Interview with Alison Luterman

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

My line breaks tend to be a little weird, a little jaggedy, and I often end up trying to make them more organic, more breath-driven when I revise. That said, I really admire poets who make me think about the line as a unified little strip of beauty with its own structure and drama. A good example of that would be Ted Berrigan, or Bernadette Mayer—I admire both of them, especially Berrigan for the rightness and strangeness of his lines.

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

Yes, writing has everything to do with the body for me. When I write I try to bring myself back to sense memories again and again. And when I was younger, eros was a huge driver behind much of what I wrote. Now that I’m older (ahem!) that energy is more diffused and a bit gentler, but still present in the way that I relate to plants, animals, sky, wind, weather, other people, the world—what else do we have but our bodies?

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

The economics of it are dismal. If I had spent the same amount of time and energy writing non-fiction articles, I would have made so much more money. Also, if I did a job that non-poetry people understood, a regular job, I think that might make me feel like less of a freak, socially. It’s hard for non-poets to understand the amount of time and money (contest fees, workshops, etc) that goes into this activity. I generally say “I teach creative writing” when people ask me what I do, rather than “I’m a poet.” But this is what I was called to do, so even if it makes little sense in a capitalist economy, I still do it.

4. I’m been thinking about creative “failure.” Can you share some of your thoughts and experiences in this realm?

Every creative “success” I’ve ever had was built upon a mountain of failure. Every book published contains the ghosts of dozens of poems I worked hard on, but which never quite came together. Every book I wrote that ever won a contest was a manuscript I had entered dozens of times before and not won.

There is no protection from failure in this work. Even if you’ve written hundreds of good poems, you’re still capable of writing one that doesn’t work—in fact you will write ones that don’t work. Some of those “failures” can be salvaged in revision—time helps you see what’s missing, where you went off the rails, and correct it. And some of them are just compost.

For the last 20 years I’ve been writing plays as well as poems and personal essays. I haven’t had much success in getting full productions. It’s a hard thing to do, getting someone else to invest money into putting on something you wrote. Two of my full-length plays got produced—one was in Baltimore and I didn’t get to see it because the theater company didn’t have enough money to fly me out. The other one was in Michigan. I’ve also had several workshop productions of plays and musicals. A workshop production is often one where the writer pays the performers to stand at music stands with the scripts in front of them and read the work aloud in front of an audience. You learn a lot that way, but if you have seven actors to pay it gets expensive!

I feel like I’ve still got tons to learn in terms of stagecraft, playwriting, dramatic arcs, etc. I may or may not (probably won’t) learn how to do this thing expertly before I die, but I’m going to keep trying. I love the collaboration with actors, director, lighting people, set designers. The theater community is a rich and loving place, full of very dedicated souls who are doing this crazy thing for love. Those are my people.

5. Anything you’d like to add, new projects or anything else?

I’m currently working on two musicals, writing the book for one and the book and lyrics for another, as well as the manuscript for a new book of poems which feels ready to me, but hasn’t won a contest or been accepted by a publishing house yet. I’m also taking singing lessons and learning more and more about music.

My website is

To see the feminist song cycle We Are Not Afraid of the Dark that I co-wrote with composer Sheela Ramesh (who also contributed lyrics) go to

My latest book is In the Time of Great Fires, available from Catamaran Press (and on-line at the usual places)


3 Questions for Dale Harris

Miriam’s Well Blog Interview
Dale Harris

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

Dale: I most enjoy poetry that’s written to be spoken and heard, like music. So, the line lengths and line breaks serve as clues for the reader as to how the poem is “played,” like sheet music. And for me, about how I’ll read it aloud later. I may omit pauses and articles (like “and”) from the written- down poem that I say in a recitation but usually it looks the same. Some poems are written for the page rather than as a spoken work, so at-a-glance is important in the formatting. Those lines may be short and succinct or long and winding, depending on the mood of the poem and how I want it viewed. Todd Moore, an Albuquerque poet I greatly admire, sadly now passed away, wrote “poetry noir,” true crime poems about outlaws and gangsters, His distinctive writing style looked like texting, before we had cell phones and did that. Todd wrote in short, terse bursts of dialogue, maybe just two or three abbreviated words per line. The poems often continued for pages without a pause. His staccato lines served to build momentum and were mesmerizing. That takes skill.

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

Dale: If you notice me tapping my fingers and silently counting, I’m writing a haiku and figuring out the syllable count. Or, looking at my wrist watch and mumbling, I’m timing a poem. Years ago, I learned to write poetry in my ear. When my husband and I lived in a rural area, I commuted an hour each way through the mountains into Albuquerque for work. Since there was no radio reception I drove in silence and the glorious scenery inspired lots of new poems. I couldn’t safely jot the words down so I’d repeat the phrases aloud over and over so I wouldn’t forget them, adding new lines as they came to me. Those poems remain fixed in my memory. I can still recite them without notes. Today, I edit my poems that way, reading them out loud to hear the sound, often replacing words to achieve better tone and resonance. 

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

Dale: I think of myself less as being a poet but instead as something I do, that I write poems. Fashioning an identity out of being a poet smacks of pretentiousness. I view my ability to write as a gift to be appreciated and not trivialized. Emily Dickinson’s poem comes to mind: “I’m nobody! Who are you? / Are you nobody, too?” and continues “How dreary to be somebody! /How public like a frog! / To tell your name/The livelong day/to an admiring bog!” That seems good advice on protecting one’s poetry from hype and hoopla.
That said, I more easily identify as a community poet, enjoying the company of other poetry lovers at readings, workshops, and in art & poetry collaborations. I’ve edited and published poetry anthologies, books and journals, organized Poets Picnics at the Shafer Hotel in Mountainair and in Albuquerque at the Open Space Visitor Center, and produced theatrical events celebrating National Poetry Month. My idea of a good time!

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3 Questions for Margaret Randall

Miriam’s Well: What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.?

My relationship to the poetic line is largely intuitive at this point. But I will say that I was influenced early on by William Carlos Williams’s advice to measure the line by one’s own breath, what one is capable of conveying in a single respiration. I was also influenced by the passion and explosive quality of Beat poetry and by the thoughtfulness of Deep Image. Black Mountain poets caught me in their snare for a while, but I found myself rebelling against what I perceived as an arbitrary division of the line. Over time I have modified my own line to more accurately reflect what I want to say. I want my audiences to hear the idea, have the experience, and then also have a few moments of silence in which to think about what they have just heard. By the same token, audience response to me reading my work has also influenced my line; I have been known to alter a line-break because I feel a certain energy coming back at me, even occasionally changing a word, or leaving some out.

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

There is a profound relationship between my writing and my body. I can see this most clearly when I think about how I once wrote and how I write today, at the age of 85. It is dialectical. My body informs my writing, and my writing reflects the way my body feels at any given moment. What this has meant is that my work has become sparser, more direct but also more graceful, and I pay a lot of attention to finding the precise words to express an idea or experience. I am continually trying to broaden my range, not repeat words unless intentional repetition is needed to stress a particular emphasis, avoid cliches, and find new descriptive forms.

MW: Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

I dislike it that poets are paid little or nothing for our work, that we are almost always expected to give without receiving, that there is so little interest in poetry and poets in the United States, and that our books sell in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Having lived in countries where poetry is deeply valued or even a national pastime—Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam—I find this particularly painful. It also saddens me that poetry, at least in my generation, was taught so poorly when I was a student. In the public schools I attended as a child and adolescent, the poets with whom I came in contact seemed to have scant relationship to my life, and poetry was taught by rote memorization. It took leaving school and being introduced to the poetry of some of my contemporaries to make the genre come alive for me, and to make me realize I myself wanted to be a poet.
Here is Margaret Randall’s latest poetry book, Stormclouds Like Unkept Promises, with photographs by her partner, Barbara Byers. It’s available to order through any indie bookstore,, and directly from Casa Urraca Press (in both paperback and an exclusive hardcover edition) here:

3 Questions for Joanne Dominique Dwyer

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?

Do I have a relationship to the poetic line? I’m a poet, so I must. Yet, uncertain of what that relationship is or how to talk about it, my mind deflects the question and a cache of images arises.
The supermarket line, which when I spend left brain time scoping out the various lines to determine which line will get me out the door the soonest, 99% of the time I make the worse choice. So, I’ve learned not think or wager too much and to look at the cashiers to see who I’m drawn to and push my cart into the end of their line.
Yesterday, hiking up a mountain, an immense and vivid line of demarcation between wildfire smoke and a clear cloudless sky, the line spanning miles. Like a great wall in the sky, the border wall of paranoia between two countries, or the famous lines outside of Studio 54 or other pretentious debaucherous nightclubs, where the rich, famous and the sexy young are ushered in and the average or unremarkable in appearance and means are left outside for hours in inclement weather, like folks standing on a breadline.
Now, I am pondering a poem prompt that asks the poet to write a pretentious and debaucherous poem – or perhaps a single line. A sure cure for any paralyzing of one’s creative juices. A prune juice for writer’s block.
A return to the question: I would categorize my relationship to the poetic line as a long distance oblique one. Or an intuitive one. Or one I take for granted, until it’s gone. The way we take our privileges, our abundance of drinkable water and milk as a given. And though there are no more milkmen at our doorsteps, the options for cow, goat, oat, rice, almond, soy and coconut milks seems an absurd privilege and an inordinate bounty of packaging. Bounty too beautiful a word to use in this case of mentioning waste.
Some poets have a bounty of long lines, others are so generous in not taking up too much space and their lines are one to three words sparse, yet no less potent. And as humans wear our hair, bobbed, flowing, cropped, curled, braided, purple, blonde, sienna brown, au natural or permed or relaxed or straightened, coal black, fog gray, adorned in ribbons or beads or beehived, dreaded, or shorn in a military cut or shorn down to the shining globe of the skull, so are the many choices of the poet for their poetic lines.

My body has trouble staying still. Writing offers my body stillness. (See my sample poem). The act of writing could not exist without the body. The brain, that lovely mess behind bone. Praise be.

There is nothing I dislike about being a poet. There are enough other qualities or inherent characteristics of myself to lament or be hard on myself for. Though, I’m working on self-love rather than self-loathing. In fact, “Self-Loathing in Santa Fe” is the working title for my next book. Or “Fear and Loathing in Santa Fe”. And it will be full of pretention and debauchery.
On a more truthful note, I think it’s likely being a poet is in the soul – and there are many, many poets who never write a poem. It’s a way of seeing and feeling. One is a keen observer and  deeply emotional. And with any luck, inventive and daring. And certainly caring. Being good at rhymes optional.
Irish Gypsy Writer’s Block

No longer in the semi-dark, on my knees, holed up with a halitosis priest.
No longer behind a screen of latticed woodwork, swathed in a fog of incense.
Not thirsting for absolution, but I am slanting towards a mindset of confession.
Would like to disclose that mornings I promise myself to write
I do housework, albeit arbitrarily and haphazardly.
A woman gone-astray, circuitry askew.
I half sweep one room, half mop another.
Put toilet bowl cleaner in the toilets to soak, as though I’m anointing the sick,
but never get around to scrubbing the porcelain.
Drink two cups of tea; return emails.
Put musk oil in my hair, lemon hydrating lotion on my feet;
a woman just shy of wallpapering her tongue.
I make flaxseed toast with grass-fed butter.
Apply flea and tick repellent to the lonely dogs.
Drape laundry up in the coppery sun; tweeze my fading eyebrows.
Put a pot of garbanzo beans on to boil; water the withering fruit trees.
Check the mouse traps for rotting rodents.
Shake out the Kashmiri prayer rug from under my desk.
Chant mantras in a language not my own. Only then
am I tranquilized-down enough to write.
And then Leonard Cohen’s lyrics leap into my head:
A million candles burning for the help that never came.
Which sidetracks me down the road of it is best not to need.
No anodynes or aphrodisiacs; no aide insulating my attic;
no jump when my battery dies; no holy words
or holy water; no cream to temper my caffeine.
So, instead of joining words to paper, I go down the stairs
of my basement, retrieve a polyester superhero costume
to wear to God’s funeral. With a little perfume dabbed
between my breasts and on the small of my back,
I arrive and sing burial songs; write my name in the ledger.
Look around the funeral home to see who is crying.
I return home, mascara smeared, eat heavily-frosted supermarket cake.
Make an appointment for later the same day,
while I still have tequila in my blood, to get a tattoo
of a black mare, with an invisible rider on her back.

RASA is a Sanskrit word that denotes nectar, juice, sap. It is the intangible, indescribable energy
behind a work of art. Art that engenders transcendence out of the ordinary and into the portals of higher consciousness.

RASA is available from Small Press Distribution –
(Type “Joanne Dominique Dwyer” into the search bar.)
It’s also available on Amazon.

And Belle Laide, my first collection of poems, is available from Sarabande Books –
And also from Amazon.


Three Questions for Maya Janson

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

My relationship to the line is largely intuitive, which requires that I feel my way through the poem, trying to look and listen in order to know what’s called for. There often seems to be some secret (to me) mechanism at work in each poem, something that drives the way the line wants to be handled. I don’t know in advance what this is, nor how the poem will ultimately look on the page, so there’s a lot of messing around, trying out different line lengths and playing with enjambment, though too much of the latter and the poem begins to wobble. At the same time, I like to at least occasionally use the line as a sense-making unit, that is, breaking at a place that allows a natural phrase or an interesting cluster of words to stand alone, in order to be highlighted. Generally I find myself appreciating the orderliness that happens with a more unified line in each poem, enjoying the visual effect of lines that end more or less at the same point on the page.

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

The sitting at a desk part of writing happens in short bursts. It’s not only restlessness that drives me outdoors but something akin to wanting to aerate the poem with the breath of the larger world. There’s something physical needed, sometimes in the initial generative part of any given piece and most especially in the revision process. There’s a power in putting one foot in front of the other while working the poem out in the head. I think this might have to do with finding the music of the lyric, using the body to pound out the sound patterns. There’s also the encounter with the worldly elements, being blown about or rained on, and other-worldly elements too, that brings a fullness beyond my one small life into the poem. Basho, the Japanese poet known for wandering, is said to have spoken of his walking and poem-making as conversations between a ‘ghost and a ghost-to-be’.  I too like to situate myself on that continuum.

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

By any measure, to live a life that allows me to write poetry marks me as one of the fortunate few. To have something that brings me joy and sorrow, in one small package—again, how lucky! Without poetry as a lens the world would be a little less colorful. And still, even after many years of doing it, I’m sometimes surprised to find myself writing poems and identifying myself as a poet. As a child I read only fiction and imagined growing up and writing stories. I didn’t begin reading poetry until I was in my early twenties, and then it was only because my best friend was a poet. Once I started writing poetry however, there was no going back. While there’s not much in the way of regret, there is much that is oddly quirky about the practice that places it outside mainstream ways of thinking/talking that sometimes, in certain circles, I feel reticent about claiming. This is especially true when it comes to sharing my poems with people who don’t read or write poetry, more so with those who confess to not liking or understanding poetry.  How to explain the weirdness of the poetic obsession? Mostly I don’t even try.
Maya Janson’s first book, Murmur & Crush, was published by Hedgerow Books. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies and she has received fellowships from MacDowell and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she has worked as a lecturer in creative writing at Smith College and as a community mental health nurse.Her newest book, “On The Mercy Me Planet” has just been published by Blue Edge Books.

To order:

3 Questions for Karla Linn Merrified

Interview with Karla Linn Merrifield

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.?
First, in my mind, the basic unit of a line is a breath. There can always be two breaths in a line, if there’s a caesura, or several breaths with additional commas or semicolons, which can create a sensation that the line is panting, propelling the reader toward the line break.
Second, many poetic forms dictate the length of a line, as with traditional sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, pantoums and Japanese forms such as tanka and haiku/senryu. But rules are meant to be broken sometimes, right? My most recent pantoum’s lines nearly extend from left to right margin.
With free verse, almost anything goes, and that’s where I am deeply attuned to the lines’ enjambments. If a line doesn’t close with end-stop punctuation, I seek the most powerful word to create the strongest line end that urges the reader to the following line. I want that voltage! That tension!
Enjambment is so critical to a poem’s success. When I was assistant editor at The Centrifugal Eye (now defunct, but still available online), a gig that lasted ten years, one of the most annoying failures I encountered among the 300-400 poems I reviewed for each issue, was flabby enjambment—lines that end with articles, prepositions or conjunctions—all down-right lame end-words. Hence my annoyance. Why would the poet waste the opportunity for a far more muscular end-word?
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
All poems begin in the body. An idea or a line or a stanza arises in our brains, traveling at lightning speed across countless neurons. Then, with a hand we take up the pen and scribble. Or with two hands tap away at our computer keyboard. Naturally, our eyes and ears become involved as we scan our lines and listen to the rhythm, hear the alliteration and assonance…. Even when we read a poem, brain, eyes, ears, and the hands holding the book or moving the mouse to scroll are involved. Tear ducts may activate. Or our brow as it furrows when we encounter something disturbing in the lines.
Although I write most of my prose pieces such as book reviews (and this interview) from scratch on my laptop, for poetry almost always I turn to the back pages of my Moleskine journal to create the poem through to a first draft.
When I move my felt-tip pen on the page, my ears hear each letter. In the act of writing, for example, the lower-case letter ƒ, with its elegantly balanced ascender and descender, I feel the ƒ, and instantly I hear the fricative ƒ sound. Hand-writing poems makes me so much more aware of both sonics and rhythm.

Also, despite the fine-ruled lines, when handwriting, I feel freer to capture snippets of my poem-to-be as they arise, often in a controlled jumble. Some lines or fragments may well end up in the middle or towards the end of the poem as in the above photo. I draw on those to assemble a rough draft, after which I move to my laptop to polish through many more drafts.
The relationship between my body and my writing came to the fore in my newest book, My Body the Guitar, where the body-writing dialectic emerges as a theme throughout the book. I found 72 references to “body” and its close relatives (e.g., embodiment) versus 209 references for “guitar,” the book’s most frequent noun. In one of my favorite poems in the book, as happens frequently, “body” and “guitar” are paired:

Étude 4-23: Embodiment on the Day I Changed
Strings for a Second Time

I want to hold somebody
I want to hold somebody
I want to hold some body

I want to kiss somebody
I want to kiss somebody
I want to kiss some body

I want to breathe on somebody
I want to breathe on somebody
I want my breath on some body
I want my sweat on somebody’s hands
I want my tears on somebody’s brow
I want my dew on some body

—and his on mine—but—
but it shall not be now
no matter my wants   his    yours

so I want my fingers rippling somebody
so I want my thighs cradling somebody
so my heart’s wants lift now some body: my guitar.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
Tough question! I wracked my brain on this one. Getting rejections? Nah. Goes with the territory. The editing process? Nope. Ditto. Besides, I truly enjoy editing; it’s fun, like doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. If anything, I don’t enjoy the frustration (low-grade, mind you) that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done I want to accomplish. But, then, that’s part of the human condition, not for poets alone. Bottom line: There’s really not anything I dislike about my poetic calling.

My Body the Guitar

Artist Shu-Ju Wang

I’ve discovered a new-to-me artist and become intrigued with her work.

She writes: Multiple voices and viewpoints are the cornerstones of my work, a reflection of my personal history of migration and background in technology, science and art. It is a balancing act of the analytical vs. meditative modes of creating, of re-imagining traditional motifs in a contemporary context, and of understanding our stories as a relationship between narration vs. interpretation.

In a culture of bigger-is-better and faster-is-better, I create small & intimate work, slowly. Influenced by Chinese gongbi style paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and Islamic miniatures, my work combines abstract & representational forms in lush and jewel-like colors, and I invite viewers to interpret, to draw conclusions about this world that we live in.

I myself have an obsession with laundry lines and hanging pieces. Shu-Ju Wang’s work in this vein is also historical and cultural. This installation references the Chinese immigrant experience of working in laundries. The artist says: The Laundry Maze was designed for the lobby of the Portland Building in Portland, Oregon. The project uses the historical reference of the Chinese laundry as a starting point to explore the professional transitions many immigrants face as they find work in different fields in their new lives. As one’s profession is often the most public part of one’s identity, this transition also brings about a change in identity.

And I was also drawn to the elegant work on water, Fluid Dynamics.

Miriam’s Well is so pleased that Shu-Ju Wang agreed to answer some questions below. 1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

This is a very hard one, I have so many things to say to her, but I think the 2 most important things I would say (even though I wouldn’t listen) — 

a. Be diligent and work hard. As a child, many things came easily to me, and I also had great short term memory. In a culture where testing and memorization were how you were judged, I did not have to try very hard, so I coasted on that. Other cultural elements at play — as a girl, I wasn’t expected to achieve or succeed; my parents also are not “Tiger Parents,” they just wanted kids who were well behaved. In many ways, there’s nothing wrong with these basic expectations — I think I’m civil-minded (good citizen behavior) and I don’t put my success above that of others. On the other hand, there is so much to learn and do, I wish I could’ve been more “ambitious” as young person. I don’t mean ambition to achieve success, fame, or fortune, but ambition to be more “learned,” for lack of a better word.

b. Don’t be so well behaved that you’re a pushover. There were 2 traps I fell into. When I was very young (before 2nd or 3rd grade), I was very outspoken. Then my teacher told my mother, who then set about to “correct” my behavior. The 2nd was when I immigrated to the US as a 15 year old by myself. I had no idea how to be “acceptable,” and the end result was that I was quite the pushover. I have tried to remedy that.

2. Advice to your future self?

I think I would still tell myself to be diligent and work hard, for as long as I am able to. I find work satisfying, and I hope that the work I am embarking on is necessary.

3. You are in a creative transition right now. How is that going?

Well, it’s going! While it’s been brewing in my head for a couple of years, I only just shed some of my obligations this month. I have been reading a lot and thinking about community projects that I want to start. I am just now doing some preparatory work, but I have nothing to show yet. I started a blog,, but it’s pretty new and I don’t know that I’ve developed a cohesive vision for what it is to be.

What Even More Readers Are Reading

Barbara Robidoux: About reading., the book Eye of the Wild is well written by French anthropologist who survived a bear attack..interesting but not profound.
Next week the new Allende is released. Violeta..her earlier books were so compelling..not so much the last ones.

Bill Waters
One recent fave, Mir, is Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters, by Mark Dunn (“A hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.”). Another is Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters (“This stunning anthology of favorite poems … breathes new life into some of the greatest English-language poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”)

Just finished reading Bernard Malamud’s A New Life, which I fished out from my father’s old library. The book probably was written in the 50s. (He won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for his book The Fixer and the National Book Award). Seymour Levin the main protagonist, trying to make a new start after his past failures, is an English language teacher teaching composition, who is not allowed to teach his true passion, literature. He is besieged with questions of morality and goodness. The prose is exquisite. The author himself was an English language professor. I wonder if the book is semi autobiographical.

Karla Linn Merrifield
This is going to be fun! What am I reading? I recently posted a new piece on my blog that gives your Well readers a good idea of what’s been keeping me occupied between the covers! Would love to see some of your readers follow my blog! More reviews in the offing!

Georgia Jones-Davis
poems by Antonio Machado
Nina Bjornsson
The Ministry For the Future. Kim Stanley Robinson. Brilliant near future novel about climate change. More compelling than I make it sound. And Elizabeth George’s latest Lynley mystery, Something to Hide.

Pat Hastings
I’m loving Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, The Secret to Superhuman Strength. One of its themes is the search for the ecstatic experience. So Bechdel studies and writes about the lives and works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Margaret Fuller, in addition to her doing a lot of judo, skiing, biking, and running. Bechdel knocked it out of the park with Fun Home, her graphic story of her closeted gay father. It got turned into a killer musical as well. The Secret to Superhuman Strength is equally compelling.

I am currently into “wild rides” . Recently finished Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead and Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. Now am reading Bewilderment by Richard Powers. Recommend all three ! So many layers and complexities !

More Reading Response–with some conversation

Susan Nalder
Undaunted Courage by Stephan Ambrose – breathtaking- Sacagewea means Jumping Fish, and the moment she reunites with her brother-

Rochelle Williams
Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick. Again. Vesper Flights, Helen MacDonald.

Miriam Sagan
How is Sleepless Nights? I’ve been reading the NY Stories

Rochelle Williams
I have loved it and been enthralled and mystified by it since the first time I read it many, many years ago. I reread it periodically. It’s so evocative of Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Nancy Fay
KA by John Crowley; Horizon by Barry Lopez; The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and everything I can find by N K Jemisin who is prolific.

Jerry Friedman
Must read new John Crowley book. Thanks for mentioning it! I see it’s been out since 2017.

Nancy Fay
As a longtime devotee of Crowley, I’d rank it just slightly below “Little, Big” which is high praise.

Heidi Schulman
Reading Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Togarczuk. Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo is next.

Richard Krawiec
My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle by Marcel Pagnol

Peter Cherches
I just finished Shteyngart’s Our Country Friends. Pretty good.

Jerry Friedman
Donna Leon, Suffer the Little Children (one of her police procedurals set in Venice).

Amy Losak
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion.

Zoë Bird
Mary Ruefle, My Private Property, & Cixin Liu, Death’s End


Still some more blogs on this to come!

3 Questions for Ace Boggess

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

I use the poetic line as a way of forcing my reader to pause and breathe. I try to end lines where I want the reader to take a short breath to process what’s come before, and the stanza break for a longer breath and time to focus. I think smaller lines with quick pauses for breath help build a cadence, while longer lines keep the reader focused. In the first case, rhythm is created by silences, whereas in the latter, the words themselves create a sort of melodic flow. At least, that’s how I use them. Also, the end of a line is great for subterfuge. There’s no literary trickery I enjoy more than ending a line on a thought, forcing a pause, then starting the next line with a word or phrase that contradicts or changes the meaning of the previous line’s end. 

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

The most direct correlation is that I have felt overwhelming social anxiety, along with other lesser, more general anxieties, all my life. Whatever twisted brain chemicals cause that–the frozen sensation around new people–is the same thing that led me to writing in the first place. The panic and fear kept me from speaking and meeting people, so I needed another outlet. That was writing for me. 
These days, reading my poetry aloud to an audience has the opposite effect. To share my words and hear the right responses of gasps or laughter at just the right moments, to know that what I intended was understood, allows me to burn off all that anxious energy, exhausting myself along the way. If I leave a reading completely spent, so tired I’m ready to collapse, I know I’ve connected. 

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

Well, I’m sure you get this answer a lot, but the pay isn’t great. Other than that, my only gripe is with editors that hold a manuscript for a ridiculously long period of time and still respond with a form letter. I’m sorry, but if you’ve had my manuscript in limbo for a year, you owe me a few genuine words, even if it’s just to say, “Jesus Christ, I’m sorry, man!” 

BIO: Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, most recently Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, J Journal, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry East, River Styx, and many other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.