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A New Title

I’m happy to announce that I’m joining David Hadbawnik, Chris Piuma, and Dan Remein as an editor at Eth Press, an imprint of Punctum books and “a parascholarly poetry press interested in publishing innovative poetry that is inspired Pieter_de_Hooch_-_Woman_Peeling_Apples_-_WGA11704by, adapted from, or otherwise inhabited by medieval texts.” My poem “Patience” appeared in an Eth press anthology, Cotton Nero A.x, a set of works inspired by the medieval Pearl poet, and I’ve enjoyed hearing David, Chris, and Dan’s scholarly work over the years at the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I’m honored to join them in this endeavor.

I’m also hard at work on a unique scribal project of the press, copying by hand fifteen genre scenes, a chapbook by Pattie McCarthy. Many of the poems respond to 17th century Dutch paintings, such as Pieter de Hooch’s “Woman Peeling Apples.” It’s interesting to encounter another poet’s poems by rewriting them in my own handwriting; I encounter the language in my own head in a way I’m not used to as a reader of poetry. The project also reminds me of the commonplace books I kept in high school and college, writing down other people’s poems or excerpts, incorporating their language into my cognitive memory.

So, if you are a writer with a great project that speaks to medieval texts in some way, please contact me! I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Rochelle Hurt for inviting me to participate in the wonderful chain-letter Internet crisscross blog tour about our writing processes.

Rochelle is the author of The Rusted City (White Pine, 2014). Her work has been included in Best New Poets 2013, and she has been awarded literary prizes from Crab Orchard ReviewArts & LettersHunger Mountain, and Poetry International. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have also been published in journals like Mid-American ReviewCincinnati ReviewThe Southeast ReviewThe Kenyon Review Online, and Image

Here are my answers to the tour’s questions:

1) What are you working on?

I finished my second-book manuscript a few months ago, so I’m in that tentative stage of working on new poems, without a formal project yet. So far, the common link is tragedy and the ways we either ogle at it or look away from it because we can’t stand to see it. I’ve been noticing lately that my desensitization to violence is showing signs of strain, and I’m curious about why. It’s hard to say more about the new poems other than that, but I’ll add that I’m also working on a series based on the Luminous Mysteries, a set of meditations that Catholics use while saying the Rosary.


2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

This is the toughest question because it requires a stronger sense of ego than I’m used to displaying. So much of the writing life is about finding a balance in the ego, in being able to withstand the numerous rejections and still have enough confidence to keep submitting, but also in avoiding excessive amounts of pride or vainglory.

That said, my poetry differs from others in that it often incorporates elements of sound (internal rhyme, assonance) without necessarily being formal, that it considers both literary texts from the past and contemporary lived life, and that it both interrogates and buys into the use of the lyric address  (I’ll add that I know other poets doing each of these things, though not perhaps all together).


3) Why do you write what you do?

Because I can’t write other things. I can’t write a novel at this point in my life (but when I was in sixth grade, I did)! I can’t do plays either (though they were my dominant genre in high school). I’d love to be able to write long meditative narratives like Stephen Dunn or C. K. Williams, but I’ll settle for my little lyrics. I’ve made it sound like a process of elimination, but it’s an active choice, or rather, poetry is what comes to me.


4) How does your writing process work?

I first have to have the germ of an idea; I let it marinate (to mix the metaphor) for a little while; I sit down in a comfortable chair that I use only for reading and writing poetry; I read other poems to fill my well; I write a version in longhand in a notebook; I let that sit and perhaps revise it longhand a few days later; I revise it again as I convert the poem to a Word document; I ask people I trust for their opinions on the poem; I revise again. Repeat as necessary.


Look forward next week to these fabulous writers:

Jose Angel Araguz, author of the chapbook The Wall (Tiger’s Eye Press), is a Canto Mundo fellow. Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, he has had poems recently in Cactus Heart, Prick of the Spindle, RHINO, Hanging Loose and Poet Lore. He is presently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati. His latest chapbook,Corpus Christi Octaves, is forthcoming from Flutter Press

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (SIU Press, forthcoming 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (BLP, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded a fellowship from the NEA, scholarships to the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences, an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize, and have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Best of the Net 2013, and Best New Poets 2010.

Manuel Iris is the author of Cuaderno de los sueños (2009) and Versos robados y otros juegos (2003, 2nd ed. 2005). Iris won the 2009 Mérida National Poetry Award and second place in the 2003 Rosario Castellanos National Poetry Award. He is now a doctoral candidate in the Romance Languages Department of the University of Cincinnati.

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Poetry Magazine

I’m honored to be a part of the June 2014 issue of Poetry magazine! Don Share is rocking the house as editor. In this issue, I’m blown away in particular by Deborah Paredez’s work, as well as Nick Flynn and T.J. Jarrett’s. In fact, it’s a fabulous issue from cover to cover.

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Chapbook Love

I was thrilled to be the inaugural interview for the new blog, Speaking of Marvels, a chapbook interview series curated by William Kelley Woolfit. Thanks to Will for the great questions; it was a lot of fun to think back to the choices I made as I worked on I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You. I look forward to reading the upcoming interviews!

cover 2There’s other good news about that chapbook, which holds a special place in my heart: Kent State University Press has made it—and the other wonderful books in the Wick Chapbook Series—available for Kindle! If you want to read my poems on a device much thicker than the chapbook itself, now you are able.

While you’re at it, check out the Wick chapbooks by Matt McBride, Sarah Perrier, Heather Kirn Lanier, Hugh Martin, and the two that introduced me to the series in the first place: Catherine Pierce and Jason Gray‘s.



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Readings in St. Louis and Cincinnati!

I’m looking forward to sharing Full Cry with audiences in two great Midwestern river cities. You can join me at:

1. The Observable Reading Series in St. Louis, on Monday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m., at Llywelyn’s Pub in the Central West End (4747 McPherson). We’ll be on the upper floor for the reading. I’m honored to be reading with Ansel Elkins and Erika L. Sanchez. Much thanks to Steve Schroeder (of Anti-) and Stephanie Schlaifer for the invite.

2. Thunder Sky Gallery in Cincinnati (at 4573 Hamilton Ave., just north of Northside, in the same strip as the Comet), on Saturday, Nov. 2. Tessa Mellas, a fabulous fiction writer and fellow UC PhD grad, and I will read from our books, starting around 7 p.m.

Books will be for sale at both events. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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The Story Behind “Fled”

I’m honored that my poem, “Fled,” from the latest issue of Cimarron Review, is the featured poem on Poetry Daily today. Thanks to Don Selby, Diane Boller, and the rest of the PD staff for all they do.

I wanted to share the story behind the poem, which also appears in my first full-length collection, Full Cry, available soon. In the summer of 2009, I was on vacation with my family at Fox Springs Lodge, a family-style resort in Missouri that features shared meals and group activities like bingo, a crawdad-catching contest, and horseshoe-tossing. Guests stay in cabins or in the lodge itself; it feels a little bit like the location of Dirty Dancing, with less Patrick Swayze and no linen tablecloths.

Mule_deer_doe_backlitThe lodge and cabins are nestled in a valley with lots of trees, so when I noticed I had a voice mail from a friend one day, I had to trek up a rock road to get a better signal for my phone. I decided to walk for the exercise, and as I finished leaving a message in return (not terse, I must confess, not “all business”), a deer ran out onto the road.

The poem describes well what happened next, but what I’ve changed is the context. Being with the doe made me think about the iconography of the hunt in love poetry (which I would soon begin to study at the University of Cincinnati), and I found myself wanting to turn around the paradigms, to have the speaker not be chasing the deer OR the beloved, even though that beloved is a distant, coy figure in his own right, the camouflaged man just out of the scene. So, I shifted the emotional valence of the interaction by placing it within that tradition.

It took me many years to get the poem just right, though. I would let it sit for months and then come back to tinker with it. The short, alternately indented lines were part of what made the poem work, and I finally felt like I was ready to complete the poem after finishing an independent study on Petrarch—I knew after doing some short translations that “Fled” needed some allusion to that deer-obsessed poet. The line about the “ripe season” counters the “stagione acerba,” or unripe season, in which Petrarch sees his white doe in Sonnet 190.

So, the poem mixes actual experience with some crafting of the occasion—sometimes necessary to make a poem work. Thanks to all those who gave me feedback on this one over the years, including my St. Louis writing group who saw the first drafts of it back in 2009! And thanks to Lisa Lewis for thinking that it was right for Cimarron Review.