Category Archives: Poet Interviews

Intereview with Poet/Editor, Leah Sewell

Leah SewellI am finding it very difficult to write an adequate introduction for today’s interview guest, Leah Sewell, whom I know from my undergraduate years at Washburn University. Since our years in the English program at W.U., where our paths crossed frequently in writing circles and workshops, Leah has found inventive ways to resuscitate, and in some cases create, an arts and literary culture in Topeka. The many worthwhile projects she has begun or contributed to are crucial to a small city like Topeka and qualifies her for grand accolades, though I know that Leah’s efforts come from a place of conviction, her love of  the creative process, and her dedication to her home town; not from a desire to be recognized. I’ve always known Leah to be exceptionally talented and the writer of great poetry and am thrilled whenever I hear about her accomplishments, whether they be a recent publication or the continued success of her lovely family. Topeka is fortunate to count Leah among it citizens, and I feel equally fortunate to count her among my friends.

Please enjoy Lea’s interview immediately following her poem, “Marionette.”

***

Marionette

I dreamed I returned from the bar to find you
holding chopsticks & fresh-rolled sushi, only
they were really crochet hooks that dipped sharp heads
in apology at my ovaries round as dumplings.

I flapped like a stuck moth against the wall.
All my accoutrements — hairpins, false eyelashes, earrings —
sloughed off my body like dust. I unfurled my proboscis
to speak but the voice was a pastel feather. Out in blue night,

our friends saw shadows on shades.
Your limbs chopped like a marionette. They applauded
because you are a scientist who slips pills
into their drinks. I can’t remember why the wall

gulped open like a bruised esophagus to swallow —
maybe I tickled it apart when I shuddered. Your arm
clamped on my waist woke me next morning. On your breath,
evidence—sawdust. I rose & unrolled my plaster tongue.

(forthcoming in Stone Highway Review)

***

Tell me about your involvement in publishing in Kansas?

When I was a junior at Washburn University, a good friend and fellow English major Ande Davis convinced me to join the university’s newspaper staff. I eventually became an editor and had to learn to design the entertainment section and a monthly entertainment magazine. After I left Washburn, I still wanted to be involved in magazine publication, and I searched out Kerrice Mapes, who was a few issues into publishing this little glossy arts and entertainment magazine called seveneightfive. I went from being a staff writer to a copy editor to managing editor and ultimately the editor-in-chief. During my time there, I learned a lot about Topeka and came to love it and have strong feelings toward it and wanted to help improve it in many ways. I became involved in organizing poetry and art events and doing volunteer work in several organizations. I also wanted to make sure that local writing and writers were given due space in seveneightfive’s pages. Today, the poetry spread is still going strong under the editorship of Topeka poet Dennis Etzel Jr. who publishes work by local authors, interviews and reviews. Nearly seven years later, seveneightfive continues to have a huge presence in the city, a massive following of readers, and does great work with community arts activism. When my family grew with the arrival of my daughter, Sylvia, and my son, Oliver, I gradually became aware that the city could benefit from a family A&E magazine that emphasizes art, reading and community involvement for parents and children. With Kerrice’s enthusiasm and support, we created XYZ Magazine, and I shifted my focus to editing XYZ while Kerrice stayed over at seveneightfive. When I started grad school, I handed the reigns of the EIC position over to Janice Watkins, fellow Washburn English grad (English majors make great editors!) and I’m currently still involved as the art director. All of this experience in publishing led me to designing books, which I get to do now on a freelance basis, producing titles in poetry and prose for Kansas presses like Woodley, Coal City and Mammoth. I’ve also begun an assistant editorship with Coconut Poetry Press based in Atlanta, Georgia, founded by publisher Bruce Covey. My first book design project with Coconut is the book, of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon by Chicago poet Jenny Boully, which is set to be released this month.

You are also involved with the Topeka Writer’s Workshop. Tell me more about this organization and your role in it.

About four years ago, I realized that I lacked a generative atmosphere, a scene like the one I’d found at college where other writers were sharing their work, talking about poetry, and offering insights to my own work. I saw that the Lawrence Arts Center had a writers workshop, and every Tuesday, I’d hand my colicky newborn son over to my husband, go out into the freezing night and drive down the highway to Lawrence, where I found a group of writers who were welcoming and helpful, but they also seemed like an already cohesive community. I didn’t feel like I could fully enter that community because of the physical distance. I knew a handful of writers in Topeka, and decided to round them up for a Topeka writers workshop. By July of 2009, and with help getting the word out through seveneightfive, I had a group of nearly twenty people, both friends and strangers, who met bi-weekly in the sweltering back room of a furniture warehouse and gallery in Topeka where bats swooped in the rafters and the writing dialogue thrived and bloomed. The numbers eventually dwindled, and rightly so (I think of those first days and wonder how we were able to get everyone’s work looked over), and today the 10-12 regular members of the Topeka Writers Workshop participate in more of a collective model. We each bring a little money to the group for copy costs, reading promotions and the like. We’re an eclectic group, composed of a stay-at-home dad, a painter, a federal judge, a pastor, a couple who live and breathe poetry when they’re not slogging through their day jobs, an adjunct English professor, a graphic artist, a PhD candidate in English, a railroader, mothers and fathers and musicians, and myself, the facilitator. The diversity of the group is perhaps its best characteristic. No one snubs anyone else; all forms, styles and “levels” of writing are welcome. We’re also great friends who support each other but aren’t afraid to offer the occasional gutting critique. Ultimately, our goal is to help each other move forward with our writing and to give unpublished work its first chance to be read and appreciated. We also hold readings twice a year and have put out print materials in the past and plan to do more. We often discuss ways we can engage in community activism, and if I can get everyone in alliance with me, I’m hoping to begin to do just that in 2013 by bringing writing into areas of the community that could benefit from this incredibly gratifying form of expression.

Outside of editing and the Topeka Writer’s Workshop, what writing projects are you engaged in – writing projects for you, I mean?

I’m currently participating in my second semester of the low-residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska, which will culminate in a full-length poetry manuscript, so I’m amassing reams of poems at the rate of up to thirty per semester. I have a chapbook-length manuscript that is sort of languishing and gathering dust while I’m creating all this new work, and in my spare time I’ll go in and do some revisions on that to further its path to eventual publication. My minor as an undergrad was women’s studies, and I’m very interested in exploring themes of feminism and women’s issues in my work. I love to write in persona, and I’m also incredibly interested in the back-stories of women made famous by their boldness; the women of blues and jazz, women notorious as heartbreakers, criminals, or blatantly lustful women. I can feel the stirrings of a uniting theme among my poems in this way, and my eventual full-length collection will most definitely contain a few of the voices of these “wild women,” as my poetry mentor Teri Grimm calls them.

What techniques have you found to help you juggle work life, family life, and writing?

I have this awful tendency to say “yes” to everything. My daughter often tells people that her mom has five jobs (not the least of which is being a mother to her and her brother). But I’ve learned over the past year to begin occasionally saying “no.” I’ve scaled back my involvement in volunteering with community organizations, which hurts me to do, but I have to tell myself that there will be time for that after – after my kids are both in school full time, after I complete grad school, etc. I’ve turned down book design projects when I feel my plate is already full. I really have to prioritize, and the two most important things for me are, of course, my family and my writing. If I’m needed in any way beyond that, I have to ask myself if it benefits one or the other – my family or my writing. It also helps that I’m married to a poet, Matt Porubsky. Matt understands when I need poem-time and will scoop the kids up to let me be alone to focus. It’s possible to write when a baby sleeps nearby or lies on the carpet gumming a rattle. But it’s utterly impossible—at least for me—to write with a 4- and 6-year-old nearby. He understands this and is almost always willing to lend a hand. Another thing that I’ve found helpful is to always keep a pad of paper handy, and no matter what I’m doing, if an idea or a line or a string of words pops into my head, to write it down. My poetry mentor from my first semester of grad school, the amazing author Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, urged me to write at least an hour a day. When I bemoaned the difficulty of finding a solid hour in a day to write, she said, “Then write in 15-minute increments.” While I still struggle to achieve this on some days, for the most part, I can say that I find myself writing, whether it’s journaling or free writing or trying to compose an agonizing villanelle, for close to an hour a day. It’s a pretty attainable goal.

How do you cultivate creativity?

I’m blessed to be immersed in creative endeavors—I get to work on things like magazine and book design, creating recipes in my part-time job as a vegan chef, and even building block towers or coloring with my kids. There really isn’t too much in my life beyond the mundane everyday stuff that doesn’t involve a creative mindset. So this allows me to remain open, to receive ideas and slip into imaginative threads of thought. I never censor my thoughts or push poem-think into the back of my mind for later, when I can utilize the ideas on the page. I’m an incessant daydreamer, and I’m content with that. When the time comes to write, all that daydreaming will be put to good use.


Leah Sewell is the art director of XYZ Magazine (Topeka, KS), assistant editor at Coconut Poetry Press (Atlanta, GA), founder and facilitator of the Topeka Writers Workshop and a part-time vegan chef and mother to two youngsters. Her poetry has appeared in [PANK] Magazine, Rufous City Review, Weave Magazine, Flint Hills Review, Midwestern Gothic, Mochila and other journals, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. She is a freelance graphic designer whose work has created over a dozen poetry and prose books and countless magazine editions. She won the 2010 Women Making Headlines Award in the media category from the Topeka Chapter of the Association of Women in Communications and has been a recipient of the PenWomen Award for Letters. She is a graduate of Washburn University in English with a minor in Women’s Studies and is currently a candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Nebraska.

Interview with Maryfrances Wagner

Maryfrances PhotoI post today’s long-in-coming interview with great pleasure.

Maryfrances Wagner is exceptionally active in the Kansas City poetry community and contributes countless hours and energy supporting, directing, and generally overseeing innumerable activities and events at The Writers Place. I know her to be a dedicated, passionate individual and have had the genuine pleasure of working with her on a few projects. She is as serious about fundraising as she is about teaching and writing, has a  witty sense of humor and, being a woman after my own heart, enjoys a glass of wine after a job well done. Please enjoy today’s featured interview following  a selection of Wagner’s poetry from  her collection Light Subtracts Itself:

On The Wheel

See, she hissed when he broke
his nose. Feel the tongue’s lie?
When the iron singed an arm,
she nodded. God punishes.

At the ocean, we don’t think
about the absence of ocean,
the deep hold of darkness
swallowing us over and over.

Here’ the broken toe from sneaking
out the window, the severed tendon,
the chipped tooth, debt picking up
interest. For every lost promise,

every tingle and rush, every night
of slipping further out, of looking
back, waiting for the ghost to pass
through the wall, the wheel turns.

– – –

What are the origins for the poems in your “Red Silk” collection?

Most of my poetry comes from what I experience and what I observe.  Red Silk is divided into sections.  One section involves teaching and students.  I taught composition and creative writing for many years.  Another section, and where the title of the book comes from, is about the experience of being married to a Viet Nam vet.  Poets have written many poems about war, but these poems try to address what happens after the vet comes back home and has to adjust to life after war.  The poems try to show the effect war can have on loved ones and relationships, especially in a war that had so many casualties and didn’t honor its soldiers when they came back.  My ex-husband, Gale, received three medals, including the Silver Star, and they were mailed to him without a ceremony.  He came back wounded and spent three years on and off at Fitzsimmons military hospital in Denver. Gale returned from war a changed man that had years of emotional and physical stress.

After you published your first book of poetry, did you ever doubt that you would complete and publish a second?

Well, I think most writers would say that they have already written quite a few new poems before their book gets published.  It usually takes at least a year before an accepted book gets published.  My book Salvatore’s Daughter took almost three years.  By that time, I had enough material for another book.  My first two books, now out of print, were actually chap books during the early stages of writing.  Salvatore’s Daughter was my first full poetry book, followed by Red Silk, and Light Subtracts Itself.

Describe your process for ordering poems in a collection.

The process varies.  I’ve actually done the ordering of poems for both of my husband’s books as well as a few other writers.  I read all of the poems through, and then I read them again and start to sort them into piles that seem to flow together.  The third time through, I arrange what I think serves as a logical or chronological order.  Sometimes this might be what seems a chronological flow if most of the poems are narratives, or it could involve a logical order of ideas as they unfold.  A book, to me, should unfold throughout. Sometimes I group poems into sections that seem to fit together and carry similar themes or subject matter.  To me a book needs to come together in some way, not just be a collection of random poems.  At the beginning of the book, I tend to put one or two poems that carry a theme, symbol, or idea that represents much if not all of what the book adds up to say.  At the end, I try to put poems that finish or close the book.  At the same time, I think the book ought to open with a strong poem that engages the reader and makes him want to read on and a closing poem that leaves an impression that lingers.

Can you talk bit more about your experience working with Robert Bly?

I think every writer ought to have a great experience and connection with a significant writer.  It can be so energizing.  At least, that was the experience I had with Robert Bly.  He was probably the most dynamic and engaging person I’ve ever met.  I took at class with him over the summer, and we met for five or six hours every day, sometimes longer.  Every day was a new surprise whether we were walking along a beach or pounding away at the difficulties of translating a poem.  I don’t think I could do justice to how amazing the experience was or include all of the experiences we had.  As a Jungian scholar, Bly had us recording our dreams every night with the instructions that we were to record them only, not read them afterward, and he had us doing writing exercises that elicited the subconscious.  He also put on persona masks and recited poems in the voice of different people—like the politician, the philosopher, or the executive.  He was always trying to shut off that logical, thinking brain to get us to the “third brain.” From the beginning he told us that he was not going to workshop our poems or help us edit them.  He said, “I’m going to teach you how to work, how to create material for a book.  When you leave here, you should have enough material to produce a book.”  We wrote three rough drafted pieces each day, and he always wrote with us, so he was creating his own manuscript of work.  Two of the three poems we wrote each day he stimulated with assorted exercises, and the third we wrote at night on our own.  Each of us did have enough material to develop a book by the time we left.  He told us if we were stuck or needed more input, then we should go back and read from our recorded dreams.

He also invited a number of poets to visit our class and discuss something concerning the craft of poetry.  One day he had a drummer come, and we listened to beat for hours.  He had us translate and then share the translation.  There were such differences in translations that we learned how hard it is to choose the right words and what part of the poem (the sound, the rhythm, the words, etc.) we were willing to sacrifice because it’s not possible to get everything the poet has done in his own language into English.  We could really see it when eight people had eight entirely different translations.

We had lunch and dinner together, and all of his class sessions were engrossing.  Most of the time we spent outside instead of in a classroom.  One day we were walking along the beach, and he asked a fisherman if he could borrow one of the flounder he had caught, and the fisherman agreed.  He threw it on the sand, where it started flopping.  We all watched it die.  Then we had to engage all of our senses in describing the fish and our experience in watching it die.  It was powerful for us because he then had us comparing it to specific things that he named.

He has over a thousand poems of other people memorized, and he often asked us if we knew this poem or that poem, and he would recite them for us, always saying first, “Let me give it to you.”  He recommended we memorize poems we loved and “give them” to people when we’re standing in grocery lines or waiting at the theatre.  I think people would have a hard time getting the level of involvement Bly gave his students.  He had a wonderful sense of humor, and if he thought we were taking him too seriously, he said, “Don’t write that down.  How do you know that I know what I’m talking about?”  Sometimes I felt like I was with a psychologist, a philosopher, or a poet.  We never knew what to expect, but it was always a surprise. It was almost magical.

After I went back home to Missouri, I did start working on the poems, and they formed the book Salvatore’s Daughter.  The day that I received my published copies, I sent one to Robert Bly, and about a week later, he sent me a copy of his new book that came out on the same day.  His book had many of the poems we started in his class.

What projects are you working on now?

I am always working on the next poem, the next book of poems.  I have about half of the poems finished for the next book.  I’m always working on about a half dozen at a time at different levels of completion.  I’m also arranging the poems of my husband’s new book and helping him edit those poems.

I am one of the co-editors of the I-70 Review, a literary magazine of poetry and short fiction, so that keeps me fairly busy too.  We accept submissions from July 1 to Jan 31, so for anyone interested in submitting, he or she can visit our website at www.i70review.fieldinfoserv.com or friend us on Facebook.

I continue to work as a board member and volunteer at the Writers Place.  I am the chair of the programming committee, and our goal is to help writers get the opportunity to read their work, whether at The Writers Place or at the Neon Gallery.  A couple of years ago, we formed a partnership with Tom Cobian of the Neon Gallery, and four times a year, we have a collaboration of the arts.  We call the event Music+Poetry+Art.  Tom is a Neon artist and displays his work as well as the work of others, I supply the poets, and Martha Gershun and Rick Malsick supply the musicians.  I’m also always helping with fundrasiers and grant proposals at The Writers Place.

I am in a writing group, and it helps keep me focused on writing new material.  Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in endless revision.  I also mentor writers, give readings, writing workshops, and do assorted freelance writing projects that are interesting.  Lately, I’ve been collecting ideas and writing fragments of material for a possible memoir about teaching.  I have had so many students with interesting stories, and I wanted to capture them in writing.  I first tried doing it with poetry, but it isn’t quite working out because each story requires too much background.  So, it may end up a mixture of poems and memoir.  I never really run out of ideas, only time to do them.

– – –

Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter (BkMk) Red Silk (MidAm) and Light Subtracts Itself. (MidAm).  Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn Book Award in 2000.  Her poems have appeared in literary magazines including New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Beacon Review, anthologies and textbooks including Unsettling America:  An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books) and The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation).  Work from that book was chosen for American Audio Prose and was translated into Italian for Trapani Nuovo in Italy.  She is a co-editor of the I-70 Review. 

 

Interview with Hakim Bellamy, Albuquerque’s first Poet Laureate

Most Albuquerque-ans are familiar with  Hakim’s contribution to the Albuquerque creative community, and, of course, his great success as a slam poet. I hope that this interview, done before his appointment as city poet Laureate, will provide a small glimpse of Hakim’s generous character and his approach to creativity. As always, a poem and a brief biography follow the interview.

1. Tell me about your current projects and what they mean to you.

Lately, it’s been about experimenting and putting what I do (poetry and performance) in “unsafe” spaces. Beyond the typical criticisms of the poetry slam scene from which I come, it is oddly a very safe space (in regards to artistic risk). Once you figure out your performative voice, you will be hard pressed to be challenged beyond it. Beyond the measure of the slam (i.e. wins, losses, teams made, championships won, etc.), you want to be challenged as a writer/performer to do something innovative. I prefer to measure success by how diverse is your repertoire of work, or how many different people who would NEVER go to a slam, have heard and appreciated your work. The risk is not in preaching to the choir, it’s preaching on the street corner to atheists, who walk away contemplating believing in something…even if that something is belief in another human being or humanity itself. To that end, I’ve been shape-shifting my poetry into music lyrics, my performance into theater and my events into jazz/hip-hop hybrids at Jazzbah ABQ on the 1st Tuesday of every month. I am working with my creative brothers Carlos Contreras and Colin Diles Hazelbaker on putting together a tour of Urban Verbs: Hip Hop Conservatory and Theater for the college/music/theater festival circuit in the spring of 2012. The Urban Verbs outfit recently became officially represented by 1680PR and is a format that allows us to put poetic dialogue in front of non-poetry audiences. But poetry will always be my ground, and right now I am preparing pieces for the new year, which really means MLK Day and Black History Month, for my 4th year at Amy Biehl High School’s Day of Service and the NAACP MLK Ceremony at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Writing poems about the #Occupy movement has been fun and easy lately, because it is easy to write about something you are passionate about.

2. How do you “cultivate creativity?”

By living with reckless abandon. You have to fall, and hurt, and get up and fall again to be able to write. I’ve been falling my entire life. Falling in love, falling for bullshit, falling up and learning from it all…and then writing about it. I immerse myself in other arts. As a writer, I need to hear music, see a show (theater), watch documentaries (I am a documentary junkie), play with my son in the park, take in an art exhibit…creativity begets creativity. That’s why movements like the Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, Beat Movement, are contagious. Viral paradigm shifts that permeated everything from film and music to cooking and architecture…I think that creativity is a context, not a construct and it can be created rather than waited on…like a strike of lightning.

3. Is poetry important to community? How and were do these concepts intersect for you?

Poetry IS community. When we start talking AND listening to each other, becoming aware of one another, and ultimately, are forced to acknowledge and perceive each other, we have a relationship. A community is a web of relationships. Poetry fosters community. Buying a book by a local poet supports the local economy. That’s community on a small scale. However, going to a slam where 12 poets read beside the feature (perhaps the author of said book), allows 13 voices into the fray, with the requisite attendance and participation of the studio audience, and voila, people are feelin’ other people. Community is what most people’s poetry is about, with all of it’s marvelous imperfections, profundity and absurdity.

4. How do you protect your creative space, both literally and figuratively?

I don’t. I leave my creative space exposed. That works for me. Doesn’t work for most people. Most people feel like there is some sort of decorum or maturation in the masquerade of public/private life. They pretend that someone who, as I like to say, lives their life out loud is either obnoxious, egotistical or immature. They think the teen that tweets their every emotion, relationship failure or heroic moment is vain or juvenile. I look at them as brave and transparent. Yes, my poetry is like my Facebook status or my Twitter feed (and soon Google+, so lemme show them some love here!). I will show you my self-righteous, save the world side (probably too much as my critics say), however will also show you my flawed, petulant, hurt and scared sides…there’s no need to pretend I always act 33 and positive when I do not. So expose my closet of skeletons in my poetry and my social media. However, that door to that closet has to be as open to air dirty laundry as it has to be open to shine some light and import some creativity in as well. The open wound has always been attractive to poetry audiences. Being open to failing in front of an audience increases the possibility of succeeding in front of an audience…even if it is audience of self, an audience of one. Everyone wants to look like they have the answer in the public eye, or like they have it together. We know from some of our greatest artistic geniuses that there is nothing “together” about brilliance. And though I certainly do not yet conceptualize myself as brilliant, I’m a fan of NOT having the answer. I’m a fan of thinking out loud. Thinking in public should be just as valued as always having the answer in public. As a matter of fact people should think in public more often. Unlike thinking in private, it rarely gets mistaken for not thinking at all.

5. Discuss the interdependence among performance art, performance poetry, and written poetry (or poetry on the page).

I think I touched on that. They are all part of a paradigm, the waves of influence in an artistic movement all dance in the same ocean. They move ships on the surface and in that regard, they shape our reality. They are the varying axes of a Cartesian coordinate system. The x, y, and z axes correspond to performance art, performance poetry and written poetry. Together they locate an object in a specific place, time, era, generation…like three people looking at a glass on coffee table from different angles and providing data on where that glass actually exists in time and space and what it looks like. We need them all to have an accurate description of reality, however subjective that is.

Preamble: It is quite an honor to be asked to sort of, interpret, in a way, Kathleen Ryan’s compositions. 3 pieces, I was given, Tangle Release & Bless. Around 3 and a half,  three and 2 and a half minutes, respectively. I fell in love with them all because they series…Tangle, Release and Bless, mimic the cyclical nature of life…fight, let go or flow, and reward…whether that be in experience, understanding, prosperity, or just the satisfaction of getting past it…whatever it was. It felt complete…and before I interpret Kathleen into Hakim-speak…I must say, “complete” is a great adjective to describe Kathleen’s work. My interpretation:

Silent Sanctuary – by hakim bellamy

The poet entered the sanctuary
As a cynic not a sinner
As a seer
Not a sayer
This time

This time
He was looking
For the word

This time
He needed inspiration
More than he needed
To be inspiring

And he was listening
For once
Maybe twice

The poet entered the sanctuary
As a sentencer
But not like them
Not a judge
But one who strings words
Into rosaries
That protect us
From not talking to each other
That shackle us to communities
For life

The poet entered the sanctuary
Stood in the doorway of silence
Praying to be met with
Music, mantra, melody
or even magic

He was met with none
As he crossed the threshold
Between craft and creation
As he has learned
On the street

That science ain’t shit
Without sanctimony
That anyone can read the notes
But it’s how you play’em
Anyone can write and read
A word
But it’s how you lay’em
How you say’em
Anyone can read a holy book
But it’s how you live it
People sleep under sheet music
All the time
And don’t give a fuck

It’s how you make love

The poet entered the sanctuary
To have his French pardoned
Amongst other things

But was disappointed
Because there would be more French

Disappointed
That God’s people
Were worshipping with mouths closed

Disappointed
That God’s people
Were worshipping with asses still

Disappointed
That Heavenly people
We’re afraid to love one another
To touch one another
To dance
Together

Confused
That they could read
A whole book
And have nothing to say
That they could read
An entire hymnal
And have nothing to sing
Nothing to dance

Who could read
And entire volume
Of divine poetry
And then pray in silence?

So the poet left the sanctuary
Back to the curbside pulpit
Where pain
And worship
Both have to be louder
Than the traffic

Where God is like a superhero
And you only ever see her
When your life’s in danger

And unlike the church folk
Cause of the nature of how he lives
He sees God everyday
Doesn’t even have to pray

But when he does
And when they do
They have a novel on the tip of their tongues
And God like stories
A lot

But what the poet forgot
Is that their poetry
Comes from silence
Not from sounds

And such poetry
If its good
Leads back
To silence
Again.

Amen.
(c) Hakim Bellamy August 20, 2011

Hakim Bellamy is a national and regional Poetry Slam Champion and holds three consecutive collegiate poetry slam titles at the University of New Mexico. His poetry has been published in Albuquerque inner-city buses and various anthologies. Bellamy was recognized as an honorable mention for the University of New Mexico Paul Bartlett Re Peace Prize for his work as a community organizer and journalist and was recently bestowed the populist honor of “Best Poet” by Local iQ (“Smart List 2010 & 2011”) and Alibi (“Best of Burque 2010 & 2011”).He is the co-creator of the multi-media Hip Hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip-Hop Conservatory & Theater that has been staged in throughout the country. He facilitates youth writing workshops for schools and community organizations in New Mexico and beyond. Currently, Hakim is the Strategic Communication Director at Media Literacy Project. You can also read poetry by Hakim at 200 New Mexico Poems: http://200newmexicopoems.wordpress.com/category/hakim-bellamy/

Interview with Poet and Editor, Tanaya Winder

Upon our nearly simultaneous returns to Albuquerque after adventures took us afar,  I had the opportunity to catch up with friend, fellow poet and former work-shop peer Tanaya Winder. She has been busy  in the most worthwhile of ways since our days of collaborating poetry in Joy Harjo’s poetry class, and clearly understands the challenges of an emerging writer. I am happy  to share tales of Tanaya’s experience and strength in today’s interview. Please enjoy Tanaya’s lovely poem, which is followed by our interview.

—–

measure by measure: the body begs  
by Tanaya Winder

at the soul’s release please do not leave.
The last crescendo – breathing and
the body intertwined, two hands
offered as a gesture like grasping at butterflies,
longing to hold something precious.
The legatos of trying –
hear the search in continuous acts,
the staccatoed beats.
Dal capo al coda,
go back to the beginning
in the music of being human,
the final score and the counterpoint:
hands outstretched as if
to say I cannot stay

—-
You have accomplished quite a lot since we attended a Joy’s  poetry workshop at UNM together. Tell me more about what you have been up to.

Since Joy’s workshop in 2008, I’ve been writing as much as I can. Entering the MFA world was quite different than I expected. I imagined entering a community of fellow writers who were all so passionate about writing that they’d discuss it continuously, and through that discussion inspire each other. This isn’t to say that I didn’t find any inspiration at UNM, I did. I met fellow writers who enjoyed writing and even some who felt it was their life’s calling; but still, I felt something was lacking. Fortunately, Joy Harjo took me under her wing and agreed to let me take an independent study with her the semester after our poetry workshop. That independent study ended up helping me get involved in my biggest and most influential project so far, “Soul Talk, Song Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo.”

Joy mentioned wanting to put together another collection of interviews. We ended up really connecting in our views. I read her work and she read mine, so it made sense for us to collaborate. I spent the next two years assisting her with her book and was credited as co-editor of the collection. During those two years, I also ended up taking time off from the MFA program. I felt inundated with the teaching load and coursework. I wanted space for clarity and time to read what I wanted to read, to write what I wanted to write. I moved to Boulder, Colorado to work as the Assistant Director for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Upward Bound Program. It was a good move for me physically and mentally.

In Boulder I started training for my 1st half-marathon and since then have completed 4 half-marathons. I also was able to take classes in CU’s MFA program, which offered a variety of courses and subjects that weren’t available at UNM. One month in my lyric poetry class gave me the inspiration and insight I needed to view poetry in a completely different way. Inspired by the coursework, I wrote the poem “The Impermanence of Human Sculptures” in an eight-hour sitting. I went on to edit the poem twice and submitted it for the “A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Spring 2010 Orlando Prize in Poetry” and ended up winning a $1000 first prize. I took that as I sign that I was where I needed to be.

You’d be surprised how much writing/work you can get done with a steady 8 to 5, 40 hour a week job. I read what I wanted to in the evenings, jotted notes, and even started a writing schedule. I’d wake up at 6AM every morning to write for at least 30 minutes, even if it was just stream of consciousness writing. On weekends I didn’t have any “homework” that I was required to do, no grading, or prepping for classes – all I had was time and I was grateful for it. I found a writing partner who recently moved to Boulder after completing her MFA in screenwriting. We met at coffee shops on Saturdays and Sundays to write and chat about writing. It was then that I realized – I am, indeed, a writer. I didn’t need a program to write, I didn’t need a teaching assistantship and I didn’t need a “workshop.” All I needed was determination to write. A poet-mentor of mine told me that the hardest part of finishing the MFA is continuing to write; he told me he believed I’d make it if I kept up with the writing I was doing. In my time away from UNM and my MFA program, I published 12 poems, 1 interview, 1 essay, and got the book deal with Joy Harjo through Wesleyan University Press.

I did realize that while I don’t need a MFA to be a writer, I do need it if I want to teach. As someone who absolutely believes that poetry is important to the community, I want to be able to teach in both university and community settings. In my first year at UNM, I felt the intersection between community and poetry was somewhat lacking, so I decided to drive home to my reservation once a month to teach a writing workshop at our local library. I loved it. It fed my soul and people enjoyed it. They kept coming back each month.

I think it’s important for poetry and writing to have presence in the community because it reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sometimes writing can be so solitary. You write, research, write, edit, revise, and write some more. You submit, get rejected, submit again, and again until (hopefully) acceptance. Aside from the occasional reading/performance we writers rarely get to see and interact with our readers, but in community work you get to interact with readers and help others learn how to render their own experiences through story and words. I am a person who hopes my own writing and poetry reflects the times and the needs of society; without interacting with the community the poetry cannot attempt to reflect communities and so I believe poetry must intersect with community. Poetry has the potential to create community for people who are searching for it by providing a space to interact and share experiences on the page.

But finding balance between teaching, community work, and writing can be difficult. I try to think of writing like working out: you don’t find the time for it – you make it. Like exercise, I find that poetry is necessary for me to maintain my health. Now that I am back teaching at UNM and finishing up my MFA I don’t wake up at 6AM to write. Coursework and all that is involved in teaching takes up a lot of time, but I still make sure that I put in at least an hour of “writing work,” which means researching or revising if I am not creating something new. I use goals to help force me to write by looking up special calls for submissions and tell myself that I am going to apply to them. I find deadlines and use a planner to fill in dates where I tell myself that I will submit to at least 3-5 magazines/journals a month. Even if I don’t have something “ready” I send it anyway to keep myself in the habit of writing and submitting. All of these, of course, are small goals in terms of the big plans I have.

It’s important to dream big. In the back of my mind I tell myself I want to have collections of poetry published and one day even have my 1st collection win a 1st book prize. I want to be a Stegner Fellow and dream of becoming a U.S Poet Laureate. I’m well aware of the odds of some of these things actually happening but that doesn’t keep me from dreaming because the dreaming pushes me to work harder. I know I have a lot of work to do before I get to where I want to be with my writing, but that’s the fun of it. You don’t get to where you want to be without putting in the work, and that’s true of both life and writing. Sometimes you sit there and re-work a poem revising lines, individual words, and structures until it seems like a big mess and then…clarity. The funny thing is you wouldn’t have gotten to a point of clarity without diving into the wreck and coming out on the other side. And hey, that’s life, that’s writing.

“Soul Talk, Song Language” by Joy Harjo and Tanay Winder are available at Wesleyan University Press  through their website at http://www.upne.com/0-8195-7150-4.html

—-

Biography:

Tanaya Winder is from the Southern Ute and Duckwater Shoshone Nations. She graduated from Stanford University in 2008 with a BA in English. Tanaya was a finalist in the 2009 Joy Harjo Poetry Competition and a winner of the “A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Spring 2010 Orlando Prize in Poetry.” Her poems have appeared in Cutthroat magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, Adobe Walls, and Superstition Review, amongst others and are forthcoming in Drunken Boat magazine. She teaches Composition and Introduction to Creative Writing at the University of New Mexico where she is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry. She is currently the Assistant Director for the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Upward Bound Program – a college prep program for over 85 Native American high school students from different reservations all across the country. In her free time she enjoys coffee, karaoke, and teaching a monthly writer’s workshop at the local library in her hometown, Ignacio, CO.

Tanaya also writes a blog “Letters from a Young Poet” at  http://tanayawinder.wordpress.com/

Interview with Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low

This week’s interview with Denise Low marks the beginning of the new Poet Laureate Series here at ZingaraPoet. Check back frequently for future interviews with Laureates from all over the U.S.

I first became familiar with Denise Low when I was an undergraduate student at Washburn University and was given a copy of “Kansas Poems of William Stafford,” which she edited. I read the collection, found legitimacy in its pages and figured anyone who put together a collection like that was all right by me.

Later, I discovered and read Low’s early collection of poetry, “Spring Geese.”  I think it resonated with me because, like the poems I write, this collection contains poems about that Kansas environment and natural history.

Fast forward to November 2010. I’m living in Kansas City  and learn that Denise Low, second Poet Laureate of Kansas, will be reading at The Writers Place to promote her latest collection,  “Ghost Stories of the New West.”  Nothing could make me miss it.

The reading that night was well attended  and Low did not disappoint. She is a dynamic reader and a gracious poet. I was thrilled to get a few minutes of her time to discuss poetry news and brag about my Alma Mater – home to Kansas’ first poet Laureate, Jonathan Holden. I did not know then that I would someday be asking her for an interview, but when the idea for a poet laureate series nudged my imagination, she was the first person I thought of (and, consequently, the first I asked).

In this interview, directly following Pocahontas, Denise discusses her revision process, the current state of the arts in Kansas, and encourages poets who may be questioning their dedication to their craft. Her biography follows the interview as do links to her blog and website.

Emjoy!

Pocahontas: A Portrait

                                In memory of Paula Gunn Allen

Oval face     eyes turned aside    

high collar, ruffled.     Once: a favored child              
cartwheeler      envoy between camps
student of  English      daughter of Powhatan           

 wife of Kocoum      political gamepiece          

kidnap victim of Argall      forced bride
converted wife of Rolfe      lady in wooden rooms
awaiting a child           mother of Thomas

literate Christian      forest Madonna

tobacco cultivator     London celebrity
ailing martyr.      Her words “Everyone must die.”
and “It is enough that     the child lives.”

Oil portrait filigree    tatting on a stamp

lace-wreath collar     the woman named Matoaka
narrowed-eyes look     a few days before the grave
frozen obliqueness      now the last oval face.

——

What did you take away from your experience as second Kansas Poet Laureate?

Being poet laureate of Kansas was a great honor, and it helped me appreciate the educators, writers, arts administrators, and librarians across the state. Sometimes in a capitalist society the arts, especially poetry, can seem frivolous, but I came to understand how word arts connect to most skilled fluency with language. Literary uses of language impel readers to learn history and context. This is not a time in history when superficial reading will suffice. Poetry trains its readers to read closely and with a mind open to unexpected associations. It is essential to understand multi-layered communications in the public, social media, and private realms.

How does poetry bring or add meaning to your life?

1. First, I became involved with poetry so young, that it is hard to tease out how it, among other experiences, add meaning to my life. It’s a spiritual practice—I do believe that learning the discipline of language is one of many paths to enlightenment. It requires engagement with reality, not neuroses. Observation and reflection are the polarity, and syntax the means along the way. So poetry keeps me connected to immediate experience, and it makes historic tradition collapse into the present moment. We use ancient words, and each use reinvigorates them. I cannot imagine my life without poetry.

2. Also, poetry helps me understand my multidimensional identity. It connects emotion, ideas, and spirit to the locus of body. And so it helps sort out the chaos—with grammar, syntax, image, and sound all coordinated into coherence. If a person visualizes a crystal, that sense of order is soothing. Likewise, and on more levels, poetry creates serenity—even poetry about hard truths.

How do you protect your mental and physical creative space?

I have arranged my days to create writing time—easier now that my child- and elder-caring years are behind me. The importance of my writing is an essential understanding in my marriage. I’ve claimed a small but nice room in the house for an office—it has a great view of the back yard—which is critical to my writing. My family, especially my husband, understands this is my calling. That support is invaluable.

Tell me how you approach revising your work.

Often. I write and rewrite. I have blind spots and repeat obvious words or miss opportunities. Once in a long while a poem comes out in one piece, but not often. To me, the editing is also very creative, and it gives me the opportunity to make better crafted writing. I’ve often been in a writers group, and I’ve worked with editors, so I’ve become impersonal about trying to improve work rather than treat it as a precious emanation from the great-poet-cosmos. Like William Stafford used to say, “Editors are our friends.”

In your 2006 interview with Miranda Ericsson, you mentioned you were thrown lifelines at crucial moments in your life. Can you elaborate on these lifelines? How did they manifest and how did they help?

I was about to abandon poetry and commit to developing prose projects when I won the Kansas Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship in Poetry, in 1991. That program was one award every two years to a poet in Kansas, and it was $5000. That was summer support plus a computer. Then in 2007 I became poet laureate for Kansas through the KAC, again. Of course, all those programs are suspended because of politics right now. These awards really helped me have the time needed to write and publish. I have been so fortunate to see so many aspects of the writing process and how it connects to audience. My next mission is to help restore these essential programs.

Currently, I am president of the board of directors for the Associated Writing Programs, and through this role I’ve been able to see a wide range of programs that serve poets and other writers. All these experiences deepen my understanding of how crucial creativity is to being a conscious, contributing citizen. Creative writing is, I believe, the deepest form of literacy. If you can write a poem, you can assemble your children’s toys, maintain your car, troubleshoot your computer, write grant applications, and select factual information from the bovine excrement in the news media.

How does keeping a blog fit in with your overall creative endeavors?

I’ve had some illness this summer, so I’m very behind on my blog. I want to use it as a forum for book and reading reviews, because my region and my literary genres are so underserved. Some fabulous writers get overlooked because of poor distribution and poor publicity. Blogging helps me feel empowered to present writers of merit. For starters, I’m thinking of Robert Day’s terrific book of essays The Committee to Save the World, Jo McDougall’s memoir, and William Trowbridge’s amazing Ship of Fool. These are terrific, first-rate works that will not be in the New York media. But the internet blogosphere is democratic, and I hope to take advantage of its strengths to promote some good writing.

Have you any advice to share with writers who may be struggling to continue their craft?

1. Yes—first, be professional. The novelist David Bradley told me this at a critical period in my life. A few people are able to work at other jobs all their lives and keep a parallel writer’s life going. These are few. Commit yourself to taking classes, being involved in a writer’s group, and other faster ways to learn than trial and error. I see many people who put off writing during their most productive years, retire, and then expect to have writing skills in a few weeks. My mentor Carolyn Doty told me it takes ten years to learn how to write a novel. I believe her. Putting off writing for practical reasons is the most risky choice—for example, your health may not hold up, and when you retire, you may not be able to write.

2. The second bit of advice is to get up early in the morning and write—you have some good hours before work schedules. Go to bed early, skip TV, and use those early hours.

3. Third, read as much as you can of writing that you admire and that relates to your field. One of the great paradoxes is people want to write poetry in great numbers, but they don’t want to read others’ poetry, even the greats. Trust me. Reading great poetry will not stifle your own originality.

4. Write about topics that matter. Reynolds Price did a great presentation at AWP one year about looking for material that will make a difference rather than self-centered cleverness. Hundreds of thousands of books are published and self-published every year. As a writer, what contribution can you make? I find myself impelled to document as much as I can of suppressed histories and voices. This led to the Langston Hughes in Lawrence project and many others.

What’s next?

Oh, so many projects. I have a number of articles that need revising. A book of essays about Midwestern literature—Natural Theologies—is coming out from The Backwaters Press of Nebraska later this year. I believe this is the first critical book entirely about contemporary literature of this region. I’m finishing a grant on Cheyenne ledger art, which is amazing conjoining of image and glyphic text. I’m trying to write a memoir about my grandfather who was of American Indian background. I want to get back to some research on Langston Hughes’s family. More.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009, has 20 books of poetry and essays, including Ghost Stories of the New West (Woodley), named one of the best Native American Books of 2010 by The Circle of Minneapolis and a Notable Book by the Kansas State Library & Center for the Book. Other books are To the Stars: Poets of the Kansas Ad Astra Project (Mammoth/Washburn University Center for Ks. Studies) and Words of a Prairie Alchemist (Ice Cube Press), both Kansas Notable Books; and Thailand Journal: Poems, a Kansas City Star notable book (Woodley). She has taught creative writing and literature at Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Richmond. She is 2010-2011 president of the board of directors for the Associated Writers and Writing Programs, and she has served that organization as vice president and conference chair. Awards are from the Academy of American Poets, The Newberry Library, Lannan Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Kansas Arts Council, and Kansas Center for the Book. Her MFA is from Wichita State University and her PhD is from the University of Kansas. Her blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com and website is www.deniselow.com

Interview with Poet Amy Beeder

Amy Beeder is the author of Burn the Field (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006). Her next book, Now Make An Altar, will appear from the same press in early 2012. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Ploughshares, The Nation, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review and other journals. She lives in Albuquerque and teaches poetry at the University of New Mexico. Amy has lived and/or worked in France (student), Mauritania (Peace Corps teacher), Suriname (elections) and Haiti (elections and human rights observation). Before teaching, she was was also a sous-chef, a freelance writer, and a political asylum specialist. She has been teaching at the University of New Mexico for ten years, is married and has two daughters.

1, Tell me a little bit about your history with poetry – the when, why and how of your experience.

A. Like most writers/poets, I started writing when I was in grade school: mostly poetry. I also took poetry workshops in college, but I never even thought of trying to publish anywhere beyond the small departmental magazine.

I spent a lot of time after college (and then after graduate school) working overseas or in DC . I never wrote anything but journals during those years

Basically, poetry remained an occasional hobby until I went to graduate school. There, even though my major was literature, I started taking workshops with a poet named Gerald Barrax. That’s when I started writing seriously.  A few years later (after another stint in Haiti), I decided I wanted to publish−a sudden mania!−and started sending out to magazines and contests. My big break came when I won the “Discovery”/The Nation Award in 2011. On the strength of that I was hired as an adjunct to teach poetry at UNM, which I’ve been doing ever since.

2. Many writers have regular writing schedules and rituals which contribute to their writing and creative product. How about you?

On mornings I don’t teach, and after my kids go to school, I sit at my desk with coffee and a sharpened pencil (which is only for fiddling around with or scribbling notes, I actually write on the computer). Often I spend awhile looking at other people’s poems, usually from whatever journals I’ve received in the last month, looking for a word I like, or looking through books on other subjects for an idea or interesting phrase.  I keep telling myself I need to write on a laptop at the coffee shop like everyone else. But I haven’t done it yet.

3. How do you maintain mental creative space when you can’t be at your work?

I talk to myself a lot.

4. In your experience, how do writing and teaching influence each other?

I love teaching poetry, but the influence it has on my own work is mostly to keep me from it.  I think most writers, if they’re being honest, would admit this. Both writing and teaching require considerable time and dedication, and both are kind of intoxicating when things are going well. It’s easy to let teaching push writing out of the way.

There’s a great essay by Stephen Dunn called “The Poet as Teacher: Virtues and Vices,” in which he says that teaching can’t hurt your writing as long as you remain more of a poet than a teacher.  I try to keep this in mind. If a poem is going well and I need to keep writing, the lesson plan, critique, grading, etc., can wait a day or two.

5. Tell me about any current or upcoming projects you are working one or hope to begin working on. How do your early creative dreams guide and inform these projects?

My second book, Now Make An Altar, will come out either late this year or in January 2012.  I am working on the third book, which will probably take a few years. I write slowly.

Read more about Amy Beeder at The Poetry Foundation. “The Sunday Poem” by Amy can be read at Duke City Fix

A copy of Amy’s book Burn the Field can be purchased at Amazon.com

Poet Interview: Colleen Maynard

I met Colleen Maynard in Kansas City when I attended a poetry group at the Writers Place for which Colleen was facilitator. I felt an immediate affinity for Colleen and her style for approaching poetry, which is both perceptive and intuitive. We became friends outside of the group and though she is now in Illinois and I in New Mexico, we remain in correspondence and feel certain our paths will cross again some day. Colleen is among the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever known and one of the many friends I am happy to have made during my eleven-month stay in Kansas City. I love what Colleen shares in her interview about living the artist’s life

Here is Colleen’s poem, Kindling Walk, followed by our interview together. I’ve also included Colleen’s professional bio.

Enjoy!

Kindling Walk
by Colleen Maynard

1.
After several blocks
the welts from the sticks
began to sear our cheeks.
So we decided we had gathered
enough kindling from the front lawns.
The red door loomed around the bend
just as
one stick pierced Nora’s stockings.

2.
He took injured and dying things with him
in the space underneath the scraggly pine trees.
The way he spoke to them,
there was a certain prodding in his voice
that inspired shy kids to speak.
Coming outside from the warm house,
it was so dark he felt like whispering.

Other of Colleen’s writings can be found at Fiction 365

I know that you are a visual artist in addition to being a poet. Discuss how visual art and poetry intersect or synthesize for you. 

As both writer and visual artist, words, images and ideas fuel my interest in the world. As a writer, my training as a visual artist remains firm, and as an artist I return to words and collecting. Growing up I burrowed into books and invented movie sets for their protagonists, i.e. re-fabricating a babysitter’s house as the creepy mansion in Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, or the local Detroit Art Institute as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in From the Mixed up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler. I also inherited my parents’ love of old movies; by nine, my siblings and I were creating our own scripts, songs and choreography to perform and film. These performances had a gloss of imagination I applied to my life. I began noticing richness in place and site. I started writing poetry, where my characters lived in these exaggerated worlds yet held fast to some sort of transcendence or escape. My visual work focuses on technique and process, drawing attention to things like landscape and language. Lately I have been working on a body of work using tiny, accumulative pinpricks to create short, prose-like sentences upon paper. The writing and art-making play nice together. I cannot do one without the other and having two loves makes me feel less limited.

Do you have any practices or rituals which help inspire you to work on your art?

I wish I could say I’ve got down a morning routine–the writer in me most appeals to mornings–but my visual artist side tends to be more nocturnal, so I’m a little bipolar in my practice. Overall though, when I need to write or make something with my hands I react as quickly to it as possible–usually giving myself a 24 or 48 hour period to do it in. I find to get that extra surge of motivation I often need to write or create, I have to do something physical–a hard bike ride or short run helps without fail. It gets me out of the house, into a density of experience, and thinking in concise, fast terms.

How do you make certain to spend time on your art or writing on a regular basis?

It’s important to balance out research/inspiration and actually doing the work. When I’m strapped for time or low on energy I allow myself to hibernate, using the time to read, take notes, look up artists and materials, reconnect with any friends I may have neglected, etc… it’s important to have real-life experience from which to reflect your work. It’s easy to get lost in the big picture thinking at times– “in order to be the writer/artist I want to be, I have to work harder, be there more often”–but let’s face it, it’s crippling to put yourself and your work on such a pedestal. By breaking it into steps– “today, I’m going to spend 40 minutes in studio, edit one poem, and send it off to one journal” –it feels more fluid and honest–not to mention doable and tactile, which, I have to remind myself at times, is the main reason I create; to get messy, to get to carry it over to another day as an integral part of my life. Living a real artist’s life, I think, is much more heroic than creating a masterpiece that hangs in a museum.

While most poetry doesn’t fit into any specific genre or adhere to any one description, there are useful ways to describe its aesthetics. Can you describe the aesthetic that your poems speak to or exemplify?

Much like children that grew up idolizing books and movies, the characters in my bodies of work constantly confront their expectancy for larger-than-life physicality and emotions, and the alternating euphoria and discrepancies that emerge from this expectancy. I’m attracted to human vulnerability and moments of violence counteracted by calm narratives. My work comes off soft-spoken and not developed to shock the eye, yet once read, precise and unforgiving.

Tell me about your future projects.

As well as continuing the pin-prick on paper series, I’m doing a lot of fine-line drawings using pen, ink and collage that center around the idea of a child’s version of a fictional landscape (i.e. miniature dollhouse and plastic toys amongst items a bird might scavenge in an urban setting for its nest). I’m lately drawn to cast-off toys that I grew up with  and re-examining the relationships I had to them (toy as child, toy as talisman, toy as obligation, etc.). I’m also working on more narratives in the same vein as my 2010 self-published chapbook, Tiny Things, with its various girls and their ways of experiencing that adults often do not.

——-

Bio:

Colleen Maynard is a poet and visual artist. She is a 2007 graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute and has taught visual and language arts at the Mattie Rhodes Art Center in Kansas City. Her writing has previously been published in such places as the Australian-based Ceramic Art and Perception, and she is currently making a chapbook containing prose and drawings.