3 Questions for Stacy Gnall

1.  What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
I think of the poetic line as a branch of meaning split by space. At its best, it’s arranged in such a way that if a reader stays with the line itself awhile, they’ll derive pleasure from it on its own. But then an extra element of pleasure is somehow added by the break that follows the line—suspense, a severing, a respite. Where I choose to break a line almost always has to do with rhythm/sound. How do I want to ask the reader to breathe with me? 
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
Absolutely. And I think it goes back to breath. The sparks for my poems I feel closest to typically come from something that changes my breath in some way—makes me breathe harder or faster, takes my breath away. When I write, I’m also informed very much by rhythm/sound, so I make decisions based on my ear/from a body level. It’s my hope that readers will feel at least some hint of music when they read my poems. It’s my dream that they will experience something “in-time” with me, will experience viscerally.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
I think the toughest thing about being a poet is the (mostly self-imposed) pressure to constantly produce, and to make each new poem your “best” poem. Other than that, I sometimes just dislike telling people that I’m a poet. People’s views of who/what a poet is can be pretty cartoon-ish.

Shadow Play
Your hands
to the tune
of an elk’s
and me, curled
like a bass clef
in bed:
we fill
in the blanks
of night.
come together
like braids.
Hocks ache
in growth.
The pelvis’
punctual spate.
And ease
is a shadow.
And shadow is
An antler
at water.
Already I’m
an animal
you don’t

Stacy Gnall is from Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA at the University of Alabama, and she is currently pursuing her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Her first collection of poetry, “Heart First into the Forest,” was recently published by Alice James Books. She lives in Los Angeles.

3 Questions for Laura Kasischke


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

The line, for me, is all about sound–emphasizing internal or end rhymes, inducing rhythm. I’m not interested in the way a poem looks on the page except in how that acts as a score for the reading of the poem.

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

This isn’t something I’d thought about, consciously, until your question. Perhaps I do, but in the same way that I speak of line breaks (question above). Certain rhythms and rhymes feel physical, sensual and sensory. And of course imagery speaks to the body and its experiences and needs. In the poetry I love to read I experience the music physically in the same way I do listening to instrumental music, and the imagery, the heightened diction, the ornamentation or lack of it, all feels physical.

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

There are times of terrible frustration–trying to write, having an idea for the writing, and being unable to reproduce the poem I feel I have in my head. It’s worth it, however, in order to be able to tell myself (honestly or not, doesn’t matter) that my life’s experiences will one day be worth something in some poem I might write. Whether good or bad, those experiences, having told myself since I was a child that I was a poet (honestly or not, doesn’t matter) has made everything more heightened, bearable, beautiful.

Bio: Laura Kasischke has published eight collections of poetry–most recently SPACE, IN CHAINS (Copper Canyon). She has also published seven novels. She lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband and son, and teaches at the University of Michigan.


It would take forever to get there
but I would know it anywhere:

My white horse grazing
in my blossomy field.
Its soft nostrils. The petals
falling from the trees

into the stream.

And the festival would always be
just about to begin
in the dusky village in the distance.

The doe, frozen at the edge of the grove:

She leaps. She vanishes. My face—
She takes it with her. And my name—
(Although the plaintive lark in the grass

continues to say and to say it.)

Yes. This is the place.

Where my shining treasure has been waiting.
Where my shadow washes itself
in my fountain.
A few graves
hidden among the roses. Some
moss on those.
And an ancient
bell in a steeple
down the road, making

no sound at all
as the monk pulls and pulls on the rope.

Interview with Lyn Lifshin

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

I definitely feel a strong connection between writing and the human body: breath and breathlessness, a pulsing, wildly alive flow of words like a heart racing. In working on a PH. D dissertation, I chose to compare and contrast the poems and psalms of  Thomas Wyatt and Philip Sidney. I loved, and felt more connected to Wyatt, the rush, almost a staggering, explosive rush of words, the thought  being thought out with all the raggedness and intensity of thought in progress.” For me and my writing, Sidney is more polished, smooth, with his endstopped lines, almost a summary of some final polished, revised, more “perfected” work. But a more ragged aliveness is what I try to keep. My new book, BALLROOM, almost unedited in a way, written in what has feeling of being obsessive, rushed, daily, passionate seems aligned with Wyatt. First I was not sure, a book made from files, not carefully, quietly, over and over again, molded and smoothed of all edges. But now, I feel its liveliness is definitely helped by all that didn’t happen: kept more intense and fresh.
Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

What I don’t like about being a poet: I don’t like a lot of the things one has to do after the poem is written. All the record keeping– I am not fantastic about that. I don’t like all the really secretarial details, or the need to push and promote and feel like a one woman show. I have chosen to pretty much write on my own: without the support of a university position with some of the perks and support that go with that, So often I am aware of just how outside an outsider I am. I’ve been nominated over and over for years, hundreds of time for a Pushcart price but I am the Susan Lucci of the Push Cart award. But I’ve had wonderful publishers and wonderful fans– they are the high point.
Some days he’s the sheik, he’s
Valentino, slicked back hair
for a dangerous tango. A
day later it’s jeans, the bad
boy, the hipster. His sneer
pierces. His beard grows in
over night. Some days he’s
French, some days Italian.
He’s the sheik in more ways
than one. The heart breaker,
the Valentino. Tango with
him and he leaves a stain.
One day he’ll bring you
chocolate, another he’s in his
Fred Astaire hat, is the dance
away lover. Too many women
linger near his tent. Valentino
in a pale striped summer
suit, Valentino in the tuxedo.
The days he’s Viennese,
your feet won’t touch the
ground. He smells sweet as
he says you do. For beat or
hippy days, his sweat smells,
thrills some. If death gets
him young like Valentino,
the train with his gorgeous corpse
would stall traffic. Long haired
girls, blue as the silver bloom,
or the tart and sweet blueberry
will cry and no one no one will
know who he went out as

3 Questions for Robert Lee Brewer

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
My feeling is that each line (and each word for that matter) serves the overall poem. The requirements of each line changes from poem to poem. That said, I do think each line in a poem should communicate with the other lines in the poem. There have been times when I’ve written what I think is a great line, but the line has trouble finding a home in any of my poems, because it can’t seem to communicate with the other lines in the poem. The great line just doesn’t fit. So it travels from poem to poem until it finally (hopefully) finds a poem where it belongs.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I do know that the more time I spend writing the less time I spend working out. Then again, I find that activities such as walking and running seem to get me thinking and writing. Long distance driving does this for me too. Outside of that, I suppose I’m always trying to trim a few extra pounds from both my body and my writing.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
I don’t have any gripes about being a poet. It would be nice if I could make a living by just sitting around all day and writing poems, but that’s not realistic. I’m a poet, because I’m passionate about writing poems. Writing poetry is part of who I am.
Bio: Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market. He also maintains two blogs: Poetic Asides (http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides) and My Name Is Not Bob (http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com). Named co-Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere (with Sina Queyras) in 2010, Brewer’s first collection of poetry, a chapbook titled ENTER, will be released April 1, 2011. He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their four boys.
Poem: (originally published in OCHO and featured in my upcoming collection)
Solving the world’s problems
I began as eyelashes blocking the sun,
and my father was a digital clock.
In a dark cave, my father counted
out the minutes as I kept myself
from myself. In this way, we learned to kiss.
Years later, when I became a horse,
I ran the hot blood out of my body.
Father turned into a dream filled
with fire and a horrible laugh. I
burned into a cloud of smoke.
Father became a phone call and then
silence. I worried what I might
transform into next. I worried
what I might already be. Then,
I forgave father.

Father and Daughter Poets–Jane and Conrad Hilberry–3 Questions

I was very intrigued to discover a book of poetry written by a father and daughter pair of poets–This Awkward Art: Poems by a Father and Daughter.
And so I asked both Jane and Conrad Hilberry the same interview questions. Intriguing answers below!

Conrad Hilberry:

Personal relationship to the poetic line.

I’ve written in forms—villanelles, sonnets, limericks—so those iambic or anapestic patterns are imprinted somewhere inside me. When I’m writing free verse, the iambs keep showing up. My ordinary conversation may be iambic, for all I know. Probably everybody’s conversation has that pattern running through it. Try marking out an ordinary sentence—that one, for example.

/ / x / x / x / x / x
Try marking out an ordinary sentence

Iambic patterns run through everything we say, whether we’ve been writing poems or not.

But that wasn’t exactly your question. In writing a poem, the line becomes a structural unit, sometimes complete in itself but more often running over, connecting with what comes before and after. Even though the sentence continues, the line has a kind of integrity. I suppose you could say you have a personal relationship to each of those lines.

Relationship between words and the human body.

Well, words come from the body. The lungs, the throat, the tongue—they all have their say. Legs and arms and groin get in there too. We might think of a poem as a workout at the gym, patterns the exercise coach has prescribed, with some flourishes of our own thrown in: yoga postures, flips, a sweaty stretch on the stationary bike.

Anything to dislike about being a poet.

Writing poems is a pleasure, even when it’s difficult or when the product isn’t worth keeping. But being a poet? No, that sounds as though you know how to do it.


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

I don’t write in meter so I’m not counting syllables or stresses, but I give a lot of attention to line breaks and use them to create tension, or to downplay it. I love the interplay between the unit of syntax (the sentence) and the formal unit (the line). That’s what poets have to work with that prose writers don’t have, and it allows for more complexity both
in rhythm and meaning.

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

I had to edit the word “body” out of some poems in the manuscript of my book Body Painting because I had used it so often. In ways that are so fundamental that they’re almost hard to express, poetry, for me, is tied to the body. Intuition comes from the body, and a lot of what I do when I’m writing is to pay attention to what wants to happen intuitively, whether or not it makes sense to me. And there is a sense of physical
rightness when a poem is finished. I stand up and read poems aloud when I’m revising, and I’ll feel a little hitch in a physical way when something’s not right. So then I have to work on it until I can read the poem out loud and my body is happy with it.

Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Feeling like I never write as much or as well as I could. On the other hand, writing a poem that you know really works—that’s the
best feeling in the world.

Poem and bio from Conrad:


What’s going on here at the desk?
Half cup of tea, an elbow, pear,

hand writing something down.
Three-thirty and it’s getting dark.

You need me, yellow hat
down almost to my chin. Can’t

look around. Still, I spill a plate
of light right in your lap.

No need to wipe it up. Some meals
evaporate—these are the healthy ones,

feeding the hippocampus,
leaving few crumbs.

Conrad Hilberry, retired professor at Kalamazoo College, has published a half dozen books of poems, the most recent being After-Music (Wayne State University Press, 2008) and This Awkward Art, a collection pairing his poems with those of his daughter Jane Hilberry (Mayapple Press, 2009).

. . . and from Jane

All A’s

My heart learned to sit at its desk
and fold its hands, learned not to scratch
bad words into wood, not to shove
kids at recess. My heart began
to hang its coat on its own peg,
to sip milk, slightly warm, through a straw,
to print the answer on the line,
to ascend through reading groups:
Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue.
My heart got all A’s.
A for Alone. A for Always.

Jane Hilberry teaches Creative Writing and literature at Colorado College and serves as a facilitator for arts-based leadership courses at The Banff Centre in Canada. Her book Body Painting (Red Hen Press 2005) won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. Her most recent project, with her father Conrad Hilberry, is This Awkward Art: Poems by a Father and Daughter.

3 Questions for Eamon Greenan

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

The line is our lovely unit of rhythm—it’s how we take in any poem, I
suppose—the whole thing orchestrated line by line by line.  Doesn’t matter short
or long, doesn’t matter Whitman or Dickinson, nervy Hopkins or deliberate
Herbert,  Robert Creeley or Jorie Graham, the line is where our eye and ear and
pulse beat all gather together as we read a poem.  For me in the making of a
poem, the line is the most physical of facts, I guess.  A poem can’t really
start for me unless I have a feel for a first line—a way of phrasing something
that seems to have some sort of implicit music, some sort of rhythmic lift to
it.  That’s thinking in line.  I’d imagine that’s true for most poets.  It’s the
necessary setting out first step.  (Which is its necessary connection to metre,
even when one’s not writing metrically.)  I’ve written quite long lines
(especially in The Quick of It, long lined ten-line untitled poems) and
occasionally (earlier work mostly) quite short lines.  Right now I’m trying to
do very short-lined things without punctuation, but I don’t yet know if this is
working.  The other thing I have been keen on always (and talk to students and
young poets about) is the exact relationship between line and sentence that
exists in any poem.  The sentence as the unit seeking *sense* as it runs through
lines down the page; the line as the retarding element, an instrument I suppose
of *pleasure* as it holds back from closure and sense.  Something like that.
And in this relationship the activity of a poet’s syntax seems a determining
force or energy.  In all of this I guess the aesthetic is the personal.  But
what that means I’d let someone else work out. I guess the best test or
illustration of all this is to be found in the *Selected Poems* I’ve just done.

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

I imagine my answer to the previous question is sort of an answer to this one as
well.  I wouldn’t add much more, except to say that I believe there’s a distinct
and important connection between writing poems and the body.  That has all sorts
of possible implications.  For example in  the sense that there’s always
something erotic about verse-making—you’re trying to make something that conveys
and communicates and prompts and provokes feeling in someone else—someone
particular, or someone like the *general
reader*.  Or the way when a poem is being read aloud the body can sort of beat
time to its movement.  That seems to be a habit of mine in public reading
sometimes anyway, and must have something to do with how I feel the poem as a
series of breaths—breath is implicit in the whole process, at the heart of it.
And of course there’s the pleasure in words themselves, in language itself, as
physical presences—in their sound, their colours, their weight, their history.
It was Edmund Spenser who talked about “The brightness of brave and glorious
words.”  I like that. (Small as my own stock of the bright, brave, and glorious
is!)  I love poets who seem to be savoring the language, each in his or her own

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

a)  “The life so short, the craft so long to learn.”

b)  Working on a poem that just isn’t working and nothing I do can “get it.”.
Like having a perpetual toothache.

c)  I guess there’s at times a sense that if you’re called a poet you’re
expected to be special, or it’s assumed you think of yourself as special.  But
you’re just your ordinary self, getting on with things.  My sense is probably
that if someone thinks that what I’ve written are poems, sees them in that
light, then that’s enough for me as far as “being a poet” is concerned.  And
there’s not much to dislike in that.


Sleek blades of rain.  Through the window
wind-shriven fuchsia twigs
won’t stop shivering.  Light, its escalations
and retreats: quickened limb-shapes
fling themselves into the willing curtains.
A naked lemon: waxy skin-gleam
leading its coruscating, bitter life
on the window-ledge.  And one orange
lighting up my writing table—resurrected
like a single square inch of a Caravaggio
by the sudden sun-shaft calling it to awe; half
its incandescent, sweet-stocked globe in shadow.

Eamon Grennan’s most recent poetry collections are Still Life with Waterfall,
which won the Lenore Marshall Prize, *The Quick of It*,  and *Matter of Fact*,
as well as a co-translation (with Rachel Kitzinger) of *Oedipus at Colonus*.
Graywolf publishes this summer a new collection: *Out of Sight: New & Selected
Poems*.  He taught for many years in the English Department of Vassar College,
and currently teaches in the graduate writing programs of Columbia and NYU.