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

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: