Listen to the latest podcast episodes right here:
Jessica Cuello: Does the Lyrical “I” Lie?
How do we know what other people know?
In this interview Douglas Manuel and Tresha Faye Haefner talk with Jessica Cuello about her third collection, Liar, selected by Dorianne Laux for the Barrow Street Book Prize. Her book explores issues of childhood trauma that children are taught to lie about or to hide from adults. Jessica discusses her own ambiguous, uncertain relationship with the lyric “I” when writing, and asks the question, “How do we know what others know?” As James Baldwin says, all art is a form of confession.
Listen for references to James Baldwin, Dorianne Laux, and Mary Oliver.
Lois P. Jones: How Seasons Stir the Imagination
In this interview, host Douglas Manuel gets his chance to interview Lois P. Jones, who interviewed him on Poet’s Café. Lois discusses how winter stirs her imagination for poetry (as Wallace Stevens put it, “One must have a mind of winter”) because of its mystery. Doug, Tresha and Lois discuss how poems confront readers, challenging them to use their own imaginations, and “complete” the poems as they read. She also references Lorca, Rilke, Neruda, Galway Kinnel and Joseph Fasano. Enjoy.
Edward Vidaurre: Waving the Flag of Activism
Get inside the mind of poet-activist, writer, and publisher Edward Vidaurre as Tresha and Douglas ask about his book Cry, Howl from PricklyPear Press and his work running FlowerSong Press. He talks about riding the bus to school and seeing others reading; how that inspired him to seek out authors like Miguel Hernandez, Wanda Coleman, Naomi Shihab Nye, Richard Wright, Claude Brown and others. Now he uses his writing to speak up about issues as a contrary political force in Texas and to use his position as an editor to elevate writers who might not get heard.
Kelly Cressio-Moeller: The Moon Wrote This Poem
In this interview Kelly Cressio-Moeller discusses how music, art and cinema play into her writing. As a student of art history and a drummer, Kelly describes how she created flow in and between poems to make her first collection, Shade of Blue Trees! When Pulitzer Prize winner Dianne Seuss gave her advice to “build a section” of her book, she had to make hard choices to cut out her darlings. Quoting Yusef Kommunyakkaa, she reminds us, “The ear is the greatest editor,” and as a poetry editor who reads hundreds of manuscripts, the hard work that makes things flow can make all the difference. Kelly also relates the story of her “easy poem” dictated to her from the largest moon she ever witnessed.
Ellen Bass: Try Try Again
Does a poem start with an image or with sound? In this interview Douglas Manuel and Tresha Faye Haefner ask Ellen Bass about her writing process. She tells us about ways she uses an image to start a poem and her use of tools like sound to distract her “overly logical mind” while her more intuitive mind goes to work. When things don’t go right the first time, though, she keeps trying, reorganizing syntax, talking with friends, etc. She tells the story of writing the title poem of her latest book, Indigo by writing many “failed” poems first, and only being “successful” after seeing the right image one day while out walking. There are good reasons why poets need to get out, she says, even if they are hermit introverts.
Kelli Russell Agodon: Why Poets Need Restrictions
How can you cope with anxiety? Try writing a book about it. In this interview Kelli Russell Agdon discusses her latest book. Originally she tells us that the book began with two separate manuscripts melding into one. One book was a collection of poems about the broken world, and another about the broken self. Together they become her manuscript, Dialogues with a Rising Tide, out from Copper Canyon Press. Hear Kelli discuss the way she channels anxiety into writing, how she uses constraint to help her choose titles for her poems, and why she has more fun and ease when writing with friends.
Diannely Antigua: Speaking the words that are not allowed
Were there certain topics that were off limits to talk about when you were growing up? Any words you weren’t allowed to say? In this interview Diannely Antigua discusses her book Ugly Music, a book where the speaker explores her complicated relationship to sexuality against a strict religious background. Antigua tells us about her transformation from being a girl who didn’t want to fall asleep having impure thoughts to becoming a poet who can use the word p***y and d**k. If you have taboos to break in your writing, you’ll be able to relate.
Tanaya Winder: When Poetry Makes Music
In this interview Tanaya Winder discusses the way she has combined poetry and performance with social advocacy to help others feel seen in real life and on the page. Once a student at Stanford driven to pursue a degree in law, Tanaya eventually turned to poetry seeing it as a way to help marginalized communities and survivors of trauma find their voices. Coming from a life rooted in music and ceremony she also tells us about the way she uses song and sound to help her access her poems and honor her own heritage. Find out more by listening to this podcast or watching Tanaya’s TED talk here.
Meghan Sterling: Every Child I have birthed
In this interview Meghan Sterling, author of These Few Seeds (Terrapin Books, 2022), passionately discusses the complexities of love and how profound that experience is as a mother of a four-year-old girl. She says love is, “An enormous braid of hope, fear, longing, joy, exhaustion, disappointment, exhilaration and feeling like a fraud.” People limit themselves because loving is so frightening. “In the veins of love runs the iron of fear,” but for her, writing poetry keeps her honest. Even in seemingly “mundane” events, there is a voice that says, “This means more than what you see on the surface.” If you give it space, the poem tells you what it means – that the tree is cut down, that your jeans don’t fit. The poems are under the surface of your skin.
Kai Coggin: Making the Moments Holy
Welcome Doug Manuel and Season Preview
Brian Sonia-Wallace: Poetry in Service
“What does it mean to call every stranger friend?” That’s a question poet and innovator Brian Sonia-Wallace asks as he discusses his unusual journey writing spontaneous poetry at events. In his twenties Brian Sonia-Wallace put out a typewriter on the street to write poetry for strangers and has been doing it ever since. He is the founder of “Rent Poet” and travels the world to write for others, including at a residency at The Mall of America. You can read about his adventures in his new book from Harper Collins, The Poetry of Strangers. In this interview, he discusses the ways that he, and others who write poetry for strangers find commonalities with their clients, how they write poems that reflect their feelings and the feelings of their clients. This is a rich interview with intriguing insights from the Poet Laureate of West Hollywood, and one of the more original, poet-entrepreneurs writing today.
Recommended readings and Poets Referenced
GUSTAVO HERNANDEZ: LETTING THE BOOK TELL YOU WHAT IT WANTS TO BE
Lynne Thompson: Embracing the Unknown
Sonia Greenfield: Balancing Grief and Gratitude
Nancy Lynee Woo: Living Your Creative Mission
Jon Pearson: Unhinging your mind
Creatives in quarantine