Quantcast

National Poetry Month at 32 Poems Magazine Blog

Have you wondered what other Websites are doing to celebrate National Poetry Month?  Well, you’ve learned that Poetic Asides is doing a poem-a-day prompt, and today we’re going to take a look at the events on the 32 Poems Magazine Blog.

Not only are there interviews with poets by yours truly, but also poetry book recommendations from poets themselves.  Those recommendations will surely come in handy for those taking part in the National Poetry Month Blog Tour and my 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge.  I hope you’ll check out the books being recommended and give some of them a try this month.

Deborah Ager, owner of the blog and publisher of 32 Poems magazine, also is participating in NaPoWriMo.  You can check out the prompts and her poems on the blog as well.

Finally, there’s a big poetry giveaway for those interested in reading more poetry this month or this year.  Please go on over and enter.

***Don’t forget to visit the tour stops and check out the poetry events near you that I’m posting on Facebook.***

Interview With Poet Matthew Thorburn

Poet Matthew Thorburn

This month at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Matthew Thorburn was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially given his passionate recommendations for books and art.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

I think the most powerful poems are those that really work in both mediums – as words arranged on a page and as words spoken or read aloud. As a reader/listener, I want both! After reading someone’s poems in a book or journal, I want to hear her or him read them. It almost always gives the poems an extra depth. I love to hear poems in the poet’s own voice – to see where she puts the stress, where she pauses, and so forth.

I agree that writing can help people feel more equal or become more tolerant, but the kinds of writing I see doing that are speeches and sermons, or op-eds and letters to the editor, not poems. In my experience, poems work on a smaller scale: one curious person opening a book or journal to see what’s inside.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I do have a few. I’m fascinated by Vermeer’s paintings, the way he paints the light. Just recently I’ve gone to see those in The Frick Collection, in New York, and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. I’d love to make the rounds and see all of his paintings eventually. (It’s probably do-able; there are only about 30.) I also love jazz, especially the recordings of Thelonious Monk, which I keep in more or less constant rotation on my iPod. And when it comes to fiction, I find myself doing more and more rereading of old favorites. I revisit Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels – The Sportswriter, Independence Day, and The Lay of the Land – every couple years. And I’ll never get tired of Penelope Fitzgerald’s nine perfect little novels – “little” in terms of their page counts, not their ambitions or accomplishments, which are tremendous. (Poets can learn a lot from the work of both of these fiction writers.)

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I participated in workshops as an undergrad and later attended an MFA program. One of the biggest benefits of these experiences was developing a feeling of community – getting to know other poets at a similar point in their writing lives, people I could talk to about poetry, and share poems and books with. The actual work of writing is solitary, of course, but it helps to feel like you’re not in it alone – even though you are, when it comes down to it.

I’ve also participated in the occasional class or workshop at the 92nd Street Y. A one-on-one poetry tutorial with Grace Schulman was especially helpful. She offered close critical readings and gave me very astute, specific advice on the poems I was writing then. A workshop at the Y on writing book reviews, taught by Ben Downing, was also very good, and helped me become a regular reviewer of poetry.

I’ve read my fair share of how-to books and collections of writing prompts and advice. But what I recommend is to read collections of essays by the poets whose work you love, to learn more about how they read and write poetry, and see what you can take away from that for your own work. I’d especially recommend Marianne Boruch’s collection, In the Blue Pharmacy.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I used to listen to a lot of instrumental music (mostly jazz,  sometimes classical) when writing, but over the past couple of years  I’ve come to find it too distracting. Now I go for quiet.

As far as routines, I like to have my desk cleared off so I have room  to work. And I like to have a cup of tea (or a glass of iced tea)  within reach. Basically, my routine, such as it is, is about keeping it  simple and focusing in on the writing at hand.

He also included a poem for readers to check out:

Just Like That

God, I never felt lonelier
than when the shinkansen would pull in
and I heard that electronic chime—
the one to tell us passengers
here comes the next stop announcement
in Japanese. It almost sounded like
someone’s phone, because no one’s phone
sounds like a phone anymore,
or a ringtone version of a Milt Jackson line,
a vibraphone riff from somewhere
in the middle of one of Milt’s ten thousand runs
through “Django” or “Bags’ Groove”
or “Two Bass Hit.” I missed hearing him
twice back in Michigan, years ago
at the Serengeti Ballroom and the Bird
of Paradise, and now missed him all over again—
missed my cds and headphones, the live
and studio versions, the alternate
takes and outtakes, but especially his solos
that strayed beyond what I’d given up
precious brain cells to store away
so I could replay at will. My dream job,
back when Milt was still alive, would have been
to be John Lewis in his tuxedo at the piano.
To play like that, of course. To play at all.
But also to be so close I could listen
to Milt every night, every night—
those ten thousand sweet transactions
between the mallets and the vibes.
This string of four or five notes, not quite
a melody, not close to a song, might’ve been
a little something Milt threw in for flavor
or to egg John on, something to go back to
throughout his solo, like an inside joke
or an old lover’s name you can never
really let go of, just the way I keep hearing it
now, lonelier each time, as we slide
into Shinjuku, Shiojiri, Nara, Shin-Osaka.

Originally published in Brilliant Corners

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn is the author of a book of poems, Subject to Change(New Issues, 2004), and a chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City, 2009). His writing has been recognized with fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He lives and works in New York City.

Also check out today’s tour stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour at Necromancy Never Pays.

Interview With Poet Andrew Kozma

Poet Andrew Kozma

This month at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Andrew Kozma was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since he seems to enjoy the distractions of cafes as much as I do, though I more people watch than anything.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

General obsessions or writerly ones?

Generally, I’m obsessed with bad films (and generally interested in bad art of all kinds). I co-founded a bad movie club at my undergraduate school and have roped people into watching horrible films with me wherever I’ve moved. It’s sad, I suppose, that I’m always more interested in watching a bad movie than a good one (or, at least, one that is seen as “good” by the general populace). But people always want to watch what’s good. Where’s the love for the bad?

In writing, I find myself obsessed with extreme situations. An early poem of mine was inspired by nuns who “cut off their noses and lips to avoid violation.” More recently I’ve written about the Japanese Giant Hornet: a swarm of thirty can kill thirty thousand bees in a matter of hours.

More generally, I’m obsessed with form regardless of what genre I’m writing in. I try to treat everything I write as an experiment, pushing myself in a direction that I have yet to fully explore. In poetry, this means often writing in traditional forms, but also, more truthfully, that every poem I write inhabits a form even if it’s not immediately recognizable.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I belong to a writing group now for working on novels, but this is relatively new to me. My default learning vehicle for writing has been the academic workshop from freshman year of high school to my last years of my Ph.D. It’s true that, now, I would have to say that I find my writing group more helpful than workshops, but the reason for that is because all the people involved are experienced writers, have workshop experience, and like each other’s work. The writing group is really only an evolution of the workshop for me. The first thing I learned about workshops is that you quickly have to determine whose comments are useful to you and to filter out the rest, essentially creating your own private writing group within the larger workshop context.

The writing books that I enjoyed most are Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter and Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t really like reading straight how-to books on writing. Both of those books are more a symptom of the way I do like to approach learning about writing book-wise: criticism. King’s Danse Macabre. Samuel R. Delany’s The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. James Blish’s Issues at Hand, and a Collections of essays by William Logan and Randall Jarrell.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

Coffee. And I don’t mean coffee in the sense that I need the caffeine to kickstart my heart or to keep me going – I drown my coffee in cream and sugar – it’s more that I like to have something hot at hand while writing. Drinking it (slowly) gives me something to do, and the heat from what I’m drinking makes me feel active. I think it has something to do with the fact that a hot beverage is a sort of clock. It only stays hot for so long.

Similar to the countdown inherent in a cooling cup of coffee, I use time to overcome writer’s block. When working, I’ll say that I have to write for a certain amount of time – when working on my novel it was two hours a day – and for that time I actually have to be writing. Yes, in theory, I could be staring at a blank screen for those two hours. In practice, if you set me in front of a computer and I have no other way to distract myself, I’ll begin stringing words together. Of course, whether those words will be coherent is anybody’s guess.

Here’s a sample poem from Andrew as well:

A Firm Belief in Unfettered Joy

Here is what I was going to tell you:
+++The Dalstroi orchestra played for them
+++as they approached over the ice
+++that had caught fast the ship
+++transporting the prisoners
+++through winter
+++to Magadan.

Here is what it was going to mean:
+++Even so, even here, even without knowledge.
+++There is joy in an attempt at joy by the Dalstroi
+++orchestra forced by the camp supervisors
+++to welcome with music those survivors
+++who saw the sun shining beneath the ice.

Here is the space between:
+++A siren carries itself across the city.
+++Against the pale grey sky, the dark branch.
+++The litter of dead petals on the church floor.
+++After the explosion, the absolute silence.
+++Snow becomes the icing on the earth.
+++Where the footprints stop, beauty lies untouched.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Interview With Poet Joseph Milford

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Joseph Milford was posted.  He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

Obviously, when we hear the poems or see them “performed”, they become altered, and many times more powerful, vehicles. To see the shape of the poet’s mouth, the body posture, the diaphragm expand, the throat constrict, etc.—this is an incredible organic experience all leading to the convocation of voice. It’s a great sharing. I do think that in these moments, which at their greatest extreme could border on shamanistic, we may find ways to temper our human nature, to tune it into a more harmonious instrument, maybe. Although, I do hear my inner skeptic creeping in, so I will stop here.

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I wish I could decline this question! In any case, I don’t do much at all. I need to get fit—that’s for sure—I want to be around to watch my daughters grow into women—I have noticed that running from my responsibilities is not callisthenic.

What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I am currently shopping around a collection of poems I am calling DRUNKEN LOCUST, which I think is my best work to date. Of course, Chenelle and I are publishing SCYTHE, our literary journal, three times a year and doing The Joe Milford Poetry Show once a week. I am working on a very long poem which I doubt no one will ever be nuts enough to publish—it is currently titled BLIZZASTERISK. I think that sums it up for now—and thanks for this opportunity to talk about my interests and my love of poetry. I’m super happy to be in your journal.

Check out a sample of this mysterious large poem, BLIZZASTERISK:

From The Blizzasterisk

i wanted the specific procedure to bleed the TV sitcom families out of me.
vendettas spill over verandas and fertilize the gardens.
things were more insidious than asbestos lingering in our catacombs.
the entire population was just a few French fries short of a Happy Meal.
the ghosts of books read find slippage under the screen door into the grass to fume.
the stagecraft was amazing as the postcards shot through the crowd maiming all of us.
a mystery creature comes to you with a set of keys. you ask which door. it gnashes its teeth.
there is no power-source for the great apparatus. we still hung from the giant killswitch.

*

one can never have enough LEGOS during a mid-life crisis this is the cure to Alzheimer’s.
they kept saying my future was held in my hands’ palms. i sliced that future up with farmwork.
i can smell the musk, the scat, the sulphur, the burnt metals and plastics of a poem passing by.
like that pumpkin on the counter about to become a gourd to be hollowed out for a birdnest.
if you ever see a kid standing in golden wheat or goldenrod–rescue him. America kills.
i am made of tusks covered in leather. i move like a golem through religions. dream me.
some pop-songs are so covered in suntan lotion that i remember my sharkbites. ah, spring break.
on a white piece of construction paper, my stepdaughter killed my ninjas. it hurt nanoseconds.

*

if you paint a garden and do not like the branch then finish the painting and grab a ladder & saw.
a morphic field altered by language is a word or series of words you must own as a badge.
one must always attain a maximum intensity with a minimum of means said Miro the bullfighter.
the red fox implanted with her RFID chip runs constantly around our house stealing identities.
how does one separate the dust from anything he or she has done how does one leave earth?
amoebic vehicles harvest skeletal and biological growths amongst a sea of germinations.
without dirt there would be no clouds. without hammocks there would be no drunks. kick dust.
as a kid we had honeysuckle, crab-apples, grounded pecans, muscadines, sour-grass—plenty.

*

the ash falling was the closest thing to snowfall this hellpocket was ever going to be blessed with.
there are no inhospitable islands to vanquish sinners on–they become convenience store cashiers.
as we spread lime for next year’s tomatoes the world writhed in endless top ten lists. cuckolds.
crawdads circle like an underwater zodiac as i unhook the catfish from my chickenwire hook.
Ascletario was eaten by dogs when he should have been burned. the stars, the stars, the stars.
if i had been named Cadillac Williams and not Joe Milford i wonder what could have happened.
sea urchins thrive about the planet like the halitosis of your hangover and dust of bad checks.
Algol mer. 6:25 ev. Moon Leo. 35 degrees N. Lat 75 degrees. Long. Sun sets at 5:28. days too short.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

About the Poet:

Joseph V. Milford is a Professor of English at Georgia Military College south of Atlanta. His first book, Cracked Altimeter, was published in 2010. He is the host of the weekly Joe Milford Poetry Show, which he maintains with his wife, Chenelle. He also edits the literary journal Scythe with his wife from their shack in rural Georgia. Currently, he is trying to figure out how to convert armadillo roadkill into a fuel-efficient substitute for fossil fuels.

Interview With Poet Matthew Roth

Poet Matthew Roth

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Matthew Roth was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I am perfectly content to claim the mantle of poet, if only because saying so might inspire me to write something. Power of suggestion, etc. I also teach at a great little school in central Pennsylvania, Messiah College. Add to that husband and father, fledgling Mennonite, tender of illegal backyard chickens, bread enthusiast, and now we’re well into the archipelago of mundane islands barely worth a visit.

Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

Labeling readers as mainstream or non-mainstream seems as unhelpful as trying to judge which Americans are more “real.” To then try to write for one imaginary group or another seems like a waste of energy. To those poets who want to return to the 19th century, I invite you to read a month’s worth of poems from the daily newspapers in 1877. When you’re finished gouging out your eyes, give me a call.

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

Sonnets + Hip Hop Abs!

Check out a sample poem from Matthew Roth:

No Mark

There was a high stone wall
separating our land—the small yard,
half sand, where my father grew

tomatoes—from the royal preserve.
Years ago, I was told, the king himself
hunted there among well-ordered trees,

made camp by the stream that coils
through its heart. There was even—
still it’s there, though overgrown—

a small orchard of sweet peaches
and apricots. Now thickets
lie stripped by a tangle of deer,

the high wall my father disappeared
behind one day, overthrown
by slow degrees of frost and thaw.

Many days, I have stepped through
a breach, found myself in that
odd, forbidden state, my own

and not my own. And once,
beneath the government
of a twin row of sycamores,

I found the hoofprints of a horse,
each shallow C filled in
with tarnished bronze. Amazed,

I followed, until the hooves
stopped short in a clearing
by the edge of a small reflecting pool.

A stone in its middle made it look
like a human eye. To one side
a thick-trunked magnolia leaned.

This must have been April,
the water clotted with pink,
fleshy petals. I stood wondering

when all at once the surface cleared
a moment, and I started
at the sudden flare of my face

peering into the pool, or well,
or deep oubliette, where I lay
staring up at the shadowed face,

which hovered like a stone
in the sky’s open eye. Somehow
I knew, whoever it was,

he had not come to save me.

–published in Bird Silence.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Interview With Poet Danielle Sellers

Poet Danielle Sellers; Copyright Chris Hayes

On Feb. 3 at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Danielle Sellers was posted. She’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since we share a similar obsession with the soap opera, The Young and the Restless!

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

My mother loves to tell the story of me, age 4 or 5, called up with the other children by the preacher at Old Stone Methodist church in Key West. When I arrived at the front of the church, all the other children were already seated, the preacher had begun his sermon, and I interrupted with a big wave and an overly-enthusiastic, “Hi, Kids!” So once that would happen, what people would most likely find out about me is that I’m a single mom to a very silly girl, much like the one about whom I just told you. I’m a foodie, and a lover of animals. I do rescue work when I can. I am spiritual, but not religious.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I have been faithful to the workshop scene since college, but I find the readership of one or two close friends to be the best kind of intimate discussion. But it’s hard to find friends whose work you admire who aren’t insanely busy. I do have several good readers I’d like to keep in a brass bottle, to call on them whenever I wished. But then they’d be servants, not friends, and that would defeat the purpose.

In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

I’m sad to say my friendships have changed. I still keep in touch with pals from high school and college, but my fellowship with other writers is more immediate. It’s important to feel as though someone “gets” you. When I was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, we had a very small, intimate class, and most of us were about the same age. We are still very close. I also made good friends with my classmates in the MFA program at Ole Miss, and count them as some of the most important friendships of my life. Friendships have also been made at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, which I’ve attended twice, once as a participant, and once as a scholar. Even for those who choose not to attend MFA programs, conferences like these are key to a writer’s development and socialization.

She also included a poem for readers to check out:

STRANGE-COUNTRIED MEN

My daughter, alive only twenty months,

climbs up to the World Market

polished oak table, to rearrange

my fall tribute of gourds and maize.

She takes a withered husk

in her mouth, new teeth gnaw

the dry texture. Her fingers

grip the technicolor kernels.

I think of our Cherokee ancestors,

Georgia and Mexico, who married

young and hungry, forced

from the lush Smokies to the bluffs

of Cooter, MO. On the other side,

Stonewall Jackson’s a distant cousin.

She has his blue eyes, stubborn

streak, and the aptitude to shoot.

Senator-talk moves through the house:

immigration cases on the rise, the need

for an electrified perimeter, protection

from the outside. Now, my daughter

flaps her arms like a turkey, feathered

boa slung across her human neck.

Her father volunteered to kill

Sunni and Shiite men in war.

I married him for his blue-collar

arms, nimble hands

and thick cock. He liked me tan,

soft-bellied, full with child.

In the desert, he wrote letters

home, the squat script promising

me daughters. He delivered one,

but does not love her well.

–previously published by Old Red Kimono

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Interview With Poet Lesley Jenike

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Lesley Jenike was posted.  She’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since she seems to gravitate toward self-deprecation like I do.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I think my first approach would be self-deprecation; in fact, I’d probably make a joke about having spent quite a few years in costumes and wigs singing and dancing. I find that once one admits to an improbable love for musical theatre, any crowd immediately relaxes.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I love listening to music as I write! I used to listen to music with lyrics, but, much in the same way that I can’t stay up too late anymore, I can’t focus on my own songs these days while someone else is singing to me. So lately I’ve been listening to, and trying to teach myself something about, traditional Indian music and orchestral music. I like what it does to my brain and what it does for a budding poem’s potential tone or atmosphere. At the moment I’m especially into Arvo Pärt, John Adams, and Erik Satie.

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I run quite a bit, but I don’t have any desire to run in races or anything like that. For some reason (and this may sound unreasonably kinky and/or ascetic), pounding my body into submission gives my mind more clarity. Plus my regular running route takes me through the park so I can check out the birds. Hawks! Herons!

Also check out a sample of her poetry:

A Rauschenberg Conversation

“The artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.”
-Robert Rauschenberg

He asked me about the painting that’s black. Just black.

And wondered if its blackness is somehow representative

of the twenty-first century dead, dead because we had

every opportunity and blew every opportunity and I sd,

No. This was painted during the twentieth and so reflects

an apocalyptic return to what’s original and what’s more

original? No. I see possibility in futures that will contain

the hum of a breathing machine carried in an easy breeze

through a window just to catch in the arms of a potted tree.

This is the twenty-first century. Encoded in the DNA

of every living thing is a sketch of the man or woman

that will bear witness to your demise, my demise,

the demise of a pet that in sleep twitches in an incalculable

pet dream world and all the while Florida will grow more

Florida with its sun, prehistoric mid-section sprouting

embarrassingly thick, dark hair where hair should never

grow. And I reminded him: Below the black is a strip

of news and the news, I guess, never ends even after

history has etched its loss and its gain into recusant

material, I mean recyclable. In the middle of the gallery

he just looked at me, at the painting, back at me

and said, Where is the human figure? What happened

to the figure who in terrible gesture remakes the air

around him? Isn’t he both the blackness and the news

and isn’t he, asleep in amnion, even then, before birth

and after stellar reconnaissance, the textbook definition,

the end and the all that is and was—no god , no fall?

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Interview With Poet Kim Bridgford

This week at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Kim Bridgford was posted.  She’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since she seems to have an obsession like mine — books.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I would call myself “a woman poet entrepreneur.” I like making things happen and creating communities. For example, I edit Mezzo Cammin, an online journal of formalist poetry by women, which is now approaching its fifth anniversary, and I founded The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, a comprehensive database of women poets, which was launched at the National Museum of Women in the Arts last March. These projects have brought poets together from all over the world. My new job is directing the West Chester Poetry Conference, so my preoccupations, in many ways, are all coming together.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I’m obsessed by wonderful books. I loved Nick Flynn’s The Ticking Is the Bomb, for example, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s The Orchard. I was profoundly moved by Marilyn Nelson’s A Wreath for Emmett Till.

If I’m working on something, I am obsessed by reaching for what might seem impossible. I would rather have reached for excellence and fallen short than not have reached high enough in the first place. I don’t think there is enough grandeur in modern life.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

I don’t know that I’m inspired by food, but I currently live in Philadelphia: in other words, I can’t help finding wonderful food wherever I go.

I’m very work-obsessed, so writer’s block is not really an issue. The issue is finding time to write, given my other responsibilities.

She also included a sample poem:

Of Course

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat.
Lucky Numbers 20, 34, 12, 7, 38, 2

There’s no real way to disagree with that.

A cat will place its faith upon the air,

Believing in the solid of somewhere.

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat.

There’s no real way to disagree with that.

It brings a mouse as gift, or else a bird,

The way a poet springs upon a word.

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat.

There’s no real way to disagree with that.

A cat and poet place themselves outside,

And find an open place in which to hide.

There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat.

A dog’s superior? Don’t tell me that.

If you want beauty, there’s the poet-cat.

From Take-Out, reprinted from Poem.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Interview With Poet Sebastian Matthews

Poet Sebastian Matthews

Today, at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine, my interview with poet Sebastian Matthews was posted.  He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview.  What’s not to like when the guy sends you a photo of a “two headed monster” — his caption not mine.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I start by assuming they aren’t ready to hang on my every word. I hope they want to but just need a little help getting into the mood. I will start with a poem that I hope has some extra energy, a little spark—maybe something funny or dramatic—and I try to introduce the work in such a way that a conversation with the audience begins to develop. What I am aiming for is that back-and-forth talk inherent in all good readings. The work should provide any necessary biographical info. Too much back story provided by the poet can kill the reading’s momentum. The banter should merely frame and light the work at hand.

More and more, I see giving poetry readings as akin to stand-up comedy. Problem is, I’m not that funny.

He also included this poem he often uses to open his poetry readings:

Poetry Scene Blues

I’ve been slapped

+++++++ fucked

++++++ & fired

been played

+++ spun

++++++ & spurned

& the funny thing is

+++ Look out

++++ for No. 1

++++ all I ever learned.

Ever learned.

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

Walking, making collages, taking breaks from the work, hanging with my family, shooting hoops with my son, traveling, etc. I try to spend as little time at the computer as possible, if that makes sense. I go to cafes with pages to mark up. I even write on some of my favorite walking trails. It only works when you’re good terms with the rocks and roots.

There’s something entirely unhealthy, or unbalanced, about writing. At least for me. So I try to build a life around it—which includes a small amount but not a large amount of teaching—to balance the equation.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

An awesome question. Chocolate, of course. Coffee, if that’s a food.

As for writer’s block, I don’t believe in it. The little weasel is imaginary. Make a quick PB&J sandwich and get back to work, I say.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.

Also please check out his blogs:
3 by the fire
Merz Pictures

Interview With Poet Temple Cone

Temple Cone recently agreed to an interview with myself and 32 Poems. And here is what he had to say.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I love telling people that I’m a poet. Just a poet. Not vaguing it up by saying that I’m a “writer” or qualifying it by adding that I’m a professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. I think that, deep down, people appreciate the uselessness of poetry, its lack of clear market value and profit potential. “For poetry makes nothing happen,” as Auden said in his elegy for Yeats, adding a little later that poetry is “A way of happening, a mouth.” For just a moment, they encounter something that can’t really be bought and sold, or at least not dearly.

Some people feel a bit threatened by that, or indifferent to it, but most are curious, and then a little amazed, as if they’d just met someone who could photosynthesize and therefore didn’t need to spend time working in order to buy food. Of course, the question “How can you live on that?” inevitably comes up, to which I always say, “Prize money.” That way they get the impression that they’ve met a really good poet. And who knows, maybe they’ll look me up.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I completed two graduate degrees in creative writing (one at Hollins, one at UVA), and while I’d say I write quite differently from how I wrote back then, I think that those workshop experiences were crucial for me, because they allowed me to accelerate through many styles (and errors) that likely would have taken me a decade to reach, let alone write through.

Before that time, I was a bit isolated as a writer (I wasn’t even an English major in college), but I was lucky in the writing books I encountered, and a few have stuck with me. When I began writing poetry in college, a close professor friend of mine sent some of my poems to James Merrill, who was a good friend of his. Merrill sent me some very encouraging letters, along with a copy of John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason, which I read religiously for years. Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town was a wonderful practical aid, and Hugo’s wry gruffness made him a good companion during less productive stretches. I’m also truly thankful for my copy of Walter Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, which I delve into constantly, stunned by the marvelous ways our words refer to ‘the things of this world.’ And these days, the book that’s most on my mind is Robert Bly’s Leaping Poetry; Bly is wonderful when one doesn’t take him too seriously.

How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I run (rather slowly these days), and whenever I’m stalled on a line, I do push-ups. Eat well, etc. Try to stay away from booze, but coffee’s another story.  

A Psalm Before Healing

A bowl of noodles with oil and sesame on a drizzly night,
A mug of scalding coffee, a braid of chala from the neighbor,
These small services uphold the firmament of stars, selah.
Never forget that the dove grieves but won’t share her story.
The hunters never understand. When she bolts skyward,
She is the skiff the exile rows through morning rain, selah.
How lissom the homerun swing of the left-handed catcher,
As if his bat had caught a comet’s arc and made it shine.
He shall never read this poem or know his own grace, selah.
With its notched legs, the Jerusalem cricket can’t help but sing.
The Alps can’t help but storm. The corn can’t help but grow.
The world is a second language we can’t help but speak, selah.
Once healed, the blind must be taught the ways of vision.
Diamonds in a green cloud are sunlight showing through leaves.
They learn, but dream of seeing in the dark once more, selah.
Just when you think you’re coming to the end of these poems,
Of your life, of a bowl of noodles, there’s an unexpected sweetness,
A last trace of oil you can sop with a handful of bread, selah.

If you’ve enjoyed Temple’s answers so far, I suggest you check out the rest of my interview with him over at 32 Poems Blog. Once there, you can find out about his workspace, inspirations, and much more. Feel free to leave me comments about his interview or your thoughts on poetry in general.

About the Poet:

Temple Cone is an associate professor of English at the United States Naval Academy.  His first book of poems, No Loneliness, received the first annual Future Cycle Poetry Book Award in 2009.

Awards for his work include two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes in 2007 and 2008, the Christian Publishers Poetry Prize in 2008, a Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) Individual Artist Award in Poetry in 2007, and the John Lehman Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Academy Review.

Cone holds a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia, an MA in creative writing from Hollins University, and a BA in philosophy from Washington and Lee University.  He lives in Annapolis with his wife and daughter.

Interview With Poet Kelle Groom

Kelle Groom recently agreed to an interview with myself and 32 Poems. And here is what she had to say.

How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I also write personal essays/memoir. For the last year, I’ve been poetry editor for The Florida Review, and have now shifted into an advisory editor position. I work full-time as the Grants & Communications Manager for Atlantic Center for the Arts, an international artists-in-residence program in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Prior to this, I was the Director of Grants Administration for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

Writing, of course. And books. Coffee. Oceans. Ireland. Prehistory.

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I always listen to music when I write, but feel weirdly secretive about it. A few of the pieces are Antony and the Johnsons cover of Dylan’s, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Gorecki’s Symphony # 3 with soprano Dawn Upshaw, especially the second movement (that should count for at least two…). Steve Earle’s Ft. Worth Blues, Jeff Buckley’s cover (and John Cale’s) of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It’s pretty much the same songs/pieces for a year or so, regardless of the genre I’m writing in.

LOUD HOUSE

Het up boys, skitter boys, muttonchop
go-go boys, gurgle music, kidney stone
music, muchachos party, rubicon sand fire
flaring party, thunderbird ski hats in summer
party, sweaty head party, pound & thump,
socket burning beach party, orange forklift
beach, orange moon ba-boom, hooch smoke,
ta-ta smoke, stonkered house, pandemonium
tetherballed, turtle orbitted, oriflamme ant
house, rust hilled, I know I’m violating
myself house, Maybe you’ll see me
on MTV house, No, dude (to a dog) house,
evening knock knock knock knock
house, evening anamatter clink: glass and tin,
goo food jars, chest hammer music, earthmover,
dog bark music, beep beep back-up
talk, rag and straw sleep, panic sleep, dart
sleep, rummage, rumple, canyon sleep,
sulky bunco, mittenheaded boys, saw-
voiced reclamation boys, fumarole,
radio pale, tar breathing boys
in the chewed grass, white sail an exhale.

(originally appeared in 32 Poems; forthcoming in Five Kingdoms, Anhinga Press, 2009)

If you’ve enjoyed Kelle’s answers so far, I suggest you check out the rest of my interview with her over at 32 Poems Blog. Once there, you can find out about her workspace, her inspirations, and much more. Feel free to leave me comments about her interview or your thoughts on poetry in general.

About the Poet:

Kelle Groom’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Poetry, among others. Her poetry collections are Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press, 2009), Luckily, a 2006 Florida Book Award winner (Anhinga), and Underwater City (University Press of Florida).

She’s received awards from Atlantic Center for the Arts, The Millay Colony, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, United Arts of Central Florida, Volusia County Cultural Council, and New Forms Florida.

Interview With Poet Claudia Burbank

Claudia Burbank recently agreed to an interview with myself and 32 Poems. And here is what she had to say.


How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word?  Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I’ve come to writing after retiring from the corporate world (telecommunications).  I was one of those road warriors you see running through the airport.  I knew I was traveling too much when the airline crew celebrated my birthday.  Lacking a background in English or writing I had to start from scratch.  Reading has been a lifelong delight though. 

I’m a graduate of Vassar College and a 30 year subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.  Few people know I’m proficient at wallpapering and installed a tub surround with sliding glass doors by myself.  

I received a Fellowship in poetry from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, won the Inkwell Award (Alice Quinn, judge), and had my work featured on Verse Daily.  I’ve published about 90 poems so far, most recently in Subtropics, Hotel Amerika, and Passages North.

Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

Most writers are better at writing than reading their work aloud which often tends to be dull, interminable, largely indistinguishable and unmemorable.

The written word tends to be more powerful and lasting and easier to grasp.  Studies show that the brain is actively engaged in creating the experience when you read as opposed to being a passive listener.  If your mind wanders you can simply start over. 

On the second question: if only.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I tend to be obsessive about most things I do.  This month that includes Ken Ken puzzles, keeping my teeth extra clean, and the adagio from Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto.”

If you’ve enjoyed Claudia’s answers so far, I suggest you check out the rest of my interview with her over at 32 Poems Blog. Once there, you can find out about her workspace, her inspirations, and much more. Feel free to leave me comments about her interview or your thoughts on poetry in general.