Kimiko Hahn

“[The chapbook] is a form that hides in plain sight. It’s an outlaw, outlier, petite et sweet.”

Hahn coversResplendent Slug (Ghostbird Press, 2016)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

My favorite is whatever I have just gotten my hands on–which, at the moment, is Death Centos by Diana Arterian (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013)–why haven’t I noticed this at the Chapbook Fest!

Influences? I loved hearing that the early publications of long poems were chapbook-ish: the mimeographed production of Ginsberg’s  Howl and the City Lights Pocket Poetry edition of Williams’s Kore. (Not sure these are considered chapbooks, or cousins of.)

I use Dorothea Lasky’s Poetry Is Not A Project in some classes. I agree with the premise although not necessarily with her argument. Excellent for generating discussion.

What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?

That I am relatively new to the shelf–? (Although I did buy one when I was an undergrad at Iowa: Marvin Bell’s Woo Havoc. 1974?)

What’s your chapbook about?

Resplendent Slug is a sequence of poems written after looking through a children’s book on animals that glow in the dark.

If you have written more than one chapbook or novella, could you describe each of them in chronological order?

Cryptic Chamber (Epiphany Editions, 2014): a long poem, including erasures/  borrowed material on the chamber nautilus.

Boxes with Respect: Millay and Moore (Center for Book Arts, 2011): odd little prose poems that spin off phrases from these two poets. The book itself is letter-press and hand-crafted and so beautiful I could just weep.

Ragged Evidence (Coconut Books, 2010): my versions of the zuihitsu and tanka forms.  Subject spirals around women, girls, sewing. Insects, too.

A Field Guide to the Intractable (Small Anchor Press, 2009): a journal-style zuihitsu about a trip where monarch caterpillars are discovered.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

They were all written around the same time. I used the book and little bits of text to trigger the poems, to take off.

Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?

If I have a theme or subject or organizing principle, I can keep messing around until I find something I like. Sequences, long poems, and zuihitsu are good for generating material.  Are the questions then, how much to keep? how long to keep going? … I don’t actually start out to write a chapbook. More, I’ll look at possible collections that hold together.  Some of these will not appear in books because they are stylistically odd. These are of special interest, re-collected into a chap.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?

In this case, intuitive. I often spread pages out on the floor, old school.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

90% of my covers have not been surprises.

What are you working on now?

I would like to see some other sequences and long poems in chapbooks–it is so satisfying!

What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?

Toss out the map.

What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?

Find some cohesion, whether subject like Adam Day’s Badger, Apocrypha or Rosmarie Waldrop’s Third Person Singular; or theme, like Nicole Sealey’s The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named.

What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?

Are you now inspired to become a chap publisher?

What music do you listen to as you work and write?

No music unless I’m in a coffee shop-then of course it’s random.

What was the last book you read that made you stop reading, just for a moment even, because you didn’t want it to be over?

Jennifer Clement’s Basquiat’s Widow.

If you wrote about one year from your life as a chapbook subject, which year would you pick? Why?

Third grade. My only favorite year of school. I was very happy: we learned cursive, my friend Barbara sat next to me, we were Brownies, we had a young teacher who had gotten married over the summer, I rode my bike to school, Barbara and I brought our Trolls to school and made homes for them in the gnarly roots of hickory trees, we ate hickory nuts during recess, I got a poem published in The Chatter. I can just visualize the afternoon sun’s sharp sunlight across our desks. (I did not like memorizing times tables.)

Does the chapbook form have an impact on the politics of the poems that appear inside it?

I am not sure if anything is truly separate from politics …. Certainly I don’t view the politics of my poems as separate from a delivery system, so to speak.  It is true that my chapbook poems tend to be more eccentric.

We all have to make choices about who we read in our limited free time. Many of us have demanding jobs, a house to keep up, a family to keep happy, a dog to walk. How do you decide which poets (or other writers) you want to read or should read, and how do you begin to understand what your own work might offer to benefit the literary landscape in the context of what else has been done?

I tend to reread a lot more than I read new work.  I’m a fanatic of Helen Vendler’s Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries. Anything by Gerald Stern, Louise Glück, Charles Wright, Charles Simic, Yusef Komunyakaa, and on. I do try to keep up with what my students are reading or what I imagine they should be reading (Claudia Rankine, Rajiv Mohabir, Daneen Wardrop’s Cyclorama).

Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?

Donne

Dickinson

Stevens

Glück

Richard Wright’s haiku

Bishop

some modern Tanka poet

Murasaki Shikibu

Princess Shikishi

Ono no Komachi

Why the chapbook? What made it the right format for your work?

It is a form that hides in plain sight. It’s an outlaw, outlier, petite et sweet.

As I mentioned, I feel free to take the screwiest pieces I have and re-vision them into chapbooks.

If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?

I wish I had had the chance when I was a teenager to take taiko, Japanese drumming. I love the shared ferocity in a group performance.

How has your writing and writing practiced evolved? What old habits have you dropped and are there any new ones you’ve picked up that you’d like to share?

I used to write in coffee shops–to get away from gaping domestic chores. What I wrote then was discursive and I miss that.

What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates? What, or who, inhabits that world?

I hope eccentric. I hope that it is one where the reader’s body is engaged.

Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful back story to you? What’s the back story?

The poems written during this time were often about, in a slant-kind of way, surveillance.  I’ll leave it at that.

Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?

There is one based on found lines. I guess that’s misfit-ish.

What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?

I ran out of things in that children’s book.

What’s the title for a book you haven’t written yet?

I wanted to title my last book The Clipping Morgue but no one liked it.  I wrote a poem with that title just to have it in what became Brain Fever.

What themes and images “bridge” your work? Have you found that composing a chapbook alleviates these inclinations, or amplifies them?

Jealousy, envy, and betrayal.

I can create islands of work instead of “worlds.” Yes, elevate and amplify—but also allow the emotional room to explore areas I have not yet tried. Simple example: how has jealousy altered over the decades?

Well, I guess here is my question: can one “compose” a chapbook? (I guess so.)  In what way/s?

Did you read straight through your chapbook out loud during the revision process or while finalizing revisions?

It is essential to hear the poems, at the very least to see if the cadence becomes “bumpy.”

What kinds of writing (comics, dictionaries, magazines, novels, etc.) that aren’t poetry help you to write poetry?

I am totally beholden to the science writers at The New York Times. I don’t know where I would be without them. In general, though, I am a bit of a magpie and always on the look out for “shiny things.” My husband writes historical true crime and his bookshelf is packed with amazing nonfiction: Premature Burial and How to Prevent It.  (That became a poem called “Like Lavrinia.”)

Whose work helped you in the writing of this chapbook?

Marianne Moore

Who do you most hope will read your chapbook (either an individual or a particular group of people)?

Scientists?

What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?

To memorize poetry.  I was only assigned to do so in fifth grade, so I am talking about Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils”–not to complain.  But I wish I had memorized Dickinson.  That would be my words of wisdom: memorize Dickinson.

What inspires you? What gets you to the page?

I often start with rich and/ or oddball language such as “eggcorn”–which I haven’t used yet!

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Kimiko Hahn, author of nine books, finds that disparate sources have given way to her poetry—whether black lung disease in Volatile, Flaubert’s sex-tour in The Unbearable Heart, an exhumation in The Artist’s Daughter, or classical Japanese forms in The Narrow Road to the Interior. Fields of science prompted her latest collections Toxic Flora and Brain Fever. And a forthcoming chapbook is Erasing ‘Honor’(Phantom Books, 2016). Hahn’s most recent award was a Guggenheim Fellowship, and she is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, City University of New York. She was just elected President of the Poetry Society of America.

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Hahn poems

Maggie Smith

“It’s amazing to me how driving to the post office with a three-year-old can yield a discussion about the space-time continuum.”

new msd cover

Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, 2016)

What’s your chapbook about?

Disasterology is focused on apocalypse and depictions of disaster in American culture. The first half of the collection is a series of poems based on doomsday films form the cold war to the present, including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Night of the Comet, The Day After, and Armageddon. I’m interested in how depictions of apocalypse and post-apocalyptic life in literature and film—from zombies to large-scale disasters—are so often hyper-masculinized, and in how these popular narratives and tropes can be read against the grain and re-imagined.

If you have written more than one chapbook or novella, could you describe each of them in chronological order?

Nesting Dolls, my first chapbook, came out right around the time as my first full-length book, Lamp of the Body. The poems in this chapbook feel to me like “B sides” from my first book, as they’re poems that deal with memory, loss, Western myth, and place.

The List of Dangers, my second chapbook, won the Wick Prize just after my first child was born. Poems in that chapbook, inspired by folklore and fairy tales, grew into my second full-length book, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The first few film poems are the oldest, though I’m not sure which came first. Likely “On the Beach” or “When Worlds Collide.” I caught one on television and was captivated, both by the humorous junk science and the timelessness of the concerns. I wrote a poem inspired by a film, and I enjoyed the process so much, I just kept going.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?

I typically prefer to have series broken up and spread throughout a manuscript. But in the case of this chapbook, I liked the idea of having a first-section epigraph that alluded to the films. I arranged the poems chronologically by the release date of the film, from 1959 to 2009. The second section, then, is thematically related but formally varied.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

I’d always thought a disaster scene would be a good fit given the subject matter. I’d been focused on photographs of abandoned buildings—particularly in Detroit—but the publisher preferred not to work with a photograph. We scoured the web for images and found the work of artist Michael Paul Miller. I was thankful that he agreed to let us use his painting “Dead Air” for the cover.

What are you working on now?

I’m fine-tuning my third book, Weep Up, and writing new poems as well.

What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?

Follow your obsessions. Chapbooks, because of their length, are perfect for long series or projects.

What music do you listen to as you work and write?

It depends on the project, but I’ve made playlists for some of the books I’ve worked on. With Disasterology, I listened to a lot of Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You Black Emperor. Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” was the soundtrack to the writing of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison. With Weep Up, I listened to Bon Iver, Gillian Welch, and Sufjan Stevens.

Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?

Wislawa Szymborska, James Wright, Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Charles Simic, Adrienne Rich, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Terrance Hayes, Donald Revell, Donald Hall, Carolyne Forché

Why the chapbook? What made it the right format for your work?

I think the chapbook is a perfect container for a long series of poems or focused project. I didn’t have the stamina—and, more importantly, I didn’t expect a reader to have the stamina—for 80 pages of poems on doomsday films and disaster. A whole book felt like pushing it to me, but a chapbook seemed just right.

Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful back story to you? What’s the back story?

The Future” and “Big Bang” are both sort-of-but-not-sonnets (nonnets?) in that they are fourteen lines long and were crafted with the rhetorical structure of a sonnet. Both were inspired by questions my then-preschooler asked me while we were running errands around the neighborhood, and those questions serve as the epigraphs: What is the future? How did the world get here? It’s amazing to me how driving to the post office with a three-year-old can yield a discussion about the space-time continuum. The poems are certainly not my verbatim responses; they are meditations on the questions that employ diction and metaphors a child would understand.

Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?

“The Road (2009), Which I Can’t Finish Watching,” without a doubt. I’d written all of the other movie poems before having children. After my daughter was born, I tried to watch The Road, having never read the novel, and couldn’t make my way through it. It absolutely wrecked me—this father and son in such danger, and in a dying world to boot. I turned it off but couldn’t let it go. So I read the novel, and then I did a bunch of research about the filming of the movie, even learning that much of it was filmed not far from where I lived right after graduate school. And then, after the research and the novel, I went back and watched the rest of the film. I really loved the film and the novel, but don’t think I’ll put myself through either again.

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Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the Dorset Prize; and Lamp of the Body, (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award. Her three prizewinning chapbooks are Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, 2016); The List of Dangers (Wick Poetry Series/Kent State University Press, 2010); and Nesting Dolls (Pudding House, 2005). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and elsewhere, Smith is a freelance writer and editor, and is a Contributing Editor to the Kenyon Review.

Maggie Smith

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When Worlds Collide (1951)

_______I think all you scientists are crackpots! Nothing is going to happen.

If Dr. Bronson’s calculations prove to be correct,
this will be the most frightening discovery of all time.
The astronomer is convinced a star umpteen times
the size of the sun is barreling straight at us, but
no one believes. His daughter—nicknamed Stargazer,
tiny-waisted in tailored suits and pearls—is terrified.
Looking out a taxicab window, she wishes she were
ignorant like all the others, still rushing to work, saving
for a time-share at the beach, planning for the future.
She doesn’t want to know the day and time of the end
of the world, or that the only thing to do is hurry up
and build a rocketship, a modern ark bound for a planet
that may not even be inhabitable. It’s a world war
mentality, except they’re rationing time. The daughter
knows this, like she knows only forty can be saved
and she’s one of them. When the star bears down,
big and orange as a harvest moon, the tin rocketship
lifts off. Her eyes are wild. The pilot she’s sweet on
wonders aloud if they’ll have enough gas to get there.
It’s hard to say—the needle bounces on the fuel gauge,
likely stolen from a ’48 Lincoln Continental. It’s so
American, coasting in to the new world on fumes.

Nyachiro Lydia Kasese

“I have become really good at listening to people and often times I try to write the things they are not telling me about what they are telling me.”

Kasese

Paper Dolls (Akashic Books, 2016)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

My first encounter with chapbooks was Warsan Shire’s teaching my mother how to give birth. I remember one of my friends in varsity had a copy and she lent it to me for a couple of days and in those couple of days I read and re-read her poetry over and over again. That would be my favorite chapbook. But then there is also Safia Elhillo’s chapbook Asmarani (which was part of the collection mine was in), she writes and I am in awe.

I wouldn’t say that chapbooks influenced my writing. I remember being asked once what influences and inspires my writing and it is often other people’s stories. I have become really good at listening to people and often times I try to write the things they are not telling me about what they are telling me. I do not know if that makes sense.

What’s your chapbook about?

My chapbook has been about different things to different people. But I think, looking back at the poems now, they have been about discovery, discovering myself in a society with a culture that does not allow for anything different. It has also been a journey of understanding and accepting myself as well as the people I have loved.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The poems in this collection were all written at different points in my life. They were not written with the intention of being part of a collective. In fact a lot of them were scribbled in my diary or on my computer as separate non-related pieces.

Each poem has a different memory attached to it. Because they were all written at different times they were inspired by different things. But mostly they remind me of my lovers. I came to realize after it was done that each poem was about a man or woman that I had fallen in love with at some point in my life.

The oldest piece is “Flowering.” Basically through the memory of scents and familiar flowers, it tells the story of a young girl who is raped and made to marry her rapist. I wrote this when I was in varsity. I wrote this for me.

Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful back story to you? What’s the back story?

That poem would have to be “Pursue.” I’ll just write it out here for you and you can figure the back story on your own.:)

Pursue

I say, “I love you. And I would have followed you anywhere you went.”

You say, “If you had stayed, I would have swept you off your feet so hard,

We would be married by now.”

I’m swept off my feet.

But I’m a woman.

And so are you.

Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?

That would have to be “Prodigal,” that’s mostly because it’s the only piece that isn’t about a lover. It is about my father, not really about him, but a result of some trouble I had gotten into with him and he was rather disappointed. We were countries apart but when he called I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it? 

I don’t have a writing process. Not a fixed one. Apparently as writers we are meant to write as often as every day. But my work comes differently to me, poetry that is. I can’t force myself to write it. Short stories and articles, I can write those up at any point, but poetry has been more delicate and I write it only when it comes to me and this is often when I am alone and I am not alone now as often as I was previously.

What has the editorial and production experience with the press who picked up your chapbook been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

Kwame Dawes was my editor and it was a rather interesting experience. I should probably start by saying that when I started writing it was for myself. It was for me to cope with my life experiences and it was never with the intention of becoming a writer. In fact at that age I didn’t know that I had the option to become a writer.

I remember in one of our first edits I cried, in a poem that was in the manuscript but did not make it to the chapbook he scribbled, “this is not a poem. These are notes!” But I think it was my ego that was bruised. When everyone tells you your work is good and you meet that one person that tells you otherwise, of course it will hurt.

Getting edited by Mr Dawes was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I found myself having to question my choice of words, my motive with my work and my future as a writer. But it was all worth it in the end.

What are you working on now?

God I wish I knew. I am mostly just reading now and working to save up for a trip I can take where I can write more. It’s hard to write in the city. It’s hard to write well when you have a full time job.

I am dabbling with short story writing. I can write short stories, it’s just the time it takes, you know? Poetry comes much easier to me, it rushes into my head, I pen it down and that’s it. Stories require time, revision, and searching.

So far I have stories I want to write. I have about five of them. I already know what happens. It’s just the time that’s holding me back.

What is your favorite piece you’ve written? Why?

I am American in this country.

I am European, Kenyan, South African.

I am every country they consider better than their own.

But I am never from here.

Never Tanzanian enough.

Never Swahili speaker enough,

Or even cultured enough to know the ways and traditions of my people.

Where is your father from? What village? What language do his people speak?

Tanzania. I do not know. Jita.

And even then I am not sure if Jita is spelt with a “g” or a “j”

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I think this is my favorite piece right now. It’s not part of the collection. I wrote it recently and I like it because in it, I am awakening to the lack of effort I have put in knowing my own people. We grew up away from our birth country and my excuse to not know about my father or his people has always been, “but he never talks about his people or his past,” but the truth is, I have never asked.

If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?

Definitely music. In a parallel universe I am a dub step DJ. In this universe I have always secretly wanted to sing in a lonely bar in the middle of nowhere that houses like five regulars, one of whom is my secret lover with a mysterious past. I don’t know what I’m talking about. But yes. Music!

What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?

There are no rules to creativity. There is no right or wrong. Experiment with language, with structure. Experiment with yourself and your emotions.

What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?

I think one of the challenges I have had, especially now with getting published is, who I write for. I wish that someone would have told me that I will begin to write less and less for myself and more and more for an audience. Much as I would like to think and keep thinking I am writing for myself in the same way that I used to, I can no longer write without thinking of my readers, I can no longer write without thinking of potential publishers. This saddens me and makes me very anxious.

I have not arrived at any “wisdom” yet. I am still struggling with the idea of who to write for, and whether I can still write for myself.

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Nyachiro Lydia Kasese is mostly a writer of poetry but has dabbled in short story writing and is working towards mastering the skill of writing stories. Her chapbook Paper Dolls was in 2016 published by the African Poetry Book Fund in their New Generation Poets chapbook series. Her works have appeared in Jalada, Writivism CACE , and BNPA.

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Nyachiro Lydia Kasese  

“On Skeletons and Tea”

“Inside-Outside”

“The Science of Nail Polish”

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Original Apologies

There is a tired silence between my father and I as we ride home from work.

Tired as in: all that has been said has been said.

Tired as in: all that has been said has somehow always hurt.

Tired as in: all possible apologies have already been used on other people.

So we ride on home in a silence we both use as an excuse for our lack of original apologies.

Franny Choi

“To see versions of oneself mirrored and loved in the world is, I think, a human right.”

Choi

Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014)

What’s your book about?

My book covers a lot of ground in terms of subject matter – the death of my partner at age 20, identity, resistance, finding new love, spiritual practice, even.  At its heart, I think it’s a mapping of the mind as it moves through different kinds of loss.  There’s the literal loss of a loved one, but also the small, daily losses of having a body, of being seen, of being marked as different, of trying to love in a world where intimacy seems always to be marked by violence, and ending, ultimately, in the loss of self as a means of escape, or peace, or something like that.  The book is examining what is left behind when a something is taken away, and it tries, I think, to use one kind of grief as a blueprint for understanding many others.

What’s the oldest piece in your book? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the book? What do you remember about writing it?

A few poems in my book are version of poems I first started writing in 2008-2009, but they’ve changed so drastically since then that it’s hard to really say if they’re the oldest. “Just Like a Woman,” for example, is one of the oldest poems, but the condensed, semicolon-heavy version in the book was one of the last connecting pieces I added in. However, I do know that the first poem in my book, “Notes on the Existence of Ghosts” is an earlier piece, and it really helped give shape to the rest of the project. I think of that poem as a sort of key for understanding the others; something like a character list, but maybe with emotional states rather than people or images.

Describe your writing practice or process for your book. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?

There’s a part of me that’s obsessively methodical, so the first thing I did was to go through every poem that I wouldn’t feel awful about sharing with the world and categorize each one. At the time, I had this enormous pen that could write in like twelve different colors, so I wrote out the title of each poem and color coded them based on theme. From there, I thought of arranging the poems the way I used to arrange mix CDs, looking for the arc that would create the most emotionally satisfying experience for a reader. Once I found that arc, it was easier to see what connective tissue was missing and write into those gaps.

I think writing with the express purpose of fitting a piece into a larger project is a particular kind of writing, and I struggled at times to keep my writing feeling spontaneous and urgent, and not dulled by utility.  How do you keep a poem feeling like it’s burst out of its shell, like a spilled confession at 3 in the morning, when you know exactly what you need it to do in relation to the two poems adjacent to it?  My answer was to do everything to quiet the more goal-oriented part of my brain, to aggressively seek out the half-conscious state of mind that has always been the most creatively productive place for me to start writing.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your book?

The original title of the book was “Familiar Haunt” (70% just for the pun), but my publisher wanted to go with something that better reflected the energy of the book – that whole bursting thing. I made a list of twelve more puns and eventually landed on a line from one of my poems that describes the way a spark moves in the wind; and also, in the larger context of the poem, the way a woman survives being told that her sadness doesn’t make sense.  I sort of hated (hate?) that my title has the word “brilliant” in it (like a restaurant that has “delicious” in its name, you know??). But I stuck with it because I realized that this phrase mirrored the structure that was beginning to emerge in the narrative arc of the book: moving from the silence and displacement of an unexpected death, to rage and ecstasy, to deep reflection, and finally, to a shedding of the self. The title gave language to that structure and allowed me to embrace it more fully.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your book?

Jess X. Chen and I have worked together for years (we first met when we were in a Brown/ RISD poetry group together), so we were able to collaborate a lot on both the cover image/design and the illustrations throughout the book.  As a poet and visual artist, Jess has a pretty remarkable faculty for closely reading work and reinterpreting it in a visual medium. Essentially, I gave her some parameters and guiding thoughts, she worked up a few sketches, and we went back and forth from there. The birds were her idea, I think, although my poems are probably unintentionally bird-heavy. Oh, well.

What are you working on now?

I’m vaguely working on a chapbook of poems about machine women – androids, cyborgs, me on Twitter, etc.  But mostly, I’m just writing – sitting down with myself and seeing what’s there.  It goes back to realizing through this project that my best work comes from a need to write the poem itself, rather than planning  a larger project. I’m trying to ask what poems I need to write, while being conscious of the connections between those needs. Themes that are emerging are desire, decomposition, post-body love, your average femme sorrows. But I’m trying to take it slow with this next thing.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring author?

To find a community of artistic peers and love each other fiercely.

How has your writing and writing practiced evolved? What old habits have you dropped and are there any new ones you’ve picked up that you’d like to share?

I teach a lot of one-time, generative poetry workshops, and I used to always write along with the prompt while the students were writing. I love having a ten-minute time limit to begin creating something; I think my brain works best when it’s fighting against a restriction. These days, I teach so many workshops that I’ve more often been taking that time to give my brain a few minutes of rest – the value of which I also don’t wish to underemphasize. But I still like writing when it’s hard to write. I bought an old typewriter (like made in the 1930s old!) recently, and some of the keys stick, and the tape doesn’t quite reel right, and roll is cracked so occasionally you tear through the paper; it’s been a wonderfully terrible machine to work with.

What kind of world do you think your book creates? What, or who, inhabits that world?

The world of my book, like many books, is the mind – the paranoid, imperfect, grudge-holding, sometimes-pessimistic, always-joy-seeking mind. It’s the mind confronted by emptiness and trying, often failing, to make sense of its shape.

Did you read straight through your book out loud during the revision process or while finalizing revisions? If so, how was your experience of the poems different? How were your ideas about their individual meanings changed?

I didn’t do that during the writing process, but, as a writer who makes a lot of her living from reading her work out loud, I was always paying attention to sound, even when I didn’t consciously intend it. Recently, however, I made an audiobook version of the book and ended up reading straight through the whole thing out loud at least twice. That was a strange and lovely – and physically draining! – experience. It reaffirmed for me which poems were written to be heard, and which were most comfortable living on the page and had to be shaken out of that comfort zone somehow. There’s one poem written in the form of a flowchart – created with the specific intent of allowing the reader to control the narrative and time.  So recording the audio meant that I was forced to dictate those things for the listener, which I sort of hated doing. But I got a lot of help from my younger sibling, Brigid, who is a composer and sound designer and created music for the project, to try to capture something of the poem’s spirit in audio form. I think we did a pretty good job, though imperfection is part of the game in any kind of translation, and especially when moving a text from one medium to the other.

Whose work helped you in the writing of this book?

Sharon Olds taught me so much about writing about grief. Carl Phillips’ sentences. Rachel McKibbens’ fierce engagement with trauma.  Most of all, the work of my peers and friends, especially the poets in my collective, Dark Noise.

Who is your intended audience? What kind of person do you imagine writing to?

I’ve found that young Asian American women form a large part of my readership, and I used to worry that this meant that my work didn’t have wide appeal, or that it wasn’t valued by the establishment. If I’d heard someone else saying that, I would have known all the right arguments to make against it, but suddenly, experiencing it for myself, I had a hard time shaking the feeling, or even being able to voice it without feeling some shame. My friend Fatimah Asghar then told me that she wanted to write the book she wished she’d had as a young woman, and that led me to realize (or rather, remember) the value of having an audience that shared these identities with me. The first time I saw an Asian American woman poet read, I was stunned with recognition. To see versions of oneself mirrored and loved in the world is, I think, a human right. I feel immensely lucky that my work has allowed me to be in conversation with many young Asian American women, as well as people who don’t share my race and gender identities.  Oh, and lit-nerdy queers, I see you out here, too.

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Franny Choi is a writer, teaching artist, and the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014). She has received awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, The Journal, Rattle, Indiana Review, and others. She is a VONA alumna, a Project VOICE teaching artist, and a member of the Dark Noise Collective.

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Franny Choi 

Project VOICE 

the Dark Noise Collective 

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Notes on the Existence of Ghosts

Leaves stained onto the sidewalk from yesterday’s storm create gray-green watermarks on the pavement, like the negatives of pressed flowers, or the ghost of a letterpress still whispering up from the page. A sidewalk is a haunted thing.

I understand the gravity of a train from the empty space and afterbirth air I encounter when I run down to the platform twenty seconds too late. It is the same with all things of such weight – to know them best when you have just missed them.

Snow angels; the power of an outline to name an absence holy, a finger pointing to the inherent fiction of angels and therefore haunting.

If the stars have, as they say, been dead for millions of years by the time their light reaches us, then it follows that my retinas are a truer thing to call sky.

Dove collides into window, leaving a white imprint of its body.
A crime scene outline saying, Take this, the dust of me. Remember the way my body was round and would not move through glass.

Sarah B. Boyle

“I write what I write. And chances are good I’ll say it aloud—a lot—too.”

Boyle

What’s pink & shiny/what’s dark & hard (Porkbelly Press, 2015)

You are very open about your own abortion on your blog, impolitelines.com. When it comes to discussing your personal story, was there ever a time when you were more like”J,” whom you write about in “Chapter 7: Question for the mothers” and “Epilogue: Letter to J”? How long after your abortion did you begin writing about it?

As people who know me and love me will tell you, I am almost physically unable to be secretive–so even if things start out as secrets, they do not stay that way for long. But when I had the abortion I write about in What’s pink & shiny/what’s dark & hard, I didn’t talk about it as openly as I do now. It was a choice I made over ten years ago. I was so much younger then, and the boyfriend was still in the picture. By which I mean, as much as it’s my story, it’s his story, too. So if I spoke openly about it then, I would have been sharing things that he didn’t want me to share. At this point, the timeline is obscured and my name has changed, so I’m not so worried about the story getting traced back to him.

As to when I finally wrote about the abortion–god I’m so slow. I’m consistently writing about things that happened about 5 years prior. (Aside from these heartbreaking little prose poems I’ve been writing about teaching, which seem to pour out of me unfiltered and within hours of the events that prompt them.)  I suspect I need the distance to turn things into art–into an object outside myself that I can manipulate.

How long did it take you to complete the chapbook, and what was that process like for you?

Ha! Again, I am so slow. The oldest poem in the chapbook is “Chapter 10: Dream,” and I wrote the very first draft of that poem my sophomore year of college. It took the next dozen years for me to figure out what it wanted to say. I wrote the poems the chap over probably 10 years–off and on. I’m quite the fiddly writer, so each individual poem lived many lives (unless it didn’t, like “Chapter 2: New Love” which was pretty much always that exact poem). And then the manuscript itself took a few years, too. Most of that time was figuring out what a chapbook is and how to structure a manuscript. Which is to say, I had to figure out how to shape a single story–and how to leave behind a twisty, bendy, serpentine collection that encompassed every salvageable poem I’d ever written.

Poetry seems like a less accessible form of writing than, say, memoir. Why did you–a self-proclaimed activist and someone who is passionate about informing others and making the topic less taboo–choose this genre?

I am a self-proclaimed activist–and I struggle over that word often. I alternate between including it in my bio and deleting it. On the one hand, I write about controversial subjects in order to raise awareness, organize panel discussions on rape, and teach in a “social-justice-oriented high school.”

But also, oh, activism. It’s a terrible word–especially with its connotations of the do-gooder parachuting into a troubled situation and fixing other people’s problems. So I suppose I hold onto the word to challenge myself to be an accomplice and not an ally. (Thank you to Olivia Olivia for pointing me in the direction of this excellent zine: Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex, from which I took the terms “ally” and “accomplice.”)

The form you use in poems such as “Chapter 1: Morning after the wedding of a friend’ and “Chapter 2: New Love” is striking. What made you use that form as opposed to the more conventional form of “Prologue: On D-Block”?

Almost all the poems in this chapbook have been tight little blocks AND blown up all over the place with white spaces and frou-frou formatting. It goes back to my natural inclination to work a thing in all directions until it settles down. “Prologue: On D-Block” has always been a ghazal in its heart of hearts, so it ultimately shifted back into neat, two-line stanzas. And boy, “Chapter 1: Morning after the wedding of a friend” was such a problem-child poem. I still can’t write parts of that poem, not really–I doubt I ever will write those parts, so I needed a way to address the lacunae. The white space in that poem is really just me hiding all kinds of details from myself and anyone else who might possibly recognize the things I won’t say. I guess I do keep some secrets.

The line from this chapbook I see most quoted in reviews is from “Chapter 9: September That Year”: “[…] Planned / Parenthood fed me a pill / like a quarter / and a gumball bled / from between my legs.” I was struck by the whimsical, casual nature of the image and how it is working with a serious subject. In other poems, you use images of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, swans, and parfait spoons. How and why did you settle on these images in your descriptions?

There’s a bonus feature in one of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season box sets where Jane Espenson says about the pleasures of writing dialogue, “That’s one of the great delights in writing . . . when you’ve written a perfect line, you know it. You feel it in your gut.” (She was talking specifically about this illogical and perfect bit of dialogue.) And that’s it! If I knew how to explain that moment–that thing that helps snap two previously unrelated ideas into an integrated whole–then I could possibly control it. Then I would be such a better and more prolific writer.

Just because I’m curious…do your students ever ask you about your chapbook or your abortion?

By some miracle, they haven’t found it yet–or my author website. If ever they do find me online, I can’t imagine they won’t ask me about any number of super personal details about my life. I’m not really sure I’ll tell them anything, though–except that my writing speaks for itself. I like to pretend there’s a line between my personal life and professional life, anyway.

The chapbook seems to be doing more than just giving a voice to women who have had similar experiences. There is an unnamed character who occurs in a couple of poems, and he’s usually accompanied by lines that suggest abandonment. One of the most striking moments to me was the last line of “Chapter 3: Summer,” that expression of him not being able to hold the speaker in the poem because she was too painful to touch. Do you think this is a common reaction for someone who is in a relationship with a woman who has had an abortion?

I have very little idea about what the other side of abortion looks like–unless it’s by comparing it to how my husband felt when we miscarried a very wanted baby, when I miscarried and he stood next to me feeling helpless and also completely heartbroken. The situations aren’t identical, but they share some similar dynamics. Honestly, I think the boyfriend in the chapbook is a pretty good characterization of how someone in the wrong relationship reacts. An abortion didn’t lead to that boyfriend abandoning me–his own insecurities led to that. The abortion just hastened things along.

Were any of the poems particularly difficult for you to write (in terms of craft or emotions)?

Speaking of problem-child poems. Let me tell a story about graduate school and “Chapter 4: One Wednesday.” I had this one professor who was a douchebag. Very much a misogynist (and teaching at a school with a predominantly female student body!). Quite dismissive of what a good friend called “the domestic poem.” He thoroughly did not get “One Wednesday.” He thought I was a bit heavy handed with the three double-yoked eggs in that poem. So I told him that was what really happened: the morning of my abortion, I went to my job as a pastry chef, I stood at the butcher block separating eggs, and three eggs in a row had double yolks inside. That’s some kind of magic–like, something is happening in the wider universe when you run into that kind of coincidence. He just told me, “It’s not believable.” So I filed the poem away on my computer, and didn’t come back to it until six months later.

I was in a workshop then with Marie Howe, then, and we were discussing that very poem during a conference. I told her how I just couldn’t figure it out and how another professor had shot-down the three egg yolks. She grabbed my arm and looked at me intensely–a very Marie-Howe-like thing to do–before saying, “You must write this poem. You must.” I will be forever grateful to her for cutting through the misogynist’s bullshit.

This is really a story about how hugely important teachers and professors can be–and how easily they can crush a writer by imposing their own aesthetics on their students. If Marie hadn’t encouraged me, that poem would have died after my first semester in grad school. As it was, it still took me almost a year to regain any sense of my voice or my content after sitting in that disastrous workshop with that interminable asshole.

Have you been surprised by the response your chapbook has gotten?

I’ve only heard positive things from readers about the chapbook, which is comforting and encouraging. That part isn’t surprising, given how long these poems have been kicking around my life and how many times my friends and family members have read them. I do half wonder if this chap will ever get me into trouble, like if a parent reads it, or a student, or a potential employer–oh my god, or a parent of one of my kids’ preschool friends. I’m not surprised that that hasn’t happened–poetry is such a little world–but it’s not an impossible situation, and I don’t really look forward to it. But also, whatever. Fuck them. I write what I write. And chances are good I’ll say it aloud—a lot—too. If someone is surprised or taken aback by the chap, I guess they weren’t paying very much attention to who I am.

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Sarah B. Boyle is a poet, mother, and high school teacher. She is the author of the chapbook What’s pink & shiny/ what’s dark & hard (Porkbelly Press, 2015), and her poems and essays have appeared in Really System, Menacing Hedge, Entropy, and elsewhere. She is a founding editor of the Pittsburgh Poetry Houses and reviews editor for Hyacinth Girl Press. Find her online at impolitelines.com.

Sonya Vatomsky

“By collecting poems in a chapbook or full-length, I’m trying to capture something akin to the film sitting on top of temporally-unified memories.”

speakingofmarvelspic

My Heart in Aspic (Porkbelly Press, 2015)

Who are writers you consider to be influential to your own writing?

I owe a lot to PJ Harvey and Richey Edwards — who are lyricists rather than writers, if you care to make that distinction. Richey taught me that pretension and earnestness aren’t mutually exclusive, and Polly Jean that rawness is its own type of polish. I love reading and always have, but I can’t think of any writers I’d classify as responsible for any of my output. Maybe Robert Anton Wilson?

Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have ways of getting inspired?

My Heart in Aspic is basically everything I wrote from December of 2014 to February of 2015. I don’t intentionally write to a theme but pieces produced in the same time period have a similar flavor to me — like when you’re recalling two separate events from the same childhood summer. By collecting poems in a chapbook or full-length, I’m trying to capture something akin to the film sitting on top of temporally-unified memories.

Could you discuss the poem “Moribund, Мope-bound”? Is мope the Russian мope, as in sea?

Yes! I’ve stopped italicizing “foreign” words in my poems but never know quite what to do with that one, since depending on your font the Cyrillic мope looks exactly like the Latin mope — and once you’ve capitalized the M, it’s even worse. The title to this poem is something I’ve had saved in my head for around ten years… I had learned the word moribund from some essay of Nick Cave’s and my Russian-immigrant brain got the etymology wrong. For years I’d read the word as sea-bound and not death-bound; I understood the intended meaning but treated it like a euphemism. To go to the sea, to die. That poem’s the least autobiographical in the entire chapbook.

I’ve been thinking about wordplay in the chapbook, such as the transition from bog to Бог to God, the kind of double entendre only available to a bilingual writer. What would you consider to be some advantages and disadvantages of being a bilingual writer, and in what ways do you think it separates you from other poets?

I’d call it an advantage for me and a disadvantage for other people, maybe — it lets me layer meaning in a way that feels more accurate and expressive than my words would be otherwise, but it also negatively impacts accessibility. Junot Diaz has said a lot of brilliant things on the value of accessibility to the bilingual author, but perhaps the most apt is when he defines his audience as his six best friends and the rest of the world. I’m delighted when people are able to understand the wordplay but not really concerned with how often that happens. Here’s another influential writer for you — Umberto Eco. Specifically his character Salvatore from The Name of the Rose, who speaks in a jumbled mix of (in my recollection) English, Latin, and French… maybe some other languages. And I’ve never heard anyone give Anthony Burgess trouble for having half of Clockwork Orange in Russian. Did you know it’s Russian? I mean, sort of — Nadsat, his made-up vocabulary, borrows Russian words pretty heavily and then conjugates them according to English rules, mashed up with some Cockney rhyming slang. “Nadsat” is the suffix for the numbers 11-19 in Russian so, in a way, akin to “teen.” English-speakers are significantly more tolerant of fake unknown languages than real unknown languages, for whatever reason — maybe we hate feeling stupid? Suffer from a sort of linguistic FOMO?

There seems to be a lot of recurring witchcraft and cauldron imagery, if you will. Could you elaborate on the significance of those images and how they work with themes such as the emptiness of love and the carnage of grief?

I’m interested in the witch/cauldron and professor/beaker dichotomy, I guess. The distinction between ritual and science. If you ever look up how to brew kombucha at home, you’ll find instructions so obsessed with cleanliness that it borders on the absurd. Clean everything with bleach! You’re going to die! And so on. Meanwhile, my grandparents made kombucha in their tiny USSR apartments where I guarantee you there was an insufficiently sterile environment and, well, people have been making kombucha in Russia and China for ages before that as well. There’s a lot of scholarly work being done that indicates much of our “folk medicine” vs “actual medicine” beliefs originate in the willful exclusion of women from science. And both love and grief are feminine-coded emotions. At its root, My Heart in Aspic is really about me getting my bearings after a sexual assault, and that period of my life felt very feminine, in a weird way. I’m non-binary, and that was the single time when I briefly truly felt like a woman.

What other images or themes form a common thread in this chapbook?

I recall there being a lot of teeth.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

The design was all Nicci Mechler of Porkbelly Press. She asked a few questions but mostly I let her do what she felt was right — I trusted her with the work and her knowledge of book-binding is much larger than mine. As for the cover, that was illustrated by my tattoo artist and friend Shannon Perry. I think I asked her to do something simple and abandoned-dinner-party-esque, with flies.

What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates? What, or who, inhabits that world?

You tell me.

What are you working on now?

Applying for grants and convincing people to buy my full-length collection. (Buy my full-length collection.) Also writing, and collaborating with illustrators, and trying to record work in a style that’s maybe less poet and more Lydia Lunch. Not sure when I’ll have another poetry collection out, but you can keep up with individual publications through my website.

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Sonya Vatomsky is a Moscow-born, Seattle-raised poet and the author of Salt is for Curing (Sator Press) & chapbook My Heart in Aspic (Porkbelly Press). Find them by saying their name five times in front of a bathroom mirror or at sonyavatomsky.tumblr.com and @coolniceghost.

http://sonyavatomsky.tumblr.com

Tania Hershman

“Give yourself permission to write what you want to read.”

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Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open (Southword Editions, 2016)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

Chapbooks are not that common here in the UK, but I spent a lot of time over the years doing workshops in the US and in American writing groups online, so I got to know the concept. Although mine is a chapbook of poetry, I have been primarily a short story writer and am new to poetry. I think I first came across chapbooks through the excellent Rose Metal Press chapbook contest, and from reviewing some of the winners for the online journal I set up, The Short Review, such as The Sky Is a Well and Other Shorts by Claudia Smith. The idea is taking hold here now, and a recent favourite is Dave Swann’s Stronger Faster Shorter, published by Flash: The International Short Story Magazine. There have been some beautiful little books of stories that I’ve loved, I’m not sure they qualify as chapbooks! In terms of poetry chapbooks – which are generally called “pamphlets” over here – Frances and Martine by Hilda Sheehan, published by Dancing Girl Press, and The Misplaced House by Josephone Corcoran, published by Tall Lighthouse, are some of the recent books I’ve loved.

What might these chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?

I love brevity, whether in poetry or prose. And oddness, a way of looking at the world that isn’t entirely realist, that is highly imaginative, often funny, dark and poignant.

What’s your chapbook about?

I don’t know the answer to that, and that’s a question I realised I wouldn’t try an answer after my first short story collection was published in 2008. It’s not up to me to say, it’s up to the reader! There are 22 poems, many of which are inspired by science, but that’s not to say they are about science. To me, the mark of a good piece of writing is that it will mean something to a reader, resonate with them, and that may very well be something completely different to different readers.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The oldest poem is one of the first I ever wrote, “Dreams of a Tea Seller,” and I remember the street corner in central London that sparked the idea, seeing, in quick succession, a shop selling teas and a building site! However, I had no thought of a chapbook, none of the poems were written with the idea in mind that they might one day be collected       together. I was just attempting to write poetry, to understand the move from prose, the differences and the similarities, to see what this new form could give me.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?

The chapbook won 2nd prize in the Fool For Poetry chapbook contest, run by the Munster Literature Centre in Cork. I had entered a number of chapbook/ pamphlet contests, each time with a slightly different set of poems, arranged differently. I tried to see how each poem could speak to the one that came after and before it. After I got the amazing news that I won 2nd prize, which came with publication, I took another look and decided to do a bit of rearranging, starting with a poem that has some humour, and ending with a poem that I think sums up the feel of the book, and links in to the title. But readers read in any order they want! The first part of the title, Nothing Here Is Wild, is also the title of the final poem, and I added Everything Is Open, which I felt I needed, the tension between everything and nothing, between wildness and openess. I love titles, they are very important to me, and I seem to know when I’ve hit the right one.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

I suggested the cover image myself, it is a piece of art I bought from a local artist, Eileen White, a year ago, before I knew about the chapbook contest prize. I love it because it has hints of science about it, and irreverence, with the circles burned into it. The publisher designed the cover around it and I love it!

What are you working on now?

I’m in my final year of a practice-based PhD in Creative Writing, which means that the main part of my research is a book-length creative work. My book is a hybrid work made of parts – prose, poetry, non-fiction, and various combinations of all those – that is inspired by particle physics and will, I hope, work as a whole. It is the greatest experiment I have ever undertaken and I am really enjoying it! I don’t know if it will find a publisher, by my literary agent is looking forward to reading it.

What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?

Read. Read everything. I have learned, and continue to learn, through everything I read. Read things you don’t think you’ll enjoy. Don’t worry about your own writing being influenced – it will and it should! Then write, give yourself permission to write what you want to read, without worrying about who else might see it.

What advice would you offer to aspiring chapbook authors?

I do recommend the Fool For Poetry chapbook contest, if you are writing poetry. And I love the format of the chapbook, it does something slightly different from a larger book, it has a lightness, in weight and in intent, you can take it all in as a reader, and, as a writer, it’s a delightful,  magical thing to have out in the world! Now that my chapbook has had some lovely responses, I can see it as a sort of wondrous calling card, giving readers a hint of my writing, hopefully inspiring them to seek out more!

What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?

What does the word “permission” mean to you in terms of your writing?

What was the last book you read that made you stop reading, just for a moment even, because you didn’t want it to be over?

Get in Trouble, stories by Kelly Link. I really don’t want it to be over!

Without stopping to think, who are ten poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least your clothing, to take with you at all times?

Adrienne Rich (I already have), Sharon Olds, Grace Paley, Richard Brautigan (poetic license there), Rumi, Jo Bell, Michael Donaghy, the author of the Song of Songs (in Hebrew), Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson

How has your writing and writing practiced evolved? What old habits have you dropped and are there any new ones you’ve picked up that you’d like to share?

Writing poetry, it turns out, is something I do aloud; only when I’ve gone through a few drafts in that way do I write it down. I love that, although hard to do with other people around! Prose requires my hands to be moving, on the page or the keyboard. I’m quite fascinated by that. I also generally do something else while I am working on a short story – play online Scrabble, tweet – because I like to distract my logical brain while I am conjuring a story. With poetry I need silence, no distractions.

What’s the title for a book you haven’t written yet?

And What if We Were All Allowed to Disappear. (It might be too long!)

Who is your intended audience? What kind of person do you imagine writing to?

I never do imagine writing to anyone at all and still, four books later – and with one more in the works – I am grateful that anyone reads, and more importantly, connects with my work. It seems rather miraculous.

What do you wish you had been told as a writer? What wisdom have you arrived at?

That there’s no one way to write, that everyone does it differently, that within myself I have different methods, and that that’s okay.

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Tania Hershman is the author of a poetry chapbook, Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open (Southword, 2016), and two short story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008) and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion (Bloomsbury, Dec 2014). Tania is curator of ShortStops, a site celebrating short story activity across the UK & Ireland, a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Bristol University and is working on a hybrid prose/poetry book inspired by particle physics for her PhD in Creative Writing.

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Tania Hershman

https://soundcloud.com/taniahershman

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Pulled

Once, early on in my development,
some boy took me to the roof
to see Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades.

I listened, looked politely where he
pointed, but already then I knew – though
he had left the door ajar, and I

was not yet fully-formed – that this
had nothing to do with stars,
the tug of gravity.