Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ploughshares : an interview with Robin Richardson on Minola Review

I'm a monthly blogger over at the Ploughshares blog! And my eleventh post is now up: an interview with founder/editor Robin Richardson on Minola Review: a journal of women's writing.

You can see links to all of my Ploughshares posts here, including interviews with Toronto poet Emily Izsak, Ottawa poet Faizal Deen, Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke, editor/critic Erin Wunker, Arc Poetry Magazine Poetry Editor Rhonda Douglas, editor/publisher Leigh Nash on Invisible Publishing, Cobourg, Ontario poet, editor, fiction writer and small press publisher Stuart Ross, Toronto novelist Ken Sparling, Kingston writer Diane Schoemperlen and Toronto poet Soraya Peerbaye.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kate Cayley, Other Houses




A Partial List of People Who Have Claimed to be Christ
Ann Lee, 1736-1784

I will not sit in your presence, persecutors. Bare-headed
before you I stand examined, men of English church, men of
holy cloth, but I was a seamstress, snipping lives in my fingers.

I could rip a seam like the ocean, which I aim to cross, leading
my women and men, who sweat alike and walk together, for only
by the sameness of men and women shall either be redeemed.

When I shudder, you will say the fit is on me, and mock me,
but I say you are filth, to see filth. I shake with the Word, myself
Mother Ann, female form of Christ. My babies dead, my womb

blasted, God knew I was for other offers. Not for me
the spindle, the bed. Shake your heads, churchmen. I see
you titter as the rabble does. Do not touch me. I will burn

your hands with holiness. Ask me any point of theology
and I will answer you in tongues. Cut mine out, I will speak.
I will inherit. I will turn the world upside down.

I am intrigued by the narrative precision of Kate Cayley’s lyrics in her second collection, Other Houses (London ON: Brick Books, 2017). I was initially struck by a series of poems that thread through, each titled “A Partial List of People Who Have Claimed to be Christ.” Four poems in all, each poem writes a kind of case history on different historical figures who claimed, in their own way, some version of the divine: Ann Lee (1736-1784), Arnold Potter (1804-1872), William W. Davies (1833-1906) and Laszlo Toth (1938-2012). There is something quite sympathetic in her sketches-as-case-histories, blending elements of irrationality with their own relationships and awareness of the divine, as she writes in the William W. Davies piece, “Everything comes // again, and what is, was.” Cayley’s lines are incredibly precise, pointed and sharp, carving metaphysical queries into character studies, and short sketches that encapsulate the entirety of human history. Utilizing historical research and figures, Cayley’s short narratives write out an exploration of fissures, breaks and even collisions between mythologies and reality, searching throughout the past few centuries for examples of those who broke through to the other side, or were broken in their attempts, and even, occasionally, both. As she writes in the poem “Hans Christian Anderson Becomes Acquainted with / His Shadow”: “There must be a light / somewhere.”





Item 368444, Category 4, 1877

Map

This map is unfinished.

There are no people on the map. Maps are adept at inferring that the people who inhabit a land matter less than the map itself, and so the map aids in the project of disappearance.

It is not known how this map is connected to the disappearance of a specific person, but as the map must have had an owner, we may assume a missing person (or missing people) that the map does not indicate.

There are tooth marks in the map, which may have come from an animal, or, possibly, indicate the cartographer’s foolish wish to eat the world. The attempt was unsuccessful. (“The Library of the Missing”)




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ottawa (BookThug) Launch for Christine McNair, Erin Robinsong + Jennifer Still

BookThug invites you to celebrate the launch of 3 new books of poetry: Charm by Christine McNair, Comma by Jennifer Still and Rag Cosmology by Erin Robinsong!

Saturday, June 10th
Montgomery Centretown Legion, Lower Hall
330 Kent St., Ottawa, ON
7pm-10pm
Hosted by Brecken Hancock.

Free and all are welcome. Cash bar.
Books will be available for sale.
All washrooms and hallways in the legion are fully accessible. We regret that there are two steps down into the lower hall.

Charm, the second collection by poet Christine McNair, considers the craftwork of conception from a variety of viewpoints—from pregnancy and motherhood, to how an orchid is pollinated, to overcoming abusive relationships, to the manual artistry of carving a violin bow or marbling endpapers. Through these works, McNair’s poetic line evolves as if moving in a spellbound kaleidoscope, etched with omens, fairytales, intimacy’s stickiness, and the mothering body.

The ecological is personal; the personal is ecological. Rag Cosmology by Erin Robinsong is a pulsating meditation on this most intimate relationship. These poems inject pleasure deep into the tissues of our language and state, countering fatalist narratives with the intimacy of entanglement and engagement.

Between 2008 and 2014, while her brother was in a lengthy coma, award-winning poet Jennifer Still engaged in a private collaboration with the art and wonder that was his handwritten field guide of prairie grasses. The result: the stunning works of poetry and imagery encapsulated in Comma. Still was moved by an overarching impulse of grief to create these poems. In the brittle lexicon of botany, and in the hum of the machines keeping her brother alive, she developed a hands-on method of composition that plays with the possibilities of what can be ‘read’ on a page. Comma enacts a state of transformation and flux, all in an effort to portray the embodiment of grief and regeneration that can be achieved in the physical breakdown and reassembly of lyric poetic forms.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bernadette Mayer, Works & Days




April 26

I’m reading a book by Margaret Atwood called Blind Assassin because I was looking for the phrase “blonde assassin” from an Emily Dickinson poem in which it’s a bee and I happened upon this book at the library. It’s a Downton Abbey-type tale that takes place in Canada, Port Ticonderoga. The rich man is a manufacturer of buttons. Among the rich men I’ve men one made bobby pins, one shower-curtain holders, and one cassette-tape containers. Another Velcro.




snomal  slebs  socru  deeibs  sbieed  mayrac  caryem

todub  budot  clawr  rwalc  turopo  urpot  oporut

The first collection of American poet Bernadette Mayer I’ve really spent proper time with is her Works & Days (New York NY: New Directions, 2016). The author of dozens of titles over the past five decades, she’s now seven with New Directions, including The Bernadette Mayer Reader, The Helens of Troy, NY and Poetry State Forest. The poems in Works & Days alternate between more traditional lyrics and short sketches, most of which are situated via a sequence of title-dates. Meyer’s titles exist as openings toward what occurs throughout the poem, expanding and furthering upon that initial invitation to explore, whether “May 1,” “I Am a Coyote” or “James Schuyler’s Road Show,” that ends:

                                    […] you can’t figure out who all
the people in your dreams are
                                                            everybody drinking
coffee had their own pot, I say I’d like a little
coffee in a big cup but I just get sips of other
people’s
             Lewis has to listen very patiently
To what Anne is saying
                                      I dream I bring back
From the dream some iced sprite from the kiosk
In front of every elevator door in Peggy’s
Ancestral building
                              Turns out we’re at 88th and DeMott
We pass a sign: Soon there’ll be a junk shop here,
I explain that like those liquidation signs, it’s
not necessarily true, I buy a knitted shirt that
says: Look Up At The Sky around the collar –
who should it be for?

Subtitled “Spring Journal,” she dates the pieces in Works & Days from “March 20 to June 21,” setting the entire collection up as a day book, and one might presume that her intentions are to believed, composing the entire collection during that specific three month period. How does Mayer spend this particular spring? Writing lists, observations, sketches and responses, including responses to her reading, walks, particular dates on the calendar, dreams, reminiscences, travel and the weather. And yet, her short narrative pieces are hardly straightforward, offering commentary and observations that have come from decades of writing and attention, such as in the poem “May 2,” that includes: “The one thing Aristotle was / right about was metaphors. C’mere all you similes, don’t go too far! And / don’t forget to floss! Like Bernadette Mayer, she was an anarchist but / not the bomb-throwing sort. Grackles are Donald Trumps.”

Alice’s Driveway Is a Tree

I turn on the light at think
The outside gloom will go away
Everything doesn’t
Nor does nothing
It’s a dark room in a dark world
But right before sunset
We’ll see some rays

Along with the courted sun
Goes my astonishment
My love of this same old view
But who cares if I can go
To ancient restaurants in New Orleans

I guess it’ll come back
But don’t count on it
One two three o’clock
Four o’clock rock

There’s an intriguing kind of openness to Meyer’s work, one that seems to emerge from both an intellectual and formal restlessness, madly moving and searching into every direction, even as she attempts to remain stock-still. It’s something she hints of in an interview conducted in 1998 by Lisa Jarnot for the Poetry Project Newsletter (included in the recent anthology WHAT IS POETRY? (JUST KIDDING, I KNOW YOU KNOW), INTERVIEWS FROM THE POETRY PROJECT NEWSLETTER (1983 – 2009) [see my review of such here]):

LJ: What did you think of Language writing?
BM: Well, I encouraged it. I never thought it would reach these proportions. I always thought it was a great idea. I’m for all kinds of writing. I never knew Language poetry would become so exclusive. I mean Language poetry is fine, but it’s one kind of poetry. Someone said to a friend of mine recently, “Your book is filled with all different kinds of poetry.” I mean, why not? Are you supposed to write only one kind of poetry? I don’t think so. I love Louis Zukofsky’s translations of Catullus, which are not translations, they’re just mimicking the sound of the Latin, and they’re beautiful, they’re great. What Americans really seem to find difficult is when something doesn’t make sense. They find it really hard and boring, what’s it all about? It seems like you can just enjoy the sounds of words without any other meaning rearing its ugly head. Why bother. Who cares? It’s just that people watch TV and they’re made to think that things are very simple and clear, because that’s the way they are on TV and everyone thinks that everything should be that way.



Monday, May 22, 2017

12 or 20 questions with Keegan Lester

Keegan Lester [photo credit: Christopher Jackson] is an American writer. He's been featured on NPR, CBS New York Radio, Marshall University Radio, Chapman University Radio Coldfront and The New School Writing Blog among other podcasts and blogs. His work has been published in The Boston Review, The Adroit, Boaat Journal, CutBank, Sixth Finch and Phantom Limb among others. He earned his MFA from Columbia University.  His first collection of poetry won The Slope Editions Book Prize judged by Mary Ruefle and is available for purchase at http://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9780988522152/this-shouldnt-be-beautiful-but-it-was--it-was-all-i-had-so-i-drew-it.aspx

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
"Change" might be a little bit of a strong word, but I think the book has been a vehicle needed for the outside world to give this writing thing I’ve been doing for a while, some credence.  I wrote another collection of poetry that is still in the process of finding a home and recently I read some of those poems to my partner and she said “These are so freaking sad”. I think my earlier work hinged on heavy doses of sadness with moments of humor, whereas the work in the book seems to be more level, more thankful and at times even joyous. The poems I’m working on now are different from those categories, but I’m not sure I’ve had enough time yet to process the how yet.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I used to write letters to my grandmother when I was younger, and sometimes those letters would have poems in them. She still has my first poem hanging on her wall from when I was about seven.  As I grew I was both very against but drawn to the poetry I read in school, most of which was institutionalized garbage. I knew poetry was more than finding a symbol or explaining what a metaphor is. At some point I began to write songs and it wasn't until I was in college, in a non-fiction class listening to a Nikki Giovanni poem “Quilting the Black Eyed Pea (We’re going to Mars)”, where I understood that this other kind of poetry existed. I knew listening to that poem that this was I wanted to do. It was a moment where I didn't realize poetry could be that way, which keeps happening. I think what I love most about poetry is the discovery that when I think I’ve figured it out as a form, I come across something where I say to myself, “I didn’t realize you could do that!” 

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
It depends on the poem.  I’ve written poems in 15 minutes, that have been published in big journals,  but there are also poems I’ve worked on for years. I had to learn in my revision process how to not revise the poem out of the poem.  How to sit on work and give it time for me to process what it really is.  My book is mostly comprised of my earlier writing, much of which I thought I’d thrown away. I recently discovered a magic flash drive with all of the work I'd compiled from undergrad and grad school. I came to it now with fresh eyes and was able to objectively see what was wrong with it. Much of the work sat untouched for five years. I’ve figured out how to edit my own intelligence out of my earlier work, to allow the poems to have their own unique intelligence.  I think my younger self had a need to prove my own ability and intelligence, and that often got in the way of the poem. Much of this book took ten years to complete. 

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Most of my poems start at the lyric and sonic level. They start with a line or a rhythm or cadence, or a strange piece of language that strikes me. I write out of that. I’ve never given much thought to the need to write a specific poem to fit in a specific book, until recently, which is my latest project. This project’s parameters are both monster and muse.  

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love reading and tour as much as I can. I probably sell most of my books by reading in front of people. It’s the best platform I have for selling poetry and establishing my personal brand.

In many ways, what literary poetry has done would be equivalent to having musicians work their entire life on an album, and then say it doesn't matter how you play it in front of people, because they will get the idea from listening if they buy the album, and I'm very much against that. I’ve always been drawn to the bands and the musicians and the poets that made me feel something live. The heart of my work comes from that fire. From wanting to convince you, through performance. 

While I don’t write specifically for readings, I know how to make a set list. I’m aware of which of my poems are funny, and which poems don’t work in front of people. I prefer reading in bars and music venues. I’ll likely come to your city if you ask me to. 

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Every poem written has a theoretical concern. I believe it’s less my job to push my own agenda, which I’m definitely guilty of from time to time, but try to work more to be the space where people are allowed to consider their own theoretical concerns by getting closer to the feelings they themselves are trying to articulate.  

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

The idea of the writer is such a large and abstract concept. In this day and age, with social media and blogs and tumblrs, everyone is a writer. One problem with literary poets is the distance they try to keep between the 100,000 or us and the 318 ish million other Americans. I struggle to get behind writers whose work’s intelligence stems from a place of self gratification as a means to distance themselves from their audience. My place as a writer is much closer to an entertainer or the person that wants to help people come to poetry, not turn them away.  I want to be the poet that encourages others to write rather than make the argument that there are a finite number of poets living and that only special people get to make art. I believe art and writing is for everyone and that no single kind of intelligence should be valued over another.  In my opinion, writers should be observers, people working to build platforms for others, not acting as gatekeepers. 

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I don’t trust very many people with my writing.  I have a couple secret readers and they aren’t poets.  Both are brilliant and I trust them, because they have nothing to gain or lose based on what they say and they know that.  At the end of the day I have to move non-poets and strangers, and they tend to be the most honest about whether something works or not.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Two things from the photographer Thomas Roma:
"In art, you don’t get to learn something- you get to feel something. That’s why we listen to music. We don’t listen to music to learn that there are people in the world that don’t know who their daddy is. We already know that. But when Freddy Cole sings ‘I Wonder Who My Daddy Is’, you get to feel it. You get to feel what he feels."
&
"Don’t default to your intelligence. Your intelligence will let you down. It makes you overthink things. But feel- you can never overfeel things."
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I used to be disciplined.  I’ve fallen off that wagon recently with touring and promoting this book. 

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

People. Strangers mostly.  I walk around town and eavesdrop on strangers.  

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The smell of my mother’s pork chops stewing in a crockpot is the smell I think of when I think of home. 

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
For me it’s mostly music and film. I’m interested in cadence, music and movement. Films that have had a major impact on my work include: The Fall, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The House of Yes, Many in the 30 for 30 Series, Beginners, Rushmore, It Follows, Stoker, Miracle at St. Anna & I’m Not there, among others.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Nikki Giovanni, Scott McClanahan, Rita Dove, Richard Siken, Mary Ruefle, Jason Bredle, Emily O’Neill, Bianca Stone, Li-Young Lee, James Baldwin, Eduardo Corral, Ilya Kaminsky, Timothy Donnelly, Camille Rankine, Jericho Brown, Scott Fitzgerald, Natasha Trethewey, Kevin Chesser, David F Bello, Joshua Bennett and Marilynne Robinson

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Put out an album of music or make a film.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I’d like to make films.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

It was the only thing I knew how to do competently.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I read Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan, a couple years ago  and it shook me to my core. I went out and bought and read everything he’d ever written later that week. Joe Halstead also had a great book come out recently called West Virginia.  I also really love the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson & Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee. The Witch, Moonlight, The 13th, Hell or High Water, It Follows, The Lobster, City of Gold  & Manchester by the Sea were some of my recent favorite films.

19 - What are you currently working on?
A collection of Non-fiction called “It Is Thought that Dinosaurs Once Cooed Like Doves”  and a collection of poems, mostly about California, for my mother.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Saturday, May 20, 2017

12 or 20 questions with Felicia Zamora



Felicia Zamora is the author of the books Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (University of Notre Dame Press), & in Open, Marvel (Parlor Press), and Instrument of Gaps (Slope Editions). Of Form & Gather was listed as one of the “9 Outstanding Latino Books Recently Published by Independent and University Presses” by NBC News. She won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse, and authored two chapbooks. Her published works may be found or forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, jubilat, Meridian, Notre Dame Review, North American Review, OmniVerse, Pleiades, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Puerto del Sol, Sugar House Review, Tarpaulin Sky Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, The Georgia Review, TriQuarterly Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Verse Daily, Witness Magazine, West Branch, and others. She is an associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. She lives in Colorado with her partner, Chris, and their three dogs.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Poetry is a part of my being, a part of who I am. An internal need drives my writing. My MFA advisor and mentor had prepared me, saying many times a first manuscript written is not always the first manuscript published. What sound advice! I graduated from the MFA program in 2012, with a goal to write a poetry manuscript a year. Of Form & Gather was just released from University of Notre Dame Press, winner of the 2016 Andrès Montoya Prize, on February 2017 and is my first full-length book publication. This is my first book publication, but my fourth manuscript written since I completed the MFA.

Winning the prize certainly feels surreal, still. It’s definitely made the small community of poetry feel even more intimate and tangible to me. I’ve been very privileged to feel the generosity and openness from poets and editors around the country whom I’ve never met in person. I felt this the moment that Edwin Torres selected my book. There’s nothing like picking up a book with your name on the cover. For me, it’s also a continued motivation to push my goals. In March, I finished my sixth manuscript. These poems are different because I am different and because the political climate of the country I live in is different. I’ll take a quick breather and then begin a new project in a few weeks. For me, the process of writing propels everything.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
An over obsession with details, I think, and what poetry requires of the reader. I enjoy the challenge of poetry, the exquisite sparseness of poetry, the rhythm and ebbs of poetry, the way poetry asks the reader to leap with the language and lines and stanzas. Poetry’s ability to accomplish so much with so little draws me in, lulls me as both reader and writer. I enjoy fiction and nonfiction as well, but find myself utterly lost in poetry, in the most extraordinary ways.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I mentioned my goal of writing a manuscript a year, so I start there. From the time I end my last manuscript, I give myself one to two months of reading and regeneration, then I dive back into a project. I write when inspired, and I write when uninspired, to ensure the practice doesn’t get lost in all the other aspects of life. I constantly ask myself, how can I be a writer if I am not writing? Therefore projects emerge fairly quickly for me. Thus far, my manuscripts evolve very organically. Research happens in all my writing, from the etymology of a single word, to an entire research thread on certain theories, species, or histories. The more I learn, the more I know I need to learn. A lot of situating and organizing goes into the final product, but no stacks of notes yet. That’s not to say that this won’t happen, depending of on the project.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Poems begin for me very simply, through either an image, word, sensory spark, or creative thought. Typically, something I’ve witnessed or read about gets me spinning, but even a smell tempts the poem to the page. I always start in the poem. For me, a singular poem must hold its own weight as an artistic expression, but also be willing to be in dialogue with a larger body of work…even if this macro work has not yet shown itself to me. I guess you could call me a poem as a potential for book kind of writer.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
In writing a poem, I read it aloud over and over again in the drafting phase. How I hear it determines punctuation changes, line breaks, breaths, rhythms, and the entire flow of the poem. The auditory dimension of poetry remains forefront with my editing phase. Many times, I’ll start a poem aloud to myself before it ever gets to the page. Readings are a way for writers to share their words and their interpretation of how the poem could be read; they are a form of community. I enjoy readings as shared artistic expression.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I think almost everything I write has a theoretical concern underlying it. My poetry asks many, many questions. Recently my poems concern themselves with equity, social justice, existentialism, humanity as nature, instinctual-ism, mind-body connection, social construction, nationalism, and many others. I am not sure my question seek answers as much as they seek more questions.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I can only speak for myself, but in my mind a writer’s responsibility is to pay attention, to witness. Writers question society at large, question the ways in which we operate as systems and cultures and humans. Writer’s hold a mirror up to ourselves, both in the singular and collective, and bring into light the things we as humans are trying to hide, cover, and ignore. As a poet, I write to comprehend, to understand, to yearn, to be an activist, to think through, to engage, to mend, to help others mend, to question, and to wonder.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
All the editing professionals I have worked with in journals and at presses have been fabulous. My voice is heard and it feels like we are both working toward the collective goal of making the piece or book the strongest it can be. As an associate poetry editor myself for the Colorado Review, I understand the work that goes into a journal and respect all those in the industry. My mentor is an editor (hi, Stephanie)! For me, it’s an essential piece in the process, one that I continue to learn and grow from.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Just write. You can make up every excuse under the sun as to why you can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t be writing, but if you are a writer, write. And read. How can you be a writer if you don’t read?

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
Currently, my focus is poetry. When entrenched in a book project, I tend to write mostly poetry and read poetry. My work requires a lot of technical, professional writing, so between that and poetry, I don’t add other genres to the mix much.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I don’t have a routine for writing, and not much for my existence either. I like change and possibility. I worked fulltime at Colorado State University while pursing my MFA, so this taught me to write during breaks, while waiting for meetings, while walking across campus, at lunch, before dinner, after dinner, before bed, in the middle if the night, and in the morning. Basically, I taught myself to write in awkward bursts or at what one might consider inconvenient, or uninspiring times, which allows me to stave away the excuses.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I return to books I love, and start new poetry books from presses I admire. I also go out into the natural world for rejuvenation. My mind and body get very stale from being in human-made spaces too much. As a natural being, I feel more at home in a field, in woods, places where pavement isn’t under my feet. Another tactic I use is quieting myself and looking around, paying attention. Wonder always finds me when I am open to it.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The smell of soil. Mulberries. I spent my childhood climbing mulberry trees and in a dirt fort carved in the belly of a steep hill in the woods behind where I grew up. I am happiest when in nature as my natural self. Also, the smell of wind on my partner’s hands.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
All of the above. I am open to all sorts of influence when writing…nothing’s off the table. Things family members say, looks strangers give, comments in the media, falling seed pods from a cottonwood outside…all are fair game.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I love reading contemporary poetry, new voices and pioneers. It’s important to me to feel connected with the voices and moment of time I am a part of. As a woman of color, I look to other women of color as guides and the voices of underrepresented populations who literature and poetry did not always welcome with open arms. Our voices as a collective humanity are important now, more than ever. My mentors as writers and friends are important to me, as well.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Wow, a lot. I’d love to live in another country and be fully immersed in another culture.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
Photographer or a visual artist, for sure. I definitely think of myself as an artist, not just a writer. I think if I didn’t write, I’d need to pursue another form of creative expression. You can’t just shut that creative need off.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
My mom wrote children’s books when I was young. As a kid, she’d read her stories to me and my siblings; I remember making my own little stories and books as early as age five. I admired my mom’s creativity; I still do. My mom never got a book published, well, because it was the eighties, she was a single parent working in a factory, and children’s books have always been a tough genre. However, she planted the seed in me early. Even when I tried to deny writing in my life, some circumstance or opportunity dropped me right back in writing’s lap. Writing makes me whole. I’ve finally figured that one out.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I read great books all the time. Recently, though, House A by Jennifer S. Cheng from Omnidawn. Wow. How Cheng constructs home in body, mind, memory, and family is extraordinary. I knew I fell in love with this book when I thought, “Wow, wish I wrote this.” My jealousy is a sure fire sign that I admire the shit out of a book.

As for movies, I love horror movies. I know, I know, judge me if you must. My siblings and I grew up with horror as a genre that connected us as kids. Even now, we are all grown-ass-adults going to see horror movies as a family (since we have the privilege of living in the same city again). Wow, I feel like I just admitted something in therapy. Any who, Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele, was an outstanding horror movie; right up there with The Shining. I can’t wait to see more from Peele. And yes, my King books sit right next to Dickinson’s on the shelf.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Since I just finished my sixth manuscript, I am currently in my one to two month rejuvenation period. Reading some new poetry books that just hit my mailbox, engaged in a few interviews, working with two great presses on my second and third book publications, and enjoying the budding and greening of spring.