Interview with a Poet: Henk Rossouw

Associate Editor’s Note: MockingHeart Review had the pleasure of discussing poet and teacher Henk Rossouw’s book Xamissa. This book examines the relationship between an ideal vision of Cape Town, South Africa, where Rossouw grow up, with its past and present. For those of us who know very little about Cape Town and South Africa, the conversation about the city, the country, its troubles, and its possible future is an education in itself.

Denise Rogers, Associate Editor

 

MockingHeart Review: As I was reading Xamissa, and thinking about the city of Xamissa, I couldn’t help but think of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” especially as in the “Proloog” you mention a trip underground and along waterways. It has a dreamlike quality. 

Henk Rossouw: Interesting. Yes, it is dreamlike, but what I was aiming for was partly about getting at the feeling of jetlag. It’s dreamlike because that section of the poem puts together aspects of the city that are either still vestiges of segregation or far flung. All the images are in the city, but I weave them together in a way that is dreamlike. Put it this way: Cape Town doesn’t add up. It’s a bunch of fragments because of apartheid. So, some of that dreamlike quality is imagined rather than real.

MHR: It seems to me that Xamissa (the book) is haunted: there are so many people in it that have been lost: Jesse, Stix, Ashraf. And even the opening section, “Rearrival,” where you describe your brother’s home with “starlings in the attic,” he’s like a spirit inhabiting a ghostly place. But you appear who has been “absent for seven years”; you’re ghostly too.

HR: Not exactly ghostly, but the speaker is certainly haunted by the painful history of the city and haunted by his complicity in that history up until the present moment. So in the way that you’re reading the speaker as ghostly is perhaps accurate in the sense that the book is partly about that the speaker is the haunter, not the haunted. The speaker, by being haunted by the past, is also the one who is haunting the city with that complicity.

MHR: There’s a poem in the book, “Twin Soldiers,” where the speaker mentions a brother born 7 minutes after him. Are you a twin?

HR: That is more a metaphor for how close we were. I have two brothers, actually. One is a visual artist, and one is an activist.  

MHR: Is Xamissa a place for everyone? 

HR: Yes, in the unrealized sense. It’s the city that could have been, the city in the 1990s we were hoping for.

MHR: And then that wasn’t possible in a way because of what you told me about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

HR: Yes, power for whites got more entrenched economically, even more than before. Cape Town in many ways is even whiter than it was before, with some exceptions, and an even wealthier city due to globalization, with the wealth primarily held by whites. So, it has not become the place for all South Africans that was imagined in the mid-1990s.

MHR: I think that from being from the United States and having seen the hearings from a distance, I’m not sure that many Americans know that that was the end result.

HR: I mean that in the sense of who has the power in the city and what spaces are still coded as white spaces. If you look at the changes in San Francisco over the last few decades, Cape Town has been through a similar change where it is becoming incredibly gentrified and globalized with massive amounts of money pouring in in terms of real estate. It’s the most expensive real estate on the African continent.

MHR: So poor people could never really afford to live there.

HR: Right, so what my brother works on is to try and force government and businesses to let excluded people of color back into the city or to have better access to the city.  In many ways, the people who are excluded are those who have either a moral claim or an actual legal claim (from apartheid-era removals) to land in the city, land that is now the most valuable land on the continent and that the city government or the provincial government have often sold without redress in order to benefit. You know, there’s talk, but no one ever actually either gives the land back or gives access to housing in the city. A good example is District 6, which was bulldozed in the 1960s and the people of color who lived there were evicted. The return of District 6’s people and their descendants to the city is still unresolved for the most part, though not entirely. There are always exceptions, but if you can imagine the kind of gentrification that San Francisco went through but with the added history of apartheid and its forced removals. It’s a double irony.

MHR: It sounds so sad.

HR: Yeah, it’s pretty disillusioning. In some ways, I don’t think it’s sentimental, but in some ways the energy of the book is tapping into the possible city we had imagined in the 1990s when it seemed inevitable that Cape Town could be a truly democratic city, open to all.

MHR: Do you think this book of poems is one you could only have written being away from Cape Town?

HR: Yeah. I don’t think I had the distance before. And, in fact, when I left South Africa I thought I shouldn’t write about it without being there and I kind of slowly changed my mind as I got more distance and I could tap a little bit into the kind of hopefulness of those times.  At the same time, the distance helped with the more disturbing turn in the main movement of the book, to look at some of the structural and historical violences that prevented that hopeful vision of the city coming to be.

MHR: The VOC building still stands?

HR: It still stands. It’s a museum now and called the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum.  In my early childhood it was a cultural history museum and it was pretty offensive. There was a lot of bric-a-brac having to do with the VOC without any acknowledgement that the building had been a slave lodge and then in the ‘90s the museum was changed into the Slave Lodge Museum and its importance as a record of what happened inside its walls was reaffirmed. It’s a really good museum now. It’s very well done. It’s not just a static museum. They have interesting performance art to do with slavery that happens there. It’s really quite dynamic, actually.

MHR: I guess I always wonder why poetry and why not fiction or non-fiction?

HR: I think because poetry allows for more ambiguity and more complexity, at least for me, in writing about a very difficult place and in my shifting subject position within it. Poetry, while more difficult on the surface, was the way to go to get at some of those gaps and fragmentation. To me, formally, there didn’t seem to be any other way to write about where I’m from. Especially the material I was trying to cover—a narrative would have been too neat and not, for me, critical enough or interrogative enough. Poetry is a better way to ask questions. I look at the book as a series of questions.

MHR: There are some aspects of it that are play-like, in that in you have a character in the last part of the book—

HR: Yeah, yeah. And it’s not an anti-narrative poem, by any means, but I think of it as a forking narrative, you know the way that there’s a lot of water imagery in the book and in the way a stream will fork. So you can’t trace the narrative easily in a linear fashion because it keeps forking—it could have been this way, or it could have been that way, so there’s much more of an emphasis on uncertainty. Poetry is more comfortable with uncertainty as an art form.

MHR: So did you start writing poetry as a younger man, or a child?

HR: I did, and economics hit, and I didn’t really have a way to go to university because I didn’t have much money, so I became a journalist, and then much later in my mid-20s, I put myself through school through journalism, so I had to give up poetry for a while, and then it was only when I was able to get access to an MFA program in the U.S. that I had more time and economic support to come back to poetry more fully. Still, there are journalistic elements in the book, which I am sure you picked up on.

MHR: Yes, yes. I appreciated all the notes at the back. They were helpful for someone who was not from that part of the world.

So you don’t write short stories?

HR: I have. I had one short story that was published in Tin House, which just closed down but was for a long time a good magazine. I just could never manage to write another one.  It would be fun to try fiction again, but it just hasn’t happened.

MHR: Who has been your biggest influence in your poetry?

HR: Probably my mentor from the University of Houston, Roberto Tejada. His work is very different that mine on the page but he was very good at pushing me to ask questions in my work. Relatedly, the Martinican poet and theorist Édouard Glissant was especially generative in the sense of the multiple languages included in my book and ways to write about the cultures of Cape Town without doing it in a dominant fashion. That was a big influence for me, Edouard Glissant’s The Poetics of Relation.

MHR: How about life generally?

HR: Probably the stability and structure of graduate school and having a community in Houston during my PhD that was open and inviting. There’s a big poetry community in Houston that is supportive. It’s the longest time I’ve been in one place, pretty much. I was in Houston for six years. It’s not really a city where you make roots but there’s a very strong community there and there were people willing to debate my work or talk to me about it and support me in figuring out what I wanted to say.

MHR: In Xamissa, there are lots of different kinds of relationships. Would you say that Xamissa is about relationships between people or relationships of people to a place?

HR: I think it’s ultimately about that the place is defined—and opened—by relationships between people. If it were just about place, it wouldn’t be enough. Place is the ground from which the speaker speaks and shows his hand as a white person but it’s also, like Glissant’s book, about the poetics of relationship and relations between people. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the book culminates in a list of names—a community. That’s the emblematic endpoint of the book. So, I think it is partly a meditation on community. Not so much about belonging as about being one among many, like among a crowd in a city, which figures in the book. Unimportant, but also part of the crowd. Which doesn’t get around any of the privilege that would come with being white in South Africa, but it was a way to write about what it is actually like to be walking around the city of Cape Town and being surrounded by people I cherish, both the brother figure in the book, but also the people of my country and the city itself. I wanted to write from that kind of shifting position of being among a crowd in a city.

MHR: Let’s talk about one poem I particularly found moving: “Elegy for the Gesture”

[The poem can be found here at Poetry Daily: https://poems.com/poem/elegy-for-the-gesture/]

MHR: How did the poem come about? Or how did the poem start?

HR: It was one of the first poems that I wrote.

MHR: Did you write it with the idea that it would be part of a book or that you were starting a book?

HR: I had no idea whether the poem would fit into a book or a collection at the time. It is a biographical poem that became an anchor to that section of the book in so far as who is speaking.

MHR: How did you decide on its form?

HR: I had been studying and translating Old English poetry at the time that had that caesura. I thought the call and response (line then caesura then line) would be the whole structure of the poems in that section.

MHR: The last line/image is particularly powerful.

HR: The last line of the poem was a real incident, but it questions the use of the gesture by the boy, who is white. The boy’s gesture of raising his fist questions whether it is meant to invoke solidarity with the workers or whether it is meant to simply imitate what the boy saw in the photo. But also, here is a boy with privilege but without power in that moment (he’s just been beaten up) trying to claim solidarity with the workers.

For an adult, it would have been an inappropriate and ironic gesture. The child was unaware, though, of larger political forces. One might say those forces are in the poem as the looming power station.

MHR: How soon did the ending appear? And when it did, did you write up to it? That is, did you create to poem around those last lines? Which lines appeared first?

HR: The ending came in the earliest draft and then stayed.

MHR: So the boy in the poem is you?

HR: The last line of the poem was a real incident that happened to me. But the father in the poem wasn’t exactly my father. My father was not a photographer.

MHR: Well, sometimes we write our family into our poems as they are, but sometimes it is as we wish they were. Or sometimes what we wish they weren’t.

MHR: Tell me about the background for the poem.  

HR: The event itself (the biographical event of the boy in the poem with the workers) happened in 1990, which was the year Mandela was released from prison.

The photo that the boy in the poem is imitating is by the South African photographer David Goldblatt. His poems always have long and descriptive titles. This photograph is titled “The Salute of the African National Congress, at the graves of four assassinated black community leaders, Cradock, Eastern Cape.”*

“Elegy for a Gesture” is a double ekphrasis in that the boy in the poem copies the gesture of the boy in the Goldblatt photo, and then the men in the truck copy the boy. I wasn’t conscious of this at the time I wrote it. But the poem is in conversation with the photograph even though I didn’t have the photo before me when I wrote the poem.

MHR: Xamissa covers some hard territory, some hard truths, but I never felt I wanted to look away—instead I felt I wanted to keep reading, keep looking.

HR: I see the book as an invitation to look at complicity in ways that are not accusatory but are as honest as possible.

MHR: Finally, what about your advice to young writers?

HR: It’s kind of the way I teach, which is to not see reading and writing as separate activities—that writing requires reading or that writing is reading so I often assign writing exercises rooted in the poetry we just read.

MHR: A lot of students write poetry but don’t read it.

HR: Right, and that’s something I emphasize a lot, that your ideas come from reading. There’s an American poet, Dean Young, who said “your genius is your error,” meaning copy all you like because you’re human and you will always fail actually to copy perfectly, so it’s always going to be an adaptation. So I think students are caught up in this idea that have to be so original, so they don’t read because they don’t want to be influenced, and I’m like no, it’s actually the opposite. The only way to originality is to be deeply rooted in other texts. Because it’s that community idea again–it comes back to the conversation and relationships between people.

Notes **The Cradock Four were four young anti-apartheid activists from Cradock who were stopped at a roadblock by government security forces, then kidnapped, tortured, and killed and their bodies burned. In the Goldblatt photo, a young African boy is standing before the graves of the Cradock Four, his hand up in a black power salute.

Link to picture: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O152742/the-salute-of-the-banned-photograph-goldblatt-david/

 

Henk Rossouw‘s book-length poem Xamissa, published by Fordham University Press in 2018, won the Poets Out Loud Editor’s Prize. Best American Experimental Writing 2018, out from Wesleyan University Press, featured an excerpt. The African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books included his chapbook The Water Archives in the 2018 boxed set New-Generation African Poets. Poems have appeared in The Paris ReviewThe Massachusetts Review, and Boston Review, among other publications. Originally from Cape Town, Henk earned an MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a PhD from the University of Houston, where he served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. Currently, he is an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly. He is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and teaches creative writing classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

One More Day to Submit!

Happy-Almost-New-Year, MockingHeart friends!

Hoping you’re all doing well! The holidays have been pleasantly calm here in Louisiana, and we’ve deeply enjoyed seeing many submissions roll in for consideration in our upcoming Winter issue! Though submissions will CLOSE at the end of New Year’s Eve (11:59 PM tomorrow), until then you can still send in your poetry and artwork for consideration!

Remember, the Winter issue’s theme is solitude (take a look here for more information about that theme).

Things to watch out for: you might remember that Associate Editor Denise Rogers has conducted an interview with poet and educator Henk Rossouw! That excellent and enlightening interview will go live on New Year’s Day 2020–the perfect way to kick off this new decade (and who would believe time moves so fast??).

Thanks for taking a moment to read this note! See you again soon. And thanks, as always, for your wonderful work in the world.

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief

Winter Issue Submissions are Open–and Other News!

Happy December, MockingHeart friends!

Submissions to our Winter issue are now open! From today until New Year’s Eve, you can send in your poetry and artwork for consideration in the upcoming issue. We can’t wait to read and view your work!

This issue’s theme is solitudeTake a look here for more about that focus–and when you’re ready, send us your masterpieces!

Also great: our Associate Editor, Denise Rogers, has conducted an interview with poet and educator Henk Rossouw! Keep an eye out for that enlightening conversation, coming soon to the MHR blog.

Have a great week, and thanks as always for your great work in the world.

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief

Our Winter Issue Theme!

Hi, MockingHeart friends,

Happy Monday! Hoping all is well for you.

Winter seems like it’s just around the corner! With the coming of this colder season, it’s time to wrap up in coziness, perhaps to decorate our homes, and to celebrate community. Something oft overlooked in winter, though, is the need for peace and alone time–in the face of so much festivity, it can be hard to take a moment for oneself.

To mark this necessity, and to give structure to MHR‘s upcoming Winter issue (submissions for which open on December 1st), our Winter 2020 theme is Solitude. One can think of solitude in a number of ways–whether we celebrate ourselves, take time for personal healing, or acknowledge the power of a single, unstoppable thought, solitude provides the backbone of these actions and more.

If you feel your visual or literary work fits this theme, please send it our way in December! If you feel it only fits on a Tuesday night if you squint properly, that’s good too. And even if you’re not quite sure, let us take a look anyway. One beauty of language is that it’s elastic and ever-shifting, and that principle applies to themes and creative work alike.

From all of us at MHR, thank you for the excellent work you do in the world. We look forward to your poetry and art, as always!

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief

Coming Soon!

Happy Friday, MockingHeart friends.

The weekend is upon us! I just wanted to pass you a note about some upcoming MHR doings.

Submissions for the Winter 2020 issue open on December 1st! The issue’s theme will be announced next week, so keep an eye out for it.

Also, we hope you’ve been enjoying our recent, excellent interviews! If you haven’t yet seen them, take a peek at these conversations with poets Gillian Wegener and Bill Cushing, and artist James Ehlers. More great interviews will be here before you know it.

Good luck in all you do, and thanks as always for your attention to and enjoyment of MockingHeart Review! We’re glad you’re along for this great ride.

Cheers,

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief

Interview with a Poet: Gillian Wegener

Editor’s Note: MockingHeart Review recently sat down with poet and educator Gillian Wegener, Spring/Summer 2019’s Featured Poet, to discuss poetry, teaching, literary activism, and poetry’s responsibility to our rapidly changing larger world. Valuable and sometimes unexpected insights followed.

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief

 

MockingHeart Review: Hi, Gillian. Good to talk with you, and I wonder if we could discuss your poetry from our latest Spring/Summer issue. In “How to Handle Americans,” which appeared in MockingHeart Review 4.2, you write, “Please read the directions before / handling your Americans. / You’ll find an Allen wrench useful. / There will be parts left over.” These lines are good aphorisms to observe. In poetry and life, what parts of ourselves become extraneous—unused or unsung in some way? How can we address them?

Gillian Wegener: Oh gosh, what an interesting question. I think that we Americans are quite good at using only parts of us that are most needed at any given time, sometimes because it is safer to leave a part of us out of the tumult and sometimes because we dive in head-first and don’t think. It seems like often we leave our logic behind, or our emotions, or our compassion. Perhaps this is a fault of humanity in general. Jack Mezirow, a philosopher in adult learning, said that often adults are quite good at overlooking that which makes us uncomfortable; we sort of let that part of our lives blur over and we are able to ignore it even when whatever it is really requires attention. This is a sort of survival mechanism, but I’m not sure it allows us to fully experience the world around us. Poetry helps with this. It needs its own kind of urgent attentiveness, and it doesn’t let us ignore the uncomfortable. Poetry calls us out and connects us to each other through its urgency.

MHR: You cofounded the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center. Can you speak to your work with the organization, and how poetry influences your life?

GW: I live in a town (Modesto, California) in a largely agricultural area that some people have considered a bit of a cultural wasteland. This could not be farther from the truth. We have incredibly vibrant theater and visual arts and music scenes in our area, as well as poetry. I helped found MoSt Poetry Center to help bring poets in the area together, to give them a shared sort of identity as poets, and to help promote poetry in our county. So, we do a lot of community events, readings, and workshops that help bring poetry to children and the elderly and to places people would not always think of poetry like juvenile hall and craft fairs. One of the things we do that gets people the most excited is Poetry-on-the-Spot. We bring our typewriters to an event and based on three to five words a person gives us, we write a poem for them right there, on the spot. We’ve probably written hundreds of these poems and every single time we do this, there are people who find meaning in poetry when they have previously thought of poetry as not for them. It is such a pleasure to do this for the community and to see the joy people get from these poems. I often tell people I work with that I truly believe poetry makes the world a better place, and I do.

Poetry is such a huge part of my life that it is really hard to say how it influences me. It has certainly influenced my teaching, my identity, what I read, and how I choose to spend my time, and contribute to my community. I’ve been writing poetry since I was in junior high, so it has always been a big part of who I am. Images stick with me and metaphors help the world make sense to me. Poetry is everywhere around us, and I feel lucky to be tuned into that.

MHR: Your poem “An Aspect of the Apocalypse, Alive but Just Barely” includes the lines “Because the hearts are piled in the corner / we can continue to delay and delay.” Can you speak to how emotional awareness figures into this poem, and perhaps others you’ve crafted? How do you suppose we interact with the world through our work in emotional ways?

GW: I do think that poetry is inherently emotional, and so I don’t think there are poems that can ignore emotion. Maybe some very experimental, fragmented work attempts it, but even that evokes emotion the reader, so emotion is just part of what we do when we create any kind of art. This poem was, obviously inspired by Brooks’ poem, but is deeply informed by my own reaction to our presidential administration and how helpless that has made me feel — helpless to stop Trump from being elected in the first place and helpless now to stop what is happening to our democracy and even to our language. And now all those hearts, our hearts, are piled in the corner while we wait this out. This is very emotional for me and for many I know, even as I watch people who are pleased with this administration have a different kind of emotional reaction. As a citizen, I can do little, but as poet, I can write my distress and share that with the world and hopefully connect with others. I think a common thread runs through some of my answers here in that poetry (and other art forms as well) create connections between humans that we need in order to be fully human.

MHR: As a longtime educator, have you found your creative and pedagogical interests working together? Also, would you share a bit about your teaching interests?

GW: I am very lucky that in the work I do now as an academic coach (I work with new teachers and on various district initiatives) I have the chance to teach poetry to students of all ages. I’ve written poetry with students from pre-kinder programs to junior high students, and I’m able to work with high school students as they prepare for Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest. I also do workshops for adults a few times a year, so I keep my hand in teaching even though I am not regularly in a classroom anymore. I also teach creative writing classes weekly to teens in juvenile detention, and I feel very lucky to be able to do this with them. All in all, I get to introduce people of all ages to new concepts or ideas or poetry or forms that they haven’t worked with before, and this is a pleasure.

As far as my teaching interests go, I really love teaching junior high students especially, and I love teaching writing — not just poetry, but all writing. Writing is one of those challenging areas of school for a lot of people. They either consider themselves okay at writing or not good at writing at all, and once that self-image is created, it is very hard to change. One of my main areas of interest is working to break down those barriers to writing with teachers so that they can help their students feel better about it. Children are pretty creative writers from early on; we teachers have to tap into that and grow their confidence and ability, so that they know writing is something they can do.

MHR: In your Poet’s Statement, you discuss how one of your favorite activities is to respond line-for-line to a given poem, and to that point, you mention that “An Aspect of Apocalypse” was inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks. Whose work do you imagine would be the most difficult and/or rewarding to respond to in this way?

GW: I find that some of the more challenging poets from the canon are good to play with in this way. I’ve worked with Wallace Stevens’ poetry and Ezra Pound’s. Part of the joy is simply paying such close attention to the masters’ works—their line breaks, their word choices, the movement of ideas in the poem. So much can be learned from that. Because much of poetry reaches for a universality, playing with a poem in this way can reveal that universality in a different way. Wallace Stevens may have thought about how the world changes when we place a jar on a hill, but how does responding to his poem line by line reveal our own ideas about how nature is changed by our presence or how we are changed by nature? Not every poem written in response to another becomes a poem worth sharing, but there is almost always a line or an idea or a phrase worth salvaging and taking forward. Rewarding is exactly the right word for this exercise.

MHR: Our current world is fraught in a number of ways—politically, climatologically, financially, and so forth. Your poems address some of these concerns to varying degrees. In your estimation, how can poetry bring awareness, and perhaps even response, to larger issues like these?

GW: As has been said so many times before, poetry makes the personal universal and the universal personal. My experience with climate change may be expressed in something as personal as the devastation of the Camp Fire last November in Northern California, which hugely impacted members of my family, but someone else who does not have that personal experience may read the poem and make meaning of it in their own life and therefore, make the poem their own. I think that is the way poets bring awareness to these larger issues. I can try to write a wide-ranging poem about abstract concepts like economic inequality or immigration or political chaos, but if I can get specific about those issues and write from personal experience or imagination tinged with the personal, I think that is going to be much more meaningful for readers.

MHR: Your sense of the lineation is intriguing—choices to enjamb or endstop a line subtly or radically impact one’s poetry, and the fourth stanza of “Apocalypse” is a striking example (“You, prone. All / curmudgeon, you . . .”). How would you describe your relationship to the poetic line?

GW: Well, in that particular poem, the poetic lines all come in some way from Ms. Brooks, and I cannot take credit. The line that inspired the one you have above reads “You rise. Although / genial, you….” So, deep gratitude to Ms. Brooks for pushing me to think about line, and in this particular poem, tone in a different way than I might ordinarily have done. In general, though, I do spend a lot of time thinking about line. Left to my own devices, I have tended to write long lines which has everything to do with the rhythm created when reading the poem aloud. In more recent poems, the rhythm has been more driving and so the lines have been shorter in order to accommodate that. I try to end a line with a word I want ringing in the reader’s brain for the split-second it takes to move to the next line, but other than that, my relationship to the poetic line is sort of that of minion. How can I craft a line that is going to serve the poem as a whole?

MHR: Do you have any projects in the hopper or already underway? When can readers look for the next Wegener collection?

GW: Hmmm…good question. I have three chapbooks sort of making the rounds of various contests and submission calls, but I don’t have a full-length collection ready to go. I recently started a doctoral program in education, and so my first thought was that poetry would have to be on hold for a couple of years. What I have discovered is that it isn’t so easy to put poetry on hold. It bubbles up, whether I am making time for it or not. I’m so grateful for this. It is such a terrific feeling to know that poetry will find a way through the din of academics and make room for itself.

MHR: I can speak to that poetic persistence as well! Though I’m in a Rhetoric and Composition PhD program, poetry is a constant companion. Could you tell us a bit about the process surrounding your writing? What environment do you find best suited to creative work? Creativity is often ritualistic (for instance, I often work best when writing to jazz). Do you have any sort of writing custom, or ritual?

GW: For many years, I have done most of my writing at local coffee shops. My family and I live in quite a small house and having a family buzzing around, while joy-inducing in all kinds of ways, does not make for a good writing environment. So, I’d go out for a few hours on weekends and write. I prefer writing in the morning, and I almost always start my writing by reading some of my go-to poets: the late Jane Mead and the late CD Wright chief among them, but also Brenda Hillman and Charles Wright and the late Larry Levis. Reading before writing puts me in the right frame of mind and often points me in the right direction for the few hours I can give over to my writing.

 

Gillian Wegener is the author of two collections of poetry from Sixteen Rivers Press, The Opposite of Clairvoyance (2008) and This Sweet Haphazard (2017), and a chapbook, Lifting One Foot, Lifting the Other from In the Grove Press (2001). A winner of the 2006 and 2007 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg poetry prize, Wegener is co-founder of the Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center, has served as poet laureate for the city of Modesto, and volunteers to teach creative writing to girls in juvenile detention. A long-time educator, she lives in Modesto, CA with her husband and daughter.

Pushcart Prize Nominations!

Hi, MockingHeart friends,

We at MockingHeart Review are proud to announce this year’s nominations for the Pushcart Prize:

“For Myself in Some Other Life,” by Peycho Kanev

“Lineage,” by Jennifer Lothrigel

“The One You Love Most,” by Nathan Elias

“Goldilocks,” by Rebecca Hart Olander

“ellipses,” by Rae Rozman

“This poison dress is simply laced,” by Thomas Mixon

Congratulations to these poets, and many thanks to ALL of our MHR contributors for your excellent work in the world–it’s a privilege to read and publish your creations. Here’s to another great MockingHeart Review year!

PS – More information about the Prize and Pushcart Press can be found here.

Tyler Robert Sheldon, Editor-in-Chief