Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chapbook Chat: Trish Hopkinson Discusses Footnote


cover image of Footnote by Trish Hopkinson

Author: Trish Hopkinson

PublisherLithic Press
Publication date: 2017














Waiting Around by Trish Hopkinson
                         after "Walking Around" by Pablo Neruda

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.
And it happens while I wait for my children to grow
into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks
of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,
and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes
cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied
if I could draw from language
the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time
for thought and collect it
like a souvenir. I can no longer
be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.
I can’t salve the silence.
I can’t be this vineyard
to be bottled, corked,
cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,
growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.
It claws its way through the edges of an age
I never planned to reach

and diffuses my life into dullness—
workout rooms and nail salons,
bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,
and treacherous photographs of younger me
at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.
I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick
and I gamble on what’s expected.
And what to become. And how
to behave: mother, wife, brave.


originally appeared in Voicemail Poems
*   *   *   *   *

Author photo of Trish Hopkinson
photo credit: Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen

Trish Hopkinson has always loved words—in fact, her mother tells everyone she was born with a pen in her hand. A Pushcart nominated poet, she has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Chagrin River Review; and her third chapbook is forthcoming from Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson is co-founder of a regional poetry group, Rock Canyon Poets, and Editor-in-Chief of the group’s annual poetry anthology entitled Orogeny. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community at http://trishhopkinson.com/.

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/trishhopkinsonpoet/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/trishhopkinson

Author blog: http://trishhopkinson.com/


*   *   *   *   *

[This interview was conducted via email in June 2017.]

Please tell us a little bit about Footnote.

TH: Footnote is my first official chapbook published by a real press! It’s a collection of response poems as homage to some of my favorite artists. Most of the poems have been published in literary magazines over the last few years, and I’m honored to have them all put together in such a striking way by Lithic Press.



How did you arrive at the title?

TH: Originally, the title was the same as the final poem “Footnote to a Footnote.” When Lithic began working on a design for the cover, they suggested simply Footnote, which was perfect, since each poem in the collection indeed includes a footnote in reference to the original artwork that inspired the poem.



You mentioned that your chapbook contains response poems—poems inspired by other artists, whether poets, writers, or filmmakers. When you brought up “by other artists,” the first thing I thought of was ekphrastic poetry. While the common understanding of ekphrasis is poetry in response to visual art, in a 2008 essay “Notes on Ekphrasis” by Alfred Corn, he mentions that poetry in response to “works of music, cinema, or choreography might also qualify as instances of ekphrasis.” Do you consider some of the poems in Footnote to be ekphrastic?

TH: While I think that most of these poems are closer to the tradition of response poetry or found poetry, in which poems are written to respond to another text or artist’s work, I do think some of these poems are ekphrastic, specifically the poems in response to films. For example, “From Her to Eternity” is a poem that encompasses not only the story of the Win Wenders and Peter Handke’s film Wings of Desire but its origins in Rilke’s Duino Elegies—and even the soundtrack, with lyrics from Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s song as the title of the poem. There’s definitely some gray area within all of these definitions.



Tell us a bit about your writing process in forming a response. What techniques did you use? For example, did you write replies to a poem in a call and response sort of way, use a part of the poem as an epigraph, imitate or echo the forms of a poem, etc. “Waiting Around,” the poem at the beginning of this interview, is after Pablo Neruda. Tell us a bit about how the poem is “after” Neruda.

TH: “Waiting Around” is a great example of one way to approach response poetry. One way to respond to a poem is to write your own version from a different perspective, line by line or stanza by stanza. For “Waiting Around,” I responded line by line to Neruda’s poem “Walking Around” using a female speaker, rather than the original male speaker. Another one of my favorite approaches to found poems is to take the original poem, reverse the order of the lines (the last line first, the first line last), and then do an erasure. This technique has a tendency to reverse the meaning from the original to something opposing within the newly created poem. I used this technique in “Reconstructed Happiness,” which is in response to “I am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. His original poem is quite somber, while the result of the erasure in reverse has an uplifting, empowering feel.



In a 2011 essay “Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order Your Poetry Manuscript,” April Ossmann writes “[T]he biggest mystery to emerging and sometimes even established poets is how to effectively order a poetry manuscript.” How did you order Footnote? Was it something you had in mind early in the writing process, for example or did you write the poems with a strategy in mind? What were some of your considerations?

TH: Honestly, I think selecting and ordering poems for a poetry book manuscript is the most challenging part of the process. These poems were written over a few years, and after teaching a community poetry writing workshop on response poetry, I realized I had quite a few response poems. So in this case, the collection was a surprise waiting for me in already completed work. I gathered them together, printed them out, and tried to order them in such a way that each poem connected in some way to the one that followed, while also paying attention to starting and ending with one of my favorite pieces. It never hurts to start strong and end strong. Once the collection was accepted by Lithic Press, there was some tweaking to the order to flow smoothly page wise (two-page poems on facing pages, etc.) and I swapped out a couple of the poems for stronger poems during the editing. It’s hardly an exact science, and the order of any collection will often be affected by the theme, style, variety of format, white space, and physical limitations of the book itself. I’ve ordered the poems for a few anthologies as Editor-in-Chief for Orogeny, and it’s interesting to see how poems from several different poets often connect into a final collection. That said, it’s never easy, but can be fun and surprising.



What is one of your favorite poems in the book, or one that is important to you? Why is it a favorite (or important)? How did it come to be?

TH: There are several poems in this collection that I love, mostly because they are a reflection of some other artwork that is important to me, but there is one that stands out and has a more personal meaning. “In a Room Made of Poetry” is a found poem based on the tradition of cento poetry and consists of several complete lines from Laura Hamblin’s book The Eyes of a Flounder. Hamblin is a dear friend and was one of my poetry professors during my undergrad at Utah Valley University. She introduced me to many of the poets featured in my book, including Neruda and Rilke, and her classes were where I learned so much about how to deeply appreciate not only the poetry of others, but other art as well. I was thrilled when Lithic chose a portion of this same poem as part of the cover design, which to me, became a dedication to her. The timing couldn’t have been better; she is retiring and teaching her last poetry class this summer when Footnote is being released.

In a Room Made of Poetry

Think how loss pulls language from us until
it swallows everything,
like undiagnosed cancer,
the accumulated past—
less eye, less mouth, less heart.
We had, not much—
thin coffee, thin socks. Here you can
wait, with desire, with
roots exposed
for an open womb. That heart-balm
as hope. The raw
bent—a bowl of fruit
in a language I never knew . . .
without tails, crosses of ts. The autonomous dot of a
blackness answers, There are only ifs.


Source: Hamblin, Laura. The Eyes of a Flounder.
(originally published in The Found Poetry Review: Issue 8)



Please tell us a bit about your use of found poetry in the chapbook.

TH: As a lover of all things words, found poetry is not just a way to respond to another text but it’s often word play as well. There are many different techniques that can be used to “find” a new poem in an existing text. I mentioned one above, erasure, which is also often referred to as “blackout poetry,” and even when doing an erasure, I often like to apply other methods to change it up a bit. Another fun approach is to sort the words by length and then create what’s called a “snowball” poem by ordering specifically selected words from shortest to longest. My poem “Strange Verses” employs this technique to create a set of reverse snowball poems from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The result was pretty cool—I ended up with four columns/stanzas that can be read in many different directions and angles.



The Found Poetry Review has this quote by Anne Dillard about found poetry:
By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds, or at any rate increases, the element of delight. This is an urban, youthful, ironic, cruising kind of poetry. It serves up whole texts, or interrupted fragments of texts.
 In the found poems in the chapbook, did you find yourself ‘doubling’ the original text’s context in one or more of them? If so how? If not, what relationship do you see between the original text and the poem(s)?

TH: I think so. The way I often describe this to others is as a “palimpsest,” in which the original text is erased/removed and a new text is written in its place while still leaving remnants of the original. In this sense, I think it is a form of doubling, or a way to contribute to the larger conversation in which we as writers participate. Response poetry is my way of communicating with both the original texts and the reader.

Sometimes, I nerd out on this whole poetry/writing thing a bit much and well, thinking through these responses resulted in my creation of this Venn diagram:

Found poetry venn diagram



I imagine the topics that you responded to varied widely. Even so, did you find yourself coming back to the same handful of themes, despite what it was you were responding to? I’m thinking of writer obsessions, perhaps in grand themes like love or death, or even images or words. For example, I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that dust, particles, dots, and related sorts of things pop up frequently in my writing. Tony Hoagland, in his book Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft (p82), wrote “In the work of a good poet, it is usually possible to discern one or two characteristic emotional zones in which he thrives: melancholy, rage, pity, vengeful rationality, seduction.” How did those obsessions reveal themselves to you? Did you find yourself surrendering to it? 

TH: Since this book was sort of a surprise collection based on the discovery that I tend to respond to other poets/art in my writing, the only other theme I think often emerges is one of feminism. I think that most of these poems reflect my feminist slant to poetry in general.



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?

Most of the poems were previously published and felt finished. One that still felt incomplete was a Plath response poem entitled “Daddies.” I have reworked and reformatted the poem several times and toward the end of the editing process, I dug in hard and finally was able to revise the poem into what I feel is a finished state. (At least for now.) Once I sent that poem off, it did feel like the final edits were complete and the book was ready to be sent to print


What are you working on now?

TH: I’m aiming toward a full-length collection someday, but I feel like I need much more material before pulling together a new collection. I’ve tried piecing a few different projects together with poems I’ve written in the last couple of years, and there’s just not a nice, organic set making itself visible to me. Ultimately, I need to write many more poems to help my next collection materialize. Other than that, I’m always working on my poetry blog, which has become such an important part of my interaction with the larger poetry community. My blog was also a surprise and started as just a way to keep track of poetry resources, submission calls, etc. I started sharing it on social media and found there was definitely a need. Since October of 2014, my blog following has continued to grow and I’ve been honored by the turn out! It’s been a pleasure to interact with fellow poets, writers, editors, artists, etc. who are all looking for an easy way to access and share information. Sometimes, the things we never intend to create become the greatest of gifts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Chapbook Chat: Sonja Johanson Discusses Trees in Our Dooryards







Trees in Our Dooryards
Author: Sonja Johanson

PublisherRed Bird Chapbooks
Publication date: 2016













Maple Triptych II, Introduced
by Sonja Johanson

Acer platanoides

Those maroon lollipops, they looked so crass
Lined up along the manicured lawns
In their perfect circles of orange mulch,
Dressing the landscape in middle class uniforms.
They seemed so vain and garish
Wearing button down shirts and ties,
Pinstriped suits of bark, chartreuse nosegays.
Leaving their poor relations to scrape by
In abandoned lots and waste places,
Pock marked with nasty black spots
Scarred carriers of tree measles.

Acer pseudoplatanus

No known maple could ever grow,
Much less thrive, so close to salt spray,
On that moonscape of scree and broken pavement.
The only plausible explanation
For this fat, vigorous trunk
Weaving through the fence like a python
For those broad, rippled leaves
Like the great polydactyl claws of some predator
For the bizarre samaras, not proper pairs
But triplet seeds, strange as a third eye,
Must be that some distant planet exploded
Sending debris hurtling through the galaxy.
Somewhere in the meteorite that smashed into this shoreline
Nestled one alien seed
Which found favor with this new soil,
Forgiving atmosphere, fortunate distance from our sun.

Acer palmatum

At first, I felt sorry for them-
Those kept plants, the geisha trees.
Too thin skinned and delicate to stand a real winter
Without breaking out in frost cracks.
But, over time, my own blood thinning
From this milder latitude
I began to notice the painted patterns
On their long fingers.
Their modest way when leafing out.
I could see how a sponsor
Might shape their development.
Here, cull a reverting limb.
There, place a thinning cut
To open the gracious form.

originally appeared in The Dandelion Farm Review

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Sonja Johanson has work appearing in or forthcoming at BOAAT, Outlook Springs, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is a contributing editor at The Found Poetry Review, and the author of Impossible Dovetail (IDES, Silver Birch Press, 2015), all those ragged scars (Choose the Sword Press, 2015), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks, 2016). Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine.

Author website: http://www.sonjajohanson.net/

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sonjajohanson10

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sonjajohanson


*   *   *   *   *

[This interview was conducted via email in November 2016.]

Please tell us a little bit about Trees in Our Dooryards.

SJ: Dooryards is a selection of poems based in my home state. Underneath the placed based stories, and the desire to connect and write poetry that would be meaningful to people I know, I’m also writing about a sense of loss. Those rural areas, and those lifestyles, are passing us by, and I want to capture them while I still can.


You mentioned that your chapbook is a love letter to your home state of Maine. I imagine aspects of place feature prominently your chapbook. Maxine Kumin wrote “In a poem one can use the sense of place as an anchor for larger concerns, as a link between narrow details and global realities. Location is where we start from” (In Deep: Country Essays). Does this ring true for you? Do the poems in Trees in our Dooryards tend towards the geographical-location and natural-environment aspect of place? Or are they more engaged with the history of the area or its current cultural or political landscape?

SJ: Yes. Yes. Yes. Chuckle. That’s kind of an unfair way to respond, but human ecology teaches us that humans are not separate from the environment, we’re part of it. Our landscape shapes us, geography shapes our culture, history affects our politics, and our politics in turn affect the environment. So the poems touch all of those areas. One poem begins with the history of itinerant painters and ends with the loss of species we are currently experiencing. Another imagines a (quite fanciful) solution to the storm destruction occurring on coast lines everywhere. A childhood spent outdoors plants the seeds of a future environmental ethic; years spent working in the tourist industry ensure a connection to people, as well as place.



I see you’re a Lifetime Master Gardener of the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. Poet Stanley Kunitz was also a passionate gardener. In The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, his collections of essay on poetry and gardening, he wrote:
I conceived of the garden as a poem in stanzas. Each terrace contributes to the garden as a whole in the same way each stanza in a poem has a life of its own, and yet is part of a progressive whole as well.

The form provides some degree of repose, letting our mind rest in the comparatively manageable unit of the stanza, or terrace. Yet there is also a need to move on, to look beyond teh stanza, into the poem as a whole.

Often, when you finish reading a poem, the impulse is to revisit the beginning now that you’ve been all the way through it, and then each subsequent trip through the poem is different and colored by having seen the whole thing.
Does Kunitz’s parallel consideration of poetry and gardening resonate with you? How does your love of gardening impact your writing and your poetry?


SJ: What a lovely way to look at a poem! Classic estates were often set up with garden “rooms”, each distinct, yet connected and contributing to the grounds as a whole. Not only does this metaphor work for a poem, I think it extends perfectly to a set of poems within a book – each discrete, with its own focus and feel, and yet related and falling under a unifying theme.

As to gardening and poetry, there’s no better meditation than weeding, and the quiet time is often when a lot of writing happens in my head.

Oddly, despite being a Master Gardener, it isn’t really gardens that I am passionate about – it’s individual plants. I’m fascinated by their survival and reproductive strategies, and I’m somewhat more drawn to wild plants than domestic ones. It’s anthropomorphizing, of course, but I’m charmed by the oak’s preference for squirrels as a reproductive partner over humans. The apple made a different decision, and threw its lot in with us, but oak trees retain some wildness for not using us as seed dispersers. It’s the same with weeds over our tame garden plants – they choose the hardscrabble, the unwanted liminal places, and the strategies they use to be successful in doing so are varied and amazing. I know weeds and trees much better than the inhabitants of your average perennial garden. This does make me reflect, though, on a particular difficulty I have with my writing; it’s different all the time. My form, my voice, my subjects can be all over the place, which is like my gardening – one summer I’m into growing heirloom watermelons, another it’s peanuts in New England, another summer I decide I just have to have a forest pansy. So my gardens are a patchwork of whatever catches my interest, and my writing can be that way too. It’s fun, no regrets, but it takes me a while to acquire enough cohesive material to pull together a themed book.



You also mentioned that most of the poems in Trees in our Dooryards came out of a 30-poems-in-30-days event sponsored by The Writer’s Digest. What was that experience like for you? How did you come to realize that you might have a chapbook? Tell us a bit about what you did to shape the poems into a cohesive whole.

SJ: That was the first 30-30 I ever did, and I found it to be exhausting! I’m a very slow writer; I’ve been told it’s called “bathtub writing”. I’ll mull something over in my head, work on it while I’m driving, or running, or gardening (apparently some people do this in the bathtub). Then one day I’ll sit down and write the whole thing out, in what is pretty close to its finished form. With the 30-30 I would wake up in the morning, read the prompt first thing, spend the day ruminating on it, and write it come evening. It was a lot less time than I was accustomed to having, and quite a few of the pieces were not really worth saving. The ones that were, though, were in a very plain voice, and tended to be memories and observations.

Writer’s Digest does two Poem-A-Day Challenges every year, and the November one is a chapbook challenge, so that was already the idea. Fifteen of the poems that ended up in the final chapbook were from this project; I could hear that they had a similar tone and related to one another. As time went along and I found others that seemed to fit in as well, they went into the file, and eventually I had enough pieces for a full chapbook.



What is one of your favorite poems in the book, or one that is important to you? Why is it a favorite (or important)? How did it come to be?

SJ: My personal favorite in this collection is the closing poem, “Back to You”. Each line takes me to a very specific place and moment, though those are pieced together from disparate years – the top of a mountain on a winter day, that same mountain from below, streets and fields I’ve walked in forgotten farm towns. For me, it’s a love poem to my home, and then simply a love poem that anyone might relate to, and finally it’s about coming back to writing after almost twenty years of thinking that part of my life was over.

Back To You

Days, I smile endlessly out the windshield
looking up, those on the bright
mountain looking down to where
this bridge splits the water

Stone walls stumble along corn-liquor lines
I keep watch for wedding maples – both trees
hardly ever survive the crush of asphalt
or the salted winters, so we plant again

Seeing the land fall away
while the sky opens up
before the road, now I know
my heart does more than beat



In a Feb 2014 essay “The Poetry of Place: James Wright’s “The Secret of Light,” James Galvin offers as one reason why a poet would write of specific place: 
[T]he poet of place situates himself in place in order to lose himself in it. Poetry of place is actually a poetry of displacement and self-annihilation. The poet replaces self with situation, turning himself, as in were, inside out, so that the center of “knowing who you are” becomes the circumference of uncertainty. The poem as locus mirrors this dynamic, since it is a measured place, possibly with stanzas (rooms), which has an infinite capacity to contain everything outside it, including the poet. To have identity means to be alone. Loneliness is the anxiety that compels us to identify with an other or with otherness. To disappear into a place. To empathize.
Many poets live in one area for years, yet don’t write about the place where they live. What do you think of Galvin’s comments regarding why a poet would write poems rooted in a specific place?

SJ: Hmmm…my first response is that writing from place is very much “write what you know”, and with our increasing awareness of the problems around cultural appropriation, it’s critical to do that. I may be deeply concerned with Native American rights, or inner city class struggles, but those are not my stories to tell. I get to tell about the loss of culture or environmental connection from where I stand, and if I do it successfully, perhaps it will remind the reader of your place and the changes you are experiencing – maybe you know how that feels even if we’ve never seen each other’s homes. So in that sense we do have death of the author, which I think is what Galvin is talking about.

I do really like the line “to disappear into a place”. I think we all know that feeling, when immersed in the landscape, of being both irrelevant and indescribably large. It is absolutely a moment of deep loneliness, but also one of profound connection. We matter, and we don’t matter in the slightest, and it’s all very wonderful and humbling.



In addition to the motif of place, what are some of the other themes, metaphors, and elements of craft that you used to unify your chapbook?

SJ: Themes of the environment and class are inescapable for me – that’s my particular set of filters. All these poems are simple free verse, and as a writer I place tremendous importance on accessibility. That’s not to say that all poems, or even all writers, need to be accessible to all readers, but some definitely do if we want poetry to succeed more widely as an art form. One of my most meaningful experiences as a writer actually happened during a reading. I opened my reading with a piece about/not about ice fishing, and a man at the table near the door stood up at the end and said “I been there” in a heavy Maine accent. I wanted to hug him; I was incredibly nervous, but felt instantly reassured by that familiar voice offering support. At the end of the evening, the host told me that he and his friends sometimes came to the reading series to heckle the poets – but instead, I reached him, and he reached me. We have to find a way to do that if poetry is going to connect with an audience outside of ourselves.



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

SJ: The editors at Red Bird Chapbooks did ask me if I had preferences regarding my cover, but I don’t happen to know a whole lot of artist, so I let them offer up suggestions. They sent me two, and I have to say that I’m quite in love with this one!



Is there a poem you consider to be a “misfit” in your collection? If so, why is it a misfit?

SJ: That’s such a good question – I really do have a misfit in there. It’s “North Alder River Pond.” I included it because it’s about a pond where my family has a small summer camp, and which also makes an appearance in some other pieces, but the voice and tone are profoundly different from any of the other poems. That piece was probably my first foray into found poetry. I was reading a history of the pond, and used a lot of found language from that little history in the first part of the poem; in particular I would select family names from the area and use them simply as words in the text – Rod, Linwood, Ransom, Reward, Warr. It’s the one poem in the collection from which I, as the narrator, am really absent, and it’s just the place talking.



What are you working on now?

SJ: Well, I’m working on applications for an MFA, which is kind of dry, but I’m also working on a couple of different poem series. The first is a series of poems which personify people in my life as body parts – "My Stomach Gives Me Honey", "Binge-Watching Netflix with My Spine." The second is a series of prose poems about social justice couched as “spells” – "Spell for Giving a Selfish Person Empathy," "Spell for Putting the Shape of a Wife in the Wall," etc. These are a far throw from my place based poems, so I guess I’m still working out what my voice is!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Light into Bodies wins the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry


Overjoyed to report that my first book Light into Bodies has been selected as the winner of the 2016 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry and is forthcoming from University of Tampa Press! More information here.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone: Interview

Thanks to Speaking of Marvels for this interview about my chapbook Clouds as Inkblots for the War Prone (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013). Below is an excerpt from the interview. You can read the interview in its entirety here:
chapbookinterviews.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/nancy-chen-long 

"My arrangement of the manuscript was subsequently changed by the editor. She saw the arc in a slightly different—and better—way. (I cannot emphasize enough what a pleasure it is to work with a good editor.) She suggested that the manuscript open with an ekphastic poem titled “Lament for Icarus” that was inspired by an 1898 painting of the same name by Herbert Draper. In that way, Icarus and the associated myth would be the guiding force that propels the reader through the narrative. She also suggested ending with a poem called “Seeking Asylum,” which brings the reader back to Icarus at the end through the image of the falling sparrows that end the poem. She also commented that the ending image of falling sparrows alludes to the sparrows in the Hall of Souls (the Chamber of Guf in Jewish mysticism), which, to her, further enforced another thread that runs through the chapbook, that of the dangers/ pitfalls of human hubris."



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chapbook Chat: Katie Manning Discusses A Door with a Voice







A Door with a Voice
Author: Katie Manning
PublisherAgape Editions - A Sundress Publications Imprint

Publication date: 2016











The Book of Calm
        all that remains of Malachi

the day is coming
like a furnace
every
day
will set
you
on fire
you will go out and frolic like
ashes
on the day
that
dreadful day
when
the LORD
will come and strike the land with
children

originally appeared in the San Diego Reader

*   *   *   *   *

Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, including The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman (Point Loma Press, 2013), and her first full-length poetry collection, Tasty Other, is forthcoming in November as the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.

Author website: http://www.katiemanningpoet.com/

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/katiemanningpoet/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamkatmann


*   *   *   *   *

[This interview was conducted via email in June 2016.]

Please tell us a little bit about A Door with a Voice.

KM: This chapbook is a selection of poems from a larger project, in which I'm taking the last chapter of each book of the Bible as a word bank and creating poems. For this chapbook, I selected the poems that focused on women, especially mothers, and children. The title is from the closing lines of one of my favorite poems in the collection, "The Song of Sons."

[A Door with a Voice is available from the publisher via free download.]


You mentioned that one of the reasons you started working on the poems was because you were tired of people taking language from the Bible out of context and using it as a weapon against other people, so you started taking language from the Bible out of context and using it to create art. Is the Bible a sacred text for you? How does religion/faith factor into your writing?

KM: The Bible is a sacred text for me, which is why I think it is worth spending the time to study it and to consider the larger contexts of the passages and books it contains. Some people selectively read scripture in ways that affirm (or ignore) their own behavior while conveniently condemning whoever it is they want it to condemn. That seems to me a poor way to treat a sacred text.

I don't think I can ever escape my own identities and concerns when I'm writing poetry. Even if I'm not explicitly writing about the Bible, it's part of me. Even if I'm not writing explicitly about myself, I'm writing as a feminist, a mother, a wife, a daughter, and more. All of my experiences and roles have shaped the way I perceive the world.



In a 2012 Kenyon Review article “The Weight of What’s Left [Out]: Six Contemporary Erasurists on Their Craft,” Andrew David King asks the following:
Usually, the literary self seems to be a positive construction, but erasure challenges that notion, expropriating and subtracting in lieu of adding. Do you think it’s still possible to excavate an identifiable self from your erasures? What about your work is distinctly “you,” if anything?
Here are excerpts from the interviewees responses:
  • Janet Holmes (The ms of my kin): “Why does there need to be an “identifiable self” in the poems? … The concerns of the resultant text are my own, and I think are identifiable as such in the context of my other writing, but I did not explicitly seek to create “a self” that could be identified as me, and have the erasure speak its words.”
     
  • Srikanth Reddy’s (Voyager): “When you erase a text, you’re “unearthing” possibilities of phrasing, voicing, and thinking that are already embedded but somehow buried or hidden within the language. Oddly, though, I did find that as I erased Waldheim’s book, with its ghastly bureaucratic language, I kept finding “my” voice within it.”
     
  • Travis Macdonald (The O Mission Repo): “[T]he act of erasure leads toward the discovery of otherness. … My own role as poet in this process has more closely resembled that of an archaeologist much more than that of an architect.”
     
  • Matthea Harvey (Of Lamb): “Erasure is like any other form—it shapes the content and also leads you to say things you wouldn’t have said without its strictures, but I think some very distinct particles of “you-ness” get caught in that sieve.”
     
  • David Dodd Lee (Sky Booths in the Breath Somewhere): “But it also felt possible I might craft something, using Ashbery’s work as source material, that sounded nothing like Ashbery. I mean, I had no idea, at first, what would happen, which was partly the point… But then, after a while, the poems started to seem like they were mostly mine (I just started feeling that they were).”
     
  • M. NourbeSe Philip (Zong!): “If I were to discern traces of what is “distinctly” me in Zong!, it is to be found less in the writing itself and more in the willingness to risk—to sail in the dark with no compass. With only one’s heartbeat to accompany one.”
Which one(s) of the above, if any, resonate with you and why? How would you answer King’s question?

KM: Several of these resonate with me, but especially the answers from Janet Holmes and Matthea Harvey. I didn't set out to read myself into the biblical texts that I used as word banks, but my concerns certainly crept into the language that I selected and the ways that I formed my poems from those limited words. This project was a self-assignment that kept me writing after I became a mother, finished my dissertation, and started a full-time job--a chaotic time when it would've been easy to stop writing poetry. Without intending to, I wrote several poems for the larger project that focused on mothers and children, which happily led to this unexpected chapbook. I imagine that these poems would have a different focus if I'd written them at a different time of life.



One of the attractions of chapbooks as a form is that they can be beautiful, limited-edition works of art, poetry-as-artifact. A Door with a Voice is an e-chapbook, which means it’s digital. Why did you choose the e-chapbook as a form for your manuscript? How does the e-chapbook form benefit your work?

KM: Honestly, I was hesitant about publishing an e-chapbook at first, but Fox Frazier-Foley (Editor of Agape Editions) "got" my project and was so excited about these poems, and she wants to publish chapbooks digitally to make the work more widely available to readers. I love getting to share my project with anyone who wants to download it, and it's a relief that I don't have to sell anything!

At the same time, I love the hand-bound and limited edition chapbooks that I had published by Boneset Books and Yellow Flag Press in 2013. They are special. I also love my chapbook The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman, which is perfect-bound and widely available through Wipf & Stock, Amazon, and elsewhere. I'm so glad there is this great variety in chapbook publishing.



What is one of your favorite poems in the book, or one that is important to you? Why is it a favorite (or important)? How did it come to be?

KM: As I already mentioned, one of my very favorite poems in this chapbook is "The Song of Sons." It was so fun to work with the language from Song of Songs, which is very familiar to me, and to make the words feel new. I love how the language of lovers in the original book shifts into an unspoken language of love-longing from a nursing infant to his mother in my poem. Since I have two sons, this poems feels especially close to me.

The Song of Sons
         all that remains of Song of Songs

if I found you
I would
drink
the nectar of
head
and
arm

wake
mother

place me
over your heart

your arm
is
strong as death
unyielding as
love

a
breast
is a door
with
a
voice

let me hear

(first published in Queen Mob's Teahouse)



You shared that you started working on the manuscript because you needed a prescribed project in order to keep writing poems: You’d just finished your dissertation, given birth to your first child, and started a new full-time professor gig. (WOW!) What was it about working on these poems that kept you engaged?

KM: I'm still sick of people causing harm by taking verses from the Bible out of context, so that motivation never left me, but I was also driven to keep writing by the strictures of the project: I always knew what to work on next. The words were right there for me to use, which was especially handy in the throes of new motherhood and sleep deprivation. Getting enthusiastic feedback from writer friends also kept me going, especially when I got partway through the first drafts and wondered if anyone else would ever want to read these weird poems.



Have you given a public reading of the work? What was the audience response? Did you encounter anything you were not expecting?

KM: Yes, I've read them to a variety of audiences: to a small group of friends, at a pop culture conference, and even in my Jesus costume at a Poetry Circus! Since I was so earnest in my writing of these poems, and since I was afraid no one else would want to hear or read them, I was shocked the first time I shared them and people laughed! I was certainly not expecting people to laugh or to be moved by them, but I've gotten really enthusiastic feedback every time I've shared these poems.



What else would you like readers to know about you or your chapbook?

KM: I've already said a lot about myself and my poems, so let me say that I'm thrilled to have David Adey's art as the cover image for A Door with a Voice. He's one of my very favorite artists, and I think of my Bible word banking project as a kind of "kindred art" to his work with magazine covers and ads. You can check out more of his work at http://www.davidadey.com/



What are you working on now?

KM: I've just completed a full revision of the larger Bible word banking project, which still needs a title. I'm also working on a series of poems that use board games as a starting place to explore relationships and memory, and I'm working on a series of prose poems that are addressed to my late granny (and that also explore relationships and memory... perhaps these sequences will merge). Thanks for asking!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Broadsides

"The Second Fallacy"

Poetry broadsides are single poems printed on one side of a sheet of paper, sometimes with artwork, sometimes not. I think of them as a cross between written work and artwork because they're usually beautiful and suitable for framing. It's not uncommon for a literary journal or press to publish a broadside from one of their publications, such as the broadside of "Good Bones," by Maggie Smith from her book book Weep Up published by Tupelo Press. It's not uncommon for broadsides to be signed by the poet, for example the letterpress limited-edition prints from the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review Broadside Series and those offered by the Academy of American Poets.

You can make your own broadside. You can use plain paper if you wish. I like to use card stock or paper with a finish, such as linen. While broadsides can be larger, such as poster size, 8.5 x 11 and postcard are more common sizes. You can print them yourself or have them printed at an office store or local printer.  If you're looking for free artwork, trying searching for images in the public domain or the Creative Commons. Wikipedia has a list of public-domain image resources. And the Creative Commons (CC) has created a wonderful portal that will let you search various sites for CC images, e.g., Google, Wikimedia, and Flickr each have a Creative Commons component. Here is the CC portal: http://search.creativecommons.org/

If you're interested in broadside contests and publishers, I've listed some contests and publishers below. And for more information about poetry broadsides in general, see:

* Babcock Books: "What is a Broadside?"
* Kyle Schlesinger: "A Look At Some Contemporary Poetry Broadsides"
* Maureen E. Doallas: "Poetry Broadsides Roundup"

Broadside Contests


Heartwood Broadside Series Contest

  • Prize: $500, plus 25 copies of a letterpress broadside of the poem
  • Contest runs from Apr 1 -  Jun 1
  • Entry fee: $15, includes a mailed copy of the winning broadside
  • Submissions must be previously unpublished and can be one poem or flash prose piece (fiction or nonfiction) of 250 words or less
  • Previously published work allowed: No
  • Winner selected by July 1
  • See website for complete details: http://www.heartwoodlitmag.com/contest/

Hit and Run Press Annual William Dickey Broadside Contest

  • Prize: $1,000, plus the publication of a limited edition of letterpress broadsides
  • Contest runs from Sep 1 -  Nov 31
  • Entry Fee:  $10.  One entry per poet
  • Poems must between 12-30 lines
  • Previously published work allowed? Yes
  • See website for complete details: http://www.mrbebop.com/annual-broadside-contest/

Littoral Press Poetry Prize

  • Prize: 50 letterpress-printed broadsides of the winning poem
  • Contest runs until Aug 12.
  • Entry fee: $10 for the first poem, $5 for each additional poem
  • Poems must be no more than 30 lines (This line count includes lines for stanza breaks.)
  • Previously published work allowed? Yes
  • Winner announced in September
  • See website for complete details: http://littoralpress.com/web/current-events/


Omnidawn Publishing Single Poem Broadside Poetry Prize

  • Prize: $1,000, plus 50 copies of a letterpress broadside of the poem, and publication in OmniVerse, Omnidawn Publishing's online journal.
  • Contest runs from Aug 1 -  Oct 17
  • Entry fee: $10 for the first poem, $5 for each additional poem
  • Poems must be between 8 and 24 lines (This line count includes lines for stanza breaks.)
  • Previously published work allowed? No
  • Winner announced Apr 2017
  • See website for complete details: http://www.omnidawn.com/contest/poetry-contests.htm#broadside-contest


Broadside Publishers


Broadsided Press selects poems to publish. See their website for submission guidelines.

Thrush Press selects poems to publish. See their website for submission guidelines.

Smokey Road Press will print your poem as a broadside. See their website for fees and other information.