Tuesday 31 May 2022

Monica Mody : part three

How does a poem begin?

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

Monday 30 May 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part one

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

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

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

Carol Harvey Steski : part four

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

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

Sunday 29 May 2022

Lauren Theresa : part one

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

What are you working on?

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

Jennifer Hasegawa : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

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

Saturday 28 May 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part two

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

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

Jean Van Loon : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

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

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

Friday 27 May 2022

Tariq Malik : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

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

Catrice Greer : part four

How important is music to your poetry? 

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

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

Thursday 26 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

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

Jose Hernandez Diaz : part one

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

What are you working on?

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

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

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part five

How does a poem begin?

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

Anna Lee-Popham : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

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

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Monica Mody : part two

What poetry books have you been reading lately?

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

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

Monday 23 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part five

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

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

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

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

Carol Harvey Steski : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

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

Sunday 22 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part five

How does a poem begin?

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

Jennifer Hasegawa : part three

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

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

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

2. Building mythologies out of the everyday

Saturday 21 May 2022

Benjamin Niespodziany : part one

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

Photo credit: Michael Salisbury

What are you working on?

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

Jean Van Loon : part three

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

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

Friday 20 May 2022

Tariq Malik : part one

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

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

What are you working on?

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

Catrice Greer : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

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

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

Tracey Chapman - masterful storytelling via her lyrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 19 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

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

Wednesday 18 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part four

Why is poetry important?

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

Anna Lee-Popham : part one

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

What are you working on?

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

Tuesday 17 May 2022

Monica Mody : part one

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

Why is poetry important?

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

Andrew Hemmert : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

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

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

Monday 16 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

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

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

Carol Harvey Steski : part two

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

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

Sunday 15 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part four

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

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

Jennifer Hasegawa : part two

How does a poem begin?

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

Saturday 14 May 2022

Jean Van Loon : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

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

Mary Mulholland : part eight

How does a poem begin?

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

Friday 13 May 2022

Adam Lawrence : part five

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

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

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

Catrice Greer : part two

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

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

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

Thursday 12 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 11 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part three

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

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

Tuesday 10 May 2022

David Epstein : part seven

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

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

Andrew Hemmert : part four

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

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

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

Monday 9 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

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

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

Carol Harvey Steski : part one

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

Photo credit: Anil Mungal

How did you first engage with poetry?

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

Sunday 8 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

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

Jennifer Hasegawa : part one

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

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

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

Saturday 7 May 2022

Jean Van Loon : part one

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

How did you first engage in poetry?

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

Mary Mulholland : part seven

Why is poetry important? 

It feels like coming home.

Friday 6 May 2022

Adam Lawrence : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catrice Greer : part one

Catrice Greer is a Baltimore-based writer and a 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominee. In November 2020, she served as a Poet-In-Residence for Cheltenham Poetry Festival (UK). Her poetic work explores a range of topics about the human condition including mental health wellness, trauma, healing, sciences, nature, astronomy, transcendence, spirituality, identity, heritage, and cultural ancestry.   She is published in local publications, online journals, and international anthologies. Currently, Catrice is Co-Editor of Lapidus Magazine (Lapidus International, UK), Guest Editor for IceFloe Press (Canada), and a Guest Poetry reviewer for Fevers of the Mind (USA). 

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 may share a WIP (work in progress) during a small writing workshop.  However, most of my work is unseen. I am very private. I am the only person that edits and reads my work and prepares it for publication. It is helpful for me, because I need to hear the voice that gave me the poem.

When ready to publish a collection, I will carefully choose one or two skilled, trustworthy editors to trust who believe in my work, and appreciate me as an artist and as a person. 

Thursday 5 May 2022

Nicholas Ruddock : part one

Nicholas Ruddock is a Canadian physician and writer. He has won literary prizes nationally and internationally in short fiction and poetry (see NicholasRuddock.com).

What are you working on?

In poetry, an untitled and unfinished series focussed on modern horsemen of the apocalypse: Fentanyl, Plastics, Global Warming, Populism, Colonialism, Oligarchs, Vanished Species, Greed. Not subjects I want to get involved with until, sometimes, late at night.

In prose, my 2021 novel Last Hummingbird West of Chile is still flying around and needs attention. Arabic rights have been sold. I am always rewriting short stories, and I am half-way through another novel set in Paris, Nice, Newfoundland, Yukon, Toronto.

Kim Fahner : coda

How important is music to your poetry?

My life is full of music, books, and art. I don’t have a television in my home, so I listen to music from morning until night, and I love singing. I’m drawn to singer songwriters, and I listen to people like Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Sarah Harmer, Glen Hansard, Sheila Carabine, Kathleen Edwards, Stan Rogers, Tim Baker, Amelia Curran, and Ron Hynes. The bardic tradition includes music and ballads, so it makes sense to me that I’m so drawn to those singers who are also poets. I also love listening to traditional Irish music, especially when I’m writing and reading. The Chieftains and Cherish the Ladies are always on a number of my playlists. Give me a song like “The Mary Ellen Carter” or “Cold Missouri Waters” and I’m happy as a clam. That’s the bard in me, I think, loving the way a long song tells a true story, documenting people’s lives in really beautiful ways. 

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Matt Vekakis : part two

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I am reading the Mendelsohn translation of Cavafy (as well as the Oxford World’s Classic version with Greek text), the Keeley & Sherrard translations of Odysseus Elytis, Monochords by Yannis Ritsos and a smattering of poems for my MFA from Plath, Merrill, Walcott, Keats and Muldoon to name a few! 

Rajiv Mohabir : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

For me and definitely for Cutlish music has been very important. The question is largely philosophical for me as well as political. When I consider what gets to be (oftentimes) elevated to Poetry as a rarified literary production (emphasis on the “product” of production), I see the shadow puppet show of capitalism and colonialism. Together, they have shaped my own engagements with the ancestor-poems which came to me first as epic narrative retellings through ropni-geet/ballads.

This is to say that the archive of sound and the poem that I am from—that I have intimate connections to—live in my body in a different way that the written word. I almost typed “world” for “word” which is apt since this difference in literature (the written vs. the denigrated aural) is largely epistemological. Those forms of poems that I have danced to, recorded, and translated are the formation of my earliest metaphorical thinking. 

Sometimes people think of the connections between music and BIPOC poetry as being the one thing that we do. I’ve been told this by some very ungenerous people—but I am hoping that this is exactly what Cutlish is doing: bringing back the music to my community through the literary world. I want to say that our histories, languages, and soundscapes are important and worthy of embracing. 

Tuesday 3 May 2022

David Epstein : part six

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?  

How I think about writing is a constant evolution.  We all get a good one off every now and then, but in general, if your earlier work doesn’t horrify you, that’s a sign you’ve stopped growing, as an artist.  That’s not entirely true, and I’ve gotten to a place in my life where, for the past five years anyway, I am pleased with the increasing number of what I consider to be good poems.  This kind of evolution stems from the poets who engendered one’s jumping-off point.  In some ways I’m a reflection of my courses in college and in graduate school.  In terms of who changed my writing, how is that different from poets who inspired you? I think change is a constant, as one is a product of all one is reading and writing.  In terms of germinating texts, I do go to Dickinson the most. And I have to credit Alice Fulton’s essay on Dickinson, in her collection of essays Feeling as a Foreign Language with starting me on my latest full rereading of Dickinson (my third).  Here is someone, Dickinson, who thought, actively, about scansion and the musicality of language.  Dickinson’s work, and my work with her kinds of structures, most specifically ballad measure, has continued to inform my own explorations with rhythm, meter, and music in poetry.  It gives one an awareness of the letter-by-letter presence of one’s language on the page and in the ear. So, the more I progress in this art, the more I feel the distance between poets who are primarily narrative, and those whose ears are evolving, such as A.E. Stallings, Anna Maria Hong, and Amy Beeder, to name just a few.  Those poets have my enduring respect for the breadth of their knowledge and their tremendous sensitivity to sound and meter.   

Andrew Hemmert : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Katherine Riegel taught my first poetry workshop. The creative writing Bachelor of Arts at USF required me to take a poetry workshop, which I did begrudgingly. Despite myself I loved it and I stuck with it. Jay Hopler taught my other poetry workshops at USF, and encouraged my engagement with imagism and music in language. I think there’s a prevailing narrative surrounding poetry wherein poetry is something that springs from the heart, and initiates from the poet’s early childhood. I had no interest in poetry until I was forced to write it in college. I’m so grateful for that requirement.

Judy Jordan was my thesis director in graduate school at SIUC. She made me aware that narrative was missing from my pieces, and encouraged me to tell my stories. Her own sprawling braided lyric-narrative poems provided a framework and exemplar for the work that became Sawgrass Sky. Brigit Pegeen Kelly was one of the most influential poets that Judy turned me onto to. Her leaping, long narrative poems inspired me to tell my stories with all their mess and music. I distinctly remember Judy giving me a copy of Kelly’s collection Song. Judy’s copy smelled like a lake, which was a good precursor to the dirt and surreality of Kelly’s poems.

Monday 2 May 2022

Adam Meisner : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Recognizing the difference between genuine creative impulse and habit. The latter often seems like it’s the right path, but it almost always leads me astray. 

Also, being patient with a poem: sometimes it’s several years before I know what a poem needs – even poems that burst out of me at first with a sense of urgency need time.

R.J. Lambert : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

There’s both ways to take this question: music as sonics and rhythm, or literal music. I think sonics and rhythm are important to all poetry (even those that are not “musical” are intentionally not so). But I want to answer the literal question. Moviemakers like Cameron Crowe famously create from musical inspiration, and I often do the same thing with poems. I choose some songs to rev me up and I listen to them loudly on repeat, curating an energized writing trance where I can disappear for hours. I wrote several of the final poems for my first collection while listening to Troye Sivan’s In a Dream EP during the pandemic—probably 100+ hours listening to those same six songs. There’s also an entire section in my book dedicated to “streaming” different songs by Frank Ocean, Queen, Whitney Houston, and two teenagers performing Mozart and Chopin on YouTube. A crowning achievement of my book was obtaining permission to use Frank Ocean’s lyrics from “Swim Good” as an epigraph to this “streaming” section.

Sunday 1 May 2022

Taylor Gianfrancisco : part two

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

In poetry, there is a sense of secrecy that some writers have a hard time appreciating. For me, secrecy has played a huge factor in how I write, share, and communicate, both fortunately and unfortunately. I think that poetry can accomplish this sense of vulnerability in sharing these secrets and building a community that knows how to not shame these secrets, per se, but to love and praise these secrets instead.

Nate Logan : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Very important I'd say, but probably not in how you're intending the question. My "process" involves music playing while writing. Songs have inspired some of my poems, heck, my book's title is borrowed from a song, but it's on more so for a kind of background hum. Working in the prose poem, music is something I'm not consciously thinking of, but when it does happen, it's usually a pleasant surprise.