Tag Archives: Vermont College of Fine Arts

A Virtual Interview with Lisha Adela Garcia


Thursday, June 8, 2023 7:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bookwoman-2nd-thursday-poetry-reading-and-open-mic-lisha-adela-garcia-tickets-600654954137

Feature Lisha Adela García has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and currently resides in Texas with her beloved four-legged children. Her books, A Rope of Luna and Blood Rivers, were published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco. Her chapbook, This Stone Will Speak was published by Pudding House Press. In addition, she is widely published in various journals including the Boston ReviewCrab Orchard ReviewBorder SensesMuse and Mom Egg Review.

García leads the Wyrdd Writers, a writing group based in San Antonio with participants from Kerrville and San Marcos and co-facilitates a Poetic Medicine group named Poetry Exile Group founded by Jungian analyst, Dr. James Brandenburg. She also facilitates Poetic Medicine classes in Social Justice, Archetypes and other topics, and is a candidate for certification from the Institute of Poetic Medicine.

García has served as a judge for various poetry prizes, most recently the Chicago Poetry Prize of Chicago’s Poetry Society, and has given workshops for a variety of colleges and universities. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a recipient of the San Antonio Tri-Centennial Poetry Prize. 

The Interview

CH: How did poetry and the music of language figure in your childhood? What is your first memory of poetry?

LAG: Poetry has always brought solace. My mother loved poetry and shared the poetry greats like Neruda, Machado, and Mistral in Spanish. My mother gave me Sonnets of the Portuguese for my eighth birthday when I was confident enough in my English to be able to enjoy it.  The love for poetry in both languages has embraced me ever since.

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

LAG: I’ve written poetry since I was a young child.  I however, had a large inner critic and didn’t like sharing what I had written.  It wasn’t until I completed my MFA and had a large number of publications that I was confident enough to call myself a poet.  My self-esteem needed to rise and meet the duende.  It needed to rise consistently, until I found my distinct voice in the human sea.

CH: I understand you have an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. What prompted you to enter this MFA program? How did participating in this program change you as a writer?

LAG: We are very fortunate to have Gemini Ink, a literary non-profit, in San Antonio.  They sponsored a mentorship program with known poets. I applied and mentored under Martha Rhodes, publisher of Four Way Press.  Founder and then Executive Director, Nan Cuba and Martha saw enough promise to encourage me to apply for an MFA.  They were kind enough to write letters of recommendation and modeled the magic of why an investment in a creative life was imperative.  I chose a low residency MFA as I was a single mom and working full time.  My life has bloomed with poetry and its healing balm ever since.  I am forever grateful to both of these ladies.  

CH: Blue Light Press published your first full-length collection, Blood Rivers, in 2009. Tell us a little about the book.

LAG: Blood Rivers was my learning book.  I’d written hundreds of poems by then and had never worked on a collection.  The book began as my creative thesis for the MFA and then was refined many more times.  I had discovered Diane Frank, publisher of Blue Light Press as a muse and worked with her individually when she asked to publish the book. 

CH: Over what period of time were the poems written? How did you go about sequencing the collection, and how did you connect with the publisher?

LAG: The final poems selected for this book were written over 10 years and revised and reordered many times.  I had trusted readers and editors help in the process. I believe that you always need an outsider to assist you with final edits and ordering because they can be a much more critical audience.  I am too close to my work and words to be completely objective about the experience I want my readers to have. I need help!

CH: You followed up in 2016 with the publication of A Rope of Luna, also with Blue Light Press. The cover design for A Rope of Luna suggests to me nested identities both bound and breaking free of constraints, an image well-suited to a collection whose title mixes English and Spanish. Please tell us a little about this book as well.

LAG: This book indeed broke me free of many labels.  Poems refer to the extreme losses in my life and the need to grieve but not placate the victim archetype within me. The premise of a rope coming down from Luna and leaving messages, frames the book’s sections.  It attempts to answer the question of who you are and what parts of you remain when all your reference points are gone.  I was extremely fortunate that Blue Light Press wanted to publish this second book as well. 

CH: How did your experience with Blood Rivers shape your work with A Rope of Luna? What was different for you as you put together this book? In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of a long-term relationship with a single publisher?

LAG: The benefits so far of having a single publisher is the cherished relationship one forms over time.  A deep bond of respect. Blood Rivers was a journey to Rope of Luna five years later.  I continued to write consistently and chronicle the world through my bilingual, bicultural filter. My poetry world expanded with more readings and regional activities. I’ve almost completed a third book entitled: Prayers to the Saint of Impossible Situations. In the interregnum between book two and three, the world changed with COVID and the increased intolerance for the most vulnerable among us. As a result, I chose to pursue a certification in Poetic Medicine with the Institute of Poetic Medicine and learn how to effectively use poetry as a healing modality.  Work on the third book stalled while I studied.  Book three needs a home and I promised myself to revisit it soon as a much larger endeavor.

CH: I understand that you practice literary translation of poetry, from Spanish to English and English to Spanish. Translation inevitably involves trade-offs; how do you approach the translation of a poem? What does the practice of translation bring to your poetry?

LAG: The challenge of translation is not just the translation of words from one language to another but also, to unearth the cultural context of the world of the poet. A second challenge requires a re-creation of the poem as another poem in the translated language worthy of its original song. When you are fluent in more than one language, you realize that you inhabit a bridge in a world that always needs translating.

Discovering voices that need to belong to a broader world is such an honor.  My life and poetry practice are enriched beyond my immediate context when a translated voice is allowed to enter my consciousness.  Although I can read the great Spanish language poets in their original language, where would we be as a people, as poets, without access to the voices of Rumi or Szymborska? I would not feel totally human without poems from all over the world.

CH: In addition to your MFA in Writing, I understand you also hold a Master’s in International Business from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, now part of Arizona State University. What synergies do you find between these left- and right-brained arenas?

LAG: During my undergraduate years my choices were to lead a life of academia and a PhD or to risk something entirely new and understand how money moves in the world.  In those days, not many women were encouraged to enter the world of business.  I wanted to be prepared to never have to depend on a man for money.  At that time, Thunderbird was recruiting liberal arts graduates because they were more well-rounded than someone who chose a strictly business focus. I wanted to have that balance in my brain and in my life. I wanted to be able to support myself and future children AND honor that creative side.  I am so glad that I made those choices because now I have two vocabularies, can support myself and live a creative life.

CH: How do you find and create balance in your professional and writing lives?

LAG: I find myself always working on either a client business issue or jotting lines for a poem.  It seems I never really have enough time as I would like for either.  I love my job as a business advisor as much as I love poetry.  I am always trying to find the right balance and some weeks I succeed but some I do not.  I’m just grateful that my life is so full. 

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

LAG: I’ve just finished reading, The Well Speaks of its Own Poison by Maggie Smith, Spirit of Wild by KB Ballentine and Anorexorcism by E.D. Watson.  Learned so much from each of these.  My recent Poetic Medicine classes, with E.D. Watson, were on Social Justice and Women with Rage. Our third online class this year is forthcoming.  

Thank you, Cindy, and Book Woman for this great sharing and reading opportunity.

A Virtual Interview with Renée Rossi

Thursday, February 10, 2022 7:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Event registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bookwoman-2nd-thursday-poetry-presents-kb-brookins-and-renee-rossi-tickets-230165259487

Features KB Brookins and Renée Rossi will be reading to celebrate their recently-released titles from Kallisto-Gaia Press. 


Renée Rossi’s chapbook, Motherboard, was selected as runner-up in the 2021 Saguaro Poetry Prize contest. Rossi has published the full-length poetry collection, Triage, and two additional chapbooks: Third Worlds, and Still Life, winner of the Gertrude Press Poetry Prize. A native of Detroit, she currently divides her time between the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and other places she finds compelling.

The Interview

CH: What is your first memory of poetry? What draws you to it?

RR: My first memory of poetry was really in high school English, and it was mostly formal poetry (aka Emily Dickinson) and, also, I would read Kahlil Gibran. As a kid, I read novels and Scientific American, and other arcana. I love the use of imagery in poetry, but I also am really drawn to all the moving parts that happen simultaneously in good poems: syntax, diction, imagery, meter, sound etc., and that it is a venue for the creative expression of feelings.

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

RR: When I was practicing in Boston in the early 90s I was able to take some night classes in essay writing and poetry. I was also writing some technical medical articles at the time that for medical journals. I have always written in personal journals, and sometimes it’s just snippets of images, found language from reading, or overheard conversation bits. I see myself more as a creative person than anything. I also love the art of collage making and really began to see poetry making as a type of collage making.

CH: I understand you’ve had a career in medicine, and I know that puts you in excellent company (I’m thinking here of Dr. Rafael Campo and William Carlos Williams, among others). How would you describe the intersection of your interest in human health with your interest in poetry?

RR: I practiced surgery (Otolaryngology) for many years, but I also pursued a master’s degree in Ayurveda (one of the oldest forms of holistic medicine) so there’s an “integrative” bent. I have always been interested in how illness can be a manifestation of the mind (particularly in holistic medicine) — Hippocrates famously said “look not at the disease a man has, rather the man who has the disease.”  I also believe my work serves as an investigation of our transience. In medical school, they told us we would be adding 20,000 new words to our vocabulary…how could I not use some of those Latinate words in my writing? I think it’s kind of magical to weave medical terminology into poetry…sometimes, it almost feels like code switching.

CH: I understand you received an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. How did you decide on that path? How did your studies there affect your writing?

RR: About 20 years ago I had a near death experience in a rollover car accident right after my mother’s death and I had to take a year off from working because I couldn’t fully use my arms. That didn’t work for a surgeon! I started writing in earnest and was involved in a community writing center, the Writers Garret, in Dallas. The late Jack Myers suggested I think about VCFA. I think more than anything the opportunity to attend the low residency MFA and engage with serious writers from all genres was an absolute gift, and so inspirational. We would be immersed together in writing, attending lectures, reading our work, etc. for ten days straight twice a year and it was a chance to dig deeply into the writing life and to have a vibrant exchange of ideas with others that just doesn’t happen in everyday life.

CH: Your chapbook, Still Life (Gertrude Press, 2009), was the winner of the 2009 Gertrude Chapbook Poetry Competition, and your chapbook Third Worlds was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Please tell us a little about these earlier chapbooks. What changed for you in collecting Third Worlds? What was the same?

RR: While at the Writers Garret I took a class on making chapbooks with Joe Ahearn which was fantastic. Though I scrapped my first chapbook, I really found that the chapbook length was ideal for selecting poems thematically and practically for organizing. I know some writers write thematically from the start. I don’t. I let the ideas come to me organically for the most part.  Both of the chapbooks were generated mostly from material after my MFA. The first time I sent out Still Life to contests, it received a few finalist nods. I kept revising it and sending it out again. Finishing Line Press also accepted Still Life, just as I was about to withdraw it. They asked if I’d send some more work and that ended up being Third Worlds, so the work in those first two chapbooks evolved simultaneously.

CH: Your full-length collection, Triage, was published by Lost Horse Press in 2016. Please tell us a little about this book and how it came about. What did you learn from the process of putting together this full-length collection?  

RR: About half of the poems in Triage came from the first two chapbooks and the rest was newer material. The word triage comes from the French verb trier, to sort. But it also has the connotation from WWI battlefields in its current usage in western medicine –which is to triage patients into three groups: those who will make it without any intervention, those who will not make it regardless of intervention, and a third group who will make it only with intervention. To triage basically was to identify that third group and prioritize helping them. I think it also works for poems! I put the book together keeping in mind the concept of three thematically and ended up intertwining or braiding when I put the poems together:  medical poems, origin poems, abstract poems, etc. Only selecting about a third of the poems I had on hand! I remember having printed poems all over the floor for awhile in the living room and just moving them around to braid them. For Triage, I sent out the manuscript to several presses cold and a couple contests. I really liked how Christina Holbert at LHP put together her books—it’s an art form for her, and I appreciate how the book came out aesthetically.

CH: Congratulations on the publication of Motherboard, runner-up for the 2021 Saguaro Poetry Prize. Tell us a little about this new work. What was the inspiration for this collection? Over what period were the poems written?

RR: The poems for Motherboard were mostly written after 2016, however, a few were older. I think the inspiration for this work was a meditation on the concept of “mother” in a universal sense, and I started to see poems with that theme aggregating. Everyone has a mother, and most animal species do as well. But, I didn’t start thinking of it that way originally— it came about organically as I have “phased out” of motherhood (my sons are both in their 20s now!) and am entering the crone stage of life.  Being a mother was singularly the most important experience in my life and I wanted to pay homage to that from the ground up in all its joy, trauma, trials, and beauty. During the pandemic, I had some extra time to work on revising the poems for the manuscript.

CH: How do you see your development as a writer over time?

RR: I see it as an evolutionary process and for me, being true to voice seems to be most important, whether I’m writing a narrative, figurative, or persona poem.  Writing has been a way for me to try and understand the ineffable in life, to have a conversation with the universe. To send a postcard to the universe.

CH: What are you working on now?

RR: I have become more interested in writing persona poems, ekphrastic poems, and honing the image narrative. I think it’s a real challenge to write a persona poem that maintains the writer’s voice and doesn’t sound like it’s been misappropriated or disingenuous.

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

RR: Devon Walker-Figueroa’s Philomath, which won the National Poetry Series award. It’s a wonderful figurative rumination about a ruined place. I adore the title and its double meaning; the name of a town which is anything but “a place of learning” as the place one hails from.