Tag Archives: poetry

An Interview with Sundress Chapbook Author, Lauren Eggert-Crowe

 

Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of Bitches of the Drought which was named runner-up in the Sundress chapbook contest of 2016 and was subsequently released this year. Of the chapbook Kate Durbin said, “Bitches of the Drought is Rocky for riot girls—all ecstatic anger and beat-him-to-the-punch puns.” Eggert-Crowe talked with our intern, Cheyenne L. Black, about the unique speaker of this chapbook, feminism, and the dance of writing, among other things.

Cheyenne L. Black: Congratulations on Bitches of the Drought. This is your third solo chapbook, correct? Do you see them as related projects?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, it is my third solo chapbook and my fourth altogether. Interestingly enough, I don’t see the chapbooks as related projects at all. Except that there is some overlap in the timing of when I wrote some of the poems. My chapbooks are all pretty independent from each other. I would like to do a series of interrelated projects someday though.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little bit about why you’ve pursued this format and if you plan to continue writing chapbooks?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I actually know some writers with even more chapbooks than I have! Lisa Ciccarello is the first name to come to mind.

For me, the chapbook seemed like a natural and obvious first step for publishing a poetry collection. I knew people who were publishing these small, ephemeral, and beautiful collections from indie presses. Friends from grad school, writers I knew tangentially, were publishing chapbooks before their first full-length [collections].

I think I will continue to make chapbooks, even if I publish a full-length collection someday, because I like the flexibility of the format. Chapbooks are good opportunities for experimentation in language, form, and production style. They’re some of my favorite objects to hunt down and collect at the AWP book fair.

Cheyenne L. Black: Tell me a little about Galatea’s Pants (GP). You produced this zine for 11 years, right? Did your long running zine have an effect on the writing you were able to produce as well? How formative to your current work was GP?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I started making ‘zines when I was 16 years old, and the last issue of Galatea’s Pants came out when I was 28. It started out as a personal/hodgepodge ‘zine of collages, essays, poetry I liked, quotes from my friends, etc.

In 2003 it sharply changed direction and became a very political ‘zine during the years of my radicalization and activism against the Iraq War, and it continued halfway through the Obama years, with certain issues dedicated to one topic, such as labor rights or immigration. It spanned three presidential administrations.

That’s the project I dedicated the most time to over the years, and I would say it shaped my approach to creative work, design, community, and feminism.

Basically, I self-published until I was ready to start working with gatekeepers and publish in other outlets. I no longer wanted my poetry to stay in limited distribution in these personal ‘zines. It was time to close that chapter after eleven years. But making ‘zines throughout my teens and twenties was a good way to keep myself committed to getting my thoughts on paper.

Cheyenne L. Black: Let’s return to the chapbook. In Bitches of the Drought, in the poem, “I Came Back to Shake the Sand Out” you write about the proprietary arm of a partner and then move to “but I was the one / who asked, is this okay?” And likewise in other places in Bitches, you ask questions and probe at the roles of the speaker. Is she questioning her own role within relationships in general? What role does feminism play in her sense of herself?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: That’s an interesting question. I would say feminism is inseparable from all of my poetry, whether or not I am consciously thinking about it while writing, because feminism is inseparable from myself. I think the speaker in the poems weaves between tremulousness, muted depression, and aggression, but I suppose you’re right, there is always a questioning tone behind it all.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk a little more about your speaker? She has these wide arcs to her that are just wild and amazing to read and experience vicariously. How do YOU characterize her?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: She’s a bitch, or she wants to be. She tries to be and often fails. She’s angry but lethargic, but defiant, but also very romantic.

Cheyenne L. Black: What was the process of writing this speaker like for you? Did it bring up connections to your own life?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The process was cathartic but also circular. All [of] this time I was writing, I didn’t feel like I was actually writing. I thought I was making these poetic exercises that weren’t going anywhere. I certainly was connecting with my own life and sometimes I had a line here or there that I liked, but for the most part, I felt like I was off my game. Sometimes the process felt wild and all over the place. Sometimes it felt very controlled.

Cheyenne L. Black: What do you really love about this chapbook?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I love the atmosphere I was able to create with some of the images. I think I managed to nail it with a handful of metaphors. I love that the speaker gets kind of sassy and flippant and uses foul language or internet slang. I am proud of myself for trying to make poems that didn’t necessarily have a conclusion or clear meaning. I mostly love that it came out of a year of writing in which I didn’t think I was actually writing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Is a year pretty typically your time-frame for your larger projects? How much of that is spent in active writing and how much is spent in revision?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: It varies. In the Songbird Laboratory was a shorter version of my MFA thesis from grad school which I had worked on for a few years in school, and then shelved for five years, and then lightly edited before submitting to dancing girl press. The Exhibit was written in a burst of creative inspiration over one summer and fall, and pretty much immediately submitted to Hyacinth Girl press. Rungs and Bitches of the Drought, and the chapbook I’m currently working on, were written over a few months and then subjected to years of editing.

Cheyenne L. Black: Can you talk about your process a little bit? Were the poems for Bitches written in roughly the same time-frame then?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: The bulk of the poems were written in the same year, and then I forgot about them for awhile until I came back to them to try to organize them into a chapbook. That’s generally my process for poetry lately. I write when I don’t think I’m writing. Then I come back to it and realize I have some decent material. Then I added a few other unpublished poems that were written about three years earlier because I felt that they fit the theme.

Oddly enough, the title is the first thing that came to me, months before I started writing many of the poems in the chapbook. Sometimes that happens. Titles flash in my brain first and then I try to follow them.

Cheyenne L. Black: So it sounds like your titles are more than street signs pointing to the poems, but rather are a kind of content marker or even content generator?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: Yes, I think that makes sense.

Cheyenne L. Black: You spoke earlier about the effort to make poems that didn’t conclude or have clear meaning. What led you to want to move in that direction?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I really want my poetry to be multivalent, and I have this feeling that as soon as you make it obvious what the poem is “about,” you have killed the poem. I want my poems to feel more like dancing than walking, and dancing is a form of movement that relies on expression and interpretation.

Cheyenne L. Black: You’ve released three chapbooks, one of those a collaboration, and now another chapbook, in just a few years. Are you writing constantly?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: I’m not! I really wish I were. The chapbooks I have created have come from a time when I was writing almost every day for a month or so. Imagine what I could make if I sustained that effort for a year or more. I think I am moving in that direction though.

Cheyenne L. Black: What are you working on now? Can you give us a line or two? A sneak-peek?

Lauren Eggert-Crowe: A collection (maybe chapbook, maybe full-length), the bulk of which is from poems I wrote in the summer of 2014 and then left alone for three years. As of now, they are all going to be untitled. Here’s a sneak peek:

I leave places like it’s going out of style
Trash on the ficus-broken sidewalk
Women slapping each other on TV
Hyphenated hoods and the interlopers in their cars
The dust comes into my house and never leaves
My feet charcoal the sheets, my bird-pecked
pomegranates swinging like lanterns beyond the curtain
Where are you dark and gleaming

 

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Lauren Eggert-Crowe is the author of three previous chapbooks: Rungs, (co-authored with Margaret Bashaar), In the Songbird Laboratory, and The Exhibit. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, DUM DUM Zine, horseless review, Springgun, Sixth Finch and DIAGRAM. She is the Reviews Editor for Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and she serves on the leadership team for Women Who Submit.

Cheyenne L. Black is the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate in poetry and a former Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others.

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Announcing VIDA Residency Fellowship Winners

sundresslogoSAFTA Presents VIDA Fellowship Winners,
Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris

Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the VIDA fellowships for the fall residency period, Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris.  SAFTA paired with VIDA, a research-driven organization aiming to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture, to offer these fellowships for two women writers in any genre.  The full scholarship was awarded to Hera Naguib and the fifty percent scholarship was awarded to Elina Mishuris.  Idra Novey served as the judge for this year’s VIDA Fellowship.  

hera.jpgHera Naguib is a poet and teacher based in Lahore, Pakistan. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College through the Fulbright Scholarship Program and her M.Litt in Literature in English from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Hera’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, World Literature Today, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Spillway, among others.

 

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Elina Mishuris is a writer and translator living in New York. She received an MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University in 2016, and a BA from the Gallatin School at New York University in 2011. Currently an English Editor at Morningside Translations, she was previously a teaching fellow in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia, and a Writing Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in
BOMB, Guernica, The Southeast Review, Slice, and Brooklyn Magazine.  In 2016, she was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize.

Applications for spring residencies at SAFTA are now open and can be found at our website.

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The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ residency on a 45-acre farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers, actors, filmmakers, and visual  artists. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.

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Poets in Pajamas with Karen Craigo

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Announcing the Newest Episode of Poets in Pajamas,
An Online Reading Series from Sundress Publications

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the next episode of our online reading series, Poets in Pajamas. Poets in Pajamas is a free online reading series that connects readers and writers around the world. Utilizing Facebook Live allows for people to participate in a bi-monthly reading series regardless of location through the internet. Author Sam Slaughter will host. This coming episode, airing on Sunday, June 18th, 2017 at 7 PM ET, will feature poet Karen Craigo.

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Karen Craigo is the author of the poetry collections No More Milk (Sundress, 2016) and Passing Through Humansville (forthcoming, Sundress, 2018). She also has a new chapbook, Escaped Housewife Tries Hard to Blend In (Hermeneutic Chaos, 2016). She maintains “Better View of the Moon” a daily blog on writing, editing, and creativity, and she teaches writing in Springfield, Missouri. She is the nonfiction editor and former editor-in-chief of Mid-American Review, as well as the interviews editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Sam Slaughter is a spirits writer for The Manual living in the New York City area. His work has or will appear in Bloomberg, InsideHook, Thirsty, and Tales of the Cocktail. He is also the author of the chapbook When You Cross That Line and the story collection God in Neon. He can be found online @slaughterwrites and www.samslaughterthewriter.com.

Our featured poets will read for 15 minutes, with an addition 10-15 minutes of audience questions. The readings will take place on Sundays at 7PM ET, twice per month. Visit our website for information about upcoming readings.

 

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Sundress Academy for the Arts & Lambda Literary Now Accepting Applications for Spring Artist Residencies

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Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is excited to announce that they are now accepting applications for short-term artists’ residencies in creative writing, visual art, film/theater, music, and more. Each residency includes a room of one’s own, access to a communal kitchen, bathroom, office, and living space, plus wireless internet.

The length of a residency can run from one to three weeks. SAFTA is currently accepting applications for our spring residency period, which runs from January 1st to May 6th, 2018. The deadline for spring residency applications is September 10th, 2017.

For the spring residency period, SAFTA will be pairing with Lambda Literary to offer two fellowships (one full fellowship and one 50% fellowship) for a week-long residency to LGBTQIA+ writers of any genre. Lambda believes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQIA+ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published and read. All applicants to the two fellowships must identify as LGBTQIA+.  Partial scholarships also available to any applicant with financial need. This year’s judges will be Wren Hanks, Noh Anothai, and librecht baker.

The SAFTA farmhouse is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,000 in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities.

The residency bedrooms are 130 sq. ft. with queen-size platform bed, closet, dresser, and desk. There is also a communal kitchen supplied with stove, refrigerator, and microwave plus plenty of cook- and dining-ware. The office and library have two working computers—one Mac, one PC—with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. The library contains over 800 books with a particularly large contemporary poetry section and, thanks to the Wardrobe, many recent titles by female-identified and genderqueer writers. The facility also includes a full-size working 19th century full-size letterpress with type, woodworking tools, and a 1930’s drafting table.

To apply for the Sundress Academy for the Arts residency, you will need the following:

-Application form (including artist’s statement and contact information for two references)
-CV or artist’s resume (optional)
-Artist sample (see website for more details on genre specifications)
-Application fee of $15 or $10 for current students (with student email) payable online*

For more information, visit our website: http://www.sundressacademyforthearts.com/
or find us on Facebook, under Sundress Academy for the Arts
or on Twitter, @SundressPub

 

*Application fee will be waived for those applying for the Lambda Literary scholarship who demonstrate financial need. Please state this in your application under the financial need section.

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Lyric Essentials: Lindsay Tigue Reads “Water Sign” by Margaret Hasse

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Chris: Welcome to Lyric Essentials, where writers and poets share with us a passage or poem which is “essential” to their bookshelf and who they are as a writer. Today Lindsay Tigue reads “Water Sign” by Margaret Hasse.

This is a neat little poem you’ve shared with us today, Lindsay. When I looked up this poem for reference I found that it was published in a series of three poems about this Charlie character at Verse-Virtual. What can you tell us about these Charlie poems and Margaret Hasse’s work in general?

Lindsay: This is perhaps a bit of a digression, but I feel I need to explain my introduction to this poem. I first encountered Margaret Hasse and this poem in 2009. I heard her read it as part of a panel at AWP in Chicago. It was my first AWP and I was in the midst of my first failed attempt at applying to MFA programs (I didn’t get into a program until my second try a year later).  This poem meant a lot to me, partly for its insistence on this final image, for the way it re-sees a child’s mistake as abundance and beauty.

I was mostly writing fiction at the time, but Hasse’s use of this image reminded me of a prose ending I was working on. I had written poetry in the past and would end up returning to it during my MFA program a year later. I don’t really remember thinking of myself as a poet at this time at all. I don’t remember thinking of myself as a writer even; I was at AWP in a work capacity as an editorial assistant at a nonprofit publisher. I went up to Hasse in the bookfair after the panel to buy a book and my friend told her I was a poet and she wrote “To Lindsay, fellow poet” in my book. The timing of that simple message provided a buoying feeling of hope as, similarly, this poem does for me.

Margarat Hasse is a Minnesota-based poet and the author of five books of poetry. This poem comes from her book, Milk and Tides (Nodin Press, 2008), which includes several poems dealing with motherhood and adoption. The series of poems in Verse-Virtual were reprinted from the book and all feature the character of “Charlie,” the speaker’s son and speak to the experience of mothering a child at various stages.

Chris: By the end of this poem I feel like I’m reading something both cute and innocent, but also something dark and sinister. I can’t quite put my finger on it though—the final lines I feel like they take the slightest twist. What do you make of the ending of “Water Sign”?

Lindsay: I do see something complicating the celebration in this poem. There is a bit of violence in the suggestion of play between Charlie and his brother  “who spray tomatoes with the intensity / of fire fighters at a five alarm fire.” There is also the acknowledgement that Charlie’s enthusiasm is “inconvenient” and it is the narration that suggests the mother and brother have to check their reaction in order to admire Charlie’s unrestrained love of the water he pours through the floor. There is acknowledgement of intensity in this poem and also the nod to the self as source of some of the world’s forces.

Chris: You mentioned that “Water Sign” provides you with a feeling of hope. How do you see the poem achieve that emotion? Are there other elements of “Water Sign” make it essential to you as a writer?

Lindsay: For me, there is hope in this re-seeing the speaker undertakes. It suggests an enlarged empathy, an enlarged love for the world. For me, another essential element of this poem is the title, the way it points toward astrology lends a layer echoing differences in character or temperament. The way the meanings of the title expand out delicately was a strategy that was really useful for me when thinking about titles.

Chris: In addition to “Water Sign”, what other Margaret Hasse poems should our readers look for? What would be on your Hasse must-read list?

Lindsay: Other poems to check out include “After I Tell Four-Year-Old Charlie the Story of His Adoption, He Counters with His Own Version” and “What It Is Like for Me This Fall.”
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Lindsay Tigue is the author of System of Ghosts, which was the winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, is a finalist for the Foreword INDIE Poetry Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Julie Suk Award. She writes poetry and fiction and her work appears in Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, Rattle, diode, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other journals. She was a Tennessee Williams scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a James Merrill fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, and a former graduate assistant at the Georgia Review. She is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University and is a current PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. She is originally from Michigan and now lives in Athens, Georgia.

Chris Petruccelli is sometimes a park ranger, sometimes a teacher, and takes what he can get the rest of the time—but he manages to stitch it all together. Chris is the author of the chapbook Action at a Distance (Etchings Press) and his poetry appears in Appalachian Heritage, Connotations Press, Nashville Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Still: The Journal, and elsewhere. Chris recently started the Alola island challenge with his Rowlet. In his free time, Chris enjoys drinking whisky and smoking cigarettes with older women.

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Sundress Academy for the Arts Announces Writing Retreat for Survival and Healing

Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to announce its first annual generative writing retreat celebrating survival and healing on June 24th and 25th. This two-day retreat for sexual assault survivors at SAFTA’s Firefly Farms will be a safe space for creativity, generative writing exercises, discussions on ways to write trauma, advice on publishing, and more. Come join us in mutual support for a weekend of writing time for healing, safety, and comfort.

A weekend pass includes one-on-one and group instruction, writing supplies, food, drinks, and all on-site amenities for $75.  Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are available to rent.

The event will be open to writers of all backgrounds and provide an opportunity to work with many talented, published fiction writers and poets from around the country, including Beth Couture, Heather Knox, Krista, Cox, and Jennie Frost.

Beth Couture is the author of Women Born with Fur (Jaded Ibis Press). She received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Center Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. She currently lives in Philadelphia and is completing a Master’s degree in Social Work at Bryn Mawr College.

Krista Cox is a poet, paralegal, and single mother of two living in Northern Indiana. She edits for Stirring: A Literary Collection and Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and she runs Lit Literary Collective, a nonprofit that celebrates and elevates the literary arts in her local community.  Her work has been or will be published in Columbia Journal, Rappahannock Review, and the Indianola Review, among other places in print and online.

Jennie Frost is a queer poet from Maryville, TN. She is currently the Writer-in-Residence and Literary Arts Director at Sundress Academy for the Arts where she works closely with visiting writers and a herd of sheep. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Border Crossing, Kudzu, Glass Mountain, Indicia, Stirring, and more. She is a dedicated member of the LGBTQ+ community and created the first Sexual Assault Prevention program at her alma mater, Tusculum College, where she studied Title IX closely and presented her Honors Thesis, “Sexual Assault Prevention: Research, Implementation, and Re-Creation in Small, Liberal Arts Colleges.”

Heather Knox is the author of the poetry collection Dowry Meat (Words Dance Publishing) and the forthcoming YA fiction series Vampire Wars (EPIC Escape). Her poetry has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, [PANK], decomP magazinE, Word Riot, Thrush Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Heather currently teaches online for The Poetry Barn and Southern New Hampshire University and serves as Managing Editor for The Wardrobe.

We have two full scholarships available for the retreat as well as limited 20% scholarships for those with financial need. To apply for a scholarship, send a packet of no more than (8) pages of creative writing along with a brief statement on why you would like to attend this workshop to Erin Elizabeth Smith at erin@sundresspublications.com no later than April 30th, 2017. Scholarship recipients will be announced in May.

Space at this workshop is limited to 16 writers, so reserve your place today.

For more information, find Sundress Academy for the Arts on our websiteFacebook, or Twitter.

 

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2017 AWP Roundtable 4: Hybrid Practice: Poems in Space, Double Ekphrasis, and Art Outside the Silos

 

The following is the fourth in our series of outstanding AWP panels that were not selected for participation in the conference but deserve to be heard. Today, we’re featuring five multidisciplinary artists, Amaranth Borsuk, Genevieve Kaplan, Addoley Dzegede, Cole Lu, and Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer.

First, tell us a bit about your work and how you’d describe your practice. 

Amaranth Borsuk: I consider myself a poet working with text’s materiality, both on and off the page. My practice spans interactive media, installation, performance, and book arts—I make text-based art in whatever form the work seems to call for.

My interest in materiality comes through in an attention to sound, the use of found material in some cases, and particularly in my construction of artists’ books and ephemera that put the book’s form and content in dialogue. I’m especially interested in the intersection of print and digital media, and the materiality of the digital—something I began to explore in Between Page and Screen (Siglio, 2012; SpringGun, 2016), a book of augmented reality poems created with Brad Bouse. The pages do not contain text, but rather abstract shapes, that, when shown to your webcam, make poems pop up in 3-d space. The poems are written as a series of playful epistles between P and S, two lovers trying to make sense of their relationship, as well as concrete poems that use the language of their letters. We chose to use augmented reality because it requires the viewer to have both a print artifact and a digital one—enacting a dialogue between the two.

That book started as a limited-edition artists’ book and then became a trade edition, but I continue to have a book arts practice, creating small edition works that conceptually integrate form and content. I collaborated with the artist Carrie Bodle this spring on a sound art installation that reflects on the historically vexed relationship of poets and scientists with the moon, treating it as a passive reflector in the sky. In the gallery, visitors standing between two industrial megaphone-style speakers heard a sound poem passing back and forth between them—a call and response between Earth and the Moon in which we can feel their pull on one another.

We extended that project this summer in a limited-edition volvelle that uses our sound poem, a word ladder (one word per line, with only one letter changing in each line), to create a lunar calendar that doubles as a poetry generator. We gave these away at a couple of public participatory performances that were part of the Henry Art Gallery’s Untuning of the Sky, a series of events in relation to the night sky. There, the circular dial of the volvelle allows the reader to see a single word of the poem paired with a lunar phase for the month, and as the dial is turned, both the poem and the moon change incrementally. In the center of the dial, openings reveal words from a cento composed of lines from poems about the moon, with which one can create one’s own poems. In performance, the 31 or so participants seated inside the James Turrell Skyspace, Light Reign, became those 31 lunar phases—their faces in the dim light ringing the space.

Volvelle-Front

Lunar Volvelle

Genevieve Kaplan: I’m primarily a poet, but I have a background in letterpress printing, weaving, and book arts. For the most of my poetic career I’ve practiced a more traditional poetics of-the-page –specifically the 8 ½” x 11” printer page. Recently, in a bit of writer’s-block-funk, I found myself returning to some more hands-on book-arts techniques as a way to escape that funkiness: I used cut and folded book forms to jump-start my drafting process, I hand-set and hand-stamped a series of short poems, I created a group of miniature poem-books. In these works, my final intention wasn’t to write a poem or to make books, but to think about the creation of the book or poem object as an extension of and complement to my drafting and writing processes. As I worked, I became more interested in exploring the relationship between the act of writing and the act of creating objects, and in thinking more deeply about writing—and potentially reading—as a physical, visual, and tactile event.

All of which has led to my current project, a series of woven broadsides. I don’t have a letterpress, but I do have a loom. So, I took the printed broadside—the poem as art object, to be both read and displayed, to be hung on the wall—as inspiration, and I began. For this project, I sew the letters on a line of ribbon to form words and phrases, creating a poetic line, and then I weave the ribbons/lines together to create the poem. The final iteration will eventually be a tactile, inviting, mostly-legible series of sewn and woven one-of-a-kind poetic broadsides.

Addoley Dzegede: My work is project-based and idea-driven, investigating notions of home, belonging, hybrid identity, and existential migration, which I express through a multitude of forms—ranging from  interactive projects and videos to artist books and textiles.  I create works that are meant to entice viewers to pause, and to question commonly held ideas about what it means to belong. Using both personal and public archives, I contemplate the forces of history, experience, and location, and how they essentially work together to tell a story of longing as a state of being.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer: I maintain a hybrid practice of poetry, critical writing, and visual work, which is sometimes collaborative (see below). I am primarily a poet, but I studied sculpture, photography, and writing, so I consider everything an act of making. Writing doesn’t give the same satisfaction as the physical labor of sculpture, but it scratches the same itch. I’m also working on a bunch of picture book manuscripts and a YA thriller.

 

How do you use language as material and/or material as language?

Amaranth Borsuk: While working on artists’ books and ephemera, I also continue to write poems for the eye and ear—my most recent book, Pomegranate Eater (Kore, 2016) is full of word play and etymological experiment (a recurring interest) as a means of getting personal material I otherwise wouldn’t say into a poem. In particular, the book opens with a series of poems addressed to different fruit in which I think of myself as being on both sides of the conversation—an approach to interrogating myself for my assumptions, privileges, and self-representation. I find I’m often trying to write into language as sonic texture, sometimes without worrying about meaning so much as feeling.

In Abra (1913 Press, 2016), a collaboration with Kate Durbin, this comes about through a long and baroque poem that mutates as you progress through the book. As you turn the pages, the poem animates like a flip book, heaving itself open and shut in a way that is supposed to be erotic and grotesque at once. While the book’s themes—excess, mutation, fecundity, hybridity—are clear, the text doesn’t behave as though it wants to communicate something specific to the reader. It mostly wants to blossom and collapse in the reader’s hands. We collaborated with the poet and artist Ian Hatcher on a free app through a grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts that makes it possible for readers to mutate the text further, using their fingertips to prune the poem and graft new language into it. From a feminist standpoint, this seems to be what Abra was trying to do all along: push itself off the page and away from our authorial control over it. That’s what we started from—a sense that language is material and that it belongs to the reader.

Genevieve Kaplan: Johanna Drucker defines an artist’s book as a book “which is a record of its own making” (The Century 191), an idea I continually return to; I’m fascinated by the notion of presenting the poem as a record of its own making, which I think may also mean 1) allowing the audience to participate in the poem as it unfolds and 2) presenting the creation of the poem as a worthwhile labor-intensive pursuit. These goals are tangential, but potentially integral, to presenting the poem as a beautiful object to experience.

If what I’d like is the poem as a type of record, one question I’d like to answer is how best to record it. I think I’m getting there. In part because this sewing and weaving process is so time-consuming, and because I’m allowing myself to be consumed a bit by it, the sewing time becomes also a time to allow myself to think and reflect: on the letter, on the word, on the poem, on the project, on the process. I’m very interested here in making the poem as tactile as possible – not just for me, but for the reader as well. I want the space of the poem to be a physical space that can be entered, the fuzz of the yarn to be an invitation to experience.

Which is where I’m beginning to answer this question. Yes, the letterforms, the words, the lines—phrases that existed before only in the non-space of my head, or on the two-dimensional space of the page—when woven literally become material; they become three-dimensional, they become cloth, and they hold together.

nothing, to watch the weeds grow

I think the poem, for a non-poet or non-reader, can be a little daunting to enter. By creating the poem as a visual and tactile material, in contrast to creating the poem on a page or in a book, I’m inviting a different, softer type of interaction.

Addoley Dzegede: A lot of my work comes out of time I have spent abroad, nearly always merging these international experiences with materials that speak to both my identity (which I always bring with me) and the specificity of the location. I try to incorporate some aspect of the country’s language into my work, and by language, I also mean material as language. In Finland, the spongy, mosquito-filled forest was a kind of language that found its way into my work. But I was also interested in the way the Finnish language uses compound words to form new words…how kahden (the two of you) and kesken (between) marry to become kahdenkesken (in private). It seemed appropriate then to make a video (titled Failure to Communicate) where I cut up lines from a 1970’s Finnish book on romantic relationships. Given the length of Finnish compound words, the majority of lines in the book required a word wrap. My main criteria for selecting a line of text was that it was whole, which resulted in an absurd text which is read aloud by the computerized voice of Google Translate in English.

More recently, in Iceland I made ceramic versions of the historic wooden bread boards I saw in an Icelandic turf house museum. Text is carved backwards into the material to create a mirror image that imprints a proverb onto the bread dough. I can’t read Icelandic, especially when it’s backwards, so I chose an English proverb (the crow went traveling abroad and came back just as black) and a Ghanaian one (when the snail travels abroad it finds shelter with the tortoise), both referring to travel and ideas of home.

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Breadboard with proverb carving

I often use hidden or double meanings when titling my work. “Duly Noted” becomes “Dually Noted,” referring to Du Bois’s “Double Consciousness,” and most recently, “Farewell” (the title of my most recent exhibition) became “Fare well,” opening the word up to more possibilities than “goodbye.”

Cole Lu: I have always been restless in my interest and realization in language. I am aware how I use language (collage or appropriate it) as a visual artist opposes to a person who writes art (poet). I see language functions several levels in my making— as it continually goes back and forth between meaningful and material. I started my visual art practice with photography after having completed a degree in linguistics. A photographer is someone who draws with light, writing and rewriting the world with illumination and shadow; a linguist is someone who scientifically studies language and its structure. I learned how visual meaning was constructed after I devoted myself to artmaking, realizing that perspective focuses everything on the eye of the beholder.

The blindness of earlier social understanding is the result of my addiction to the language in the making. Before I understood language beyond gender; social status, physical ability and disability, and cultural and national borders, I was viewing language purely as a tool for communication. My earlier work parses communication and miscommunication through various mediums and gradually evolves into language that speaks of the identity of minorities, in racial, gender politics, and geographic marginalization.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer: My poems are foremost concerned with sound—I can’t begin a poem if I don’t hear the musicality of it first. That said, I find that my ear grips onto often distinctly unmusical bits of language—the idiosyncratic cadence of the human utterance, especially if it’s something ordinary and idiomatic and plain. All of the poems in Cleavemark were prompted by the cadence of someone else’s language. Sometimes it was Bible verses, which my grandmother (who we called Nan or Nanny) was forever scribbling onto scraps of paper and napkins. Those can be crushingly musical or excruciatingly dull. Other times, it was from movie dialogue that I’d hear a hundred times. Like this scary live action thriller Disney made in the 80s called The Watcher in the Woods—the girl in it has visions and utters these simple little phrases: It hardly ever happens you know or It’s nearly too late. In all of the language, there’s an urgency and often a plangency to the sound—someone is going to die unless you stop it (and, BTW, you can’t stop it). I like to play with the frankness of speech and the baroqueness of sound. Language has to be a lure, whether it’s a warm handholding, or someone dragging you through fire.

 

Do you ever work collaboratively, especially with people outside your genre? Please describe. 

Amaranth Borsuk: As you can probably tell, I spend much of my time working collaboratively. Before Pomegranate Eater, I published As We Know (Subito, 2014), a book-length erasure collaboration with Andy Fitch, who writes more prose than I do—he has a couple of books published by Ugly Duckling Presse that involve narrated walks, which I love. For our project, I selectively erased portions of his redacted diary. The resulting voice is, we hope, a collaged speaker—a bit of both of us, but also neither. Given how popular erasure has become, we wanted to draw attention to its act of silencing, which to us seemed a useful way to intervene into the history of male editors heavily manipulating (and taking credit for) the work of female authors. We also wanted to create a work of non-fiction that points to how constructed even the most unmediated-seeming writing—a person’s daily journal—really is. Based on what we chose to leave in from the redacted passages, you get a sense of someone shaping themselves for a reader’s eyes, but also deeply neurotic about how they come across.

I am not a programmer myself, so my digital projects also draw on the expertise of others. In addition to enabling me to create work that I otherwise couldn’t, I’m drawn to these collaborations because they teach me to see the work from a different perspective and help circumvent some of my assumptions about what it is I do. I’m always highly aware of how my gender, race, class, sexuality, and other factors situate me, and I seek collaborators who help to keep me honest with myself. My other digital collaborations include an erasure bookmarklet, The Deletionistwith Nick Montfort and Jesper Juul, which generates erasure poems from websites; and Whispering Galleries, another work with Brad Bouse, which uses a gesture-based controller to sense reader’s hand movements, allowing them to manipulate the text of a historic diary and reveal whispers from the past.

Addoley Dzegede: I have worked collaboratively with three poets: Phillip B. Williams, Justin Reed, and Aaron Coleman, and with a PhD candidate in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology, Cameron Evans. I also work collaboratively with Lyndon Barrois Jr. as LAB:D. These projects come out of conversations we have and the places where we find overlaps in our work. With Cameron, for example, we made a silent video, Misperception, on the subject of implicit bias, using clips from film and television, and providing duck-rabbit cards directing viewers towards Harvard’s Project Implicit. With Phillip, in Conversation: Tree and Cotton, we merged his poem with my animation of black hair, some of it his own and some of it mine.

Cole Lu: I work collaboratively with various artists, writers, designers and curators for curatorial aspect or as part of a program in predominately institutional-based project, which is very different from the collaboration that I had in my work. The desire to write in the English language is accompanied and nearly drowned by an opposite desire: the desire not to write in the English language. As a person who reads written text fanatically almost like a disease, the entropic tendency of both wanting and resisting to composing a piece regarding written text has always been a driven force for collaboration. It never happened easily, it almost always occurred as an accident, as stumble upon a piece of written text or a visual work and felt propelled to work with that particular person collaboratively.

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Cole Lu, For the Longest Time I Remembered, 2016

Two of my collaborative works are composed in the distance and also with artists who are (mainly) outside of my genre. Palimpsest (2013) is a piece that I collaborate with Philadelphia-based fiction writer Dolly Laninga; the piece is essentially a fictional correspondence, through the erasure of the last two pages of “Love (Puberty)” by Andy Warhol in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975). Oops// All Ball Sad Bad (2016) is a composition of digitally printed photo, headline vinyl letters, and a 10 x14-inch Utility Mailer. The piece is made after Beth Caird, a Melbourne-based artist and writer, for a text piece she produced during “Common Characters,” a project by artist Heman Chong. It was a 24-hour workshop that took place at Artspace, Sydney as part of The Bureau of Writing by the 20th Biennale of Sydney. I am currently working on a new video piece for future collaboration.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer: I often collaborate with visual artists. Sometimes it’s on expected projects, like illustrated books, which I’ve done with Jeff Pike (Strangers with a Lifeboat) and am hoping to do with this project I worked on with Jana Harper and her mother, Joie Bourisseau, that Yew was kind enough to publish online. Harper has worked with this cache of cloud images that her mother, who suffers from Bipolar I, and I wrote a series of ekphrastic poems inspired by those images and my discussions with Jana about her relationship with her mother. I write a lot of ekphrastic pieces, and I work that way visually, as well. The sculptural installation Cleavemark Drive that I collaborated with Cheryl Wassenaar on was based on the poems in Cleavemark, so that wound up being a kind of double-ekphrastic. I’m really eager to do more of that, but where I’d write the initial ekphrastic, and then hand it over to a visual artist to make a piece based on the poem based on the art. Like a game of operator. Except art operator. I love the back and forth between artists. When Cheryl and I were installing Cleavemark Drive, she had what I thought was an INSANE idea to paint one of the walls a bright, dark blue. Cheryl is a color genius, but I really couldn’t see it. Until she painted it. And then I was like, ohhhhhhhhhhh. Cheryl often works with text, so she took the text of my poems and visually reinterpreted them on the gallery walls in cut vinyl lettering, and I visually reinterpreted them in domestic objects and materials, like spools and soap and pickling salt. We also letterpressed some of the text into the sugar, and I’ve done another video (The Mouse in Me) with that technique in salt. We’re hoping to do a second iteration of this piece, but we need to find the right venue for it.

 

Schlaifer-Wassenaar from Cleavemark Drive

From Cleavemark Drive 

 

Who and what is influencing your work and your thinking the most right now? Where do you see your work going in the next five years? 

Amaranth Borsuk: My research into the history and future of the book will probably continue to trickle into my work over the next five years. I’m thinking a lot about sound lately, and working with it where I can.

What is perhaps most influencing me is the work of the contemporary poets and artists I am reading as I seek models of how to make work in this scary, bleak time. I’m most looking forward to a symposium my colleagues and I put together that will take place at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at UW Seattle this February—Affect and Audience: Activist Poetics. We began work on it last year, and it feels even more urgent to me now to hear our participants—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Carmen Gimenez-Smith, C. Davida Ingram, Dawn Lundy Martin, Kai Green, and Layli Long Soldier—speak about their work. I’m grateful to and inspired by my collaborators in this event, micha cárdenas and Sarah Dowling.

Genevieve Kaplan: Certainly many poets and artists are influencing my current work: Johanna Drucker, Susan Howe, Cecilia Vicuña, Jen Bervin, Jen Hofer, Jill Magi, Emmelea Russo. My fellow panelists. In particular, the poets and artists who are exploring and questioning ideas of “work” and materiality – how to justify taking up the space in the world to write the poem, how to present the poem as something built and scaffolded and fought for, something simultaneously meaningful and inviting.

An artist friend of mine recently suggested “letters of the poem as big as a head,” which is an idea I’m intrigued by – beyond this current broadside project, I’m looking forward to thinking about the sewn/woven poem on a larger scale. More billboard than broadside, the poem as forcible—but soft, inviting, woven—encounter, a sort of (more or less) pleasant entrapment.

Addoley Dzegede: Right now, as always, my work is influenced simultaneously by my current circumstances and location in a constant conversation with my ever present past.  I’m thinking a lot about Ghana, and how long it has been since I have been there. As a place where so much of my identity and history is tied, I feel the strong need to stay connected to it materially, as time increasingly fades my memories of times spent there and people who are now lost to me.  Some of my newest work is coming out of West African traditions like kente weaving and adire, as well as the very hybridized history of wax prints.

In the next five years, I hope that I will get another opportunity to live and make work abroad, long term. While I have always felt a sense of foreignness about my identity in the US despite being an American all my life, I revel in truly being a foreigner and find that the work I can make in other countries has a sense of playfulness that I am unable to conjure while stateside. That may also have to do with just being away from the preoccupations of daily life, away from US-style bias and racism, and more, but I think there is definitely a feeling of freedom that I get from being overseas. In the next five years, my main goal would be to remain open, to continue to be responsive to place and conditions I find myself in, to live and make fearlessly.

Cole Lu: My new work always came from the residue of my old work, the work that is required as a point of departure, a place of contemplation. It mainly generates from my desires, and my desires generate from what I read, what I watch, what I listen, and who I talk to. Language has always been a persistent existence, as the form required its presence, visually or spatially. Lately, I had an installation debuted in June 2016 that contains my personal library, from a general point of view, books shapes, creates and participate our cultural mythologies, and can be used as an archive for a past incident, or a reminder of the memories being forgotten. I see the library as a self-portrait, and I am interested in the idea of copy, to create a library from a library as a fictional self-portrait out of the original. I am also working on an installation as a continuation of a project that I did which related to Asian culinary culture and philosophical absurdities, and a piece for a cartoon based on Finnish literature. It is almost impossible for me to predict my work even three months from now, though I had a concrete plan, it usually changes as it goes. I hope in the next five years my work can build a new vocabulary that explores the intersectionality, the richness, and the complexity of our culture, and hopefully the capable to generate the act of self-reflection.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer: Obviously the current political climate is at the forefront of my brain, and it’s already making its way into my work. Those poems come out fast and urgently. I’ve never been a prolific writer or maker, but these are dangerous times. The kind that say sit your ass down and respond. I’m always influenced by whatever music I’m listening to, and I tend to listen obsessively. For a while it was The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, and I still listen to the albums my sister introduced me to when she was in art school—Peter Gabriel’s Passion, the soundtrack to Tout Les Matins Du Monde. And Bach. I played piano, so I’ve been pre-programmed to perk up to that. I’ll always have my go-to favorite dead writers—Moore, Bishop, Celan, Eliot, Rich, Plath—but the living writers whose voices really guide me, those push me in a different way (present company included)—Bridgette Lowe, Jessica Baran, Jeff Hamilton, Shane McCrae, Robyn Schiff, my thesis advisors from grad school, Claudia Rankine, Cole Swenson, and James Galvin, and many others. Claudia and John Lucas’ video work, too. That’s been hugely influential. And visual work—highbrow, lowbrow—everything. Everything tethered to acute observation. As for where my work is going: I want art to be bigger and more present. I want it to be important as a value. I want it to be un-cloistered and brave and more authentic. So I’m working for that.

 


Amaranth Borsuk is a poet, scholar, and book artist whose work encompasses print and digital media, performance and installation. Her books of poetry include Pomegranate Eater (Kore Press, 2016); As We Know (Subito, 2014), an erasure collaboration with Andy Fitch; Handiwork (Slope Editions, 2012); and, with Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (Siglio Press, 2012), a book of augmented-reality poems. Her intermedia project Abra (trade edition 1913 Press, 2016), created with Kate Durbin and Ian Hatcher, received an NEA-sponsored Expanded Artists’ Books grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts and was issued in 2015 as a limited edition hand-made book and free iPad / iPhone app. Her other digital collaborations include The Deletionist, an erasure bookmarklet created with Nick Montfort and Jesper Juul; and Whispering Galleries, a site-specific LeapMotion interactive textwork for the New Haven Free Public Library. Amaranth is currently an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, Bothell, where she also teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics.

Addoley Dzegede is a Ghanaian-American interdisciplinary artist based in St Louis. Her practice is idea-driven, mixed media, and through a combination of words and images, investigates notions of belonging, home, location, and identity. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe, and she has been an artist-in-residence at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland, Foundation Obras in Portugal, and Nes Artist Residency in Iceland, as well as a post-graduate apprentice at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. She received a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art, and was awarded a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship at Washington University in St Louis, where she completed an MFA degree in Visual Art in 2015. Recent exhibitions and screenings include In Deep Ecology at Tenerife Espacio de las Artes in Spain; Now & After ‘16, at The State Darwin Museum in Moscow, Russia; 2015 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase Experimental program at the Tivoli Theater in St Louis, Missouri; Fare Well at Fort gondo  Compound for the Arts in St Louis; and the triennial Concept/Focus, at the Hardesty Art Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Recent awards include a grant from the John Anson Kittredge Fund; an honorarium from the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition; a Creative Stimulus Award from Critical Mass for the Visual Arts; a St. Louis Regional Arts Commission Artist Support Grant; and a Graduate Student Grant for the Mellon Vertical Seminar: The Role of Arts Practice in the Research University at Washington University in St Louis.

Genevieve Kaplan is the author of In the ice house (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the A Room of Her Own Foundation‘s poetry publication prize, and three chapbooks: In an aviary (Grey Book Press, 2016); travelogue (Dancing Girl, 2016); and settings for these scenes (Convulsive Editions, 2013), a chapbook of continual erasures. She lives in southern California and edits the Toad Press International chapbook series, publishing contemporary translations of poetry and prose.

Cole Lu is an artist and curator. She received her MFA from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St. Louis. She holds a B.A. in linguistic from Ming Chuan University, Taipei Taiwan and A.A. in Japanese in Jinwen University in Taipei, Taiwan. Lu is known for her varied, multimedia practice, which articulates the subject of a contemporary, fragmented identity. She uses text, installation, sculpture, and video to explore the complex layers of what is lost in the era of digital communication. Her work has been included in exhibitions throughout the US, UK, Brazil, Greece, Mexico and Taiwan. Lu’s work has been exhibited at venues including the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (St. Louis, MO), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO), Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (Grand Rapids, MI); The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), The Luminary (St. Louis, MO), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA), AHHA Tulsa (Tulsa, OK), Roman Susan (Chicago, IL), Westminster Press (St. Louis, MO), Fort Gondo compound for the arts (St. Louis, MO), CENTRAL BOOKING ARTSPACE (New York, NY), K-Gold Temporary Gallery (Lesvois Island, Greece) and Invisible Space (Taipei, Taiwan). Her videos and fine art books have been included in numerous national and international fairs and festivals including The 3rd New Digital Art Biennale – The Wrong (Again)FILE: Electronic Language International Festival (São Paulo, Brazil), I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel (Basel, Switzerland) and Printed Matter’s New York & LA Art Book Fair (New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA). Additionally, she has been awarded the Concept/Focus Artist Award, and residencies at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY) and Endless Editions (New York, NY). Her Risograph publication, “SMELLS LIKE CONTENT” is in the public collection of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art Library (New York, NY). Her latest endeavor in The Soothing Center at Satellite Art Show (Miami Beach, FL) opens December 1st, 2016. She is the Assistant Director at the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts forum Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts.

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer is a poet and installation artist in St. Louis. Her debut collection of poems, Cleavemark, is just out from BOAAT Press. Schlaifer has an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her poems have appeared in Georgia Review, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Colorado Review, Fence, and elsewhere. Schlaifer was a semi-finalist for the 2015 Discovery/Boston Review Prize, and she was selected for Best New Poets 2015. She frequently collaborates with other artists, most recently with Jeff Pike on the illustrated chapbook, Strangers with a Lifeboat, and with Cheryl Wassenaar on the installation Cleavemark Drive. Schlaifer is a compulsive baker and also very handy with a pitchfork. Schlaifer’s work can be viewed at criticalbonnet.com

 

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Lyric Essentials: Nicole Rollender reads “A Summer Garden” by Louise Glück

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Chris: Welcome to Lyric Essentials where writers and poets share with us a passage or poem which is “essential” to their bookshelf and who they are as a writer. Today Nicole Rollender reads “A Summer Garden” by Louise Glück.

Nicole, there’s a lot to love in this poem. One of my favorite aspects of “A Summer Garden” is the play with time and space. I feel like Glück is a master at transporting the reader into specific psychological spaces and physical landscapes. What makes this poem stand out to you? Does “A Summer Garden” exemplify a specific quality of Glück’s work that you admire?

Nicole: For me, Louise Glück is kind of the über-narrator, and as you observed, a master at whisking the reader into suspended hyper-emotional spaces/physical spaces.

Back in 1975, Helen Vendler wrote a review in New Republic of Glück’s second book, The House on Marshland. This quote captures for me what’s so powerful about these complex narratives Glück has been composing for more than 40 years now: “Glück’s cryptic narratives invite our participation: we must … fill out the story, substitute ourselves for the fictive personages, invent a scenario from which the speaker can utter her lines, decode the import, ‘solve’ the allegory.”

What attracts me most to “A Summer Garden” is the narrator’s really overt attention to memory/nostalgia (which is a huge preoccupation in my own work), as in the first (“Indeed, dust covered everything: it seemed to me the persistent/ haze of nostalgia that protects all relics of childhood) and second parts (“the past is buried in the future”) – yet within this overtness and drama creates a sense of wistfulness/urgency/longing that doesn’t read as, “Oh, OK, we’ve heard this all before.” Also what Glück does well: She pulls us into familiar emotional landscapes (isolation from family, rejection from a lover, reckoning with our own mortality). I mean, she makes me care hard in this poem.

I get what’s happening here: You find a photo in a marked-up copy of Death in Venice of your mother who has since died, and you’re existing in this weird place of multiplicities, all different times, but against a summer garden. You’re going into the photo’s park/garden landscape and sitting with your mother; you’re remembering her alive then (maybe it was even before you were born); you’re remembering her right before she died, and in her moment of death. Yet, she’s really never totally alive and dead, since she exists within these multiple conscious spaces. And I think the idea, when we’re in certain places and moments of our lives, that we really feel like time and our lives are infinite – and then we look back at those times and remember.

One last thought: I’m obsessed with Czeslaw Milosz’s book Bells in Winter and the first poem, “Encounter,” where the narrator recalls with a certain wonder how he can recall a wagon ride during a winter dawn many years earlier with a friend, how they sighted a hare: Yet now, in the moment of recollection “Today neither of them is alive,/ Not the hare, nor the man …” It’s this particular gaze informed by the acute awareness’s of life’s temporality, which we all experience – it just depends to what hyper-aware degree. I’m just fascinated again and again by memory’s power to let us mingle again and again with the dead, but also how it teaches us how quickly our lives move away from the current moment.

Chris: The third section stands out to me in particular. It feels sparse, compared to the other sections, but also makes what feel like loud assertions—there’s the presence of the “immodest god” and at the end Glück invokes an ominous vibe with the mention of Pompeii. What do you think is being communicated with this sort of turn at this point in the poem?

Nicole: I remember back in grad school, one of my professors kept insisting that Pan was a real spirit that manifested most clearly at noon. I remember considering that as a possibility and the strange feelings it evoked in me. This third section echoes the moment I felt Pan’s presence: silent, no wind, very bright, behind me his shadow the only thing moving across the lawn. In this poem, the ominous sun/shadows and then super brightness it creates (“He must be very close/ the grass is shadowless”) communicate to me the relentlessness of how our lives move. Even as we stand young and lush under the noonday summer sun, Pan will exist as he is forever, as we are every moment passing away. Yet, as in Pompeii, where the ash shells of those humans’ final moments exist in a way, our tiny momentary triumph may be that we existed here – and that we realized our smallness, our transience, yet our place among the largeness of the universe and its change/immutability.

Chris: Is graduate school where you were first introduced to Glück’s work? And what was her influence like when you began reading her — was it immediate, or did it take time to get into Glück’s complex narratives?

Nicole: It’s funny: I can’t remember when Glück’s work came into my life. Does that mean I’ve never been without her? And her so many books? When I first awoke to poetry as a young teen, her books were among the first books I bought, along with those from Jon Anderson and Denise Levertov. I connected really quickly to Glück’s introspection/weaving narratives and an underlying melancholy or sort of understanding of mortality. Like, every minute you’re alive you’re also cognizant of death. I read Firstborn and The House on Marshland a lot, early on.

Chris: You mentioned Czeslaw Milosz earlier. Who else plays with memory/nostalgia in their writing that you admire? And, in addition to “A Summer Garden,” what are your must-read Glück poems?

Nicole: That’s such a good rabbit-hole of a question, since the use of memory and nostalgia is so important to me in poetry. But, here’s a short list of some poets and particular pieces that really resonate for me (of course, the list is always growing and shifting):

Ocean Vuong’s “I Remember Anyway” in Guernica

Kaveh Akbar’s “Unburnable Cold Flooding Our Lives” in TriQuarterly

Maggie Smith’s “Your Tongue” in Memorious

Ada Limon, “The Last Move” and “Relentless” from Bright Dead Things

Walt Whitman’s “Poem of Joys”

And same with Glück: I suppose it depends what day you asked me which poem of hers was essential to me. Today, it’s “For My Sister.” Before Glück was born, her sister died. She wrote in an essay, “Her death was not my experience, but her absence was. Her death let me be born.” People should read “For My Sister” in The American Poetry Review; these lines especially:
Now, if she had a voice,

the cries of hunger would be beginning.

I should go to her;

perhaps if I sang very softly,

her skin so white

her head covered with black feathers…
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Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (ELJ Editions, 2015), and the poetry chapbooks Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press), and Bone of My Bone, a winning manuscript in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Memorious, Radar Poetry, PANK, Salt Hill Journal, Thrush Poetry Journal, Word Riot and West Branch, among others. She’s the recipient of a  2017 poetry fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, and poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Princemere Journal and Ruminate Magazine. She earned her MFA in poetry at the Pennsylvania State University. She’s the editor-in-chief of Wearables and executive director of branded content & professional development at the Advertising Specialty Institute. In 2016, she was named one of FOLIO’s Top Women in Media. Visit her online at www.nicolerollender.com.

Chris Petruccelli is doing his thing, he guesses. Some new poetry recently appeared in Crab Fat Magazine. You can find his work in Appalachian Heritage, Cider Press Review, Nashville Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Still: The Journal, and elsewhere. Chris is still running and drinking whisky.

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Sundress Reading Series presents Andrea England, Minadora Macheret, and Clay Matthews

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Join us on February 26 at 2PM at Bar Marley for the February installation of the Sundress Reading Series!

Featured readings will include:

andrea-englandAndrea England is the author of two chapbooks, INVENTORY OF A FIELD (Finishing Line Press) and OTHER GEOGRAPHIES (Creative Justice Press). She has been a finalist for Four Way Books Levis Prize and Intro Prize, and has been awarded residencies from the Vermont Studio Center and SAFTA. Currently she lives and works between Kalamazoo and Manistee Michigan, where she works as an adjunct and serves as a board member to the non-profit organization, Friends of Poetry. More information about Andrea England and her poetry can be found at andreajengland.com.

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Minadora Macheret is a graduate student at Kansas State University, where she received the Graduate Poetry Award and Seaton Fellowship. Her poems received the Isabel Sparks’ Poetry Prize. Her work is forthcoming from The Deaf Poets Society and has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Rogue Agent, Connotation Press, and others. She lives in Manhattan, KS, with her dog, Aki.

clay-matthewsClay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Black Warrior Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Shore, was recently released from Cooper Dillon Books. His other books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), and Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon). He teaches at Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN, and edits poetry for the Tusculum Review.

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Lyric Essentials: Claudia Cortese Reads “Notes on Desire” by Eve Alexandra.

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Chris: Welcome to Lyric Essentials where writers and poets share with us a passage or poem which is “essential” to their bookshelf and who they are as a writer. Today Claudia Cortese reads “Notes on Desire” by Eve Alexandra.

Claudia, this is a wonderful and intense poem you’ve read for us today. Before we dive into “Notes on Desire,” what can you tell us about Eve Alexandra and her work?

Claudia: Eve Alexandra has disappeared. She published one book, The Drowned Girl, from which this poem comes, and as far as I can tell, has published nothing since. I have scoured Google and social media for her and found nothing. The Drowned Girl won the Wick Prize in 2003 while I was a student at Kent State—that’s how I heard of her—and we all got the book, became obsessed with the book, let the book tear us open and transform us. When I say “we,” I mean my little crew of poets that sat on my wood-rotted porch drinking boxed wine (a liquid delicacy only undergrads can truly appreciate) and reading poems and crying and talking.

I still remember hearing her read a poem about date rape, simply called “Rape,” when she gave her Wick prize-winner reading at Kent State. The poem describes assault in plain-spoken and direct language. The speaker asks if the rapist’s penis is in her vagina or her asshole—no euphemism or pretty language, just the confusion and trauma expressed directly: “His penis is in your vagina. / Or is it up your ass? / This is what you don’t understand: / how you lose track / of your own body.” Listening to Alexandra perform the poem, I cried harder than I have ever cried at a reading, and I wasn’t the only one. The packed room shook with grief as we all bore witness to Alexandra’s work—and by “work,” I don’t only mean her poems: I also mean The Work (with a capital w) that they were doing.

Chris: The amount of power in this poem is incredible. The repetition combined with the brevity of the lines and strong language makes the act of recollection so visceral. Do you create similar effects in your writing? What are the elements in this poem that make Alexandra essential to you as a writer?

Claudia: “Notes on Desire” cracked open poetry for me. Before reading it, poetry unfolded in neat and precise boxes: event A followed event B followed C and voile! at the end is a lovely epiphany earned by a story well-told. This poem showed me how to queer form and language—that the self’s desires are so fucking complex and the denial of that is based on our profound fear of pleasure—the fear that we are capable of infinitely more pleasure than our heteronormative culture deems imaginable. The speaker of the poem fucks men and fucks women; she likes her sex soft and she likes it rough; she comes when her lover calls her “whore, bitch, my little slut.” She entered “into the world . . . with the knowledge of her own sexual power” and yet her power is just as often compromised. In other words, her desire brims with contradictions that are not actually contradictions—the body can hold that much complexity.

The choppy sentence fragments which are not broken into lines or stanzas—the poem is a block of prose—leap without warning between genders and bodies and scenes, which mirrors the realistic ways that we experience memory and body: one moment we want to have rough sex; another moment we may suddenly feel turned off. One day, we feel like we are completely straight and the next day we see someone of our same gender (or of neither or both genders) and we think, Daaammmnnn!

I just published a book of prose poems and flash fiction stories called Wasp Queen. The book develops and focuses entirely on a character named Lucy. Each piece is a character study, a vignette, a small piece of a not-so-small girl. Sometimes, Lucy calls herself a fat cunt. Sometimes, she wants to rub “her bottom part” against her best friend, Stephanie, and other times, she yearns for a boy who lives in the forest. Sometimes, Lucy sweetly pets the edges of her favorite ribbon and other times, she tears her dog’s fur with her teeth. Alexandra showed me I can say “cunt” in a poem, and she showed me how to create a character whose desires and life are as complex as all of our desires and lives.

Chris: It’s wild that Alexandra’s The Drowned Girl had this profound impact, going so far as to influence your book Wasp Queen, and then she virtually disappears. Who did you read after poetry cracked open for you? Who else is writing today that helped inform your poetry in a way similar to Alexandra?

Claudia: Meghan Privitello’s A New Language for Falling out of Love!!! Dear God, Meghan can WRITE. The book is a collection of prose poems. I totally have a crush on the prose poem and I totally have a crush on Meghan’s poems. What I find so exciting about her work is that I never know what she will say next: each line veers and twists and contorts away from the previous line, though somehow the car of coherency never falls over the cliff into meaninglessness.

CA Conrad’s Book of Frank and Shannon Hardwick’s Francine poems showed me I could pour my monstrosity—all the vulnerable, horrific, strange parts of myself that scare the shit out of me—into a character that isn’t me, and by not being me, she could be more completely me than I had ever been before.

Some other writers that take the top of my head off: Grey Vild, Gillian Cummings, Lidia Yuknavitch, Aaron Apps, Toni Morrison, Megan Giddings, Natalie Eilbert, Morgan Parker.

Chris: To end on “Notes on Desire,” is there a particular section of the poem, or an image that you can’t get enough of? I love the lines, “She said Yes, yes. It was summer. In trees. By the water. No moon. No stars. Just dark. The dark and their tongues. Their eyes. Their Hands. Their scent.” This whole exchange is bracketed by one of those gender-desire shifts you talked about and it all works together so wonderfully. The dark and absence of light work to symbolize the traditional ideas of “danger/impurity/ending,” but they’re also contradictory and can represent a sort of celebratory revelation—maybe an orgasm? Totally babbling at this point, but what is or what are the parts of this poem that still resonate with you today?

Claudia: Haha! The best poems inspire the best babbling! “She came into the world like this. A child with the knowledge of her own sexual poem” still shocks and amazes me. The image of a child experiencing her sexuality at such a young age, and feeling her sexuality not as a possible source of trauma and, thus, powerlessness, but rather as the place from which her power would spring is shocking, taboo, fierce, and fearless. I hope badass and brilliant Eve Alexandra reads this interview and comes out of hiding! The world needs her.
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Claudia Cortese is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her first book, WASP QUEEN, was published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2017. She has had work featured in Blackbird, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast Online, and The Offing, among others, and is a book reviewer for Muzzle Magazine. The daughter of Neapolitan immigrants, Cortese grew up in Ohio and lives in New Jersey. She also lives at claudia-cortese.com

Chris Petruccelli remains unsure of what he is. His poetry appears in Appalachian Heritage, Nashville Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Still: The Journal, and elsewhere. Chris’ chapbook Action at a Distance is available from Etchings Press.

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