Friday 30 September 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part one

Matthew M. C. Smith is a writer from Swansea, Wales. He writes about landscape, the passage of time, spirit of place, memory and cosmos. Matthew’s work can be seen in Poetry Wales, Barren Magazine, Finished Creatures, The Storms, Anti-Heroin Chic, Seventh Quarry Press, Fevers of the Mind, Icefloe Press and The Lonely Crowd. He is also the editor of Black Bough Poetry and poetry fest on Twitter @TopTweetTuesday.

Matthew runs, hikes, attempts to locate caves and burial mounds, collects vintage Star Wars and messes about with his kids. He has published Origin: 21 Poems is close to finishing The Keeper of Aeons, with Broken Spine Arts.

What are you working on?

I’m working on my second collection of poetry, after ‘Origin: 21 Poems’ in 2018. It’s heading for five years since I self-published my first work and I have a publishing house for my second, Broken Spine Arts. The book is called ‘The Keeper of Aeons’ and it deals with deep time and points in history; it delves into landscape and the spirit of place, culminating in journeys outwards to the cosmos. We travel from a shamanistic experience in Ice Age Gower to floating in the Space Station and gazing back at Earth. It might be out this autumn. 

I’m also editing forthcoming anthologies with my poetry press, Black Bough poetry. There are several volumes coming out, guest-edited by Briony Collins and Jen Feroze, respectively, and I oversee the projects, as well as the Dai Fry Award for Mystical Poetry anthology, which is also in the pipeline…and a Christmas edition! I also run TopTweetTuesday, a weekly poetry fest on Twitter where poets from across the world share short, imagist poems, conducted by a guest host. I have a lot of plans for future project and have to remember to pace them out as it’s a hobby.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part three

How does your work first enter the world?

I am fortunate to have a local writing community – a weekly poetry reading series called Planet Earth Poetry, which involves an open mike segment and a sponsored featured reader. This is a group of active, high-calibre writers who are immensely supportive and welcoming. The group also cultivates a myriad of learning workshops, writing retreats, and networking opportunities.

Thursday 29 September 2022

Susie Meserve : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes. Many times. I thought for a long time that the “I” in a poem should be taken out, obscured, muddied, that the worst kind of poem was a deeply personal poem. My first book (Little Prayers, Blue Light Press, 2018) is filled with fantastical leaps and it takes a kind of sideways look at my personal experience. In 2017, when I started work on the manuscript I’m sending out now, I surprised myself by writing intensely raw and revealing poems about my experience with motherhood and my struggles with infertility, including the life-threatening miscarriage I suffered in 2013. I had to shut off a voice telling me that this kind of writing was bad. It’s been very freeing to write about this stuff, though the challenge, always, is to find some way of moving beyond the myopically personal into more universal territory, and I’m always looking for models. Franz Wright did this beautifully in his writing about addiction, God, and mental illness.

Jenna Jarvis : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My extrinsic motivation is a decade-old vestige of belonging to In/Words’ writers circle and reading series – and, eventually, its editorial board – throughout my undergraduate degree at Carleton University. I meant to get involved in projects as an undergrad because ‘being involved’ is the mark of a dedicated and talented student in any discipline. The co-curricular record told me so. Secondary school guidance counsellors told me so. My writing work is adolescence protracted. My ‘real world’ is a protracted version of university. Maybe ‘town and gown’ is an irrelevant distinction. Maybe ‘literary indistinction’ is the default setting. The campus pub turned into a 7-Eleven in Taiwan. The 7-Eleven turned into a summertime backyard barbecue outside of Ottawa’s 9-to-5.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Katerina Canyon : part five

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

My work enters the world in various ways. Recently, I was on an airplane, and I looked down and saw a golf course and on that course was a group of golf carts chasing one another. It reminded me of geese, so I wrote a poem about elitism.  I also have a poetry group. We're called The Canyon Poets. We meet every Thursday night. I provide a theme and the next week we bring a poem to share. Inspiration strikes me in many ways at several places. I am most inspired in the morning before the rest of the house wakes. It is pretty much the only time my mind is allowed to work, rest, and wander.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Heather Haley : part five

How does your work first enter the world?

Via the ear. I often hear words and phrases that tickle my imagination. I have used prompts and sometimes will compile a list of random words, then free associate.

Jared Povanda : part five

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

100%! By reading other poets, I find my own poetry rushing to catch up to the brilliance around me. I never considered myself a poet. I started with fiction, then nonfiction, and I didn’t begin seriously writing poetry until last year. Slowly, I’ve begun to convince myself that I’m not a complete hack, and that poetry isn’t some incomprehensible world of strange rules and line breaks. I can tell a story in poetry, too, and once I made that realization, I stopped letting my fear of failure get in the way of my writing. I oscillate heavily between confidence and self-doubt, though, so ask me this in another year, and I might say that poetry is as dense and thorny as it was before I started writing it. 

Monday 26 September 2022

Marie Marchand : part one

Marie Marchand has been writing poetry for 35 years to find healing for herself and the world. She is the first Poet Laureate of Ellensburg, WA. Her poetry has been published in Catamaran Literary Reader, California Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Tiny Seed Journal, and Anti-Heroin Chic, with poems forthcoming in Crannóg Magazine and The Awakenings Review. Her second poetry collection Gifts to the Attentive was published by Winter Goose Publishing in May 2022. She is also a mental health advocate and founder of Maitri Poetry, a collaborative space. Read her work at and follow her @mishiepoet.

Photo credit: Sami Jo Photo

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with a connection to something or someone, or a perceived connection between two or more things—such as sunlight and willows, or birds and wind—and my desire to explore this connection, the underpinning of which is most often Beauty. The beginning of a poem is a nudge, hint, or whisper begging for deeper exploration. 

Sunday 25 September 2022

Diana Rosen : part one

Diana Rosen, an essayist, flash writer, and poet, has work in West Trade Review, Tiferet Journal, Rattle, and As It Ought to be Magazine, among others in the U.S., the UK, India, Canada, and Australia. Her poetry has earned one Best of the Net and two Pushcart nominations and released her first full-length poetry book, High Stakes & Expectations, in Spring, 2022. She lives in Los Angeles where her “backyard” is the largest urban green space in the country, the 4,000+acre Griffith Park. She is a content provider for all things tea, coffee, and spices and has published 13 nonfiction books. Please visit to read more of her work. 

How did you first engage with poetry?

Like many children, my first introductions came with hearing the delightful music of rhymed words in Mother Goose tales then Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline series (In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines. Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. In two straight lines they broke their bread. And brushed their teeth and went to bed) read to me by my mother. High school literature classes introduced me not only to Byron/Shelley/Keats but, through a wondrous textbook I still have, poems translated from a slew of foreign languages which gave me an overview to various forms and poetry subjects.  Real life interfered for many years where I read no poetry until a job at the late, great Borders Books introduced me to co-workers who were poets who introduced me to the world of contemporary poets and poetry and the exhilarating idea of free verse. I’ve been reading and writing ever since.

Saturday 24 September 2022

Caroline Gill : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Perhaps the simplest way in which to address this question is to list the poets and their individual influences on my own poetry journey. 

To begin at a point close to the beginning, my initial instincts were to emulate to one degree or another the forms of the poems I encountered. This meant largely writing rhyming quatrains in ‘abab’ (following the form of ‘The Cow’ by Robert Louis Stevenson) or in ‘aabb’ (after ‘The Tyger’ by William Blake); and indeed the first two poems I entered in competitions, at the ages of nine and ten years old, adopted the ‘abab’ pattern. It appealed to me that one could bring an animal, seascape or situation to life on the page. 

I may have been a reserved child in real life; but in its flights of fancy, my imagination often transported me to Lear’s ‘land where the Bong-Tree grows’, to the ‘many-tower’d Camelot’ of Tennyson’s ‘Lady of Shalott’, and to Shakespeare’s dreamworld of ‘spotted snakes’ and ‘thorny hedgehogs’. 

I studied Classical Studies as an undergraduate and went on to teach Greek texts and poetic playscripts in translation. During this time, I began to appreciate the concepts of structure and sound. It intrigued me that Pope had composed his own poetic version of Homer’s Iliad, and I began to write a mock-heroic epyllion of my own, complete with epigraph written out by hand in the Greek language. If Homer’s Odyssey showed me the power of narrative, Virgil’s Georgics demonstrated the importance of observation, particularly in writing about rural life, and (in his case) bees in particular.  

My husband and I moved to Tyneside in 1986, where a tutor at a WEA Creative Writing course mentioned that one of my poems reminded her of some poems by Tony Harrison, which she thought I might like to read. She also pointed out that that some of Harrison’s stanzas followed an ‘abba’ rhyme scheme, which I might like to try. Harrison’s poems were an education in language itself, causing me to think about linguistic issues such as the matter of received pronunciation and the value of local idiom. 

Fast forward through five years in Cambridge, when I was working and finding it hard to find a writing group, to the early 1990s when we moved to Swansea, hometown of Dylan Thomas. I took some classes in the Welsh language and soon became acquainted with simple greetings, mutations, and popular words such as ‘hwyl’ and ‘hiraeth’.

A few months later, Peter Thabit Jones introduced me to some English versions of the Englyn. Thanks to poems in English by Gerard Manley-Hopkins, I came to understand something of Cynghanedd, the Welsh notion of ‘sound-arrangement’ or harmony within a single line, achieved by following one of four set patterns involving rhyme and alliteration. I would recommend Listening to Welsh Verse by Mererid Hopwood (Gomer Press, 2005) for those who are interested in learning more.

I have a deep love of poetry forms. This was nurtured by The Book of Forms: a Handbook of Poetics by Lewis P. Turco. Little did I expect to have three of my own sample poems, a Clang, a Folding Mirror poem and a Bref Double with Echo, published in the turquoise-covered 2012 edition, which included odd and invented forms. 

During my Swansea years, I came to love the poetry of Edward Thomas, whose four grandparents hailed from Wales. I was already familiar with ‘Adlestrop’, but was unaware that Thomas had written so many poems in such a short space of time before his untimely death in the Great War. ‘Swedes’ may not be a ‘typical’ Thomas poem, but it immediately caught my eye and made me realise how powerful metaphor can be and how the smallest details can transform a text. In ‘Swedes’, the discovery of an ancient Egyptian tomb is compared to the opening of a swede clamp. David, my archaeologist husband, and I became so intrigued by the detail in the poem that we undertook some research and wrote a short paper, ‘Leaving Town’ and ‘Swedes’: Edward Thomas and Amen‐Hotep (Notes and Queries, Volume 50, Issue 3, OUP, September 2003, pp. 325–327).  

The Imagist poems of William Carlos Williams, perhaps notably ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and ‘Spring and All [By the road to the contagious hospital]’ made a marked impression on me some years ago when I was taking a Poetry School 1-2-1 course with Heidi Williamson as my tutor. I became more aware of the importance of image in the context of creating what I might call poetic impact. A poet is often juggling several balls at once (and here I am thinking of form, metaphor, line-endings, alliteration etc.); and if one is not careful, the key image can become overshadowed by other elements.  

Back in 2008, David and I began to take our holidays in Scotland. I bought a copy of The Tree House by Kathleen Jamie and was immediately captivated by the Scottish wildlife encounters the poet evoked in language (largely English, occasionally Scots) that was crisp, succinct and compelling. I may not have Jamie’s knowledge of Scots as a language, but I would like to feel that her work has made me aim for concision and precision in my own poems. Jamie’s whales in ‘The Whale-watcher’ continue to ‘breach’ through my poetic consciousness. 

Friday 23 September 2022

Hannah Kezema : part five

Why is poetry important?

Because the world is very hard.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I believe knowing when a poem is finished is instinctual. The moment, the word that closes a poem, is similar to the ending phrase or note in a piece of music. The closing of a poem should feel resolved, but also remain as an opening or invitation to move back into the poem. A poem should be complete, but fluid too.

Thursday 22 September 2022

Susie Meserve : part one

Susie Meserve is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, New York Times, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more. Her debut poetry collection, Little Prayers, won a Blue Light Award and was published by Blue Light Press in 2018. She is also the author of a chapbook, Faith. Born and raised in New England, Susie now lives in Northern California with her family.

Photo credit: Ashley Lauren Saks

What are you working on?

I’m actually writing a novel at the moment. I have a completed poetry manuscript that’s on submission, and I’m always writing poems around the edges, but over the spring and summer some material presented itself and as I tried to fill in the blanks to make sense of it, I realized I was creating characters. The novel’s got two protagonists, a current-day mother living in Northern California and a Swedish immigrant living on the prairie in the late 1800s with her family. The characters are autobiographical to some extent, and the book is requiring research; I’m excited about it (and a little terrified). I toggle between poetry and prose quite frequently, but a novel—it feels daunting, and it is, but I’m muddling through it. 

Jenna Jarvis : part one

Jenna Jarvis has appeared in These Days (Horsebroke Press) and deathcap (Coven Editions). She has published three chapbooks: year of pulses (above/ground, 2018), The Tiger With the Crooked Mouth (Bywords, 2013), and Juvenilia (In/Words, 2010). Her poem “syndical not synecdochal” won an honourable mention for the 2014 Thomas Morton Prize, and her poem “untoward” won the 2012 John Newlove Award. She completed her MA in English literature at Carleton University in Odawa/Ottawa.

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 reactionary! I’m very responsive! I’m being pointlessly provocative! The point is that I’m driven to write for live readings and calls for submissions. Extrinsic motivation (or optimistic opportunism?) leads me to develop headspace-squatting phrases into full-length poems.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Katerina Canyon : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

When I began, I was a traditionalist who was married to form. Now, I know there are many different forms. I also understand how there can be no form to a poem. Poems are similar to life, and life is not predictable. A poem should not be predictable. You should not know where a poem is going until you get there.

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Heather Haley : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes. It’s become more vital; to my expressiveness, identity and well-being.

Jared Povanda : part four

How important is music to your poetry?

Music is vital to my writing process. I have such a hard time writing in silence. I need music to act as a funnel. Art directing art. Sometimes that image I’m struggling with doesn’t cohere until I hear that perfect song. And when I find that perfect song, I’ll listen to it on repeat, sometimes hundreds of times, until I get the poem down.

Monday 19 September 2022

Rachel Mallalieu : coda

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’m reading The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe, The Year of the Murder Hornet by Tina Cane, Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts and Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful by Matthew Lippman.

Sunday 18 September 2022

Andrew Williams : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem, for me, usually begins with an image, memory, or experience. The fun thing about writing poetry, however, is I never know where that image, memory, or experience will take me. A poem will write itself in that way. Sometimes I feel as if I have little control of where it will lead. 

Saturday 17 September 2022

Caroline Gill : part one

Caroline Gill’s poetry has been published in Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021), her first full collection. The Holy Place (2012), Caroline’s Poet to Poet chapbook shared with Californian-based poet, John Dotson, was published by The Seventh Quarry Press, (Swansea, Wales) in conjunction with Cross-Cultural Communications (New York). Polar Corona, a prize-winning poetry pamphlet about Antarctic exploration, is due to be published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2023. 

Caroline’s poems have been published widely, both in the UK and abroad. Three sample poems by Caroline were included in The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics Including Odd and Invented Forms by Lewis Putnam Turco (4th edition, UPNE, 2012). ‘The Figure at the Phoenix Mine’, a sestina, was awarded First Prize in the General Section of the international Petra Kenney Poetry Competition (2007). ‘Raft Race’ took Overall First Prize in the ZSL ‘Conservation’ Poetry Competition (2014). ‘Penwith Fingerstone’ was awarded Third Prize in the Milestones Competition (2017), judged by Brian Patten. ‘Preseli Blue’, Caroline’s poem about the Stonehenge bluestones, was included in a BBC Poetry Please programme in 2008. Caroline has read her poems at the Hay Festival, the First International Poetry Festival in Swansea, Poetry in Aldeburgh, the Festivals of Suffolk Poetry and Winchester Poetry Festival. Her outlook is shaped by her Christian faith. Many of her poems reflect her concern for the planet.

Caroline, who currently lives in Suffolk, UK, with her archaeologist husband, David, graduated in Classical Studies from Newcastle University in 1982. She gained a PGCE from the University of Exeter, followed by a TEFL Certificate from the Bell School of Languages in Norwich. Caroline has worked as a teacher, an EFL tutor in Oxford, Cambridge and Rome, and as a Cataloguing Assistant in a Cambridge archive.

Photo credit: David Gill

How did you first engage with poetry?

I grew up in a home full of books. My paternal grandfather would read aloud to his children when my father was a boy, and my father carried on the tradition, introducing me to a range of poems from a young age. I remember reciting fun little rhymes like ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ at nursery school. One of my favourite picture books was Pear-shaped Hill by Irving A. Leitner. The story, which featured a boy named Jack and a girl named Jill, was told in rhyming couplets, which were easy to remember. I attended Sunday School from a young age, and enjoyed learning choruses, especially the ones that had accompanying actions. As a family we sometimes composed ditties to sing or recite on long car journeys. One of these was a tongue-twister about the recovery of injured seals in a seal sanctuary. 

If my father shared his love of English poetry with me, my mother was responsible for introducing me to the world of Homer. She selected a child’s version of the Odyssey from the shelves of our local library for me to borrow; I very quickly became entranced by this epic and poetic tale of adventure. I was also captivated by the bold illustrations. Who could have foreseen that I would grow up to study and teach Classical Civilisation and marry a Mediterranean archaeologist?  

My childhood town had an annual Three Arts Festival which included a themed poetry competition. My father won the Grove Poetry Trophy (a silver inkstand) two years in a row, and I followed suit at the age of eleven, with a free verse poem about a koala. 

Friday 16 September 2022

Hannah Kezema : part four

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

It’s probably cliché, but Bernadette Mayer’s “The Way to Keep Going in Antarctica” is on my fridge for whenever I need it – “Be strong Bernadette” has become an endurance mantra. 

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part one

Andrea McKenzie Raine was born in Smithers, BC and grew up in Victoria, BC where she still resides. She was enrolled in the Creative Writing program and earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Victoria in 2000, and completed a post-degree Public Relations certificate program. She has attended the successful Planet Earth Poetry reading series (formerly known as Mocambopo) in Victoria, BC since 1997, and participated in the Glenairley writing retreats led by Canadian poet and novelist Patrick Lane in Sooke, BC. In 2005, she published her first book of poetry, titled A Mother’s String, through Ekstasis Editions. Her poetry has also appeared in Mocambo Nights, Canadian Literature journal, Quills, Borderlines anthology (Ascent Aspirations magazine), Tempus anthology (Rubicon Press), Poems from Planet Earth (Leaf Press), Tongues of Fire anthology, and several Glenairley chapbooks edited by Patrick Lane (Leaf Press). She has also written book reviews and articles for local magazines, celebrating the work of her peers. She lives with her husband and two young sons and, by day, is employed as a correspondence writer for the provincial government. Turnstiles is her debut novel published by Inkwater Press. She also published her second novel, A Crowded Heart, through Inkwater Press, which is a prequel to Turnstiles. Her most recent novel is the third book in the Turnstiles series, a sequel titled Beyond the Summer Grass.

How did you first engage with poetry?

Poetry found me at a young age. I was an early reader, and I enjoyed creating rhymes. My mom would ask me to write poems for family birthday cards.

Thursday 15 September 2022

Michael Goodfellow : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Fieldglass by Catherine Pond, Then the War by Carl Phillips, Short Journey Upriver Toward Ōishida by Roo Borson.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Barbara Leonhard : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem begins with a trigger. This trigger could be inspiration from something I’ve read, something I’ve seen in nature, an insight that places my problem or theme into a metaphor, a news event, a phrase I heard, anything that represents my interaction with the world. Sometimes I go a long time without writing a poem. I feel it stirring, but I can’t spit it out. Then some confluence of experience with metaphor or spirit creates the impulse to write. Hopefully the first line clearly sets up the theme and promises the form of the poem. The reader should want to keep reading the poem. A good title idea can start a poem, too. For example, to describe my relationship with my mother, I wanted a metaphor that showed my mother’s character. She was fairly strict and overly protective. Also, I helped her a great deal in the kitchen. I though of how her strong character was the wire spine in her cookbook. My title came to me, “Cooking a Life with a Wire Spine”. Then the poem wrote itself. Here are the first two stanzas. The rest of the poem can be found in my forthcoming collection, Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir (EFT, 2022). Also, this poem was nominated for Publication of the Month on Spillwords (August, 2021).

Cooking a Life with a Wire Spine

The recipe book that Mom assembled
in her own hand.
The front cover, missing.
The coffee-stained pages,
some partly dislodged
from the braided wire spine. Recipes 

harvested from lineages
stuck together by spilled batter.
Mistakes. Lessons learned. The hard way.
Trial and error. Until you got it right.
Without burning your hands.
Without blood splatter.  …..

In another poem in my forthcoming collection, “Mom and I Play Lassos with Our Hysterectomy Scars,” I wanted to explore the mother wound we each bore. This wound entangled us with the force of a competition. Here are the opening lines:

Mom’s scar can stretch from any corner of the country
          to Mid Missouri. 

A thick rope of Mother Wound
          reaching for my root. 

Her scar deepens as age swells her skin,
          draping the wound on her lap.

I am tethered to her lesion. The grief
          rubs my neck raw. ….

The approach is to find a “container” for the poem. I learned about this device to from Alison Wearing’s course, Memoir Writing, Ink. Once you can place the theme into a metaphor, it may be easier to begin the poem.  

My poem “Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks” is about letting go of the trauma and grief after Mom dies. Imagine your dirty laundry displayed in public. My purse contains objects that relate to my life with Mom and care for her as the Alzheimer’s progressed. Here are the opening and ending stanzas, which introduce the metaphor of the purse stuffed with life trauma and conclude the poem logically withing the container (Marie Kondo’s practice of letting go of things that are no longer needed combined with the purse containing my life trauma). This poem was voted Publication of the Month on Spillwords (January/February, 2022).

Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks

Konmari sees me at Starbucks,
my purse spilling over at the counter.
“May I help?”

She gathers me up
like I’m antique lace
washed too many times.

Before she begins, she whispers,
“Hello, the House,
I am safe. May I enter?”

She pokes through my purse, ….


Konmari has me
hold each item
one last time, saying,

“Thank you, tiny soul,
for sharing your life. I am

She teaches me
how to fold joy
three times.

How to throw out
what I can
no longer carry.

In brief, a successful memoir poem has unity. The first stanza helps establish the theme and metaphor, which is developed in the body of the poem, and the ending should fulfill the theme.

Katerina Canyon : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished? 

Like life, a poem is only finished when you die. For me, one poem is often an extension of something else I have written, so I can never say a poem is truly finished.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Heather Haley : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Composition has momentum and poems an arc. I grapple with the nuances of each ending but eventually they make themselves known.

Jared Povanda : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

This is a really interesting and varied question. No two poems are the same, and sometimes what I think is an ending is actually the launching off point to somewhere better. There will be times that I think a poem is finished. The final image or line seems to lock into place, and I get excited at the prospect of submitting it. When numerous rejections come in, though, and I return to the poem, often I’ll see that my ending is actually standing atop a false bottom. I get to a poem’s true ending when I no longer have the urge to tinker with it. The pieces balance as best as I can balance them, and there’s no way I can describe that feeling other than an innate rightness. 

Monday 12 September 2022

Rachel Mallalieu : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

As a mother of five and an emergency physician, it simply boils down to time!! I see things all the time that few people see. I’ll think, “I have to write about this…” But then I don’t, and I quickly forget the image or situation that felt so urgent. I’m most successful when I’m intentional about writing. When I’m intentional, I try to write at least a poem a week.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Andrew Williams : part four

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

When I require renewal and inspiration, I will often return to some of my favorite poets: R.S. Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Robert Bly, James Wright, Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall, Wendell Berry, Lucille Clifton, among others.  They continue to help me become a better poet. 

Saturday 10 September 2022

Michael Blouin : part five

How does a poem begin?

The beginnings of poems often occur external to the author; a branch falls, a lover does something ordinary in a particular way that signals the end of a relationship, a parent dies… these are the beginnings of poems and they are occurring all the time and everywhere. We are surrounded by the beginnings of poems, the poet notices these things in a way that allows them to be expressed as words. There is language based poetry that has less to do with these external events and more to do with words in the abstract sense and I would suppose that these poems begin with the word itself, or a letter even. In the beginning was the word. Does everything begin and end in poetry? Perhaps.

Friday 9 September 2022

Hannah Kezema : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Describing the indescribable. Working with language as a vehicle. Honestly: sitting at a computer for many hours. Being vulnerable. Trying not to take oneself too seriously while also taking one’s work seriously. Maybe the hardest thing is trusting that the poem knows what it wants to do despite your plans. 

Lana Crossman : part five

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

Maybe this comes to mind because we recently lost Steven Heighton, but his “The Waking Comes Late” is a particularly dog-earred poem in my library. The language is simple and lush. The vivid memory of planting trees with a loved one, regret, grief… it touches me every time I read it. 

Thursday 8 September 2022

Michael Goodfellow : part four

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

It lands in the world usually as a .docx upload in some magazine’s Submittable account. I don’t share feedback with writers or solicit feedback, other than one or two close friends. 

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Barbara Leonhard : part four

Why is poetry important?

I think poetry is the memoir of the soul. Good poetry reveals inner truth, conflict, lessons learned, and universal truth that arise out of a life suffered and lived. Really all good literature does this, but poetry is especially healing. I’ve found the poetry of Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Rumi, John O’Donahue, among others, to be comforting. In my library, I have a book by John Fox called Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making (1997). It teaches how to write poetry to express feelings, fears, pain, love, grief, illness, intimacy, abuse, the whole span of human emotions and relationship issues. Poetry writing in an outlet, the soul singing in metaphors that describe truths in concrete ways employing devices that create the songs. I sometimes write reflective, prayerful poetry, sometimes memoir, sometimes reactions to current events. People have called the poems powerful, raw, haunting, and passionate I think because the poems are my honest attempts to resolve inner conflicts with the subjects. By doing so, I feel some relief. While writing my poetic memoir, which is  due to come out this fall (2022), I came to understand my mother and myself, and to discover the source of our conflicts: intergenerational trauma and the mother wound, abandonment, lost dreams.

Emily Dickinson wrote, “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know this is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head has been taken off, I know that is poetry.” The confessional poets Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop come to mind. Their mental suffering produced poignant imagery, and their poems were masterful. Plath was writing several poems a day leading up to her sad end by suicide. We also lost Bishop to that. Can we say poetry is healing in that case? When I read their work and listen to them read their work on documentaries on You Tube, I feel the top of my head taken off. Their poetry illustrates the crying out of the soul. Maybe I can find healing in their words, even if their suffering was too great for them to bear. 

Anyone with feelings and emotions can write poetry if the desire is there. The human condition calls for words in poetry and music to comfort troubled souls. I turned to poetry writing as a young child to express my feelings. I felt intimidated by all the great poets I studied in school and felt incapable of writing good poems. This fear of failure created a block. I didn’t understand how to get in touch with that deep part of myself. I think teachers need to do more to help children express themselves with poetry. What we don’t heal internally will project out as anger and hurt others publicly (Jung). Writing poetry is meditative, a true practice of being present to oneself.

Katerina Canyon : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

My mother was a teacher and an academic, so poetry has always existed for me. She gave me a collection of Edgar Allan Poe poetry when I was five years old. 

Tuesday 6 September 2022

Heather Haley : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

As a child, via nursery rhymes and the Bible. These days I’m a devout atheist but it occurs to me that all that drilling and memorization of verses in Sunday school had a huge impact.

Jared Povanda : part two

How does a poem begin?

For the most part, with an image or a question. Something I want to explore or probe. In a poem I currently have out on submission, I imagined a mapmaker with hands made of wind. I had no idea where he was or where he was going or why he had no hands or why he even wanted to draw maps in the first place, but that image spread through me like wildfire and I knew he was my entry point into a new poem. Of course, sometimes I just think of a ridiculous line, something that doesn’t make any sense, and I see where it takes me. 

Monday 5 September 2022

Rachel Mallalieu : part four

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

Poetry packs an emotional punch in as few words as possible. I love being gutted by just a few well written words.

Sunday 4 September 2022

Andrew Williams : 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 usually work on my poems for a while. After I am content with a batch of them, I submit to various poetry magazine and journals. Sometimes I will solicit feedback from some trusted poets before submitting. However, I recognize that many people are busy and I do not want to burden them. So, in order to fill this gap, I recently joined a writers group that meets once a week over zoom. I am fortunate now to glean from insightful and accomplished poets on a more regular basis. 

Saturday 3 September 2022

Michael Blouin : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

There is nothing difficult about writing poetry. Being an emergency room nurse is difficult… a Walmart cashier, an astronaut, a roofer, a teacher, a server, a frontline mental health worker… these are difficult things to do for a variety of reasons. As a poet my role is to experience my life and once in a while write down some thoughts that may occur to me regarding it and then to try and assemble them into something cohesive. I often do this while seated in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee. A paramedic – that is a difficult job. Even within the wider discipline of writing I don’t find poetry difficult, not to the same degree that I find weaving a four hundred page novel together difficult for example, but perhaps this is a part of why I don’t tend to consider myself to truly be a poet. There is that quote that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for others though, and I think that is true. None of this is to say that the crafting of poetry is not terribly important work mind you, it is very definitely that.

Friday 2 September 2022

Hannah Kezema : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Only when it stops bothering you. It no longer wakes you in the middle of the night or bursts through your dreams. It doesn’t disrupt your workday or your leisure. When you read it, it feels fully, satisfyingly contained, like its own universe. Like it could never be, and never was, any other way. 

Lana Crossman : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Early in my writing career, William Carlos William’s poems showed me the power of crisp, minimalist language – and that the “everyday” is worthy of poetry. After all, does anything matter more than the red wheelbarrow?

More recently, I’m still interested in the everyday. But I’m trying to capture what that looks like in our times – and how it shapes our relationships and interactions. I’m inspired by poets like Karen Solie, Jim Johnstone and David O’Meara.

Thursday 1 September 2022

Michael Goodfellow : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

William Blake, George Johnston, Robyn Sarah, Carl Phillips, Louise Glück.