Anders Carlson-Wee

ACW DynamiteDynamite (Bull City Press, 2015)

What’s your chapbook about?

Dynamite is essentially an adventure story about traveling on the cheap through America. You’ll find poems about train hopping, dumpster diving, wilderness survival, a flooded hometown, sleeping in the houses of strangers, and childhood games turned violent.

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

I like the feeling of motion. So when I write, I usually walk or bike or climb trees first. My ideas and rhythms come more from my body than from my head, and I need to be physically animated––and actively breathing––before I start a poem. Robust breathing helps me write without self-censorship. It allows the process to be somatic­, engaging the mind’s intellect but not limited to it.

Most of my first drafts never see daylight twice. When a draft engages me enough to revise it, the real work begins. I revise heavily, meaning hours and hours at the desk. Late at night, I walk and recite my drafts. If I can’t remember one of my own lines, it’s dead––so I bury it, or attempt to revive its basic impulse. Once I have a poem memorized and the breath feels right, I let someone I trust read it. At that stage, it’s usually issues of compression or clarity, or deciding to let it die. But I don’t have a secret formula. Writing is born of hard work. You have to love the work––no, it’s even more: you have to need the work.

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

“Birdcalls” is about a time my brother and I were riding freight trains on the Highline route from Minneapolis to Seattle during a July heatwave. It’s a four-day trip across the prairie, so you have to bring a lot of water. We hid in tall brush in the Midway railyard for a whole day, dodging rail cops when they drove by, and when our train finally came, it didn’t stop––just slowed––so we had to run and catch it on the fly. We were carrying two gallon-jugs each in our hands because we couldn’t fit them in our packs. As we ran the ballast beside the train, we tossed the jugs down into the train-well to free our hands, and then climbed the ladder. But when we looked down into the train-well, our jugs had exploded and all out water was gone. So we started the sweltering cross-country trip with nothing to drink. “Birdcalls” chronicles one of many misadventures we faced on that trip.

(Read “Birdcalls” below.)

What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates?

When I was eighteen, I got really into wilderness survival and spent time at multiple outdoor schools, including the Tracker School in the Pine Barrens, where there’s a super intense vibe. On the first day you have to coal-burn a bowl from a hunk of cedar and can only eat what fits in your bowl. Some people stay up all night and eat a big breakfast, some don’t eat much. You sleep in debris huts, make fires with sticks, and cover yourself in ash to stalk animals through the woods. The people who do this stuff are really unhinged. One girl was there for a whole summer worth of classes, but there was a two-week break in the school’s schedule, so she lived in an underground scout-pit and trapped animals for food until classes started up again. This ex-military guy was preparing for the apocalypse, hoping to become completely self-sufficient and adjust to a diet of 1,000-calories-per-day before sneaking across the border and disappearing in Canada’s mountains. Anyway, I learned a lot about survival, and came to see the world through that lens. It’s a severe outlook, with focuses on efficiency, basic physical needs, awareness through the senses, and constantly rethinking what any given object could become. In short, it teaches you how to do a lot with a little, and how to reshape what you already have to make something new. (Good lessons for poetry.) Most of my poems track a survival narrative, or apply a survivalist mindset to a situation or topic, so that’s some of what’s going on in the world of Dynamite.

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

I read as much fiction as poetry. Storytelling is central to my work, and I’ve learned a great deal of craft from studying novels, especially novels with adventure stories. I’m thinking particularly of Cormac McCarthy, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Faulkner, Melville, and also Flannery O’Connor’s work, where the adventure is often a stranger’s arrival in a hometown setting.

I read nonfiction on all kinds of topics, especially human evolution, animal anatomy, early works of human art, freight trains, weather, Neanderthals (their anatomy, diet, and culture), and wilderness survival techniques. I love survival guides because they’re written in this flat, earnest tone while describing how to make it through super intense situations. There’s a kind of hypnosis in a calm voice telling you step-by-step how to slaughter an animal or how to last forty days without food while sleeping under a log. The emotion is buried, but its scent lingers on the air.

It’s also worth mentioning that I watch lots of skate videos. I grew up rollerblading and filming rollerblading, and much of my sense of aesthetics comes from this. It’s hard to explain all the links to poetry. Here’s part of it: skating employs rhythm and pacing, as well as pattern and surprise. The beginning of a skate trick makes a subtle contract with the viewer, similar to the contract the beginning of a poem makes. That contract is then fulfilled, manipulated, or entirely broken. For me, the basic aesthetics of skating are almost identical to the basic aesthetics of writing poetry.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my first full-length poetry collection, which has all the elements found in Dynamite, plus a broader range of styles, narratives, and themes, including a long sequence of persona poems and a focus on human evolution––Neanderthals, cannibalism, archeological digs, Harris lines in the bones of excavated skeletons, primitive fire-starting techniques, the development of human speech––all that good stuff.

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

When I began writing, I found myself surrounded––accidentally­­––by the best writing mentors and teachers I could have hoped for. This was at Fairhaven College of Western Washington University, where I had the honor of working with Bruce Beasley, Oliver de la Paz, Stan Tag, and my close writing mentor Mary Cornish. I was lucky. I would encourage young writers to look for mentors and community––bearing in mind that, inevitably, it won’t be how you imagined it. I would also encourage young writers to get the fuck out of their heads. Everyone says read, read, read, and write, write, write––and that’s good advice, but it’s not the whole story. If you want to offer something real, you’ve got to go out and live and struggle and listen and notice things and face the facts of how small and limited you are. You have to grow into yourself, and into the world. Writers aren’t technicians. You have to master your craft, but you also have to be a person. And don’t doubt your obsessions. If you stay true to your basic writing impulses, you’ll find a way to make it sing, and make the song cool.


Anders Carlson-Wee is a 2015 NEA Creative Writing Fellow, 2015 Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow, and the author of Dynamite, winner of the 2015 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, New England Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Blackbird, AGNI, Best New Poets, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. Winner of Ninth Letter’s Poetry Award and New Delta Review’s Editors’ Choice Prize, he holds an MFA in poetry from Vanderbilt University.




I crept around the dark train yard
while my brother watched for bulls.
Two days deep into the Badlands
and all our water gone. We had a birdcall
for if you saw something and another
for if you heard. A silent yard eight strings wide
with a few junkers parked. The horizon
a dull burn. The rails lit dimly by dew.
I was looking for the water bottles
the conductors used and threw out the windows
with maybe a sip left inside them.
I found one by stepping on it.
I sucked it like a leech. I stumbled
up and down the ballast and found five more,
unbuttoning my shirt and nesting them
against my chest upright and capless.
We had the sandpiper for if you should run
and the flycatcher for if you should hide.
I can’t remember why we had the loon.
I crouched in the space between coal trains,
cradling the bottles and feeling the weight
of how little I had to spill.
I rubbed coal on my face. I felt crazy.
I thought about being found like this.
I tried to imagine what my story would be.
A version with my brother in it.
A version with no brother. I swear
I could smell rain a thousand miles away.
I could smell rain in the soot. I folded my hands
around my lips and made the gray ghost,
which told him where I was.
And also meant stay alert.
And also meant some other things
only owls understood.

(first appeared in Blackbird)

Luisa A. Igloria

5.1 (1)Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press, 2015)

What’s your chapbook about?

The things that demand our attention are varied. Some may seem larger or more momentous, but when we step back to view them against a larger context, they can look and feel different.

Beth McDermott wrote an introduction to the chapbook. In it, she says some things approximating my own interest in certain themes: trying to live in a world that’s transforming rapidly in so many ways (for instance, think climate change, the perilous sense of impending apocalypse, the erosion of certain aspects of vital connection as well as the development of new forms of art, science, and material culture).

It’s possible to say perhaps that one of the chapbook’s main subjects is the relationship between time and scale— that is, our sense or perception of how things are bigger or smaller, or more or less relevant, than they are.

Poetry offers and cultivates a different kind of attention which I believe is helpful as we try to figure out how to carry the sense of our own mortality in the day to day.

Can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

For this question, I think I’ll talk about the poem whose last two lines I reworked for use as the chapbook title—this is the poem “From tree to tree” (on page 11 of the collection). By itself, the poem did not necessarily catalyze or inspire the rest of the chapbook. It’s a small, compact poem, only 8 lines. The most important effect I wanted to achieve was the creation of a movement and reciprocality between and among the handful of images I used.

In the first two lines I wanted to quickly establish the idea that it isn’t only us leaving marks of ourselves on the surfaces we see or touch—we are marked by experience too. I once had throw pillow covers, made in India, with little mirrors, pieces of glass, stitched on the fabric—the final line of the poem gives this image.

I am always amazed by where that kind of drive and desire come from— think of the extravagance it signifies, to take such pieces of broken glass, back them with silvery paint, drill tiny holes so they can be applied to a piece of cloth with needle and embroidery thread. To make a surplus out of “nothing.” To take remainders, those otherwise useless bits, and make of them another artifact, a different kind of moment to behold.

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

I write at least a poem a day. That also means I am constantly revising. Some of the most important things I have learned from this daily discipline (which I have done for more than four and a half years now, since November 10, 2010): learning to be open and spontaneous, to keep an active sense of “play” and discovery in the process of generating materials for poems and poems themselves.

I’ve described the process in more detail here.

What are you working on now?

I have a new manuscript of mostly but not only persona poems that I’ve started sending around. I’m also organizing poems into two new book manuscripts, and beginning work on a book of essays.

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

Like broadsides, chapbooks date back to the early 1500s. Etymology tells us that “chap” comes from the Old English word for “trade.” Small, cheaply produced books that could be bound by hand and circulated from hand to hand, chapbooks were often offered for a few coins at street corners. As such, the form illustrates a democratic production and circulation base: where literature and poetry are actively written and consumed, like bread.

I think that the renewed popularity of chapbooks in our time is a good sign—hopefully, it means that there might be forces and influences at work beyond those dictated by large commercial publishing houses; and that matters of relevance, innovation, and taste can be shaped from the ground up.

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

A world with dissolving edges. A world on the brink. A world looking backward and forward. As well as inward and out. And we, of course, inhabit that world.

Which poem in your chapbook has a memorable back story to you? What’s the back story?

I wrote “Red Hornbill Earring” (page 29 of the collection) shortly after I read that Renato Rosaldo had published The Day of Shelly’s Death: The Poetry and Ethnography of Grief (Duke University Press, 2013).  He and his wife Michelle (Shelly) Rosaldo were cultural anthropologists who had conducted much research and field work in the Philippines. Around the time of his wife’s death (she lost her footing on a trail and fell from a ravine into a river), they were also visiting academics at the university where I used to teach in Baguio. As a very young academic, I remember having attended some of the short presentations they gave of their work among the Ilongot (headhunting, ethnography, notions of self, beauty, and language). I did not know before reading about his new book  that he wrote poetry, but somehow it doesn’t seem surprising.

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

Lyric essays. Dictionaries, or books on etymology. Tango music. Food writing (including cookbooks). Essays on colonial and postcolonial history and art.


Originally from Baguio City, Luisa A. Igloria  is the author of the eChapbook Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (2015); Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press); Night Willow (2014); and 11 other books. From 2009-2015, she directed the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, where she is on the poetry faculty. Since November 20, 2010, she has been writing (at least) a poem a day.




Only the cloud rat knows
how to scale the tree
of heaven, whose roots
are hidden in fog

from mortal view.
And only the rough-
skinned tubers in the field
might possibly know the volume

and density of time, or how
the worms have mastered its
parcelling-out. What does it matter
if it is tortoise or serpent

that grinds the wobbly
axis of the world? The sky
is portent and mystery,
the sea’s architecture

encoded in salt; the wood
is wild or so I think, only
because I have not learned
to read the wood in me.



of a chime intercepted by a draft:
salt filtering down the cellar.

of sectioned light: marble
with a heart of revolving flame.

that the bird stole
in the shape of a fig.

on the counter’s edge:
powdery sift of milk on the tongue.

suspended from the rafters,
furled tight as a drying rosebud.

Matthew Wimberley

wimberley_front-coverSnake Mountain Almanac (Seven Kitchens Press, 2015)

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

My favorite chapbook is Ocean by Joseph Millar, published by Tavern Books. It’s one heck of a poem, and I used to read it at night in New York taking the train back from Washington Square to Bay Ridge. Other chapbooks I’m fond of are Nancy Hechinger’s chapbook Letter to Leonard Cohen, Highway or Belief by J. Scott Brownlee, Nueve Años Inmigrantes by Javier Zamora, and Sea Island Blues by Tyree Daye.

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

These books are all deeply rooted in personal mythology, story, and a concern for people. I think I’m drawn to them because they are poems for everyone, they feel vulnerable and completely honest. These are poets who are accessible and have tapped into the music of language and its ability to create empathy.

What’s your chapbook about?

Snake Mountain Almanac is a dialogue between the self and the people and landscape of Southern Appalachia. The people here are often caricatured and largely overlooked by society, and while these poems aren’t directly political, they do speak to the consequences of neglect.

There are also poems addressing my father, who passed away in 2012. It’s as if I’ve been able to superimpose him into this landscape and speak to him.

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 “Black Mountains,” which I wrote sometime in late 2010. It’s gone unchanged for the most part, and it’s one of the shortest poems I’ve ever written (10 lines). When I wrote the poem “Elegy Written in Dust Kicked-Up Along a Backroad,” there was a real feeling of clarity after I sat with the poem for a while. It had so much going into it, which seemed to open up space for the other poems to enter.

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

I guess my process is the same always: I try to write a few hours every day, and most of the time it’s nowhere near a poem. I was surprised when I had all of these poems that I felt were working together, so the natural thing was to arrange them into a chapbook.

I don’t think I could have written the chapbook if I had set out to do it; instead I feel like the speaker in the Roethke poem who says “I learn by going where I have to go.”

For revision, I’m constantly re-writing the poem and reading it out loud to listen for the right language. I write everything by hand in my notebook, which is full of lines where I’ve scratched things out, and notes that would be indecipherable to most. I love revision and I think the best strategy I have is patience with the poem.

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

The arrangement of the poem came about thanks to my friends. First, Scott (J. Scott Brownlee) gave me some great advice on the order. After reworking it, I emailed a copy to my friend and fellow poet Sierra Golden, who had some great insight into individual poems which helped me reshape the order. Last, I sent a copy to Dorianne Laux. Once it got her “seal of approval,” I felt like I could send the chapbook out into the world beyond my friends.

As for the title, Snake Mountain looms in the distance near my house, and I look at it every day. It’s an impressive sloping profile which I’ve gladly given time to gaze at whenever I can. One of my favorite books is A Sand County Almanac by the naturalist Aldo Leopold, and I wanted to riff off that.

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

I’m lucky to have so many talented friends, and when I saw a photo by Sam Brown, I knew I wanted to use it for the cover. When I sent the image to my friend Valerie Dueñas to work on the layout, she suggested we alter the image to give more depth to the cover. Sam let us manipulate the image, and Val and I talked about the possibilities. She eventually came to the current design, which I couldn’t be happier with. It’s the landscape distorted and broken up.Take from that whatever you like.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book length manuscript called All the Great Territories. Some of the          poems from SMA appear in it, but the chapbook has a good number of poems that are reserved for the chapbook.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?

Sit down and write.

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

In short, yes, I think so. I think in the chapbook, the dialogue of individual poems is extended and as a condition of this, the reader is given more accessibility into the language, and into the world. Because poems are products of the world, they pull in the politics, even if the direction of the poem isn’t political.

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

I think my chapbook creates a world that is both an observation of the real place and people around me, as well as a world where I’ve built a personal mythology. My friends, family, and neighbors are all in there, going around doing ordinary things.

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?

The last poem to be added to SMA was “Cold Light.” When I wrote it, and then added it to the chapbook, it felt like I could really move across the landscape of all the poems. “Cold Light” cleared a path through the woods, in a sense. It brought in this story about my father, and this place where I grew up and have lived for most of my life. I also think of that poem as one that leaps out and connects SMA to other poems of mine, which aren’t in the chapbook.

I guess I thought the chapbook was complete when it was in my hand. I could probably revise and tear down forever.

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

I can’t really choose one. I hope these poems have a kindness to them, even when there is poverty, suicide, addiction. These are difficult things to write without inflicting more pain. I don’t know if it’s possible not to. I want readers to have a sense of compassion. So the unfair answer is that they are all meaningful and I can’t rank my sense of empathy, or articulate it well enough to point to one poem and say it’s the most meaningful.

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

Now I’m able to manage my time better and have gotten into a good routine of setting aside time to write daily. I’m trying to read more and more, I think that’s a habit I’d like to continue to pick up.

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

I could mention a few things but I want to just talk about the stars. I love them; there are constantly images of stars (and trees) in my poems. It can be such a clichéd image, but if you grow up in the country where the night sky is engulfed with starlight, you spend a good part of your life looking up (or I did). So for me, it’s natural that there are always stars. If only loosely, this image places the poems together. I think when the poems are side by side, I notice it much more, so certainly the chapbook amplifies my awareness, at least. But every night sky is a little different, and I hope I use the image not to fill space, but to really push the poem ahead.

Did you read straight through your chapbook 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 did read it out loud, over and over again. When I got to a poem I just didn’t want to read again, I cut it (though it took time to make myself do it).

Whose work helped you in the writing of this chapbook?

Larry Levis, Sharon Olds, Marie Howe, Phil Levine, Dorianne Laux, Joe Millar, Yusef Komunyakaa, and so many of my friends.

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

When I’m writing, I sit down and write for myself and don’t really do it for anyone else, though the audience (after the fact) I hope would be anyone, the person who didn’t think they would ever read a poem outside of a classroom.

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

I don’t know if anything is more important than sitting down and writing, with the understanding that it’s work. There are plenty of people who have talent, but if you’re not willing to put in the time, you’re not cutting it.


Matthew Wimberley grew up in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. His chapbook Snake Mountain Almanac was selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2014 Rane Arroyo Chapbook Contest from Seven Kitchens Press. Winner of the 2015 William Matthews Prize from The Asheville Review, and a finalist for the 2012 Narrative 30 Below Contest, his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, Narrative, Orion, The Paris-American, Poet Lore, Rattle, Shenandoah, and Verse Daily. Wimberley received his MFA from NYU, where he worked with children at St. Mary’s Hospital as a Starworks Fellow.


find Matthew Wimberley on twitter @mattwimberley


Wreckage of the Moon

The field needs no elegy,
veiled in night’s black feathers.
Frost melting in an upturned snail shell
reflects the dark sky–
how it moves through the trees
and the cold blades of my body.
I listen.

A bay horse raises one hoof
bringing with it a thread of shadow–
lifting it into himself. Exiled
moonlight sinks into the bare cisterns
of earth. It begins
a quiet disappearance
I follow.

Nicole Rollender

7985037Bone of My Bone (Blood Pudding Press, 2015)

Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio, 2015)

Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, forthcoming 2016)

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

I’ve become such a fan of Blood Pudding Press’s chapbooks, especially Lisa Ciccarello’s At night, the dead and Lisa Marie Cole’s Renegade // Heart. Ghostly, visionary, metaphysical, macabre, haunted, these small but powerful collections make me want to write even more – the poems speak to the concerns my work centers on: the complexities of being an embodied spirit, how the dead still haunt/influence our lives and what we learn from them, but also what does the quotidian in our life mean? Such as: when a woman brooms her floor while feeling a baby move within, when a grandmother slices cabbage in early morning light thinking of her late husband, when I sit near a dusk-lit window and write a list of words that name the chaos in my inner rooms.

These chapbooks are also beautiful art objects: the cover images, the cover and text stock is deckle-edged, the pages are hand-numbered and spider-stamped, and the tomes are bound with decorative ribbon and wrapped in paper and tied with more ribbon when delivered. I was such a fan of how BPP produces artful chapbooks that I specifically wanted to send Bone of My Bone there first for its annual open reading period.

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

In my writing, I marry the melancholic and the celebratory, the disordered with the ordered, the grotesque and the gorgeous, what these collections do. My poems aren’t for everyone: they’re self-confrontational and not meant to be comfortable, but I try to create some kind of beauty from what most disturbs us. Poems about the dead – and what haunts us. And also for those seeking what the divine is/ means/ how it speaks and manifests: “What is the divine, but God-light,/ thorn and scourge, blood let, that bone/ shine? What is also the divine: There is no saint/ without a past.”

What’s your chapbook about?

I imagine these poems occurring in a bombed-out cathedral, under cover of darkness, maybe some otherworldly light edging the sky. The narrator is many: women who talk to the dead, mothers who “plant skulls in soil and grow sunflowers,” women suicides, women who cradle premature babies, women who prepare the bodies of the dead, women who exist between the “reliquaria of childbirth” and saints’ incorruptible bodies.  These women also live inside themselves, contending with the “wolves within,” asking: “How do I measure the body’s gardens from within its bone fences?” The dead and what is the divine inhabit this collection – they’re looking for kinship, for remembrance, for some kind of communion. They recognize the living as embodied spirits, a type of mirroring. And the narrator, the “she” in many women, goes many places in these poems, even to an uncharted space where the divine’s “name becomes a hand leading me to a place/ where even your name I-am-all-that-is can’t be.” Where does she end up? Existing between this life and the next. She may not have found peace, but she has tried to catch God whole, and let the dead close enough “to smell her mouth’s chancel.”

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

My first chapbook, Arrangement of Desire, was published in 2007 by Pudding House Press. It’s out of print now and in a way, it’s my baby book – when I look back at it, there are a few poems that I still feel stand up to time. The rest are my child poems still play in the sandbox, and that’s OK. I wrote another chapbook manuscript after that called Necessary Work, and I sent it out quite a bit but had no takers. So early in 2014, I really took stock of my poems, and focused on revising, but mainly on writing a lot of new poems. My work grew a lot, and I let Necessary Work go. That was hard, but now, similar to the title, necessary work for me to move forward in my writing.

This year and early in 2016, I have three chapbooks, the first of which is Bone of My Bone. The second to be released is Absence of Stars, from dancing girl press & studio. Finally, I have a micro-chap (about 10 poems) called Ghost Tongue, forthcoming from Porkbelly Press in early 2016.

Absence of Stars was the first one I wrote, and it’s a small chapbook – 13 poems that are about the narrator’s motherhood, the troubled births of premature children, losing mother figures. It’s about the body becoming a creatrix in a very tangible way – it’s about carrying those children, their bones, growing their shadows long under trees.

I put Bone of My Bone together next and then I started to focus on writing and publishing in journals poems for my first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, that’s forthcoming from ELJ Publications later this year.

In May, I was in a car accident, where another driver went through a stop sign and T-boned my car, hitting right into my door. I sustained some injuries, including a concussion. The two months after the accident were difficult because I was trying to live my regular life with a full-time job and two small children. During that time, I took some of the poems from Arrangement of Desire, reworked and mashed them up, and then wrote some additional poems to form a 10-poem micro-chap called Ghost Tongue. These poems are a conversation between the living and the dead, and also my testament to making art. One of the new poems, “What I Want to Explain Is That I’m Here,” speaks to that: These poems are the artifact of me now, alive, even though somewhat temporarily diminished. Something of me, radiant still.

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 poem that I think really catalyzed the rest of the chapbook was “Marked” (it first appeared in the December 2014 issue of MiPOesias). I worked through many, many drafts of this poem. I read about certain African tribes that singed the skin of women who didn’t bear children. I thought about people who tattoo iconography on their skin, and what that might mean to them. I thought of those of us who cut into our own skin to make our pain visible. We’re all in some way marked, spiritually, physically or both. And yet, we’re spirits in a body. How do we live these two joined forms? These lines address that concern, can we ever get at the spirit part of ourselves: “This is how // the body seems at first, impenetrable – / yet, a woman still sings ghazals // from between your ribs.”

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

I enter my writing mind often by reading others’ work. I have shelves of poetry and other books, and I rotate the stack that sits near my laptop. Every few days, I select different piles of books, chapbooks, anthologies and journals, and then rifle through them, reading snippets of poems and whole poems. I write down words or phrases or things that occur to me so I can find that day’s entryway into my own writing. Audre Lorde is one of my perpetual favorites, as are Rainer Maria Rilke and Anne Carson. I have a weird revision strategy: I email myself drafts of a poem over and over. It comes to my email in a different font and I read it aloud as if I’m seeing it for the first time. When I hit on a problem spot, I revise and then email again. In a sitting, sometimes I’ll email myself 50 times. I also read the chapbook in this way, emailing myself poem sequences to see if they worked.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual poems in the chapbook?

I put together the final version of the chapbook that I submitted for the Blood Pudding Press prize shortly before the contest deadline. I’m not the poet who puts together a chapbook that’s wound around a tight theme (like say your theme is archangels and then each poem’s title is named after one), so for me the sequencing is more of an organic process, like does it feel right reading after reading. One of the movements through the chapbook is parts of the Christian canonical hours prayer (so “Lauds” is the predawn prayer, “None” is the noon prayer, and so on), so I selected those poems to be anchors along the way. I arranged the rest of the poems along the idea of a journey, the search for God, the possibility of God, who is this God.  And there are repetitions throughout the chapbook, images, themes, concerns that I felt moved it toward its conclusion, of a suspension between this life and the next. As far as titles, I don’t fancy myself as the best title writer; there are many poets whose titles I admire and feel they have a real talent for it. I chose the title Bone of My Bone after one of my favorite poems in the collection – a poem that speaks to my maternal lineage, and the idea of returning to my grandmother’s birth, more than a century ago. That passage back through time to relive with the dead. Also, that part of my grandmother created me – and I pass some of her onto my daughter.

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

Blood Pudding Press publisher Juliet Cook is also a fantastic artist and she creates these amazing painting/ collage hybrid art pieces. I really wanted to feature her work on the cover, so when she asked me what ideas for the cover, I told her I’d love to use her work and I described my dream imagery as the “ghostly and bone-filled, the grotesque mixed with the glittery and beautiful.” Juliet sent me a few choices, but the one the resonated most with me with the skull and bone beside it, and adorned with beads, feathers and bits of yarn. When I visited Paris, I went underground into the catacombs, and I loved being surrounded by the skulls and bones of people who had lived in the city for hundreds of years. There’s something lovely in honoring the dead, and in spending time with the most durable parts of their physical selves. I wanted the chapbook cover art to be a type of artifact, something enduring that we can revere.

Is there a question you wish you would have been asked about your chapbook? How would you answer it?

Why does God figure so largely in this chapbook?

This collection is also about seeking and carpe diem. Seeking some sort of life purpose, but also living furiously. I love the God in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems – the creator, but also a shade vulnerable, the God who is waiting for our friendship. That’s the God I tried to portray in this chapbook:

Yet if my God is a mother who would fall on a sword

to save me, if it’s you who blows the dark from above my bed,

if it’s you who warms the milk and plated bread I wake to,

if it’s you, tiger-mother who swallows my suffering,

then I swaddle you, Lord,

and rock you.

What are you working on now?

My first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, will be out later this year from ELJ Publications, so I’ve been working with my publisher, Ariana D. Den Bleyker, on the final ordering and poem tweaks and the like. Also, looking at cover art. It’s very surreal and so exciting that this book will be coming into the world soon.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?

Just that there’s no one way to write a chapbook. You can write 10 poems around a tight theme, like archangels or types of vegetables or states. You can write a longer chapbook, say 22 to 25 pages, that has a loose narrative arc. The best advice I have is to understand best practices, by reading advice from editors and other writers on ideal page length, for example, and to scour lots of other chapbooks. Then, take a leap and create something that you haven’t seen before. You need to believe in the work and hone it until others will. Live with it until when you read it, you feel your own spine tingling.

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

Without stopping to think, write a list of 10 poets whose work you would tattoo on your body, or at least, your clothing, to take it with you at all times.


Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe Journal, THRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, Word Riot and others. Her full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She’s the author of the chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine, and Princemere Journal.



The Preparation of the Body 

Maybe this is just a form

of sleep. Your fingers curled around an oar.

We’d have to break metacarpals and phalanges

to separate your hand from the waves

and the stones. The sinking

under the moon, the overturn,

dirt still underneath nails. Your ceramic

tongue, your ruined eyes, three lost ribs. One summer

you left your paper

dolls on a train in Amiens. Your fingers weren’t

like leather. They moved like lace

against the windows. The fields

were miraculous. Now, we gather your teeth

in a jar, plait your hair like women

knotting a doll’s hair, tie you

to the earth with a kind of vine

to create order. But, the world widens

inside your skull. Soon

you’ll split into many dark shapes.

Meg Pokrass

Here, Where We Live (Rose Metal Press,  2014)

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

Mr. Bridge, Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell; We, The Animals by Justin Torres; and Monkeys by Susan Minot.

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

They suggest that I prefer to bond and care for fictional characters through skillful vignettes and unexpected, sometimes random, unusual moments minus any linear narrative.

What’s your novella about?

It is a coming-of-age story about a teenager, an only child, whose father was tragically killed, and whose mother is battling breast cancer.

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

Here, Where We Live is an offshoot of The Smell of Good Luck, a much longer novella I wrote first. The main character in both novellas is loosely based on a young me, in that she sees the world the way I did at that age. After writing The Smell of Good Luck I was drawn to take a very similar character on a different path. I created a different family situation for her, with new obstacles and complications…and of course, a different dog. Recently,  I have written a third novella (composed of microfiction stories) called The Truth is a Hat. That one is about a middle aged woman who is no longer in love with her husband of many years, or he with her. It is about her life during the denial of that reality, and how she comes to terms with it. It is about an affair she has in an attempt to regains a sense of wellness. I believe I wrote that novella after the other two because it could very well be an older “Abby”. I think my desire (after writing so much about teenage life) was to write about adult life.

How did you decide on the length and title of your novella? What were some of its earlier titles?

The length decided itself, oddly. It felt done at a certain point, and I knew that going any further would make it unfocused and vague. The title didn’t change. I named the novella after finishing it. It stuck.

Did you submit your novella to contests, open reading periods, or both?

I submitted The Smell of Good Luck (then called The Sticky Lust of Hummingbirds) to Rose Metal Press for a chapbook contest. They wrote back and said it had almost made it, and about a month later, they asked if I had another. Right when they asked me, I was writing the new one, which is the one they accepted. Editors at RMP worked strongly with me on every draft. They are wonderful editors.

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

Rose Metal Press did all of the design work. I’m glad, because I love what they did with the book. I would never have known how to make it look so wonderful. Because there are 5 novellas inside the larger book, which is titled My Very End of the Universe and contains 5 novellas-in-flash (by myself and 4 other authors: Aaron Teel, Tiff Holland, Chris Bower, and Margaret Chapman). Rose Metal Press’s editors chose a line from Tiff Holland’s Betty Superman to inspire the book’s cover image. All of our novellas in the book have to do with childhood and/or involve coming-of-age, so My Very Corner of the Universe‘s title and image were ideal.

What have you done to promote and publicize your novella?  

Facebook, especially..  as well as many appearances and readings. The book won a Gold IPPY Award, and that was very good for publicity. I have done audio readings on the radio which I have posted to my website, etc. When one is with a small independent press, it is very important to do whatever you can do to get the word out. I am not afraid of social media, and pride myself on being creative in how I use it.

What are you working on now?

I’m creating new pieces, stories and prose poetry, and will be making new collections out of them.

What is your writing practice or process?

I write at the end of the day for as many hours as I can do. I like to write when I’m tired and not as hard on cogency, in order to get to places that are more vulnerable and less guarded. Sometimes I do my best writing at bedtime, and right before sleep. I typically rewrite and edit my own work in the daytime, with a more rational brain.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring novella author?

Don’t ever give up. Don’t face the facts! Just believe in your voice, and nurture it.  Bobbie Ann Mason says “naive optimism” is what worked for her. She didn’t overthink it, she believed in herself and went for it. Be naively optimistic… Insist on it.

Do you have a favorite prompt or revision technique? What is it?

Yes, I like a spell check exercise very much. It involves typing a story or poem as fast as you can into a word doc or e-mail with spellcheck… writing at lightening speed and so you will have spelled quite badly. When you are done with it, go to all of the misspelled words and replace them with some of the most unlikely words they recommend, the more absurd the word choice, the better. See how it changes your piece. Rewrite it then, using a few of these absurd ideas.

Is there a question you wish you would have been asked about your novella? How would you answer it?

Q: Why do you think kids, like your character “Abby”, act or seem mean toward an empathetic, vulnerable parent? A: I think teenagers are so subconsciously hard on themselves that they can’t help taking it out on parents or on one parent if there are not two. It is their wonderful and terrible love for their parent (s) which makes them seem so mean at times… they are experiencing a perplexing kind of love. They know they will be somewhat like their parents if they aren’t careful. The ways in which they act out are thrilling to me as a writer. Abby loves her mother but is worried about her, so she makes fun of her to create a healthy distance.

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

Q: Did you have a pre-conceived idea and an architectural structure and plan for your novella? Did you map out a narrative arc? How much of it changed in the process of writing it?

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

I wish that I were writing for the average reader. I am afraid mostly the novellas were read by other flash fiction lovers and writers of novellas. It would be amazing to have the work read by people who are entirely new to the form.. that is, not just writers or creative writing students. Finding a wider audience is a literary writers’ dream.

How does the novella allow you to do things you wouldn’t normally do in a full-length book? Why does it allow you to do it? Is it because the novella is more under the radar? Or is it because of its format? Its length?

I like how it blossoms but does not take over one’s life. At least, it didn’t take over mine. It allowed me time and focus to write other things as well.


 Meg Pokrass is the author of Here, Where We Live a novella-in-flash in the 5-author anthology My Very End of the Universe (Rose Metal Press, 2014),Damn Sure Right (Press 53, 2011), Bird Envy (Harvard Bookstore, 2013), Cellulose Pajamas – Prose Poetry (Blue Light Book Award, 2016), and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down (Etruscan Press, 2015). Her flash fiction is internationally anthologized, most recently in Flash Fiction International(W.W.Norton, 2015).



A few months after chemotherapy, Mom got a part-time telemarketing job selling ballet season tickets. She didn’t sell enough, though, so they fired her after just three weeks.

Mom said she hated selling people tickets they didn’t want. She would tell people not to buy anything over the phone if they sounded old. She was proud of getting fired.

Unemployed, she still sends money to Friends of the Bird Refuge, The Homeless Coalition, and Save the Trees. I worry about where she is finding money to do this. Daniel works, and he lives here rent-free, so I figure they must have some arrangement to even things out.

I look at old photos of Mom from when she was an actress—her hair all modelish and her eyes full of sparkly plans.

Now she wears hats, scarves, hoop earrings, wigs. But nothing makes her look normal.

The new baby-chick fuzz on Mom’s scalp feels so soft that sometimes I pet it and say “nice nice fuzz,” but Mom touches her scalp too much. When she does that, even at the beach art show, even where everyone is supposed to be interesting and artsy—even there, she looks like a bald weirdo fingering her head.

Brent Martin

s992345732985280052_p133_i1_w1780 (1)Staring the Red Earth Down (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014)

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

I love the poetry chapbook series that Voices from the American Land publishes. I’m not sure how many have been published at this point, but they are each little marvels with deep attachment and poetic perspectives on very particular places within the American landscape. I also love all of the old Jargon Society chapbooks. Both of these also merge with art with words, which adds another dimension to the power of the publication.

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

I write primarily about place, and particularly about the place I’m close to – Cowee, North Carolina, and the forests, streams, and inhabitants of the Little Tennessee valley. I first encountered one of the Voices of the American Land several years ago, and became a subscriber. After several issues, a poet friend of mine, Thomas Rain Crowe, approached their editor with a chapbook proposal for our region here in western North Carolina. It was accepted, and we collaborated with Cherokee scholar Barbara Duncan to publish the chapbook, Every Breath Sings Mountains in 2011.

What’s your chapbook about?  

Staring the Red Earth Down is a place based collection of poetry that gives voice to several local characters who live here in Cowee, and to the landscape itself. The title is from a line in the poem “Man Pulling Cable,” which is about a boondoggle DOT project that interrupted life in our valley for almost two years. I sat in lines almost every day during this period watching bulldozers and heavy equipment operators move earth and alter the landscape in profound ways, without connection to or remorse for these ancient processes that form both our external and internal landscapes in many significant ways.

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

Poems from Snow Hill Road (New Native Press, 2007) was my first attempt at expressing the uniqueness of the Little Tennessee River valley and its many interesting characters and places. I had been living here for almost five years at this point, and had been working on some poems regarding stories I had heard from many of the older multi-generational people living here. I showed a few of these to the New Native Press editor, Thomas Rain Crowe, who liked them and asked for me to send him more. I also showed him some of the artwork that my artist friend Rob Cox had produced that I felt was appropriate to the book, and he really like it and used it. This was the result.

A Shout in the Woods (Flutter Press, 2010). I’m not a fast writer, and ideas have to gel and be reworked, forgotten, etc. before anything comes together. After a few years of collecting ideas and noodling around with them, this collection came together. It’s similar to Poems from Snow Hill Road, but with a few years of additional time to learn and experience more of the landscape here, as well as play with writing styles and ideas. Once again the artist Rob Cox came through with a visually compelling cover that Flutter really liked and used.

Every Breath Sings Mountains (Voices from the American Land, 2011) was the result of the proposal mentioned above that Thomas Rain Crowe gave to VFTAL. The poems were all place based and illustrated by the artist Robert Johnson. VFTAL has an interesting contractual arrangement that involves a lot of expectations around publicity. As a result, we pulled off an incredible evening with a lot of western North Carolina writers, including notables such as Charles Frazier and Wayne Caldwell, to launch the book and host a panel on place. There were probably 300 people in attendance and it was a powerful evening with so much creative energy in one place.

Staring the Red Earth Down (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014).  Red Bird was such an incredible discovery. I came across them after an internet search on chapbook publishers, and thought they looked really interesting. They pay a lot of attention to what they publish, and care a lot about the design and visual aspects of their books. I sent them about thirty poems with some artwork by Rob Cox, and they accepted twenty two of them, and loved Rob’s art. It’s another place based collection, but stretches out in a few new directions, in some ways seeking to give voice to the land itself.

Hunting for Camellias at Horseshoe Bend (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2015). Red Bird has a non-fiction reading period once a year, and publish several non-fiction chapbooks a year. I submitted this 15,000 word collection, realizing there would likely be a lot of completion, and was greatly honored and pleased when they accepted. It contains three natural history essays, and once again Red Bird made the collection visually compelling and interesting. It contains 18th century map images, and a fold out 19th century map of Cowee in its center.  Dana Hoeschen at Red Bird is amazing with the creative energy and commitment she puts into her books.

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 “The Love Trial of Virgie Arthur.” It’s a poem that began some years ago while I was stranded one winter day for ten hours at the Asheville airport with nothing to do but watch CNN, which covered the trial and numerous legal matters around the death of Anna Nicole Smith. I like the poem, but it was rejected by Flutter. When I sent it to Red Bird, they accepted it with all of the other new poems. But the poem that I think was the catalyst for the rest was “Retiring the Woodpile.” It’s the first poem in the book, and I think it sets the tone. I remember beginning it after working all day splitting wood on one cold winter day and watching all of my work from stacking it neatly on our porch collapse upon a mortuary Buddha that has sat on our porch for years. The poem began with that image.

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

I keep a notebook with ideas and beginnings in it. I revisit it often, and after it’s been left for a while, I come back to see if anything happens with it when I try to render it into a poem.  Of course, sometimes the poems just seem to come on their own, and there’s not a lot of effort into getting something to work. But usually it’s a slow process for me to pull all the poems together into some type of coherent relationship that hopefully works.

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual poems in the chapbook?

Well, I let my wife provide the title for this collection. I was struggling with it, and so she pulled the title from a line in “Man Pulling Cable,” and it worked. Individual poems can be difficult or easy. Sometimes a line or phrase from the poem works, and sometimes I struggle and search for some image or words that add to the poem itself.

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

I sent Red Bird numerous high rez images of Rob Cox’s work, and they proposed various covers from them. They also chose several images to sprinkle throughout the work that add immensely to the collection itself. Rob’s paintings have always resonated with me, and inspired me greatly.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a full-length collection of poems, which is basically the substance of all four poetry chapbook collections plus some new material, and I’m working on a nonfiction collection. I also have a novel that I have been working on for a few years, currently taking a rest while I pursue these other two projects. My wife says that it is all that I should be working on right now, but it’s a slow process, and I need a lot of time for it, so I’m giving it a break.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?

Take your time pulling together what you feel are poems that have connections and power and find the right press that will honor them the way you feel they should be.Think visually about them, and pay attention to how they are presented. Chapbooks are such interesting publications because they are small and compressed, and collectible as such, so make the best out of it. I love chapbooks.

Did you read straight through your chapbook 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?

Yes, I usually read out loud to my wife, who is my best critic and reader.

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

Local histories, Orion magazine, history in general, good non-fiction of all sorts.

Whose work helped you in the writing of this chapbook?

Katherine Stripling Byer, Catherine Carter, George Ellison, Thomas Rain Crowe.

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

People who appreciate the power of place, and enjoy narrative in their poems.

Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook? Does your chapbook follow a clear arc?

Yes, I felt that it was the best way to get published early on, and I enjoy the process of pulling together a small, intimate collection.


Brent Martin is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry – Poems from Snow Hill Road (New Native Press, 2007), A Shout in the Woods (Flutter Press, 2010), and Staring the Red Earth Down (Red Bird Press, 2014), and is a co-author of Every Breath Sings Mountains (Voices from the American Land, 2011) with authors Barbara Duncan and Thomas Rain Crowe. He is also the author of Hunting for Camellias at Horseshoe Bend,  a non-fiction chapbook published by Red Bird Press in 2015. His poetry and essays have been published in North Carolina Literary Review, Pisgah Review, Tar River Poetry, Chattahoochee Review, Eno Journal, New Southerner, Kudzu Literary Journal, Smoky Mountain News, and elsewhere. He lives in the Cowee community in western North Carolina and is currently serving as the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the West.



Retiring the Woodpile

Heavy and ascetic the long dead Buddha
sits beside our front porch wood pile
in silent resurrection. Eyes closed,
oblivious to the dried wren shit

staining the folds of his open robe,
he is so unmoved by my afternoon activity
of climbing, splitting, and stacking,
that he remains indifferent

when my body wearies and my work
collapses upon him in sloppy abandon.
I’m tired and unenlightened
and somewhat unimpressed.

I mean, did the Buddha ever split firewood?
The old Zen saying goes something
like this: how effortless I split wood,
how effortless I carry water,

but I admit I would rather become
effortless at staring out at the meadow
while the goldfinches strip the feeder
of sunflower seeds above me,

sleeping at last, giving it all a rest.

Hadara Bar-Nadav

fountain_furnace225Fountain and Furnace (Tupelo Press, 2015)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks?

Some recent chapbooks I have really enjoyed include The Garden Room by Joy Katz, Trace by Simone Muench, and Landscape Portrait Figure Form by Dean Rader.

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

They remind me to keep innovating and to keep challenging myself. I like to challenge myself with each book that I write, to try and do something new, even if I’m the only one who notices it. I already know how to write the poems that I write, so I need to ask myself, what’s next?A chapbook can be a productive place to experiment.

What’s your chapbook about?

Fountain and Furnace is a sensuous exploration of the inner lives of objects—a wineglass, a motel, or a thumb. We fill our days with such matter and clutter, which seem to disappear inside of their particular and often necessary functions. Do we ever really consider the bedroom door and what she has witnessed? Or the fountain with its sculpture of a naked boy standing in a city square? The whole world comes alive in the poems of Fountain and Furnace.

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

I have published one other chapbook, Show Me Yours, which is heavily influenced by architecture. Love and desire are explored through the metaphors of the body, buildings, and other physical structures. Sensual pleasures mingle with aesthetic pleasures in graphically-charged poems in which desire (creation) and violence (destruction) coexist.

What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

The oldest poem in Fountain and Furnace is “Hand.” I had seen a Salvador Dali exhibit and was riveted by his painting The Hand. While standing in front of the painting, the poem came out almost whole, which doesn’t happen very often in my work.

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

Usually, reading is my writing prompt. I read until something catches, a word or a phrase takes shape, or an image blows up in my mind. As I was working on the poems that became Fountain and Furnace, I read and reread Ponge’s Mute Objects of Expression and Stein’s Tender Buttons. They are my writing prompt. Magritte’s paintings also inspired some of the poems.

How did you decide on the title of your chapbook?

“Fountain” is actually the title of one of the poems in the chapbook. And furnace is a word in the final poem “Heart” (“A furnace of tongues.”). I liked the cool and heat suggested by Fountain and Furnace, and the alliterative sound play of this pairing. Also, all of the objects in this collection have their own heat, their own impulses, so the idea of a furnace—a seething force—seemed the right gesture.

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

I was thrilled to feature Janet Sternburg’s photograph “Phantom” on the front cover, which Tupelo Press supported. Janet had recently sent me a link to a museum that was showing a retrospective of her work. As I looked through her images, I was stunned by her treatment of objects and light, the way colors and forms drifted into each other without beginning or end. Somehow, the photographs seem holy, haunted, beatific, even transformed, but they are also simply objects, little assemblages of ordinary items seen through windows and her extraordinary vision.

What are you working on now?

I am currently worked on a full-length manuscript that features some of the poems from Fountain and Furnace. I am still excited by the project and am still learning from the study of objects. I have also enjoyed working in spare couplets again, carving down language, and isolating the images, which the couplet allows me to do.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?

I might offer them a question to consider as they are putting together a manuscript: What poems are essential? This question should be asked for assembling books as well, but the chapbook’s shorter form demands a keen precision.

What kind of world do you think your chapbook creates? 

Fountain and Furnace creates a world where everything is alive, sensual, fantastical, haunted.

Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook?

I did not set out with the intention of writing a chapbook. I wrote one poem, and then another, and then another. And then my son was born, and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t write another thing. But I found that I could revise my poems, and I could assemble them. While my son napped, I put together the chapbook, within the first two months or so of his life.

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

Keep writing. And then, keep writing. Trust not knowing where you are going.

What inspires you? What gets you to the page?

Dreams. Ghosts. Books of art and poetry.


Hadara Bar-Nadav is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin, Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight, awarded the Margie Book Prize. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Fountain and Furnace, awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and Show Me Yours, awarded the Midwest Poets Series Prize. In addition, she is co-author of the textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. Hadara is currently an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City




Who means what it is to be human
and is scarred by childhood.

Thick and neckless. Your head shaped
like a gravestone.

A smile opens across the knuckle and disappears
every time you lift a tumbler of scotch.

Who holds a pen and lies.

Who holds a chopstick
in the language of still-twitching fish.

When you think of the past you form a fist
until a heart beats.

Once removed by a chisel. Then reattached.

You stiffen in the rain and dream
of pudding—a smooth, boneless lake.

Who butters morning toast
while wearing a butter hat.

Who fingers the ad for beef, grows numb
while talking to a girl on the phone.

Useless while typing. Useless
tool who only worships space.

A stump. A blackened stamp.
Your own private map of loneliness.

Who always leans to one side. Detached.
Distant from all others.