What they said to think, I thought not

I’m delighted to see my poem “Everyone in Me Is a Bird” featured at the Academy’ of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day today! This poem was inspired by a line from Anne Sexton’s poem “In Celebration of My Uterus.”

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/everyone-me-bird

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 8.36.03 AM

Democracy, Pigeons, Skylines and Such

The Journal is one of my favorite lit mags, and I’m happy to have a poem in their new issue, along with some stellar company. I think of their aesthetic as the ideal manifestation of Emily Dickinson’s “tell it slant” advice. Here’s a link to The Journal’s website, if you’d like to check it out: http://thejournalmag.org. And here’s a shot of my poem in their current print edition:

 

DJodX58VAAUACx4.jpg-large

VIDA Voices & Views Interview with Don Share (Part II)

 

I’m thrilled to announce the release of the second video of a two-part interview featuring poet and editor Don Share. Recorded in late 2015, in this episode of VIDA Voices and Views I interview Share, who reads his poems “Food for Thought,” “Eclipse,” “die Welt is so verkehrt,” “Another Long Poem,” “Hwæt!” and “Looking over My Shoulder,” as well as offering a generous, in-depth discussion of the poems. Other topics discussed are comedy and seriousness in poetry, the good faith of editors, Poetry’s diverse readership, and more.

About Don Share:

Beloved poet and Poetry magazine editor, Don Share, was a 2015 recipient of VIDA’s “VIDO” Award for his contributions to American literature and literary community. In addition to being the author and editor of over a dozen books, including WishboneUnion,Bunting’s Persia, Seneca in English, Squandermania and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of POETRY Magazine, which he co-edited with Christian Wiman, Share is an accomplished translator, whose renditions of Miguel Hernández were awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize and the Premio Valle Inclán. As well, Share’s work at Poetry has been recognized with three National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and a CLMP “Firecracker” Award for Best Poetry Magazine. Share is celebrated in the literary community for his generosity, innovativeness, and warm wit.

share-300x199

Don Share Quotes from This Episode of VIDA Voices & Views:

“If you look all over the world, at the images in the most troubled places, you see women having to pay the price for the violence that occurs. Whether it’s domestic violence or warfare or poverty, it’s women who have to convert all kinds of emotion and disadvantages into a world that makes it possible for somebody else to survive.”

“The images we see, which are real, of the world and the bloody violence and horrors of it, start with a cut. We’re done to death by many cuts.”

“Every time somebody holds a child or another person in their arms . . . that’s the level on which our work in the world needs to be imagined and reimagined continually.”

“In my experience, editors are always reading work with good will and good faith and good intentions. And those good intentions don’t just pave the road to hell. People are reading the work when they could be doing something else, perhaps to benefit their own careers. And they do so willingly. It’s not a sacrifice. We all do it because we choose to do it. And we’re lucky to do so. What I hope is that the good faith is communicable.”

“If I like a poet’s work, I buy their books because it means so much, not just to the poets but to the presses that try so hard to put the work out there. I buy books because I believe in that. If we aren’t buying each other’s books then the whole system falls apart.”

“I try to pay attention to all kinds of language, as we all do—not just literature, but the language that engages us 90% of the rest of our time. It’s there. It’s ours.”

“If a poem has five good words in it, that’s a considerable achievement.”

Poetry did some surveys to understand our own audience better, and more than half of our readers have no advanced degree past high school. They are general readers, sophisticated people who want to read challenging contemporary poetry every month . . . and they are there for us, and we should never neglect our understanding that our audience is what we would wish it to be and we just need to say something to them in the best way we can.”

About VIDA Voices & Views:

VIDA Voices & Views is a video interview program designed to call attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers, editors, publishers, series curators, anthologists, awards committee members, and other dedicated members of the literary community about their own work, vision, and concerns, as well as topics at the forefront of literary activism. The program seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the literary landscape and the issues facing artists of all genders, as well as to foster nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, disability, LGBTQ, economic, and other crucial issues impacting writers today. The host and executive producer of VIDA Voices & Views is Melissa Studdard. Other members of the team are Lauren Rachel Berman, producer; Samuel Caterisano, editor; and Eamon Stewart, graphics designer. To learn more about VIDA Voices & Views and to listen to our other interviews please visit: http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida-voices-views/

* To be notified of upcoming releases, please be sure to subscribe to VIDA’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCunPGWDkx4k-SiQDWaAWrfA

Feminist Lists

2017-4-5-649776658

Victor Moriyama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

I like being put on a feminist list. I like it even more when my list mates are awesome.

Here’s “8 Feminist Poems To Inspire You When The World Is Just Too Much,” with Trace Peterson, Cecilia Llompart, Judy Grahn, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Monica McClure, Rebecca Seiferle, & Morgan Parker. By .

https://www.bustle.com/p/8-feminist-poems-to-inspire-you-when-the-world-is-just-too-much-44521

 

Interview by Jonathan Taylor at Everybody’s Reviewing

everybodysreviewing2
JT: Melissa, I hugely enjoyed your poetry collection I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, which seemed to me original, strange and often sublime. At the same time, your neo-Romanticism is also accompanied by an eye for the beauty of the everyday – so that the sublime mixes with the mundane (“Washing clothes … is an act of prayer,” you say in one poem, and another is entitled “Starry Night, with Socks”). For me, I would say this was one of the hallmarks of your style – but do tell me if I’m wrong. How would you describe your style?

MS: I love that assessment, Jonathan – especially that you called I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast “strange.” In pointing out the commingling of the mundane and sublime, you nailed not only my style, but also how I experience the world. I grew up in a secular home. My father is agnostic, and my mother is spiritual with a deep curiosity about supernatural mysteries. We didn’t go to church, but I would sit at the top of the jungle gym in my back yard and talk to god. I believed and still believe that god is in my backyard. That’s part of it. Also, there’s something a monk said to me years ago when I was learning Buddhist meditation. He said, “When you learn to relax inside your mind, you can be on permanent vacation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” You don’t need to go anywhere or seek anything. The beach, the flower, the mountain – they are all inside you. So, yes, I carry them with me when I vacuum and put on socks. Then I realize that vacuum cleaners and socks are sublime too. So, I think I would describe my style as you have, except to also possibly add that I think figuratively. I’m sure I have driven people crazy with my constant metaphors and analogies in everyday conversation, but if I want to understand or explain something, my mind almost always reaches for a comparison.

JT: Clearly, there’s a lot of cosmic and creation imagery in the collection.  What themes and ideas were you exploring in this respect?

MS: I was exploring a feminine, cyclical conception of god, time, and the universe. Rather than fashioning my poetic god in man’s image, I fashioned her in woman’s image. It was important to me that she be god and not the diminutive or adjunct “goddess.” I wanted to convey her as the origin and the all powerful, but I also wanted her to be present in the whole of everything. So, in I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, most everything is pretty much a microcosm of the divine and the all. That’s why a pancake is creation flattened out. It’s all interconnected, all divine. As well, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast plays with ideas of reincarnation, god birthing the universe, and god attempting to parent the world.

To read the rest of the interview, please visit Everybody’s Reviewing.

 

Gregory Pardlo Interview– VIDA Voices & Views

About This Episode:

In this episode of VIDA Voices and Views, Melissa Studdard interviews poet and memoirist, Gregory Pardlo, who reads from his Pulitzer-winning poetry collection, Digest, and discusses topics ranging from adapting the slave narrative form for his celebrated poem “Written by Himself” to his family fining him for missed meals.

About Gregory Pardlo:

Known for his intellectual rigor, gorgeous musicality, and socially and politically engaged writing, Gregory Pardlo is the author of the poetry collection, Digest, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. Digest was also shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. As poet Campbell McGrath says, “These are poems that delight the ear, encourage the heart, and nourish the brain.” Pardlo’s other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. As well, his first poetry collection, Totem, was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. Pardlo is also the author of Air Traffic, a memoir in essays forthcoming from Knopf, and he is a faculty member of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Rutgers University-Camden.

To learn more about Gregory Pardlo, please visit: http://pardlo.com

 Photograph by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Gregory Pardlo Quotes from This Episode of VIDA Voices & Views:

“When the Pulitzer came along, I thought, well this is a clear mandate if ever there was one—this is a call to open doors for women and people of color and to campaign for a broader sense of aesthetics.”

“I do hear lines, but they aren’t necessarily the lines I open with. I use those musical inspirations as stakes—ways to stake down the poem—so I can have a sense of where it is spatially and how it’s operating. By the end of the drafting process, those lines are very rarely still present in the poem.”

“It’s only since I got sober that I even was able to write this book, Digest, and the whole idea of service then became something that I saw not as an obligation or onerous responsibility, but I saw it as something that is thrilling and an honor and a privilege.”

“So many problems in the world and in history can be boiled down to the simple—no, not simple at all—to the singular—idea of paternalism, of patriarchy, and how deeply that is rooted throughout so many isms and ills.”

“In the back of MAD Magazine, they had these fold over images. There’s an image that looks like one thing; you fold it over and it becomes something completely different. At some point in the last year, I was talking about my work, and I realized that is precisely the way I imagine the poems.”

“So, I get this text message saying, ‘Congratulations on your Pulitzer,’ and it’s from a former student, so I say, ‘this person is terribly confused.’”

“I don’t expect other writers to be activists or to approach their work in an activist way, but I do advocate for a kind of self-awareness . . . be aware of what you’re putting on the page. Be aware of the narratives that you’re playing into, and if those are the narratives you genuinely want to explore, do it responsibly.”

“I was thinking about sex work as the struggle over who owns labor and the kinds of labor that men profess to own and how that influences my understanding of myself as a father—and trying to struggle against that in a culture where that is the central kind of operating system.”

Voices of Bettering American Poetry Interview

What’s the earliest experience, or a stand-out experience, you can remember that made you realize that you can be yourself, write as yourself, and write about issues that matter to you? Has this been difficult for you? 

audre-lorde-sister-outsider-cover

Telling my truth as a woman and a writer has not only been difficult; it’s one of the greatest, most ongoing battles of my life. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that almost every day I write is a day I struggle to say what I really think and feel. As well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that what I really think and feel is at times so repressed by and so buried beneath everything I am supposed to be that I can hardly find it to write about it.

Realizing that you can be yourself, write as yourself, and write about issues that matter to you is not the same as feeling empowered to do so. For me, it’s a process, and the biggest awakening has been reading Audre Lorde. I’m not all the way brave or all the way awake yet, but reading Lorde shook me up and startled me out of a sort of debilitating politeness. She made me realize that it’s not only my right—it’s my responsibility—to speak my truth. I came to her late, through my girlfriend, Amy King, and I wish I’d discovered her decades ago. My whole life would have been different. I keep Sister Outsider on my desk, and I keep quotes from “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” on my hard drive. Lorde says:

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

What liberates me is not overcoming fear but taking fear for that wild ride from my gut out to the page.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

 

 

 

VIDA Voices & Views Interviews with Cheryl Strayed & Don Share

I’m thrilled to announce the release of two new interviews for VIDA Voices & Views. The first interview features writer and activist, Cheryl Strayed, who reads from her celebrated memoir Wild and discusses topics ranging from her own feminist origins to the glimmers of beauty, art, and power contained within suffering.

Cheryl Strayed is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Wild, the novel Torch, and two more New York Times bestsellers, Tiny Beautiful Things, which is comprised of advice from her “Dear Sugar” column, and Brave Enough, a collection of her most popular quotes. Celebrated for transforming suffering and loss into power and grace, Strayed’s books have been translated into forty languages. As well, Wild was made into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern and was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as the first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. In addition to writing, Strayed is co-host of the WBUR podcast Dear Sugar Radio, which originated with her “Dear Sugar” advice column on The Rumpus, and she is a long-time feminist activist and one of the first members of VIDA’s board of directors. Critics have called Cheryl Strayed’s work “both a literary and human triumph.” To learn more about Cheryl Strayed, please visit: www.cherylstrayed.com

Here are some of my favorite Cheryl Strayed quotes from the episode:

 “When I was a kid of just six or seven years old, I learned the word ‘feminism,’ and I’ve been a feminist ever since.”

“Literature is my religion. Books have been the thing throughout my life that have offered the greatest consolation and enlightenment and illumination and all the things that we go to religion or spiritual practice for.”

“Writers get this bad rap, like we’re so competitive and at each other’s throats, and I would say, ‘Yeah, every once in awhile there is somebody who is like that.’ But mostly what I feel is that we go to the same church and we speak the same language and have the same values and beliefs in a deep sort of way. And I feel the presence of that. And I love the sense of community among writers.”

“Life and literature are not about ‘should.’ They’re about who you are really. And who you are really is so much more interesting and complex and beautiful than those artificial surfaces that we all want to show the world.”

“Every decision I make is informed by my feminism. There is no separating me from my feminism. It has informed me from the beginning. Same thing with my femaleness, my fill-in-the-blankness, my being a mom. Certain things enter you that are so central that you are always speaking from that place.”

“I was alone so much, and I was always surrounded with the living world. You know, when you actually decide to believe the truth—that every tree you encounter is a living thing—it changes your perspective on what alone means.”

“The big fear around writing memoir is, ‘Will people judge me?’ And, yeah, some people will. But some people will say ‘Thank you. Thank you for showing a version of yourself that feels true to me—because I am that way too.’ And nobody likes a braggart. Nobody likes someone who is like, ‘Oh no, not me. I’m perfect.’ We like the person at the edge of the party who says, ‘You know, I’ve had four miscarriages’ or ‘I’m divorced’ or ‘I’m in recovery because I used to be a drug addict.’”

“Out of our wounds, if we can get a sense of our power, that’s where our strength rises.”

“At the end of the day, what I realized is that the people who had transformed their lives the most powerfully were the people who came to the realization that that work could only be done by themselves.”

The second interview is the first of a two-part interview featuring poet and editor Don Share. In this segment, Share reads his poem “Food for Thought” from the collection Squandermania and discusses topics ranging the power of the imagination to effect change in the world to Poetry magazine’s open door policy to language’s complicity in the mania for squandering resources.

Beloved poet and Poetry magazine editor, Don Share, was a 2015 recipient of VIDA’s “VIDO” Award for his contributions to American literature and literary community. In addition to being the author and editor of over a dozen books, including Wishbone, Union, Bunting’s Persia, Seneca in English, Squandermania and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of POETRY Magazine, which he co-edited with Christian Wiman, Share is an accomplished translator, whose renditions of Miguel Hernández were awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize and the Premio Valle Inclán. As well, Share’s work at Poetry has been recognized with three National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and a CLMP “Firecracker” Award for Best Poetry Magazine. Share is celebrated in the literary community for his generosity, innovativeness, and warm wit.

Here are some of my favorite Don Share quotes from the episode:

“I don’t know of a poet who doesn’t write out of the impulse to say, ‘The world could be better.’ That’s sort of the plot of every decent poem.”

“What we all do when poetry is at its best is activate the imagination—because to solve problems, and to create a world in which any kind of justice obtains, the imagination has to work.”

“The open door doesn’t just mean everybody gets to walk through. What it means is that somebody greets you.”

“People talk about privilege and gatekeeping, but the way I look at it, it isn’t about anything more than my having a chance to put your work in front of a really big audience—and that’s all we exist to do.”

“I ask myself, ‘How can I keep thought going in a world where everything is being squandered relentlessly by all of us?’”

“If you look all over the world, at images from the most troubled places, you see women having to pay the price for the violence that occurs—whether it’s domestic violence or warfare or poverty, it’s women who have to convert all kinds of emotions and disadvantages into a world that makes it possible for somebody else to survive.”

“When people leave the room, and the best poets have spoken to them, they aren’t the same.”

* To be notified of upcoming releases, be sure to subscribe to VIDA’s youtube channel.

 

A Virtual Interview with Melissa Studdard

She asked what I’d say to other writers, and I said, “You have the opportunity to thrill someone the way your favorite writers have thrilled you. You have the potential to be someone else’s favorite writer. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Thanks to Cindy Huyser for this interview and these great questions in preparation for tomorrow’s reading.

I’ll be at BookWoman in Austin at 7 PM tomorrow night!