3 Questions for Theresa Senato Edwards

INTERVIEW
Theresa Senato Edwards, MA, MFA

1.

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

The poetic line helps me hear the music of the poem, share a particular phrasing—like in a musical piece—showing where the poem needs to rise or resolve, be quick or slow, where it needs to hold its breath or breathe.  The poetic line can be very freeing, especially when risks are taken, using enjambment, caesura, and white space.  But it can also be strict, helping structure the progression of the poem.  It is an important, even sometimes unpredictable, thread of a poem for me. 



2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I absolutely do find a relationship between writing and the human body.  In my most recent manuscript “Wing Bones,” I maneuver in and out of the concept of genetics, how addiction can take hold of generations, and how obsession can help build or destroy the body.  My first book Voices Through Skin devotes an entire section on the body.  And my other books also connect in some way or ways to the real and surreal idea of body—living or dead (The Music of Hands), natural or supernatural, even though each book has its own poetic style and content: full-length or chapbook poem collection, poem/art collaboration in response to the Holocaust (Painting Czeslawa Kwoka), or long poem fictional narrative (Green).  The idea of the body is fluid in much, although not all, of my work.


3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

What has become so disheartening for me being a poet is the publishing world.  The poetry field is very competitive and very subjective; so although many great poets’ work is being shared, there are many potentially influential poets’ work that is not being published, recognized, and/or read at all.  I know this is true in most industries, especially in the arts.  And, I guess, I wish this would change.  The world could use more creative, poetic/artistic truths and insights to help generate a more lasting, universal understanding and peace.  


Bio
Theresa Senato Edwards’ poetry books include Voices Through Skin, (Sibling Rivalry Press), a poem from this book entitled “Her Rituals” was a poetry finalist for the OCD Foundation’s Dare to Believe Contest; Painting Czeslawa Kwoka ~ Honoring Children of the Holocaust, a full-color collaboration with Painter, Lori Schreiner (unbound CONTENT), which won the Tacenda Literary Award for Best Book; and two chapbooks: The Music of Hands (Webbook, Seven CirclePress; print edition, self-published); and Green (republish Finishing Press; first published by Another New Calligraphy). Excerpts from Edwards’ manuscript in progress, “Wing Bones,” can be found in Gargoyle Magazine and online at The Nervous Breakdown, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, and Amethyst Arsenic.  Edwards was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received a writing residency from Drop Forge & Tool.  Her website: http://www.tsenatoedwards.wixsite.com/tsenatoedwards
Excerpt from her long narrative poem “Wing Bones,” the title poem of her new manuscript.

Middle Child
2A.
 
When you had breast cancer, she called you regularly
the only time
you knew she’d call
 
like children’s
tin-can conversation
 
she saved mother’s thickest bluest yarn, put the knitting bag
of memories in the right-triangle closet under the steps,
found that one blue vein that mothers saved for daughters
 
through death, your mother tightened the string,
 
a story’s presence in the metal—
            
2B.
 
and when she walks into your wake,
she already knows what is on the brink of being gone

 

3 Questions for Alison Carb Sussman

What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? How do you understand it? Use it?

My poems can be prose poems, or they can be in verse with rhythm and line breaks. When I break my poem into lines it is usually because I want the reader to read it slowly and to concentrate on each line as a separate unit. When I write a poem in block text I want the reader to concentrate on the poem as a whole. Which one I use, prose poem or verse, depends on what I hear when I begin writing. I usually know by hearing where a line is going to break. I try hard not to have too many end-stopped lines in a single poem because they can shut it down rhythmically but sometimes the poem just dictates what it wants to be. I like using enjambment because each line runs over to the next and creates a forward flowing rhythm which pushes the poem along but again that type of poem will often dictate itself. I follow where a poem takes me, kind of like a worm feeling its way along in the dirt.

Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

I notice that in my writing body parts always appear. They either appear as the central focus of the poem or are mentioned in it. Bodies seem to dance through my poems, naked or clothed, bodies collide, run, faint, shake their heads. Large feet and toes do the foxtrot. Hands draw themselves. Shoulder blades sink, arms fold, and so on. Like some children I didn’t have a whole lot of control over my body, and I think using the body in my poetry is one way of taking back some of that control.

Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

There’s really nothing I dislike about being a poet. I went into it with my eyes open. I knew I was going to be both ecstatic and miserable for the rest of my life.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2016
After Patrick Kavanagh

To Them he would always be brown, never golden
brown skin and eyes and teeth,
to Them he would never be summer,
always winter,
his future, pore by anguished pore,
his hair, a thistle-wild grave,
to Them he was beneath soot,
less than rot,
hit for hampering the way,
a maturing shoot rising stifled
in Their spray—

Alison Carb Sussman’s poems “Acting Like a Woman” and “Reuniting With Mother at the Zoo” won the Abroad Writers’ Conference/Finishing Line Press Authors Poetry Contest. She was awarded a conference registration and stay at the Butlers Townhouse in Dublin from December 12th to 19th, 2015. Her poem “Anhedonia” was a finalist in the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry in Bellingham Review’s 2016 Literary Contests. Her chapbook, On the Edge, a semi-finalist in Finishing Line’s New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition 2012, was published by Finishing Line in May 2013. Her poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Levure litteraire, Emory University’s Lullwater Review, The New York Times, and Southword Journal. Other poems are forthcoming in Atlanta Review and Rattle. Alison was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015. She lives and writes in New York City.

3 Questions for W. D. Ehrhart


1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
 
Wow, when Miriam Sagan asked me if I’d be interested in being interviewed, I had expected something—I don’t know—more traditional?  When did you start writing?  What poets influenced you?  At least a few warm-up questions before we got to the more esoteric questions.  But what the heck; I opened the door, so now I can’t very well say, “Forget it, go away”

The only thing is: I don’t really know how to respond to questions 1 & 2.  Let’s take #1, which is the more difficult of the two, for me at least.  I suppose I must have some kind of relationship to the poetic line.  I write poetic lines all the time, or try to, so there must be some kind of relationship.  But I’ve never really thought much about it, certainly not in these terms.  I do think about line lengths, and as I’ve gotten older, I notice that my line lengths—generally speaking—tend to be longer than they were 40 years ago (I’ve been writing a long time: 52 years); I think more in syllabics now, and often end up writing in rough tetrameter or pentameter lines.  But I can’t explain why that transition occurred.  I have always tried to shape lines that work, that do what I want, that say what I want.  As you can probably tell, I don’t really know what I’m saying.  So much of what I do—I suspect this is true of many other poets, though I can’t speak for them—I do intuitively, by “feel,” by some kind of instinct.  One might call it dumb luck or guesswork, though I think there is something more deliberate about it.  But what that is I can’t explain, have never tried to explain that I can recall, and as you can gather from this rambling response, we’re all probably better off if I don’t try to explain.  What matters to me is: does my poem work for you?  Does it speak to you?  Is it any good?  The older I get, the less I care to talk about poetry.  What I do is in my poems.  What I think is in my poems.  It’s there for you to see, to read, to make sense of, to come to your own conclusions about what my personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line might be. 

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
 
Another question I don’t think I’ve ever given any thought to, and find myself wondering: of all the things one might ask me, why this?  The only part of my body that I have given any conscious thought to is that I have always composed poems by hand, hand-writing drafts until the poem is well along.  I can’t compose poetry on a keyboard.  There is something about connecting my brain to the paper by way of my arm and hand and pen that doesn’t translate to a keyboard, whether typewriter or computer.  Increasingly, as I’ve gotten older, when I’m writing prose, I tend to move back and forth between pen/paper and keyboard, more a function of laziness and hands that get tired quicker than they used to.  But poetry I still draft longhand until the poem is well along to completion, at least of a first draft.



3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?


Well, yeh, I don’t make any money writing poetry.  I wish more people would read poetry and actually buy poetry.  I wish I could fill Madison Square Garden with 20,000 paying fans screaming to hear my poetry.  I’m still working fulltime at the age of 68.  Being a poet has not put me in a position to buy a seaside home in Bermuda and enjoy the sunsets.
 
Other than that, though, I don’t really have any complaints.  I like being a poet.  I get a good feeling when I write a poem that I like.  I get an even better feeling when I write a poem somebody else likes.  One could do a whole lot worse in this world, and a lot of people do.
 
            The Amish Boys on Sunday
 
Amish country.  January
afternoon.  Crackling crisp and clear.
Families in their winter buggies:
boxes, black, on wheels, each buggy
with a single easygoing horse
unperturbed by cars, trucks, traffic
lights, the smell of gasoline exhaust.
A two-lane highway, buggies
on their way to worship, or,
service over, coming home,
in no particular hurry, the very
Amish attitude toward progress.
 
Around a bend and up ahead,
three Amish boys are walking
toward me on the shoulder.
Two maybe twelve, the other ten,
all dressed in Sunday best:
black pants and coats, white shirts
and broad-brimmed flat black hats.
I’m driving slow, and as I pass,
all three doff their hats in unison
and bow like gallant cavaliers,
grinning like they’ve got a secret
wouldn’t I like to know.
 
***

W. D. Ehrhart is author or editor of 21 books of prose and poetry, most recently The Bodies Beneath the Table (poetry) and Dead on a High Hill (essays). A Marine Corps veteran of the American War in Vietnam, he has received an Excellence in the Arts Award from Vietnam Veterans of America, the President’s Medal from Veterans for Peace, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including American Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, and the Washington Post Magazine. Ehrhart holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wales at Swansea, UK, and currently teaches English and history at the Haverford School, where he also coaches Winter Track and sponsors the Poetry Club.
 

Interview with Miriam Sagan at The Unprecedented Review

Excellent new e-zine–The Unprecedented Review.

I’m the featured poet for August, with an interview. I’ve copied a few questions here–check out the mag for all of it and more!

Question: What was the biggest challenge for you when you began publishing?

Insecurity, I guess. I was published young and frequently by the small press world, which has remained my home. But then I’d hate what I wrote, and would suddenly see its flaws once it was in print. And then I’d get an attack of shame and fear over how exposed I was. I once told my father he couldn’t read a book I’d written—I think it was DIRTY LAUNDRY: 100 Days in a Zen Monastery (La Alameda Press, re-issue New World Library) which was a joint diary kept by me and my first husband Robert Winson. It was pretty raw stuff. I told my dad—“I need privacy” and he retorted “You have a kind of odd way of showing that!” which was funny and true. It remains a problem to this day.
Rejection is an obvious challenge. I didn’t like it when I was starting out—I still don’t. But I got used to it. The self-loathing is harder—it still remains. I’ve learned to sit with a book when it comes out and have some emotional space before it goes public and the promotion begins.

Question: What advice would you give other poets trying to break into publishing?

You just have to persevere. Send out, send out, send out. Don’t get sidetracked by rejection—it doesn’t have much meaning. There are so many great magazines out there—and very lively e-zines. Try new magazines, but do read so you get a sense of the editors’ taste.
Also, build your community. Create it if you have to—start an open mic, a magazine, a writing group, a reading series, a blog. Promote yourself but with your friends and fellows—it is much easier and more fun.
And write a better poem. I recently was serving as interim Poetry Editor for The Santa Fe Poetry Review. I read 3000 poems. The majority were generic. Poetry is not a neat tidy art. Aim high, fail beautifully.
A fine poem will always get published if you send it out enough.

Question: If you could only write one more poem in your life, what would you write it about?

A perfect haiku that awakens the reader to the nature of the world and the nature of the self. It’s a great question, but I have to tell myself—dream on! It may not be possible.

3 Questions for Anne MacNaughton

MEANT TO BE A SPIRITED RESPONSE

The poetic line is built by the breath
where it comes in
and where it goes out.

My relationship is infatuation
a moony obsession
a writer’s crush on the muse.

Mind moves with the air
pacing in and out
with the heart’s valvey billow.

Image lifts itself from phosphenes
crawling up the wall of closed eyes.
Right now, from the breath.

Each flexion assumes the next
one pulling it along.
Until it doesn’t.

Whatever about poeting
is distasteful?
Only that I’m not

as good
as
Bob
Creeley.

***

The poem was written in response to Miriam’s Well’s “Three Questions” interview.

INTERVIEW

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

***

Poets with a published book or chapbook (no self pub at the moment) who want to do an interview, drop a note to msagan10#5@aol.com.
To see more responses, click on Interviews.

Three Questions for Robin Matthews

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That
is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

When I was first writing poetry (which was shortly after I started
reading poetry) my poems were very imitative. I used rhyming a lot, and
precise forms like sonnets. I’ve done a lot of moving around in my
life, and most of those early poems I lost long ago. But I still have
some of the later sonnets and rhymed poems, and I think they are quite
good. The effort of conforming to an imposed structure was very useful
in channeling creativity. Of course in the best such poems the reader
(or listener) does not even realize that there is a structure.

That said, I no longer write that way. I suppose I still could write a
sonnet, but I prefer to let the words find their own structure. Which
is not to say that I just sit down and write a bunch of words on paper
and say okay, there’s the poem. Sometimes I can work for days on a
poem, then get disgusted with the effort, put it aside, come upon it
days or weeks or years later and finish it. There is a short poem called
“Transfiguration” which I wrote in 1965. It involved an image that came
to me suddenly, as I was walking through the woods, and demanded to be
expressed. I wrote it down immediately, but it did not seem right. I
worked on it on and off, and then I arrived at a version that I thought
was the best I could do. And that was that, I thought. Almost forty
years later, in 2014, I revisited the poem, and in a couple of hours
rewrote it into what I now consider the really final version. And I
consider it among the better poems I have written.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human
body? Or between your writing and your body?

I take a walk through the woods most mornings. Sometimes I just walk,
breathe the air, exercise my lungs and heart and assorted muscles, but
on really good days ideas come to me for poems. I usually write myself
a note, or make a journal entry, as soon as I get home. Later,
sometimes much later, I will come back and try to turn it into a poem.
Away from home I also find that solitary walking is most conducive to
poetry. I feel that the rhythm of my walking is reflected in the metre
of the poem.
.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Well, it would be nice if you could earn a living doing it. It would be
nice if people did not look at a loss for words when they hear you are
one. It would be nice if words followed words more easily on the page.
But it is what it is.
Brief Bio:

Life has been varied and good. It has included growing up in rural New
Jersey, becoming a printing pressman (always something to fall back on
for money), a blessedly brief stint in the Vietnam-era army,
establishing and co-editing a poetry magazine called Sanskaras in New
York during the late 1960s, a spell as a hippy in northern New Mexico
and Albuquerque, followed by creative writing at Goddard College, a try
at organic farming, a long, happy spell as a computer programmer in
Washington, DC, and nowadays a comfortable retirement in an old
farmhouse on 40 acres in Virginia. I have two daughters and two
grand-daughters, all deeply loved. Recently and most pleasingly, Amador
Publishers in Albuquerque has published a collection of my poetry,
“Another Spring” as part of their Worldwind Books Poetry Series.

Here is a very recent poem:

Tally

A very large oak sits
northwest of the house
on the hill above the driveway.
It was once the smallest of three
growing very close
and forming one crown together
until a freak summer storm
eighteen years ago
took down the other two
and left this one still leaning
away from the missing two.

The measured girth today is
slightly over eleven feet
and it leans now more than ever.
I can see where the earth
is lifted somewhat
on the side away from the lean.

The other two went down
directly across the drive
and blocked it for weeks
while being cleared away.
This one leans toward the house,
but if it fell it would reach
perhaps the edge of the lawn
and maybe take down the magnolia
without threatening the house.
It would leave a big hole
in the green canopy were it gone,
so I will not mess with it.
It may well outlive me,
still leaning.

When we bought this place
there were three huge pines
shading the front lawn.
I thought they would live forever,
but two are gone.
Drought and beetles, partly,
but I think mostly old age.
The huge hickory in the backyard
went down in a gust of wind,
luckily falling away from the house;
I counted ninety-seven rings.

Well, it is sometimes surprising,
the things, and the people, we outlive.

There are about thirty acres of woods
that I treasure or neglect,
depending on your point of view.
I mostly leave them undisturbed,
except to abolish kudzu and poison ivy,
and to maintain my paths.
They reward me by changing slowly.
Right now they are poised on the brink.
The maples are red-tipped,
the beeches still bear last year’s leaves
and stand about like a ghost forest.

Close to the house
spring is moving along.
The daffodils are already flowering
and the tulips are up, not quite budding,
the azaleas and rhododendrons are primed.
Both the birds and the frogs
have become very vocal
in the last few days.

There is apparently something
very major that Einstein predicted
about gravitational waves
that is now confirmed.
I take it on trust, it is beyond me.

A friend I met at Spence Springs —
this was two years ago —
believed that Gravity was God.
It perplexed me,
but now he tells me it is proven.

I no longer doubt it.
Robin Matthews
Charlotte County, Virginia
March 2016

Lauren Camp’s new book of poetry ONE HUNDRED HUNGERS

Lauren Camp’s new ONE HUNDRED HUNGERS (Tupelo Press) is her third book of poetry, one which represents a leap into difficult if intriguing subject matter, with a corresponding expansion of style. The central focus is on the poet’s Jewish-Iraqi father, and narrative of immigration and identity. In the poem “Seder’ the question “Where shall we go?” is called out in a seemingly casual manner, but it is one of the central questions of the book.

Camp gives an overview: “The book is written in three different ways: the “boy” poems tell the story of my father’s childhood in Iraq; in the “girl” poems I write my life as a myth; and the Variations or “what if” poems consider other ways things might have gone. “

The first place these poems go is back into an imagined past:

Born in the palms
in a time ripe with witness
in a brick house in the narrow city in the tender grass.

(…)
His life was fixed with silver cups
with eastern walls with silk with wool and flourish.

Throughout the collection, there is some distancing in the work, switching between first and third person, which serves as an aesthetic response to shifting cultural expectations, and the experiences of dislocation.

It is as if Camp has been waiting for her father to reveal himself. In “Variation: Let’s Pretend” she writes: “Let’s pretend you tell me what happened/ How you lived in the city two streets from the river/Let’s suppose you begin speaking…” But really it is the poet who has to speak, even invent. The core of these poems feels true in a literal sense, like memoir. The back material describes ONE HUNDRED HUNGERS as being about “a first generation Arab-American girl and her Jewish-Iraqi parent.” But to call these poems autobiographical is an oversimplification. Instead, they are a lyric painting of the intersection of lives, places, languages, memories, and questions. One section, titled “An Elaborate Matrix” points to the merging of many streams: “The boy listened to Arabs to Muslims and Jews to voices cascading through anise and ginger.”

Camp says of the book: “The core is true, though I had very minimal input from my father. So, more than anything, I researched the culture and imagined his early life.” In response to both knowing and imagining, Camp has written a lyric collection of poems that not only take the reader on a journey—they are a journey. Her words speak of the essential mystery of human experience, but also reconciliation of seeming opposites. The poet tells us “listen. Yes, listen” Strong advice in today’s world, torn as it is by dissension.

This is a beautiful volume of poetry, well worth reading.
To order:http://laurencamp.com/poetry/booksrecords.shtml

Book signings:

April 24, 2pm, Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe
April 30, SOMOS Salon, Taos
May 24, 6pm, Bookworks, Albuquerque
Hungers.cover.index