Category Archives: queer poetry

A Virtual Interview with David Meischen

Background

Thursday, July 9, 2020  7:15 – 9:00 p.m. — Contact bookwoman2ndthursdaypoetry@gmail.com for meeting information.

Feature David Meischen has been honored by a Pushcart Prize for “How to Shoot at Someone Who Outdrew You,” a chapter of his memoir, originally published in The Gettysburg Review and available in Pushcart Prize XLIIAnyone’s Son, David’s debut poetry collection, is new from 3: A Taos Press. A lifelong storyteller, he received the 2017 Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story from the Texas Institute of Letters. Storylandia, Issue 34, currently available, is entirely devoted to David’s fiction: The Distance Between Here and Elsewhere: Three Stories. David has a novel in stories and a short story collection; he is actively seeking an agent and/or publisher for both. He has served as a juror for the Kimmel Harding Nelson center for the arts; in the fall of 2018, he completed a writing residency at Jentel Arts. Co-founder and Managing Editor of Dos Gatos Press, David lives in Albuquerque, NM, with his husband—also his co-publisher and co-editor—Scott Wiggerman.

Cindy Huyser hosts; an open mic follows. Zoom connection info available from bookwoman2ndthursdaypoetry@gmail.com.

The Interview

CH: When did you start thinking of yourself as a writer. What is your first memory of poetry?

DM: I wanted to be a writer as soon as I knew what writing was. I wanted to write grand romantic novels in the tradition of the biblical epics that dominated movie screens when I was young. I spent years daydreaming one of them, including the title—Weep Not for Me—about Veronica, the woman who handed her veil to Jesus as he carried the cross, so that he might wipe his face. Not a word of this story ever made it onto a page. As for poetry, the first poem that captured my imagination was Longfellow’s “The Wreck of the Hesperus.” Along about fifth grade, I memorized every single stanza—twenty two of them. To this day, some of the lines come back to me.

CH: You’ve had success in a variety of writing genres, including a Pushcart Prize for memoir-in-progress, publication of and awards for a number of short stories, and now this collection of poetry. How would you describe yourself as a writer?

DM: I would not call myself a poet. I find the writing of poems deeply engaging but I would say the same about writing essays, a serious pursuit since my first semester of college English more than fifty years ago. Poetry came later, in my mid-thirties—and fiction in my mid-fifties. What ties them all together—essay, poetry, fiction—is narrative. I am a born storyteller. When I sit down to write, almost without exception, I hear a voice that wants to tell a story. I follow that voice.

CH: Your new full-length poetry collection, Anyone’s Son, is your first. How did this project come together? Over what period of time were these poems written?

DM: In my mid-forties, trying to acknowledge and then embrace myself as a gay man, I found that I was writing poems about identity, about gay identity, about gay experiences. The earliest of the poems in Anyone’s Son was drafted—in rough form—in 1992. About four years ago, I saw that I had enough “identity” poems for a chapbook. And then perhaps a collection. One member of my poetry critique group encouraged me to keep writing poems for this collection. Another read all the poems I thought I wanted to include and helped me see how I might shape them. Andrea Watson, at 3: A Taos Press, twice asked me the difficult questions I needed to re-organize and re-order, to write new poems to fill gaps she could identify for me.

CH: As someone who grew up in rural south Texas at a time when repression of gay expression was the norm, what is it like to have Anyone’s Son out in the world?

DM: Since the release of Anyone’s Son, two straight male friends my age have written to me, praising the collection, and explaining how the poems resonate with their own experiences, their own anxieties over sex, as they came of age. I can’t tell you how affirming it is to hear from these men that at our core we share something. Their testimonials make me feel that I chose the right title: Anyone’s Son.

CH: A few years ago, you left Austin behind for Albuquerque, and it wasn’t long before Dos Gatos Press found another publisher to take on The Texas Poetry Calendar. What’s changed in your literary life since moving to Albuquerque? Do you see changes in your writing because of it?

DM: I moved here with my husband. Think what it means for me, having grown up in remote rural South Texas, decades ago to claim the word husband. New Mexico gave me physical distance—and the perspective that goes with it. It gave me a new landscape. It gave me the space to approach memoir with confidence, to write the difficult poems for Anyone’s Son—to write them without fear. To celebrate myself and my husband.

CH: You’ve landed some residencies in the last few years. What does the residency experience give a writer? How have those experiences shaped your work?

DM: In the past decade I’ve had two residencies at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Institute for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and one at Jentel Arts, near Sheridan, Wyoming. Both offered two invaluable gifts: time and the company of writers and artists who love what they are doing. In the fall of 2015, in Nebraska, City, because I had whole days of uninterrupted time, I sat down one morning and wrote a paragraph about the day I learned of Hank Locklin’s death. This paragraph led me to a childhood memory of washing the family car while country music poured out of my father’s transistor radio, and that memory took me to the dance hall in my home town. Days later, I had a narrative essay of some 5500 words, looping forward and back through time. The magic here was in the time I was given to write—and the infectious enthusiasm of the five young artists in residency with me. I got to read portions of my essay at a monthly event hosted by the Center. And then my good luck compounded. The Gettysburg Review published this piece and nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. The Pushcart folks selected it for Pushcart XLII. I credit the residency.

CH: Tell us a little about the novel in stories you’re circulating, and the short story collection. What drew you to the “novel in stories” form?

DM: In the summer of 1994, I set out to write a short story set in a small town in South Texas. I did not want to get stuck in my own home town of Orange Grove. I wanted the freedom of a fictional town, my own creation. I wanted intimations of drought-tolerant vegetation. The Spanish word nopalito, meaning prickly pear cactus leaf, suggested itself, and Nopalito, Texas was born. As an MFA student a decade later, I found myself returning to Nopalito. At some point, I could see characters and stories coalescing. I wrote more Nopalito stories. I tinkered with groupings, with sequencing. Nopalito: A Novel in Stories has gone through two major revision stages. Currently, it is seeking a publisher.

CH: What are you working on right now?

DM: I have an almost finished memoir. One of the chapters has been especially thorny. It needs a return visit. My fascination with pantoums continues apace. I want to write more of those. Lately, I am examining my fascination with place. I have the beginnings of a chapbook—poems set along the county road where I grew up. I’d like to set up and teach a course via Zoom—Place in Poems—six Saturday sessions exploring how poets do place, how place serves their poems. Stay tuned . . .

CH: What’s the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

DM: The last time I flew, coming up out of San Antonio, I opened Bruce Snider’s Fruit and quite simply disappeared into the poems. The title poem begins with a bowl of peaches in the narrator’s adolescent art class and moves immediately into memories of the class bully, memories of attraction to the class bully. Eight of the poems are titled “Childless,” in which the narrator ponders the biological impossibility of two men bearing a child, no matter how close their relationship. Snider’s language in this collection, his insights, are quite simply revelatory. Put your hands on a copy of Fruit. You will not be disappointed.

A Virtual Interview with Robin Carstensen

Robin Carstensen will be the featured reader Thursday, August 8, 2019 from 7:15 – 9:00 p.m. at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar #A-105, Austin, TX),

Robin Carstensen’s chapbook, In the Temple of Shining Mercy received the annual first-place award by Iron Horse Literary Press in 2016, and published in 2017.  Poems are also published in BorderSenses, Southern Humanities Review, Voices de La Luna, Demeter Press’s anthology, Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland, and many more. She directs the creative writing program at Texas A&M University-CC where she is the senior editor for The Windward Review: literary journal of the South Texas Coastal Bend, and is co-founding, senior editor of the Switchgrass Review: literary journal of health and transformation in partnership with the Coastal Bend Wellness Medical Center.

The Interview

CH: What is your first memory of poetry? As a young person, what about poetry engaged you? 

RC: Cat in the Hat books, nursery rhymes, jumping-rope rhymes, school yard rhymes, and songs.  I think the pleasure in sumptuous language engaged me.

CH: When did you first begin to think of yourself as a writer? A poet?

RC: In my early memory scenes, I am writing short letters to my mother. With as much flair as I can conjure, I am asking for something, inviting some reconciliation. Early on, I felt the power of the written word on my livelihood, on gaining parental favor. I wrote stories, plays, and poems well into the night as my parents and little brother slept. That’s when I knew I was a writer. In middle school, I wrote stories by the light of a tall lamp post shining through the fourth story window of our brick quarters in Germany where my father was stationed. At various jobs in my young adult life, I felt compelled to write lyrical exposés of working conditions or real material lives of the people around me who needed better care, or poetic eulogies for the residents and cohorts at a residential care facility who had passed on. People seemed uplifted or comforted by my arrangement of words, and by my mid to late 20s my clear role as a poet was emerging.

CH: What role has your formal education played in your development as a poet?

RC: Very important role in appreciating and developing my craft, and embracing the depth, breadth, wisdom, and teachings of our diverse poetic roots and influences.  My formal education as an undergrad in the mid 90s, after five years in the Air Force and two years at Del Mar college, brought me a dear professor who would become my writing mentor for many years: Vanessa Jackson at Texas A&M University-CC. She introduced me to a luscious sensory world where I fell in love with the Romantics and Wordsworth’s riveting stories in verse in “The Ruined Cottage.” Through other wonderful professors who were expanding the literary canon, I studied poetry. Elizabeth Mermann introduced me to the mind-blowing heart-healing work of Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera, which resonated with my life on the borderlands of heteronormative society.  In another class, I was introduced to Audre Lorde’s poetry, essays, and biomythography, Zami, a New Spelling of my Name. Her lyric, sensual description of her childhood and her mother’s embodied force in her community held me from the beginning. I felt a kindred spirit with these writers and many others, and I felt their welcoming me and my unique voice and thoughts.

My doctoral program at Oklahoma State University where I concentrated in poetry was a rich, invaluable time in my life to study widely, deeply, intensely the history and traditions, theory, movements, and authors influencing our diverse contemporary poetry. I learned the joy in received forms, in reaching for and discovering pleasure in the unexpected through structure and pattern. The pantoum and ghazal in their use of recurring lines and refrain enchant me, as well the bending and fusing of received form with our 21st century concerns and expanded imaginations, consciousnesses.

CH: You teach a variety of topics at the college level, including environmental studies, borderland cultures, and gender and women’s studies. How does this work influence your writing life? How has your writing been influenced by the process of teaching and mentoring others?

RC: Radical feminism intensely influenced my work before and during my studies in Oklahoma. A few in this long list include June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, Marilyn Chin, Lisa Lewis, Ai, and the lyric poetry in the novels of Jeanette Winterson. They teach me through their poetry, teaching, and lives to be daring and speak my truths. I learned that to create and expand knowledge is to demand and imagine better lives for everyone. It’s worth it to reach for the images, sounds, tone, the shape, pause, space, and breath of a poem to precisely convey our demands as well as our celebrations, to stand up for decency and create momentum that dissolves the rhetoric of fear. It’s worth our lives to know that if language can be used to breed the hate and violence that we see daily manifested in tragic forms, we also have language to imagine and manifest life-giving force. In the poetry of witness and resistance, especially in these borderland regions as we experience harmful political policy and rhetoric, I feel myself a part of a gathering force that is creating urgent change and that will not allow the pendulum to swing into full madness. In the meditative poems and poems of eros, in poems that soothe and poems that disturb, I also find love letters to humanity and am moved to write my own that might comfort, inform, shake someone up, help someone, including myself, connect to loving energy, community, and possibilities.

Teaching college courses and editing two journals especially brings me close to work from new, emerging, and established writers. I find much wisdom and inspiration in students, and am moved by their poems and narratives, which speak to our intersecting lives and complex challenges on a planet heaving through radical changes. I’m encouraged by their higher consciousness, daring affirmation in themselves and faith in better worlds to come, in the beauty they uncover and the love and fulfillment they envision and create.

CH: Tell us a little about In the Temple of Shining Mercy. Over what period of time were these poems written?

RC: These are semi-autobiographical poems that explore the landscape, culture, and history of Oklahoma and Texas. Intimate friendships and solitude help the speakers in these poems confront violence and embrace wild uncertainty. I’d been writing and publishing these poems in individual journals for over a decade, between 2004-2015. Since the full-length poetry manuscript had not found a publisher yet, I decided to try sending a much shorter version to two admirable chapbook series. The 30-page limit pushed me to discover a tighter shape of intertwining themes.

CH: What was your process in selecting and ordering the poems of In the Temple of Shining Mercy?

RC: Finding a story, a thread to pull them together, and which poems seem to speak to one another, and roll into the next pairing, unfolding a new conversation. (Really, sometimes it’s a mess trying to arrange, but in the end, after arranging and rearranging, something comes together that feels whole, and it’s a mystery and a relief!)

CH: What was your journey in getting this book published?

RC: Long journey over a decade. In sending the full length to many presses, I learned to embrace rejection, and to find strength and resolve from that space. I’m learning from wise poets, such as Ire’ne Lara Silva and Odilia Galván Rodriguez, who reminded me during one of her stirring workshops, to keep focused on our writing and not become preoccupied with the fame or status of publication or become disheartened by comparing ourselves with those winning the accolades. From wisdom, I’m encouraged to stay steady on my course. And I learned there are many ways to share our work, which is the whole point of “getting published.” We all want to share our thoughts and ideas, stories, and emotions. In the process, I have joined poets all over Texas and Oklahoma at writing conferences, readings, and festivals. I help coordinate the People’s Poetry Festival in Corpus, with our fearless leader and talented Tom Murphy. I enjoy helping writers find a place for their work in a journal that I co-founded, Switchgrass Review:  A Literary Journal of Health and Transformation.  I also enjoy leading a team of students to publish a journal of voices from South Texas and the Coastal Bend, the Windward Review. Along this community of energy and collaboration, I gathered the sustenance to continue working on and submitting my book, believing it would eventually speak to an editor who would want to help bring it to a wider audience.

CH: How do you nourish yourself as a writer?  

RC: I’m fortunate to have a circle of close friends who are my family and who are each uniquely artistic, kind, and encouraging. I’m also nourished through road trips, reading, music, swimming, watching clouds, movies, meditating in many forms, being with my community of poets who are my extended family, and the beautiful island campus where I get to create new curriculum, and be inspired by students and colleagues.

CH: What three things would you tell someone who is starting out as a poet? 

RC: Remember to enjoy doing your art. Be fearless in your writing, leap across chasms. Read other poets and writers across the spectrum.

CH: What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

RC: Michael + Josephine: A Novel in Verse by Jo Reyes-Boitel. An inventive, enthralling lyrical love story, gorgeously written, offering an expansive vision for the many shapes and possibilities of love.

A Virtual Interview with Cyrus Cassells

Cyrus Cassells will be the featured reader Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 7:15 – 9:00 p.m. at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar #A-105, Austin, TX),

Cyrus Cassells is the author of six books of poetry: The Mud Actor, Soul Make a Path through ShoutingBeautiful SignorMore Than Peace and CypressesThe Crossed-Out Swastika , and The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, just published in the Crab Orchard Poetry Series (SIU Press). Among his honors are a Lannan Literary Award, a William Carlos Williams Award, and a Lambda Literary Award.  He is a professor of English at Texas State University and lives in Austin.

The Interview

CH: What is your first memory of writing? Your first memory of poetry?  

CC: I was asked to write the class prophecy in fourth grade. My first memory of reading poems is rather blurry; I didn’t care for poetry much as a child; I was solely interested in fiction. The first book to interest me in poetry was Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, which I read as a teenager. I also read Ai, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich shortly after.

CH: When did you begin to consider yourself a writer? A poet? 

CC: Only when my second book of poems, Soul Make a Path through Shouting, was published in 1994.

CH: Your first book, The Mud Actor, was a National Poetry Series selection. How was this collection conceived? Looking back, what factors helped you achieve that first success? 

CC: I conceived the book as a three-part meditation on the possibility of reincarnation. I was experimenting with hypnosis and past life regression therapy during the time I wrote the book. Poet and novelist Al Young heard from others who knew me that I was working on a manuscript. He asked me if I could complete it within a three-month period and submit it to him as a judge, and he ended up choosing my manuscript for the National Poetry Series.

CH: Your fourth book, Riders on the Back of Silence, is a novel in verse. What were your inspirations for that project? What are the particular challenges of that form?

CC: I never published the novel-in-verse, with the exception of seven poems that became part of The Crossed-Out Swastika. My main goal with the project was to explore the theme of family secrets. I viewed it, after the fact, as a kind of laboratory for creating characters in verse and as a preparation for my first novel, My Gingerbread Shakespeare, which I completed last fall.

CH: Now you’ve had your sixth book, The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, published. What has changed in your writing practice over time? What remains the same? 

CC: I’d say very little has changed in my writing practice over time—with the exception of working on and completing a novel, which requires a more sustained, even daily practice.

CH: Please tell us a little about The Gospel According to Wild Indigo. How did the poems for this book take shape?

CC: I was in Charleston and the Sea Islands doing research to play Eugene in Dael Orlandersmith’s drama, Yellowman, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; the production got canceled, but then poems about the area began to pour out of me. I visited South Carolina three more times before I completed the title sequence. The Gospel according to Wild Indigo, contains two song cycles. The book’s title sequence is an extended paean to the enduring strength and integrity of the dynamic Gullah culture of Charleston and the Sea Islands; the poems celebrate the legacy of resilient rice and indigo working slaves and their irrepressible descendants (“Who better to define freedom / than slave?”). They also praise the true-life triumph of Gullah people over the systematic repression of their once banned and imperiled language. The second sequence, “Lovers Borrowing the Language of Cicadas,” has a vivid Mediterranean backdrop and explores themes of pilgrimage, erotic and romantic love, classical history, the solace and majesty of the sea, reunion, regret, and loss; this European cycle concludes with elegies to my mother and to the countless men lost in the juggernaut of the AIDS crisis.

CH: You’ve often spoken of the importance of travel to your writing. How would you describe the relationship to place in your work?  

CC: Landscape and history are ever-important in my work—not only the physical but the psychic landscape, as I often write about historical trauma.

CH: How has your work as a creative writing professor influenced your writing?  

CC: It has spurred me, on occasion, to take more chances with my writing, in terms of subject matter and approach.

CH: Who are some of the poets to whom you turn, time and again, for inspiration? 

CC: From the past, Paul Celan, T. S. Eliot, Jean Follain, Robert Hayden, Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Boris Pasternak, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams; among contemporary poets, Frank Bidart, Martín Espada, Carolyn Forché, Suzanne Gardinier, Louise Glück, Jorie Graham, Ellen Hinsey, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Li-Young Lee, and Jean Valentine come to mind.

CH: What are you working on now? 

CC: Several things at once: a seventh volume of poetry, Dragon Shining With All Values Known, a book about spiritual quest, set partly in a desert monastery: a second novel called A Horse is a Very Big Dog, set in New York, New England, and Greenland between 1897-1918; and The Book of Spanish Mentors, about my experiences as translator of Spanish and Catalan poetry.

A Virtual Interview with Sarah Frances Moran

Sarah Frances Moran will share the feature stage with Jenuine Poetess for the 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) on Thursday, February 11, 2016  from 7:15 to 9:00 p.m.

Background

Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. She was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Writing for her came out of a desire to help others and has evolved into full blown insistence on changing the world. Her aim is to poetically fight for love and harness the type of tender violence needed to push love forward. She strongly believes that words have immeasurable power.

She is the founder/editor of Yellow Chair Review whose inaugural issue is out in June 2015. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming in FreezeRay Poetry, Thank You For Swallowing, Drunk Monkeys, Rust+Moth, Maudlin House, Blackheart Magazine, Red Fez and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. Her chapbook I Am A Terrorist is forthcoming with Dark Heart Press.

Her work is equal parts frustration, hope, anger, advocacy and love. At the heart of it, she’s a stick-a-love-poem-in-your-back-pocket kind of poet. She’s a huge advocate for animal welfare and works daily to combat pet overpopulation. Spay and neuter your pets, people. She resides in Waco, Texas with her partner and their small menagerie of small 4-legged critters.

The Interview

CH: When did you first begin to identify as writer? as a poet?

SFM: I began writing in middle school but not seriously.  I mostly just kept a journal (as most middle school girls do.)  It wasn’t until my sophomore year in High School that it occurred to me that it was something more than journaling.  I began seriously writing poems towards my last two years of High School and I’m pretty sure that’s when I self-declared myself “poet.”  I realized it was serious when I started caring more about jotting poems down than taking notes in Chemistry class.

CH: What first drew you writing? How does writing influence your life?

SFM: Song lyrics were the first draw to writing for me.  I was always far more interested in what a singer was “saying” rather than singing or melody.  I was also always an avid reader.  My mother was big on making sure we did a decent amount of reading and it was never a chore to me.  I would run through novels like crazy.

Every major idea and occurrence for me has come through reading and writing.  I read Alice Walker’s Everything We Love Can Be Saved in High School and it was a huge influence on my ideology.  It changed the way I viewed the world, religion and everything really.  A lot of the ways I still view humanity stem from that one book.

Being someone who isn’t great at articulating my feelings verbally, writing has always been a way for me to get things out.  If it weren’t for writing I don’t know what sort of mental state I’d be in.  It’s a release.  I take Zoloft now to curb my anxiety but writing was really my first anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication.  It has saved me certainly.

CH; I know you have a chapbook, I Am A Terrorist, forthcoming. Tell us about it.

SFM: I Am A Terrorist is a culmination of poems written about my sexuality and about how beautiful love is.  The title comes from the title poem I Am A Terrorist which is a satire piece written in response to Pat Robertson’s declaration that homosexuals are promoting their terrorist agenda.  If love is terrorism then I gladly wear that label.  I have a tendency to use humor for serious issues and this poem showcases that.

CH: How long did you send out I Am A Terrorist before finding a publisher for it? What advice would you give other poets who are working on getting a chapbook published?

SFM: I began sending it out in May of 2015.  It got a lot of rejections (20+) before I found a home for it.  The title seemed to be a huge turn-off to a lot of publishers.  I refused to change it.  I was originally entering it into contests.  As I do this more and more I’m finding that the contest format is so highly competitive and difficult to break into.  I continued however submitting it to contests but also began researching presses that were just accepting unsolicited submissions.  I even sent to some that said they were full on manuscripts for the time being.  I figured if it wasn’t a no and just a “we don’t have time right now” then I was ok with that.  I ended up sending it to Kevin Ridgeway over at Dark Heart Press in September 2015 and he almost instantly responded with an acceptance.  Persistence is key.  It’s scheduled to come out later this year.

CH: You’ve had a good deal of success getting poems published in various journals. How do you decide where to send work? What is your submission process?

SFM: I keep this very detailed spreadsheet.  It has five tabs on it: Work Out For Consideration, Work Accepted, Work Rejected and Places To Submit.  I make sure I keep 20 submissions out at a time, minimum.  In 2015 I was just ending work out whenever I had the time.  In 2016 I’ve begun to do what I call Submission Sunday.  I aim to get 3-5 submissions sent every Sunday and I do a post on Facebook to get others involved.  It’s fun.

In my Places To Submit tab I keep a running list of journals I come across that interest me.  I find journals that inspire me, that publish work that I admire, that have themes I enjoy and that seem to have organization.   I tend to not send to places that don’t accept simultaneous submissions simply because I always have a lot of my work out at once.  I have to really really want to be in a publication to hold work for them like that.

The biggest thing is I’m persistent.  I send again to places that reject me.  That’s why I keep a rejection tab because I am most definitely going to send to those places again.  Unless they’ve said to me “do not ever send us work again” they’ll see more of my work.  I think that’s the biggest mistake writers make.  They get discouraged and they never try again.  That’s where folks go wrong.

CH: Tell us about Yellow Chair Review. What inspired you to found it?

SFM: That’s a good question.  Initial inspiration was boredom.  I ran a little literary journal when I was in High School that I would send out via email. It was at the dawn of the internet (giving away my age a bit) before blogs and the boom of the online literary world. It was a small email compiled of writing by friends and acquaintances I’d met online. I was also the editor of the school literary magazine. I’ve always had the desire to do that again and after sending out my own work to a myriad of places I began seeing patterns of things I wanted to do better. I’m certainly under no illusions that I’ve done anything revolutionary with Yellow Chair Review. I simply wanted to create a space for writers and artists that is diverse and approachable. There’s elitism everywhere, and there’s a ton of elitism in the literary world. I don’t want YCR to ever be that.

So I sat down and wrote the pros and cons of doing this (I’m a serious list maker) and determined the pros outweighed the cons. I wanted to make sure this was something I did properly and did in a way that made folks proud to have their work be a part of it.

CH: How has your work as editor and publisher of Yellow Chair Review influenced your writing?

SFM: I think reading is a huge influence on writing, period.  So I’m certainly now subjected to a ton more reading.  I read more poetry now than I ever have.  So it’s influencing in that way that reading is.  I’m also a huge believer in community.   My community since starting YCR has grown exponentially.  There’s motivation there and accountability.  All of these things have made me a stronger writer and community member.

CH: I know that as an editor, you receive and read both chapbook collections and poems. What is your advice to poets who are looking for more publication success?

SFM: I’m going to go back to persistence and not getting discouraged.  It is rare that I see a name pop up in the submit box again once it’s been rejected.   That’s the mistake.  I don’t believe that a rejection means forever.  I think it means that work at that particular moment wasn’t a good fit.  Maybe it was the editor reading, maybe it was a bad day, maybe if you’d sent it a week earlier it would have worked out.  I know that sounds terrible like, if it’s good it should find a spot, but it isn’t always so simple.  So keep sending it out there.  If you believe in it, someone else will.

Ok, my motivational speak ends there!

CH: Where do you see your writing taking you in the next five years?

SFM: I don’t know.  Everywhere?  I simply want to continue getting my work out there, see more of my own books published, publish more books for others.  Just get words out into the world.  I have two chapbooks coming out in 2016.  I can’t even imagine what 2017 will bring.  Two years ago I wasn’t even sending work out to be considered.

CH: Please name three influences on your poetry. What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

SFM: Stevie Nicks, Vivian Moran and Iva Montgomery.  Stevie because she’s the reason I fell in love with words.  Vivian and Iva because they’ve been constants in my corner pushing me to have faith in my ability and talent.

Last poetry book that I read that wasn’t a chapbook submission was Logen Cure’s Letters To Petrarch.  Hauntingly beautiful!  Truly one of the most beautiful books of poetry I’ve read in a very long time.  Sometimes those hidden gems are there in the small presses.  Support small press!

A Virtual Interview with Logen Cure

Poet Logen Cure will be the featured reader on October 8, 2015 from 7:15 to 9:00 at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) for October’s 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic.

Background

Logen Cure is a poet and teacher. She is the author of three chapbooks: Still (Finishing Line Press 2015); Letters to Petrarch (Unicorn Press 2015); and In Keeping (Unicorn Press 2008). Her work also appears in Word Riot, Radar Poetry, IndieFeed: Performance Poetry, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She lives in Dallas-Fort Worth with her wife.

You can learn more about Logan at www.logencure.com.

The Interview

CH: When did you first become interested in writing? When did you first begin to consider yourself a writer?

LC:I’ve always loved words. I grew up in a house full of books. My parents took us to the library for fun. My great aunt was an English teacher her entire career; she introduced me to many of my favorite poets. I am fortunate to have a supportive family. They’ve always valued my work and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Thanks to them, I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t consider myself a writer.

CH: What motivated you to get an MFA? How did you choose the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for your program?

LC: To be honest, I hit my junior year at Texas A&M and realized I had no idea what I wanted to do with my English degree. I talked with my English professors about my options for grad school. I wasn’t aware MFA programs existed until I started having those conversations. My mentor told me she didn’t think a PhD program would be the right fit for me and essentially dared me to apply to as many of the top MFA programs as I possibly could. So I did.

At that time, UNCG was ranked in the top ten. I visited Greensboro and found that it is just relentlessly gorgeous. I had a connection there, Alan Brilliant, the founder of Unicorn Press. I took a class on bookmaking with him at A&M shortly before he moved to Greensboro. Those things made UNCG my top choice of the eight programs I applied to. Strangely enough, it was my only choice; I got seven rejections and one acceptance. I was fortunate to be accepted at all, given how competitive those programs are. I was one of six poets in my year.

CH: How did your writing change in the course of obtaining your MFA? What were the MFA program’s greatest contributions to you as a writer? What were its biggest drawbacks?

LC:I never set foot in a poetry workshop before my MFA program. As an undergraduate, I took fiction courses because I saw prose as my weakness. I had poet-friends and regular readers I could depend on for feedback, but the immersion in workshop was a big change for me. I am a slow writer by nature, so the structure and expectations of workshop forced me to adapt. I learned to not toil too hard over the first draft; just write it. That alone changed my writing significantly. My work took turns I never expected.

The greatest contribution would definitely be the time. During those two years, I had the space and support to make poetry my first priority. Before that, poetry was something I madly pursued between other obligations. That was a tremendous and life-changing gift. I made lasting connections with people whose work I am still learning from; I was introduced to authors and ideas I’d never considered; I worked hard on poems that still make me proud today.

The drawbacks: I was 22. I know I could have gained more from the experience had I been smarter and more mature. I’m better at networking and advocating for myself now. If I could do it again, I would take full advantage of all the available resources. I wish I had learned more about the submission and publication process. I wish I had asked more questions to my mentors and the writers they brought in to visit us. I wish I had gained more teaching experience.

I think it all happened the way it did for a reason. My MFA helped me get my foot in the door as a higher ed professional (I’m an academic advisor and creative writing instructor), so my post-grad-school life has been pretty great.

CH: How do your three chapbooks (In Keeping (Unicorn Press, 2008), Letters to Petrarch (Unicorn Press, 2015), and Still (Finishing Line Press, 2015) relate to one another? Tell us a little about each.

LC:In Keeping is a spoken word chapbook and CD. It was originally conceived during the bookmaking class with Alan Brilliant. In 2006, I self-published a book, Something of a Mess. Another member of Al’s class partnered with me to create In Keeping as a companion to Mess. Together we selected the best spoken word pieces, then recorded and edited them. Al decided to move forward with the project via Unicorn and my first chapbook was born.

Letters to Petrarch and Still were written largely during my MFA years. Together, they’re pretty much my master’s thesis. I started working on Letters to Petrarch my senior year at A&M. I took an independent study to research and read Petrarch’s Canzoniere and other works, so I arrived at UNCG with this very clear goal in mind. The poems in Still were the result of my mental breaks from Letters to Petrarch over the years. The poems in Still were not written with the idea that they would occupy a book together.

Petrarch was the 14th-century Italian poet who popularized the sonnet and romantic love poetry. The Canzoniere contains 366 poems, composed over decades of his life, all centered around a figure he calls Laura. The story goes that he met Laura once, maybe from across a room, and fell in love with her instantly and permanently. There’s speculation that she was either a figment of his imagination or a real woman who was already married when he met her. Either way, this was not someone he knew personally. All the love poetry tropes we think are cliche now—her lovely eyes, her lovely hands—that’s Petrarch. His poems are complicated: he loves her but he’s furious with her; he praises her then blames her; she is at once an angel and his captor. So here’s a guy who not only changed poetry as we know it for a woman he never knew, but also managed to render perfectly so many of the feelings I had about my own love and loss.

I had so many questions in response to that. How could the work of a 14th-century sonneteer resonate so deeply with a modern-day queer woman poet? How could he feel all these things for someone he never spent time with? How much does anyone ever really know anyone else? To what degree are we all figments to each other, even in our most intimate relationships? I think everyone has a Laura—someone they love in this big, overwhelming way, even if it’s doomed or impossible or unattainable. I decided to tell Petrarch the only thing I knew about that he didn’t. I conflate my Laura with his and recount for him a single day spent with her. The poems alternate between letters and prayers corresponding to the canonical hours, which is how Petrarch would have conceptualized time. Petrarch also wrote a lot of letters, including one to posterity—me, you, everyone. I thought it was the least I could do to write him back. Letters to Petrarch is far and away the most challenging project I’ve completed thus far.

Still, like I said, wasn’t originally conceived as a project. I realized I had enough poems to make a second chapbook. When I sat down with what I had, I found the poems were not as disparate as I thought. The speaker in these poems is grappling with coming of age, trauma, loss, and identity. I won’t lie, some of the poems in Still are pretty bleak. The book is certainly more optimistic near the end. Fun fact for the Austin audience: the collection opens on a poem called “Sixth Street.”

CH: What would you describe as your obsessions as a writer? How do these obsessions figure in your chapbooks?

LC: I’m definitely a confessional poet. The poems and poets that have meant the most to me come from that tradition. Confessional poetry at its best can be liberating, life-changing. I’m obsessed with several questions surrounding truth-as-liberation. How do you be yourself? What is honesty? What can I do with my voice? How can I make connections with the world, other poets, and readers? How can I tell stories and render emotion in an accessible way? My chapbooks are all different iterations of the attempt to reach out for connection.

CH: How did you go about find publishers for your chapbooks?

LC:I was fortunate to encounter Alan Brilliant and Unicorn Press so early in my writing career. In Keeping was a very right-place-right-time situation. Letters to Petrarch is sort of a peculiar project. I wanted it to come from Unicorn because that’s part of what they do—publish peculiar projects—but also because Al has been such an influential force for me. Unicorn Press makes books by hand; they always have. Letters to Petrarch is a gorgeous, artfully-made hardback chapbook. I am honored and humbled to be a part of Unicorn’s venerable catalog.

Still is published by Finishing Line Press. I learned about the press from an editor that rejected me, actually. I received a printed form rejection with single hand-written line at the bottom: “Try Finishing Line.” I submitted the manuscript to a Finishing Line contest. I didn’t win, but the editors wrote to me and said they wanted to publish my book anyway. Finding publishers has been a combination of dogged persistence and random luck, I think.

CH: Of the authors whose work you first encountered during your MFA, which are your favorites? How has their work influenced your writing?

LC:Oh, there were so many. I was introduced to the work of CK Williams and had the opportunity to see him read. Same with Ellen Bryant Voigt. I went to AWP one year, where I saw Natasha Trethewey. I read Lynda Hull, Anne Carson, Robin Ekiss, and Terrance Hayes, among others. Good writing comes from good reading. My MFA taught me about the value of imitation as a generative and educational process. When I read, I’m always looking for ways to raise the bar on my own work. How do these poets do what they do? How can I do that?

CH: As a poet, I find community essential for giving me critical feedback as well as to help me expand my exposure to published and performed works. Post-MFA, how have you found community that has supported you as a writer?

LC: Yes, I agree that community is essential. I won’t lie, I had a hard time post-MFA. I burned out for a while; didn’t write a single word. After we moved back to Texas, it took some time for me to start writing again and find my people. I scoured the internet for readings, critique groups, and open mics around DFW. I finally attended an open mic in Dallas where I met a few people to cultivate friendships with. Those connections lead to more connections. You just have to show up. Support people. Engage on social media and promote each other. Say yes. Yes, I will read for you. Yes, I will teach that workshop. Yes, I’ll spread the word about your publication. Yes, I can help you make this event a reality. My DFW community is gracious and wonderful; I am so thankful to have found it. I do my best to branch out and find my people where they gather. AIPF (Austin International Poetry Festival), for example, where I met you, Cindy!

CH: What’s your next project? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

LC: I’m working on a full-length manuscript right now. I grew up queer in a super conservative West Texas town. The project includes a coming-of-age arc alongside poems about my hometown and the desert. So you’ve got these growing-up moments through a queer lens, like prom and learning to drive a standard car, next to poems about bizarre desert creatures, weather, historical events, etc. The common thread is survival in a harsh environment. My project is research-heavy. I’ve been working on it for about 3 years. I’d like to have it completed and find it a home within the next 5 years.

Right now, I’m a full-time academic advisor and adjunct instructor for Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. I love both jobs, but I am super busy all the time. In the next 5 years, I’d love to have a full-time teaching gig and only have that one job, leaving more hours in the day for poetry.

CH: What’s the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

LC: I keep coming back to Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler lately. I’m trying to spend time with books that are a similar concept to my desert manuscript. Smith writes in the voice of Hurricane Katrina, shows us New Orleans and some of its characters. She incorporates true stories and excerpts from the media. The book is heartbreaking and difficult and I learn something different every time I pick it up. I highly recommend it.

A Virtual Interview with Victoria Garcia-Zapata Klein

Poet Victoria Garcia-Zapata Klein will be the featured reader on Thursday, July 9, 2015 from 7:15 to 9:00 at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) for July’s 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic.

Background

Victoria Garcia-Zapata Klein is the author of 3 collections of poetry: Peace in the Corazon for which she won the Premio Poesia Tejana, Another Water Bug is Murdered While It Rains in Texas, and her latest book, Te Prometo, which debuted in February 2015. Her work has appeared in the anthologies, This Promiscuous Light, Cantos al Sexto Sol and Penguin Press’s first Latina collection ¡Floricanto Si¡; it has also been featured in the San Antonio Express-News, The Current, Backbeat MagazineThe Texas Observer and by NPR. Originally from San Antonio’s west side, Garcia-Zapata lives and writes in San Antonio’s Art Deco District with her family.

The Interview

CH: How long have you been writing? How did you become interested in writing?

VGK: I’ve been writing since grade school. I first became interested in writing in Ms. Evans’ 2nd grade class where she had us memorize and recite poetry. Before that I became interested in language when my father first introduced me to Shakespeare at the age of 3. This was also when he taught me how to read. Then I was able to sneak into my mom’s bedroom closet and read her original poetry. She was my first influence as a poet who code switches.

CH: You have had success in both slam and page poetry worlds. How do these two worlds come together in you? Do you consider yourself primarily a spoken word artist or a page poet – or some combination of both?

VGK: I feel that I am a combination of both page poet and spoken word artist. This comes together for me in that I only write about what I feel passionate about. Although I respect and admire slam poets, I don’t consider myself a slam poet. I simply read with emotion.

CH: Your new collection, Te Prometo, came out just this year from Paloma Press. Tell us about this book and how you came to write it.

VGK: I started writing my latest collection of poetry, Te Prometo, with the title poem, after I’d been contemplating how I came to be suicidal and enraged. I knew I needed to write in order to heal. At first I had the poems all mixed up and lumped together. Then it started to formulate. The book is in four parts. The first section, El Amor, starts out with an erotic love poem for my husband, “Ode to Your Giving,” and ends with “A mi mujer,” which explores my bisexuality. The second section, La Verdad, is about my paternal grandmother and ends with a prayer-like poem, “La Virgencita Speaks to Immigrant Children.” The third section, La Muerte, is mostly political poems and the last section, El Horror, deals with child sexual abuse.

CH: You have been writing for some time, and Wings Press published your full-length collection, Peace in the Corazón, and your chapbook, Another Waterbug is Murdered While It Rains in Texas, in the 1990s. What was different for you in publishing Te Prometo from the earlier volumes? How has your writing evolved over time?

VGK: It was so much harder to publish Te Prometo than my earlier work. Due to the subject matter and content, publishers were afraid of getting sued. So I felt silenced all over again when it came to any abuse I had endured. As for the evolution of my writing, I spent so much more time editing and revising. Almost a year producing it and getting it ready for publication.

CH: What is your writing practice like? How have you gone about envisioning and creating your books? What have you done to develop yourself as a writer?

VGK: I usually write late at night. I write with a pen in journals. Then if I feel a poem has come from the writing I rewrite the core of the poem then revise it. I don’t usually type until I’m ready to polish and finalize it. After I’ve written something I feel needs to be shared I put all of my time and energy producing a collection to formulate into a book. My first book addresses domestic violence, the second one, mental illness and the third, child sexual abuse. These are all subjects which people don’t like to talk about, and that is what I’m trying to change. I want to create dialogue and awareness. As far as developing myself as writer, I have taken master classes in creative writing with Pat Mora, Gary Soto, Joy Harjo, Martin Espada, and Sandra Cisneros. I was part of Macondo before it was named Macondo.

CH: Your work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including This Promiscuous Light: Young Woman Poets of San Antonio (1996) and ¡Floricanto Sí! A Collection of Latina Poetry (Penguin, 1998). How did these experiences shape your life as a poet? Where do you like to submit poetry (outside of manuscript form)?

VGK: I don’t usually submit my poetry anywhere. I know I should. I’m just terrible about it. The last anthology I submitted to was the forthcoming, Dress Codes co-edited by Tammy Gomez and Crystal Dozier. I’m really honored to be included in this project. Being included in the other anthologies helped shape my life as a poet in that my poetry reached a larger audience.

CH: Name at least three writers whose work has influenced yours. How would you describe their influence?

VGK: There are so many writers who inspire me. Three writers whose work has influenced me would be Sandra Cisneros, Tammy Gomez, and Robert Karimi. All three writers write from a deep and genuine place. The honesty is what inspires me. It gives me the courage to write raw to the bone. I write for people not academia, not for awards but to be rewarded with having an impact on someone else’s life through poetry. I want to give others the courage to share their stories.

CH: If you could go back to the beginning of your writing career—before any of your books had been published—what advice would you give yourself?

VGK: I’m not sure what advice I’d give myself other than to make more time to write more often.

CH: What are you reading now?

VGK: I’m currently reading The Pulse Between Dimensions And The Desert by Rios De La Luz.

CH: What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

VGK: The last book of poetry I read was The Possibilities of Mud by Joe Jimenez

A Virtual Interview with Joe Jiménez

Poet Joe Jiménez will be the featured reader on Thursday, March 12, 2015 from 7:15 to 9:00 at BookWoman (5501 N. Lamar) for March’s 2nd Thursday Poetry Reading and Open Mic.

Background

Joe Jiménez is the author of The Possibilities of Mud  (Korima Press, 2014) and A Silver Homeboy Flicka Illuminates the San Juan Courts at Dawn (Gertrude Press,2011), which received the 2011 Gertrude Press Poetry Chapbook Prize. Jiménez is also the recipient of the 2012 recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Poetry Prize.

Jiménez holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and lives in San Antonio, Texas. More information is available at joejimenez.net.

The Interview

CH: How did you come to writing poetry? How has the focus of your work changed over time?

JJ: I studied English at Pomona College in Claremont, California. I preferred prose over poetry at first, finding poetry oftentimes pompous and inaccessible.

Sandra Cisneros’s Loose Woman changed how I saw poetry. After reading Cisneros, poetry became someone I knew, someone who would talk to me at HEB or as we waited for the bus in the rain, and this was the real electric moment for me. I realized I could write poems about my America, poems that needed to please no one but only speak something true about and for people living lives like mine.

CH: What made you decide to get an MFA? How was the MFA experience for you at Antioch University? How has the MFA influenced your work?

JJ: Antioch University LA’s MFA program was perfect for a poem-maker like me. I attended a low-residency program, which allowed me to keep my full-time job and complete most of my coursework at home, while visiting the campus residency twice a year.

At the time, my sister and her two boys were living with me, and my former partner and I supported them. Not working full-time was not an option. People depended on me, and yet, I wanted to explore this thing called poetry, which was calling to me. AULA offered a program where I could satisfy both responsibilities—the one to people who relied upon me for survival and the one to myself. This program was particularly fitting for me, as it focused on Social Justice.

Writing with social justice in one’s consciousness, then, shapes the poems I make. As a Chicano writer, this means I want to craft poems that are accessible, that ask questions to engage us in the political moment or the pleasure of our survival.

CH: I understand you are a native of South Texas, and now live in San Antonio. Where else have you lived? How do you see the interaction between your interior landscape and the landscapes in which you have lived?

JJ: My first full collection of poems, The Possibilities of Mud (Korima Press, 2014) focuses on the Texas Gulf Coast. I grew up on the coast, in small towns near Corpus Christi. In 2012, I exited a violent relationship, and I found myself trying to make sense of my life in the only place that really made sense for me to do so: the Gulf. I spent hours among the fish and the heron, observing the pelican smash their full faces into the green waters in search of a fish. I learned the names of plants and trees, and I watched birds with a patience I had not previously known. I learned to ask questions and to let those questions quest.

I wrote the poems from TPOM during my final semester of my MFA program, and after accessing services at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center’s Domestic Violence Program, I moved with the commitment to craft poems that might offer solace or at the very least pose questions to someone trekking through a darkness similar to mine.

CH: Your chapbook, A Silver Homeboy Flicka Illuminates the San Juan Courts at Dawn, has an intriguing title, and its cover is both beautiful and startling. As winner of the 2011 Gertrude Chapbook Competition, did you have a hand in the cover design? How does the cover design relate to the chapbook? 

JJ: The chapbook title came from a poem about a guy I once knew who lived in the San Juan Courts in San Antonio. We met while playing handball one Saturday afternoon at Escobar Park on San Anto’s Westside, near the fruit terminals, not far from downtown. This guy was good at handball, much more skilled than I was, and after defeating me soundly that first afternoon, we went our separate ways. I ran into him a few more times, and we played handball a few more times, too. I lost each time. It was a frustrating connection. He liked my tattoos, and one afternoon, he asked to take pictures of them “to show his homeboy who was going to be giving him a few new placazos.” I was okay with letting him take my picture.

I didn’t really have a hand in the cover design. I’m not terribly fond of the cover, and still, I am grateful for the opportunity to have published these poems with Gertrude Press. At the time the book was being published, I had just left my ex after he tried to kill me and kill one of my dogs. It was difficult time. I struggled to pull myself through it, and negotiating a cover for my chapbook was not a priority. I let it happen. I believe the cover connects to the collection in that several of the poems reference deer.

CH: How did the title and cover design for The Possibilities of Mud come about?

JJ: Originally, I’d titled the collection “The Meaning of Fire,” however after Francisco Aragon, who was writing a blurb for the book, read the manuscript, he suggested another title, since the one about fire was too abstract. “The Possibilities of Mud” made more sense, as the poem with this title spoke to the notion of becoming unstuck, the idea “To pull out, with the entire vessel/ of Love, mud-covered, dank and more wise./ And how is mud not part of this marvelous life?” The newer title echoed the arduous lesson many of us pick up, which is the one about embracing struggle as a necessary and invigorating process toward growth.

The cover of TPOM features Rafa Esparza, an LA-based performance artist. Dino Dinco, an artist I’d previously worked with on “El Abuelo” took the photograph of Rafa during Rafa’s performance *STILL*, “a meditation on Manifest Destiny” delivered at LA’s Elysian Park on Thanksgiving morning in 2012. For more info on *STILL*, here’s a great write-up from *Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies*.

CH: The Gertrude Chapbook Competition site bio contains a link to the short film El Abuelo, which was commissioned as part of London’s 2008 Fashion in Film Festival, and in which you star and narrate the poem that makes up the film’s narrative. How does performance figure in your current work? Is the text of Homeboy Beautiful (and Other Things I’ve Nearly Forgotten But Am Throwing Punches Not to Forget) currently in print?

JJ: Yes, I would love to perform. Ever since watching Luis Alfaro perform Pico-Union in LA in the mid-90s, I have carried a desire to enact such a moment. In my most secret moments, I craft a one-person show about queer desire in the fracking fields of South Texas. It’s a commentary on small towns’ economic dependency on industries that may not have the peoples’ best interests at heart. And yet, there is need. And yet, there is hunger. And yet, people somehow manufacture happiness from scraps of opportunities. Much like love, sometimes, for some of us.

CH: El Abuelo locates itself in both San Antonio south side sensibility and queer identity, and I love the way the poem navigates and integrates those worlds. What kind of responses have you had to your work from different communities? What was the response to this film in London?

JJ: El Abuelo was the catalyst for my decision to join an MFA program. After reading a few articles about the film, I felt moved to better equip myself with the craft of poem-making. One of the first responses that comes to mind referenced me as an ex-con writing about men’s affinity for domestic work, namely ironing. The assumption that I’d done prison-time, based on what my body looks like, troubled me, of course. But there also have been fierce and empowering critiques, including the scholarship of Liliana C. Gonzalez from the University of Arizona whose essay “Queering Chicano Vato Memory in Dino Dinco’s ‘El ABuelo’” was presented at last year’s American Studies Association conference.

CH: How have you gone about identifying candidate publishers for your work? What is your process for readying a manuscript for submission to a publisher?

JJ: I’ve recently completed a second collection entitled The Goat-Eaters + Other Poems. I am hoping to publish this collection with Korima or another independent progressive press.

What I learned about preparing a manuscript was shared by my mentor Jenny Factor. She suggested cleaning my kitchen table or the floor, which is the less desirable option in my household of four dogs who believe they own everything in the house, and spreading my poems so that I can begin to see relationships between and among them. This works for me. It’s amazing how one can see connections, or how poems call out to one another as if they were lonely or needing to belong.

CH: Name five of your favorite poets.

JJ: Mary Oliver, Anne Carson, Natalie Diaz, Carmen Giménez Smith, Danez Smith.

CH: What are you working on now?

JJ: Revising a series of Juan Diego persona poems to be included in The Goat-Eaters. “Juan Diego Holds a Sign that Reads, ‘Stop Bill Cosby’” is the first poem I wrote for this sequence. I became especially interested in Juan Diego when someone asked me whether I thought he had made the whole thing up, the apparition, the roses, the miracle. I’d never fathomed it, and it has sat inside me for years. I read a Maxine Kumin poem about what if Emily Dickinson was alive today, and I was tuned it.

CH: What is the most recent book of poetry you’ve read?

JJ: Renato Rosaldo’s The Day of Shelly’s Death. I heard him read a couple of weeks ago at the Guadalupe Center here in San Antonio.