Women Write Resistance 2nd Birthday Party @ AWP 4.11.15, 7-9pm

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We’re celebrating the two-year birthday of Women Write Resistance at the 2015 AWP Conference in Minneapolis!

What: Women Write Resistance 2nd Birthday Party
Who: Wendy Barker, Sarah A. Chavez, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Rebecca Foust, Alice Friman,   Megan Gannon, Sara Henning, Therése Halscheid, Julie Kane, Jill Khoury, Christina Lovin, Tyler Mills, Danielle Sellers, Larissa Shmailo, Laura Madeline Wiseman, & Kimbery Wieser
When: Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Where: The Crooked Pint, 501 South Washington Ave

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The birthday party’s theme is resistance and gender. There’s an open bar of delicious refreshments, a signing of the anthology, a book table for poets to buy, trade, sell, and/or autograph, and fabulous literary conversation. It will be great fun! Bring a friend to the event,check out the event page, follow us on twitter, and check out the  book trailer. We look forward to seeing you at AWP!

Bios & Photos

Wendy Barker’s sixth collection of poetry, One Blackbird at a Time, has received the John Ciardi Prize and is forthcoming from BkMk Press in 2015. Her fourth chapbook of poems is forthcoming from Wings Press. Among her other books are a selection of poems with accompanying essays, Poems’ Progress (Absey & Co., 2002), and a selection of co-translations, Rabindranath Tagore: Final Poems (Braziller, 2001). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2013. Recipient of NEA and Rockefeller fellowships, she is Poet-in-Residence and the Pearl LeWinn Endowed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the chapbook, All Day, Talking (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which was featured on Sundress Publications’ book spotlight, The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed. She holds a PhD in English with a focus in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Stirring: A Literary Collective, Spoon River Poetry ReviewLuna Luna Magazine, among others. Her manuscript, This, Like So Much, was an Honorable Mention for the 2013 Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Contest. A selection from her chapbook manuscript All Day, Talking won the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship in 2013. She is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop. www.sarahachavez.com

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Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s books include authored (poetry) Dog Road WomanOff-Season City PipeBlood Run, and Streaming, and a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer and edited anthologies Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous AmericasEffigies and Effigies II. She most recently served as a Distinguished Writer at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa and directs the Literary Sandhill Crane Retreat, performs with the band Rd Klā, and is currently at work on an environmental documentary film, Red Dust: Native resiliency in the dirty thirties. Hedge Coke came of age working fields, factories, and waters, and serves as an alternative field mentor. Awards for her work include an American Book Award, a Paterson Prize, a Sioux Falls Mayor’s Award, and fellowships or residencies with MacDowell, Black Earth Institute, Hawthornden Castle, Weymouth Center, Center for the Great Plains, and Lannan at Marfa.

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Megan Gannon was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and graduated from Vassar College (BA), the University of Montana (MFA), and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (PhD).  Formerly, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa, and she currently teaches at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin.

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Rebecca Foust’s fifth book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and will be released in April. Foust was the 2014 Dartmouth Poet in Residence and is the recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place and the MacDowell Colony.

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Alice Friman’s sixth full-length collection is The View from Saturn from LSU Press. Her previous collection is Vinculum, LSU, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in Poetry. She is a recipient of a 2012 Pushcart Prize, is included in Best American Poetry 2009, and has been published in 14 countries. Friman lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College. Her podcast series, Ask Alice, is sponsored by the Georgia College MFA program and can be seen on YouTube.

Therése Halscheid’s new poetry collection is Frozen Latitudes (Press 53). Previous collections are Uncommon Geography, Without Home and Powertalk. She received a Greatest Hits chapbook award by Pudding House Publications. Her poetry and essays have appeared in such magazines as The Gettysburg Review, Tampa Review, Sou’wester, Natural Bridge. She is an itinerant writer by way of house-sitting. Her photography has appeared in juried shows and chronicles her nomadic lifestyle. She has taught in unusual locales such as an Eskimo village in northern Alaska, and the Ural Mountains of Russia. www.ThereseHalscheid.com

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Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink, 2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Connotation Press, Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, Greensboro Review, and RHINO, and anthologies such as Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (2013). She holds an MFA from George Mason University, and she is currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Assistant Managing Editor for the South Dakota Review and on the Editorial Board at Sundress Publications.

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Julie Kane’s poetry collections include Rhythm & Booze (2003), a National Poetry Series winner; Jazz Funeral (2009), a Donald Justice Prize winner; and Paper Bullets (2014), a new collection of humorous poems. The 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate, she teaches at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

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Jill Khoury is interested in the intersection of poetry, visual art, representations of gender, and disability. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Arsenic Lobster, Copper Nickel, Inter|rupture, and Portland Review. Pudding House Press released her chapbook, Borrowed Bodies, in 2009. Her first full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016. Find her at jillkhoury.com.

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A native Mid-Westerner, Christina Lovin, now makes her home in Central Kentucky, where she is currently a full-time lecturer in the English & Theatre Department at Eastern Kentucky University. Lovin’s writing has appeared in over one hundred different literary journals and anthologies, as well as five volumes of poetry (Echo, A Stirring in the Dark, Flesh, Little Fires, and What We Burned for Warmth). She is the recipient of numerous poetry awards, writing residencies, fellowships, and grants, most notably the Al Smith Fellowship from Kentucky Arts Council, Kentucky Foundation for Women, and Elizabeth George Foundation Grant.

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Danielle Sellers is from Key West, FL. She has an MA from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA from the University of Mississippi where she held the John Grisham Poetry Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in River Styx, Subtropics, Smartish Pace, The Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Her first book, Bone Key Elegies, was published by Main Street Rag. She teaches English at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Larissa Shmailo is editor-in-chief of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry (Big Bridge Press), poetry editor for MadHat Annual, and founder of The Feminist Poets in Low-Cut Blouses. She translated Victory over the Sun for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s celebrated reconstruction of the first Futurist opera; the libretto is now available from Červená Barva Press; Larissa’s poetry collections are #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books), In Paran (BlazeVOX [books], A Cure for Suicide (Červená Barva Press), and Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks). Her poetry CDs are The No-Net World and Exorcism (SongCrew); tracks are available from Spotify, iTunes, Muze, and Amazon. Her novel, Patient Women, is forthcoming from BlazeVOX [books]. She blogs at http://larissashmailo.blogspot.com/

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Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press). Her recent books are Drink (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard), and the collaborative book The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Lauren Rinaldi. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies.

Kimberly

Dr. Kimberly Wieser is an Assistant Professor of English and an affiliated faculty member with Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She is Director of Native Writers Circle of the Americas and serves as Acting President of the Board of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. She is one of the co-authors of Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective (OU Press), named one of the most important books in her field in the first decade of the 21st century by NAISA and the winner of the NWCA First Books Award for Prose 2004 for Back to the Blanket: Reading, Writing, and Resistance for American Indian Literary Critics. She has written and published poems, stories, plays, articles, book reviews, and reference entries for anthologies and for publications from Studies in American Indian Literatures to American Indian Quarterly to News from Indian Country and Talking Stick Arts Newsletter. Her areas of interest are American Indian critical theories, literatures, rhetorics, and gender studies as well as creative writing and theatre. She is currently revising her poetry manuscript Spanglish is the Language of the 21st Century and shopping for a publisher.

the chapbook interview: Joshua Gray on poetry’s answer to the novella

I’m a little in love with the place you invoke in Mera Bharat, your new chapbook from Red Dashboard. I know you traveled to India and recently lived there for two years. Did you set out to write this collection on your recent inhabitance or did these poems arrive after you returned? Talk about place as inspiration in your work.

A sense of place is so important when writing about experiences in India. For people who have never been there, the country is full of mystery; for people who have, the feeling is usually more nostalgic. But while you can’t escape the importance of place in India, I never had it in mind while I wrote, because it is so intertwined with the overall experience.

There are a couple obvious (at least, to me) exceptions to this. The first is the longer sectional work at the end of the collection. The poem reads as one long experience, but in reality I am telling the story of three separate trips I made to the city of Mussoorie within a seven month period of time. The title of the poem, “Finding Here”, is a nod to that demand for a sense of place. The hill stations are so different from the rest of India, the experiences needed to be explored more when I wrote the poem, both from a physical standpoint as well as cultural. Nowhere else in India would I have heard Led Zeppelin on the loud speaker in a small restaurant and thought so little of it.

The second is my poem “Riding Into Downtown Kolkata”. This poem is completely about place. It describes – in only one sentence might I add – a ride from the outskirts of Kolkata (Calcutta) into downtown, while taking a tour of the city. Just about everything described in the poem was experienced from my seat in the car, looking out the window.

Most of the poems were not only written after coming home from India, they were written up to two decades later. There were experiences I knew I wanted to write about, but never had, so the creative process came very late. I relied on my journal entries for some things, and went on pure memories for others. These poems came from my trip in the mid-90’s when I traveled throughout the north. But there are also other poems, such as “Gaurs”, “Elephant Valley” and others that were experienced while living in the southern part of India from 2012-2014, and written down almost immediately afterwards. So really the collection is made up of a mix of time and place.

The daily maintenance of life infuses many of these poems—food eating, tea and alcohol drinking, pest removal, public transportation, sleeping accommodations—seeming to make urgent the necessary up keep we all keep to in an effort to belong. The act of traveling and living abroad permeates here. What travel narratives and collections of poems that do this same work do you admire?

This is a tough question to answer. It is tough not because there are so many choices, but because there are so few. I am not normally drawn to travel narratives, nor am I drawn to writers who detail the nitty-gritty everyday stuff of life. I am drawn to the classics mostly, and the classical literature delves little into such stuff.

There are three authors who influenced me early and who wrote about the hardships of everyday life. The first is John Steinbeck. From dramatic pieces like East of Eden and Of Mice and Men to the more comical Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row, he had a way of writing about daily life with such emotion and detail that was hard to match. Another author I read only a short while later was Thomas Wolfe, not to be confused with Tom Wolfe – a common and unfortunate mix-up indeed! Wolfe wrote Look Homeward Angel, a novel full of the hardship and details of daily life he experienced as a child. It is so autobiographical it is criticized as not being fiction! But it is, and it is the story is brilliantly told. The third is the master storyteller Charles Dickens. Enough said, there.

From a travel narrative perspective, I am afraid I have little to offer. While I think I would enjoy such stories, interestingly enough I haven’t read much – if any – of them.

But now that I have read much of the classics, I am definitely reading more modern and contemporary works, especially when it comes to poetry. Cameron Conaway wrote a wonderful memoir about his hard and difficult relationship with his father and how that difficult relationship shaped him into the person he is today. He then turned around and wrote a book of poems called Until You Make The Shore, which focuses on three fictitious characters that are based on the real girls living in a girl’s juvenile detention center. Deborah Ager wrote Midnight Voices, a collection of poems that brings out and focuses on the darker side of everyday life. A great poem about a car accident immediately comes to mind. It is too soon perhaps to call these poets influences, but I definitely admire their work.

I am more fascinated in relationships though, and believe relationships – good or bad – are the driving force behind good stories.

In Mara Bharat there’s a musicality and lyric pace that moves through the poems. In your book Principals of Belonging (Red Dashboard, 2013) you write in a new form. Talk about your use of forms and lyric constraints in your poetry.

Music plays perhaps the largest role in my decision-making process as a poet. Elements such as alliteration, sound repetition, word repetition, rhyme and meter all play a significant role in my writing. I do not use them all in every poem, but as I am outlining a poem—especially a longer work—one of the first and last things I consider is how the music will play a part in the overall role.

I actually prefer to write in the received forms. Formal verse forces one to be economical while at the same time writing exactly what is meant. This is especially true when writing in any kind of meter. The choice a poet makes to use this word over the other has a far more serious repercussion in formal poetry. I think this is what editors mean when they say they accept form poetry, “but it’s got to be good.” They don’t really mean they don’t mind bad free verse, but the rules are a little more lenient. I just finished writing a villanelle and easily spent three hours on one line—most of that on one foot.

With free verse, editors warn poets to not submit prose with line breaks and call the piece poetry. And they are correct, in the sense that prose has little if any music. So when writing free verse, one needs to pay an equal amount of attention to music as formal verse.

Let’s talk about some of the poems in the collection. “Mama” is a poem about a stray dog. I wanted to write the poem almost as a love poem, and I felt like what I had to say could be delivered in a short poem, so a sonnet to me was the obvious choice. In the octet I would write about the dog, in the sextet I would bring my own life into the equation. I remember thinking rhyme would take away from what I wanted to say, but meter was necessary, so it is a blank verse sonnet. Further in the collection I write another sonnet, this time in rhyme, metered, and another love song. Why did I choose to rhyme one and not the other? Intuition. No reason I can set down as a rule.

“Finding Here” is written in unmetered Terza Rima – Terza Rima to give the poem some structure and control, unmetered to give the poem so elasticity.

Most of the other poems are free verse, and employ such techniques as alliteration, sound repetition and word repetition. The less formal the verse, the more important these elements become.

Finally, you mentioned my book Principles of Belonging and my created form the sympoe, which is a linked poem. The form was also used for one poem in Mera Bharat. I am glad you mentioned my other book though, because it starts and ends in strict form, while the middle is all free verse, a lot of it rhymed.  The rhyme in the middle part provides the essential music—otherwise the poems risk that criticism of being prose broken up into line breaks. I also have to state that you mentioned the word “belonging” in your previous question; indeed, one could argue a sense a belonging permeates in both these collections. It all comes down to relationship.

How do you define chapbook? Poetry’s answer to the novella.

What makes a good chapbook? Good quality poems live inside them.


What chapbooks are inspiring you these days? 
Sonata Vampirica by Samuel Peralta! 

What do you look for when you put together a chapbook? Consistent message of subject and flow.

What’s next for you? I am finishing up a book—probably a chapbook—that is an alternate history of Jesus with the premise that he was gay.

Talk about your commitment to the chapbook writing community and ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets: Social media, social media, social media. And attending events whenever possible. Retweeting and sharing other’s successes.

Your chapbook credo: If all else fails, group them into smaller parts.

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: What earnings? We get earnings?

Your chapbook wish: That my chapbook gets picked up by The Washington Post for a review—oh wait—TWP doesn’t review poetry. Never mind.

Residence: Down the rabbit hole.

Job: IT Consulting.

 Chapbook Bio: Joshua Gray was born and bred in a briar patch. He now lives down the rabbit hole, and is looking for a way out of the chaos theory.

 

the chapbook interview: Greg Kosmicki on death, work, and the writing life

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In The Poet’s Companion, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux write, “Each of us has our own relationship to death, a relationship that starts in childhood with our first awareness of it. And throughout our lives, we experience the grief and loss that another death brings,” offering that writing about death can “offer some solace” (39). They also cite poets like Marie Howe, Tess Gallagher, Sharon Olds, Mark Doty, and others who’ve written about death in fascinating ways. I’ve been reading your new book Sheep Can Recognize Individual Human Faces (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2014) and your chapbook The Patron Saint of Lost and Found (Lone Willow Press, 2003). Talk about the themes of death and grief in your work.

It’s Saturday night, or well, now it’s Sunday Morning. this is the day that the time changes to daylight savings time, so I’ve already lost an hour out of my life without even trying. I have been spending the last couple hours talking to my baby sister about how our father died, about her experiences with death and dying people, which is a lot of experiences, maybe hundreds, she can’t even count them, and I tell her that the only experience that I have with someone actually dying in my presence is with our father. Technically, legally, I am drunk. I’ve had about 6 or maybe seven shots of Jim Beam, and she’s had several shots of Bacardi. Even though we grew up in the same family and share all the same genetic material we hardly know each other and we’re just starting to know each other. She’s ten or twelve years younger than I am. She’s a nurse who has lots of experience with dying people (she’s the nurse in the poem “Nope” in the Sheep book) and can tell me how I should go about the process of offing myself (take plenty of anti-emetics—you don’t want to wake up in the morning and be embarrassed) and tells me the way to do it to make the least traumatic experience for the people I love. We talk about bridges, guns, pills et cetera. Death isn’t a parenthesis to me, though she thinks that when you die you go someplace, because she is a “spiritualist,” which is what people call themselves who believe in life after death but not in organized religions. They believe that people who are dead are spirits and can talk to the living through mediums. I think that’s all bullshit and have told her and a lot of people that I’m ashamed of myself for having perpetuated the stories that religions foist off on the general populace onto my children. Still, I am a weak man, and afraid of all that lies ahead, and I have come to realize since my parents died that I am mortal. First, my brother was killed in a car wreck when I was 16, and that made me into a poet. Many of my poems, if not all, have mortality in the background of them, even if I am being funny, or smart-assed, or even comical in the poem. Death is the driving force behind poetry, whether all the happy poets admit it or not. In my poems I try to deal with that force when it comes up, which seems to me to be all the time, and to tell death that I know It’s there, give it its nod, and then to say to death that I don’t care, I am going to love the people I love and live the life I live, and do whatever I can this day, and basically to say “fuck you death.” I know that death wins in the end, whatever Jesus purportedly said, and that is a painful thing to admit, but before it does, I want to say the things that were important to me, and cry out the things that made me have pain, and say the names of the people who loved me and who I loved, and tell what we did, and to live those brief moments in a poem as if we were all shining, every second, every day, even in our shitty lives, as if we would never die.

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I’ve been reading your chapbooks For My Son in a Motel Room (Sandhills Press). I find myself returning to the title poem and to the penultimate stanza that reflects on patience in parenting and how long it takes to learn that lesson. One thing that strikes me about your poetry is the patience, the way something small like a dripping faucet in The Patron Saint of Lost and Found, becomes an opportunity to reflect on the large. Talk about your writing process and the ways you make time and have made time to write. Does patience play part of this process? After all, you’re a fairly prolific poet who continues to put out new books and chapbooks year after year and it would seem that to create so much means you must lie in wait for poems, often.

I hate to quote myself, but a poem from two years ago “When You Get to be an Old Man” talks about this in the last few lines:

like being tangled in a spider web,

like being the spider on the back porch, in the fall,

her web woven, for all to see and admire,

to wait with her,

to know something stumbles by,

to know you’ll take it.

That’s pretty much how I write, or part of the physical process of how I write. To be a writer with the discipline to write every day is the key for me. Now that I am older, I am lazier, and right now I am not writing every day, and my writing is suffering for it. I don’t force myself to sit down each night and write something. Now that I am older, I am more tired at night, or I guess I should say that I feel the effects of being tired, whereas when I was younger, (30’s, 40’s, 50’s,) I would stay up late, get up early, stoke up on coffee, go another day. Now I can’t do that without suffering consequences that are noticeable in my job that I go to every day where they actually pay me money to do the job. I used to be angry at working for pay about 85% of the time; now I know that if I don’t do it there, there won’t be time for anything else because my job is what keeps me alive. Poetry (only) keeps my soul alive, but if I don’t have a body that’s working the soul will go away soon too. So right now I am working to remove all the “clutter” in my life so that I can spend the time I have spent lately on the clutter, on writing poems.

When I was a young poet I would wait until I “got inspired” but that happened all the time, so it wasn’t difficult to wait—it was usually only a couple hours or a day anyway. In those days, all it would take to spark off a writing spree was to sit down and start writing about whatever crossed my mind. In those day, my mind was on fire, and I was reading a lot of poems—which I think is essential to do to be a poet—and something about reading poems would touch off a spark. It was like my mind was a forest filled with tinder, awaiting only a careless poet to come along and toss his burning cigarette. Later, when I graduated from college and (unwillingly) got out into the workaday world, I did not have the luxury of sitting around and reading and writing for hours and hours at a time, and some jobs I had I was so tired at the end of the day all I did was collapse after doing all the family stuff, then reading a bit in the evening. One of those jobs, delivering bread back in 1979, I’d get up at 4 a.m. and not get home until 6 or 7 at night. I’d read a few poems and crash, but I was compelled to write, so once I tried to tape record as I was driving and ran my bread truck off into the ditch driving up the gravel road to a country restaurant, so I quit doing that!

I’ve got probably a hundred notebooks I’ve written stuff in and then abandoned, because usually when I first write something I don’t like it at all. If I get a chance to go back to it, then sometimes I find something that I can keep, and type it up. I think maybe it’s probably better I let it stay there in the notebooks, but I plan to go back through those just for fun when I retire to find scraps that might be good. This practice established my way of writing for forty-plus years: write something, write anything, just write—about the day, the bugs, the flowers, the faces, the houses, the stars, the flies, the people at the store, the stuff we had for dinner, the way I felt about work, something my boss said, my feelings about work, the kids, my neighbors, the trash, the walls, the trees, my wife, the moon—just anything—and then follow where it leads. When I write that way I get into a zone, if I’m lucky, and keep my big crappy censoring self out of it—if I don’t have intellectual control over the words that are coming to me they more or less just happen. Somehow the poem gets into those “large” issues just because it’s busy associating. Looking at that roach running across the floor sometimes makes me realize, though I usually don’t say it directly in the poem, that I am not all that much different than that animal that’s carrying around a very high percentage of my DNA. Seeing the sunset through the trees, sometimes I realize that hundreds of millions of others have seen it too, and many of those have been killed for some stupid reasons. I think it’s something like that drawing technique where you try to shut off the mocking, censorious, judgmental, socially impaired (because inspired by social correctness) part of the brain, and when you get to that point, you do your work by associational leaps. I hate it when I’m writing and the “Boss” side of my brain kicks back in and starts to tell me what I should be writing. Later on when I’m reading back through the poem, I will realize (if I’m reading with my real writing mind) that’s the place the poem ended, and I’ll chop it off right there. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about this because it seems like it’s better to let it run by itself than to try to dissect it, as though a poem or the writing of a poem were an embalmed frog in high school biology, and make myself so self-conscious about it that I can’t write anything at all. The short answer is: write something every day, write anything, don’t be judgmental of it, keep it, come back to it—maybe you will find a poem in amongst all the cat litter and the smashed tomato cans and the baby diapers you put out on the curb.

I’ve also been reading your chapbooks when there wasn’t any war (The Backwaters Press, 1987), tables, chairs, wall, window (Sandhills Press, 2000), and Greatest Hits 1975-2000 (Pudding House Publications, 2001). You’re the author of seven chapbooks and several full-length books as well. In terms of genre, what’s the difference for you in terms of putting together a chapbook compared to putting together a book? How do you organize, sequence, and explore themes in a chapbook verse a book? Is it the same or different and in what ways?

A person I count as a poetry-friend of mine, Lola Haskins, wrote a book that The Backwaters Press published called Not Feathers Yet: A Beginner’s Guide to the Writer’s Life. Lola is an amazing poet and an extremely talented poetry craft-person as well. Anyone who wants to get good handbook on “What-it-means to-be-a-poet-and-how-to-do-it” should read this book. It is a book not only about writing poetry but about the Zen of living and writing. In it, she talks in one chapter about constructing your book so that it has an arc, and a story line, so that this poem leads to that one, and these are grouped here to do this and so on. It’s phenomenal, and something that I don’t do and have no inclination to do.

Another brilliant poet, Donald Justice, said somewhere something like: you should just toss all your poems together in any order and because one poet wrote them, they will resonate. I fall more into that camp. Judging by Donald Justice’s poems, and by how careful a poet he was, I guess that I don’t believe that he did that exactly, but maybe he did what to him was something approximating that.

When someone asks me this question, I always say that I just throw them all together in a roughly chronological order of their composition, and the poems will talk amongst themselves and resonate, but I’m probably following some inner process that I don’t recognize and that’s how the manuscripts get arranged. I know that I oftentimes will try to arrange the poems in a full-length book in chronological order of their creation, but I also know that poems get with you and stay with you and that you begin to associate this poem about your daughter picking up a frog with the one about coming home from the war, when they may have been written 35 years apart from each other. Subject matter makes the main difference, and I sometimes realize that I’ve lumped in a poem that I wrote 20 years before with one that was written a year ago because they address the same concern and they feel like they belong together. I know that a friend of mine, Paul Dickey, has poems in the same book that were written years apart, and I think that many do that. People tend to dwell on a few topics and to write about them over and over and over again, although every time you write a poem you usually think that you’re creating this incredible new thing that has never been done before, not by anybody. So that happens.

I do find that when I’m putting a chapbook together that I tend to find all the poems that I can find about one topic/subject and place them together. Because chapbooks are shorter, they force you to leave out the poem about your parents growing old and the one about when Old Shep your dog died if the rest of your chapbook is about all the time you spent in the army smoking dope and lobbing grenades or whatever. A chapbook is more like a short story—you have to have a unified action and everything has to relate to the same theme, all lead to the ending climax, just because it’s short, and you don’t have the space to goof around. In a longer book, you can have a section that’s about your cats and one that’s about your parakeets and it can still be a “collection of poems.” Although nowdays, it appears to me that most poets are following the “story arc” idea that I think Lola talks about (can’t recall if she uses that term), that I think may be emanating out of the writing workshops too—that your poems have a job to do, to get your reader from one place to another, sort of like a novel in a way.

My first book, nobody lives here who’s seen this sky, is actually more like a really long chapbook in this sense, because generally the poems are based upon my life during the time I was a UPS worker and are a reaction to that work, and a record of my struggle to keep myself being a poet when UPS was trying (I thought) to choke that out of me, and to kill my soul so that I would become a UPS automaton that could deliver packages more efficiently and have absolutely nothing else on my mind. I was young, and I wanted to be a poet more than a UPS driver. I wanted to be a poet more than anything. Although I had two children I didn’t care about money. I did write a poem, years after I left UPS— the last poem in the book—purposely to act as a capstone to that book, so that it would have a sense of being tied up and finished, but all the rest of the poems in that book came from that time period. The experience of working for them is still so raw for me that I could probably write another 40 poems about it if I tried. To this day, I still have nightmares about the job; it’s become my default anxiety dream—whenever something, anything, is bothering me, I dream about being stuck in a UPS package car, delivering, not making it, falling behind, lost, late, night, disoriented, pressured, etc. etc.

A book that came out almost concurrently was How Things Happen that was a hand-set letterpress book on beautiful, fine paper from bradypress, and it was, though shorter, more of a miscellany of poems, because the editor of bradypress, Denise Brady, chose 15 poems from a longer manuscript that she liked and wanted to set. Some of the poems were in both books, but they had a very different feel. Most of my chapbooks were collections of poems that centered around one topic—the kids (For My Son in a Motel Room, Marigolds), my mom’s sickness late in life (tables, chair, wall, window), but then, The Patron Saint of Lost and Found was more or less just a chronological collection like a full-length collection. New Route in the Dream was a hodge-podge of old and new poems. Until my last book, Sheep Can Recognize Individual Human Faces, I never actually determined where a poem should go except by chronology as I could recall it—In that one, dealing mainly with coming to terms with death, I put a poem about my mom dying at the beginning and one about my dad dying at the end, like bookends, but that was also chronological. My only real rule in putting together a manuscript is to not lump all the poems that are on one subject one right after the other so as not to become utterly boring. I’ll scatter them throughout the book. My thought is that since the poems were all by the same poet, and written more or less in the same period of that poet’s life, they’ve got to be talking to each other somehow, and I’ll let the reader figure it out.

On the other hand, if you have hung with me this far, and you are looking for advice on how gather a collection together, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, for all of my publications, I think, have come about by accident, chance, knowing someone, and dumb luck. In the end, I have no advice for any poet serious about his or her career, because in the end, I have no career as a poet. I work as a government functionary, more like Franz Kafka than Billy Collins. Few people have ever heard of my poems outside of a small circle of friends. I am locked out of the mainstream of American poetry (as are most poets) measured by any real measure of success in the poetry-biz: prizes, awards, winning contests, jobs, tours, appointments, speaking engagements, grants, etc.—I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. There are thousands of poets out there doing the same thing that I do. (That you do). I only write because writing poems, plus my family, is what keeps me alive, but I couldn’t win a contest if my life depended upon it. Listen to somebody else, study other poets who have poetry careers, because this poet can win no contests, nor tell you to do anything anywhere nearly as important as what your own spirit can say to you when you are writing a poem.

How do you define chapbook? A short collection usually composed of thematically closely-related poems, (nowdays fiction too) usually about 15 to 25 pages long, usually folded over and stapled, or “saddle stitched,” but not necessarily so. Often hand-made, on more expensive papers, with hand-set type— oftentimes more art-quality printing that a standard paperback. Usually, limited editions of a couple hundred maximum.

What makes a good chapbook? I get it—this is a trick question. Good poems?

What chapbooks are inspiring you these days? I still draw inspiration from the chapbook series that Greg Kuzma did back in the 70s at The Best Cellar Press. He did all the typesetting by hand on beautiful papers. He published such poets as Albert Goldbarth, Wayne Dodd, Ted Kooser, Wendell Berry, Richard Shelton (whew! I just noticed—all guys!) and many many others. I still get a kick out of Don Wentworth’s itty bitty Lilliput Review that’s filled with tons of itty bitty poems.

What chapbooks or chapbook poets have impacted your writing the most? Barry Macdonald’s The Pink House from the Best Cellar Press.

What do you look for when you put together a chapbook? To have all the poems related to the same subject or theme.

How are you trying to get better as a chapbook poet? I’m stuck in the way I write. I don’t think I’ll ever get better. Maybe by accident. Maybe I’ll fall and hit my head and become a poetry savant.

What’s next for you? Keep writing, mainly. I’m putting together a short collection that will be a short book but too long to be a chapbook, of poems about my brother who was killed in a car wreck when I was 16. These are poems written over the course of 40 years. I guess that his death and my relationship to that is one of the themes that is found in my poems frequently. It’s called The Sun Has Stayed Where it is. I was awaiting for a lost poem from the center of it (center chronologically and psychologically) that my sister, thank you Jesus! had kept for the last 20 years that was the only copy of it I know of. I also have a short collection (but longer than a chapbook) of poems from the last couple years called “It’s as good here as it gets anywhere,” that I have out to a couple presses and contests. Actually, I’m thinking of maybe pulling some poems out of it if the book doesn’t get accepted and publishing the ones that are similar to each other as a chapbook—so there you have it—my chapbook technique!

Number of chapbooks you own: 150 approximately. Maybe more—they can blend in a bit.

Number of chapbooks you’ve read: 150 approximately. Maybe more—they can blend in a bit.

Talk about your commitment to the chapbook writing community. Aw heck, I don’t really have a community. Is there someplace I can retire to where all they do is write and publish chapbooks? Sounds fun—let me know!

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: You are funny!

Your chapbook wish: I wish I had the time to start another chapbook series at The Backwaters Press, but I’m retiring from it so I can spend more time writing so that wouldn’t make sense. I wish that the press had done more with chaps, because they are fun and cool, but one can only do so much.

Residence: Omaha, Nebraska

Job: Human Services

the chapbook interview: Liz Kay on good books, good conversations, and bad girls

The February 2015 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle features Grace Cavalieri’s “The Last Word: The Poet and the Poem from The Library of Congress, Poets Laureate on Public Radio, 1977-2014.” In her piece, she quotes Louise Gluck who held the chair in 2003-2004. Gluck noted, “We have to contend with the idea of mortality: We all, at some point, love, with the risks involved, the vulnerabilities involved, the disappointments and great thrills of passion, so what you use is the self as a laboratory in which to practice, master, what seem to you central dilemmas.” Your chapbook Something to Help Me Sleep (Dancing Girl Press, 2012) and your forthcoming novel that I had the privilege of hearing you read earlier this year at Indigo Bridge Books, are concerned with love, desire, romance, and attraction. Talk about how you contend with love in your work.

What a great question, Madeline. A lot of my work revolves around questions of sexual power, which is to say that I’m interested in love, in questions of desire, but I’m specifically interested in how it plays out when the playing field isn’t level. And of course, in our culture, it never is. Even the most feminist of us (and I consider myself in this group) are informed by our experiences with the patriarchy, and what gets really uncomfortable is when we start to consider how many of those experiences feel positive, how many of those experiences allow us to feel, as women, some kind of power. It’s a limited power, certainly.

I think also, there’s not a lot of nuance available to women when it comes to love and desire. We can be sexual or frigid. Stand-offish or clingy. A doormat or a bitch. And then of course, to navigate the power dynamics, these things become performance. We perform aloofness. We perform sexuality. We perform whatever it is that we think will get us to the place that we want, which is, often, just a place where we can stop fucking performing for once.

And I don’t mean to say that men don’t have similar experiences or feel constrained by expectations of masculinity. I like to talk about the patriarchy (a lot), but in general I’m interested in attacking the system. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the men who have to live in it. In the end though, it’s my job to speak to the experience of being a woman, so that’s where my focus is.

In the chapbook, the character Ella is lovesick, heartsick, and while she’s craving the experience of love, she doesn’t want the vulnerability that comes with it. So she takes these lovers, except that they aren’t really lovers, they are stock characters recruited to play a part, to act it out—the fingers on the wrist, the teeth on the lip. In the morning, she is always, ever, alone. And yet, there’s still a vulnerability there because of the judgment she’s internalized, the ‘dirtiness’ she’s picked up. I’m interested also in how the stories we tell ourselves are versions, usually ugly versions, of stories the world tells, so I very much like subverting gender tropes. Ella is then a fairytale character, but of course her narrative arc is inverted. What kind of girl are you if you don’t run away at midnight? What kind of girl are you if the prince doesn’t follow you home?

I’m teaching in women’s and gender studies this semester. I very much appreciate your response. One of the articles I’m teaching this term explores the dominant heterosexual scripts that limit the ways women engage in heterosexual encounters and quotes Judith Butler’s suggestion “that discourses do actually live in bodies. They lodge in bodies, bodies in fact carry discourses as part of their lifeblood” as a means by which to describe the internalization of gendered stories and the ways those stories playout in women’s lives. I’m interested in resistance and the ways writers resist hegemonic narratives even as they work within discourses that reinscribe oppressions. Talk about writers you admire that are doing the work you seek to do in the chapbook form and in other genres.

Oh, absolutely! I’m always interested in work that explores the margin between expectation and experience. I loved Pamela Erens’ The Virgins, which is such a smart examination of sexuality–it’s limits and demands. I think what I love most about the book, though, is it’s very conscious use of POV, with the narrator a sort of obsessive voyeur who’s building the intimate moments shared by the main characters almost entirely in his imagination. Their sexuality, then, is a projection of both his own desires and broader cultural judgments.

Jenny Offill‘s Dept. of Speculation is this very intimate portrait of a marriage, and it’s exquisitely written.

I also really loved Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which I think is one of the smartest examinations of gender tropes I’ve read in years. We have these really horrible characters who quite consciously perform “grieving husband,” “precocious daughter,” “rape victim.” It’s a fun read, but it’s also just really, really smart.

On the very opposite end of the spectrum, Veronique Olmi’s Beside the Sea is the most important book I am loathe to recommend.

The premise, if you’re not familiar with it, is that a mother takes her two children for a seaside holiday before she kills them. It’s really an act of psychic violence, reading this book, but it’s a glimpse into both serious psychosis, and at the same time, an exaggeration of both the love and failures we, as mothers, constantly feel.

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Writers and poets often talk about advocating for their work, promoting their work, and supporting the work of other writers by giving back, thereby creating a community where literary endeavors of small presses and the writers they publish is celebrated, discussed, and read. What strategies of advocacy and promotion do you think are most helpful?

I think it’s difficult to find the balance between promotion and engagement, and I think if you’re going to get the balance wrong, err on the side of engagement. The end goal is for the work to get out there, to be read, to be talked about, but there’s that sales aspect along the way that gets uncomfortable. And I’ve seen it handled poorly. I’ve gotten email blasts with “Buy my book!” in the subject line. I’ve also seen writers with new books (I know they have a new book) who never ever breathe a word about it. I don’t think either approach is going to get you there. I recognize that selling is uncomfortable, but what’s never uncomfortable is conversation. I love interviews and essays and blogs. I love to hear writers talking about their own struggles with the work and with publishing, talking about what they’ve learned along the way. And talking about what they’re reading! God, writers are some of the smartest, best readers there are, and I want their recommendations. I also love to hear publishers talking about the books they’re passionate about. I don’t know if you go to AWP, but one of my favorite things about AWP is the book fair. There are basically 3 types of tables in the book fair. There are the unmanned tables–or the may as well be unmanned because the person sitting behind it is never going to look up unless you’re actually trying to put money in their hand. There are the pushy tables, where you almost don’t want to stop: Do you have a subscription? Why don’t you have a subscription? Are you on our email list? And then there are the tables where people are talking, really talking, about books.

Sometimes, when I turn around, Jen (Lambert, my co-editor) is hand-selling a book or journal she just bought from another publisher. She’s like, Look at this cover. Look at this art. And then she’s chasing them away from our table because god, they’d better go buy that book before the other publisher sells out. And, honestly, these are the people who come back day after day. They come to see us the following year. They buy our journals (when they can). They follow the poem of the week series on our blog. Sometimes we overhear these Twitter exchanges between reader and poet, and that’s the end goal–not the sales, but the conversation. So, I think, you do what you can to create those moments of connection. And really, it shouldn’t be that hard–we have this thing right in front of us that we’re all passionate about.

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What makes a good chapbook?

I think what I love about chapbooks is that they tend to be cohesive. They tend to be thematic or narrative projects. They tend to be distilled. This is what I look for too in full-lengths, but I think I find in more in chapbooks. I am drawn to series work, and the chapbook in particular seems to be where that kind of work is thriving these days.


What chapbooks are inspiring you these days? 

The last chapbook I read was yours–threnody. I knew I wanted to read it when I heard you read some of the death poems from it.

Kristy Bowen (who is like the patron saint of chapbooks) has an electronic chapbook I Hate You, James Franco that I’m completely in love with. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it at this point.

What chapbooks or chapbook poets have impacted your writing the most? Kristy Bowen, hands down. I love her work, but I also think that the books she puts in the world through {dancing girl press} are exquisite and sharp and so smartly curated.

What’s next for you? I am deeply enthralled with fiction now. Since my chapbook Something to Help Me Sleep, which is a narrative sequence, I’ve just been moving farthing into narrative and character and then I was like, “dialogue seems fun,” and now I’m hooked. I am, as we speak, finishing some revisions on my forthcoming novel Monsters: A Love Story. And as soon as I send that off, I’ll get back to a novel that’s in progress.

Number of chapbooks you own: Don’t know. Dozens?

Ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets: I think one thing I love about chapbooks is that you can buy more of them. I mean, they tend to be 5-7 bucks? And they’re little, and you can carry a whole bunch of them back from AWP. And then you haven’t invested a ton of money, so you can pass them along. I love introducing someone to a new writer, and I think chapbooks are a perfect way to do that.

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: Ha! You are hilarious.

Bio: Liz Kay is a founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and the journal burntdistrict. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Willow Springs, Sugar House Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal. She is the author of a chapbook, Something to Help Me Sleep (dancing girl press, 2012). Her debut novel Monsters: A Love Story will be published by Putnam in 2016.

 

Writing Ekphrastic poetry

My students have asked me to think of ways we tell stories and where we find inspiration for those stories. One place I’ve turned to and continue to turn to for inspiration, is art. Author Tracey Chevalier discusses the Vermeer painting that was her inspiration for her novel Girl With The Pearl Earring in her TedTalk, “Tracy Chevalier: Finding the story inside the painting.”

Several poets discuss ekphrasis prompts and poems from Diane Lockward in this forum and suggest the following to approach poem writing:

1. Imagine yourself observing the artist at work.
2. Consider the effect of the artwork on your speaker.
3. Observe someone else observing and responding to the artwork.
4. Focus on a limited aspect of the work, e.g., the bottle of wine on a fully laden table.
5. Enter the artwork and become part of the scene.
6. Consider what is left out of the artwork.

Now begin a draft. Bring in your description and list of details. If your artwork is dominated by a particular color, weave that color in and out of your poem. If there are multiple colors, bring them in. Of course, your poem should be rich in imagery. You are painting a picture with words. Let your imagination be stimulated by the artwork. Allow a few enigmatic metaphors to enter the poem. Don’t be excessively literal.

Other places for prompts and discussions of ekphrastic include the Lantern Review and the Ploughshares blog. As we’re getting ready for April’s month of poetry, perhaps my students and I will will try our hand at writing poems and stories to these paintings from artists’ work I’ve recently come to adore.

Lee Price, Jelly Doughnuts, Oil on Linen, 40″ x 64″

Courtney Kenny Porto, Mirror, Acrylic, 15″x19″, 2014

Amy Kollar Anderson, What the Dormouse Said, acrylic on canvas : 10″ x 16″ : 2012

Art + Poetry: A Les Femmes Folles Salon, 7 pm, March 23

box of Intimates and Fools art

Art + Poetry: A Les Femmes Folles Salon
with Sally Deskins, Jill Khoury, Sarah A. Chavez, Michelle Furlong, Hillary Leach, & Lisa Giuliani
7-9 pm, Monday, March 23, 2015
Sally Deskins Studio
Morgantown, WV 26508

Hillary Leach is an artist, painter, and free-thinker living and working in Morgantown, WV. She is originally from Jacksonville, FL but has spent most of her life living in the Northeastern U.S. Currently she makes her home in the mountains of West Virginia. Hillary received her BFA in painting from West Virginia University in May of 2014. Hillary graduated from WVU cum laude and was named to the Dean’s List with a 4.0 GPA. She was a recipient of the National Merit Scholarship, the Johnston Scholarship, and the Promise Scholarship. In the summer of 2010, Hillary traveled to Paris, Lichtenstein, Munich, and Switzerland to explore the art and culture of these places, and these travels have since informed her work and ignited her heart. In the fall of 2015, Hillary’s work will be published as part of the International Painting Annual, an annual ehibition-in-print curated by Manifest Gallery of Cincinnati, OH. Her paintings have also been featured in a group exhibition juried by Carol Hummel, along with various other exhibitions around Morgantown and the surrounding areas. http://hillaryleach.carbonmade.com/

Jill Khoury earned her Masters of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University. She teaches writing and literature in high school, university, and enrichment environments. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Bone Bouquet, RHINO, Inter|rupture, and Stone Highway Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net award. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press. You can find her at jillkhoury.com.

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press). Her recent books are Drink (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard), and the collaborative book The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Lauren Rinaldi. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies.

Lisa Giuliani is the owner of Lock House Studio.

Michelle Furlong, the artist behind One Peace at a Time Art, focuses on positive message pieces. She finds her experiences, good and bad, have been an inspiration in her life. She believes that the way she chooses to live is a form of art. She uses mixed mediums to create and repurposes items for her pieces. Michelle compares her life to a bracelet and those moments when she has profound human connections are the charms. She creates from those charm moments. She lives in Morgantown, West Virginia with her Australian husband. She has raised money for local charities by donating pieces to be auctioned. She has exhibited at Mon Arts, and was a featured artist in the publication, Appalachian Jamwich where she was referred to as the “Mother of Positivity”.

Sally Deskins is an artist and writer. Currently a Teaching Assistant in the Art History Graduate Program at West Virginia University, her work challenges society’s definitions of femininity, exploring womanhood and motherhood in her life and others’. Her art has been exhibited in galleries in Omaha, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago; and featured in publications such as Certain Circuits, Weave Magazine, andPainters & Poets. She has curated various solo and group exhibitions, readings and performances centered on women’s perspective and the body. Her writing has been published internationally in journals such as Stirring, Prick of the Spindle, Bookslut and Bitch. She is founding editor of LES FEMMES FOLLES. She has published four LES FEMMES FOLLES anthologies of art, poetry and interview excerpts can be found on blurb.com. Her first illustrated book Intimates & Fools, with poetry by Laura Madeline Wiseman, came out in 2014.
http://sallydeskins.tumblr.com/

Sarah A. Chavez earned a PhD in English with a focus in Creative Writing (poetry) and an interdisciplinary specialization in Ethnic Studies, with a focus on Chican@/Latin@ & Native American literature and culture, from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in the anthologies Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place, and In Gilded Frame: An Anthology of Ekphrastic Poetry, as well as the journals Third Wednesday, LunaLuna Magazine, The Fourth River, North American Review & The Acentos Review among others. Her chapbook, All Day, Talking, was published by Dancing Girl Press in September 2014.