“Wanna hold hands and come along?”: The chapbook interview: Nicci Mechler on addiction

The chapbooks, lit mags, and zines that Porkbelly Press makes are gorgeous—beautiful cover art, lovely interior and exterior design, well-made bindings, and an overall press presentation that is smart. I love the way that Porkbelly Press, signs, adds art, and a stamp with a press logo the envelopes for the post. Given the vast area of chapbooks out there and the ways in which different presses produce them, why did you decide to create the chapbook press the way that you have?

Thank you, Madeline, for saying so, and for having us over for an interview. Porkbelly Press was founded to make artful books to feed the happy place nestled deep inside the brain of people with spirit, attitude and a sense of humor—magic helps too. We look for things that spark that little magpie urge to take it home and display it or keep it on hand to page through again. (Or to give it away to a friend, because it makes the pleasure center blush—be that trigger a gorgeous pastoral poem, epistolary rant, or a piece of lyric science.)

We read our submissions with care, accept only a few pieces or manuscripts each year, and produce limited and small editions. I format and arrange chaps into booklet format, print them, curate (or paint or print) cover imagery, use a bone folder to create nested signatures with sharp edges, sew, trim, and affix finishing touches (sometimes hand-cut title flags or press flags, or decorative end papers). The craft and care given to each book is the best way (for us) to show appreciation to the poet (or author) and to the reader.

We’re not the press that’s going to do 5,000 copies, but we are a press that will do our damnedest to make something striking, and to put it into the hands of the reader who needs it most.

If you like the covers, just imagine what’s hidden between the pages.

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?

Of all the methods we’ve tried so far, word of mouth and Twitter seem to work best for us. We use social media platforms to sling promos, excerpts, photos, and FB for process pictures and calls. We re-tweet, reblog, and generally crow a bit whenever we hear of something neat happening for/mentioning one of our poets/writers/artists. We also make mention of interesting articles and calls for submission from other folks. And there may be a few cat and dog photos on our pages, because… because.

We use bright colors to lure in the artsy types, enticing them with our covers into the world of micro fictions and sultry poetic verse. More than a few of our instagrams have been loved on by strangers. We’re not ashamed.

Ultimately it really is about the community, about supporting each other and helping friends to find the words to light up the important parts of their brains. Keeping the focus on why we love what we’ve selected is our approach. We’re passionate about language & so we say, this is why, and, what do you think? We do our best to open a dialogue and ask questions. We always ask for feedback from our readers. We seek out relationships with distros and brick & mortar shops, tracking down advocates with similar interest, and give them a sample.

It all comes back to passion and connection, no matter if the vehicle. Barring FREE PIZZA, we think handcrafted chapbooks are a pretty darn good lure.

(We don’t have free pizza.)


Alternate answer to this question: Ray Bradbury said, “Find the author who can lead you through the dark.” That. That’s what we’re doing. Wanna hold hands and come along?

Porkbelly Press has released seven chapbooks in it’s first year—including Love Letter to Biology 250 by Chella Courington, The Eighth Phrase by LB Williams, Skeleton Keys by Laura Garrison, Vein of Stone by Sarah McCartt-Jackson, l’appel du vide by Christina Cook, Bodies in Water by P. Andrew Miller. Alex Stoli’s Into the Land of Nod is forthcoming in 2015. The press’s website notes, “There are 5-6 spots remaining in the 2015 season. Our reading period opens in January.” What are your hopes for 2015 and beyond?

We meant to take five chapbooks in our first season, and ended up struggling to narrow it down to fifteen, let alone the seven we eventually accepted & printed. There are so many poets and writers with luscious words to share, and it nearly drove us mad choosing (which is a blessing, thanks!). It’s a dialogue, of course, and it’s an honor to boost the signal for our creative.

There’s something brilliant in each of the books we chose, something arresting, something that said take me home and read me again and again. It’s our hope, moving forward, that we get to 1) print a first-timer every year, 2) say yes to at least five proposals per year, and 3) inspire a few people think the words: holy crap. And promptly revive/continue/take up a chapbook addiction. I suppose you could say we’d like to be someone’s gateway drug to a more open, hungry mind.

One day we might like to publish a few full length collections, and offer monetary compensation in addition to our payment in copies. We’d like to try some letterpress small editions. We’re working on some anthologies in collaboration with the staff of Sugared Water, and are open to other sorts of projects in collaboration with artisans. We’d love to put some poetry/micro fictions on art objects. AWP is on our tabling to-do list. One of these days, we’ll get around to mailing author copies zipped up in the belly of a handmade felt pigasus.

This all boils down to a desire to brighten and enrich the lives&mailboxes we touch. Life’s too short for anything less.

I know you have two chaps coming out—one that is a collaborative chap with three other lady-poets (in these cups) due out soon and another solo endeavor (Deep in Flesh), scheduled for some time in later 2015. Talk about your forthcoming chapbooks.

in these cups is a chapbook of poems (some written together, and some of our own in the same vein too) by poets Nicci Mechler, Hilda Weaver, Wendy Creekmore, and Kristin Koester. We write as Wild Soft, and have some work in mags like Stone Telling, Wild Quarterly, Room, and will soon have a few poems in Still: The Journal. Our work tends to be very much about place and experience, melding pastoral with magic realism, and the sassy, assertive feminine. Our ages span five decades, and we fall at various points along the sexual spectrum, and we grew up in different places, so it makes for some memorable retreat & poetry writing sessions—the bourbon helps. It’s really about exploration and collaboration in a fearless place. More often than not, we compose these poems in person, around the kitchen table, on retreat at retreat space managed by the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

Deep in Flesh is my chapbook of poetry, also forthcoming from dancing girl press (2015). Most of the poems are rooted in the body, often the damaged body—be it a broken wrist or what’s left carved into the flesh after birth or opening the ribcage. There seem to be a lot of body-pieces and bones, eating and sewing in these—damaging and pulling back together the metaphorical and literal flesh—desire and loss and desire again.

How do you define chapbook? A chapbook is a collection of works (short or micro), in any genre, of up to about four dozen pages worth of content. Most of the chapbooks that I own hover between 15 – 30 pages. The covers may or may not be paper—I can’t even say it has to be a book. I’ve been thinking about attempting small edition sculptural displays for chaps, but I’m still waiting for the right manuscript.

Though some folks think chaps are random samplings of work. I tend think chaps should be focused in some way, with the thread of place, voice, persona, subject, or image. (As soon as I give you a definition, I’ll read a really lovely chap that defies it, you know!)

What is inspiring you these days? Vintage sideshow photos & illos, fables, hauntings, and misty afternoons in the hills of Kentucky, and plant lore. If we’re talking books (aside from everything I’m reading in the slushpile for Porkbelly Press & Sugared Water), I’m currently reading Teahouse of the Almighty by Patricia Smith, one poem a day instead of blazing through them like I usually do. A friend just suggested Seam by Tarfia Faizullah, so that’s next.

How are you trying to get better as a poet? I read—a lot (everything). And I do a lot of thinking about poetry as a teacher as well as poet. I just found a 1992 copy of The Practice of Poetry, and I’m starting with the exercises by Deborah Digges and Rita Dove. I like to think this stuff helps me improve. I’m constantly trying to write a long poem, and fail at it every time. Every failure makes me a little better. I ask questions. It’s probably very annoying to my friends.

What makes a good chapbook? The same thing that makes a good poem or micro fiction or lyric essay—evocative language, command of craft, lines that seem to go together, pieces that talk to each other. A chapbook should feel like an investigation or way through. I like books that have a point of view, teach me something, deepen my understanding—poems or stories I wish I’d written.

What’s next for you? There’s an urban fantasy (novel) manuscript I’m working on—it’s a snarly beast, but we’re coming to terms. I’ve been toying with a couple of chapbook ideas, and am circulating a second collaborative manuscript called how wild & soft you are.

In terms of Porkbelly Press, the first half of this year will see:

Love Me Love My Belly: a body image zine (issue 2)

Sugared Water (lit mag, issue #003)

Emily (anthology of Dickinson inspired works)

Alex Stolis’ chapbook Into the Land of Nod

Words for Worlds, an anthology of speculative poems edited by P. Andrew Miller

& micro chapbooks: Midnight Blue (Vanessa Jimenez Gabb, poetry), Tiny House (Melanie Faith, poetry), Strangest Sea (Ariana Den Bleyker, prose poetry), Mouth of the Rat, (rob mclennen, poetry), and press yourself against a mirror (Janelle Adsit, poetry).

Number of chapbooks you own: 50+ chapbooks, but I sometimes give them away. They’re stored with my zines (hundreds). There can be a very fine line between chapbook and zine.

Number of chapbooks you’ve read: I couldn’t begin to say how many I’ve read—most were in progress by poet-friends or grad students preparing them for submission to various small presses. I’m always delighted to find beautiful chaps, and mail order as many as I can. We don’t want to talk about what happened the last time I went to AWP.

In 2014, I read around 300 chapbook & micro chapbook manuscripts for Porkbelly Press. It’s such a gift to read brand new work—work that no one’s published yet. I love it when I get one and find out it’s a first manuscript and I’m thinking why doesn’t everyone know who you are? I imagine that’s how some people feel about really great shoes.

Ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets: I buy chapbooks when I’m able, share calls for submission, sales, and articles about/by small presses, tweet or link when I read an interesting excerpt, and talk to my students about chaps when I’m teaching, ask everyone which book they last loved. If they won’t lend it to me, I see if I can find a remaindered library copy (love the stamps & stickers). I’ve written a few reviews, and might start posting them to the press blog, or soliciting other reviewers, but will first finish aforementioned novel.

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: Etsy paper sellers, local art supply stores, and Epson partake in the earnings from the press. That’s another way of saying everything goes back into the press (supplies, postage, promo materials, Duotrope & Submittable fees, etc.). I buy a chapbook or collection of poetry every time I get a big order.

Your chapbook wish: I’d love to read manuscripts rooted in culture, identity, language, and tradition—specific experience written in a way that drags me right into that space. I read two poems from Christina Cooke’s l’appel du vide and knew I was going to say yes, I want to publish this, yes. I want chapbooks that make me say yes before I’ve even gotten to the last page.

Chapbook Bio: Nicci Mechler (MA English & BFA Studio Art, Northern Kentucky University) splits her time between writing, bookbinding, and drawing girls with inky tattoos. Her work has appeared in such magazines as Arroyo Literary Review, The Pinch, Roanoke Review, Stone Telling, and Kestrel.

She edits the lit. mag. Sugared Water, and established Porkbelly Press in 2014 (small press, chapbooks & zines). She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with a cadre of rescue animals and delightful people specializing in troublemaking & joy. Nicci blogs at damnredshoes.wordpress.com.


the chapbook interview: David O’Connell on first and best readers

Dave O'Connell photo 2

The Writer’s Chronicle September 2014 issue features Debra Spark’s mediation on research and writing fiction to consider when research overwhelms a work and when research enhances the story the author is seeking to tell. She writes, “you always need to ask yourself what justifies the inclusion of researched material” (97). You chapbook A Better Way to Fall opens with an epigraph on mythology and features several poems that explore myth, as well others on contemporary culture. Talk about research and inspiration in your work.

Though I find research can be very helpful in the revision process, I almost never begin a poem by first reading about the subject material. Whenever I’ve tried to write a poem around a number of interesting tidbits I’ve come across, the language of the poem always seems to fall flat. If I don’t begin with the music of the language as my primary concern, I become too preoccupied with my attempts to work in all the great trivia I have in my notes.

The majority of poems in the chapbook (the non-myth poems) were inspired by my response to things going on in the news. The myth poems began while I was writing my MFA thesis and decided to try my hand at the dramatic monologue. Though I had reread a number of accounts of the myth by the time I wrote “Ariadne,” I just relied on what I remembered of the myth when I began “Icarus.” It wasn’t until later that I decided to juxtapose the two types of poems and began to note parallels between the myth and post 9/11 America.

With both types of poems, however, once early drafts were written, I found it helpful to double check facts (both mythic and historic). Some of what I learned found its way into the final drafts of the poems. For example, while revising “Etymology,” I read up on the Manhattan Project and discovered that Fermi built the first nuclear reactor under the stands of the unused football stadium at the University of Chicago. This found its way into the published draft.

When putting together the chapbook, the last step I took was to choose the Edith Hamilton quote. I thought the epigraph would serve both as a general note, of sorts, reminding readers of the plot of the myth, and also that it would help set the ground for the larger themes of the chapbook. I had read Hamilton’s Mythology in high school, which is why I went back to her book for an epigraph.

dave's book

I was recently listening to an older interview with Billy Collins on Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell me in which he says that we are each born with 200 bad poems within us. How many bad poems were you born with and how many are still within you? How do you know what a poem is bad, good, or complete?

It may be true that everyone’s born with 200 bad poems, but I know I surpassed that estimate years ago, and hope to write many more before I’m done. Feeling free enough to write disastrous, embarrassing poems (while hoping that I’m discerning enough to keep them to myself) is the only way for me to get to the ones worth putting before a reader.

I recently began sending out a draft of my first full length manuscript. It contains forty-one poems. The earliest poem in the collection was written before the turn of the millennium.  So. . .that should give you some idea of my own estimate of my good/bad ratio.

I can’t really explain why I sense a poem, after a number of drafts, is done, let alone good. Though this might sound silly, I believe it involves more of a physical intuition than cognitive process. If I get a jolt of adrenaline when I read over a draft, I’ve learned to leave the poem alone.  If I still feel that way, more or less, after reading the poem a few months later, I’ll begin sending it out. It helps when my wife, my first and best reader, is enthusiastic about the poem as well.

Six_Portraits Julie Danho

When have you been most satisfied with your chapbook work? I was most satisfied when I first sent the chapbook to contests in the form it was published. I had previously conceived of a chapbook more of a brief “best of” collection than as an organic whole. I had sent out this earlier version to a few contests without any response. Once I began to see the chapbook as a collection that could easily be read in a single sitting, I realized that the myth poems, when interspersed among poems concerned with post-9/11 America, created interesting tensions that weren’t there in the earlier draft.

How do you define chapbook?  A short collection, usually less than 30 pages.

What makes a good chapbook? I’ve found that my favorite chapbooks are centered on a single theme and work as a cohesive whole.

What chapbooks are inspiring you these days? I recently finished both Jennifer Franklin’s “Persephone’s Ransom” and Tony Hoagland’s “Don’t Tell Anyone.” Both are fantastic.

What chapbooks or chapbook poets have impacted your writing the most? As I mentioned before, my wife, Julie Danho, author of the fantastic chapbook Six Portraits, is the first person I show my work. She, more than anyone, has shaped my chapbook. Kathleen Aguero’s work also influenced the way I put the chapbook together. Her chapbook Investigations: The Mystery of a Girl Sleuth taught me how a chapbook can benefit from the ways individual poems are ordered to create a unified manuscript.

How are you trying to get better as a chapbook poet?
I think the best thing I can do is to keep reading as many chapbooks as I’m able.

Current chapbook reading list: I’m looking forward to reading Craig Morgan Teicher’s “Ambivalence and Other Conundrums.”

Number of chapbooks you own: Somewhere around 30.

Number of chapbooks you’ve read: Maybe 50.

Ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets: Since most chapbooks can’t be found in the library system, I think the best thing anyone can do is put their favorite chapbooks into the hands of people who will appreciate them. I think chapbooks, because they are brief, can be more inviting to people who don’t usually read poetry.

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: Books.

Your chapbook wish: I hope chapbooks stay affordable. When chapbook prices rise too close to the cost of a full collection, I believe it threatens the viability of the form.

Job: Stay-at-home dad.

Chapbook Bio: After earning my M.F.A. from Ohio State University, I taught high school English for nearly a decade. My poems have been published in Columbia Poetry Review, North American Review, Poet Lore, and Rattle, among other journals. I’ve received two fellowships from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

the chapbook interview: Meg Eden on inviting the reader in

We both recently attended the Indiana Writers Consortium Conference and Book Fair. I was able to catch the last of Kate Collin’s talk on dialogue. One question during the Q&A bought Kate to discuss the hook at the beginning of the novel, the necessity to get the reader (or acquisitions editor) to turn the first page and then the second and then the third. She also noted that the job of the first three chapters of a novel is to create enough tension and enough drama, to give the reader enough curiosity to finish the book. What I admire about your poems in Rotary Phones and Facebook (Dancing Girl Press, 2012) is how you hook the reader into finishing each poem with opening lines and images that compel one to finish the poem to its last word. Talk about craft and shaping poems. Talk about invite a reader in.

Thank you so much—I’m so happy to hear that the poems were so engaging. I not only write poetry, but also novels, so what Kate said is exactly what I strive for—cutting to the good stuff and keeping the language fresh, the action enticing, to make the reader (but before that, the editor) want to keep going and going. I think the technique of fiction also applies to poetry—I’m not sure if I should argue that it’s easier or harder in poetry though. Poetry has less space, so every word has to be precise and count. A mentor of mine recently said that as poets, we can’t afford mediocre words or ideas. Everything has to be justified and necessary. Economical, you could say. With prose, you have more real estate, but with that, there’s also an expectation from the reader (at least with mainstream presses) for lots of plot and action. I suck at this. So in poetry, I feel like I probably succeed at this more because I can keep things engaging with bizarre images and insights, but don’t feel like I have to be forced into some notion of plot. So yes, my poems are crafted to only maintain the images and ideas that contribute to the larger whole of the poem—I guess you could say that’s the poem’s equivalent of the narrative plot skeleton of a novel—and through these images and ideas, I can build up to a realization. If there are images that are interesting but don’t contribute as well, or are less relevant, I stow them away for another poem. I hope that sort of answers your question.

Maybe it’s a little different to talk about what invites a reader in. I sort of talked about this with the novel industry. Editors are obsessed with plot. I think this is stupid, because there’s much more to life than plot, and what typically engages me is an interesting character. Everyone is drawn in by something different, but what I’d propose that some general things that invite a reader in are:

  1. accessible language
  2. Incongruent/bizarre images
  3. Some sort of personal connection
  4. Some sort of aha! Moment (for me, this is usually in the form of a realization from the speaker in the poem)

The poems in Rotary Phones and Facebook were sort of thrown together as a hodge podge to be honest—I loved Dancing Girl Press and wanted to submit, so I went through my “Woman Poems” folder (yes, I literally had a folder that was called “woman poems”) and picked some stuff that I thought was strong. I do not advise this sort of strategy for a submission, but what’s so interesting is that these actually came together as a cohesive narrative. I think it worked because the poems were so honest—I should probably explain what I meant by “woman poems” since that can be easily misinterpreted… These were the poems where I explored my female identity and dove into female experiences that are typically verboten to talk about publicly, and it was the first time I was really exploring vocalizing those ideas from my experience. This was in college when I started writing these poems, so I think what tied these poems together, and what I think might make them engaging, is that when I was writing them, they were all incredibly honest about my experiences and there was a sort of freedom in that. When I find poems that deal so bluntly with experiences, both good and bad, I find that very inviting as a reader.

The Writer’s Chronicle September 2014 issue features Debra Spark’s mediation on research and writing fiction. She writes, “Once an idea has arrived, no matter how, the challenge is to embody the material authentically. This is indeed the challenge even if the inspiration for a novel comes from a more personal place” (91) and “this essay is my way of thinking about the rewards and dangers of purposeful research, not the general research that I suspect we all do merely by being curious about the world, but the book learning, the interviewing, the immersion journalism, the purposeful trip-taking and even the endless Googling that can be part of the writing process” (90). Can you talk about your research process in writing a chapbook?

Research process…I think it really depends on what the story needs. My biggest research influencers are photos, places, and google searches. Google searches for things less intimately familiar to me. My chapbooks are usually very focused in theme—so like for The Girl Who Came Back, the research involved going to what remains of Enchanted Forest, talking to my mother, and lots of googling of images. Images are a huge inspiration for my poetry. For something more intimate like Your Son, the research I guess you could say was just living with my parents, and recalling that experience.

I recently attended the Omaha Lit Fest’s panel on Mixtapes and Jazz Standards: Exploring the past through music. In talking about her use of music and the era of the 1980s in her book Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell said, “It’s all about trusting the reader.” I was particularly fascinating by your chapbook Your Son and the tension you create in the father-daughter relationship, a topic that evokes a series of questions on gender norms and expectations that would resonate with readers without having to offer readers a complicated backstory. Talk about trusting your readers. How do decide what to tell them and what to assume they’ll likely know or understand without being told?

Thanks, Madeline. I’m encouraged that you say this, because I often feel like I’ve grappled with trusting my reader.  I think for Your Son, that father-daughter tensions is something many people can relate to. But I’m not sure this is something I really actively thought about. I guess trusting your reader is a sub-conscious act—if you think too hard about it, it’s probably not trust. When we write not thinking about audience, but just relaying the experience in the terms of the experience, that usually translates over effectively. I think where I struggle with the last question you ask, knowing what to tell and what they’ll assume, is more in my recent work, where I am inspired significantly by biblical archetypes. Using something like that, it gets trickier for what people will know/not know coming into the poem. But the father-daughter experience, so many people come in with that experience already, which makes it much easier.

Beyond your chapbook from Dancing Girl Press, you are the author of two addition chapbooks, The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks) and Your Son (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award). You have a forthcoming chapbook as well. What draws you to write in the chapbook genre?

I want to get a full-length manuscript out, but chapbooks are much more self-contained, so much easier. In a chapbook, you can have a much smaller idea, and wrap everything up so neatly.  In a full-length manuscript, the space requires you to be more complex. There’s much more investment on the page.

How do you define chapbook? A series of poems (~20-30pg) effectively working together on one central theme.

What is inspiring you these days? The Bible—particularly Job and Genesis (namely the Rachel/Leah story)

How are you trying to get better as a poet? Meeting lots of people. Learning from their work and experiences. Reading a lot. I have more time right now, so I’m trying to read as much as I can.

What makes a good chapbook? When every single poem is up to par, and there’s not those few weak “throw in” poems making you wonder, how the heck did they get in there?

What’s next for you? I’m working on a few projects right now. I have a chapbook manuscript “Living with Outsiders” that I’m shopping around, and I’m really trying to strengthen some full-length manuscripts, namely one that’s currently called “Things Girls Don’t Talk About”, which are largely autobiographical poems about those socially unacceptable things to talk about if you’re a woman, beginning with periods.

Your chapbook credo: Write, write, write!

Number of chapbooks you own:
maybe 20?

Number of chapbooks you’ve read:
40 or so? Not sure

Ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets
: Through my facebook page Meg Eden Writes Poems. I love giving a shout out to poets and their chapbooks that I love. If you’re a chapbook poet and would like to share what you’re doing, let me know! I love meeting chapbook poets.

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: more chapbooks!

Your chapbook wish: That they would be accessible in mainstream bookstores, and that the general public was more aware of them

Residence: Just on the cusp of Washington DC

Job: Educator

Chapbook education: Trial and error

Chapbook Bio: Your Son (NFSPS), Rotary Phones and Facebook (Dancing Girl Press), The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks), (forthcoming) A Week With Beijing (NEON)

“necessity is the mother of experimentation”: the chapbook interview: Brenda Sieczkowski on research, experimentation, and goodness


I adore collaborations and couplings of art and poetry. I recently attended the Art & Words Show curated by Bonnie Shufflebeam, a show that starts with a CFP for art and words. After the art is selected, the curator assigns one short story, essay, or poem to an artist and one piece of art to the writer. The artists and writers then have a few months to create something inspired by the assigned work. Can you talk about the collaborative work you did with Chad Woody who illustrated your fabulously titled chapbook Wonder Girl in Monster Land (Dancing Girl Press, 2012)?

Yes! I share your enthusiasm for cross-media collaborations. The type of collaborative process you describe as part of the Art & Words Show is so fertile—as an individual who works primarily in text, I appreciate the ways a compelling piece of visual art can jump-start me from a groove I’m stalled in and propel me in new directions. (I recently reconnected with an old friend who started a press with a similar collaborative mission, Prompt Press: http://promptpress.com/). The collaborative process between Chad Woody and me for Wonder Girl in Monster Land was somewhat different, however, because I’ve known Chad, and his work, since 1999, when we met in the M.F.A. program at the University of Florida. Chad is one of those insanely talented people who excels in a multitude of creative fields—(a vast range of) visual media, poetry, prose, performance art . . .To experience what I mean, spend some time exploring his blog: http://cranialstomp.blogspot.com.

When I wrote Wonder Girl in Monster Land, my process diverged from previous writing projects, was inverted, in the sense that I arrived at the umbrella mood and logic of the chapbook before I had any of its specific text or details. Although Monster Land shifted and adapted as the individual poems in it took shape, the composition felt primarily like a top-down operation. But when I eventually completed a draft of the manuscript, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was an element of its world I couldn’t realize in text; that’s when I first thought about enlisting the aid of a visual artist. Chad was the first person I thought of since I have always felt that, despite differences in our projects or processes, our work shares an affinity for the dark, the irreverent, and the whimsical/absurd. But at the same time, his work commits to risk and doesn’t fold its hand when the emotional stakes are high.

Chad and I have kept in sporadic contact since Florida. A few years before I wrote Wonder Girl in Monster Land, I had sent Chad an (unrelated) email asking if he could build me a bird-sized coffin. His response was classic Woody: “Crow-sized or sparrow-sized?” I wrote back “sparrow-sized,” and a hinged wooden coffin, just what I had wanted, arrived soon after. This anecdote perhaps demonstrates why I had such a high level of confidence that I could just send Chad the chapbook manuscript, and he would come up with brilliant illustrations. I felt more comfortable NOT dictating a lot of instructions or parameters because I didn’t just want to enlist his technical skill; I wanted to enlist his visual imagination and energy. And the results were amazing. My one regret is that I had no clue how labor-intensive the illustrating work I had asked Chad to do would turn out to be. You get a sense from the reproduced illustrations, for example the ones for “On Halloween” and “On the Conditional,” how incredibly detailed the drawings are. But the reproductions don’t even come close to the originals. I have a print from the original etching of “On Halloween,” and the level of detail is unbelievable—you can make out the expressions on the most distant faces in the crowd around the door, and you can see each grain of wood in the kitchen table. I owe him significantly more than one.

I love the poems “Mix Tape (Hypothetically in Love)” and “10 Amendments (An Erratum).” These, like so many in your chapbook and like other poems collected in your full length collection Like Oysters Observing the Sun (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), are funny and smart as they experiment with poetic form. Can you talk about poetic experimentation?

I’m glad you mentioned “Mix Tape” because the background to its composition is particularly funny in the context of your question. As my family can attest, I’ve always had a stubborn streak, so when someone lectures me on why I can’t do a certain thing, my brain immediately starts spinning out how and why I can. If someone tells me I must do x, I immediately begin to transform that x into y/why. I wrote “Mix Tape” in response to the assignment, given in one of my graduate workshops, to write a sonnet. I occasionally do write sonnets of my own volition, but being asked to produce one on command activated knee-jerk evasive maneuvers. For some reason, the translation of sonnet as “little song” was floating around in my head, and I think I was (somewhat subconsciously) thinking, “I’m not giving you that little song; you’re just getting a bunch of little song titles.”

Though I certainly don’t model my poetic vision on Plato, I’m happy to twist his words into a more general response to your question; for me, necessity is the mother of experimentation. If I’m adapting or distorting a particular form or mode of expression, it’s because I can’t work out any other way of communicating what I mutably perceive I might mean. I can’t snap my notions of poetic experimentation into line with ideas of objectively designed experiments or implementations of controlled variables. I have no hypothesis until a discovery is already palpable. And then the discovery sensibly rediscovers itself.

 brenda's chap

I love the idea of knee-jerk evasive maneuvers activated by workshop assignments and the ways they can inspire poems. And too, that friendships started in graduate school can manifest later into collaborations that produce beautiful chapbooks. I’ve been thinking about writing and community, those that foster creative exploration and others. The Writer’s Chronicle September 2014 issue features an interview with novelist Xu Xi who contrasts her business life with the writing life. She explains, “Publishing is a loathsome industry, one that is too much about connections and where you came from and privilege…publishing and the literary life, generally, is a lot about whom you know and even where you went to school…the whole literary scene is a lot more about the one degree of separation than not. In time, you learn to play the game” (73). Xu Xi is a novelist. How true do you think this is for poets? How important is community for a poet, who you know, where you went to school, and learning to play the game?

The question of community, how to cultivate and sustain it, is vitally important for any writer—poet or fiction writer. I think it is crucial, however, to distinguish between network and community. Although networking, making professional connections, overlaps with and can absolutely lead to community, it can also jeopardize the potential for real companionship if it privileges elitism over sincere, mutual respect and support. My suspicion is that “playing the game” is a bigger factor in fiction, where the stakes are (or are at least perceived to be) higher than in poetry. But I am not familiar enough with the intricacies of the publishing industry to make any definitive claims. It does seem clear, however, that the lifeblood of contemporary poetry is in small presses. I can only speak about those with which I have personal experience, but I think that, largely, small presses are building essential channels for community. I’m thinking about Kristy Bowen at dancing girl press, and what she has accomplished, almost single-handedly, towards providing exposure for a huge community of women writers. Jen Tynes, Mike Sikkema, Erica Howsare, and Jennifer Denrow at Horse Less Press; Nathan Hauke and Kirsten Jorgenson at Ark Press; Gina Myers at Lame House Press; Dawn Pendergast at Little Red Leaves; the folks at SP_CE in Lincoln, NE; Bruce Covey and Co. at Coconut—all these people exemplify for me a true spirit of and dedication to community. Diane Goettel and the editorial staff at Black Lawrence Press had likely never heard of me when they plucked my full-length manuscript for publication, but they believed in my work and labored tirelessly to bring it into print. Do editors of small presses sometimes publish people whose work they already know? Sure. This is a problem when it interferes with those presses’ abilities to provide access and range. We all need to push ourselves harder to expand the borders of our community. This extends, in my mind, to pushing ourselves, those of us who are teachers, to expand the communities of writers we assemble in our syllabi. This extends to pushing ourselves to diversify and challenge the community of writers we make a place for on our bookshelves.

One of my mentors at the University of Utah, Don Revell, said very early on in my studies that only “a good person can write good poetry.” In typical knee-jerk fashion, I immediately thought to myself, “Nope, obviously not true. I can think of plenty of poets who act like total assholes and write pretty brilliant poems.” But Don’s statement stuck with me. The more I began to let go of worrying about whether I thought other poets and writers met this standard and focused only on how it applied to me, the more I realized it was true. I couldn’t be a good poet if I wasn’t a good person. This realization has been my salvation in some very challenging times.

brenda's chap 2

In your forthcoming chapbook Fallout & Flotation Devices (Little Red Leaves, 2014)—which includes the pieces “Notes,” “Conflated Color Index, Autocad,” and “Memorandum” with subsections of intention, discussion, background, and foreground—gestures towards research, a research that might resist some readers expectations. Let’s talk about research and writing the chapbook. How do you deal with the transition from research to writing? At what point in the writing process do you research and why do you do that research? When do you take notes?

The transition between research and writing in most of my projects—Fallout & Flotation Devices is no exception—is extremely fluid. From the moment I learned to read, my appetite for knowledge and explicit detail has been insatiable. Whatever spare moments I had were lost in books—to the extreme that when I turned 16 and learned to drive, I realized that I really didn’t know how to get much of anywhere in the city I grew up in; all my passenger time had been spent reading. Reading (in a frenetically wide range of subjects—neuroscience is an enduring stimulant) sparks most of my writing. A sheer infatuation with some fact or idea fuels initial lines or sketches. But then those lines or sketches are not sharp enough to satisfy me, so I have to go back and dig up more information on the subject, or basically on the subject, or very tangentially related to the subject. I’ve had to learn to cut myself off from research at a certain point, however; otherwise, I find that the research process often becomes a procrastination technique to avoid the sometimes-difficult generative work that needs to follow.

I also often borrow forms from genres that I, somewhat unwilling, have had to engage with in my professional life. “Memorandum,” for example, opened out from my need to find creative outlets when I’ve been forced to teach technical and business writing classes. (I once made my business students convert William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just to Say” into memo format. They loved it?).

Every aspiring writer who has sat through a creative writing workshop has probably heard that old gem: “Write what you know.” I think this is terrible advice if you interpret it as your cue to circumscribe your writing into the narrow, limited world you ordinarily inhabit. If, however, you take this advice as a challenge to know more, to know widely, then I think it is genius.


How do you define chapbook? I think of a chapbook as the tiny house model (artisanal and/or DIY) in the poetry construction industry.

What is inspiring you these days?


1) Close to home:

When I moved back to Omaha after spending most of my 20s and 30s in other parts of the country, I found myself re-enamored with the Mid-West’s grassy, unraveling spaces, all its rusting mills and factories. Over the past few years, I’ve taken frequent regional road-trips, from Moscow, IA, to Oregon, MO. My favorite of these journeys, however, took me to Monowi, NE, population 1. The sole resident (and mayor, bar-tender, librarian) was unfortunately out of town for the weekend, but I had a great time exploring Monowi’s abandoned frame houses and trailers. It’s a town I definitely plan to revisit. These mini-journeys, coupled with Nick Reding’s Methland: The Life and Death of an American Small Town, provided much of the inspiration for “The Great Plains Alchemy of Weather” (the second section of Fallout & Flotation Devices).


2) Cross-section of more universal pursuits:

Marxist and post-Marxist theory. Dialectic force fields.


Dreamers, self-starters, work-horses scrambling every day to provide and improve the poetry community. In addition to those people and presses I mentioned above: Megan Kaminski and the Taproom Poetry Series, Hanna Andrews and the women of Switchback Books, Zack Haber and the Other Fabulous Reading Series, Lara Candland Asplund’s features on her Girls in a Tight Place blog, this wonderful chapbook interview series (!), MC Hyland at DoubleCross Press, Nate Pritts and H_NGM_N, the folks behind The East Bay Poetry Summit, everyone at VIDA fighting the good fight, Pussipo, 100 Thousand Poets for Change . . .I could go on in this vein for a LONG time.

DIY websites.

The Eclipse archive and UbuWeb.

Neuroscience, phrenology, biology, apiology, gross anatomy, taxidermy, botany, natural history, geology, Victorian sciences . . .

Dada dolls.

How are you trying to get better as a poet?
I’m always trying to increase the depth and breadth of my reading. That’s my abiding longitudinal tactic. But I’ve taken a much different approach in the last five or six years. When my graduate funding evaporated, I had to put my studies on hold to work full time (+). I wasn’t sure if or how I would ever find the resources to finish my degree, and I think the potential for despair or bitterness was there. But, at the same time (this was right at the start of the economic recession), I was acutely aware of how many people’s lives, particularly those who were already extremely underprivileged and vulnerable, were being devastated by the financial crisis. I funneled my employment search into social services and began working in support services for chronically homeless individuals, street kids, prison inmates. Although this may seem paradoxical—because committing to the work I was doing severely limited the time and emotional resources I had left to invest in writing and academic pursuits—struggling every day to combat (in whatever tiny way I could) the enormous heartaches of poverty, mental illness, and addiction was the single most important thing I could have done for myself to improve as a poet. 

What makes a good chapbook? Elliptical vision. Embroidery that curls away from strict linearity.

What’s next for you? I’m hoping to finally complete my PhD in the next year, and I’m very purposefully trying not to think past that hurdle yet. If I do, I may never finish. 

Your chapbook credo: Sew love, not war.

Number of chapbooks you own: 40-50

Number of chapbooks you’ve read: 70-80

Residence: Omaha, Nebraska

Job: I recently took a hiatus from working in homeless outreach and support services, and am now employed as a graduate consultant at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Writing Center. I work part time as a free-lance editor and also for Disability Support Services at a local community college. In my spare time, I’m attempting to wrap up my much-delayed PhD in creative writing and literature.

Chapbook Bio: Brenda Sieczkowski’s poems and lyric essays have appeared widely in print and on-line journals including The Colorado Review, Versal, The Seneca Review, Bone Bouquet, Ilk, The New England Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Diagram, The Florida Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, Dusie, Sidebrow, and Subtropics among others. Her chapbook, Wonder Girl in Monster Land, was published in 2012 by dancing girl press. A second chapbook, Fallout & Flotation Devices, is forthcoming from Little Red Leaves. Like Oysters Observing the Sun, her first full-length collection, was recently released by Black Lawrence Press.

Where we can find your chapbook:

You can find Wonder Girl in Monster Land here:

Fallout & Flotation Devices will be available shortly from Little Red Leaves’ Textile Series:

If you’re game for a longer ride, my full-length collection, Like Oysters Observing the Sun, is available here:


the chapbook interview: Sandy Marchetti on letterpress collaborations

I recently attended the Omaha Lit Fest and one of the themes I heard repeated among the panelists focused on what we include in our books as writers that work in “service to the book” or in “service to the story.” In the case of the Omaha Lit Fest with its theme of “Warped Historical In/Accuracy” panelists spoke to issues of lyrics, song titles, historical fact, and local and cultural trauma, as well as others. I’m curious about the images by Erika Adams in your chapbook A Detail in Landscape (Eating Dog Press, 2014). Can you talk about the collaborative work and how the art and words are in service to the larger chapbook?

Madeline, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your interview series.  A Detail in the Landscape is a true collaboration, so I especially identify with your query here. The sum of the visuals and words being greater than their parts was an equation Erika (founder of Eating Dog Press) and I constantly negotiated in the making of this book. We wanted to work together, after meeting at Vermont Studio Center last year, because we both knew her talent and vision as an artist and master printer could challenge and bloom my words. This is why we decided, early on, to give each other freedom to create our own “sides” of the book–hers the visual, and mine the written. We did give each other suggestions, though. For example, I mentioned a square might be the right shape for the book, and she suggested that I cut the micro-essays that accompany each poem from a paragraph down to one vibrant sentence. We trusted each other and took each others’ advice, but there wasn’t pressure to do so. Ultimately, though, this freedom enhanced the book so greatly. Erika teased out motifs in my poems beyond what I had found. For instance, Erika’s illustrations consist of abstract geometric forms made up of triangles in five colors, mostly shades of green and blue. These forms spread against the spine and could conjure the image of a flock of birds or a cloud. I would never have thought of geometric shapes as a panoramic concern of the book, but the poems really do take on a discussion of symmetry, shapes, and distances. In essence, the illustrations, shape, colors, size, and letterpress design (all executed at Erika’s hand) provide a type of critique or extrapolation of the words right inside the chapbook itself.

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This process that you and Erika engaged in sounds like it was lots of fun, while also inspiring and motivating—the types of projects all of us need in our lives—not to mention producing a beautiful letterpress book. At the Omaha Lit Fest at one point the director and founder, Timothy Schaffert said, “I always tell my students the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is the published writer finishes the book.” Were you ever scared to finish a book? Can you talk about your process of finishing your chapbook The Canopy and your forthcoming book from Sundress Publications?

Really interesting question, Madeline! That Timothy Schaffert quote is making me feel pretty good about myself! I probably should have been scared knowing what I am aware of now regarding the process of finishing a book. I was naive, as many young writers are, of the wherewithal it takes. I was lucky regarding The Canopy. At the time, in 2011, I was working on Confluence, my full-length collection that is now forthcoming with Sundress Publications. I hoped to finish it after two years of hard work. I had blinders on, and never thought of publishing a chapbook from a section of Confluence, but when I heard about the Midwest Writing Center Press contest, my interest was sparked. It was regional–only open to Midwestern poets–and I thought I might have a better chance because of that. After all of the money and time spent on rejections from Yale and the Walt Whitman Award, I took a shot. In one day, I culled a 16-page manuscript from this big book of 60 poems and sent it. I continue to pin it on sheer beginner’s luck that I won! If I had realized at the time what I know now–that a chapbook is an important publication for a poet and a great accomplishment–I might have been more anxious about sending. Really, my ignorance saved me.

After working on Confluence for a couple of years, and just after publishing The Canopy, I began to realize how difficult it was going to be to finish the full-length collection. This was incredibly frustrating, seeing as how the chapbook was picked up straightaway. I was no longer naive at this point, so instead of becoming scared this time, I got angry–more at myself than the publishers, I should note. I overhauled the book at least six times in the next three years, each time I had a crop of new work. I weeded out every lackluster poem and made sure the revisions/replacements shone. I waged a war against that manuscript, taking each poem through 80 drafts. I learned just how badly I wanted Confluence to be a book. If someone had told me it would take five years to complete the manuscript and find a publisher, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m fairly confident about my work, but contests and publishing in general humbled me. The revision and submission process also made me a better, more tenacious poet, as it called on all of my reserves. I also met the most amazing folks along the way. I realize I have used all of these aggressive metaphors, but the vision I had for this book guided me to keep writing, revising, and sending. Even mentors told me I should move on to other projects. By the time Confluence was picked up, I knew there was nothing else I could do to make the book better. I told myself, “this book deserves to be published,” and once I really believed that, it was.

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I really appreciate your discussion on process for Confluence—the revision work, dedication, and the weeding out of lesser poems. It’s a process many writers go through as they revise—work that can be difficult, but necessary to make it a book. I’ve been thinking and rereading your collaborative chapbook A Detail in the Landscape. I particularly adore the last page—the last words and image of A Detail in the Landscape. Talk about endings. How do you decide where to end a chapbook, a book, a poem?

Great question! I knew I wanted to end Detail on “Never-Ending Birds” because it is the poem that begins my full-length collection, Confluence. In fact, all five lineated poems in Detail appear in Confluence, though the five prose pieces do not. I originally wanted “Birds” near the end of my full-length, but settled on it as the opening poem in service to the manuscript as a whole. A wish of mine was to have this poem end some project, and Detail felt appropriate.  Hopefully “Never-Ending Birds” will lead readers out into the landscape appropriately, as the poem moves from ground-, to eye-, to sky-level. When I wrote the prose fragment for “Birds,” much later than when I wrote the lineated piece, I wanted to reflect on the process of writing the poem itself. I actually did go out and stand in a field of swallows at a local arboretum to draft “Never-Ending Birds,” so I tried to write about that process. I settled on the line, “The birds encircled me, slid close to my legs, my face,” to begin and then realized that the title of the project, “a detail in the landscape” provided a natural metric chime with “my legs, my face.” The final line now reads, “The birds encircled me, slid close to my legs, my face; I had become another shrub–a detail in the landscape.” My words surprised me. As Yeats says, this poem “clicked shut” to my ear, and that’s how I knew it was “done.”

 SM chap 4

There’s a tension created with the longer poems and one the one line poems and essays in A Detail in the Landscape. It adds breath and space to the work, while also giving the reader a moment to meditate on the imagery and art. What collaborative work do you admire and what inspired you and your collaborator to structure the chapbook as you have?

Madeline, I appreciate the fact that you picked up on the “breath and space” of the book! That’s exactly what Erika and I were attempting to create. I wanted the book to be square and work diagonally–this book is about angles in so many ways–and I knew some of my shorter lineated poems would leave white space at the bottom of the lefthand pages (“By Degrees” is a good example). I thought that a poem at the top left of each left page and at the bottom right of each right page would stretch the reader visually. Both of us envisioned the illustrations as spread against the spine of the book. We thought this would allow us and the readers to use all of the page without the book appearing cluttered.

I had a chance to look at Erika’s other collections, namely Pickles I Have Known and her collaborative book Wood with poems by Brooks Wright, which helped me to envision the aesthetic of Eating Dog Press not as a publishing house but as a producer of visual art with text. I thought seriously about the collaboration we were entering into with our landscape and environment while making this book. I went out into the woods and the rivers to write these poems and Erika trekked from Montreal to Georgia to Minnesota to make the books. We met in Vermont where the idea was born, and the project took shape over the course of a full year, or four seasons. So, the collaboration that was most inspirational to me was the one we had with the land while making this object.

SM chap 2

How do you define chapbook? A chapbook to me is a poetry book I can read and enjoy in one sitting. In essence, it’s a digestible bite of poetry (or maybe prose as well!).

How are you trying to get better as a poet? I found that once I started mining and honing the voice that I used in my two chapbooks and the bigger full-length book project they came from, Confluence, that it became more difficult for me to try new things. Perhaps this was because I found a modicum of success with these projects. This risk-adverseness dovetailed with my MFA graduation. Although I’ve never been a poet who needs deadlines to write, I often need to be prodded to read new works or experiment a bit, and the MFA often helped me to do this. It’s been tough, but right now I’m attempting to become a bit less perfectionistic with my poems and explore a rawer, more ragged edge in my images. I’m trying to resist my need to totally control my poems before I send them out into the world, I suppose.

What makes a good chapbook? Any chapbook I can read in a sitting that teaches me something about the world that seems true and/or new to me.

Your chapbook credo: Do it with less. Make it count. I want epiphany.

Number of chapbooks you own: Hundreds! They are beautiful and addictive, right? Current favorites include Lucy Biederman’s The Other World, Alessandra Bava’s They Talk About Death, Lynn Emmanuel’s The Technology of Love, Nancy Kuhl’s In the Arbor, and many chapbooks from dancing girl press, Midwest Writing Center Press, Sundress Publications, Hyacinth Girl Press, and of course, Eating Dog Press!

Ways you promote and serve other chapbook poets: I do write chapbook reviews, most recently of Alessandra Bava’s They Talk about Death and Lucy Biederman’s The Other World. Prick of the Spindle, The Bakery, Extract(s), Speaking of Marvels, and of course this interview series, Laura, are great online spaces to promote chaps!

Where you spend your chapbook earnings: Actually, combined sales of the hardcover edition, softcover edition, and letterpress broadsides of A Detail in the Landscape will fund my trip back to Vermont Studio Center for a writing residency in May of 2015. VSC is where I first met Erika Adams and we hatched the idea of this collaboration. It seems only fitting that I would return there fueled by the success of our project.

Bio: Sandra Marchetti is the author of Confluence, a debut full-length poetry collection forthcoming from Sundress Publications, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from George Mason University. Eating Dog Press also published an illustrated edition of her essays and poetry, A Detail in the Landscape, and her first volume,The Canopy, won Midwest Writing Center’s Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest. Sandy won Second Prize in Prick of the Spindle’s 2014 Poetry Open and was a finalist for Gulf Coast’s Poetry Prize. Her work appears in The JournalSubtropicsThe Hollins CriticSugar House ReviewMid-American ReviewThrush Poetry Journal,Green Mountains ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewPhoebe, and elsewhere. She currently works as a writing teacher and freelance creative manuscript editor in her hometown of Chicago.

Where we can find your chapbook: Actually, since A Detail in the Landscape was produced in a one-time, limited edition run, the book itself, in hardcover and softcover, is completely sold out. I do still have broadsides available. If you are interested, please message me here:


Also, stay tuned to the above space, as I may release the virtual edition of the chap as an ebook in the near future.


Women Write Resistance reading at the Indiana Writers’ Consortium’s 2014 Creative Writing Conference and Book Fair


Women Write Resistance Poets read at IWC

Reading of Women Write Resistance
with Shevaun Brannigan, Sara Henning, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Larissa Shmailo, Jill Khoury, Meg Day, & Mary Stone Dockery
Indiana Writers’ Consortium’s 2014 Creative Writing Conference and Book Fair
4:00-5:10 PM, Saturday, October 11, 2014
Salon A, Hilton Garden Inn, 7775 Mississippi Street
Merrillville, Indiana

Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, views poetry as a transformative art. By deploying techniques to challenge narratives about violence against women and making alternatives to that violence visible.  Poetry of resistance distinguishes itself by a persuasive rhetoric that asks readers to act. The anthology’s stance believes poetry can compel action using both rhetoric and poetic techniques to motivate readers. In their deployment of these techniques, poets of resistance claim the power to name and talk about gender violence in and on their own terms. Indeed, these poets resist for change by revising justice and framing poetry as action. This IWC Conference reading will include an introduction by the editor and feature Women Write Resistance poets who will read their poems and others from Women Write Resistance.

WWR going to STR 2

The featured Women Write Resistance poets

“When you sit down to write a poem, I think you’re making a really brave and bold statement that is at once insistent upon your own existence and also wildly generous in the sacrificing of that existence to the possibility of a reader. To be a person—to insist on personhood—is a right we see refused to the majority of the people in this country (and other countries, with our country’s help) on a daily basis, even when we aren’t hearing about it on the news or social media.” – Meg Day, Blotterature

Meg Day, selected for Best New Poets of 2013, is a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize (forthcoming 2014), When All You Have Is a Hammer (winner of the 2012 Gertrude Press Chapbook Contest) and We Can’t Read This (winner of the 2013 Gazing Grain Chapbook Contest). A 2012 AWP Intro Journals Award Winner, she has also received awards and fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Writers, the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities, and the International Queer Arts Festival. Meg is currently a PhD candidate, Steffensen-Cannon Fellow, & Point Foundation Scholar in Poetry & Disability Poetics at the University of Utah. www.megday.com

“I also do not think of poems or poets as static—just because someone writes poetry, does not mean they cannot be an activist. In fact, poetry, which is a vital form of connecting with others, may predispose someone to be more in tune with the world’s injustices.” – Shevaun Brannigan, Blotterature

Shevaun Brannigan is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, as well as The Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House at The University of Maryland. She has had poems appear in such journals as Best New Poets 2012, Lumina, Rhino, Court Green, and Free State Review. She has been an Arts & Letters Poetry Prize finalist, received an honorable mention in So to Speak’s 2012 Poetry Contest, as well as a Pushcart nomination by Rattle.

“Sometimes, the attempt at truth is all that one can muster, and that is its own truth.” – Sara Henning, The Conversant

Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink, 2013)as well as a chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012).  Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Willow Springs, Bombay Gin and the Crab Orchard Review.  Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for The South Dakota Review.

“Poetry has been revolutionary and transformative for me since I became interested in poetry.” – Jill Khoury, Blotterature

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.

“Poetry transformed me… into a powerful woman…Poetry continues to mold and shape my life by offering new possibilities each day.” – Larissa Shmailo, Blotterature

Larissa Shmailo is the editor of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry, 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 landmark restaging of the multimedia opera and has been a translator on the Bible in Russia for the American Bible Society. Her books of poetry 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).

“There have been times in my life where poetry gave me all the answers about myself and about the world and about what it means to be a woman.” – Mary Stone Dockery, Blotterature

Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette and Mythology of Touch, and two chapbooks, Blink Finch and Aching Buttons. Her poetry and prose have appeared in many fine journals, including Mid-American Review, Gargoyle, South Dakota Review, Arts & Letters.


“As I wrote in the critical introduction to Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, I believe poetry is power. Poetry is action.” – Laura Madeline Wiseman, Blotterature

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her recent books are American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012), and the collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2014) with artist Sally Deskins. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com

More recent interviews with poets from Women Write Resistance:

An Interview with Poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence,” Blotterature, October 2014

“‘To make a new whole of the fragments’: A Roundtable Discussion with poets in Women Write Resistance,The Conversant, October 2014

“‘We invent the forms of resistance we wish to see‘: A Roundtable Discussion with Poets in Women Write Resistance,” Les Femmes FollesSeptember 2014

“Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Writers from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence,Blotterature Literary Magazine, by Julie Demoff-Larson with Sarah Chavez, Tyler Mills, Jennifer Perrine, Carly Sachs, Monica Wendel, and Margo Taft Stever, May 2014, Part I & Part II

“‘their words make this possible‘: A Roundtable Discussion of Poetics of Emplacement with Poets from Women Write Resistance,” Spoon River Poetry Review, April 2014

Women Write Resistance: Poets to read at Purdue University Calumet

WWR Flyer purdue

Women Write Resistance: Poets to read at Purdue University Calumet Press Release

Women Write Resistance Poets Reading Event at Purdue University Calumet
with Sara Henning, Mary Stone Dockery,  Laura Madeline Wiseman, Larissa Shamilo, Sarah Chavez, & Rosemary Winslow
2200 173rd Street, Hammond, IN 46322
October 10, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.
Contact: Indiana Writers’ Consortium at 219-750-1200 ext. 203

Hammond, INSeptember 19, 2014— Indiana Writers’ Consortium, in conjunction with Purdue University Calumet’s Department of English and Philosophy and student organization First Friday Wordsmiths, are hosting six nationally known poets featured in the anthology Women Write Resistance: Poets Against Gender Violence. The six featured readers are: Laura Madeline Wiseman, Sara Henning, Mary Stone Dockery, Larissa Shamilo, Rosemary Winslow, and Sarah Chavez. The event, which is free of charge and open to the public, will take place in YJean Chambers Theater in the Student Union Library Building directly north of the 173rd Street parking lot. The reading will begin at 6:00 p.m. and there will be a book signing in the Founders’ Study after the reading. Free refreshments will also be available during the signing.

Indiana Writers’ Consortium inspires and builds a community of creative writers. We are the premier group in Northwest Indiana dedicated to educating writers from the ground up through speakers, seminars, and children’s programs. IWC provides educational and networking opportunities for writers in all stages of their careers. We also sponsor an annual children’s project, where we partner with local schools to bring poetry into the classroom. For more information please visit our website indianawritersconsortium.org or contact the IWC at 219-750-1200 ext. 203. The Indiana Writers’ Consortium is located at 5209 Hohman Ave., Hammond, IN 46320.

Featured poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence

Sarah Chavez

“As much as possible, I try to allow my poetry to embrace and inhabit conflict and conflicting truths…” – Sarah Chavez, The Conversant

Sarah A. Chavez is a mestíza born and raised in the California Central Valley completing her PhD in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her work can be found in various publications such as Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place, the journals North American Review, The Fourth River, and others. Her chapbook All Day, Talking has just been released from dancing girl press.

“The knowledge expressed in poetry has infinite organizing power on a subconscious as well as conscious level.” – Larissa Shamilo, Blotterature

Larissa Shmailo is the editor of the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry, 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 landmark restaging of the multimedia opera and has been a translator on the Bible in Russia for the American Bible Society. Her books of poetry 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).

“Poetry taught me how to search for understanding, how to empathize, and how to define myself at different stages throughout my life.” – Mary Stone Dockery, Blotterature

Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette and Mythology of Touch, and two chapbooks, Blink Finch and Aching Buttons. Her poetry and prose have appeared in many fine journals, including Mid-American Review, Gargoyle, South Dakota Review, Arts & Letters.

“Poetry is suffering, lovemaking, the body at its limits demanding to be heard. Poetry is also a place to exorcise cultural paradoxes.” – Sara Henning, Blotterature

Sara Henning is the author of A Sweeter Water (Lavender Ink, 2013)as well as a chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012).  Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Willow Springs, Bombay Gin and the Crab Orchard Review.  Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for The South Dakota Review.

“Teaching a junior level course to majors from every discipline at the university last spring, I noted a sea change in greater understanding of the experiences of gendered cultural forces.  The evidence was most marked in responses to Adrienne Rich’s essay, “When We Dead Awaken.”  To my great surprise, and counter to my experiences of previous decades, students understood, with palpable compassion, the violence to the self as Rich considers having no place or voice for a female self.” – Rosemary Winslow, Spoon River Poetry Review

Rosemary Winslow lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches at The Catholic University of America. Her book Green Bodies expressed and grappled with the complexities of love in troubled families, and sought understanding, forgiveness, and compassion for the wide circle of humankind. She has taught in shelters for women, and now enjoys yoga, hiking, swimming, kayaking, and singing in a choir.


“Early in college I was introduced to writers such as Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Sandra Cisneros. These writers and others allowed me to explore the rich world that poetry offered, to see how poetry was a work worth doing, and that art could be made from life, that such a writing life was possible.” – Laura Madeline Wiseman, Blotterature

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her recent books are American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012), and the collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2014) with artist Sally Deskins. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com

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More recent interviews with poets from Women Write Resistance:

An Interview with Poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence,” Blotterature, October 2014

“‘To make a new whole of the fragments’: A Roundtable Discussion with poets in Women Write Resistance,The Conversant, October 2014

“‘We invent the forms of resistance we wish to see‘: A Roundtable Discussion with Poets in Women Write Resistance,” Les Femmes FollesSeptember 2014

“Blot Lit Reviews: An Interview with Writers from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence,Blotterature Literary Magazine, by Julie Demoff-Larson with Sarah Chavez, Tyler Mills, Jennifer Perrine, Carly Sachs, Monica Wendel, and Margo Taft Stever, May 2014, Part I & Part II

“‘their words make this possible‘: A Roundtable Discussion of Poetics of Emplacement with Poets from Women Write Resistance,” Spoon River Poetry Review, April 2014