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, 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