Monday 10 April 2023

Jay Passer : coda

How does a poem begin?

With a word, of course. Or a number. Or a signal, sign, emblem, curse, re-nunciation, slap... sometimes even a kiss. Definitely not an emoji. There are limits!

Thursday 6 April 2023

Sanjeev Sethi : part five

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Instinctively at one level and another level, never; that is why someone said poems are never finished; they have to be abandoned.

Monday 3 April 2023

Jay Passer : part five

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 send my work out to sites that seem conducive to my style and content. I don't have any poet friends; the two I did have have both died. But as far as the process goes, I've always worked alone. On the other hand, I have many friends in the visual arts, because I also paint and sculpt and conceive of visions. 

Thursday 30 March 2023

Sanjeev Sethi : part four

How does a poem begin?

Sometimes it is a thought, an opening line, or a hook that can be employed in the poem. One begins tentatively, but soon, a certain force overtakes one, and the poem takes a form of its own, many times far away from the original idea.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Emma Rhodes : part five

How does a poem begin?

With a word or phrase that sticks in my brain for days. I know I need to get it out, and often it’s as the opening line of a poem — then I let the poem grow from there ☺.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Lynne Jensen Lampe : part five

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

Recently, we felt out of hope at our house and pulled out a couple of Mary Oliver books to soak in her nature poems. She’s not a poet I read very much, but we definitely needed her poems then. One of my favorite poems is from Dorianne Laux’s Facts About the Moon. I love the simplicity and grace of the language as well as the varied sentence length. I’m drawn to it because I see myself in every line, especially “I never wondered. I read.”

Moon in the Window

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn to it and wonder.
I never wondered. I read. Dark signs
that crawled toward the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue. All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.

Monday 27 March 2023

Jay Passer : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes. Less people should consider themselves poets. It's a slush avalanche of meaninglessness. Poetry is a trifle; it's "poets" that feel they must be important. It's self-serving and egocentric. Poetry is something you read when you sit on the toilet. Leave importance to shaman, and their little adjuncts, doctors. I remember in my youth submitting by post and waiting three months or more for any response. Spoiled kids, these days. And really, who gives a damn? In the long run, it just doesn't pay. Unless you're Shel Silver-stein. 

Thursday 23 March 2023

Sanjeev Sethi : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

In a forty-year writing career, I have written in various genres: journalistic pieces, interviews, reviews, etc.,  but inditing comes the most naturally to me. I can work on a poem for twelve hours and more without it exhausting myself. No other kind of writing does that to me.

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Emma Rhodes : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Many poets have influenced me a lot over the years. Some particularly influential poets for me have been Olivia Gatwood, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, Rebecca Salazar, Conyer Clayton, John Elizabeth Stinzi, Adele Barclay, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Kyla Jamieson, Ashley-Elizabeth Best, and Theresa Estacion. Some of the most important things I have learned from these poets (a non-extensive list) have been that women’s stories are worth telling; painful experiences are worth exploring with kindness and a gentle touch; it’s okay (in fact often encouraged!) to sit in the places that make you feel weird/uncomfortable/gross because you might find the best things in those places; poetry has incredible political and social power; and that poetry does not to be left-centred — you’re free to move over the page in whatever ways feel right.  

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Lynne Jensen Lampe : part four

Why is poetry important?

It’s important to me personally because it’s the only place I am completely honest about who I am and what I’ve experienced—I have a contract with the poem to be forthright and unapologetic. In a larger sense, a poem links poet and reader; the writing and reading both lead to connections that resonate in a way that feels unexpected yet universal. With details (whether real or imagined), a poem can convey the intricacies of current events or personal histories—and a good poem will keep the reader from shutting down or rejecting the truth. Poetry invites us to challenge convention by raising questions no one’s thought to ask and by reveling in new forms, unusual sounds and syntax, and various visual formats. No matter where a poem lands on the narrative-lyric continuum, its storytelling, word play, and emotion link us to previous generations, to our humanity. 

Monday 20 March 2023

Jay Passer : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I never know. I either lose steam, get bored, or something more important comes up, like a drink, or a woman, or an earthquake. But I save everything, so all that unfinished or abandoned stuff can always find new life. Much of what I consider my best work has been reconditioned from previous states where I initially thought all was lost.

Thursday 16 March 2023

Sanjeev Sethi : part two

Why is poetry important?

Because it gives us hope, while reading a poem, one can get lost in its paresthesia. Poetry hones our humanity, turning us into finer beings.

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Emma Rhodes : part three

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Moving past the impulse to write too narrative or too obvious, and not writing only sad poetry haha. I am personally a huge fan of narrative and sad poetry, but I am trying to write happier poems and to really dive into images with less direct/narrative language. It is hard! But it’s fun ☺.

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Lynne Jensen Lampe : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

There are so many good ones! Three-Penny Memories by Barbara Harris Leonhard and A Map of Every Undoing by Alicia Elkort (both books are debuts). Outskirts by Heathen, Partial Genius by Mary Biddinger, River Inside the River by Gregory Orr, Wiregrass by Moira J. Saucer.

Monday 13 March 2023

Jay Passer : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I randomly found a book by e.e. cummings on the street when I was 14 years old. 100 poems. I was already a reader but this was a different species. e.e. didn't title his poems. e.e. ignored punctuation rules. e.e. played games with the universe. I was almost as fascinated with this new world as I was with girls. Almost.

Wednesday 8 March 2023

Emma Rhodes : 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?

Yes! A group of writer friends from my undergrad. We call ourselves the Egg Poets Society. My poetry would absolutely not be where it is today without them. I consistently look forward to sharing with them and workshopping with them! 

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Lynne Jensen Lampe : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

One of the first poets I studied with was Larry Levis. He taught me that it’s not enough for a poem to set a scene—it needs to take the reader on a journey of emotion, realization, recognition. From Dorianne Laux I learned that the process of writing can be playful and saw the depth conveyed when a poet writes about ordinary things. Gregory Orr, through his craft book A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry, taught me about order and disorder in poetry, our natural desire for balance between these opposites, and how each person has a different threshold for the shift from one to the other. (That teaching greatly affected the poems in Talk Smack to a Hurricane, my book about my mother’s mental illness—the more chaotic the content, the more I considered what and how much structure was needed.) As a result of Kim Addonizio’s poetry and her craft book Ordinary Genius, I realized there’s freedom in candor, regardless of the topic. I’ve learned new ways to start a poem. I now search for energy and emotional truth as it unfolds. Richard Hugo, in Triggering Town, his book of lectures and essays, taught me that the inspiration (trigger) for a poem is only sometimes what the poem is really about. Ed Skoog taught a whole class on taking the “side door” into poems—I learned to open myself to unexpected topcs and odd juxtapositions. He offered a new revision strategy: Alphabetize a poem’s lines according to the first word of each, then look for new connections or directions (I find this works best with poems of 20–30 lines or so). Rosebud ben Oni, in workshop and through her poetry, taught me that my purpose in writing is to tell my story and no one else’s—if someone’s missing from the conversation, I need to work to make space for their words, not speak for them. There’s too much I’ll never understand even though I want to. Through her book Odes to Lithium, Shira Ehrlichman showed me the power of a full poetry collection on psychiatric issues; it gave me the courage to build a manuscript of poems I’d written about my mother’s mental illness, our relationship, and psychiatry. 

Monday 6 March 2023

Jay Passer : part one

Jay Passer's work has appeared in print and online since 1988. He is the author of 13 collections of poetry and prose; his first novel, Squirrel, was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2022. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.

What are you working on?

A collection of poems scribbled over the last two years. Getting ready to publish. In two documents there's about 150 pieces. Half of these pieces have already seen the world in various online circumstances. Some tough work, some pathetic work, some sympathetic work, some ecstatic work.

Sunday 5 March 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : coda

Since I’ve started this poetry career I’ve been able to develop my own style and voice, and I encourage other poets to do the same. Don’t feel beholden to Poet Voice in your writing or your performance. Cut a promo. Growl and scream. Let the weight of every word break as it must.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Emma Rhodes : part one

Emma Rhodes (she/her) is an emerging queer writer currently living on the unceded territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island people. Her work has been published in places such as Prism International, Plenitude, Riddle Fence, and elsewhere. Her first chapbook, Razor Burn, is forthcoming with Anstruther Press. You can find her at

Photo credit: Connor Price-Kelleher

What are you working on?

I am close to seeing my first chapbook out in the world, which is very exciting! Other than that, I am trying to foster a writing practice that is compatible with my relatively new job working in publishing. I am working to be gentle on myself as my relationship with my writing changes, and to be very intentional about making time to write and submit work for publication ☺.   

Tuesday 28 February 2023

Lynne Jensen Lampe : part one

Lynne Jensen Lampe’s debut collection, Talk Smack to a Hurricane (Ice Floe Press, 2022) concerns mother-daughter relationships, mental illness, and antisemitism. Her poems appear in many journals, including THRUSH, Figure 1, and Yemassee. A finalist for the 2020 Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she lives with her husband and two dogs in mid-Missouri, where she edits academic research. Visit her at; on Twitter @LJensenLampe; or IG @lynnejensenlampe

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It depends on the poem. In general, a poem is done when I read it aloud and feel the energy in my voice stay strong until the last word. Sometimes I can feel that in my body, other times I need to listen to a recording. Conversely, I know a poem needs work when I hear or sense a vocal weakness, a softness that doesn’t derive from the content. Places I stumble over words. The revision and just sitting with the poem can take months. A few times, though, I needed to write a quick draft in time for my critique group, think I have nothing like an actual poem, and they tell me to send it out. Or I submit a poem over and over, all of a sudden decide to change the last word, and the next journal accepts it.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Luke Hathaway’s The Affirmations, John Elizabeth Stintzi’s Junebat, Di Brandt’s The Sweetest Dance on Earth, Sue Sinclair’s Almost Beauty, Jordan Trethewey and Marcel Herms’s Unexpected Mergers, Amber McMillan’s This is a Stickup, Daniel Scott Tysdal’s The End is in the Middle, Alyda Faber’s Poisonous If Eaten Raw, Robert Colman’s Democratically Applied Machine, Katie Fewster-Yan’s Surrender & Resistance, Triny Finlay’s Myself, a Paperclip, Maleea Acker’s Hesitating Once to Feel Glory, David Huebert’s Humanimus, and Harry Thurston and Thaddeus Holownia’s Icarus, Falling of Birds.

Saturday 25 February 2023

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part five

How does a poem begin?

For me, a poem tends to begin in one of three ways: (1) An image. Something I see or encounter, or from my memories, that I find arresting, or compelling. Something that isn’t literally shiny (especially since the image doesn’t have to be visual although, for me, it oftentimes is), but feels “shiny” inside my brain and continues to linger or shimmer or hold space within my mind until it becomes a kind of a question to which a poem might respond, but not necessarily answer. (2) A line, or a snippet of a line. Something that has a sense of music or propulsion, and is also language that I don’t really quite understand. Once again, this creates a question to which a poem might respond, but not necessarily answer. (3) A strange and compelling fact, usually scientific, frequently zoological, that brings me delight. From one of these starting points, I look for patterns, or connections, and I usually start to collect other images, pieces of language, or sometimes additional facts—oftentimes the more disparate on the surface the better—and I start to clink them together and see if I can make them sing.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : part four

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

Language is plain enough for hate but not complicated enough for love. I feel like a poem’s steady accumulation of images in context grants that complication the focus. Poetry doesn’t have to be an answer, but it can be where we understand a problem together through reading. For me that problem is how to say “I love you” with every true reason we have.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part four

Why is poetry important? 

I think that poetry is perhaps one of the most anti-capitalist of the art forms in that a poem is rarely generated for large sums of capital and poems rarely function as traditional commodities. And yet the circulation and exchange of poems/poetry continues, which to me affirms the necessity and value not only just of poetry per se, but of systems or currencies that exist outside of, or aren’t centered in, capital: language, incantation, song, breath, experiment, narrative or anti-narrative, image, line, communion, compassion, inspiration, creative play. I believe that poetry circles around a shared sense of ineffabilities, things felt or understood but unsayable and unsaid, that pulls us into a space of meaning, or meaning making, that reminds us not only of our ephemerality but also allows us to transcend the state of being mere meatsacks in the service of capital.

Sunday 12 February 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : 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 work closely with a group called the Egg Poets Society. We started workshopping each other’s poems during a COVID lockdown period in early 2022 with the aim of getting our work in publication-ready quality. We’ve been slowly accumulating new members, all folks we’ve made connections with during our degrees and careers. These are all people I can rely on to give honest and helpful feedback, but also glowing support. We’re all just so stoked about what we’re making, and every new publication is a big win. Pieces I’ve workshopped with this group have ended up in The Malahat Review, Augur Magazine, and the League of Canadian Poets’ Poetry Pause, and currently our group chat is called “Taco Poets Society” because they wanted to support me as I wait for word on what I’ve submitted to Taco Bell Quarterly.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part three

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

I feel like poetry is perhaps the most fluid of forms, the one most capable of shapeshifting, of transformation, and by extension I think that poems are also the form that is most capable of being aesthetically, emotionally, psychologically, culturally transformative. I think that any site of flux has the potentially to be a liminal space—a space of mystery, dismantling, and transgression. And so I think that poems frequently serve as small sites of mystery, dismantling, and transgression. Along similar lines, poetry tends to be the form in which language can function most explicitly as art, in which the aesthetic properties of language can be deliberately highlighted or deliberately played down, and in which the materiality of language is most often revealed, and as such the idea of language as transparent, or as communicative tool, or as a site of political or systemic neutrality is challenged. But I also think that poetry asks of the reader/audience to participate as an intellectual, artistic, emotional and psychological collaborator, and so the relationship between poet and reader/audience is never passive, or one-dimensional, and so powerful and unique relationships can be created between the poet, the poem, and the reader/audience. 

Thursday 9 February 2023

Diane Tucker : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Very. I’ve loved and been involved with music almost all my life, from elementary school choir to musical theatre to singing contemporary music to singing in my present church choir for more than twenty years. The rigour of baroque music thrills me, as do the more raw rhythms of western Medieval music. But I also love the music of my own time. The three songwriters that have likely influenced me most as a poet are Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Cockburn. All are musical geniuses and their lyrics can be immortally beautiful. Paul Simon in particular is brilliant at making poetry out of the patter of everyday speech.

Music lives in the body and in a poem in much the same way. It integrates us in a way nothing else seems to be able to.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Tanya Standish McIntyre : part five

How does a poem begin? 

A subtle prodding by the invisible world, in the form of feeling drawn by, noticing, paying attention to something; an angel's quiet whisper.....essentially, by a state of receptivity to the muses. In homeric times it was acknowledged that true poetry comes through the writer from beyond. One must have utmost reverence for this mystery, and above all a great deal of love, in order to be open enough to receive it. 

Sunday 5 February 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

It would have been during my undergrad at St. Thomas University. My first workshop group were assigned to read Michael Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid. But I never really gravitated towards poetry until I was hired as the Managing Editor of the Atlantic Canadian Poets’ Archive. I took advantage of the ACPA blog to interview and platform emerging undergraduate poets from around the region. I learned so much about this craft by engaging with these folks and all the new entries I published over those years. At the end of my final term at the ACPA, I saw my first poem published in a project edited by Jenna Lyn Albert, who I had actually written an entry on for the ACPA.

Saturday 4 February 2023

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I have a kind of internal barometer that I like to refer the “cringe test.” If, over time, I can read a poem straight through without, you know, feeling cringe-y at any point, or without getting snagged or tangled up on something (unless, of course, the act of becoming snagged or tangled is intentional), or without sliding off into distraction, or without feeling a small twinge, or flicker, of dissatisfaction, or a continued curiosity to either dismantle or fine-tune the poem any longer, then I feel that the poem is finally done. That the glaze is finally dry, so to speak. It doesn’t mean I think the poem is a perfect poem, by any means, of course, just that I’ve done all that I can do, or should do, with it. That I have nothing more to learn, or nothing more to impart, from continuing to work on that poem and if there’s a sense of continued energy in that direction, or that theme, or that form, or that aesthetic approach, it’s ready to be imparted to another, different poem.

Friday 3 February 2023

Sara Henning : part five

How important is music to your poetry? 

Music is incredibly important to my poetic practice. I grew up playing piano, and I will never forget my mother insisting that I play along with a metronome she would place on our piano’s music shelf. I hated the metronome at the time, but as I practiced scales and works ranging from Beethoven to Liszt, the pulse of the song became crucial to how I perceived the world. Rhythm is science and art fused into our daily experience—even the sound of our mother’s heartbeats mimics the iamb. Music was as crucial to how I experienced the world as a child as how I do now—language a collusion of assonance and consonance, grace and instinct. I am a fan of writing in form—sonnet and villanelle, specifically—because I find that the primal order of sound helps me to organize my rhetorical and aesthetic agendas. One recent form I have become fascinated by is Jericho Brown’s duplex, a new form featured in The Tradition, winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize. The duplex is at once sonnet, ghazal, and blues lyric. An example of one of Brown’s duplex can be found here:

Thursday 2 February 2023

Diane Tucker : part four

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

To renew the ear, Gerard Manley Hopkins always helps. Read aloud, preferably. There is a fantastic YouTube video of English actor Cyril Cusack reciting Hopkins:  I’ve listened to it many times. “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things…”

To renew the heart, Christina Rossetti is good. We are kin under the skin, she and I. I especially love her raw, despairing poems like her tour de force, “The Heart Knoweth its Own Bitterness”.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Tanya Standish McIntyre : part four

Why is poetry important?

For the same reason that beauty is. Because it will save the world - I do not think Dostoevsky was wrong. Someone said "beauty is the world seen through the eyes of love"-  Roethke said it something like this: Art is what undoes the damage of haste. E.B. Browning called it "the life within life". 

Sunday 29 January 2023

Jamie Evan Kitts : part one

Jamie Evan Kitts (she/her/hers) is a Co-Managing Editor of Qwerty Magazine, a member of the Egg Poets Society, a settler on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wolastoqiyik People, and a trans woman. Her work has appeared in Poetry Pause, The Malahat Review, Augur Magazine, and elsewhere.

What are you working on?

I am currently Co-Managing Editor of Qwerty Magazine, so right now I’m preparing the launch of issue 46. We’ll soon be entering our reading period for issue 47. I’m also figuring out how Qwerty can expand into chapbook publication. The goal is to publish two chapbooks with the judges and the winner of a chapbook contest under a new imprint. Personally, I’ve been working on a zine of food poems which I’m excited to launch in 2023 through I’ve been thinking of it like a demo tape or an EP which collects the single poems I’ve had published in the last couple years.

Saturday 28 January 2023

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part one

Lee Ann Roripaugh’s fifth volume of poetry, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50 (Milkweed Editions, 2019), was named a “Best Book of 2019” by the New York Public Library, selected as a poetry Finalist in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards, cited as a Society of Midland Authors 2020 Honoree in Poetry, and was named one of the “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections in 2019” by Book Riot. She is the author of four other volumes of poetry: Dandarians (Milkweed, Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin, 1999). She was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series. The South Dakota State Poet Laureate from 2015-2019, Roripaugh is a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review. Roripaugh served as one of the jurors for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and was appointed as the Mary Rogers Field and Marion Field-McKenna Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at DePauw University for spring 2022.

What are you working on?

I’m currently in the process of finishing up my sixth volume of poetry, a manuscript titled Kaze no Denwa / The Wind Phone. While conducting research for my prior book, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50, I learned that a man named Itaru Sasaki had placed a phone booth with a disconnected rotary-dial phone in a hilltop garden overlooking Otsuchi, Japan—a century-old town decimated by the 2011 tsunami. Sasaki originally used the phone to process his grief over the loss of a beloved family member. He described these conversations as phone calls made “on the wind.” After the tsunami, survivors who’d lost loved ones started visiting Sasaki’s phone booth from all along the Tohoku coast—making pilgrimages to speak to their dead on what became known as the kaze no denwa, or “wind phone.” Apparently, visitors would share their daily news, or express their regrets. Sometimes callers would plead with their deceased to please come back, or beseech them to look out for one another. Sometimes they’d simply say that they were lonely. In the most heartbreaking phone calls, callers would apologize for not having been able to save their dead. 

Needless to say, I found these accounts of the wind phone resonant and incredibly moving. But also, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intersections of loss (environmental loss; personal loss; parental losses due to aging, death, and dementia; losses due to trauma; losses due to disasters such as COVID-19 or climate change), I began to ask myself what it might mean to write a “wind phone” poem. And so I began drafting direct-address elegiac poems that speak to these types of grief, putting them in conversation with one another: my father’s death, my mother’s Alzheimer’s, extinction, climate change, COVID-19, as well as psychological and emotional losses due to abuse, illness, or trauma.

These direct-address poems are interspersed with poems written in five parts that circulate associationally and linguistically around a single word, or concept. I’ve been thinking of these poems as “mappings.” I also wanted to set these mappings in dialogue with an ancient Japanese map called “Jishin-no-ben.” “Jishin-no-ben” represents an ouroboros, a dragon eating its own tail, circling around a geographical area in Japan. This map was apparently meant to serve as a visual explanation, or warning, for the earthquakes and tsunamis that had occurred there. These are poems in which I map out a larger context for the disasters creating the griefs, or losses, that are spoken on the wind. Each section also contains a hybrid prose poem/lyric flash essay “notes” piece that unpacks some of the related psychological underpinnings, or fallout, of trauma. 

Friday 27 January 2023

Sara Henning : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing? 

Early on, confessional and post-confessional poets such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Kim Addonizio, Mary Oliver, and Dorianne Laux gave me permission to write about how I experienced the world. Poets who position themselves between narrative and lyric modes continue to teach me how to conceptualize experience and its music: poets like Lynda Hull and Mark Doty, Lee Ann Roripaugh and Larry Levis. Early on, I encountered the metaphysical work of Charles Wright—works from his trilogies like Negative Blue blended place, philosophy, and the self in ways which made the hair on my arms stand on end—but lately, I find myself being shattered in all the best ways by poets engaging with new possibilities for poetic form. Poets like Allison Joseph (My Father’s Kites made me fall in love with the sonnet all over again), Patricia Smith (Blood Dazzler and Incendiary Art are necessary reading), Diane Seuss (frank: sonnets just won the Pulitzer Prize), Danez Smith, and Terrance Hayes (the creator of the golden shovel and whose collection of sonnets, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is one of the best collections of sonnets published in the twenty-first century) teach me how poetic form—once a gatekeeping device—presents constant possibilities for advocacy, witness, and innovation.

Thursday 26 January 2023

Diane Tucker : part three

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

No other form distills language to its musical and lexical essence like poetry. It’s like the concentrate of a substance found in other writing in diluted form. This is why it was considered for millennia, in the west anyway, to be the highest form of writing. I certainly wouldn’t make that claim anymore, but its uniqueness remains. Because the best poems require the most precise language in its most mellifluous order, poetry remains the headwaters of expressive language.

Because of this I think it can, as well, slow us down and make us pay attention to the world in a way that’s much less encouraged now, and less do-able. When we have an hour, our minds race with achievements or tasks to be finished and cannot be still. Poetry offers this stillness, often by way of prolonged, focussed attention.

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Tanya Standish McIntyre : part three

How important is music to your poetry? 

Poets once were bards - there must always be music in poetry. To me, it is requisite that a poem reads with musicality. My first love was music and song, and I am extremely drawn by the heart and depth that lives in ballads and folk music in particular. In all genres of music, the best examples are doors to an experience of the world that is immersive on all levels of being. Music is empathy, which poetry is as well - they are two streams which pour into the ocean from the same mouth.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Sarah Ens : part five

What are you working on?

I just published my second book, Flyway (Turnstone Press), which is a long poem that’s occupied me for the past four years. I’m not entirely sure what’s next. I do feel energized, though, writing discrete little poems again and seeing where they take me. 

Monday 23 January 2023

Matthew Kosinski : part five

How does a poem begin?

Sometimes with a ghost, sometimes with a joke. Although before that, before the immediate inciting incident, there is a slow and steady accumulation of fragments: overheard phrases, unbidden ideas, resonant texts, facts that scream to be made into metaphors. I spend my time moving through the world and collecting these little fragments, jotting them down in notebooks, suspending them from the rafters of my brain where they can sway and sing together.

And then, the inciting incident: A hypothetical question about eating your clone, for example. That gives the fragments something to coalesce around. It gives them a shared premise. It illuminates their similarities, heightens their differences. They all begin casting light and shadow on one another, melting into one another, gesturing toward other fragments, morphing into strange new entities with many faces. It’s all quite chaotic. 

So what you need to do, then, is find that line or phrase to anchor them – like binding a spirit to a cursed object. That’s the first line – maybe not sequentially in the finished poem, but temporally in the poem’s life. And the rest of the writing process is about cultivating that line so that it twists and grows and ramifies into the poem, with branches of the right length and heft to support the constantly shifting weight of all those fragments.

Friday 20 January 2023

Sara Henning : part three

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

Poetry, to me, is the intellectual and aesthetic counterpart of the human heartbeat, and as such, I believe that poetry is the genre most connected to the body and to the physical expression of life. Poetry is tied to the body in the same ways as music, for poetry and music share the same genetic origins. In Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, Emily, who dies in childbirth, returns to experience life on her twelfth birthday, during which time she understands, with horror, the extent to which people take life for granted. When she asks Stage Manager, "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?,” he replies "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” Poetry takes as its interest the life which pulses under each moment—its philosophy, its gratitude, its song, its psychology, its fierce yearning.  Poetry is my deepest love and my mother tongue.

Thursday 19 January 2023

Diane Tucker : part two

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?

I meet with a small group of poets on a sort of ad hoc basis, every few months, to share new work. It’s a great bunch, perceptive and encouraging! Covid restrictions have made it difficult – we did meet on Zoom a couple of times – but we’re working on meeting together again in the flesh soon!

I spent a long time in a local writers’ workshop in the nineties and early 2000’s and fell out of the habit of it. I thought those days were done, but this more recent group that formed slowly through poets Daniel Cowper and Emily Osborne is giving me a good kick in the pants again.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Tanya Standish McIntyre : part two

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

Wallace Stevens "The Idea of Order at Key West" never fails me. Oh blessed rage for order, pale Ramon!

Tennessee Williams, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Rainer Maria Rilke, Clarisse Lispector, Rabindranath Tagore, Dylan Thomas, Hermann Hesse, R.W. Emerson, Owen Barfield, T.S. Eliot....any of the above do the trick - these are just the ones that come to mind immediately...of course there are more.

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Sarah Ens : part four

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

I return most often to: Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay,” Daphne Marlatt’s Steveston, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Louise B. Halfe Skydancer’s Blue Marrow, Phyllis Webb’s Naked Poems, Dionne Brand’s No Language Is Neutral, Tim Lilburn’s Moosewood Sandhills, and a whole bunch of Mary Oliver, Camile Dungy, WS Merwin, Nikki Giovanni, Don McKay, Dennis Cooley, Di Brandt, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maggie Smith, and Ada Límon. 

One of the best things that happened to me this year was discovering that Ada Límon hosts a poetry podcast called The Slowdown. Each episode is five minutes long and involves a briefly framed reading of one poem. Another easy route to renewal: subscribing to the League of Canadian Poets’ “poetry pause” email blast which sends out a poem by a contemporary Canadian poet every day at 10am. 

Monday 16 January 2023

Matthew Kosinski : part four

Why is poetry important?

For me, poetry – and all art, really – is about possibility. It’s about expanding possibility in the world by introducing new forms, new ideas, and new experiences. I’m not really interested in poetry as a form of self-expression; I’m interested in it as a site of ongoing public cultural and intellectual invention. A site of communal, continual meaning-making. 

I have this concept of something I call “the beyondward.” It’s essentially a metaphorical, metaphysical realm representing all the possibilities and meanings that exist beyond our immediate realities. We are hemmed in by a capitalist economy, by sham democracies, by debt and alienation and ideology. Mark Fisher called it “capitalist realism,” the sense that there is no alternative to the world we’ve constructed.

But I think there is an alternative, and it exists in the “beyondward” – the epistemic space that houses all the other ways we could arrange our lives. And I don’t just mean our personal lives – where to work, who to spend time with, what matters to me – but also our public lives – how to arrange the economy so everyone’s needs are met, how to build a truly free and fair system of governance, what matters to all of us together on this planet. 

I think poetry is important because it’s one of the ways we can all contribute to the beyondward, to the stock of possibilities and meanings available there. By playing with language and pushing it to new places, we can create opportunities for ourselves to encounter the world in new ways. We can invent forms that help all of us think new thoughts and feel new things and arrive at new meanings. Those new thoughts, those new encounters, can expand our horizons of possibility. And then it becomes easier, bit by bit, to believe that the world could – and should – be different, better. 

Look, I’m a socialist, and that heavily informs my ideas about art and poetry. And being a poet informs my politics, too: It is because poetry pointed me toward the beyondward in the first place that I began to think a transformative politics was possible. 

But I need to emphasize that I don’t think poetry is important only because it serves a political project. Rather, I think it’s important because it – and all art – is one of the ways in which we human beings build a shared intellectual world together – i.e., my “beyondward.” It’s important to have that world and to tend it carefully. The more thriving and full of possibility our beyondward is, the more thriving and full of possibility our own lives are.

Saturday 14 January 2023

Samantha Jones : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been engaging with poetic audiobooks. There is something really special about listening to the poet narrate their work. I recently listened to The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand and Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith. I love the audiobook experience because I can hear the intended emphasis in the poet’s own voice. It’s magic to be able to push a button and have Dionne Brand read to you. I’m also reading a few paperbacks—Tend by Kate Hargreaves, which I am loving. I’m always in awe of poetry that can rile me up and then make me laugh on the next page. I have Victoria Mbabazi’s FLIP on my side table. I was hooked on Mbabazi’s work after reading chapbook and look forward to reading more. I’ll be lined up for all future work by Mbabazi.

Friday 13 January 2023

Sara Henning : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began? 

Without a doubt, my consideration of poetry has changed since I began writing. As I teach my creative writing students at Marshall University, one cannot develop a serious writing practice without simultaneously establishing a serious reading practice. Over the years, reading taught me crucial things about the field of poetics: its historical trends, its contemporary uses. I believe that if one does not evolve with one’s poetry, one is likely writing the same book (or the same poem) over and over again.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Diane Tucker : part one

Diane Tucker is a poet, editor, fiction writer, and playwright from Vancouver, BC. Her work has been widely anthologized and published in more than seventy journals in Canada and abroad. Her first poetry collection, God on His Haunches (Nightwood Editions, 1996), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Nostalgia for Moving Parts is her fourth book of poems.

How did you first engage with poetry?

I have a strong memory from when I was about seven years old of hearing Carly Simon’s song “You’re So Vain” and being struck by the phrase “clouds in my coffee”. I thought of how my parents’ coffee looked when they put milk in it, how it billowed out and did look like clouds. The connection fascinated me, this triple-layered metaphor. I felt so drawn to this idea of one thing being another thing in that way, like magic!

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Tanya Standish McIntyre : part one

Tanya Standish McIntyre is a poet and visual artist based in North Hatley, Quebec, Canada. Her debut collection, The House You Are Born In, published in McGill-Queens University Press’s Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series in December '22 has been called “a stunning debut by a promising new poetic voice, haunting and uplifting in equal measure.” Winner of the Carmen Ziolkowsky Poetry Contest in 2022, as well as the Dr. William Henry Drummond Prize, her poems appear in numerous anthologies and journals across North America.

Visit her website at

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Having enough hours in the day to take note of all the words, lines, that want to come through; the time it takes to transcribe from pencil and paper onto the computer, given I never learned how to type; keeping adequately organized with a zillion Word files.

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Sarah Ens : part three

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

To me, there’s something primal, basic, and immediate about poetry. Maybe I like that poetry most closely mimics how I think the mind works: simultaneously full of uncertainty and conviction, offering non-linear narratives, juxtaposing disjointed experiences and images in wild and hopeful attempts to make meaning. I like that poetry can be bewildering/bewildered and also urgent, concise, true.

Monday 9 January 2023

Matthew Kosinski : part three

How did you first engage with poetry?

I like to tell this story because it’s probably the least romantic poet origin story you could have. I was 14 and depressed. I felt I had nothing going for me. I looked around at my peers, and they all seemed to have things they cared about: sports, music, dance, acting, whatever. They were all doing something; they were active participants in the world: chests burning with exertion, minds humming with activity. They were contributing

Me? I was nothing but a consumer, a pudgy nerd who spent all his time reading books, playing video games, merely devouring the things other people made. I made nothing of my own.

And so one day, on the bus home from high school, I decided: Fuck it, why not write some poems? I liked reading, and writing seemed to be the active counterpart of that pastime. Writing made something tangible happen in the world, the same way that my more athletically inclined classmates made something tangible happen in the world when, say, the bat cracked against the ball and sent it flying beyond the farthest reaches of the field in gym class. 

To put it bluntly: I started writing because I sucked at sports. 

We had been reading Shakespeare’s sonnets in English at the time, and it didn’t seem that hard to write fourteen lines. So I did – I wrote my very first poem on that bus ride, a terrible sonnet that had much more in common with the melodrama of third-wave emo (think: Fall Out Boy, Northstar, the Blood Brothers) than Shakespeare. But, hey, I enjoyed it. And ~20 years later, here we are.

Sunday 8 January 2023

James Davies : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Listening to music certainly enriches my life, and I listen to music almost every day, loud, often singing and dancing, often whilst editing (not usually whilst composing). Most of the music I listen to is instrumental, extremely beautiful, existential and blissful to my ears, which carries over into the mood of my writing. On the other hand, walking, looking at art and reading probably have more of a direct impact on the content and form of my writing.

Saturday 7 January 2023

Samantha Jones : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Billy-Ray Belcourt for sure. When I read NDN Coping Mechanisms, I thought holy crap, you can do this with poetry?! Incredible. Belcourt’s work is so visceral and beautifully humble. It inspired me to get to the bottom of who I am (an ongoing process) and how I need to show up in my poetry and writing life for those around me. Adebe DeRango-Adem and Andrea Thompson are two other poets that continue to blow my mind. They edited an anthology called Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out and it was life-changing for me. That sounds very cliché, but it’s true. The book is packed with contributions from many creatives with mixed heritages, including pieces by the two editors. Reading Other Tongues was the first time I ever felt like a book was speaking directly to me and a lot of its power was in the multiplicity of voices sharing their stories. It was a whole community of people reaching out to me. I started having success publishing my work after I figured out that I didn’t need to write about the fancy trending things that I thought I needed to include or explore. My story was interesting, and before I could go outward with my writing, I needed to go inward and do some excavating. This was a fundamental shift in my understanding of how I should and should not occupy space with my work. 

Friday 6 January 2023

Sara Henning : part one

Sara Henning is the author of Burn (Southern Illinois University Press, 2023), Terra Incognita (Ohio University Press, 2022), and View from True North (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018). She was awarded the 2015 Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, the 2019 Poetry Society of America's George Bogin Memorial Award, First Prize in the 2020 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award (Passaic County Community College), and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in poetry to the 2019 Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her work has appeared in journals such as Quarterly West, Crab Orchard Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southern Humanities Review, Witness, Meridian, and the Cincinnati Review. She is an assistant professor of English at Marshall University.

What are you working on? 

I am currently working on a new collection of poems, Yellow, an ekphrastic collection which addresses Vincent Van Gogh's life and art produced during his time at the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, then in Auvers, where he committed suicide. During this time, he produced some of his most famous paintings—The Olive Trees (1889), Irises (1889), and The Starry Night (1889). I have held a flame for Van Gogh ever since I was a child, specifically his relationship with the aesthetics of color. Through the use of color, van Gogh often rendered the physical world around him into a living anthology of emotion, and as such, van Gogh’s relationship between art and mental illness is of great interest to me. While exploring Van Gogh’s work, I am concurrently exploring my mother’s relationship with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder.  

Thursday 5 January 2023

S. T. Brant : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

I’m going to try to take this down a different road than just saying ‘writing is the most difficult part of writing’ because you can just scroll down your twitter timeline and see a million tweets a day affirming that. Instead, I’ll try to talk about what made it difficult for me. I used to be prolific in my youth. It’s a good thing I’m not anymore because I was also, generally, bad. But rattling off those easy things was probably good for me. Now, of course, the challenge is beginning: getting up the nerve to tackle the vision you have for what the idea should be and the prophetic certainty that your mortal coil will only be able to shuffle off a debased version of the ideal. See? The problem is that: nihilism precedes the opening, so the beginning never begins. If you have no hope that you can measure up to what Time demands, your despair will lead you to oblivion’s plate, and the insatiable emptiness will collect you as it does all. Then you counter yourself: if it collects all, better to be collected with a long trail behind you of artefacts rather than a deep inwardness of unsubstantiated ideas- and yet… Nothing reigns. This can become especially prominent once you shift from the private, youthful scribbles, or the private scribbles that predate the consciousness that you’re in the literary world into the conscious striving to set up a prominent place in the literary market- and you meet denial, rejection, muted or negative reactions when you only ever encountered praise in your little world. And digging out of the hole that is the comparing world of literature, submitting for publication, the measurements of publication, where the locations of the published pieces are ranked by prestige, all this then becomes part of your poetic psyche, and your writing is no longer about transcribing an ideal into a form but now about doing so in a way that pleases or defeats those who have hurt you, to join the crowd you’re outcast from. Maybe some people escape this or do better with it. But the real trial becomes: how are you able to get back to the place where writing poetry is about writing poetry and not about the game? The game presents a major obstacle, one which you, the writer, typically exaggerates to your own doom. Life builds walls enough: finding time to think and work in the midst of life. That’s the bulk of the difficulty there: the external hindrances that life thrusts upon us all- how do we overcome these sufficiently to work? Some can compartmentalize better than others: when they arrive home, they can cast aside the day’s drudgery; others take longer to decompress to get into the state they need to be in to let themselves feel what they need to feel to think. Finding your own groove is one of the difficulties. Sometimes your groove changes on you, and you need to reestablish how you overcome. Basically, life is determined to make writing poetry difficult. But sometimes it comes easy. Some poems flood out, and those are beautiful. Sometimes routine, by this I mean a work routine- maybe a job where the duties are fairly rote, or more physical and you feel you have your entire mental side to yourself- puts us in a position to work better. For me, it doesn’t. I’m a baby. I’m overwhelmed easily, and the slightest draught displaces me. I’ll cry that the world is set against me and wallow. Life is conspiring against my work. No one cares. Only me. In that reality, the only way out is through- a saying that may be cliché, but which helps me step on a plane and endure. Write or die. Obviously, I don’t want anyone to adopt that. I’ve adopted it because I hold myself to harsher and more merciless standards than I apply to others, but even hyperbolically, the point holds: work or don’t, but the suffering of not working will eventually outweigh the suffering of working. 

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Sarah Ens : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

In a talk at the University of Saskatchewan, Tim Lilburn introduced me to the idea of “poetry systems” which unfold over a number of books and occupy decades of a writer’s life. Ongoing preoccupations. Life-long poems. Thinking about my writing like that helps me let go of one poem and move into the next, trusting that each effort connects to some larger network. I can allow each individual piece to say some of what I hoped to say without needing it to (impossibly) accomplish everything.

It also helps to put poems away, pull them out some time later, read them out loud, and listen for what sings. What can be pared back? How can I clarify an image or idea? At some point, the thing starts to sound more true, less terrible. At some point, I’m satisfied enough to feel that it’s done.

Monday 2 January 2023

Matthew Kosinski : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It’s a cliché to quote Valery on this subject, but he’s right: A poem is never finished, it’s only abandoned. So then the question becomes: When is it time to abandon a poem? 

And the answer, for me, is: When I’ve done all I can for the poem; when the poem’s needs have been fulfilled except for those needs that I am incapable of fulfilling. Because every poet is incapable of making the poem they set out to make; the poem that actually exists can only ever be an attempt at reaching some imagined poetic perfection. Ben Lerner puts it best in The Hatred of Poetry: “The poem is always a record of failure.” The trick is in recognizing when you’ve gotten the poem as close to the unattainable ideal as you can.

A metaphor to (hopefully) make it clearer. Say every poem starts as a tiny spirit in need of a body – some idea or experience or emotion that wants to exist in the world and needs to be rendered in language to have that existence. My job as the poet, then, is to make that body. The spirit/poem knows what kind of body it needs to live in the world. I’ve got to listen to it and shape a body that meets its specifications. But of course, I am not god. I can’t conjure a real, flesh-and-blood body ex nihilo. Best I can do is a sort of clay approximation. And when I’ve made the best damn clay body I can for my little spirit/poem, it can exist in the world as an independent entity. It no longer needs me (because I can’t give it what it really, truly, ultimately wants). 

And so I send it on its way and hope that, with every reader it meets, it gets closer and closer to that ideal. Because the readers, too, are part of the process of authoring the poem. The interpretations they bring to it, the encounters they have with it: All of that is part of the poem, too. It accrues like a constellation around the poem; it expands and enlivens the poem’s clay body, makes that body more supple, more pliable, warmer, more massive. Every reader, in this way, brings the poem closer to that ideal and receding state it yearns for. 

Sunday 1 January 2023

James Davies : part four

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

I have more than a few favourites. Without going to the bookshelf I will pick out three to limit this answer. Any of P. Inman’s books to cleanse the soul: for a gong bath, for a sit-down walk. Then Robert Grenier’s Sentences and Matt Welton’s We Needed Coffee… for bliss, deep imagery, and brainwork that’s intense but not taxing.