Unbinding the Lyrics of Being

Many thanks to Christal Cooper for featuring my poem “Astral” in her blog series “Backstory of the Poem.” I really appreciate all the work she puts into this series. She dug up and included lots of fun photos of me that I didn’t even know I had, like the one below, as well as images of and by Leonora Carrington, who is the subject of the poem. I talked about how I wrote “Astral,” resisting unhealthy conformity, and how I used to jump on a trampoline in my dress when I got home from work. Also included are notes that didn’t make it into the final draft of the poem.

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https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com/2018/10/32-backstory-of-poem-astral-by-melissa.html

The world drifts like a madness inside you

I’m very happy to have two poems on the myth of Icarus featured at the University of Leicester’s Creative Writing Blog for World Poetry Day!  These two poems have never been paired before, as “You Were a Bird; You Are the Sea” was collected in I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, while “Stomp the Ground” was written later and appeared in Southern Humanities Review. Happy World Poetry Day, everyone!

http://creativewritingatleicester.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/two-poems-by-melissa-studdard.html?m=1

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Blue Mountain Review Interview

I love the questions Charles Clifford Brooks III asked me for our Blue Mountain Review interview. I got to talk about how my grandmother took a 20 year Proust class, my mother instilled a love of storytelling in me, and my kid, Rosalind Williamson, is basically the literary love child of Franz Kafka and Gabriel García Márquez (not because of any credit to me, though I wish! ).

 

An Offering to Mind and Body: A Review of Lois P. Jones’s Night Ladder–By Kate Kingston for LARB

“In Jones’s poems, as in Lorca’s, duende and qi come together on the page in an act of passion, an explosion of energy, ensuring that the words live on in the mind long after the reader has closed the book.”

An Offering to Mind and Body: A Review of Lois P. Jones’s “Night Ladder”–By Kate Kingston for Los Angeles Review of Books

This is a beautiful book! I’m so happy to share the review!

Click here for full review: An Offering to Mind and Body: A Review of Lois P. Jones’s Night Ladder

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.

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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

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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

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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.