Features

Interviews

Falconer, Melendez, León, Murillo: A Latino Quartet

Hearing Marvin Gaye from a passing car, he understands that the poem won't answer the question of who his father was or right a wrong. The poem, like the song, like a moan, is the response to the "beat-downs" and the "breaks in life," which are what really measure a man. So, I like to think of the poem as this "bone of a question" uttered, the throat temporarily cleared

—Blas Falconer

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An Interview with Matt Nelson of Mellow Pages

Mellow Pages is a library and reading room with a focus on small press literature and an emphasis on "moneyless" giving. They serve as a template for a community-based library, and have even published a how-to guide on starting your own, offering guidance on topics from "sanity maintenance" to "book display." I was able to talk with Matt Nelson, who described what the process of starting a library has been like for them.

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An Interview with Jamie Falkowski and Ethan Weinstock of The Newstand

In the middle of June, ALLDAYEVERYDAY, a creative agency, began renting a vacant newsstand at the Metropolitan Avenue subway station in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Since then, The Newsstand has served as an unconventional retail space for the writing and art of many independent, local artists as well as some larger publishers. In addition to its focus on small press publishing, The Newsstand carries music, tote bags, postcards, and, of course, snacks. 

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Latino/a Poetry Now: roundtable 4 featuring: Martínez, Smith and, Tejada

I fundamentally disagree with the category of "witness poetics."  Rather, how this subgenre of poetics has been exploited to include any type of "witness."  It was employed in the 80's and early 90's as a method to pinpoint certain exclusions occurring in certain historical narratives. 

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Questions of Faith: Richard Blanco

I grew up in a very traditional, Latino Catholic family. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. Despite this, we were not "strict" Catholics. We went to church on Sundays, etc, but our faith was more of a backdrop to our family life rather than a focal point.

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Questions of Faith: Nick Flynn

I grew up in a town that was predominately Irish Catholic, yet I was raised Protestant, Congregationalist. I went to church until I decided I didn't want to go anymore, which was when I was about eight. I liked that we got new shoes on Easter, but being in the shadow of a dominant religion put me in the role of the outsider, which is probably best for an artist.

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Questions of Faith: Spencer Reece

I attended an Episcopal preparatory school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for thirteen years. We had chapel every morning, Monday through Friday. Formally a military academy, we still had inspection on Wednesdays. Routines comforted me.  While I was there, the school's religiousness dissipated, stressing an ecumenical identity that soft-pedaled any strictly Christian message.

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Poet Novelist: An Interview with Leigh Stein

To me, poetry is who I "am," and prose is what I "do." So I am a poet who has written a novel. That being said, I've found that having my first novel published has given me more legitimacy as a writer (by which I mean at cocktail parties, it's more impressive to say I've written and published a novel than a collection of poetry). 

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Latino/a Poetry Now: roundtable 3 featuring 3: Candelaria, Duarte, González

Once, during his office hours in Wheeler Hall on the Berkeley campus in 1986, Robert Pinsky said, "There are no rules." That maxim sprung to mind upon re-reading the selected excerpts above—from this our third installment of Latino/a Poetry Now. That is: these online roundtable discussions.

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Poet Novelist: An Interview with Eileen Myles

I wanted to mess with the term novel, to suggest a vagueness, an amateur quality. I thought of all the evocations the wordpoet has—and I wanted the word poet to be in the title too. A publisher who was going to publish the book initially but then we parted ways liked the possibility of the word poet being crossed out on the cover—because of his fear that it was not a marketable word. So when I arrived with the publisher who finally did the book I decided to affirm the word utterly was what I meant—poet in all its furriness. 

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Questions of Faith: Martha Serpas

I grew up in southeastern Louisiana, about 80 miles south of New Orleans, and it was almost entirely Catholic—99.5 percent Catholic. It was a very particular kind of Cajun Catholicism that I would categorize as most people being devoted to the sacraments, wanting all the rituals, from St. Joseph's Day altars to the Eucharist to baptisms, confirmations, rosaries, and novenas—everything.

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An Interview with Farrah Field and Jared White of Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop

Farrah Field and Jared White are poets. They're also the proprietors of Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop, a store that pops up on Saturdays at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene (and occasionally other places) to sell small-press books and chapbooks to crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes. I've heard a lot about their enterprise--the press I direct is one of the many they support--but distance avails not and I haven't yet been able to visit Berl's. So I sent them some questions, and we fell into conversation. Their answers for me are answers for all.

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An Interview with Timothy Liu and Hansa Bergwall

In December 2011, Field Press published in limited-edition 100 hand-woven copies of The Thames & Hudson Project, a poetry chapbook co-authored by Timothy Liu and Hansa Bergwall. 

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Questions of Faith: Meena Alexander

Then there was Hinduism all around; in India and later when I went to Sudan, Islam. I was very moved by the idea of the god of love, Krishna, and it seemed closer to what I wanted than Jesus who hung on the cross. But the religion of my childhood, Christianity, still takes my breath away. Perhaps what I long for is a spirituality that is freed from caste and creed. What did Roethke say somewhere, "A house for wisdom, a field for revelation"

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Questions of Faith: Chana Bloch

 A first-generation American, the daughter of immigrants from tiny villages in Eastern Europe, I grew up in New York City with a strong sense of Jewish identity—kosher household, family Seders, synagogue on the High Holidays—and mixed messages about Jewish observance. Every Friday evening my mother would light the Shabbes candles, and my father would light his cigarette from the candles. 

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An Interview with Guy Pettit of Flying Object

About five miles as the prompt, executive jay flies from Emily Dickinson's window, there is another essential home for poetry and creativity, a place called Flying Object. A year ago, I had the good fortune to read there, and to meet the dreamer behind it, Guy Pettit. Recently, I got back in touch with Guy to discuss the origins and ideas behind Flying Object.

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Latino/a Poetry Now: 2 poets, 3 countries

Installment two of "Latino/a Poetry Now" offers readers a glimpse of how Argentina and El Salvador have left their mark in the work of two young American poets. And yet, in the end, it is the English language that plays a crucial role in these nuanced landscapes, as you'll soon read in the words of William Archila and Ruth Irupé Sanabria.

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Poet Novelists: An Interview with Travis Nichols

Am I a poet?  I haven't written many poems lately, so perhaps I'm not actually a poet but rather an arts admin bureaucrat who had some possibly worthwhile daydreaming episodes years ago and now talks about those episodes as if he knows what he's talking about. Am I a novelist? I probably need to publish another one to be considered as such. Oh well. 

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An Interview with Tim Johnson of the Marfa Book Company

While arranging the shelves for the current configuration of the store, I decided that Cormac McCarthy's books would always appear in the same place. That is to say, regardless of where the alphabet would situate them, they will always appear at eye level, on one particular shelf. Other authors' names may appear before or after McCarthy's in the common order, but because of where we are, the popularity of his titles, and the laws of marketing, McCarthy has trumped the alphabet. 

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Questions of Faith: Coleman Barks

Here is the scene. Mother is sitting at her end of the sofa in the study, a place she calls her "nest." I am directly across in dad's reading chair. I cannot manage to recite the verbal obfuscation of that answer to what sin is, try as I might. Mother gets so fed up with the whole exercise she throws the catechism against the wall above my head and above the big Philco we all listened to the 2nd World War on. It slaps against the paneling, slides down behind the radio, and there it stays

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Poet Novelist: An Interview with Forrest Gander

Despite the way mainstream books are sold, genres are, of course, porous and I'm not invested in defining or sustaining them as either writer or reader. I wanted to write in a way I had not written before: to begin with characters modeled on people, to begin with a story. I think those aims can be accommodated in poetry, but I am mostly a lyric poet and my poems aren't driven by stories or characters. 

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Questions of Faith: Nikky Finney

God was all around but not everywhere. My parents were not Born Again people or heavy-handed Christians. We were United Methodists. We went to Church once a week, at the standard time, and on the traditional holy day of Sunday but not in between. We were not a family who stayed in church all day, as some families in our small town did. We were in at 11 a.m. and out by 1 or 1:30 p.m.

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Latino/a Poetry Now: 3 poets discuss their art

The containing of multitudes can be ecstatic and, at times, painful. The discussion of race that emerges here illuminates distances and barriers that sadden me with (what I experience as) their familiarity. But the discussion is also deeply affirming of the fact that these poets need to be more widely read, heard, and discussed so that Eduardo encounters fewer of the narrow expectations he's writing against, and so that Aracelis' work is met with less silence or fear, and so that Rosa's work continues to dismantle the walls of "unacceptability" that keep parts of our lives hidden from each other. 

--from the afterword by Maria Melendez

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Poet Novelist: An Interview with Rebecca Wolff

I began writing this novel when I was granted a long (8 week) residency at a colony. I just knew I wouldn't be able to fill my days with poems—I'm not that kind of poet—and I'd had a strong idea for the novel a few months before, and taken lots of notes, and the ideas just kept on coming, and so I thought it would be the perfect time for it. I wrote about 150 pages of what was then called Unspeakable Evil (yes!) during those weeks (and also wrote poems, and revised some, etc).

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Questions of Faith: Richard Wilbur

Well, I was brought up as a member of the Episcopal Church, and I attended Sunday school and church with fair regularity. We lived about seven miles from Montclair, New Jersey, where there was a very good Episcopal Church of which my mother was particularly fond. And we got there when we could. One frequent pleasant obstacle was Sunday morning tennis. I have the game of tennis all mixed up with religion. In those days it was played with great formality, and you said things like "Ready, partner? Ready?" and so on. And I can remember that on the estate where we lived, people sat in a pagoda to watch the tennis, and often there was a prayer book lying on the table next to the tennis racquets.

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Poet Novelist: An Interview with Ben Lerner

Poetry is pretty good at talking about the medium of poetry, can't not talk about it on some level, so I don't think I generally feel one has to leave the genre to criticize or celebrate it, but I did become interested in the novel as a vehicle for meditations on poetry, what the specific opportunities afforded by that distance might be. A major theme of the novel is the gap between Poetry with a capital "P"—the virtual possibilities of the art, the immense claims traditionally made for those possibilities—and actual poems, which to a certain extent must always betray the abstract potential of the medium the second they become merely real.

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New Salon: Adam Zagajewski, with Alice Quinn

The New Salon brings writers into an intimate setting to discuss the implications of their work and craft.

What follows is a transcription of the conversation between Adam Zagajewski and Alice Quinn, on September 25, 2008 at New York University Lillian Vernon Creative Writer's House.

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New Salon: Dan Chiasson, with Alice Quinn

The New Salon brings writers into an intimate setting to discuss the implications of their work and craft.

What follows is a transcription of the conversation between Dan Chiasson and Alice Quinn, at the inaugural salon that took place on Thursday, October 18, 2007, at New York University Lillian Vernon Creative Writer's House.

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A Conversation: Shirley Kaufman & Eve Grubin

When I first met Shirley Kaufman in her home in Jerusalem in the winter of 2002 we began a conversation about her move to Israel over thirty years ago in the midst of a promising poetry career. We picked up our conversation during her visit to New York this spring (2004) where she spoke about topics ranging from translation to politics, from San Francisco in the 1960s to Israeli poetry and George Oppen in Jerusalem.

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A Conversation: Sherman Alexie & Diane Thiel

I suppose, as an Indian living in the U.S., I'm used to crossing real and imaginary boundaries, and have, in fact, enjoyed a richer and crazier and more magical life precisely because I have fearlessly and fearfully crossed all sorts of those barriers. I guess I approach my poetry the same way I have approached every other thing in my life. I just don't like being told what to do. I write whatever feels and sounds right to me. At the beginning of my career, I wrote free verse with some formal influences, but I have lately been writing more formal verse with free verse influences. I don't feel the need to spend all my time living on either the free verse or the formal reservation. I want it all; hunger is my crime.

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A Conversation: Richard Howard & Priscilla Becker

Well, I'm interested in self-expression too, but I don't like direct self-expression. And all the work that I do is some kind of invocation of or transaction with others, whether it's criticism, translation, or poetry. There are poems that are direct self-expression, but certainly, with some sense of preference, there is an enterprise which involves speaking through a mask, a persona. That's what the word means: sounding throughsonans per—and I like the idea of the mask or the masks, because I'm more interested in the dialogue of others than in merely the dialogue with another— the dialogue of the others who are out there, who are not me.

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A Conversation: Jean Valentine & Eve Grubin

I just think about the poem. Sometimes in the past it has helped me to think about writing a letter to a close friend or an imaginary friend just to get myself into that kind of talk, into the confiding and intimate nature of that kind of talk. But I have not done that for years. I think about how the poem is communicating later when I am revising it. I might have been writing about a certain relationship, for instance, and not realized that at the time. That wouldn't be to somebody, though. I don't think consciously very much at all when I am first writing. Consciousness comes later.

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A Conversation: Marie Ponsot & L. B. Thompson

The History of Literature! Ha ha! How about that! I'm interested in lyric poems. I have ways of imagining— probably all inaccurate, but all based on something that somebody with an authoritative attitude has taught me—the Origins of Language, the Origins of Poetry. I think poetry is one of the primitive forms of language. I like Suzanne Langer's idea that the original union of language is not, as poets sometimes think, with song, not with music at all, but with dance.

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