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.