Tag Archives: political

In Which I Declare My Resistance / an interview with poet Jeannine Hall Gailey

In Which I Declare My Resistance

By Jeannine Hall Gailey

I will resist the moon. The sun will not exert its solar pressures
on me. I will resist the wind; it will not carry me away.

I will resist the entire earth, a cloak of darkness around me
and a cave to protect. A protest of oceans rising, of clouds descending,

dust in the air and fire in the sky. I will resist
with plagues of locusts, with the withering of crops

and when you cry out, don’t be surprised if you hear
my laughter in the scraping of tree branches together,

in the movement of air through the empty windows.
You had your chance. I will resist in a barrage of rooks

and rocks and wild horses. The fish will glint in the light but you
will never catch them. The birds will claw at your eyes.

If this world burns, so be it.
I am the feathers of a thousand poisoned snow geese,

the cesium in the snow and clover in the mouths of children.
I am the embers of the dresses of charred women.

First published in The Rise Up Review.

 

j9greenauthorphoto

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained FeversThe Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry ReviewNotre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner.

Jeannine and Bekah connected via The 2018 Poet Bloggers Revival Tour. We wanted to know more about Jeannine and her writing, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about the poem, “In Which I Declare My Resistance.” How is it representative of your work?

A~This poem was a difficult one to write. I was feeling hopeless, feeling what, as a writer, I could possibly do against the many injustices, evils, and hurts in the world right now. And, this poem just came out.

A lot of my poems are written in the first or second person, I think because I’m often thinking of talking directly to a person, to an audience, and I love persona poems, because they kind of allow poets to play with being a fiction writer. I love stories, but mine just come out in poem form.

Q~How would you describe your style?

A~Conversational surreal? There’s an art gallery here that describes itself as “goth surrealist pop,” and that might be a good description of most of my own work, too…with a mythological twist.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Yes! Fairy tales, mythology, and science inform almost all of my poems. Feminism is definitely a recurring theme, as is what might be called “body horror” poetry. I studied biology for my first degree, and my husband’s a chemical engineering major, so we regularly have discussions about the latest in medical research or environmental news, so of course it comes out in my poetry. I was (and remain) a huge fan of mythology from all kinds of cultures and love to read fairy tales in translation.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~I wrote a whole book of advice called PR for Poets all about how poets can get the word out about their poetry books, how to do readings and book parties, and all that stuff. I also write a lot of how-to articles for Poet’s Market and talk casually about rejection, submitting, and the business of writing on my blog. If I just had one sentence, it would be: read widely – and have fun with your writing. If you don’t have fun with it, who will?

Q~What did you learn from writing PR for Poets?

A~I just wanted to give poets what I didn’t have when my first book of poetry came out. I had published a technical book, previously, and worked in technical publishing before publishing my poetry book, so I knew some things about advertising, contracts and distribution, but poetry books are a totally different thing – especially in the realm of things like reviews, awards, and book launches – poetry books are in their own little universe. I wish poets that “made it” talked more openly about how they got to where they are, because I often feel like people act like it’s magic or some kind of secret code. There’s nothing mysterious about it – and a lot of is based on hard, discouraging things, that poets can’t control, like the amount of money the press will spend or the press’s prestige level, which will impact reviews and distribution. And, there are new avenues that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago – like Instagram Poetry! Anyway, I hope the book is helpful to the many poets who bring out books every year and aren’t sure about what exactly will happen and what will be expected of them.

Q~What was it like to be Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington? 

A~It was quite an honor to serve the community there. It’s famous as the home of Microsoft and other tech companies. I got to meet with the mayor to talk poetry, read poetry with the city council, and talk with teenagers and librarians about poetry and technology. I got to write poetry in connection with local visual artists, which was a real pleasure. The whole idea of being involved in the civics of our community is still very moving to me. I wish more cities had a Poet Laureate Program – it doesn’t usually involve a ton of money, but it helps people interact more actively with literature in ways they don’t, normally.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~My website has some links to my work, including some recordings, as well as links to my books of poetry. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram.

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my allergy pills / an interview with poet Marisa Crane

my allergy pills

by Marisa Crane

 

come with a warning label: may

cause depression or severe

mood swings   my head throbs like the grinch’s

holiday heart   there’s snot on the sleeve of my hoodie

i am sick you are sick we are all sick

we practice building artificial hearts with

fumbling hands

we are palm trees stealing the sunlight

from other plants

our roots are tangled by interminable

insecurities      crooked halos sit on our modern skulls

i was once an island staring

at my reflection

in the water

the original Narcissus but with less beauty

i know there’s a riddle in there somewhere

but i’m too lazy to search for it

 

my lineage began                    with a question mark

my uncle tells me we have native american blood

that my great   great    great

grandmother died of fire-

breathed fury

a snake turned stake in her heart

 

several of my ancestors were named

thankful           i’d like to sit down to dinner

with each one of them            wipe the drool from their mouths

find out

where it all went wrong

First appeared in Free Library of the Internet Void 2018.

mcranewebsite

Marisa Crane is a fiction writer, poet, and editor. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pigeon Pages, Drunk Monkeys, Pidgeonholes, X-R-A-Y Magazine, Riggwelter Press, among others. She is the co-founder and editor of Collective Unrest, an underground resistance magazine featuring poetry, prose, art, photography, and music intended to promote feelings of political unrest, social unity, human rights, and social justice. You can read more of her work at www.marisacrane.org. She currently lives in San Diego with her fiancée.

Marisa says of her style, “As of now, I write all of my poems in free verse. It’s typically hard for me to adhere to any rules within my writing, whether it be poetry or fiction. That being said, I’m also still learning, so maybe in time my style will change. Actually, I hope my style changes. That will mean that I’m growing and experimenting.”

Bekah and Marisa’s work—including the poem above—both recently appeared together in Collection II of Free Library of the Internet Void. We wanted to know more about Marisa and her work, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about “my allergy pills.” How is it representative of your work?

A~The poem is confessional and earnest, yet a little playful at the same time. It is also somewhat self-deprecating, which is a bad/good habit of mine.

Q~Is there a backstory to the poem you want to share?

A~This poem was born because I was examining a bottle of allergy pills I had been prescribed after having had bronchitis for three months. I had every intention of taking them until I read the warning label, which listed possible side effects. They were far worse than having allergies. Mood swings, severe depression, suicidal thoughts. I thought, nah, I think I’ll stick with red eyes and a stuffy nose. I wanted to use the poem to explore the side effects of trying to fix ourselves.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Absolutely. I think I continue to explore certain themes, because there’s always more to discover and excavate. The subjects I find myself consistently writing about include depression, anxiety, my experience as a lesbian, passivity, and human connection. They all resonate with me because they are all very personal topics.

Q~Why are you drawn to poetry?

A~It is the human heart on fire.

 Q~Tell us more about Collective Unrest. Why did you found it? What do you hope to accomplish?

A~My friend, Mat, and I had this idea for a magazine that is solely focused on social justice, humanity, and unity. We are both anti-Trump and everything that he and his administration stand for, as are hundreds of thousands of artists around the world. But Trump is just one piece of the puzzle. As much as we despise him, there has been injustice in the world ever since human beings came to be. We want to highlight the human experience in the face of discrimination, cruelty, abuse, oppression, or otherwise. We want to humanize the victims of injustice through their art and expression. Our goal is to create a safe space for people who are feeling unsettled, terrified, angry, and powerless.

Q~You have a very large Instagram following. How did you cultivate such a following? What do you enjoy about the medium?

A~I didn’t necessarily mean to cultivate such a large Instagram following. It all happened pretty organically, and I think it helps that I began posting my work right before the boom of Instagram poetry (which is going downhill now, and fast). I can remember sitting on my couch in 2012 reading a poem by Tyler Knott Gregson, which had been typed on a typewriter. He had thousands of likes on a piece that was, in my opinion, pretty basic. Not to say that it wasn’t intriguing or good, but it was short and easily digestible, which made it perfect for people scrolling quickly. I figured I’d take a stab at it, so I began posting some of my shorter poems on my Instagram, which had about 300 followers at the time. I even forgot to put my name under a few of them. For a while, nothing happened, and I didn’t care. I wasn’t posting to become Instagram famous. Then, I think sometime in 2014 some bigger poetry accounts, like Christopher Poindexter, began reposting my work, and it snowballed from there. I don’t particularly enjoy the medium anymore, as I feel that it’s on its way out. Instagram changed their algorithm, and it hurt engagement for a lot of people. I’m basically just riding it out until it becomes null and void.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~I’d like to offer some advice about submitting. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the cycle of writing a piece, loving it, submitting it, then experiencing the come-down if you get rejected or the temporary high if you get accepted. Every rejection is like a demon punching me in the gut then whispering, “You aren’t cut out for this.” Every acceptance is a greedy angel patting me on the back then saying, “But you aren’t there yet. There’s so much more you need to accomplish.”

For me personally, this cycle has bordered on an addiction at times, and it’s unhealthy. I found myself losing sight of why I began to write in the first place. I had to take a step back, stop submitting, and simply write for the enchantment. For the act of creation, rather than the judgment of it. Ultimately, you write because it enriches your life. No matter what your goals are, don’t let someone steal the magic. A rejection letter doesn’t define you.

Q~How can others connect with you and read more of your work?

A~ My website is www.marisacrane.org. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Vision / an interview with poet Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively

Broken Vision

by Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively

War is genocide.
++++++++++++++++ Life is murder…

Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, the Holocaust, Uganda, Darfur,
Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Kenya, Afghanistan.
When will the world learn?
How can we change these?
When we cannot even stop the wars in our homes,
the wars in our neighborhood,
the war within.

In this and every election,
they say it is the economy.
But in this and nearly every election,
money’s all the same you see.
We’ll cut aid to the poor.
Kick people from their homes,
kick the mentally ill from shelters,
kick the teachers from the classroom,
kick the homeless off the sidewalk,
before we’ll give up our wars.
The national addiction,
the economic infrastructure,
the empire building.
We admired the wrong selected memories of the victors’ histories,
recruited Nazi master scientists,
modeled ourselves after the great fallen Rome;
embracing racism, classism, sexism, and the destruction of the pro-labor system.
Is this our destiny, our unified syndrome?
How can we fix;
how can we conquer in this
broken vision?

susan

Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively is a poet, spoken word artist, model, producer, photographer, visual artist, educator, and activist from Belleville, IL. Co-organizer of 100,000 Poets & Musicians for Change – St. Louis since its inception in 2011; Susan also produces the series First Bloom (celebrating women’s history month) and Women For Peace (promoting gender violence awareness), and co-produces the Dia de los Muertos Fiesta with Maria Guadalupe Massey. In 2016 she became an Officer of Urb Arts’ Executive Board. In January of 2017 Susan produced the St. Louis leg of the international event Poets & Musicians Against Trump (with co-producer John Blair). Lively’s been featured on Literature For The Halibut, The Arts with Nancy Kranzberg, WESLTV -24 and PBS’ Living St. Louis. She has taught spoken word and creative writing at Confluence Academy, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, and for the Nine Network and St. Louis Fringe.

Susan says of her style, “People often say that my spoken word delivery or style is very unusual and lyrical; I’m often asked if I’m a singer. Some of my spoken word poetry has bits of song, and I even rap in a few pieces. I also like to cover a wide variety of topics, so I’d say my style is unique.”

Bekah and Susan connected via social media. Susan is active in the poetry community in St. Louis, where Bekah lives. We wanted to know more about Susan, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Can you tell us a little about your poem, “Broken Vision”?

A~The back story for this particular poem is simply that I am anti-war. I think that we should reconsider our priorities as a country far ahead of the next election. The world in general should spend a lot less time wasting money and lives on weapons, war, death and hate, and a lot more time should be spent promoting self-worth, growth, connectivity, equality, justice, and love for all human beings.

Q~Did it come easily to you or was it hard to write?

A~This piece came easily to me, but some pieces prove more difficult than others. Some pieces require a lot of research and editing, and others don’t. Sometimes if I get stuck on a piece, it’s best to leave it lie and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.

Q~You are active as a spoken word artist and in publishing poetry. Why does spoken word appeal to you?

A~Spoken word appeals to me as an art form because it’s passionate, intelligent, and vibrant. Spoken word has many different faces and styles and is an art form that’s been around for a while but is continually evolving.

Q~Who were your poetry and slam first loves?

A~My first loves in poetry were a lot of the known greats like Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, and Dylan Thomas. I instantly fell in love with spoken word and slam poetry when I discovered Saul Williams and Sonia Sanchez. I actually heard Williams first in one of my college literature classes. I found his style, content, and presentation electrifying and was instantly hooked. I discovered more of Sonia Sanchez’s work through my time with the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club of East St. Louis (to learn more about club meetings/events, contact Dr. Redmond at ebr@siue.edu). I found her work to be gripping, energetic, and deep. I loved how thought-provoking her poems were and her spoken word style is so fiery and unique.

Q~What is the poet’s role in society?

A~I believe that the poet’s role in society is the same as every artist’s role: to speak truth to power. But, I also believe that art has many purposes, from the deeply political and social aspects to just the simple enjoyment of a great work of beauty. The artist role is to inspire and to move others in as many ways as possible simply by being the best version of themselves and letting art be the medium for their expression.

Q~Tell us more about the causes you champion with your poetry?

A~I am involved in several different causes in the arts community. Two of the shows I produce are Women for Peace and 100 Thousand Poets and Musicians for Change – St. Louis. Women for Peace was created by my friend Katerina Canyon and I in 2013 to promote Gender Violence Awareness. The show has featured a remarkable group of gifted local women artists who are all leaders in our community. These women and all the artists I work with are a constant inspiration to me. This year we are thrilled to be working with Urb Arts again and will be having our Five Year Anniversary show there on June 4th at 7:00 p.m.100% of the donations from the show will benefit the wonderful and enriching artistic programs and events at Urb Arts

100 Thousand Poets & Musicians for Change – St. Louis is actually an official offshoot of two international umbrella shows created by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion (100 Thousand Poets for Change and 100 Thousand Musicians for Change). The St. Louis show (Saturday, Sept. 29th) is now in its eighth year and features over fifty local artists. Local NPO’s will also be present to pass out information and accept donations. In the past we’ve had the honor of working with Amnesty International, the Peace Economy Project, and many other great nonprofits. Each year the show is live streamed and recorded for placement in Stanford University’s LOCKSS Historic Preservation System as part of the largest poetry event in history.

Q~How would you describe the St. Louis poetry scene?

A~The St. Louis poetry scene is very dynamic. The entire art scene in the greater STL/Metro East region is ablaze with talent! As a spoken word artist and event producer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and become friends with some amazing, intelligent, creative people. The range of styles here is also incredible. Someday the outside world will see us as we see ourselves: St. Louis is a growing Mecca for the arts.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in more of your work?

A~Here is a video performance link. This is “The Key” at Women for Peace at Urb Arts in STL (Previously published in the St. Louis social justice anthology, Crossing the Divide.)  My work has been published in Static Movement, Postcard Shorts, Head To Hand, The East St. Louis Monitor, The PEN, Chance Operations, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary Edition, SIUE News, Big Bridge, No Vacancy, the She Chronicles, and Some ‘N Unique Magazine. My art exhibits have been featured at Urb Arts, Mokabe’s, Seven, Yeyo Arts, and more and can now be purchased at fineartamerica.com.  You can also connect with me on Facebook and Instagram, or for booking info., you can email me at lostnation2009@gmail.com.

Every Election Cycle, The Wind From Birmingham To Chicago Smells Like Ashes / and interview with Khalypso The Poet

Every Election Cycle, The Wind From Birmingham To Chicago Smells Like Ashes

by Khalypso

saved! thank silent, merciful God we are saved!

a ghost rises from the parched soil
of a Chicago cemetery.

she drops a piece of paper into a box and suddenly
freedom rings for all brown things that are not
her tongue.

black women saved our asses this election cycle

her son is somehow
next to her & somehow
in Washington D.C. & somehow
at the bottom of the Tallahatchie River,
guiding its currents.

a well-intended hand grips her arm,
a pair of friendly lips kisses her mummified
cheek.

bless you
you have saved us

she is screaming into everyone’s faces.
she is calling for help.

thank you
for rescuing us from the cradle robber

she is pointing to a struck pine—
split down its trunk and weeping streams of
skittles, bullets, ink;

streams that sound like whistles
& roll across silt like jilted tremors.

we owe you so much

she snatches tires from rope, unable to bear
seeing anything swing.
she tosses sheets of steel to the earth.
she traps every match, every lighter in a meat
locker and tears the lights apart.

we should have listened to you

she is still screaming, still pointing

we owe you so much

we owe you so much

if we could go back in time and do this whole
election again, we would—

any black boy’s body has risen to the
surface of any river.
his mother falls, exhausted,
into an abandoned grave, the ivy molded to
accommodate the curve of her soaked cheeks.

if we could go back

there is jubilation in the streets.
every soft, brown thing is now named Mammy,
Messiah, or Most High.

we’d listen to you this time

she has stopped screaming.
she is whistling now—soft and serene.
she is cursing every selective, unyielding ear
& daring someone
anyone
to say something about the noise.

First published in Rigorous Magazine 2017.

poet

Khalypso is a Sacramento-based activist, actor, and poet. They are fat, black, neurodivergent, queer and badass. Their work can be found in Calamus Journal, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Rigorous Journal, Wusgood Magazine, and Shade Journal, as well as a few others. They are a Leo-Virgo cusp, they want to be your friend, and you can find them on Twitter at KhalypsoThePoet. They are not here for your bullshit.

Of their style, Khalypso says, “I honestly do not know how to describe my style. I’d like to think I’m as vulnerable as Amy Winehouse. I’m honest with my poetry, much more so than in real life. The best thing I can do to describe my style is tell you that my favorite poets are Langston Hughes, Hanif Abdurraqib, Danez Smith, Ntozake Shange, Kaveh Akbar, Aziza Barnes, Julian David Randall, Luther Hughes, torrin a greathouse, George Abraham, Noor Najam, Logan February, Siaara Freeman, and Paige Lewis. I try to write like them, but I mostly just try to write like Amy Winehouse sings—beautifully.”

Bekah and Khalypso connected via social media. After reading “Every Election Cycle, The Wind From Birmingham To Chicago Smells Like Ashes,” we wanted to know more about them. So, here is our interview with Khalypso.

Q~What would you like to share about the backstory to this poem?

A~This poem came from seeing Twitter’s collective reaction to Roy Moore’s defeat and the fact that black women showed up against him the most. We stay doing that. We stay showing up when it’s time to protect the best interests of others. No one does that for us, and I’m fuckin tired. This poem is about the black woman’s mammification and black fatigue and a little bit about politics and a little bit about Emmett Till; how no one but his mama showed up for him. Black bodies are expendable until they’re useful, and, again, I’m tired.

Q~What do you hope to accomplish with this piece?

 A~I want to make people who subscribe to mammification and respectability politics feel really bad about it. I also want them to know they can fuck all the way off.

Q~Did the poem come easily to you or was it hard to write?

A~Emotionally, it was very hard to write. But, it came easy. I was, I AM, so angry.

Q~What’s your writing process usually like?

A~I smoke weed and then write whatever comes to mind. Obviously, I don’t only write when I’m high, but lately I’ve been doing that to see what I produce. I’m generally delighted with the results.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

 A~With writing, I’d say to be vulnerable and honest at all times. Before craft, or precision, or readership, focus on that. I also, though, kind of feel like I’m too new to the game to offer sound advice, so take what I say with as many grains of salt as you want.

Q~Who are you reading now?

 A~Morgan Parker. Hieu MInh Nguyen. Saeed Jones. Luther Hughes.

Q~What are your poetry highs/lows of the last year?

 A~I got rejected by a ton of retreats and conferences, which made me feel like a motherless child. My highs were making it into BNV’s semifinals and being published by Glass and Drunk in a Midnight Choir—two dream publications.

Q~Is there any online resource you would like to recommend?

 A~Allpoetry.com is a nice, chill place to get feedback, but it’s mostly old white people on the site, which might turn some folx off.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I have a ton of publications so I’ll include a few: Shade, Drunk in a Midnight ChoirGlass, Calamus, WusGood, Black Napkin, and yell/shout/scream. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

 Q~Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

 A~I’m raising money to attend a couple retreats this summer. I do a lot of work in the spaces of activism and writing and most of it goes unpaid. If anyone is interested in helping me go to these retreats so I can improve my writing and hopefully put out a book, I ask that they consider donating to my Paypal, my Venmo: @khalcashbby, or my Square Cash: $khalcashbby. Every little bit of money helps in a big way, and everyone who donates will go in the acknowledgements page of my first full-length collection.

Cloud / An interview with poet Ally Malinenko

Cloud

by Ally Malinenko

I’m staring at that word
printed on an ad on the subway.
I’m not even sure what the rest of the ad
says or what it’s trying to sell just the word
cloud
the way it has loud in it

you’re a fucking bitch
you hear me you little bitch

I want to turn the volume up
in my headphones but everything
is locked. I will not move my arms
or my lips or my eyes.
I will not turn up the volume in my headphones
even though I don’t want to hear him.

I love telling bitches to suck my dick

He’s close enough that I think I can feel his breath
on my cheek
feel his hatred against my skin
I think
if he touches me
make a fist
thumb out
knuckles tilted down.
Go for the throat
and then run

Cloud
like loud
I sound it out in my head

Run
Run
Punch and then run
to the other end of the subway car
but what if he catches me?
Keep punching.
Punch once and keep punching.

Suck my dick bitch
You fucking bitch

The train is nearly empty
though I make eye contact with the woman seated
in front of me
for a brief moment
her eyes say

I’m sorry,
I’m so sorry
but I can’t help you

before they flit away

You fucking bitch.

He hisses and I am frozen
like a deer in headlights
like a small useless thing
my teeth locked together
biting down hard
waiting for the doors to open
thinking

punch and run

cloud like loud.

He is not big
scrawny even
and my height

Out of the corner of my eye
I see his hands curl into fists
and I look back quickly at the ad
cloud
like loud
punch and run
suddenly
knowing
he and I are thinking the same thing

First published in Paper and Ink Zine 2018.

ally malinenko photo

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collections, The Wanting Bone, How to Be An American, Better Luck Next Year and Fitting the Ocean in Your Mouth as well as the novel, This Is Sarah. She lives in Brooklyn and tweets a lot about David Bowie and Doctor Who.

She describes her style as “narrative, usually first person and as straight forward as I can manage.” She says, “I don’t usually go for flowery descriptions. I try to cut to the chase though I’m sure I fail at that.”

Ally and Bekah’s work–including the above poem–appeared together recently in Paper and Ink Zine’s all-female issue, “Girls to the Front.” We wanted to know more about Ally and her writing, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us about your poem, “Cloud.” It’s really evocative. Is there a backstory you want to share?

A~Everything in this poem actually happened. It was on the 2 train on my way home from work. There was a super aggressive guy on the train saying all the things he says in the poem. The MTA in NYC had this initiative where they published poems with accompanying artwork in train cars. The poem that I was staring at when he was saying all of this was called “Cloud.” I don’t remember who wrote it or anything else about it. I don’t know why I changed it to an advertisement in the poem. For some reason that seemed easier. All I remember is that word and this man’s aggression and my own fear. There was another older woman there who I did briefly make eye contact with. I was only on the train with him for two stops, but it felt like a lifetime. When the doors opened at my stop I practically ran through the station.

Q~How is the poem representative of your work?

A~In the sense that it is a narrative, yes, it is pretty representative of my poetry. Because I am also a novelist most of my writing is an account of events, some real, some not. I write a lot about moving through the world as a woman from a feminist standpoint both to honor the good work that feminism has done and also to hold up a mirror to where it has failed women.

Q~What can you tell us about your current project for Women’s History Month?

A~John Grochalski has been running a resistance blog since Trump’s election. Every day he posts a piece of artwork–a poem, a story, a picture, what have you–as a means to combat the darkness. At the end of each week he includes a wrap up of what went down that week politically. In March he’s handing the reigns over to me so consider this my sincere plea for art. Creative women and women-identifying persons everywhere should send their work to winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com with the word “MARCH” in the subject heading, so I can feature them on the blog. There are no limitations to what you can talk about, but it would be amazing if for the month of March it was focused on elevating women’s voices and experiences. So, it doesn’t have to be about politics but anything about what it is like to navigate this world as a self-identified woman. Submission information is here. In times of uncertainty art can be both a sword and a shield. Art has the power to wake people up, alter their path, shake them into awareness. Pieces can be previously published, too; just give me a heads up as to where so I can credit them. John has kept this thing running for over a year, and I’m honored that he trusts me not to screw it up in March. In order to do that I need everyone reading this to please, please, please submit!

Q~What is the time frame for sending you submissions for the resistance blog?

A~There really isn’t. It’s an ongoing thing. Basically send something, and it will show up on the blog at some point. For March the sooner, the better because I’ve got to fill 31 days, and I really don’t want those 31 days to be the “Ally Show,” so I’ll take whatever people have got when they send it. And, I should stress that John is always taking submissions so even if they don’t get something in by March for Women’s History, he’s always looking for more women and POC and non-binary folks to fill the blog. He’s posting something every day for as long as that idiot is in the White House so….

Q~How does this relate to the poet’s role in society?

A~That’s an interesting question, considering the times we are living in. I think in general it’s the same as any writer–-to document our time. To hold a mirror up to humanity. To remind us who we were, who we are and who we have the potential to become. I think art has power, and writing has power, and the great thing about poetry is that simplicity of it. There’s a whole novel there in each and every one. Good poetry is a knife point that cuts right through the nonsense. And, right now there is a lot of nonsense. And, on the flipside, I think the amazing thing about art is that it is transformative. It can take us away from the nonsense, transport us, if only temporarily somewhere else–somewhere beautiful and peaceful. It works both ways. I think every poet should know that she carries those two possibilities every time she sits down to put words to paper.

Q~Why do you personally choose to write poetry?

A~I feel like even though I write prose and speculative fiction my inner voice sounds the most like my poetry voice. And, I started writing it as a teenager as I’m sure many poets did, so it’s just been something that I have been doing for a long time. Because so much of what I write is confessional and based on my life I find poetry really cathartic. I was diagnosed with cancer back in 2014, and unable to manage this huge crack in my life I turned to writing. I wrote poems about the whole experience, and that eventually turned into my book, Better Luck Next Year. In all honesty, being able to write about what was happening through poetry helped to keep me sane. Writing has always been there for me like that.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work?

A~I write a lot of about death, or more so, the incredible luck it is that you are even alive to begin with, how everything had to go perfectly right since the very beginning of time. Sort of like Mary Oliver’s “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I use writing as a means of connection. I throw something out in the world and see if it resonates with anyone else. I’m basically saying, “Hey I feel this. Do you feel it, too?” Whenever that happens I feel like this human web gets a little bit tighter, a little bit stronger. Against all obvious signs I still believe in the goodness of people.

Q~Are you involved in your local poetry scene?

A~Honestly, I’m not. I’ve done some readings in Brooklyn–a whole lot more in Pittsburgh where I went to college and maintain some close friendships–but scenes in general always made me uncomfortable. I don’t particularly like reading. I don’t like being on stage and being looked at. No matter how many readings I do, my hands still shake like it’s the first time. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because the stuff that I usually write poetry about is so personal that I just feel like a fool up there. I might as well be reading out of my journal! When I do readings in Pittsburgh and see my friends, who are also all writers, it doesn’t feel so much like a scene as it does a bunch of people hanging out, drinking, listening to records and talking about books and movies and music. Maybe that is a scene, I don’t know.

Q~Who was your poetry first love?

A~Anne Sexton. Definitely. I jokingly refer to her as my mother. The confessional style that she used to cut right down to the heart of everything I had wanted to say. I read her as a teenager, and she legitimized what I had been scribbling down in secret. She made it okay to say it out loud. She became a gateway drug to Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds and down to my current obsession, Marie Howe. Howe is my hero and everything I aspire to be.

Q~What is it about Marie Howe and her work that you love and want to emulate?

A~I don’t know. I struggle a lot with poets. It’s strange because I love it, and I love to write it but often I have trouble finding people that I love to read which is terrible when it comes to looking for inspiration. When my husband gave me Marie’s first book, I couldn’t stop reading it. I walked through the subway at Atlantic Station reading it, and honestly if you know how awful Atlantic Station is and how much I hate people who meander in the subway, you’d understand how huge that is. Every line just seemed to cut right through me. Her book What the Living Do is powerful as hell. She’s got this poem in it about how if she could go back in time and see herself as a little girl she knows that girl would never come into her arms, would never trust her enough. As if even as a little girl she was still a woman with a woman’s sense of caution, fearing even herself. I just really related to that. And, her poems about her brother dying of AIDS would gut anyone. I’m just saying, very few poets have made me cry. Go read the poem “The Last Time” about her brother confronting her about death and her insistence that she understood that he was going to die. It’s short–maybe 10 lines–but the end is an absolute punch in the stomach. I won’t ruin it because it’s that good. I read that poem and thought about that poem and realized that is the kind of poetry I had been trying to write my whole life. Something that opens you up, makes you feel comfortable or familiar and then by the end, flips it on its head. And, then even the mundane, the way she writes about a cheese and mustard sandwich, the messy parts of living, of what it means to pass through one day after another, how we balance that mundane with the knowledge that all of this is going to end forever. She does it like no one else. I just wish she would write a book more than once a decade, but that’s just cause I’m greedy.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~I don’t know if this is really advice as much as what I practice. I’m a big believer in my schedule. I get up every weekday morning at 4:45 am, and I write until I need to start getting ready for work around 7:15. I’ve been doing this for over ten years–my husband who is also a writer, started this plan–and I really feel like it works. There is no way I could have produced four books of poetry and three novels without it. I guess something has to be sacrificed to the muse, right? I chose sleep.

Q~What’s it like being married to another writer?

A~Oddly enough other than complaining about being short on ideas, we don’t really talk about it that much. We’re very different writers even though we’re both poets and novelists. There was a small period of time where I wanted us to share notes and give feedback on each other’s work. I wanted to blend this part of our lives together, and it was an absolute disaster. I tortured the poor boy. We’ve both got really strong personalities and really strong writing voices, so it turned into this thing where I would be like, “Well if I wrote it….” and it was a mess. Because I didn’t write it. He did. And I needed to respect that. I think most creatives who are in long relationships with other creatives discover that you need to keep the relationship and the work separate sometimes. I don’t think it’s a terribly good idea for your writer-partner to be critiquing your work. I think you need less involved sources. On the flip side, it’s really fantastic to have someone to bitch with. To complain about magazines going under or who rejected your work. I mean writers can be petty as hell, so it’s nice to have someone on your side in the trenches. I respect what he does, and he respects what I do, and we support each other. But, we’re not a writing circle. Hell, no.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~Pretty much everything is on my website. I also tweet (probably too much) at @allymalinenko, and I’m on Instagram and FB and all the other social media things. And, at the end of the day a Google search will pull up a pretty fair idea of what I do. You can also purchase my latest poetry book, Fitting the Ocean in Your Mouth, here.

Fitting the Ocean in Your Mouth cover

 

Restless / An interview with poet M.J. Iuppa

Restless

by M.J. Iuppa

Overhead, clouds billow
in wind that can’t seem
to settle on one direction.
They hesitate in the way
we hesitate in the skip
of thought–a pause

that sinks like a small
stone finding its place
in this pond’s pocket.

The search for the right
word seems hopeless
like a small explosion,

like panic–we look
around, feeling
homeless.

First published in Third Wednesday 2017.

mjiuppa

M.J. Iuppa, Director of the Visual & Performing Arts Minor Program and Lecturer in Creative Writing at St. John Fisher College and a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at The College at Brockport, was awarded the New York State Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching, 2017.

She says her poetry is “steeped in the traditions of imagism, followed by deep imagism, drawing its lyrical strength from Japanese poetry forms, in particular haiku.”  She’s interested in “the many ways image can convey idea, and how in its cumulative effect can make a deeper meaning.”

M.J. and Bekah’s work–including the above poem–appeared together recently in Third Wednesday. Both poets are also a part of the 2018 Poet Bloggers Revival Tour.  We wanted to know more about M.J. and her poetry, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about the poem, “Restless.” What inspired it?

A~“Restless,” the poem you have selected to feature in this interview, was written in Late September, 2017, and published in Third Wednesday, Vol. XI, No. 1. On that particular day in late September, I had decided to take a walk in the woods across the street from our farm.  Inside this pocket of woods in Hamlin State Park, there is a secluded fishing spot called Howden Pond. That day, as every day, I was thinking hard about our current politics. The clouds in this poem capture the unrest, the chaos of our daily life, and the thrown stone, finding its spot in the pond, is a marker of being here, being present. Being wordless isn’t the lack of words, but how do “We” let the right words out in this constant affront to our civil rights. The realization of being  “homeless” came quickly in that held moment when I was alone at that pond’s edge.  This poem has struck a chord with many who have read this issue of 3rd Wednesday. I am grateful for their effort to find me via social media, to begin conversations that will buoy me in these times of uncertainty.

Q~What’s your writing process usually like?

A~Whenever I have been steeped in the reading and writing of prose, and have a yearning to spend time on poetry which, at that moment, I fear will be totally lost, I spend a day in observation (plein air) and haiku.  This practice allows me to focus on the precision of language. Much of my writing is inspired by the natural world, and since I live on a small farm in Western, NY, near the shores of Lake Ontario, I have let this landscape be my teacher and muse. Consequently, through nature, I have found a way to expose human nature.

Q~How has being a teacher of creative writing changed you as a poet?

A~I have been teaching for 27 years.  First, I am teaching artist, working in the schools (K-12) in and around (100 mile radius) Rochester. I love my work. So many of the children I have met have shown up as adults in my creative writing, literature, and Arts classes offered at St. John Fisher and The College at Brockport. I have had the great pleasure of seeing many of these young poets and writers realize their literary dreams, and I’m still cheering them on.

Teaching hasn’t changed me as a poet, but I think the good discussion of poetry has changed me. In Spring 2017, I had the opportunity to teach a 400 level advanced poetry class at The College at Brockport. Besides a selection of contemporary full length poetry collections and chapbooks, I used a remarkable anthology, Love Rise Up: Poems of Social Justice edited by Steve Fellner and Phil Young, for the first time. The discussions based on student presentations of the poems in this anthology stayed with us, long after the presentations.  In some cases, when I happen to see the students who were in that class, we resume the conversation.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~Over the years, I have heard many poets and writers complain about writer’s block, and my suggestion for those who are staring at a blank page is to do something else, like go for a walk, organize a drawer, do the dishes, exercise, go for a drive in the country, take a break from your busyness.  Depending on the activity, your creative consciousness can be subtly working on whatever you want to write. It’s quite remarkable how this works. For example, before I wrote my MFA thesis for Rainer Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, I knitted it.  Weeding our three vegetable gardens gave me Small Worlds Floating (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016) and This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). This method works, and you accomplish two things.  

Q~Are you involved in your local poetry scene? What’s it like?

A~Yes, I have been very active in Rochester’s local poetry scene.  I am one of the founding members of Writers & Books, Rochester’s Community Literary Center, which has served the Rochester and surrounding communities for 36 years. I was the curator of The Genesee Reading Series at Writers & Books from 1991-2006. The Genesee Reading Series showcases local poets and writers, at various stages of their careers.  It’s a warm and generous venue that celebrates good writing.

At the state level, I have served as the Poetry Advisor for the New York State Foundation for the Arts (2005-2012), and most recently (2015 & 2016), I was the poetry judge for the New York State Fair, which was in the spirit of celebrating New York in its facts and folklore.

Q~When I hear “state fair,” I think country music performances and prize-winning pigs. I LOVE that the New York State Fair includes a poetry contest. Can you tell me a little more about it?

A~This poetry competition began in 2015 under the supervision of Rochester poet, Gerald Schwartz. The poems were submitted in categories, Youth to Adult.  Prizes and ribbons were awarded in a special ceremony. Family, friends and fair visitors sat in the cool of the auditorium and listened to the winning poems.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I have a web page and blog; and a presence on Facebook and LinkedInYou can also order Small Worlds Floating (Cherry Grove Collections, 2016)  and my new book, This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017) at Amazon.

Q~Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

A~Lastly, I think it takes a whole life to be a poet. I don’t think people “become” poets.  I think they “are” poets, and having a whole life gives them the means to perfect their craft.