Sundress Roundtable on Plagiarism in “After” Poems: Part 1

An opening statement by roundtable moderator, E. Kristin Anderson: Last year, shortly before Christmas, a plagiarism scandal hit the small press poetry community hard when Rachel McKibbens, author of several collections and chapbooks including blud (Copper Canyon 2018) revealed on Twitter that a poem that had directly lifted lines of hers from blud had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. It subsequently came to light that McKibbens was not the only victim of this person’s plagiarism.

Within hours, four more poets came forward—including roundtable participant Wanda Deglane—identifying their own work in poems by the plagiarist. Within days, the number of poets who had been plagiarized by the same writer as McKibbens—mostly women and people of color, often writing work about their own traumas—had entered into the double digits.

The story was picked up by media outlets outside the literary community perhaps in part because of the plagiarist’s tattoo of “her own words.” Words that were—yes—plagiarized. Or perhaps because everyone loves blood in the water.

But as a result of this discourse, a lot of us were discussing one thing many of the plagiarized poems both published (and in the aftermath, unpublished) in online lit mags had in common—they were “after” poems.

“After” poems are written in response to another’s work, but in this particular case with this particular writer, “after” was used not only to inspire but to steal, which has lead to many discussions on the practice of “after” and other response poems and what ethical boundaries we need to have in place.

While there have been many valuable conversations on social media, I wanted to gather a handful of poets from across the poetry-verse who are diverse culturally and academically and generationally, and each coming from different places in their careers to see what we think an “after” poem is, and to consider where we go from here.

I think we found some wonderful answers. I think we also found some intriguing questions. I hope this is helpful, not only for folks in their creative process but in terms of offering a bit of healing as we move forward as a community.

Roundtable Participants:

  • E. Kristin Anderson
  • Chen Chen
  • Wanda Deglane
  • Teo Mungaray
  • Jeanne Obbard

EKA: How would you define a response poem, written “after” another author or artist?

JO: There was this book I read about 20 years ago (whose author and title I can’t recall, ironically) whose thesis was that all writing is in response to reading. This was an idea that was new to me at the time, and which I still have to remind myself of. But I think it’s true; all writing is in response to other writing, whether that response is immediate or much delayed. I think an “after” poem is one that makes that act of response much more particular and explicit.

TM: You know, responding to a poem is a very specific, intentional act that brings into stark relief the sourced material. Using a line of a song or a poem or a what-have-you as a title, employing an epigraph, dedicating a poem, whatever, et cetera, immediately recalls that foregrounding material.

To do so effectively, as Kwame Dawes once told me (and I’m paraphrasing), means you’ve got to be on equal terms with your art entering in conversation with that original work. An “after” poem is just that: a conversation. “After” poems don’t pull in material unless it’s dialogue, is quoted/sourced. There can (maybe should) be echoes, but echoes, after all, are not replications with substitutions. They are distortions that create a layered heteroglossia. That is, they add a voice to the mix, they don’t parrot.

WD: Okay, I’ll say this right off the bat: I’m probably the least experienced person here. Pretty much all I’ve learned about poetry has been in the last year or so from reading and writing and learning from the people around me. So … here goes!

I don’t think anybody ever explicitly told me what a response poem was, but what I gathered was, that, well, it’s a poem written in response to another! Meaning some part of the original poem inspired you to write your own, be it a title or a line or what have you. Like Teo said, it’s not a replication, it’s you saying, “This poem has inspired me. Here’s how I’ve taken that inspiration and created something my own, in my own voice.”

CC: There are so many different, wonderful kinds of “after” poems. I’ll just comment briefly on two kinds that come to mind—1) borrowing form and 2) borrowing language. Of course, these two kinds of “after” poems can overlap. And it seems that when they do overlap, there is the danger of borrowing too much.

The first category, borrowing form, is perhaps more common, and I’m thinking of “form” very broadly. So the resulting poem may not look like its inspiration visually, on the page, but there is still a structure or even a tone that is being echoed. This type of borrowing is not always acknowledged—every poet, after all, inhabits formal structures that precede them, and to what extent is each of us aware of these influences? We are dreaming alongside so many dreamers and dreams. That said, I believe that poets should do the homework, the research; if you suspect that your dream follows too closely in the footsteps of another’s, follow that hunch and reread that earlier work. Check. I think there’s some internal compass that kicks or ought to kick in. Give credit.

As for borrowing language, this type of “after” poem tends to be an homage to an older work (or sometimes a contemporary one), though it can also be an argument with that work. To echo what others have said in this roundtable: it is a conversation, loving or otherwise. In saying “after,” there is a response, an engagement with “before” or “beside.” Again I suggest doing your research and checking. And consider how these words are residing with(in) yours. Is it a certain type of phrasing, type of syntax you’re bringing in? Or is it entire lines? Why? To what degree have you transformed that borrowed language by putting it into a new context? Sometimes, borrowing is a helpful step in a process of imitation—it gets us to a new draft of a poem. But then perhaps we need to take another step: shedding that outer, borrowed layer of language and style, to get closer to our own skin, or closer to the thing we are trying to touch.

EKA: Recently in the poetry community, we’ve seen an author use “after” to plagiarize work of other poets, lifting lines and using a sort of “mad libs” formula in what they called their own work. But there are plenty of successful response poems out there. What are some that you have seen, and how do you think they are successful?

JO: I’ll probably get booed for using this, but there’s a Billy Collins poem I go back to frequently – “Litany.” Collins writes a poem in response to these lines by Jacques Crickillon, “You are the bread and the knife, / The crystal goblet and the wine.” He does something very funny and somehow touching in the poem, but I think the main thing I’d say is that I always trusted that the lines Collins writes—after quoting Crickillon—are his lines, and that the only thing he’s imitating is the general structure of “you are the [insert inanimate object here].” This is, to my mind, above-board and obvious. I’ve trusted Collins’ poem for 16 years. I’m now wondering—should I have trusted it? And how did Jacques Crickillon feel about it?

TM: One of the things that comes to mind right away are epigraphs. Poets love epigraphs, and of course it’s always attributed with at least the author’s name, but when those epigraphs are deployed, are we not immediately responding to the quote? I think that’s a successful form of response. There’s books like Chase Berggrun’s R E D, which is a negotiation and erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Berggrun’s poems have no added text, and I believe, only some slightly altered punctuation. The order of words doesn’t change throughout. Berggrun has written, in effect, a whole book “after” Stoker. The key difference is transformation.

Once upon a time, I studied fanfiction and fan communities. In those spaces, fanworks were considered “transformative works,” which means that though some form of content or framework was derived from original material, in its reproduction it was transformed. E.g., the Twilight movies as source material for a fanfic called “Master of the Universe,” which in turn would go on to become Fifty Shades of Grey, is considered transformed. Part of this discourse involves “archontic” literature” or literature from an archive. Everything is part of a larger archive, so Romeo and Juliet is in the archive of Pyramus and Thisbe and West Side Story belongs to the Romeo and Juliet archive. Fan Scholar Abigail Derecho borrows the term “archontic” to describe fan literature from Derrida who wrote, “By incorporating the knowledge deployed in reference to it, the archive augments itself, engrosses itself, it gains in auctoritas. But in the same stroke, it loses the absolute and metatextual authority it might claim to have. One will never be able to objectivize it with no remainder. The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.”

I’m digressing a bit, but what I mean to say is that in something like fanfiction, which lifts characters, or erasure poems, which lifts text, the key point is dialogue and transformation. The aforementioned poet who lifted lines and substituted words did neither. Transformation is not merely substituting “topography” for the original “landscape” (a near synonym), nor altering the line breaks within the poem. Duplication of connotation or sentiment is not creating dialogue, but rather co-opting that expression for one’s own use.

WD: The first response poem I ever came across was Ocean Vuong’s “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.” He wrote that it is both after Roger Reeves and Frank O’Hara. Both Vuong’s and Reeves’ versions are something like love letters written to themselves, but the original source material, Frank O’Hara’s poem “Katy,” had nothing to do with that. The line “Some day I’ll love Frank O’Hara” appears like it is actually spoken by someone else within the poem. Thus, these three poems seemed to me a good example of what a response poem should be: two people used a line from a poem to create new poems, ones with entirely different meaning and in their own unique styles.

CC: I love Aracelis Girmay’s “On Kindness,” after Nazim Hikmet … and also after Rassan, an important person (the poet’s partner?) who appears in the work. I’m fascinated by this mix of literary influence (referencing an older work by a dead poet from another country) and personal … is influence the right word, here? A beloved who acts with a kindness that moves the speaker deeply moves the poem into its core aliveness. Fullest, tenderest aliveness. And living in this poem by Girmay is Hikmet’s meditative way and love for kindness in (as?) action. But Girmay constructs an idiosyncratic life-world, her own: Brooklyn and Mother’s Day and a brownstone window. What a kindness, to be welcomed into this life-world. Read or reread this poem and listen to Tracy K. Smith (!!) read it (“On Kindness” was recently featured on her podcast The Slowdown): https://www.apmpodcasts.org/slowdown/2019/01/28-on-kindness/. And get the brilliant collection it’s from—Kingdom Animalia.

I also love Sarah Gambito’s “Rapprochement,” which borrows translated lines from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. I’m thinking of recent tweets from Phillip B. Williams—he offers a helpful distinction between borrowing language from older, widely recognizable sources versus borrowing language from contemporaries. The former, Williams suggests, has greater potential for transformation, since one would be carrying older handfuls of language into a new poem, likely set in a contemporary time. Gambito’s “Rapprochement” is a stunning example of this type of borrowing, taking lines from The Art of War and placing them in between (sometimes surreal) moments of immigrant struggle. As the poem progresses, Sun Tzu’s strategies for the battlefield sound more and more personal, more and more urgent, desperate, wounded.

What “Rapprochement” manages to show us is how the immigrant battle for dignity and safety begins far before arrival in the new country. There is preparation and preparation, and there is what no one could/should prepare for. Read or reread this poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/142183/rapproachement. And listen to Gambito read it: https://youtu.be/wgbWxYvt-Q4?t=264. And get the incredible collection it’s from—Delivered.

EKA: So we do have ways of referencing another piece of media—a poem, a song, a film, visual art—without stealing or appropriating. What do you think are good ways to do this?

TM: Allusions, which are side-references, I’d say. An allusion is subtle. It references but doesn’t copy. In Carolyn Forché’s poem “Mourning,” she calls the sea “wine-dark,” an allusion to Homer. In fact, she indirectly cites him by calling him one of “the ancients.” I’ve mentioned epigraphs above, of course, which pull into conversation the poem one is writing “after,” but includes none of the original work in the new poem, except maybe small allusions needed to rebut or continue discussion – a sort of “you once said, now I’m saying” situation. And perhaps you can go the cento/pastiche route as well. Look at TS Eliot. As much as his notes on “The Wasteland” aren’t quite reliable, he does source many of his references. As well, centos tend to cite their lines, creating a collage/cut-up of the lines. Again, though, that pastiche transforms the lines by putting them in direct relation to the other lines from different poets and transforms their meaning.

JO: From a practical standpoint, I think poets should take a different approach between using what Teo describes as the “archive” versus using the recent work of your peers. Quoting and referencing the archive, the words of Homer or Shakespeare, is safer, ethically, than quoting or referencing the present-day works of the poet next to you in the MFA program.

Most people recognize where “wine-dark sea” comes from; I’ve used “wine-dark streets” in a poem of my own called “Epic” and I didn’t cite the source, but I have a reasonable expectation that readers will know that I am quoting Homer, rather than trying to pass that description off as my own. With the poetic conversation you’re having with your contemporaries, I think a stricter standard of citation should be used; we should err on the side of respect and caution.

At this particular moment, I hope people are thinking about how syntax and sentence structure are part of a poet’s created object, whether or not syntax is strictly copyrightable. “After” poems should be in conversation, and mimicry isn’t really a conversation.

What is a conversation? Developing your own opinions, pulling from your own bank of images, saying something in your own words.

CC: As I said before, do your homework and give credit. Along with that, ask yourself the meta or critical questions: do I need to borrow this form or this language in these ways? Why? What am I adding to the history, the legacy, the larger/longer conversation of these words or ways of saying? Is this reference an homage or an argument or…? Whose art am I amplifying by citing them? Are there artists, people I would be harming by citing or borrowing from them, in this fashion? Ask and ask again.

EKA: I like what Chen says about asking. What is motivating the poet to write the poem? I think this is a good place to consider the “after” poem as a way to approach resistance or protest. A poem written in response to a quote or text (or another piece of art) that I find harmful or offensive or jarring is certainly going to be a different poem than one written in reverence of a poem or show or song. I feel like this is actually a really good place (but very much not the only place) where response poems can fit. In fact, we might even need this kind of response poem. The above ethical notions still apply, but one approaches this kind of poem from a different angle.


EKAauthorphoto2018-3.jpgE. Kristin Anderson is a poet, Starbucks connoisseur, and glitter enthusiast living in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture and Hysteria: Writing the female body (forthcoming). Kristin’s poetry has been published worldwide in many magazines and she is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night, 17 seventeen XVII and Behind, All You’ve Got (forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time, she worked nights at The New Yorker.

 

Teo HeadshotTeo Mungaray is a queer, chronically ill, latinx poet. He holds an MFA from Pacific University of Oregon and is pursuing his doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a co-founder and co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph. His poems have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Sycamore Review, Five:2:One Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. He has a cat named Lysistrata.

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWanda Deglane is a Capricorn from Arizona. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and attends Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published in Rust + Moth, Glass Poetry, L’Ephemere Review, Former Cactus, and elsewhere. Wanda is the author of Rainlily (2018) and Lady Saturn (Rhythm & Bones, 2019).

 

Jeanne Obbard_author photo_colorJeanne Obbard received her bachelor’s degree in feminist and gender studies from Bryn Mawr College, and works in clinical trial management. A 2001 Leeway Seedling Award recipient, her poetry has appeared in Barrow Street, Cider Press Review, IthacaLit, and The Moth, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart awards. She is a poetry reader for Drunk Monkeys, and can be found on the web at jeanneobbard.com.

Chen+Chen+by+Jess+Chen+copyChen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, the Texas Book Award for Poetry, and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. Bloodaxe Editions will be publishing a UK Edition in June. Chen’s work appears in many publications, including The Best American Poetry, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best of the Net, and Bettering American Poetry. He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and a PhD from Texas Tech University. He co-edits Underblong and teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Animul/Flame by Michelle Lewis

 

This selection comes from Michelle Lewis ’s poetry collection Animul/Flame, available from Conduit Books & Ephemera .  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Michelle Lewis of West Bath, Maine has worked as a writer, editor, teacher, and digital marketer. Michelle is the recipient of the 2018 Marystina Stantiestevan First Book Prize. Her poetry, reviews, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals, and her poetry has been collected in two previous chapbooks, The Desire Line (Moon Pie Press) and Who Will Be Frenchy? (dancing girl press). Lewis earned her M.F.A. from the Stonecoast Program in Creative Writing. She is a contributing writer for Anomaly. You can find out more about her at whitechicken.com.

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do} by Heidi Seaborn

 

This selection comes from Heidi Seaborn’s book GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do), available from Mastodon Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Heidi Seaborn is the author the award-winning debut book of poetry Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do} (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, March 2019), Editorial Director for The Adroit Journal and a New York University MFA candidate. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for nearly two dozen awards including the International Rita Dove Award in Poetry and published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Penn Review and Nimrod, a chapbook and a political pamphlet. She graduated from Stanford University and is on the board of Tupelo Press. heidiseabornpoet.com

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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Sundress Announces the Release of Leah Silvieus’ Collection, Arabilis

Sundress Announces the Release of Leah Silvieus’ Collection, Arabilis

Sundress Publications announces the release of Leah Silvieus’ collection, Arabilis. Through detailing her experiences with nature, religion, and violence, Silvieus finds that their underlying connections reveal much that goes unsaid.

arabilisArabilis integrates the ordeal of othering into the fundamental uncertainty of life to produce a collection that is honest in its pain, confusion, and joy. Beautiful and desolate as a rural upbringing, these poems delve into the complex relationship between the self and the indifferent world it inhabits. In this cogent work, the lonely thrill of existence is characterized by gunpowder, bone, and Bud Light empties. Presented through the perspective of a person of color adopted into a white family, this collection simultaneously acknowledges the senselessness of life and demands an explanation for it. Silvieus’ poems advance through the changing of the seasons, paralleling the introspective nature of youth and adulthood alike through an examination of faith, nature, and memory. Sacrilegious discourse is converted to sacred invocations as this collection examines the viscera of life and loss. Belying each poem is a tenacious grasping for answers to questions impossible to express, validating the intuition that though we turn to God, Earth, or another person, we may never receive a fulfilling reply. In the face of this apparent helplessness, these poems continue to stumble in the dark, reaching with the God-want of their hands, relentless in their search for that which might finally reach back.

Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament, says, “Arabilis … champions the idea of poetry as prayer. Each page Leah Silvieus writes holds a yearning that seems to ask how we can survive what we know of the world without losing the power of that knowledge no matter how traumatic it may be … This is a gorgeous debut!”

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Leah Silvieus is the author of Arabilis (Sundress Publications), Anemochory (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Season of Dares (Bull City Press). She holds a B.A. from Whitworth University and an M.F.A. from the University of Miami. She is a Kundiman Fellow and currently serves as Books Editor at Hyphen magazine.

Arabilis is available for order HERE.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do} by Heidi Seaborn

 

 

 

 

This selection comes from Heidi Seaborn’s book GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do), available from Mastodon Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Heidi Seaborn is the author the award-winning debut book of poetry Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do} (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, March 2019), Editorial Director for The Adroit Journal and a New York University MFA candidate. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for nearly two dozen awards including the International Rita Dove Award in Poetry and published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Penn Review and Nimrod, a chapbook and a political pamphlet. She graduated from Stanford University and is on the board of Tupelo Press. heidiseabornpoet.com

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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Teow Lim Goh Reads Three Poems by Ansel Elkins

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In this conversation poet Teow Lim Goh and I discuss three poems from Ansel Elkins’ first book, Blue Yodel. We talk about how a life can change when it’s put into words, and Goh recalls how her life changed when she began writing. Goh also talks about her current project, and about how Blue Yodel served as a model for Goh’s interest in persona and writing from the archive.  Thank you for joining us!

 

 

Teow Lim Goh reads “The Girl with Antlers” by Ansel Elkins:

Jessica Hudgins: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” is a fantastic line. It’s sort of like describing a poem’s tone, rather than identifying it as a sonnet or an elegy. How has Ansel Elkins’ work influenced yours?

Teow Lim Goh: The first time I read Blue Yodel, I was between projects, trying to figure out the approach and tone that I wanted to bring to my work. This book just blew me away. I’m not sure if I can put a finger on it, but I shall try: I think I am most drawn to the ambiguity of her stories. And I think of these poems as short stories in verse. She creates a dream-like mood and at the same time, she touches on something visceral and corporeal.

It strikes me that many contemporary poets write autobiographical free verse. I don’t have a problem with it per se – I enjoy a quite a bit of it – but it sometimes feels like an expectation rather than just one of many modes of poetry. It’s not my place to say whether Blue Yodel draws from Elkins’ life, but it reminded me that I don’t have to write about myself to be a poet.

I tend to write persona poems and draw many of my characters from history. My first book Islanders imagines the lost voices of the Chinese women detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in the San Francisco Bay – I joke that it is about current affairs. My second manuscript, which is currently in submissions hell, is based on the real story of a Chinese prostitute in Evanston, Wyoming.

I feel that I allowed more silence and ambiguity into China Mary than Islanders. I’m sure a part of it is the subconscious influence of Blue Yodel, but who knows.

Teow Lim Goh reads “Autobiography of Eve” by Ansel Elkins:

JH: What are some of your favorite moments in these poems?

TLG: “Autobiography of Eve” is one of my favorite poems, period. Elkins takes a well-known story – arguably, the creation story of Western civilization – gives Eve a voice, and turns the story on its head. She gives Eve her agency, and look how that changes everything:

I stood alone in terror at the threshold between Paradise and Earth.
There I heard a mysterious echo:
my own voice
singing to me from across the forbidden
side. I shook awake – at once alive in a blaze of green fire.

Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.

I leapt
to freedom.

“Devil’s Rope” is based on an old ballad, but here Elkins creates a sestina in the voice of the man who killed his girl Ruby. I like to challenge myself to write from unsympathetic perspectives, so I appreciate Elkins’ approach here, but more than that, she did it with an intricate fixed repeating form. I aspire to write a story in sestina form one day. Meanwhile, I reread lines like this:

In my own dreams I battle with the devil.
He and I could be blood brothers.
He leads me into the ground, down a pitch-black mine,
guides my hand over an earthern wall that spells your name, Ruby.
I touch the ember letters, leave my hand to bear the heat. Dawn
be damned, I will remain here, buried.

I have to say that Elkins’ stories are so intricately layered that it is difficult for me to pick selections from them. Her poems build on themselves:

The devil’s rosined bow begins to fiddle at dawn
as his brothers pick banjo. I carve your name in the stump below mine.
I’ll sing for you, Ruby, and lay you in the shade where the rooster’s buried.

Teow Lim Goh reads “Devil’s Rope” by Ansel Elkins:

JH: These poems each explore how a life can be changed by the words we use to describe it. The last two stanzas of “Autobiography of Eve” make a powerful point: change the speaker and a fall from grace becomes a leap to freedom. The mother figure in “The Girl with Antlers” says, “What you are I cannot say,” and lets the girl be uncategorized. Finally, “Devil’s Rope” is a song written for a woman, Ruby, by the man who has killed her. Was there a kind of watershed moment in your life when you realized the way that language can influence experience?

TLG: In some ways I think of my life as Before Writing and After Writing. I was a math major in college and began writing after I graduated and went into the workforce. Looking back, I was in a place where I felt powerless. I did not have the language to describe even simple everyday things, much less the complexities of my own experiences. It was survival instinct that led me to the glorious struggle of making language.

This much I know: my memories are much sharper and deeper After Writing. I really don’t remember a lot of my life Before Writing. The verifiable facts I know; it is the texture of that life I find elusive. Last fall I spent a weekend in Nashville. It was my second time there – the first was Before Writing – and I felt as if I had never been to the city before. My husband, who was my boyfriend on that first visit, talked about the things we did and the places we went and the only thing I could remember was that we watched the Rockettes at the Opry.

Writing gives a shape to my thoughts and experiences. It has enabled me to reclaim my agency and take charge of my life. And I am beginning to reap these benefits.

JH: Have you adapted other texts, as Elkins does with “Devil’s Rope,” into your work?

TLG: As I have said, I often write from history, which means that on some level or another, I am adapting other texts. In Islanders, I drew on the poems the Chinese men wrote on their barrack walls. (There are no records of poems the women might have written, as their barracks was destroyed in a fire.) I did not even attempt to imitate the classical Chinese lyric form of the original wall poems, but I used some of their images and emotional moments.

I also dug into a trove of oral histories with former female detainees. Many of the most harrowing stories in my book are drawn from the records; I could not make them up even if I tried.

I am currently trying to write about the 1885 Chinese Massacre in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I have a box of archival documents: speeches, newspaper articles, and even telegrams between Union Pacific officials and the Wyoming territorial government. I haven’t quite decided how I want to handle it, but I am leaning toward incorporating direct quotes into the verse. There is a bleak and ironic poetry in these source texts.



Teow Lim Goh
is the author of Islanders (Conundrum Press, 2016), a volume of poems on the history of Chinese exclusion at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Her work has been featured in Tin House, Catapult, PBS NewsHour, Colorado Public Radio, and The New Yorker. She lives in Denver.

Read three poems from China Mary at Diode
Read Teow Lim Goh’s Essay “On Borders and Citizens” at Catapult
Purchase Islanders at Conundrum Press

Ansel Elkins is the 2014 recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, judged by Carl Phillips. Her work has appeared in several publications, including Virginia Quarterly Review, Oxford American, and Boston Review, and has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Discovery/Boston Review Prize. Elkins currently serves as visiting assistant professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Read “The Autobiography of Eve” at Poetry
Read Ansel Elkins’ poem “Tornado” at Oxford American
Purchase Blue Yodel

Jessica Hudgins is a writer and teacher currently living in Mansfield, Georgia.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do} by Heidi Seaborn

 

 

 

This selection comes from Heidi Seaborn’s book GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do), available from Mastodon Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Heidi Seaborn is the author the award-winning debut book of poetry Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do} (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, March 2019), Editorial Director for The Adroit Journal and a New York University MFA candidate. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for nearly two dozen awards including the International Rita Dove Award in Poetry and published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Penn Review and Nimrod, a chapbook and a political pamphlet. She graduated from Stanford University and is on the board of Tupelo Press. heidiseabornpoet.com

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do} by Heidi Seaborn

 

 

This selection comes from Heidi Seaborn’s book GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do), available from Mastodon Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Heidi Seaborn is the author the award-winning debut book of poetry Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do} (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, March 2019), Editorial Director for The Adroit Journal and a New York University MFA candidate. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for nearly two dozen awards including the International Rita Dove Award in Poetry and published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Penn Review and Nimrod, a chapbook and a political pamphlet. She graduated from Stanford University and is on the board of Tupelo Press. heidiseabornpoet.com

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do} by Heidi Seaborn

 

 

 

This selection comes from Heidi Seaborn’s book GIVE A GIRL CHAOS {see what she can do), available from Mastodon Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Heidi Seaborn is the author the award-winning debut book of poetry Give a Girl Chaos {see what she can do} (C&R Press/Mastodon Books, March 2019), Editorial Director for The Adroit Journal and a New York University MFA candidate. Since Heidi started writing in 2016, she’s won or been shortlisted for nearly two dozen awards including the International Rita Dove Award in Poetry and published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Penn Review and Nimrod, a chapbook and a political pamphlet. She graduated from Stanford University and is on the board of Tupelo Press. heidiseabornpoet.com

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed:View from the North by Sara Henning

 

 

 

This selection comes from Sara Henning’s book View From True North, available from Southern Illinois University Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Karen Craigo.

Sara Henning is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently View from True North, which won the 2017 Crab Orchard Poetry Open Prize and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in fall 2018. Her other collections include A Sweeter Water (2013), as well as two chapbooks, Garden Effigies (dancing girl press, 2015) and To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012). In 2015, she won the Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize, judged by Alberto Ríos. She has published poems in several journals and anthologies, most notably Quarterly West, Crab Orchard Review, Witness, Passages North, RHINO, Meridian, and the Cincinnati Review. She also has a record of publication in fiction and nonfiction, with flash fiction and lyric essays published in journals such as Connotation Press, where she appeared as featured author for the September 2016 issue, and 4 PM Count, a journal associated with the Arts Endowment’s interagency initiative with Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons in Yankton, South Dakota. Sara lives in Nacogdoches, TX, where she teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University and serves as poetry editor for Stephen F. Austin State University Press.

Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress titles: Passing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016). She is a newspaper editor in Marshfield, Missouri.

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