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, November 29, 2016

Four Questions for C. Kubasta

C. Kubasta experiments with hybrid forms, excerpted text, and shifting voices – her work has been called claustrophobic and unflinching. Her favorite rejection (so far) noted that one editor loved her work, and the other hated it. A 6-year-old once mistook her for Velma, from Scooby Doo, and was unduly excited. She feels a strong affinity for Skipper, Barbie’s flat-footed cousin. For each major publication, she celebrates with a new tattoo; someday she hopes to be completely sleeved – her skin a labyrinth of signifiers, utterly opaque. She is the author of two chapbooks: A Lovely Box, which won the 2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize, and &s (both from Finishing Line); and a full-length collection, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX). She teaches English and Gender Studies at Marian University, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She lives with her beloved John, cat Cliff, and dog Ursula. Find her at

DS: Why do you write poetry?

CK: When I was in 6th grade, my Language Arts teacher challenged us each to write a poem – I think it was for Read magazine. That was probably the first time I really thought about poetry, but somehow it stuck. I turn to poetry often when I want to express the fragmentary and evocative: much about our lives seems fragmentary; bits and pieces of language that evoke something about our human experience, without attempting to fully explain or narrativize that experience is what draws me to poetry. Although lately I’ve been writing fiction, and fully planning to immerse myself in that, setting aside poetry for a while, I’ve been unable to do so. Poems call to me to be written. Sharp fragments (the roadkill clustered with crows; the half-toppled Martin house; the formula for a chemical reaction; how denim is riveted) become embedded in my consciousness and want to become poems, and nothing else. Since the election I’ve been thinking of bees and colony collapse. What could that be but a poem?

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

CK: I want poems that occasion a physical reaction. I’m drawn to poems with sharp lines, with intricate & surprising forms. Poems and poets that move me cause excited utterances, usually an expletive, the sort of thing that could be admissible in court even after I’m gone. Recently I was trying to explain to a student what I liked about a poem and I wanted to draw a picture of a screw with a t-handle for extra torque. The good poem affects me like the screw is in my belly, and there are various “turns” throughout the poem, a good quarter turn, that sinks it deeper in. I want poems that are visceral, that cannot be ignored, that demand our emotional, psychological, and mental energy. We are forced to engage with them – poetry, like humor, porn, & horror, should also be a body genre.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

CK: &s, a new chapbook, is just out; the poems in it use the ampersand to construct and deconstruct the poems. My second book of poetry will be out next year from Whitepoint Press. Of Covenants explores linguistic, religious, and legal covenants – these tacit agreements define & articulate our experience. Lately I’ve been thinking about the last idea a bit more, especially in terms of language. There are a number of poems in the book that explore pronouns and their supposed antecedents. Certain pronouns seem to have lost their moorings, a happenstance both troubling and liberating. Additionally, the sentence diagrams that map these relationships seem to need an additional dimension that accounts for who interprets meaning, for who overhears the transactional nature of the naming. Perhaps what I’ve been reconsidering since the election, when we’re arguing whether words mean what they purport to mean, or whether they mean anything at all, is whether the notion of language as a covenant has begun to fray in a very visible way. The poems I’m writing just now are a longer series; I seem to be thinking in moving parts of longer pieces, rather than in individual poems. One series, Percolations, engages (obliquely) with the questions/concerns/issues raised this last summer through the public responses around shootings & protests. Another series, Corpus, utilizes the body and its products as a sort of autobiography: the stapes, the eye, ambergris. I also recently wrote a poem I love about a dear friend who died – it’s a poem about his dying, the days of it, the waiting for it. Each section of the poem is titled “The Present.” His dying was always in the present. 

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

CK: I want more poetry that challenges us, as readers and human beings. I want less “nice” poetry, fewer “pretty” things. I want poetry that is difficult – and I don’t mean less accessible – I mean poetry that deals with difficult topics, that forces us to picture things we’ve never imagined, that asks us to empathize in ways we haven’t, that asks us to inhabit uncomfortable spaces, that asks us to sit with discomfort and doesn’t let us off the hook. And I want people to not only be willing to read this kind of work, but to seek this out, to seek ways to stretch our humanity. Our humanity is a muscle like any other.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Four Questions for Ruth Awad

Ruth Awad is a Lebanese-American poet and the author of Set to Music a Wildfire (Southern Indiana Review Press, 2017), which won the 2016 Michael Waters Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of a 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and her work has appeared in The New Republic, The Missouri Review Poem of the Week, Sixth Finch, CALYX, Diode, The Adroit Journal, Vinyl Poetry, Drunken Boat, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. Her work has also been anthologized in The Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), New Poetry from the Midwest 2014 (New American Press, 2015), and Poets on Growth (Math Paper Press, 2015). She won the 2012 and 2013 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest. She has an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner, Pomeranians, and bunnies.

DS: Why do you write poetry?

RA: I wonder about that a lot. When I was writing my first book, I had such a clear sense of mission. In the US, we often get a flag-waving and human-erasing narrative of far-off wars waged against and between brown bodies in the Middle East. I wanted to understand and portray that destruction’s civilian price, so I wrote about my father growing up in Lebanon during its civil war. And this answer might speak more to where I am right now (between projects / floating in space), but some days, I just don’t know why I write other than I can’t stop. Strip away the altruistic desire to say something honest, reach people, and change minds, and there’s just me and my nagging want to create. Maybe it gives me some semblance of control in a world ruled by chaos.   

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

RA: I’m always looking for that one line that will sink its teeth in me. That will upend my expectations and make me reassess where I was before I read the poem. That will make me wish I’d thought of it first.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

RA: Right now I’m working on a second collection I affectionately call my “feminist love poems.” I don’t feel very in control of these poems, which is a departure from my last project Set to Music a Wildfire, where I interviewed my father, his friends, and my family, and researched, planned, and obsessively plotted the collection’s narrative arc, etc. So with this new project, I’m forcing myself to be more open to emotional logic, which is a fine enough guide when you’re writing about your fucked up romantic past and what it means to be a woman heavily instructed by patriarchal norms but who’s trying to unlearn it.

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

RA: I hope it keeps evolving. I want inclusion to be business as usual and not exceptional or a selling point. I want more POC editors running big-name journals and presses. I want ableist, sexist, racist poetry to never see the light of day. (I’m surprised this point can even make a wish list in 2016, but here we are.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Four Questions for Megan Merchant

Megan Merchant is a resident of Prescott, Arizona, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from UNLV. Her second full-length collection, The Dark’s Humming, was the winner of the 2015 Lyrebird Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2017). She is also the author of four chapbooks: Translucent, sealed. (Dancing Girl Press, 2015), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, 2016), Unspeakable Light (Throwback Books, 2016), and A Thousand Paper Cranes (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming). Gravel Ghosts is her debut full-length poetry collection through Glass Lyre Press.  She also has a children’s book forthcoming through Philomel Books. 

DS: Why do you write poetry?

MM: For so many reasons. For one, I write because I love language. I experience it as a pulsing, tangible element: the tools for trying like hell to make sense of what it means to be awake in this world. I write poetry specifically because I have had a long love affair with images and music. I write to give my brain something to do other than limp around and worry without taking action. I write as a form of meditation.  I write so that I can see my breath in a season other than winter. I write to reclaim my agency and to connect with others. I write with the hope of creating something beautiful and worthwhile. I write to connect with people in an intentional way. I write to give my own prayers ink and a spine.

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

MM: I read hoping to fall in love, in every way: with the order and disorder of words, the images that open my own mind and eyes to fragments of this world in which I am both familiar and estranged, with honesty, music, and perspective. I am always hoping to find a part that makes me do that little sucked-in breath of awe and inspiration. But mostly I am hoping to fall in love.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

MM: I have three manuscripts that I wrote over the last eight months. They are nearly complete and radically different. The third manuscript begins with the quote from E.M. Forster: “I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” It brings into focus the violence and terror of this world from a mother’s perspective—one who grows to become “all mothers” by taking on their sorrow. It’s about interconnectedness and started with a spiritual quest to truly understand the differences between empathy and compassion.

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

MM: I hope that more poems will “go viral” and extend their reach. Also, that the publishing world will continue to grow in an inclusive way, bringing unrecognized voices into the light. 

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

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: