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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Four Questions for Michael Albright

Michael Albright has published poems in various journals, including Stirring, Rust + Moth, Tar River Poetry, Pembroke Magazine, Cider Press Review, Revolver, Moon City Review, Pretty Owl, Uppagus, and the chapbook In the Hall of Dead Birds and Viking Tools. He also curates the "Under the Sign of the Bear" reading series in Pittsburgh, and is managing editor of the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. He lives on a windy hilltop near Greensburg, PA, with his wife, Lori, and an ever-changing array of children and other animals.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

MA: Well, not to get too cute about it, because I can't paint. Everyone has some kind of creative urge, and if we're lucky, we find out what we have an affinity for, how we can express it. Writing has always been my primary means of expression, even before it was something I took seriously. But why poetry? Because I am not a novelist. Or a song-writer. For me, the concision and heightening of language, the interplay between words written on the page, as they are read, evoke a sort of altered state of consciousness, like listening to King Crimson through headphones on acid. I've always considered poetry the highest form or art, which is why I would never be so hubristic to describe myself as "poet." I try to write poetry; it's for other people to say whether I am a poet, or not.

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

MA: Simply stated, words I can't stop reading, or listening to. I'm less concerned (but not unconcerned) about meaning than I am with the lyric in the poem. In my favorite poems, the words make the music, and in turn, music makes meaning. I don't care if a poem is linear, as long as the words are arranged in the way that makes me want to read it over and over again, just for the pleasure of it, the way I listen to music. The best make me feel something physical; goose bumps, chills, a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Without the lyric, poems are just newspaper articles.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

MA: I have three projects in progress. The first is a chapbook length collection of usually short, somewhat surrealistic, sometimes absurdist, and always dark hybrid-y prose poems. I am also deep into a manuscript of a combination of original and hybrid work dealing with my balance disorder, and the other conditions that contribute to my disability. Then there is my ever-present "gothic novel in verse of forbidden love, murder, and global warming." I am nothing if not ambitious.

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

MA: My hope is that poetry continues to become more and more relevant. Despite charges that it isn't relevant (and when did the non-poetry community ever think it was?), it has emerged as one of the best vehicles for people writing from outside of privilege to find an audience. Despite seeing statistics that fewer people are reading poetry than ever, we have this absolute explosion of independent journals and publishers. I'd be surprised if enrollment in poetry MFA programs isn't at an all-time high, a circumstance often maligned, but you'll never hear that from me; you have to be crazy serious about poetry to choose that as your life's work, and all those people have a vested interest in getting more people to read and write poetry. These people are my heroes. They are the future of our art. Every poet who has published a book, or even published a poem in a journal, has friends and family that will read at least one of their poems if they ask them. Ask them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Four Questions for Susan Yount

Susan Yount was raised on a farm in southern Indiana where she learned to drive a tractor and hug her beloved goat, Cinnamon. She is editor of Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal, madam of the Chicago Poetry Bordello, and founder of Misty Publications. She also works full time at the Associated Press and teaches online poetry classes at The Poetry Barn. As if all that wasn’t enough, she is mother to a rowdy 9-year-old. She has published two chapbooks, House on Fire and Catastrophe Theory. A third chapbook, Act One, is forthcoming from Saucepot Publishing. In her free time, she works on the Poetry Tarot. You can keep up with her progress here.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

SY: Unfortunately, I only write poetry when I have something burning to say. My muse has never been sweet but has always been a bitter fire demon at the edge of a rotting hole inside my being. When the demon gets too close to the raw edge, when the hole feels threatened, that is when the poems erupt.  I write poetry to keep the hole from consuming me.

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

SY: My favorite poems are honest and filled with the gruesome imagery of the human condition. They reveal something about humanity that we mask in our everyday lives. I’m currently reading Notes for My Body Double by Paul Guest – WHOA! Now that is THE SHIT I’ve been looking for.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

SY: This is the year I want to work on the Minor Arcana of the Poetry Tarot I started in 2011.

I’ve finished the Major Arcana which utilizes images of dead poets, their handwriting (whenever it has been available in the public domain) and often an image of their childhood home – or some other important place of writing. You can view some samples here. These are not haphazard images and ideas thrown together. I have meditated, worked myself into frenzy, and even dared the demon to the middle of the hole in order to provide the best representation of the card and the poet.

The true challenge for me is the Minor Arcana and will consist of living poets (at least at the time of creation), a sample of their handwriting and some essence of the poet they are within the imagery of the card itself. I’m currently seeking volunteers – details on how to query me can be found at my tumblr page.

Once all the graphic work is completed, the final goal is to edit a book which interprets the cards and includes a poem from each poet.

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

SY: I hope I don’t lose it. I hope it finds me furious, thirsty, and crying. I hope it fights me in the middle of the night. I hope it buries me alive.

Susan’s Work Online:

Susan’s Chapbooks:
Catastrophe Theory (Hyacinth Girl Press)
House on Fire (Blood Pudding Press)
Act One (forthcoming, Saucepot Publishing)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Four Questions for Sarah J. Sloat

Sarah J. Sloat has lived in Germany for many years, where she works as an editor for a news organization. She is usually found at her desk at home or her desk at work; otherwise she is stuck on the subway between them. Sarah’s poems and prose have appeared in The Offing, Beloit Poetry Journal, Verse Daily, and many other journals and anthologies. She blogs occasionally at The Rain in My Purse.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

SS: Because I love language, mostly, and the phrases, juxtapositions and sounds that ask to be made more of. There are words that need fondling, and poor lost little ideas that need a parade. Also, as someone who’s lived in a foreign country for more than two decades, poetry is a way for me to be at home. I come as much from English as from America, but in the case of the former I still dwell there every day.

And also, what is there to do? When you’re charged with making a life and meaning for yourself, what’s better than making art with what confronts you every day? Keeping up with the new TV shows?

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

SS: My favorite poems articulate something I know or feel but never found the words for, like Cesar Vallejo’s “Prayer on the Road,” which begins with the arresting ... “I don’t even know who this bitterness is for!”

I like energy and daring and surprise, like the wild red-white-and-blue laughter in Colleen O’Brien’s “In the Democracy.”

I like poems that show me some truth I vaguely sensed but never pursued, whether in thought or articulation, like Marie Howe’s “My Dead Friends.”

“I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion”

I am also in love with funny poems. They do so much work and are difficult to do well. Like Jessy Randall’s “Forgetting Simon Perchik.” 

DS: Describe your works in progress.

SS: Like everypoet I could tell you about my manuscript-in-progress. With five chapbooks, I’ve got the poems. But that’s boring.

Poem-wise, I’m working on what I call sentence and fragment poems, some of which have been published recently, like “Inebriate of Air” and “Deluxe Moments.” I’ve always loved aphorisms so such poems satisfy my inner pithiness.

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

SS: I wish more people would read it. It’s not hard. It’s kind of wonderful. It doesn’t take long.

Or did you mean the future of my poetry? I hope it becomes wildly successful! I hope it lands a multimillion-dollar deal!
Sarah's Work Online:

Sarah's Chapbooks:

Heiress to a Small Ruin (Dancing Girl Press)
Inksuite (Dancing Girl Press)
Homebodies (Hyacinth Girl Press)
Excuse me while I wring this long swim out of my hair (Dancing Girl Press)
In the Voice of a Minor Saint (Doubleback Books)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Four Questions for Les Kay

Les Kay is the author of Fronts (Sundress Publications, forthcoming 2016). He is also the author of the chapbooks The Bureau (Sundress Publications, 2015) and Badass (Lucky Bastard Press, 2015), as well as co-author (with Sandra Marchetti, Allie Marini, and Janeen Pergrin Rastall) of the collaborative poetry chapbook Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, 2016). His poems have been published widely in journals such as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Collagist, The McNeese Review, Redactions, Santa Clara Review, South Dakota Review, Whiskey Island, and The White Review. Les holds a PhD in English and comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati with a primary emphasis on creative writing, an MFA from the University of Miami, and a BA from Carnegie Mellon University with a double major in creative writing and professional writing. Les currently teaches writing in Cincinnati and volunteers as an associate poetry editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

LK: To change the world. 

I know that sounds grandiose, but it's not. I think of poetry primarily as a didactic tool, not in the pejorative sense of the word, but in the sense that I believe any poem, if it's well executed, can teach a reader something about the world. Oftentimes, something about the world that's difficult to teach through other means, like prose or in the classroom. I recognize, of course, that there's a tendency to equate such a view or poetry with elitism—a problem that's been core to poetry in the English language since, well, "Caedmon's Hymn." And if I'm honest with myself, it's probably still a problem with my poetry, primarily because of how I think and the need, at least for now, to engage with multiple visions/versions of poetic tradition. 

But let me be clear that I'm not talking about romantic or Romantic notions of a Poet writ large, stumbling down a mountaintop; rather, I think that poetry gives us access to all that is not ourselves and sometimes that which we are not yet. I honestly don't think there's anything that horribly special about me, as a poet, except in the sense that we are all—every last one of us—remarkably special. So my goal isn't to teach, necessarily, all the "important" things I know, but to offer a simultaneously tiny and vast prism on the world and perceptions of the world around us. So, in this way, I think poetry is a radical act, a means of resisting and hoping. A means of sharing knowledge that may otherwise be unquantifiable. 

And I think that's part of how the world (of people anyhow) has been and will be changed, but slowly. It's not unlike the recent Doctor Who episode "Heaven Sent" where the Doctor, trapped inside a "confession dial," punches his way through a diamond wall over eons and countless lives. That to me is what the writing of poetry is; it's punching a diamond wall.

Or maybe I just punch the wall because of life's peculiar momentum. I've written poems for so long, why would I stop?

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

LK: I want to catch my breath. I want to learn something, however small, about the world around us. I want to see that tiny sliver, like a crack of light in a concrete wall that tells me that this will be different. I want an experience, buttressed by craft, of what has happened, even if only through the contours of imagination. I want to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, sense what I would not otherwise know without the gift of that poem. 

DS: What are your current writing projects? 

LK: Well, I'm the sort of "prolific" writer who typically has a number of projects in various states of disrepair, so if I'm writing on any given day, the work could be any number of projects, so here's a brief overview of what I'm thinking about these days with the understanding that this is by no means a complete list. 

A collaborative chapbook called Heart Radicals, which includes poems by myself, Sandra Marchetti, Allie Marini, and Janeen Pergrin Rastall was just published by ELJ Publications, so I'm spending a fair amount of "free time" promoting that. This summer, my first full-length collection, Fronts, will be published by Sundress Publications, so I expect that some serious editing work is forthcoming. 

Aside from that work, I'm planning to revise what was my creative dissertation in a creative writing PhD program. I hope that will be my second full-length collection and pray that finding a good home for that book doesn't take so long or cost so much as Fronts did. 

I'm also working here and there on short stories, particularly flash pieces. I have a chapbook in mind, but that's not quite to the stage where the entire manuscript can be sent out. So far, I've published three of the stories, but there are a few that need substantial revision before a publisher sees the book. 

In addition, during the summer of 2015, I started writing a creative nonfiction essay about returning “home” to Texas from Ohio for a weeklong visit. It, somehow, became much more to me than a simple travelogue with scenes of family interspersed. In fact, that project became more in every sense of the word; the draft is over 50,000 words now and is growing. When I have time, this is the writing project I most want to focus on, for now.

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

LK: I'd like to see the audience for poetry grow substantially. I've long believed that our short-attention span, technology-infused, overwhelmingly busy lifestyles both need and want the tiny sticks of dynamite or swelling murmuration of starlings that can be found in poems. Read a poem on the bus, be transported. Read a poem during a commercial break and learn something that someone with too much power may not want you to know. Read a poem before bed and see that your mind, too, might reach vistas that even the best of films can only approach. 

In some ways, I've found myself both baffled and fraught by the relatively limited reach and cultural import that poetry has in this country from the perspective of every poet who is not Billy Collins. This is not to suggest, as has been suggested in decades past, that poets should change what they do to make it "easier," "more relevant," or "more exciting." Poetry is already all of those things, though its ease is relative and frequently mistaken as something altogether different. I honestly don't think poets (for the most part) should change a damn thing other than what they are already changing in order to write what they need and want to write in the way that they need and want to write it. I think, instead, that publishers and editors ought to question, deeply, their business models. No one should have to pay a dime to have their poems read. They should need, only, to write good poems. Moreover, all of us involved with poetry, including teachers and writers, should be clear about what poetry does. It is not the answer to a quiz question or an esoteric religion or a complex puzzle. It is—even its most emotionally difficult forms—a technology and art that points the way toward joy. 

And who doesn't want that? 

Les' Books

Heart Radicals
The Bureau (free PDF as an e-chap)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Four Questions for Mary Lou Buschi

Mary Lou Buschi has been nominated for Best New Poets 2014 and was a finalist for the Best of Net Anthology, 2014. She received the Apospecimen Award from A Cappella Zoo for noteworthy contribution. Mary Lou has received fellowships from The Santa Fe Writer’s Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and The New York City Teaching Fellows. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines, such as Indiana Review, Rhino, Field, and Radar, among others. Her full-length poetry collection, Awful Baby, was published this year through Red Paint Hill Publishing. Mary Lou is a special education teacher in the Bronx. She lives in Piermont, New York, with Jeff (husband) and Nate (French Bulldog).

DS: Why do you write poetry?
MB: I write poetry because I can’t sing, play an instrument, or paint. I write poems to knit disparate images, to play with sound, ink up the white space or give white space the silence it deserves. I write poems to remember the ugly, the thorny, and the forgettable—to find that kid by the fence we all forgot about.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?
MB: When I read other poets, I’m looking for an exact order of thought. The moment when you say, yes, exactly, that is what I’ve been after—a clearly wrought image or simple realization. From Larry Levis’ “The Spirit Says, You Are Nothing”:

A thin line of ants hesitate
Before running over it, 
And you think how
The thread of worry running through a human voice
Halts when a syllable freezes, then goes on,
Alone. …

DS: What are your current writing projects?
MB: I’m still listening to two lost girls who I believe to be a version of Vladimir and Estragon. I’m not sure where they are or why they keep speaking to me, but I’m on an adventure with them. Every time I think I have it all figured out, the girls introduce a new character or problem.  In some ways the project is addressing infertility, miscarriage, and the need to keep creating.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?
MB: I think poetry is right where it needs to be and it will continue to grow and respond to the world around us. I think there are more voices being heard across the world, across styles; genre-bending poets, poets willing to talk about race, gender, oppression, violence. There are also many poets devoting their personal time and passion to founding reading series, presses, and literary magazines. There is no sign of poetry disappearing. We need it in much the same way that we need fine art and music.

Mary Lou’s Books:

Mary Lou’s Recent Poems Online:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Four Questions for Nikki Allen

Nikki Allen scribbles poems on cocktail napkins, receipts, and/or any other blank space she can get her pen on. She’s been getting on stages to read her work for over 15 years in various places that include St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Seattle, war protests, music festivals, charity events, backyards, and art openings. She is the author of numerous books, including Gutter of Eden, My Darling Since, and Quite Like Yes. Her work has appeared in The New Yinzer, Crash, Open Thread Regional Review Vol. 2, out of nothing, Profane Journal (Pushcart Prize nominee '14/'15), and Encyclopedia Destructica. Allen has also contributed vocals to tracks by recording artists Poogie Bell ("Question Song") and Jack Wilson ("NYC"). She loves couscous and garlic breath.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

NA: The short answer: I don't have a choice.

The not-so-short answer: I've always been a writer. Page & pen were my escape in childhood--stories that conquered notebooks and fell out onto restaurant place mats, receipt paper, any blank space. Near the end of high school I started writing poetry. Maybe it was first-time love that pushed me to it, or maybe the collection of e.e. cummings poems I hauled around. Maybe it was just a matter of time. But it happened. Poetry was the mainline to the feeling. I felt so much that I wanted to get to it as quickly as possible. There is a relief in getting it out, putting it down--it's hard to describe.

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

NA: It doesn't have a name. It's a thing, a moment, turn of the knife in a phrase. Whatever it is pulls me to it as soon as I read it. My body disappears.

DS: What are your current writing projects?  

NA: I'm writing new things and editing older pieces. I hope to have a book ready to go this year.

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

NA: Continued growth. Continued dialogue. My hope is that people continue to use poetry as a means of expression, truth-telling, protest, release.

Nikki's Books:

My Darling Since
Gutter of Eden
ballet: exits & entries
birds at 4 a.m.

Quite Like Yes
ligaments of light tigering the shoulders

Some of Nikki's Poems Online:

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