The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see--it is, rather, a light by which we may see--and what we see is life.

Robert Penn Warren

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Four Questions for Amorak Huey

Amorak Huey is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the chapbook The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014). After more than a decade as a newspaper journalist, he now teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His writing has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2012, The Poetry
of Sex
, The Southern Review,
Cider Press Review, Poet Lore,
The Cincinnati Review, and many
other print and online journals
and anthologies.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

AH: It all starts with reading. Reading was such an important part of my childhood. Is such an important part of my life now. Will, I assume, always be so. There’s something powerful and mystical about disappearing into language, losing yourself in someone else’s words and worlds. The way I feel when I read something good, that lump in the back of the throat … I write on the off chance my own words could ever come close to creating that feeling in someone else. It’s about human connection. About making sense of the world. About the hope that my voice could somehow, some way matter to someone.

As for why poetry as opposed to some other genre, maybe it’s because I have a short attention span and I can finish writing a poem a lot quicker than a novel or even a short story? Maybe it’s because I wanted to be free from narrative requirements? Maybe it’s because poetry is inherently disruptive, challenging, sometimes difficult and I like the impossibility of it; maybe poetry knows
full well it is destined to fall short of its aspirations and I can relate
to that.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

AH: I want to be surprised, unsettled, envious. I want to read a poem and be instantly irked that I didn’t write it myself. I want to read a poem and know that I could never, ever have written it myself. I want a poem to stick with me so that I find myself still musing on it hours, days, years after reading it. I want a poem to leave me hungry.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

AH: I have two manuscripts that are in that maddening state of being done / almost done / maybe done / I don’t know what to do next with them. One’s currently titled Boom Box, and it’s full of poems about growing up in a small town in Alabama and religion and heavy metal and the 1980s. The other I’m calling Seducing the Asparagus Queen and it’s about wandering and rootlessness and this character named The Letter X. And love. Both books are about love. (“About” is probably the wrong word. I resist the idea that saying what a poem is “about” is a meaningful way to talk about that poem, yet I do it, here and all the time, for lack of a better way to say what I mean. Once again, language falls short.) Anyway, I’m arranging and rearranging these two manuscripts, adding new poems and deleting others and sending them out and getting them rejected and waiting for a publisher to share my vision of turning them from manuscripts into books.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

AH: Wow, I don’t know. Poetry is not a monolith. Sometimes I think we all spend too much time talking about “poetry” and not enough about poems. So many think-pieces about how poetry is dead, or poetry is alive, or poetry can or cannot be taught, or academia is ruining poetry or whatever, as if poetry were a single thing, an entity we can see all at once. Like poetry is Spider-Man and we’re all J. Jonah Jameson chasing the expose. Poetry is not Spider-Man. It’s not even the whole Marvel Universe. It’s more diverse and diffuse and ineffable
than that.

But I feel like I’m ducking your question, so how about this: I guess I hope poetry keeps on doing what it has always done: exist and struggle in this complicated human world, pushing against the limits of language and striving to explain and reflect and explore what it means to be alive and feeling and thinking on this crowded planet.

Amorak’s books

Some of Amorak’s poems online

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Four Questions for Robert Walicki

Robert Walicki is the curator of VERSIFY, a monthly reading series in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has appeared in HEArt, Stone Highway Review, Grasslimb, and on the radio show Prosody. He won first runner up in the 2013 Finishing Line Open Chapbook Competition and was awarded finalist in the 2013 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition. He currently has two chapbooks published: A Room Full of Trees (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and The Almost Sound of Snow Falling (Night Ballet Press, 2015).

DS: Why do you write poetry? 

RW: I write poems because I have to. It's a creative impulse that rooted itself in me and really feels as necessary and as natural as breathing.

Interestingly, I actually began as a visual artist as far back as I could remember, but halfway through art school, I realized that I wasn't in love with what I was doing, and I was pretty crestfallen at the time about it. I played around with writing, but I only started writing seriously about eight or nine years ago. I fell in love with the form and the possibilities in writing poems.That was it for me. I was sold.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

RW: What I like to see in poetry are poems that are honest and aren't afraid to express emotion. I look for poems written with restraint, guts, and humor. I never want to be lost in the poem. Grounding is very important for me. I need to know where I am within the context of a given poem and to believe in the world that the poet is trying to create. In short, I like poems that engage the heart as well as the head.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

RW: I am working on several projects.  One, a full length which features poems from both of my chapbooks as well as others that tie together the narrative thread between them.

The other project is a chapbook which is a bit of a departure for me. All of the poems will be about or inspired by elements in popular culture.  It started very organically.  I suddenly realized I had a bunch of poems that fit that theme. I'll be excited when that's finished!

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

RW: My hopes are twofold. One of my dreams is to have poetry accepted more by the mainstream community and media. It's a vibrant time to be a poet in Pittsburgh right now, but we're preaching to the converted. Most if not all of the people that attend our readings are other poets and writers. I want to see more awareness brought to the art of poetry as a vital and legitimate art that can be accessible and appreciated by all people, whether they are poets or not.

My other goal is to break down barriers within the community itself. There are so many groups and communities of poets that make up this thriving literary city, but that said, this can lead to it being fragmented. This is what I've tried to do with my series: put poets together that have never or probably would never read together to see what happens. It's about community. The sense of belonging that we are a part of something bigger than what we are apart.

Robert's chapbook from Night Ballet Press:

Robert's Recent Works Online:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Four Questions for Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently lives in the Washington, DC, area with her family. She is the author of six chapbooks. Recent ones are out from Dancing Girl Press, Be About it Press, and Shirt Pocket Press. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from Lucky Bastard Press. Recent work can be seen / is forthcoming at Pretty Owl Poetry, Gargoyle, Jet Fuel Review, glitterMOB, Pith, So to Speak, Apple Valley Review, Otis Nebula, FreezeRay, Entropy, Right Hand Pointing, and decomP. 
DS: Why do you write poetry?
JMS: I am probably going to sound like a broken record but fuck it. I write poetry to make sense of the noise that is in my head. Words make sense to me when I write them down. I grew up with four older brothers, and I always remember writing letters to members of my family when I felt something was unfair or if someone was being mean to me. It was better than screaming. (Though screaming also sometimes worked.) So instead of going to bed, I would hide under my desk and write a letter and then sneak out, or I thought no one could see me--I am sure I was just being ignored-- and slide the letter under the bedroom door of the person in question.

I also like how poems can be short since I have some attention challenges.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

JMS: I love reading a poem and just feeling YES, I GET IT. That is the best feeling in the world to me when you just feel a kinship with another poet/poem. It definitely helps in not feeling alone in the world to read a voice that you “recognize” and then think, well see, I’m not a freak because they get it too. :) I also like being surprised by what words they use--like I hate it when I know how something is going to end. I’d rather it make no sense to me or just possess a sliver of sense rather than tie it up neatly with a bow. Though there is a place for these poems in the world as well. I just prefer the other kind.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

JMS: I just wrapped up a chapbook called Clown Machine that I really love--I guess at its heart it is about disguises and art and tangents and does it matter if we wear masks?  I sort of came to the conclusion (in the poems) that it doesn’t matter--maybe. It’s up in the air. (But I like that, I don’t like spoon-feeding readers--I like them to come to their own conclusions.)

I am also writing these tiny poems that all begin with the same line: “She came out from under the bed.”  When one of my writer friends read some of these and said that I should write a horror movie, it was the best compliment!

We start our reviews up again for TheInfoxicated Corner at TheThe, so keep a look out for those in the next week or so!

I also have these collaborative poems that I am trying to find a home for.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

JMS: One of my hopes for poetry--and I totally think is possible--is there should be more venues and reading events, and it should be like rock music. Like it should just be huge and big and glam but everyone should still be nice and respectful. Like New York has a great mingling scene with Dead Rabbits reading series, Great Weather for Media, Flapperhouse, Luna Luna--all of these readings and poets are sort of intermingling now, and that is awesome. It would be awesome to bring more poetry to the people so to speak. (Pittsburgh Poetry Houses is doing this.)  Like I know my neighbor Fran would just LOVE it if she was exposed to more modern, inclusive poetry. Everyone still just thinks of Poe and Whitman and Keats when you run up to them and say “POETRY.” The recent poetry write up in the New YorkTimes (where Bloof Books had some great press) is a start. ROCK STARS.

Jennifer’s chapbooks:

xx poems (forthcoming)

Jennifer's full-length book:

Recent poems online:

Jennifer’s website: 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Four Questions for T.A. Noonan

T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently The Midway Iterations (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), Fall (Lucky Bastard Press, 2016), and The Ep[is]odes: a reformulation of Horace (Noctuary Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in LIT, Menacing Hedge, Ninth Letter, Phoebe, Reunion: The Dallas Review, West Wind Review, and others. A weightlifter, artist, teacher, and priestess, she is an Associate Editor of Sundress Publications and the Development Director for the Sundress Academy
for the Arts.

DS: Why do you write poetry? 

TN: Poems are spells. I write what I want to manifest, banish, bless, curse, invoke, evoke, honor.

 DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people? 

TN: Magick I haven’t seen before. Or maybe magick I have seen before, but executed in a different way. Ultimately, I want wonder. I want to be swept up in the spell.

 DS: Describe your works in progress.

TN: All of them? Well…

I’m kidding. Kind of.

Right now, I’m bouncing between three major projects. The first and oldest is Extraordinary Claims, a poetry collection exploring the intersections between astrophysics, fashion, and Florida. You’d be surprised at how much they connect to one another. I’ve probably been working on EC for about six years, and every time I think I’m done, I realize I still have a lot more to do. So, the fact that I just said something about it publicly probably means I have to start over.

Then there’s Kraftwerk and Other Euphemisms, a kind of cross-genre monster exploring witchcraft and occultism. Being all weird and shit means it doesn’t lend itself to my usual process.

The last one is Watermamas: A Fable, a novel about gods, manatees, and memory. I’m still in the early-draft stage but really excited about what I’ve got thus far.

I’ve also been picking here and there at a series of poems about Sailor Moon, but I don’t know if that’s a “work in progress” so much as an “occasional obsession with an unsure future.”

 DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

TN: A lot less fear, a lot more inclusivity. I want a poetry world that isn’t afraid to let marginalized writers step out of those margins; the poetry world’s plenty big enough for all of us. No one should feel “threatened” by diversity. I think the only real “threat” is that those diverse voices may be too fiercely beautiful, that the heat from their awesome words might be too much for us to handle, that we may have to work twice as hard to be half as hot. Of course, this means we need people willing to do that work—editors and publishers determined to make their venues safe for poets from every race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, educational background, career path, etc. Those who are marginalized, though, can’t do that work by themselves. It’s up to those coming from places of privilege to use that privilege responsibly.

I’d also like more handmade books, please. I’m a sucker for them.

T.A.'s Books:

Some of T.A.'s Poems Online:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Four Questions for Sarah A. Chavez

Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the chapbook All Day, Talking (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She holds a Ph.D. in English with a focus in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in the anthologies Bared: An Anthology on Bras and Breasts and Political Punch: The Politics of Identity, as well as the journals North Dakota Quarterly, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and The Boiler Journal, among others. Her debut full-length collection, Hands That Break & Scar, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications. She is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop. 

DS: Why do you write poetry? 

SC: As a kid growing up in a mobile home on the west side of Fresno, CA, when I was upset or couldn’t sleep, I read. Mostly prose, novels and the occasional short story; they were about upper class people, romance, things that take place in forests, or vampire/horror – always an escape. When I was done with a book, it felt like I was transported back against my will. My brain a little fuzzy, feeling dissatisfied closing the back cover, unhappy to come back to the life I had. But when I got a little older and was assigned to read poetry for class, all of a sudden, it was reading that didn’t transport me; it grounded me. After reading a poem, I didn’t feel ethereal and torn between realities, I felt solid and clear-eyed. The close attention to detail, the concentrated and highlighted emotions, the care with which lines were broken, and diction chosen: it brought my lived experience into focus. It taught me how to look at my circumstances differently, more closely, with greater compassion and nuance.

I write poetry largely to continue this practice of compassion and the search to understand myself, and my lived experience more mindfully, and in turn hope to understand other forms of human experience. Even now that I teach poetry writing and publish my work, writing it somehow still feels like a secret, selfish act, like it’s always just for me, and the only way I can justify continuing to write poetry is by carrying what I learn with out in the world.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people? 

SC: I think I freak my poetry students out a little bit when I tell them this, but I want poems to devastate me. I want them to break me in half and make me cry. The tears can be for sadness, desire, or happiness; it doesn't matter which, just something felt strongly.

For me, poetry, like visual art, is about feeling connected to other humans, and I like for that connection to be tangible. It’s why I gravitate – both in my reading and writing habits – toward poetry that is sensory and concrete. While this goes in and out of fashion, I’m always a fan of narrative poetry. I like being told a story and I like stories that work; poetry that shoves its hands in the dirt and rips up weeds, poetry that washes dishes and loads trucks. Not poetry that is practical, per se, but poetry that serves the purpose of diversifying while simultaneously drawing connection to varied human experience. I hope to find poetry that spotlights the import in small moments, sees the people that have been shoved to the margins, but in a way that recognizes the beauty in the steel, in the grease on cracked hands.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

SC: I’m currently working on two projects. One is a series of poems based on the indigenous mythology around the turtle that carried the Earth. That has always been one of my favorite myths, partly because I’ve just always loved turtles; they have those cute, little, tough-skinned faces and sturdy, short bodies. The myth also appeals to me because of the level of sacrifice that Turtle makes in the story. For the rest of the world to exist, all the vegetation and animals, he has to agree to a life of isolation and loneliness. I’ve always wondered about how that would feel. That led me to imagining the kind of life Turtle had before taking on that monumental responsibility and what it might be like if he got to come back to the Earth. I’ll have three of these poems coming out on THEThe Poetry Blog early in 2016.

The second project is an extension of the epistle poems in my chapbook, All Day, Talking, which are letters from a singular speaker to a woman she loves who has died. The manuscript is tentatively titled This Dark Shining Thing.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

My primary hope for the future of poetry is to once and for all shake this nonsense about it being intimidating. It’s maddening to encounter over and over again people who don’t read poetry or are scared to read it because they think they won’t “get it.” I’m tired of hearing not just students, but even people I encounter out in the world, say that there was some rigid high school teacher who told them that poetry is a puzzle, locked with a key, and only the smartest people can access the deep wells of knowledge that lie therein. Our culture doesn’t treat music that way and it doesn’t treat painting that way (well, maybe a little), both forms of art that are equally as difficult to do well, and equally as enjoyable once you lose yourself in it. And I’m not saying that good poetry isn’t at times difficult to read (though it often isn’t), but that I hope a larger population of people begin to trust that whatever they get from a poem, even if it isn’t the same as what the person next to them felt, is valuable and worth the effort. I want to hear people casually talking on the bus about that new poetry collection that came out last week.

Sarah's Chapbook:

Sarah's Recent Poems Online: 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Four Questions for Meghan Tutolo

Meghan Tutolo lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she earned her M.F.A. in Poetry from Chatham University and her B.A. in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Skilled in the trade of romancing olives and pasta, Meghan works as writer, editor, and designer for an Italian foods company and also teaches composition at her alma mater. Her work has appeared in journals such as Nerve CowboyChiron ReviewThe Pittsburgh Post GazetteArsenic Lobster and Main Street Rag. Her first chapbook of poems, Little As Living, was published in September 2014.    

DS: Why do you write poetry?

MT: Because I have to. Because from such an early age I felt things so tremendously that I had to get them out. I didn't understand myself and barely had words. That's the magic of poetry for me: it makes all the stuff inside a little more tangible. It really boils down to energy. And though poetry isn't my only outlet, it's the most efficient at helping me to connect with others on that plane, relate.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

MT: Basically? I'm looking for someone who gets it. I can't be anymore forthright than that. I'm just looking for people with voices and experiences that don't make me feel so damn alone. It's those people I can trust to guide me to new perspectives and understanding. If I read your work and it feels like my guts fell out, then I know I'm on the right page.

DS: Describe your works in progress?

MT: I'm working on another manuscript. I haven't decided whether it's another chapbook or a full length. There is something about a full-length collection that scares the shit out of me. I could barely get through the editing process of my chapbook with the constant changes and rearranging. It's hard to nail those pieces down in time, as everything shifts around them.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

MT: This question reminds me of records. They've made a hell of a comeback. People are paying attention... to some things. You know, I want people to listen again. To open their minds, put down their magic rectangles and pay attention. I sound like an 80 year old, but phones worry me. No one can read a paragraph anymore. Maybe that's why poetry will prevail, the capturing of those small moments, condensation.

Meghan's chapbook: 

Meghan's website: 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Four Questions for Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien is a playwright, poet, and librettist. His play, The Body of an American, will receive an off-Broadway premiere at Primary Stages, in a co-production with Hartford Stage, in 2016. O'Brien's third collection of poetry, New Life, will be published by CB Editions in London in 2015, and by Hanging Loose Press in Brooklyn in 2016. His second collection, Scarsdale, was published by CB Editions in 2014, and in the US by Measure Press in 2015. War Reporter, his debut collection, was published in 2013 by CB Editions, and by Hanging Loose Press in the US. War Reporter received the 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Foundation's Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, both in the UK. 

DS: Why do you write poetry?

DO: I simply always have written them. At least since I was twelve or so. Life almost always feels overwhelming, in terms of the sadness, occasionally the joy, the randomness and incomprehensibility of everything. There’s little else to do with these feelings than to make something of it, at least that’s how it seems to me, and for whatever reason writing is how I like to make things.

I write plays and prose too, but poetry is what I return to when the emotions are most intense, and usually the most private. My first poem was about my brother’s suicide attempt, and now almost thirty years later I’m still essentially writing that poem over and over again. The longer you last, of course, the more traumas you have to live through. So there’s no shortage of material. Clearly I’m a gloomy sort.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

DO: I hope to find honesty and intimacy. I want to feel honored by what the poet has revealed to me, even if it’s not a so-called narrative or confessional poem, even if I don’t “understand” it. In fact I don’t really want to understand it. I want to feel moved by the poem. I want to feel I know the poet now.

DS: Describe your work in progress.

DO: I’m publishing my second collection of poetry derived from the work of my friend, war reporter Paul Watson, entitled New Life—what I’m describing lately as “poems of  Syria and Hollywood,” as the book deals with Paul’s time covering the war in Syria, and our concurrent, tragicomic attempts to sell an American cable TV drama about journalists covering Syria. I’ve received a Guggenheim Fellowship this year to write a play for Center Theatre Group here in Los Angeles that will be, in many ways, an adaptation of New Life.

I’m also writing a new play for Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater in NYC on the history of guns in America, and a new play for Portland Center Stage that may or may not be about Sasquatch, and may or may not involve music and song. My play about Paul Watson, The Body of an American, opens at Hartford Stage this winter before running off-Broadway with Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theater. There are separate productions of this play next spring in Chicago and Washington, DC. And I’ve been chipping away at a short memoir of childhood in Scarsdale, New York.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

DO: I don’t know that I have any hopes. I like poetry just as it is, and I trust that people will always write poetry because they have to, and they enjoy it, and that people will read poetry for the same reasons. I don’t care about styles or fashions, what poetry “is” or “should” be.

Perhaps I do have one selfish hope: that what I’ve written, and still might write, can be a comfort to people the way I’ve been comforted by other people’s poems. 

Dan's Books:

New Life
War Reporter
The Body of an American

Some of Dan's Poems Online: