read it, I knew I wanted to write my own unadulterated version of “How To Get Over”—which is how I wound up writing “The 10 Commandments of Loving a Recovering Evangelical.” 

Richard Hamilton : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

John Ashbery, Collected Poems 1956-1987

Diane Di Prima, Revolutionary Letters 

Tongo Eisen-Martin, Blood on the Fog 

Adrienne Rich, Collected Poems 1950-2012

Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems 

John Keene, Punks 

Kim Hyesoon, Autobiography of Death

Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry

Wanda Coleman, American Sonnets 

Saturday 19 March 2022

Maryann Corbett : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The waiting. Waiting for another poem trigger to spring, waiting for the wraith of a poem to take enough shape to be ready to write something down. I didn’t have to deal with waiting when I first came back to poetry; I had a decades-long backlog of material to draw on, and the poems came quickly. They take longer now. The combination of retirement and the pandemic has forced a kind of quiet in which fewer things happen that grab the mind in a way that triggers poems. 

When the period of waiting gets long enough to rattle me, I translate. Or I try to read deeply in some subject area, generally history. I distrust canned poetry prompts and ekphrastic verse—don’t ask me why, but to me they feel too artificial. Reviewing the work of other poets and writing critical essays are other ways of making the waiting fruitful.

River Elizabeth Hall : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

So many. I never read one book at a time. I jump around quite a lot. Oscar the Misanthropist by Judith Skillman and A Quiet Day with the West on Fire by Margot Kahn are two new poetry chapbooks from the winner and finalist of 2021 Floating Bridge Chapbook contest, both of which just arrived in my mailbox. 

Additionally, I have been re-reading Plath’s collected works (one poem a day) since December and making my way through Frank Bidart’s collected works. He has been recommended to me so many times, but I’d never sat with his work until now. I’m really enjoying it, especially his early persona poems. I have yet to write a persona poem and I am very intrigued by the idea.

Friday 18 March 2022

Jessica L. Walsh : part two

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

When I’m trying to convince my students to give poetry another try, I tell them to think of something they feel no one could understand except those who have been through it. What comes up are the common devastations and transformations: combat, falling in love, heartbreak, loss, motherhood, and so on. Poetry, I believe, is the closest we can ever come to succeeding in bridging that gap. Poetry is the one thing that can evoke the complexity of thought and feeling that makes certain experiences seem beyond words. It’s the oldest form of literature because it was our first need: we want to connect.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Saeed Tavanaee Marvi : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It is a moment, you can feel it, and you feel you cannot add or remove any word not even a single word cannot be replaced.

Kenneth M Cale : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Since Christmas: The Combustion Cycle by Will Alexander; Concrete Poetry: A 21st Century Anthology ed. Marjory Perloff; I’d Better Let You Go by Nikki Dudley; and Dreamland Trash by Dylan Krieger. A couple of non-fiction/poetry-related works by poets too: The Unreality of Memory by Elisa Gabbert; From Fibs to Fractals – Exploring Mathematical Forms in Poetry by Marian Christie. 

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Marcus Slease : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Chika Sagawa, Mary Ruefle, Lydia Davis, Russell Edson, Daniil Kharms, Vasko Popa, Carsten René Nielsen, Peter Altenberg, Charles Simic, James Tate, Zachary Schomburg, Jeff Hilson, Tim Atkins, Ikkyu, Eileen Myles, bill bissett, Mark Waldron, Tom Jenks, Diane Di Prima, Bernadette Mayer, Mathias Svalina, Peter Johnson 

. . . 

I have to stop there. I’ll drive myself nuts making a list. There are so many and they keep changing positions depending on the day, hour, and year.  There are also musicians, directors, and painters too!

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Hollay Ghadery : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I find it difficult to get my critical, editor brain to stop talking over my free-falling thoughts. And it's essential I let my thoughts free fall before my editor brain kicks in but — being the control freak that I am — the editor wants in, right away. And this insta-editing is sorta like pulling chute the moment you jump out of a plane: you may be okay, but you also might suffer from hypoxia. 

Monday 14 March 2022

Simon Brown : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem almost always begins with an accident. Words read and words heard cross paths and bump into each other. Two or three stick together, and an odd sensation or image emerges, a catalyst for other words, feelings, and connections. An accident can happen in the slips and stutters of everyday conversation, or a word overheard colliding with a word being read at the same moment. Another place this sort of accident happens for me is in that odd space between sleep and waking reality. I am a big fan of naps and slumber of all kinds, and I always keep a notebook nearby. So often, just before drifting off, a combination of words will form in my head, and I won’t be able to fall asleep until I write them down. Upon awaking, I read them and have no idea what it means. Thankfully! And, for better or worse, a poem is born…

H.E. Fisher : part three

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

As a reader of poetry, I appreciate the way a poem can pull the curtain back on anything that exists in our internal and external worlds and reveal something that the poem has made space for. Poems magnify. They are concentrated. Poems are places for me to transfer very specific thoughts, ideas, impressions. A poem doesn’t flinch; it lives under its own pressure. There’s something delicious and dangerous about that. 

Sunday 13 March 2022

Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose : 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?

About eleven years ago, my three colleagues—Angelique Stevens, Maria Brandt, and Pamela Emigh-Murphy—and I started a writing group, Straw Mat Writers (we all teach together at the same college in the English department).  That group has now grown to include one more woman, Jennifer Kircher Carr. We meet about once a month for an evening to workshop poems and then twice a year, we go on a retreat for four or five days where we spend the time writing and workshopping (and drinking a lot of wine and eating a lot of cheese). Angelique and Pam write nonfiction, Maria writes fiction and plays, Jennifer writes fiction, and I write (mostly) poetry. I really love workshopping with people who work in different genres; they bring such an important perspective into the revision process and I know my own writing has strengthened by studying and talking about their processes. Straw Mat has even hosted a salon for area writers so they could network and form their own writing groups.  I also workshop with another great poet, Sarah Etlinger, who lives in Wisconsin. We met at a teacher’s conference years ago and now meet on Zoom every few months to give each other feedback. 

Often when I write a poem, it starts with a single line.  Usually when I’m doing something totally unconnected to writing, like when I’m out for a run.  Or when I’m arguing with my teenagers.  Or washing dishes. Sometimes it’s something one of my friends say that just strikes me; at dinner one night, my good friend Joe told us a story about a college girlfriend giving him up for lent.  I said “That’s a poem!” and wrote “Delilah Scorned,” which has been reprinted a few times now.  

Sometimes my poems are responses to something I’ve seen in the news. Other times, I’ll know I want to write a poem about a memory and so I start with that goal. When I wrote Imago, Dei, I brainstormed a list of significant events/memories associated with going to church as a child.  I still have at least ten that are still waiting to be turned into poems.  I love persona poems, too, so I’ll choose a persona (like The Little Mermaid) and then try to imagine her doing something totally ordinary (like getting her period), and then I just start writing to see what happens.  Once I get a draft, no matter how rough, I bring it to Straw Mat or to Sarah to work out the kinks. Rochester also has a wonderful local poetry group, Just Poets, that runs monthly workshops and hosts featured readers and poetry lectures.  When I’m able to, I meet up with them.

Richard Hamilton : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Langston Hughes and W.H. Auden were among those poets writing in the 1930s whose penchant for anti-racist, anti-war, and anti-fascist ruminations feed me. Their essay writing on poetry and politics are instructive. Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), not unlike Malcolm X, gave me a sense that one’s writing life and political commitments are not static. Fred Moten’s cerebral musings are always generative. I return to Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism often.

Saturday 12 March 2022

Maryann Corbett : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

It’s central, in the sense that I generally use meter even when I don’t use rhyme. The one problem with concentrating on very old poetry and linguistics is that it doesn’t leave many credit hours for contemporary poetry! So my ears were almost entirely trained by poems in meter, and I did little real study of free verse. That accounts for my habit of setting out in some sort of meter whenever I start to write a poem—turning the meter on like a spigot and letting it run. I’m as likely to begin with a rhythm as with an image or phrase. I’ve said this before: I think of rhyme as a ladder down into the dark of the subconscious and of meter as the underground spring I find there.

I’m also likely to decide at the outset that a poem is going to be in a particular form. When I admit this, other poets tell me I’m out of my mind—that the words must come first and then be helped to find form--but somehow my backwards method usually works. When it doesn’t, it takes me a long time to back out, shake off the initial sound pattern, and begin with a new one.

Music has also provided an important trigger for poems, as I’ve been a singer in various kinds of choirs for most of my life, and a cantor in various local churches. The title of my first book, Breath Control, is an allusion to singing and to the kind of held-in containment that life often requires. My third book, Mid Evil, includes a section of church-music poems. Psalm and hymn texts probably have something to do with my love of meter, too.

River Elizabeth Hall : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’m enlivened, reawakened, stunned and inspired by other writers all the time. I can only answer this question in terms of two writers whose work I have focused on the most in the last two years: Alison C. Rollins and Ocean Vuong. They are the poets whose work I cling to currently and read over and over. I love Ocean Vuong’s mastery of metaphor and his control and pacing. It is something I aspire to. I read his poetry breathless and fully alive. 

I am also endlessly fascinated by the poetry of Alison C. Rollins. Library of Small Catastrophes is one of my favorite books of poetry. She is so incredibly precise, but her work moves so effortlessly. I am captivated by how she can feel so consistently precise and maintain that sensation in longer poems with many sections. She is a librarian and I love how her work naturally influences her poems. 

Jeanine Walker has been an amazing mentor and teacher to me for a few years now. She has introduced me to so many poets, many new forms, so much essential information on craft. Jeanine has probably influenced my writing more than any other poet and I feel so fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to work so closely with her these last few years. It has been a singular experience to have a poet with so much knowledge and experience become so familiar with my work over the span of a few years. She also has a book coming out soon! I am elated for her and I can’t wait to read it. 

Friday 11 March 2022

Jessica L. Walsh : part one

Jessica L. Walsh is the author of Book of Gods and Grudges (2022) as well as two other collections. Her work has appeared in journals including Lunch Ticket, RHINO, Tinderbox, Glass: A Poetry Journal, and many more. Originally from rural Michigan, she now resides outside of Chicago and teaches at a community college. Find more at

Photo credit: Candy Bryant

How did you first engage with poetry?

My grandmother used to recite poems to me. She was a hard woman to get to know, very guarded and even cold at times. But I have a memory of her pushing me in a swing and joyfully reciting Robert Louis Stevenson. Later, she would send me books, like The Collected Poetry of Langston Hughes, and in the upper corner of the page, she would pencil a faint check-mark to indicate that poem was one she especially wanted to emphasize. I look at those books now, decades after her death, and I try to figure out what she wanted me to know, what she wanted to be able to say. 

Thursday 10 March 2022

Saeed Tavanaee Marvi : part one

Saeed Tavanaee Marvi is a poet and translator born in the city of Mashhad in 1983. His books include The Woman With Chlorophylic eyes, Verses of Death: An Anthology of American Poetry and a translation of Richard Brautigan's Tokyo Montana Express.

What are you working on?

Working on a new book of poems: Criminal Nights. With an episodic structure in narrative and noir in tone and atmosphere. Better to say it is detective poetry.

Kenneth M Cale : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I’m not sure you ever do, but the more you engage with poetry as a reader and writer and – if you’re fortunate – as an author, the more you get a feel for when a poem might be finished. A combination of instinct and experience, I suppose. But it’s not an exact science, and I’ll often find myself wanting to ignore what my gut is telling me just to be done with a particular poem. If I decide a poem’s finished, but the piece itself has other ideas, it’ll quietly nag at me until I work out what it wants. Once I’ve figured that out, the poem goes into a drawer for a while I write others and/or make collages. This gives me a chance to look at each poem with a fresh eye later on and make any eleventh-hour adjustments. 

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Marcus Slease : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

I used to think poetry had to have a lot of density and sound poetic. Thick and/or gloopy. Also backward looking. Poems of loss. Elegiac. Since about 2010 I have learned the light touch via NY School poets and various surreal-absurd writers, artists, and musicians. I am very attracted to the light touch. It is a lifetime project. Also I did not know about prose poetry. Now it is my main consideration when writing poetry. But prose poetry attuned to stories, essays, and music. So you know, hybrids. I am into hybrids, of various kinds. 

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Hollay Ghadery : part three

What are you working on?

A collection of flash fiction that explores how fantasy and fantasizing subverts and challenges the expectations placed on women. Many of these stories trend toward the lyrical and fall into prose poetry of sorts. I'm also refining my collection of poetry, Rebellion Box, which will be coming out with Radiant Press in spring 2023. 

Monday 7 March 2022

Simon Brown : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Well, the two are very intertwined for me… my first serious forays into creativity as a teenager were self-taught musical experimentation, DIY recording, tape-trading and that sort of thing, and I think most of the little twists and turns of my creative process were born at that time. So many of those inclinations and instincts still guide how I go about things creatively: repetition/looseness, continuity/rupture, consonance/dissonance, and (probably most of all) the importance of improvisation/listening, and all it implies. 


H.E. Fisher : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I love this question. It is an entirely mysterious thing to me. I’ll get a feeling, a sense of wholeness, when a poem is finished. Which sounds far too highfalutin. It just means that a poem feels done. Conversely, when a poem isn’t finished, it bothers me; it feels off and can keep me up at night. Is the form right and does it serve the poem? Is each word the right word? Is the lineation correct? Etc. I spend a lot of time reading each draft of a poem out loud to see if it sounds right to me. On the other hand, maybe poems are never done.

Sunday 6 March 2022

Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

One of my earliest memories is of being on a tire swing in my backyard in South Carolina singing songs I made up; I must have been five or six. I remember that’s where I went to invent—on that swing, by myself.  Something about the motion of my tiny body moving through space, back and forth; I remember pumping my legs back and forth as hard as I could while looking up at the lacy branches umbrella-d over me, the clouds, the birds, and singing songs about wanting to be up there in the sky, flying over everything.  I think that’s a good metaphor for what attracts me to poetry or, maybe, just evidence that I’ve always been drawn to the power of poetry---its roving eye, the suspension of the writer between heaven and earth, the necessary loneliness of it, too.  I had a noisy, chaotic upbringing and poetry was a way for me to separate and make sense of my world…or if not make sense of it (because does it make sense?) empower me with the ability to voice my truths, to embody in words the human impulse toward sense-making.  It’s a good thing I was satisfied with writing song/poems, since I’m a terrible singer and even worse musician (just ask my 7th grade band director who asked me to pretend to play my flute during concerts)!

My grandmother and my mother both read to me and my siblings from the time we were very young. Lots of Dr. Seuss, of course. And Shel Silverstein.  Those silly, rhythmic, witty poems are still there in my own poems, I think, in my attraction to satire and persona.   

Much later, when I became an English Lit major in college, I engaged with poems as cultural artifacts, as objects of study.  I was studying early British women writers and asking questions about how they used poetry to challenge society and their role in it.  I loved uncovering the rebellion in their words. The more I read, the more I saw contemporary women writers in dialogue with that maternal heritage and, of course, with each other. I wanted to be part of that conversation.

Richard Hamilton : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

It’s like corporations and privately funded poetry organizations with huge endowments have set the tone for writing in the age of MacArthur Genius Awards. The competition is stiff. It would follow, for some, that the pressure to write to establishment tastes is grave. Or conversely, the push to make writing uber-strange, to stand out in a crowded field is paramount to increasing one’s chance at licking the money pot. I have to remind myself of the subaltern network of independent publishers and writing that is not looking for literary citizenship. It knows that many of us are born to a republic and “sacred” constitution shot through with racism. In the US, some of our greatest heroes were impugned by Joseph McCarthy and his ilk for leading international movements to expose the racist and anti-working-class interests of the keepers of American law. I would say writing in this age requires you know what’s afoot in the industry while somehow not being consumed or crippled by what might read as corruption or corrupting forces.

Saturday 5 March 2022

Maryann Corbett : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

I’m going to interpret “changed” to include “allowed to begin again.” After busy decades of full-time work and parenting, I went through some life changes and emotional upheavals when I hit the empty-nest phase, and I began putting those upheavals on paper. At the same moment, I met a real poet, Anna George Meek, and had many opportunities to talk with her about poetry. And I discovered online poetry communities and online journals, and those supplied the support and the awareness of an audience that fired me to write again. I also began, barely, to catch up with the years of contemporary poetry I’d been missing.

I worked with as many as seven online poetry forums in those early years, and I owe them all; I’ll mention in particular The Gazebo and The Waters. But my greatest debt is to Eratosphere, and especially to the formal poets who frequented that forum from about 2006 to 2011. Their discussions of midcentury poets like Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, and W.D. Snodgrass persuaded me that I wasn’t crazy to prefer rhyme and meter. I’ll always be grateful to the late Timothy Murphy for his early encouragement.

I’m still in touch with most of my poetry-board contacts in various social-media ways. Poets I met on those boards and am still reading include A.E. Stallings, Aaron Poochigian, Rhina P. Espaillat, Susan McLean, Catherine Tufariello, A.M. Juster, R.S. Gwynn, and Wendy Videlock. And maybe I should stop there, apologizing that in my forgetfulness I’m leaving out dozens of people . . .

River Elizabeth Hall : 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?

Other writers are absolutely essential to my practice. My work enters the world in two ways: either on my own in my regular writing practice or in dedicated writing groups. Nearly all of the pieces I generate alone, will be critiqued by other writers at some point down the line. 

Since I was a teen, I have participated fairly regularly in Amherst Writers and Artists writing groups ( The AWA method was created by an extraordinary teacher and writer named Pat Schneider. These writing groups are focused on generative prompts and positive feedback.

At the moment, I participate in two different AWA style groups. One is through the New York Writers Coalition ( and the other is led by Nicole Zimmerman ( In 2020, I became a trained AWA workshop leader and I now lead two groups of writers through my organization, Seattle Writers Circle. More about my groups can be found on my website .

On top of these groups, I am also in the second year of a poetry tutorial with my mentor Jeanine Walker. Myself and three other poets have been working together closely for the last year and half. We workshop and discuss our poems on a weekly basis, read and discuss craft essays, and all four of us are working together to assemble our full-length collections.

Friday 4 March 2022

Matt Robinson : coda

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 don’t have a particular writing group or community that I am regularly connected with in a tangible way at present. The last time I had that was likely back when I was doing grad work at UNB and I was immersed in that program and the writers and poets who were there.

Now, I mostly write and read and edit in a more solitary, arms-length manner. BUT there are a few key folks I share drafts with when they reach a certain point. My wife or one particular poet I know are usually the “first readers” of drafts when they hit a certain point. Other than that, Andrew Steeves at Gaspereau Press, which whom I have done an annual poetry broadside for years and years is most likely to see things first. 

Mostly, though, I get to a point where I start sending poems out to journals for potential publication. So: I guess Submittable is often the way my work first enters the world. My dog and cat also listen to me grousing over poems at times, and certainly listen to me recording them to review how they sound. And they seem generally supportive, but their feedback is pretty hard to parse, most times.

Thursday 3 March 2022

Kenneth M Cale : part three

How important is music to your poetry?

Very. I love music and listen to all sorts of stuff. It inspires a lot of ideas and language for my writing. As for my work specifically, I think it’s musical in a different way to a lot of poetry. Just as most songs have two elements, music and lyrics, my work also has two elements, collage and text. I try to play around with the dynamic between these elements the way a songwriter might. Sometimes the collages and texts complement each other; sometimes there’s a tension or dissonance between them, just like in a lot of songs, where maybe the music is upbeat, but the lyrics contradict or complicate that mood. Also, as my collages are built up from layers of visual samples with words over the top of them, I see an oblique hip-hop influence in it too.  

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Marcus Slease : part one

Born in Portadown, Northern Ireland, Marcus Slease has made his home in Turkey, Poland, Italy, South Korea, the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom – experiences that inform his surreal-absurd prose poetry. His writing has been translated into Danish and Polish and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfiction, and Best of the Net. His stories, poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in various anthologies and magazines in Europe and North America, such as Tin House, DIAGRAM, Conduit, Fence, Poetry, New World Writing, The Lincoln Review, and Best British Poetry 2015. His latest book, Puppy, a chapbook of prose poems, is available from Beir Bua Press, his novel in microfictions, Never Mind the Beasts, is available from Dostoyevsky Wannabe and his book of surrealist prose poems, The Green Monk, is available from Boiler House Press. He is a bisexual writer from a working class background and currently teaches high school in Barcelona. Find out more at: Never Mind the Beasts and follow him on Twitter @postpran

What are you working on?

I am currently working on three manuscripts. I am doing a final revision (hopefully) of my second novel Hermit Kingdom. It is an experimental novel in its form (prose poems and microfictions). Half of it was written after moving to Spain in 2016 and the other half takes place during COVID lockdowns in the Barcelona area. A surreal-absurd novel. 

I am also working on two books of surreal-absurd prose poems: Smashing Time and Void & Quagmire

I have been working on those three books for the last six years or so. I think they should all be ready to send out to publishers very soon, but who knows. 

Tuesday 1 March 2022

Hollay Ghadery : part two

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

I always return to Bronwen Wallace’s collected works. Reading her poems is like coming home, but to my childhood home, where everything is brighter, clearer, more beautiful, and also more devastating — as childhood often is. Wallace's poems lift the veil and bring me closer to that unfettered, raw self I knew when I was younger. I feel like I spend most of my adult life trying to talk to that little kid.