Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Interview with Poet Karen Paul Holmes



                               Winter trees reveal a drop off
                               inches from the road’s thin shoulder.

                               Some teachings call this universe an illusion:
                               We all share a dream, a nightmare really,
                               where we’re separate beings.

                                         - from "Scenic Bypass, Blue Ridge Mountains" by Karen Paul Holmes

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Karen Paul Holmes is the author of a poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014). Formerly the VP of Communications at a global financial services company, Karen is now a freelance business writer, poet and writing coach. In support of writers and audiences, Karen founded and hosts the Side Door Poets critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012 and has studied with poets Thomas Lux, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, William Wright, Kevin Young, and Carol Ann Duffy, among others. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and Stone, River, Sky (Negative Capability Press). She grew up in Michigan and has an MA in musicology from the University of Michigan.

*   *   *
[This interview was conducted via email in August 2015.]


Tell us a little about your book Untying the Knot.

KPH: First of all, thank you for this interview, Nancy. I appreciate your interesting questions.

Untying the Knot is a memoir in poetry. Sometimes mad, sad, funny, and/or forgiving, the poems recount the sudden end of my long-time marriage and the healing process.






In Untying the Knot, what is one of more crucial or important poems for you personally? Why?


KPH: I find it extremely difficult to describe nature, and therefore not much of my poetry does this. I workshopped this poem with Dorianne Laux at the Sarah Lawrence Summer Seminar, which gave me the confidence to include it in the book. Lines in the poem came to me on a walk, and I really did get hit on the head by acorns. It was an unusually beautiful day but in the midst of the stunning beauty, I was stunned by sadness. That’s how grief works, doesn’t it? One of the reasons the poem is important for me personally is that it reflects my belief that joy can always be found in the present moment – uncovering it is not always easy but we always have the option of choosing joy, or at least peace.

Fall

Despite the wind
poplars hang on to their leaves.
They catch the light and flutter like gilded eyelids,
jiggle like coins on a belly dancer’s hip scarf.
Whitecaps jostle my dock,
lake darker than the sky.
Those distant mountains, dusty-red with autumn,
recall Sedona’s rocks,
but green grass and willows speak
of lush Appalachia.

Joy surges
mixed with the old longing: that need to share.
The cherry tree over there—blooming
and showing orange foliage at the same time—
must be as confused as I am
since the gusty lusty breath of Catherine
blew away the colors of my marriage,
forced the black and white of divorce.

Suddenly, a shower of acorns bounces
off my head, knocking me back
into the windy, sunny present.



When Untying the Knot was published, it being your first full-length book, were there things you thought would happen, yet didn’t? unexpected things that did happen?

KPH: I guess you never know how you’ll feel when you actually have the book in your hands. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I tried very hard not to second guess myself about what poems should have been deleted and/or edited more, but I did do that a bit and even started to question whether the whole thing was crap.

I didn’t know how strange it would feel going public. I felt bare naked, and I still cringe a little thinking of how much of my personal life I revealed, and also that of my ex and his girlfriend. But people praised me for being so honest with my feelings. Because of that honesty and because most people have gone through some kind of loss, people really related to the book -- poets and non-poets, men and women. That reaction was a pleasant surprise. It was also an affirmation of my intent to write poetry that touches people in some positive way.



I see you have a degree in musicology. If you were a musical instrument, which one would you be? Why?

KPH: Could I be the tune instead? I’d like to be a melody that lingers in the memory… in a good way.



When do you remember first being interested in poetry? Was there a mentor who encouraged you?

KPH: In about 6th grade, I created an illustrated journal of poems I liked for a school assignment. I still have it. Richard Wilbur’s "Boy at the Window" is in it, and I remember being absolutely touched by the poignancy of that poem. Then in 8th grade, I won some sort of poetry contest. That teacher, Miss Darby, and also my inspirational 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Schwartz, are my friends on Facebook so I’ve happily been able to thank them for their influence on my life.



When you write, do you imagine a reader? If so, what type of reader?

KPH: The angel on my shoulder imagines a sympathetic reader who feels just like I do about things. The devil on the other shoulder thinks about a strict critic who expects perfection. In my first draft, I try to keep that devil out.



Tell us about "Writers’ Night Out". Is it a reading series? What prompted you to start it?

KPH: Once I started reading my poems in public (the first time was in front of the then Poet Laureate of N. Carolina, Kathryn Stripling Byer), I became an open mic junkie. I live in Atlanta but spend many weekends in the mountains. Up there, I started attending a Wednesday morning “Coffee with the Poets” with open mic. I decided to start "Writers’ Night Out" to give working folks a chance to come, and also to make it more of a date night on a Friday night. In the small mountain towns, there are a lot of writers and also a lot of tourists looking for interesting things to do. It is a monthly event, open to the public. We feature a poet or prose writer for about 20 minutes and then an open mic. Audience size ranges from 10-35 people—couples and singles—from four counties. We get 5-12 people reading at the open mic, often including really good writers/readers in their 70s and 80s and sometimes college kids. Many of us meet for dinner beforehand. We have featured some pretty well known writers from North and South Carolina and Georgia.



What are you working on now?

KPH:I’m a little scattered. I’m writing miscellaneous new poems as the inspiration hits. But I’ve got two books about 90% complete and can’t seem to say “Okay, done, time to send to a publisher.” One centers on family poems about the melding of my dad’s culture (Macedonian) with my mom’s (Russian/Irish settled in Australia) in the U.S.



Finally, what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

KPH: Keep at it. Share and get feedback. I wrote for years, but kept everything in a notebook for no one but myself. While that was satisfying, what really made poetry a special part of my life was sharing my work, having it critiqued, and working to make it better. My poet friends are now some of my best friends. There’s nothing better than being in a community of like-minded people. And that’s how I met you, Nancy. Thanks again for wanting to spend this time with me.






Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chapbook Chat: Nicole Rollender Discusses Bone of My Bone





Bone of My Bone, winner of the Blood Pudding Press 2015 Poetry Chapbook Contest

Author: Nicole Rollender

PublisherBlood Pudding Press

Publication date: Sep. 5, 2015












Bone of My Bone by Nicole Rollender

I am my own land, unmanageable. There’s a cross
           road where my hands and lips intersect

with an illumined city’s windows open to blackbirds
           that promise to come through branches,

incising a woman’s kitchen, the reliquaria of domesticity –
           white-draped ducks’ broken necks rising

on counters. How do I measure the body’s gardens
           from within its bone fences? A woman’s skin

is one world. The birth canal is another – how you lived
           in a bell or an oyster, rocking back and forth

in seaweed for a long time. Who hatches from it, shining
           through rain? In the old world, piss prophets mixed

a woman’s lemon urine with wine to discern what
           was in the womb. A hand held out for a zinnia

if she empties, if a distant horse runs back
           to God, if a boat grows smaller, its cargo

of consecrated pears now rotting. My mother will curl
           into herself, as will I, as did my grandmother, joints

unloosening more than a century after her birth. I put
           the lines that grew on her skin into a bowl, muddy

my fingers in her waxiness and into her dead eye,
           unraveling her, seaming her skin, blanching her

bones back to such a shine, like a giant star’s last open
           into brilliance. The unhurried light is dying, drunken

bees dropping into water, isn’t it? My body is made
           from these flat-footed women – when I step

outside not knowing where I’m headed, one of them wakes
           from her dream of owls calling and hisses,

We created you from what we saved.


(Originally published in The Journal.)

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Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, The Journal, Radar Poetry, Salt Hill Journal, THRUSH Poetry Journal, West Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She is 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 Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at http://www.nicolerollender.com/ and www.facebook.com/nicole.rollender.

Twitter: @ASI_Stitches, https://twitter.com/ASI_Stitches

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=15241987rr/


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[This interview was conducted via email in August 2015.]

NCL: Please tell us a little bit about your chapbook Bone of My Bone.

NR: I often have a hard time writing about my own work, or trying to encapsulate what a chapbook is trying to do in a few sentences, so I attempted to do that here: Through the half-lit poems in Bone of My Bone runs a troubling line of questioning – what’s beyond this life? – as the narrator contends with death on a very visceral level: “The hip is something/ no longer examined in the light.” In these poems’ rooms, which are like the ruins of a cathedral open to a night sky, the haunted narrator explores the real ways that we take which is ours, both in this life and in the next. There’s a chance to seize at “what is also the divine: There is no saint/without a past.”

One day, I was reading Blackbird and came upon Malachi Black’s poem, “Quarantine,” a crown of sonnets that follow the 10 movements (Lauds, Prime, Terce and so on) in the Christian monastic prayer known as the canonical hours. These movements follow the passage of one day, so Lauds is a predawn prayer, None is the afternoon prayer, Vespers is sundown’s and so forth. Black calls “Quarantine” a poem “to the possibility of God.” My chapbook started with a similar long “book of hours” type poem, parts of which appear in Bone of My Bone – where the narrator struggles to view and classify what God is: “What is the divine, but God-/light, thorn and scourge, blood let, that bone// shine?”

I put poems I already had written together to form the chapbook, which I wanted to be a kind of violent crying out to God – trying to make sense of why some babies are born very premature, women die early, some women can’t have children, women commit suicide, some women think of committing suicide. The poems walk between this life and the next, weaving together the disturbing and the sublime.



NCL: In a Yale Alumni Magazine article "Faith, in poetry" (May/June 2013), which discusses Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine who left to teach at Yale Divinity School, Mark Oppenheimer writes "the relationship between poetics and piety—so obvious from biblical times through the Victorian era—now seems sundered; poets are a very secular bunch..." That isn't the case for Bone of my Bone, in which faith, God, the complexities and incongruities of being an embodied spirit seem to be pivotal. What has been the response to your poems from other poets? Have you found that others try to pigeon-hole you or minimize / make assumptions about you or your work?

NR: Good question. There’s definitely faith-based poetry like church hymns that are simplistic in their view of God – you know, we’re toiling in the vineyards, praising a distant God and longing for paradise. Things that border on or become clich√©, what you referred to as the medieval or Victorian-type poems. Many Catholic saints even wrote poetry like this, poetry that doesn’t resonate with me, since it feels very one-note. My poems aren’t in this “church” camp.

What you observed about this small collection, that my poems deal with “the complexities and incongruities of being an embodied spirit,” is quite accurate. My maternal grandmother, who was very religious, also saw the dead. Her ability to “see” skipped over my mother and passed to me, so from a very young age, I recognized that there was a here and a there that co-existed. So from about the age of 3, I had an unnerving sense of the dead’s existence after death, and that someday I would be one of them.

Poet Anne Carson said something that makes sense of this disquiet. I’m paraphrasing here, but Carson described the feeling as walking through your life with an inkling of what’s also running alongside you on the other side, the flame of God, whatever the afterlife is. So that sense of mortality, of an internal straining toward something to take the place of loneliness. I’m a fan of Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, where she compares the inner self to a series of mansions one must enter and go deeper within in order to achieve some kind of enlightenment: “It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.” There’s also a definite loneliness in that inner self-contending and contemplation. But the reward is what my poems seek, again quoting Teresa of Avila: “Union is as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in; it enters in different places but it all becomes one.”

I wrote these poems from a fragmented, fragile stance, and feel they’re confessional: The reader sees my falling apart as my water breaks nine weeks early in my second pregnancy. The reader sees that wish for death. The reader uses my kaleidoscopic lens: here’s the world through a religious/spirit-inhabited lens. The narrator is also a seeker, looking for a God that she hasn’t quite found yet, and is trying to determine if he will love her or shun her. But (as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a God who wants our love and is waiting for it), and as Teresa of Avila writes (“This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come close.”), these poems hope to find that God.

You know, I’ve been fortunate in that my poems haven’t been ridiculed or pigeon-holed by other poets and editors. Of course, “God poems” aren’t for everyone. But I think in my poems, alongside God also runs a strain of John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul. The despair juxtaposed with the eternal light. There’s sadness in my poems. There’s a music that I make from this chaos.

Also, I’m not so sure that there’s a strong, continuous tradition of Catholic or Christian poets to latch onto if your work centers on faith-type themes. For me, poets writing about God who resonate are: John Donne, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard von Bingen, Rainer Maria Rilke, Czeslaw Miloscz, Kathleen Norris and Anne Carson. Rilke’s and Carson’s poetry especially, because of that seemingly secret understanding of a vulnerable God who is waiting for us to love him.



NCL: In her essay "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer" (Poetry, November 2005), poet Mary Karr writes:
[I]magine my horror when I began to have experiences of joy. ... But nothing can maim a poet’s practice like joy. As Henri de Montherlant says, “Happiness writes white.” What poet—in this century or any other—has founded her work on happiness? We can all drum up a few happy poems here and there, but from Symbolism and the High Moderns forward, poetry has often spread the virus of morbidity. It’s been shared comfort for the dispossessed. Yes, we have Whitman opening his arms to “the blab of the pave.” We have James Wright breaking into blossom, but he has to step out of his body to do so. We have the revelatory moments of Transtr√∂mer and the guilty pleasure and religious striving of Milosz. W.H. Auden captured the ethos when he wrote, “The purpose of poetry is disenchantment.” Poetry in the recent past hasn’t allowed us much joy.
Does that observation hold true for you? Why (or why not?) What role has joy or celebration played in your poetry as whole?

NR: I do live with a strong sense of mortality, or perhaps the “morbidity” that Karr observed, and that sense often informs my work – so you see that I often contend with heavier topics like death, the spirit realm, God, saints, the afterlife. Of course, I experience joy in my life, and that joy does permeate my work. I also have a strong sense that what I have can just as easily be taken away, so I suppose that when celebration does enter my work it’s with a sense of caution (it casts its own shadow). My poems feel like artifact: They’re my attempt to create something beautiful from the imperfect world we inhabit.

Sadness, joy, both feelings come and go, but weaving their imagery together in a poem does create something indelible that doesn’t fade or lose its sharp prick. Yet, the self who inhabits these poems is already dead. In these poems, I’m celebrating small miracles of joy in the quotidian (“One summer/ you left your paper/dolls on a train in Amiens.”) This necklace of memories is what makes me nostalgic for a time and a self I can never return to – each day closer to the end of this life, and closer to the next. This makes me afraid, unlike the saints who were often miserable being earthbound, wanting to be reunited with the God who granted them small moments of ecstasy down here in the weeds. Frankly, I’m still afraid of death: The thought of leaving my children now makes me shudder. I would need to be dragged into the next world; clearly I haven’t yet achieved the same connection to the saints’ God.



NCL: What’s one of the more crucial poems in the chapbook for you? (or what is your favorite poem?) Why? How did the poem come to be?

NR: Besides “Bone of My Bone,” which is also the chapbook’s title, another crucial poem that I also happen to like a lot is “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.”

Marked

This is a lie I used to believe: The thief
wasn’t nailed to a tree to enter the saved

city, his palms opening
like mouths, like doors. Only after

his hands were marked did a paradise appear –
I miss your bones, he mouths. This is how

the body seems at first, impenetrable –
yet, a woman still sings ghazals

from between your ribs. Here, these women
squat away from the village, hands

pressed into dirt, the bloody clench
and release of babies crowning near long-

haired cows. Their skin unmarked, the village
says, because otherwise the children

won’t be seen by the gods. Lord, I keep praying
underneath this shadow-drawn tree:

praying from a lion’s yellow belly is how
I understand the way godlight watches me. Bless

the dark. Bless the hole from whence we came.
Teach me to float cities, to salt and unsalt

this ancient hammer before it falls to ink-
arrowed chest. I’m saying make me visible.

If we carve saints who bleed into hagiographies
on our backs, is that enough

for our names to be written in the book
of the dead? They enter and exit my body

as smoke. Migrate the translucencies of seeing
to bone marrow, its shadow ossifying

on my spine, dangling femur, on skull. I watch
the secret face I make into my own flesh,

the way I kissed my dead grandmother’s sunken
chest, the lines of her clavicle like outstretched

arms. The women who don’t bear children
are held down and singed with black lines before

they return to work in the fields, skin a book
of illumination: a flame rises and thins. How

I’ll never see the way my life would move
unmarked, the path in moonlight

already full of stones, already stirring.



NCL: You had another chapbook, Absence of Stars (dancing girl press), that was released within a few months of Bone of My Bone. What draws you to the chapbook form? Specifically for Bone of My Bone: Why did you choose the chapbook as the vehicle for your poems rather than a book-length manuscript or a section in a book? When you started, did you intend to create a chapbook? How long did it take to write this chapbook (or, alternatively, how did you know it was time to stop writing)?

NR: I’m drawn to the chapbook form because they’re tiny little countries that allow a poet to experiment and to also work through a theme or narrative arc in a smaller space. I actually put together Bone of My Bone specifically for the Blood Pudding Press 2015 Chapbook contest last December. I had been thinking about the theme for a little while, and felt that the subject matter was a good match for BPP, since I several of its chapbook titles that embrace the spiritual, the mystical, the ghostly, the macabre, the day’s darker undersides. I know that my poetry isn’t for everyone – my longer book of hours poem was rejected from numerous journals. That’s partly why I used it as a skeleton or starting point for Bone of My Bone. Luckily BPP Publisher Juliet Cook liked the chapbook enough to select it as one of the Blood Pudding Press Chapbook Contest winners.



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

NR: Bone of My Bone is also about carpe diem. Since I was a child of the ’90s, I loved the movie Good Will Hunting where the literature professor played by Robin Williams jumped on a table and gave a spine-tingling monologue about seizing the day. My chapbook is like a long prayer that’s asking for the ability to make the most of time one has on earth. There’s an excitement in being alive, about the possibility of what’s to come, and as Malachi Black said, “the possibility of God.”



NCL: What are you working on now?

NR: My first full-length collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming in the late fall from ELJ Publications, so I’m working on the final order and editing and looking for cover art. It’s scary and thrilling at the same time. I didn’t expect to have a full length out this year. Ariana D. Den Bleyker, ELJ’s publisher, had originally accepted a longer chapbook collection, and then earlier this year had solicited a full-length so for a while I’ve been editing, shaping and adding to that original collection. Many of the poems have found homes in journals and I’m excited to release it into the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chapbook Chat: Melissa Eleftherion Discusses Pigtail Duty





Pigtail Duty

Author: Melissa Eleftherion

Publisherdancing girl press

Publication date: 2015












epithelia by Melissa Eleftherion

           The thin connective tissue a wedding song
                      Outside, an organism –
                                  Gregarious leaping from branches
           A dull musical hum


           All coordinates marry distance
                      Measure hostility of an old heart
           Slowly – a meat snap


           Asymmetrical
A stitched wedding dress
           The heart now feathers for plucking


(Originally published in Menacing Hedge.)

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Melissa Eleftherion grew up in Brooklyn. She is the author of huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013), prism maps (dusie kollektiv, 2014), Pigtail Duty (dancing girl press, 2015), and several other chapbooks and fragments. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Delirious Hem, Entropy, Manifesting the Female Epic, Negative Capability, Open Letters Monthly, Poet as Radio, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, So to Speak, Tinderbox, & TRUCK. She works as a librarian with Mendocino County Libraries, and created, developed, and currently manages the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange.

Author blog: A Poet Librarian

Twitter: @apoetlibrarian, https://twitter.com/apoetlibrarian

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.eleftherion

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/meleftherioncarr/

Instagram: everlib , https://instagram.com/everlib/

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[This interview was conducted via email in August 2015.]

NCL: Please tell us a little bit about your chapbook Pigtail Duty.

ME: Pigtail Duty began over 8 years ago as an attempt to piece together identity as a feminist suddenly married and mothering. In relearning to define myself, I incorporated found language from my autobiographical dictionary – a source text I’ve compiled of words new to me discovered through reading. Identity being a continuous state of becoming, the work evolves as the dictionary grows. How we take in or retain the memory of learning that new word - even if we had to look it up a hundred times to retain its meaning. How that word impacts the extant vocabulary word cloud, how a single word can help us change.

While writing Pigtail Duty, I occasionally used the autobiographical dictionary as a compass or jumping off point to write the poems - randomly opening it & free-associating from language found in the definitions. I found this incredible synthesis in that my chance experiments usually resonated with something yet to be excavated deep within the grave of my belly. Language began to reshape me in ways I hadn’t yet experienced.



NCL: How did you arrive at the title?

ME: The title derives from a line in the title poem that arcs in couplets throughout the book: “When I wear pigtails it is to be pleasing. I want to pleasure your mouth to be smiling.” I wrote that poem in the park one day waiting to pick up my son from playgroup, & all these conflicts arose in relation to the concept of duty and heteronormative “women’s roles” many women including myself were raised to portray. These figures clashed with the woman I felt I was becoming as a wife & mother.

There were all these selves taking shape too, & bumping around one another, beginning to fuse a little bit but hardening around the edges. Growing more assured & solid. At times, I felt inter dimensional & weary from so much time travel - yearned for an escape to a carefree childhood in pigtails. Though, that carefree childhood barely exists for most kids - the four year old pigtail I was watching my father deal coke to a friend’s mother, among other shitty things I witnessed.

The perversity of maturity - how one can feel a sense of duty at a young age. So, I was grappling also with the residue of being a responsible child vs. a responsible adult. Vowing somehow to do better for my son.



NCL: Recently, another poet asked about the cover of your chapbook, specifically “how you arrived at the cover and what it symbolizes?” If it’s ok with you, please share your answer with us here and/or say a bit about the cover.

ME: The cover was designed by Kristy Bowen (design maven!) of dancing girl press based on my request for the cover to incorporate pigeon feathers, blood & card catalogs. Ha, I realize that probably sounds insane. As the book is an accretion of fragments (or at least felt that way while writing it in between feedings, playdates, etc.), I thought of the many ways I (and probably many other women) compartmentalize items, textures, objects, emotions - so card catalogs (plus I'm a librarian so that was easy). Plus, I have recurring dreams about a giant, grand bureau with many little drawers for ephemera. The pigeon feathers are symbolic of my Brooklyn hometown - growing up there I knew no other birds besides ravens and crows, birds were just birds then. And blood = obligation, heredity, all that reckoning that women in particular do when starting their own family or at least begin to individuate.

How the body is branches and compartments of pigeon feathers. Pigeon feathers and dust. Vocabulary and wine stains.



NCL: What’s one of the more crucial poems in the chapbook for you? (or what is your favorite poem?) Why? How did the poem come to be?

ME:

The body met with an alter of the image of the body
What we see when we seek reflection

The ever a whisper an incandescent eye droop
Gravity seeking its own breasts cupped so the light can laugh too

How time makes us empathic for women we once reviled
Neglect and its chambers of dropped infants

The insouciance of stubbed cigarettes as woman spooned the creamed peas
Time is making my ankles heavy where I ripped and ripped out my roots

Extirpated that woman in the kitchen smock
Extirpated that idea of seeking permission

This poem was originally published as line/limn in Menacing Hedge, an awesome journal created & produced by Kelly Boyker Guillemette, Craig Wallwork, & Gio Guillemette. While it isn’t my favorite poem, I think it’s a critical piece for the denouement of the voice in Pigtail Duty. Her new sense of becoming emboldens her to have the courage of her convictions, and stop seeking validation in other female figures she either identifies with or resents. She gains a sense of security that only a strong backbone can provide.



NCL: The tag line for your blog is “a portfolio of my fragments” and recent blog posts include shaped poems of rocks and minerals, poems with fragments of lines like mineral shards, e.g. “rhodochrosite,” “azurite,” “cassiterite,” “leucite,” and “abalone.” Please say a bit about the importance of the word ‘fragments’ and what it represents for you.

ME: I return again and again to fragments & feel sometimes like an eroding igneous rock. There’s just so much conscious wearing away of little ignorances & little malnourished egos in these selves (read: identity roles) that have formed around me. All the chipping away leads to just me writhing in a ditch & the poems get more honest.

Fragments are also a way into the poem for me, as a perpetually “busy” working mom. If I can write a line or two on the bus to work or during my lunch break, eventually I can get somewhere close to a poem. When I was writing Pigtail Duty, I participated in & later organized a poetry postcard group. Writing poems on postcards & immediately mailing them off was very liberating for a person who often fusses too much about diction. Receiving poetry postcards or any kind of mail art is also a fantastic way to co-opt & resist the usual dread of junk mail & bills, & possibly share poems with disgruntled postal workers who can’t help reading them. Several poems in Pigtail Duty were begun on postcards during stolen moments (breastfeeding, nap time, on the bus to work, in the middle of the night…)



NCL: What are you working on now?

ME: At present, I’ve just completed a third round of edits on a full-length manuscript titled field guide to autobiography. In this work, I'm exploring the inter-relatedness of various species through accreted fragments toward autobiography.

How does a person begin to enumerate the many fragments & fractals that comprise a life? This book is an attempt at memoir through the lens of various animals & minerals including katydids, wrens, abalone shells, and apple trees.

The first section: auto/ is comprised of poems that incorporate more found text from from my "autobiographical dictionary.” The second section: /bio incorporates language from a variety of field guides, and explores morphological and sociological relationships of various genera, while personifying their unique attributes.

 I’m beginning work on two other projects as well - the first is titled flowers from the gut & deals with gut microbiota & class issues. Another series is titled the ditch poems.