Tag Archives: national poetry month

National Poetry Month with Les Kay and John Ashbery

To celebrate National Poetry Month, our authors talk about the work that has influenced their writing, reading, and publishing goals and proclivities.

Les Kay holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati’s Creative Writing program and an MFA from the University of Miami. His poetry has appeared in a variety of literary journals including Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Stoneboat, Menacing Hedge, Third Wednesday, Santa Clara Review, The White Review, PANK, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Michelle, three dogs, and their collective imaginations. His chapbook, The Bureau is forthcoming from Sundress Publications

A Brief Reflection on John Ashbery’s Houseboat Days. Or, How I Became This Poet. Sort Of.

If you subscribe to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics, you’ll grant me this somewhat narcissistic assertion: somewhere, in parallel, or more likely, in many wheres, I am an expert on Ashbery’s poetry who successfully convinces university administration, year after year, to let him teach undergraduates an entire semester devoted solely to Ashbery’s work. Here, however, I am taking a respite from writing corporate instructions to share a memory and a fantasia or two with you.

The lecture halls at the closest university are filled only with sleepy students learning integration as I return, hesitantly, to when I first read Houseboat Days. To say that nothing in my experience prepared me (a junior in college studying Creative Writing) for the book is an understatement. I was befuddled. So befuddled that I sought help from friends who lived in the basement apartment beneath mine—a Computer Engineering major and a Creative Writing major.[1] I showed them the reason I was rattled enough to bang on their front door, interrupt their approaching dinner, and beg for help: “Daffy Duck in Hollywood.”  I asked them both to read the poem, to help me understand the mad persona poem and its collisions of “high” and “low” art.

Both—bless them—willingly did the former; neither, alas, could manage the latter. For me, that singular experience shaped many of the reading experiences that followed. Houseboat Days is a singular book, unlike any I’d read before or since. It is a hybrid of languages—though almost all of them are English, technically speaking. It is, occasionally, an ars poetica. It is, often, an excursion into the occasional, a journey into the unconscious, and a cavorting through consciousness itself. It is, if I remember correctly, fragmentary in that it offers us glimpses of so much more.

I do not doubt that Ashbery and I would disagree, perhaps vehemently, on what that “so much more” entails, but that is beside the point. Rather, what matters is the field of possibility that Ashbery’s poetics can open up. The multiple identities he helps us see within ourselves and, concurrently, in the psyches of all of those around us. This mind numbingly humbling vastness of human experience is the point, or my point. Even if, as in “Daffy Duck in Hollywood”—there is so very much experience to which I—or should I say “you”—do not have access.

And along the way, the weather changes. We change. And, here and there, we find beauty—whatever that means. This morning, while fearing the early summer flash of yellow jackets on my front porch, I reread “Daffy Duck in Hollywood.” I still do not entirely know what it “means,” but now I do know—thanks to Houseboat Days—that not knowing is integral to our collective experience. And that not knowing—at least not yet—belongs in poetry. Experience that poem for yourself 


[1] And Michelle Kay is her name. She married me—even after that.

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National Poetry Month with Sarah Ann Winn and Gertrude Stein

sarahwinn-headshotTo celebrate National Poetry Month, our authors talk about the work that has influenced their writing, reading, and publishing goals and proclivities.

Sarah Ann Winn lives in Fairfax Virginia. Her poems have appeared or will appear in Bayou Magazine, [d]ecember, Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, and RHINO among others. Her chapbook, Portage, is available from Sundress Publications. Her life as a poet-free-range-librarian-workshop-leader is a hybrid work in progress. Visit her at bluebirdwords.com or follow her @blueaisling on Twitter.


On Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein

I opened the book: its small size foolery, its tom-secrethood. It was one thing first and then another. One one one. Only one thing, crowded. It opened, then opened again inside. Fractal. It made perfect unsense. I was redheaded in my mind, I was stepchild stephooded, little red, little wolf, tamed. This wolf-worded woman who never knew me, who died long before I came around, she wrote around and around, sometimes en francais. She gulped me down and I bellyswam. I didn’t want to be cut free.

from Tender Buttons, “Objects,” (excerpted)


Nickel, what is nickel, it is originally rid of a cover.

The change in that is that red weakens an hour. The change has come. There is no search. But there is, there is that hope and that interpretation and sometime, surely any is unwelcome, sometime there is breath and there will be a sinecure and charming very charming is that clean and cleansing. Certainly glittering is handsome and convincing.

There is no gratitude in mercy and in medicine. There can be breakages in Japanese. That is no programme. That is no color chosen. It was chosen yesterday, that showed spitting and perhaps washing and polishing. It certainly showed no obligation and perhaps if borrowing is not natural there is some use in giving.

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National Poetry Month Poetry Playlist: Virginia Smith Rice’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from one of our Sundress authors, Virginia Smith Rice!

Here are two Tranströmer poems. He has been an incredible influence on my work, and these are two (of the many) that continue to resonate with me throughout the years.

Tomas Tranströmerfrom Friends, You Drank Some Darkness,  tr. Robert Bly


2am: moonlight. The train has stopped
out in a field. Far off sparks of light from a town,
flickering coldly on the horizon.

As when a man goes so deep into his dream
he will never remember that he was there
when he returns again to his room.

Or when a person goes so deep into a sickness
that his days all become some flickering sparks, a
feeble and cold on the horizon.

The train is entirely motionless.
2 o’clock: strong moonlight, few stars.



I have been walking a while
on the frozen Swedish fields
and I have seen no one.

In other parts of the world
people are born, live, and die
in a constant human crush.
To be visible all the time – to live
in a swarm of eyes –
surely that leaves its mark on the face.
Features overlaid with clay.

The low voices rise and fall
as they divide up
heaven, shadows, grains of sand.

I have to be by myself
ten minutes every morning,
ten minutes every night,
– and nothing to be done!

We all line up to ask each other for help.



Virginia Smith Rice will be reading from her debut collection tomorrow at 7PM at Powell’s Bookstore in Chicago!





Virginia Smith Rice earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University, where her poetry manuscript, “One Voice May Survive the Other,” received the Distinguished Thesis Award. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, in 2River View, Denver Quarterly, Rattle, Southern Poetry Review, Stirring, Stone Highway Review, Superstition Review, and Weave, among others. She was the Assistant Poetry Editor at TriQuarterly, and currently works as an art teacher in Woodstock, IL. Her first full-length collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever, was published by Sundress in 2014.

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National Poetry Month Playlist: Andrew Koch’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from Sundress Assistant Editor Andrew Koch!


So, it’s obviously really difficult to track down the poems that are one’s most favorite or have been most influential, right?  Are we all together on that one?  I mean, there are So Many Poems, you guys.  There are also so many factors that could impact one’s writing that sometimes it’s hard to discern if it was poetry that left that flavor in your mouth or if maybe you’re still just hungover.  On any given day, for instance, it can be hard to distinguish between accidentally drinking spoiled milk and, say, reading Robert Frost.  Or maybe, between an especially foul bout of indigestion and Billy Collins.  Who’s to say?!

For another example, I just stumbled upon this poem the other day called “Symptomatic” by Nick Lantz and I think it might be one of the best poems I’ve ever read.  However, spring just recently sprang where I live and all the dogwoods are blooming, so, there’s that.  The poem strikes a seemingly impossible mix of moods between heartbreaking, pathetic, humorous and endearing.  Also, it somehow pulls off using a parking garage as a compelling metaphor.  While it’s not a sonnet, the final stanza seems to be something of a ‘turn’ that is striking in its brute force but also strangely fitting for a poem that deals with making the best out of what you have.

Symptomatic by Nick Lantz


I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Hass’ “The Problem of Describing Trees” is the most generous poem about the shortcomings of poetry ever written.  Ever.  On the chart of ‘favorite’ versus ‘influential’ this one is definitely higher more on the latter than the former.  But I think that’s also part of the point of this poem.  The line “It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us” is probably the first line of poetry I read that became a personal mantra.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it was the wind in the trees that stirred your creative juices, or if it was the poem about the wind in the trees that did it.

The Problem of Describing Trees by Robert Hass



Andrew Koch is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee with a BA in creative writing. He’s had work published in Mojo and a piece forthcoming in you are here. In the fall of 2014, Andrew will be attending the MFA program at Eastern Washington University.

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National Poetry Month Playlist: Margaret Bashaar’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from Sundress author and Stirring poetry editor, Margaret Bashaar!


The poem I read that made me want to write poetry FOR REAL was “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot


And then when I was maybe 15 I read “Ecstatic” by Yusef Komunyakaa and almost died of poetry love.


Joy, use me like a whore.
Turn me inside out like Donne
Desired God to do with him.
Show me some muscle,

Sunlight on black stone.
Coldcock me about the head
Till I moan like a bell, low
As the one Goya could hear

Through the walls of
Quinta del Sordo.
Tie me up to the stocks those Puritans
Handled so well in Boston streets.

Don’t let me down. I beg
You to use all your know-how
In one throttle. Please, good God,
Put everything into your swing.


And it’s not so much a single poem, but Frank X. Walker’s book When Winter Comes was hugely influential to me when writing Stationed Near the Gateway. His use of voice is superb and it remains one of my favorite books of poetry.



And then there was that time I sat on an airplane and sobbed while reading Rowing and The Rowing Endeth by Anne Sexton while everyone looked at me funny.

Rowing by Anne Sexton

The Rowing Endeth by Anne Sexton


Margaret Bashaar’s first full-length book, Stationed Near the Gateway, is due from Sundress Publications in 2015. Her poetry has been previously collected into two chapbooks, Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel (Blood Pudding Press) and Barefoot and Listening (Tilt Press), as well as in many literary journals and anthologies including Rhino, Caketrain, New South, Copper Nickel, and Time You Let Me In. She lives in Pittsburgh where she edits the chapbook press Hyacinth Girl Press and is a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine.

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National Poetry Month Playlist: T.A. Noonan’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from SAFTA’s Literary Arts Director and Sundress Publications Associate Editor T.A. Noonan!

“America,” Allen Ginsberg
Picture it: I’m a high-school freshman reading Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Frost. I flip through my textbook and find “America.” My mind was blown. (Seriously, I didn’t even know you were allowed use the word “fuck” in a poem before reading Ginsberg.) This poem was the first to make me realize that there was so much about poetry I didn’t know and needed to find out.
“Angels of the Love Affair,” Anne Sexton
Pure invocation, this is easily my favorite Sexton poem and one of the most influential poems of my life. I’d read “Her Kind” at eighteen or so and thought, Okay, she wrote about witches. Maybe I can do that, too. But it was “Angels of the Love Affair” that convinced me that the stories I wanted to tell with The Bone Folders were worthy.
“Fall,” Robert Hass
I was lucky to take an independent study in Contemporary Poetry as an undergraduate, and this was the very first poem we read there. It still resonates, reminding me simultaneously of childhood and marriage, fear and delight.
“To Judge Faolain, Dead Long Enough: A Summons,” Linda McCarriston
Another piece introduced to me in the aforementioned independent study, “To Judge Faolain, Dead Long Enough: A Summons” was the first poem addressing domestic abuse I’d ever read. To this day, the last few lines strike me as the most brutal curse ever committed to paper.
War Music, Christopher Logue
It almost feels like cheating to pick this, as it’s a multi-volume project. Still, Logue was the first to get me to rethink the nature of translation, and I really have a thing for book(s)-length projects.
Nox Anne Carson
Another cheat. Really, I could pick anything from Anne Carson. I’ve made no secret of my intense love affair with her work. That said, this book moved me to tears from the moment I saw it. No mass-market book I own will ever be as beautiful. No elegy will ever feel as real.
T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently four sparks fall: a novella (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2013) and Dress the Stars (Dusie Kollektiv, 2013). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming inReunion: The Dallas Review, Hobart, Ninth Letter, specs, Delirious Hem, Phoebe, and more. A weightlifter, crafter, priestess, and all-around woman of action, she will be moving to Knoxville in January 2014 to serve as the Literary Arts Director for the Sundress Academy for the Arts.
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National Poetry Month Playlist: Jennifer Jackson Berry’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from author Jennifer Jackson Berry!

I’ll Write the Girl by Jan Beatty
Jan Beatty is a teacher, a mentor, and a friend.  She has been a strong supporter of my work.  I love so many of her poems, but this one is a favorite.  We need to write what we need to write, and this poem speaks to that.

Eating Together by Li-Young Lee
I had to choose a poem to memorize & recite from the collection The Rose by Li-Young Lee for an undergraduate workshop class I took at the University of Pittsburgh with Toi Derricotte.  I didn’t see the point, so I was going to skip.  I was having dinner with a friend before the evening class, and he (always the more conscientious student) forced me to do the assignment.  It helped that he memorized it with me over Sbarro slices.  It was the first time I paid such close attention to every word.  It was a worthwhile experience, and I can still recite the poem.

I Am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca
This was one of the readings at my wedding.  It will always hold a special place in my heart.


Jennifer Jackson Berry lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and works as a claims adjuster for a mass transit bus line. She has taught high school English, as well creative writing and composition at the post-secondary level. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Stone Highway Review, 5AM, Main Street Rag, Jet Fuel Review, Amethyst Arsenic, and Mead, among others. She is the author of the chapbooks When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications, forthcoming in 2013) and Nothing But Candy(Liquid Paper Press, 2003). She holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University’s MFA program. She is an active member of the Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange.

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National Poetry Month Playlist: Chris Petruccelli’s Picks


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from Stirring editor, Chris Petruccelli!

Carroll-Hackett’s poem is a reminder of what I want out of place–a familiarity that runs deep enough to be knowledgeable with something called spikenard. The poem also reminds me of issues I’ve been dealing with lately (i.e. desire of place, creating a sense of place in people and the danger therein).

Among the Things He Does Not Deserve by Dan Albergotti

I discovered the Albergotti piece around when my partner and I broke up. I saw myself as the he who doesn’t deserve anything and that was particularly harrowing. At the time, it was what I needed to read and I like to think the poem spurred me into some much needed critical self-assessment.
Chris Petruccelli is a graduate student at the University of Missouri. He earned his BA in geography at UT and claims eastern Tennessee as home. He likes to drink whiskey, smoke cigarettes and study forest dynamics. His poetry has appeared in Josephine Quarterly, Connotation Press, and Gingerbread House Literary Magazine.
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National Poetry Month Playlist: Donna Vorreyer’s Picks!


To celebrate National Poetry Month, our Sundress editors are sharing some of their favorite poems, most influential poems, and poems that they are really digging right now. Put them all together, and you have the Sundress Poetry Playlist!

Today’s picks come from author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications 2013), Donna Vorreyer!

Jack Gilbert’s “Michiko Dead
Jack Gilbert’s “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

Until I was introduced to “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart” in a class I was taking with poet Katie Ford, I had appreciated poems but never really been stunned by one. You know, the take off the top of your head kind of stunned, as Dickinson says. It taught me that image, even if it isn’t perfectly clear or explained, has a power that exposition will never have. That a poem can speak to both the heart and the head. And it has become a sort of ars poetica for me- what better explanation of poetry is there than “How astonishing it is that language can almost mean, and frightening that it does not quite.”

After being introduced to Jack Gilbert by Katie, I immediately went and bought The Great Fires, which has become the book I read over and over to keep trying to unlock its beauty. “Michiko Dead” is both heartbreaking and ordinary, just like loss is in life. It explains the ongoing and uncomfortable nature of grief as something we never truly put down or away. It’s also one of the best teaching examples of metaphor. The simple language in the complex extension of the metaphor make it ideal for the teenagers I teach.



Donna Vorreyer is the author of three chapbooks:Womb/Seed/Fruit (Finishing Line Press), Come Out, Virginia (Naked Mannekin Press), and Ordering the Hours (Maverick Duck Press). She is a poetry editor forMixed Fruit, and her work has appeared in many journals, recently in Sweet, Linebreak, Rhino, Cider Press Review, Stirring, and Wicked Alice. Donna lives in the Chicago area where she teaches middle school and therefore often acts like she is twelve years old. Her first full-length collection, A House of Many Windows, was published by Sundress Publications in 2013.
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National Poetry Month Book Giveaway!



That’s right, friends! Sundress Publications is giving away two books for FREE in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month!

As you may have heard, the month of April is National Poetry Writing Month! What better way to celebrate NaPoWriMo than by giving away some free inspiration in the form of some of our most-loved books of poems?

Our blog, along with many other blogs across the web, is partnering with The Book of Kells and giving away our books in celebration of this special month! The goal is to share our favorite poets with each other as well as encourage you all to visit different poetry-loving blogs and see who other people are reading (and enter ALL THE GIVEAWAYS for more chances to win!).

Here at Sundress, we are giving away David Cazden’s The Lost Animals and a copy of our beloved boss lady Erin Elizabeth Smith’s most recent collection, The Naming of Strays.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment below with your name, e-mail, and your favorite poem/poet, and you’ll be in the running for one of these books!

You have the rest of the month to comment and enter, and on May 1st we will randomly select 2 winners!

Happy NaPoWriMo!

Now, shouldn’t you be writing something?

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