An interview with Alessandra Bava

LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS

 

MHR: Your poems are revelations. Do you believe in the Muse as a force of nature or supernature?

AB: I do believe the Muse exists. Whichever form it has, it is there and whenever she kindles my soul I write. I am unable to write unless I am driven to words by the Muse. I am not a writer who writes every day. That’s not how it works for me. I cannot force a single word out of my pen. The spark comes to me unexpectedly and I always write a poem from beginning to end in a sitting. Sometimes I realize that it is almost a trance-like experience. I am driven. Words pour out on the page. I myself am quite fascinated by the process.

MHR: You are a poet and a translator. Where do you think your passion for language(s) come(s) from?

AB: I guess my love for languages comes from two main episodes linked to my childhood. When I was 4 and 5 years old I spent two summers in a Kinderheim in Zug, Switzerland. The Frauleins who ran the place were German-Swiss ladies and the kids who spent their summertime there were from different countries. That was my first experience in a totally international environment. It was a sort of Babel to me and it made me consciously aware that languages were not barriers, that I could learn things in a different language. The second one is connected to the 5 years I spent in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where we relocated when my dad, who was an Engineer, was in charge of the construction of two oil refineries. I attended American schools. And, it was very much a “live or die” experience!  I had no other option than to learn the language. I remember I was quite fast at it. I guess I have always had a penchant for languages. I have learned French in high school and at University. I have a Master Degree in Foreign Languages. Today, translations are my daily bread. Languages have indeed shaped me!

MHR: What do you think are your dominant themes? I sense Love, History, Art, The Body, Womanhood- Woman-heart, and myriad other passions. Have I missed something or would you like to express something more?

AB: Yes, I guess you have captured many of the themes I am obsessed with or my demons. When I speak of demons, I refer to the Ancient Greek daimon, the inspiring force.  Love in all its facets is indeed one of them. Art and History, too.  Given the fact that I live in the Eternal city, I guess this is a sort of inevitable fate. I am the product of my historical past and my eyes and soul are imbued with art whenever I go for a stroll. I’d almost say it’s part of my DNA. The Body is a key element of my writing. Somebody told me my writing is “muscular,” I guess you can tell there is blood, sinews and heart in it! Womanhood is certainly there. Many of my icons are women and I celebrate them in my poetry.  I would always love to express more in my poems. I am attracted by many themes although the ones you have mentioned are possibly the ones I feel a closer bond to.

MHR: Your poem “Les Goddesses” gives very clear professions and pronouncements about female artistic impulse. What did writing this poem teach you that you want to impart to us?

AB: This poem was inspired by a visit to an exhibition on Contemporary Art in NY here in Rome a few summers ago. The video “Les Goddesses” by Moyra Davey was part of this show. I remember sitting in this dark room lit only by the black and white video itself and being literally captured in a vortex of images and recordings. Davey recorded her life on a tape as she walked around the rooms of her home. Her lens capturing frames of her inner life and of the changes in the outside world. Her words encapsulated what she loved most. I was touched by her mentioning Alejandra Pizarnik, an Argentinean poet I am very fond of, whose work I had discovered just a few months earlier. It seemed a sign. Les Goddesses is a declaration of love to oneself, to being writers/artists, to all the artists that inspire us. I wrote this poem in a sitting—as I do most of the times – the morning after attending the exhibition.

MHR: The body is explored in the poem “Landscape with Muse” and the lovely metaphors are succinctly defined. What inspires you to write the body?

AB: I love that poem. The body I mention in the poem is Helga Testorf’s body, the Muse of painter Andrew Wyeth. The Helga paintings are immensely beautiful and they depict a sensuous woman’s body in many different poses: on a stool, lying on a bed or even in plein air. I found very intriguing how almost nobody was aware of these paintings for a long time. How both Helga and Andrew kept their work secret even to their spouses. How the 45 paintings and innumerable drawings that span a cycle of almost fifteen years were stored at the home of one of Wyeth’s students. Those drawings and paintings are an amazing tribute not just to Helga, but to the woman’s body.  Wyeth candidly admitted that he had to fall in love with the model he was working with and you can tell! Those works simply teem with love.

MHR: Your inspiration for most of these poems are writers and artists to whom you are devoted. How does this devotion to creators sustain you as a writer?

AB: I feel a great bond with writers and artists in general. I guess the reason lies in the mutual need to recount the world via words, lines or color. Whatever the medium we choose, the aim is to depict the inner and the outside world as a present for viewers and readers. Literary works and artworks are gifts to the world. A concentrated expression of sentiments and feelings.

MHR: Do you believe we can channel other voices as poets? I do. In your poem, “Las Dos Fridas” impeccably taps another heart. Can you speak of the process in writing this poem?

AB: I hope to be able to! Frida Kahlo has inspired several of my poems. I turn to her as a sunflower to the sun. I remember distinctly how, maybe 25 years ago, I walked into a bookstore and, in the Art section, I saw a book dedicated to her. I was unaware of her work. The cover depicted a detail of her “The Broken Column” painting. In it, her backbone is a column and her body is pierced by nails as a feminine version of St. Sebastian. That sense of suffering struck a chord in me.  I bought the book and have read almost any book I could find about Frida over the years. Reading her diaries has enabled me to “hear” her voice. This is why I’ve attempted to write this poem in first-person. This poem is inspired by her painting “The Two Fridas,” basically the two versions of her same self. The way she saw herself and the way Diego Rivera liked her. It’s a big painting that I’ve seen “live” here in Rome. It’s a painting that deals with the dissolution of the self, with her divorce from Diego. I have been there myself. I have experienced the end of my marriage and I have had to put together the pieces of me that were left to move forward. I can totally relate to that exposure of one’s heart. This is also why I could quite confidently use the “I” POV in this poem.

MHR: Your poems are homages to artists and writers in “Love & Other Demons.” What does your worldview say to the reader in your best guess of what is in their minds as they read these poems?

AB:  Many of the poems in “Love & Other Demons” are a tribute to writers and poets I love. I hope to be able to convey to the reader this same love as it is, after all, what ignites me to write most of the time. I couldn’t imagine a closer way to touch my heart or to understand the motives of my writing.

MHR: In “Caravaggio-like Love” the form’s suspension is calculated perfectly. How did this poem come to be? Was it lightning fast or a more laborious step-by-step kind of poem?

AB: This poem is inspired by the very physical act of walking barefoot for a while and having dusty feet and then lying on the bed close to my boyfriend John who was asleep. The first thought that came to my mind was my favorite painting by Caravaggio, The Pilgrims’ Madonna, in the Roman church of St. Augustine.  In it, two pilgrims are kneeling in front of Mary who is holding Baby Jesus in her arms. The canvas shows us the dirty feet of the wandering pilgrims as they revere the woman in front of them.  Mary is wearing a crimson red velvet dress; whose color is unparalleled.  This is a love poem for John. That red expresses in a truthful way the passion I feel for him. It was written in one sitting.

MHR: And lastly, do you believe in absolute Truths with a capital “T?” Please elaborate why or why not.

AB: This is a very philosophical question and I could write a whole essay on it! To keep it very short, I will say that I believe I have developed a more Relativist approach over the years.  I find it more and more hard to relate to absolute Truths. Truths are indeed many.

Alessandra Bava

Alessandra Bava is a poet and a translator living in the Eternal city. She is the author of four chapbooks: Guerrilla Blues, Nocturne, They Talk About Death and Diagnosis. Her poems and translations have appeared or are upcoming in magazines such as Gargoyle, Plath Profiles, Tinderbox, Thrush, and Waxwing. She has edited an Anthology of New American Poetry and she keeps working at the biography of a contemporary American poet.

 

 

Buy Love & Other Demons:
https://dulcetshop.myshopify.com/products/love-other-demons-alessandra-bava

MHR and J Bruce Fuller: The Dissenter’s Ground

dissenter-cover-3-SMALL HALF
J Bruce Fuller’s The Dissenter’s Ground (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2017)

 

MHR: Did you envision the chapbook before writing many of the poems or did the poems come and you sensed their cohesion for a collection?

J: This chapbook was written as a complete piece and I wrote it essentially as one long poem, from start to finish. To me, it is a book of questions that had been bothering me for a long while. It is also a love letter of a sort, a love letter to Louisiana, but also a love letter to William Blake.

MHR: “It is that I have no one else to turn to.” Why William Blake?

J: Since the book came out a lot of people have been asking me this question. I’m not sure why a late 20th-century swamp kid would turn to a pre-Romantic British poet for answers. I have been to Blake’s grave, which was a dissenter’s ground outside of the consecrated burial space used for believers. I have always been interested in that idea, that even in death we can be separated for our beliefs. It seems so foolish to me. But in Blake’s time, religious dissent was much more consequential than it is today.  I have always loved Blake’s work of course, but even I find it strange that he showed up in my work this way. I think the differences in our work and times didn’t matter to me much. What interested me about Blake was his life, his views on religion, and his prophecies.

When I thought about the politics of my region, climate change, the natural disasters we’ve been through across my lifetime, it seemed to me that we too are surrounded by prophecies. There is a new warning about our environment every day, and yet many ignore or refuse to believe them. It dawned on me that in our current political climate, people of religious persuasions refuse to believe these scientific prophecies, just as in Blake’s time people of reason refused to believe his religious ones.
MHR: Do you experience a type of prophecy when writing poems or in the moments before a poem comes to the fore?

J: I wish I could say yes, but at least in the last few years that moment of spark has been more mechanical than prophetic. Either I am more disillusioned now than I was as a young poet, or I have learned so much more about the process of how a poem is created that my process itself has changed. I will say that sometimes I have an idea for a poem that needs to ferment in my mind for a while before I start writing it down. Those moments could be considered a sort of prophecy.
MHR: Do you see yourself using the device of epistolary poems in the future, speaking to other poets or non-poet persons?

J: I do love the epistolary form. I think of all the voices/personas in my poems the epistolary voice I use in The Dissenter’s Ground is the closest to my own real voice. I really was talking to Blake about my fears, and it is a vulnerable place to be. I think we can achieve much in epistolary writing. I love call and response poetry between two poets. I am sure I will continue to use it.

MHR: To what else do you dissent beyond the scope of the chapbook?

J: I mentioned vulnerability, and I think I need to be more vulnerable not just in my poems but in my life as a poet. I have been silent on many issues for too long. I laugh things off and joke around, I rarely say anything political, either online or in daily life. It’s not that I am not thinking about these issues. It’s that I have a fear of disappointing anyone, a fear of causing dissent. I am afraid to use my platform as a poet to speak on issues I am passionate about, and I am ashamed of that because so many poets around the world have had their voices silenced politically. I am very fortunate and often I am very ashamed of it. There is a culture of humility in my upbringing, and there are social and familial repercussions for anyone who tries to rise above their raising. Because of this, it is hard for me to even suggest that I have a platform. But I have a responsibility to tell our story and our situation to those who are unaware of the serious political and environmental problems we face. To speak for others is to dissent in my culture. To acknowledge that we have done this to ourselves is to dissent. It is a betrayal. To get an education is to dissent in my culture. To achieve success. To leave. To return. There is an irreversible cost.

I just got back to California a day ago and shouldn’t even be answering these questions right now, because I am particularly homesick. But I can’t hide behind professionalism out in the world, no more than I can hide behind the status quo back home. To be vulnerable is to dissent in the macho southern culture I was brought up in, but I am realizing that vulnerable is exactly what I have to be.

MHR: Are we doomed to our drowning here in south Louisiana? Can you speak to this to increase awareness for those who aren’t as environmentally conscious about the plight of our coast?

J: It hurts me to say so, but yes, I think we have done irreversible damage. The changes in society needed to reverse it are generations away. I have no faith in the government to reverse course on the thousands of policies that caused it. I hope that eventually, the world at large will come around but for us, it will be too late. Maybe it will happen when New York City starts to flood, or other major economic areas around the world are threatened. But as with many Pacific islands and many low-lying areas across Southeast Asia, we will be lost before it is fixed. This is an economic issue as much as anything else. It is too economically unfeasible to save small populations of wetland fishermen in remote areas that many Americans have never heard of.

Many of Louisiana’s problems, in particular, are man-made. We have built a levee complex on the Mississippi River that stretches for over 2,000 miles. We have tried to control flooding not understanding that floods built the land we live on. We have built canals for logging and the oil industry that introduce salt water from the Gulf of Mexico into brackish and freshwater ecosystems. We have traded meager returns on our oil and natural gas reserves for devastation to our wildlife and fisheries.

And what the outside world must realize is that we didn’t do this because we are stupid hicks that don’t know any better. Louisiana is a poor state with rich resources. That paradox is a result of the fleecing of us by Washington for generations. It has created a culture where we are the ones destroying ourselves for the profit of others. Many in my family work for the same oil and gas industry that is sucking us dry and destroying our environment. When they want to build a pipeline through the Atchafalaya Basin we won’t have the national outcry that we saw with the North Dakota Access Pipeline. There will be no hashtags. We will build it ourselves and be grateful to have the work, and that is a direct result of the poverty of this place.

MHR: In our lifetimes, we have not had an unobstructed horizon on the Louisiana coast. Can you relate personal experiences from your youth and another from your adulthood that illuminates your disillusionment that is touched upon in The Dissenter’s Ground?

J: The oil rigs on our horizon have a large role in this book. To me, they are the image of climate change. They are a symbol of beauty in a way, but they are also unnatural, and to me, sublime. I was terrified of them as a child. They are dangerous places and I have known many who have been injured or killed out there. They stand over our coast like monuments, to remind us.

I have lived in many places around the state, and as a child, I spent a lot of time in rural areas where the landscape shaped my view of the world. In my poems, landscape is a major character, if you like, and as a boy, I loved the fields and the marshes and the swamps. The woods loom large in my work as well. The thought of the loss of these places weighs heavy on me, especially because I picked a career that is almost guaranteed to take me away from home for the majority of my adult life. It is a sobering thought to think that the home you grew up in may not exist when you are able to return. I am terrified of being lost from this place forever, and Americans, in particular, would do well to remember that it can happen to us too. The immigration debate in this country comes from a place of incredible privilege, the privilege that most Americans cannot even fathom the idea of being a refugee.

Many of us learned that lesson with Hurricane Katrina, which has turned out to be one of the most life-altering events of my adult life. Many of us scattered and tried to build a new life in other states, states that if you recall, did not want us. They didn’t want our poverty, our crime, our burden on their infrastructure. Those of us who were able to return found military guards with machine guns patrolling the streets. I remember returning to New Orleans with my father and saying to him how much I thought it looked like an occupying force. But America has forgotten that too. Once it left the news cycle it was out of sight out of mind.  We had to pick it all back up again, and I have felt in the last decade that people have forgotten how nasty some people were towards us. I heard talking heads on the news say over and over, Should New Orleans rebuild? Why don’t they just tear it down and start over somewhere else? I heard people say You knew it would happen and chose to live there anyway.  Some thought we deserved it. And I won’t forget it. I am incredibly angry still.

 

MHR: “We will take drowning too far” is a powerful statement and holds mystery in that it goes beyond physical death. How did this line come to you, if you recall?

J: I think I realized that we are culpable in some way and that hurt me. But I also realized that we are a part of a system that makes us culpable, sometimes without us realizing it. These realizations led me to think about culture and memory. There are so many things we have forgotten. Parts of our own history that have been erased or assimilated into some form of new cultural memory. Louisiana voted overwhelmingly for the people who have imposed these destructive policies on us. Louisianans, whites especially, have bought into this narrative that our problems come from somewhere else, someone “other.” But we are forgetting a few things. When America purchased Louisiana they found themselves with a large population of French-speaking Catholics whom they did not want. Assimilation became law. It became illegal to speak French. Our culture was reduced to Mardi Gras beads and drive-thru daiquiris. A show for tourists. And we have forgotten. And the Acadians were brutalized and forced to flee their homes and settle here, to eke out a living on land no one wanted, the same land that is being destroyed now. And the crawfish we learned to live on is now a rite of passage for tourists who think us quaint and backward, who think we are stupid, the same people who profit from our oil, the same people who told us not to rebuild. And we have forgotten.

And now is it our turn to harm those we deem too different from us? To refuse refugees? To abandon equality and human rights? Have we forgotten who we are? Cajuns, Creoles, we too are “other,” and once they have removed all the easy targets America will remember it too, and we will have to face our own reckoning.

And Louisiana, whose land is disappearing faster than anywhere else, we have elected a man who thinks climate change is a hoax. We ourselves believe it. We who have suffered hurricanes and been told by America not to rebuild. We who have suffered floods and been told not to rebuild. We’ve suffered their oil spills, their sinkholes, their pipelines, and gotten nothing for it and still, we have forgotten. Do you think Trump will save us when we drown? Why would Americans act any differently towards us than they have in the past?

We have forgotten who we are. Pourquoi, pourquoi, pourqoui? We are drowning ourselves. Prends garde à toi.
MHR: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. How can someone purchase The Dissenter’s Ground?

J: Directly from the publisher at hyacinthgirlpress.com, or feel free to contact me via my website jbrucefuller.com and I will be happy to send you a signed copy or just chat a while.

Hyacinth Girl Press is a micro-press that publishes up to 6 poetry chapbooks each year. We specialize in handmade books of smaller press runs. We consider ourselves a feminist press and are particularly interested in manuscripts dealing with topics such as radical spiritual experiences, creation/interpretation of myth through a feminist lens, and science.

hyacinthgirlpress.com

FULLER

 

J. Bruce Fuller is a Louisiana native, and is currently a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. His chapbooks include The Dissenter’s (Hyacinth Girl Press 2017), Notes to a Husband (Imaginary Friend Press 2013), Lancelot (Lazy Mouse Press 2013), 28 Blackbirds at the End of the World (Bandersnatch Books 2010), and Flood which is the winner of the 2013 Swan Scythe Chapbook Contest. He is the co-editor of Vision/Verse 2009-2013: An Anthology of Poetry (Yellow Flag Press 2013). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, Harpur Palate, Pembroke Magazine, The Louisiana Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Louisiana Literature, among others. He is the editor and publisher of Yellow Flag Press. He received an MFA from McNeese and a Ph.D. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

MHR and Katie Manning on “Tasty Other”

MHR: Many of the poems were sparked by dreams you had. Do you find that writing from dreams liberates your language?

KM: I’m not sure I’d say that it liberates my language, but writing from dreams definitely liberated my form. My tendency is to write in highly structured ways that can feel too tidy, but the shiftiness of dreams forced me to get messy in my writing process.

MHR: Each of the poems resonates the rich aura of pregnancy. Did you find, when writing the book, that the subject of pregnancy could be further explored?

KM: I was really resistant when I started writing pregnancy and baby poems. Fortunately, I realized that I should let myself write rather than fighting against my preoccupation and disruptive physical state. Each pregnancy is so different physically and emotionally, even for the same woman across pregnancies, so I think there will always be more to explore with pregnancy.

MHR: Even the poems that read like fables are grounded in the real world. Do you consider your work in this book “fabulist?”

KM: I have thought of the dream poems as connected to fabulist or speculative writing, and some of the poems do respond to and tweak existing narratives, but then there are many poems in the book that are firmly in the realm of nonfiction.

MHR: You have created a fertile world in which the reader can apprehend the poems even as the poems suggests more mystery beyond the words. Do you think you have succeeded in striking that balance in the open-endedness of the work?

KM: I do feel pretty good about the way this collection seems fairly accessible to non-poets and non-mothers (and I’ve had a couple of men say that reading my poems took them into pregnancy and childbirth in a way they could not otherwise experience). I was hoping to capture the wonder and terror of becoming a mother, and I was hoping to capture some moments of clarity in the midst of the strangeness.

MHR: Many of the poems open chasms of fear that arise from the dangers and “unknowns” of pregnancy.  Did you find that writing these anxieties alleviated some personal fears?

KM: Actually, recording the pregnancy dreams and writing from them made me aware of fears that I hadn’t consciously realized and articulated for myself before. Whether or not writing them alleviated the fears at all, it did at least make me aware of them.

MHR: These poems do not look away. You have some very stark and harrowing images. I commend your bravery. Did you ever think of these poems as charms to ward off misfortunes of pregnancy?

KM: Oh, I hadn’t thought of them as charms, but thank you for seeing that possibility. I was interested in writing about pregnancy and birth in a way that acknowledged the surreal, painful, dark parts and not just the sentimental pastel images that we often associate with baby showers and newborns.

MHR: You use the line “Once upon a time there was a mother” as a device interwoven in the sequencing of the poems.  Do you see these interjections as creating segments, or as places to take a breath?

KM: Originally, those section breaks were a stand-alone poem, first published in PANK as “A Whole Mother Story.” An editor at Sundress Publications suggested that the poem, which takes place entirely in footnotes, might be an interesting organizational device for the book, and I ended up taking that suggestion and using each footnote as a section heading. I think it might be both things that you suggested—those interjected footnotes did create sections of the final manuscript, and they also provide those moments of pause.

MHR: In a couple of poems, we pick up on your time spent in Louisiana. Can you speak to these poems and give us a bit of your impression of Louisiana culture as you experienced it?

KM: I lived in southern Louisiana for three years for graduate school, and I had a wonderful time there. It sometimes felt like we’d gone to another country entirely because the culture is so distinct. We fell in love with the food and the many, many festivals, and I was fascinated by the pervasiveness of Catholicism even in secular realms; when we went to an omelet festival, a priest blessed the giant pan before the cooking began. One of the poems that is especially rooted in Louisiana is “Mother Mary Comes to Be,” a multi-part poem inspired by a life-sized statue of Mary in someone’s front yard down the street from where we lived. In the poem, I explore my fascination with Mary as both virgin and mother (an impossible standard for women, incidentally), and I had a good time imagining Mary at Mardi Gras.

MHR: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

KM: My pleasure! Thank you for asking.

 

Katie (25)Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length poetry collection, Tasty Other, is the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She has received The Nassau Review Author Award for Poetry, and her writing has been published in Fairy Tale Review, New Letters, Poet Lore, So to Speak, Verse Daily, and many other journals and anthologies. Find her online at www.katiemanningpoet.com.

An interview with Catherine Arra

MHR: The unifying theme of the poems in Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015) is loving which through the elements of your craft makes loving elemental. Each piece, imbued with passion, or a dispassionate understanding of love and its complexities is finely wrought. In “He Says” I sense the woman’s power is choice. Her choosing to open herself, or not.  Can you speak to the woman’s power as exemplified in this poem?

Catherine Arra: I believe that everyone’s power is in the ability to understand intent, one’s own intent as well as that of others, and to choose accordingly. In “He Says,” we have a relationship that is stalled. The mating dance, courtship teases and coupling are complete. The sex is great. It’s time for the couple to go deeper into relationship or walk away. The woman is aware of her desire or intent to go deeper. She is also aware of her partner’s ambivalence or intent to keep things as they are between them. She knows he loves her, she understands his fear and her power; however, she will not use her power to hurt him but to challenge them both to grow.

In this poem, I wanted to articulate intent by what “he says.”

MHR: In “One of the Girls” you deftly draw an imaginative narrative that likens otherworldliness into a poem that is very much rooted in the world. What was the emotional impetus for this poem?

CA: The emotional impetus for this poem was a growing annoyance with sloppiness or entitled negligence in relationship. The man in the poem needs to clean out his closet literally and figuratively. He doesn’t see the ghosts of his past relationships or how they haunt the present. He is unaware of the irresolution in himself and between himself and past partners. The woman does; she intuits and mediates between past and present. She once again understands intent.

I feel poetry comes from an otherworldliness. The poet hears, discovers and gives voice to the narrative, or often to silence. She traverses and connects worlds seen or unseen, the past and present, the living and the dead.

MHR: “Premature Snow” is a personification of nature. Most of the poems in “Loving from the Backbone” display nature prominently. How does nature inspire you?

CA: Well first, I’ve never been a fan of winter, though the season has taught me how to hibernate, renew and how to have faith. Nature inspires me in all ways; it holds, moves and continually teaches me. I see myself, all mankind, all creatures as a part of one wondrous, divine organism. In nature I find endless metaphor.

MHR: There is a line in the poem “Sustenance” that reads “the recipe for life on earth.” It seems a fitting phrase to encompass the urgings of these poems.  These poems give vital life lessons without being didactic. It’s as though a grace-filled voice whispers to us, “This is the way.” Do you agree or disagree?

I agree, though my intent in writing is never to instruct but to share or show. For me, poetry is a practice like yoga, of breathing and allowing life to move through me, of seeing, appreciating and assimilating what is. The “recipe for life on earth” or “love that lasts” or a poem that works is a delicate combination that may be a form of grace or prayer.

MHR: There is a languidness in the voice of the poems that shines in a quiet contentment, but in a poem like “Blind Passage,” there is a power surge. Can you speak to this?

CA: “…a languidness in the voice that shines in quiet contentment” What a lovely, poetic comment Clare.

I agree that the voice in many of the poems is sated and serene. The “power surge” you sense in “Blind Passage” is perhaps the strength of vulnerability. To love openly, instinctively, without fearful manipulation and intellectual interference is to love from the backbone. I used the quote from D.H. Lawrence to link the poem to Lawrence’s sustained literary message for mankind to stay connected to the natural world, to his instinctual nature and to understand that sex in the head is not sex at all.

MHR: In the title poem, “Loving from the Backbone,” What gave you the imaginative spark to write of the condition of human love related to reptilian life?

CA: The reptilian brain is the oldest part of the human brain. It controls the body’s vital functions: heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature and balance. Our sense of smell, hunger, thirst and our hard-wired instinct to mate are rooted in the reptilian brain, which is located in the brainstem and the cerebellum providing a direct connection to the spine that governs all movement. For me, loving from the backbone is to love instinctively, organically, in union with emotion and intellect. It is to love fully and consciously from the oldest, deepest parts of our being.

MHR: These poems are sensual and earthy. When you write about the body it is with a deft and careful hand, as though you are creating brushstrokes for a painting. Do you practice any other art forms or exercise other creative skills? If so, how do you see the interconnectedness with your poetry?

CA: I enjoy photography and can say that I practice the art of seeing. I often think visually and have a strong visual memory. I nearly became a professional photographer before I decided to become a teacher. I imagine poems with vivid imagery or an unexpected emotional sweep to be like photographs; I see photographs as poems and stories. I also practice yoga and try to live astutely and fully in and through my body. I believe that the challenging work of the artist is to come through the body, to allow the divine in and through, to give it voice and form in everything we do: writing, painting, cooking, gardening, caregiving, working, living, loving, dying. Perhaps this is the art of being a good vessel.

MHR: I read an article recently that stated that what men, heterosexual men, really want is “safe harbor” in a woman. Would you agree with that in your understanding?

CA: I think we all want safe harbor in relationship no matter our gender or sexual preference. We all want to submit to love and to be loved. Relationship requires courage and tenderness. I play with this idea in the poems, “Submission” and “The Gospel of Skies” wherein it appears that the woman submits to the male sex drive and her partner’s need for safe harbor, but in truth, he submits to her. They go together into the mystery, naked and unashamed. What they create together is safe harbor for both, “where they lie side by side in the gravity of breathing.”

Thank you, Clare, for your deeply intuitive reading of Loving from the Backbone and for taking the time to interview me.

 

catherine-arra

Catherine Arra is the author of Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press 2015) and forthcoming in 2017, Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press). Recent poetry and prose have been published in The Timberline Review, Peacock Journal, Flash Frontier, MockingHeart Review and Sugared Water. A former English and writing teacher, Arra now teaches part time and facilitates a local writers’ group in upstate New York. Find her at www.catherinearra.com

An interview with Bill Yarrow

MHR: The title The Vig of Love is taken from the title of a poem within the collection. Can you explain the title as you understand it and as it suggests the other poems?

 

BY: Vig, from “vigorish,” is the interest on a loanshark’s loan. Love is a debt, a loan you’ll never repay. The poems in this volume are about the different kinds of interest we owe on the impossible loan that is love. P.S. The Muse is also a loanshark.

 

MHR: In the title poem, the idea of risk is linked with love. Can you illuminate this idea as it pertains to many of the other poems that also delve into the nature of love in this light?

 

BY: The poem suggests love is a roulette bet. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But if we really love someone, we need to invest everything we have. We need to “put down all we’re worth.” The debt idea is made explicit in the poem “A Debt No Honest Man Can Pay” which begins the volume. The betting idea is made explicit in the poem “Wanna Bet?” which opens the last section of the book.

 

MHR: Do you see yourself as a contemporary absurdist? Do you see yourself as a truth seeker with a capital T? Does truth exist? If not, what responsibilities must a 21st century poet fulfill?

 

BY: I see myself as someone who writes poems. Nothing more.

 

Yes, specific truth exists, and general truths exist. Does Capital T Truth exist? No. Not for me.

 

The responsibility of a poet? To write well.

 

MHR: You have a couple of poems, that use bullet points to present statements of “truth” that are slant and wry.  What principles link these poems? What are their thematic unifiers?

 

BY: These “poems” (I’m not sure what they really are) consist of aphorisms or admonitions about love, pleasure, desire, passion, addiction, obsession. Read them with Samuel Johnson’s caveat: “In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.” The title “Asbestos Candlestick” references the poem “The Exit Towards Fire.” The title “Sticky, Indifferent” comes from a phrase in “Liz@Phil,” a poem in Blasphemer

 

before ten years had passed
their loneliness had hardened

into indifferent sticky rapture
and permanent part-time jobs

 

MHR: As a poet rooted in the human condition, does man have a chance? And if so, does poetry?

 

BY: If we are human, we are “rooted in the human condition.” Poets are no different from anyone else. Everything has a chance—man, woman, humanity, poetry, goodness, beauty, ugliness, evil…. How much of a chance? That depends on the individual. And on the individual depends the world. As Emerson said, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” The future is the collective us.

 

MHR: Do you think your poems speak intimately to the reader or does the speaker hold the reader at a distance to instruct? Do you see yourself as a storyteller or a visionary/oracle?

 

BY: Every one of my poems intuits a speaker. Every speaker is different. None is me. That is, none is wholly me. My poems all tell stories. I don’t think any sane person ever sees himself or herself as an oracle.

 

MHR: There is an exacting sharpness in the language, and throughout we are treated to unexpected word collisions. Do you, as a poet, strive to make the unfamiliar familiar in your language?

 

BY: Thank you, Clare. I love that phrase “word collisions.” That’s an excellent phrase to describe a lot of what I do in my poems. In Pointed Sentences, my first book, there’s a poem called “Whiplash Marriage.” That title describes my approach and a lot of my work. I’m still smashing sound atoms, still officiating at whiplash marriages of non-consenting words.

 

I don’t strive to make the unfamiliar familiar exactly. I do solicit the unfamiliar and invite it into my poems. I strive to make the unfamiliar immediate and necessary, accessible and inevitable.

 

MHR: In the heart of the collection there seems to be a silent hope, which counters the difficulties of answerless questions in many of the poems. I think the balance is finely struck.  Do you sense a light in the darkness?

 

BY: I appreciate your comment about balance. Darkness is only darkness because there is light. Light is only light by virtue of there being darkness. As Blake said, “Opposition is true friendship.” No, there is no light in the darkness, but there is always the potential for light in the darkness. And vice versa.

 

MHR: I am immediately taken by the economy of words and clever turns of phrases, even though these poems embody so much more in their cumulative effect. Can you share with us some of your process in facing a blank page?

 

BY: Thank you, Clare, for that characterization of the poems in this book.

I seldom write on a literal blank page. Mostly, I write on a computer screen. I mention this because the size of a piece of paper sometimes affects or even dictates the length of a poem’s lines. If you are writing in a pocket notebook, you are likely writing in shorter lines than if you are writing in an oversized folio notebook. The reason is because, as you stare at the tiny notebook page, you are thinking in shorter lines, or thinking in longer lines if you are looking at a menu-sized blank journal.

The computer screen for me is neutral. It allows me to experiment with short lines, medium-sized lines, long lines, boxy poems, shaped poems, sprawling poems, prose poems, etc. I can immediately see what something looks like without having to rewrite it in a different form or shape. I can also save all the approaches to or versions of a poem.

 

My process? I play around. I play around with what things sound like, what things look like, how meaning changes with words in juxtaposition with each other, how meaning changes in a line ending or a line beginning. I’m a sculptor playing with the clay of words, sometimes piling bits on bits, sometimes scraping away dross to get at the essential form.

 

Sometimes, I begin with an event (“The Secret of Belief”) or a place (“Ajloun Castle”) or a person (John Dillinger / “Noir vs Noir”) or a memory (“The Ogontz Branch”). Sometimes, I begin with a word (“Babble”) or a phrase (“A Debt No Honest Man Can Pay”) or a text (“The Red Wheelbarrow” in “Carlos!”). Sometimes, I begin with a feeling (“Tierra del Fuego”) or a concept (“The Man Whose Wife Lived in His Neck”) or a pun (“Libby, Lottie, and Carlotta”).

 

Sometimes, the poem just emerges.

 

For me though, a beginning is just a beginning. I almost never end where I start.

 

 

Bill Yarrow

 

Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth Review, is the author of The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and four chapbooks. His work also appears in the anthologies Aeolian Harp, Volume One; This is Poetry: Volume Two: The Midwest Poets; and Beginnings: How 14 Poets Got Their Start. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. More information about Bill can be found on his website: https://billyarrow.wordpress.com/

Valerie Fox Interview: Writers Room

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MHR: Hi, Valerie. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions about Writers Room. Briefly, what is Writers Room and what is your affiliation with it?

VF:  Writers Room is an initiative at the Center for Neighborhood Partnerships in West Philadelphia, associated with Drexel University. It’s one of many initiatives there aimed at both connecting different community organizations and at helping individuals.  Writers Room, specifically, offers a regular writing workshop, as well as side-by-side classes in which both Drexel students and others from the community take part. Topics have included War Stories, Memoir Writing, and Poetry Writing. We’re in our third full year of programming.

I’m a faculty writing fellow with Writers Room, as part of my job teaching at Drexel University, and I get to offer workshops, help out with programming, and support the other teachers and our directors in their workshops and special events.

Colleagues I work closely with are Rachel Wenrick, Kirsten Kaschock, and Carol Richardson McCullough. We have a motto: Together, we are creating a shared story.

MHR: What are some of the ways Writers Room meets the creative community’s needs in Philadelphia?

VF:  Writers Room provides a space for writers to write and share work. A close-knit group attends monthly workshops, and special events are offered throughout the year, as well as one-on-one consultations.

A one-off workshop last year, for instance, was called Portraits through Time and combined writing and drawing.  We’re planning one for winter focusing on recording oral histories.


MHR:
Can you highlight events that Writers Room have marked you personally as transformative?

VF: I find that all my interactions at Writers Room are energizing. Carol has said about Writers Room: “that’s where the magic happens.” Writers come here and find a place where they are inspired to share their stories.

We also see the delight in the writers’ faces when they see their work in the anthologies and chapbooks we make together. Writers appreciate the challenging classes, the feedback from fellow writers, and the wonderful diversity and energy of this place. Seeing the positive impact of the younger (“traditional”) college students and community writers working together never gets old.

Seeing the seriousness and growth within our group reminds me why I write, too—to express myself, but also to reach and be read by an audience, to connect with others.

Our recent festival focused on Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was incredibly gratifying and touched the lives of many hundreds of people.  It was part of the NEA Big Read program; more information on that here [http://www.neabigread.org/communities/?community_id=2250].

Our workshop members took part in numerous discussions and workshops. Additionally, we took the festival into many branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia, sharing Hurston’s work with both adult reading groups and kids. For the kids, we were able to share the picture book, about Hurston’s early life. The festival also included panels, a dance performance, a zine-making workshop, and more.

MHR:
Can you talk a bit about relationships that develop through the interactions in Writers Room?

VF: These and other events are a catalyst for collaboration amongst teachers and students, as well as groups and departments associated with Drexel. For instance, I’d been working on some collaborations with artist Jacklynn Niemiec (who also teaches at DU), and doing workshops with her at Writers Room has led to further collaborations and an energizing of my teaching practice overall.

 


MHR:
How can someone become involved?
VF: Our website lists events, and anyone from our area is welcome! For special events, like the Letter Press workshop last month, space may be limited, so it is important to reply or fill out a form as requested to ensure there is a spot for you for in cases like this.  If you are interested in getting involved, please to our website and sign up for announcements, or drop us a line!

Our website!

http://www.writersroom.online

 

Valerie Fox
Valerie Fox
‘s books include The Rorschach Factory, The Glass Book, and Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (co-written with Lynn Levin). Much interested in collaboration, she has published many poems and stories with Arlene Ang. She is also part of group of Philadelphia artists combining dance, word, and visual arts in projects known as “Variable Space.” She has published in Juked, West Branch, Hanging Loose, Painted Bride Quarterly, Apiary, Sentence, Mead, and other magazines.

An Interview with Tyler Sheldon


MHR:
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for MockingHeart Review, Tyler. I really enjoyed First Breaths of Arrival, your chapbook from Oil Hill Press. Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of the chapbook? How long was it in the making? How did you envision the collection?

TS: Hi, Clare and MockingHeart, thanks for having me! My chapbook began as a desire to collect my Plains poetry–my poems of place–into a cohesive unit with a large underlying narrative. I wanted to tell the story of my upbringing, and of my observations of Kansas–how it shapes the way I think, and my interactions with nature and individuals. Since around 2012, I’d been drafting and revising poetry along these lines, trying to be respectful of my place in the Midwest and my heritage there. I’d grown up around Kansas poets (my father, William Sheldon, is one, and so were several family friends), and so when I began in poetry it was both the most natural and most urgent direction to take.

I started First Breaths of Arrival while working on my Master of Arts in English at Emporia State University, and I knew I wanted it to be a shorter collection. It grew in tandem with my MA thesis, which focused on Kansas poetry (specifically that of William Stafford, Harley Elliott, and Steven Hind). As my collection grew more cohesive, I approached Oil Hill Press; editor John Jenkinson worked with me as I pared it down, replacing some poems with ones that fit better. Oil Hill released the chapbook to the world in May 2016, the day I graduated with my MA.

MHR: Landscape, place, specifically Kansas is featured strongly throughout and your treatment of it is done with a deft hand.  The poems tell us much about Kansas in what is said of it, in descriptions. Can you speak to the poem, “In Kansas,” and tell us a few things that are not said? Maybe lines or images you cut out of the poem? There are also “ghosts” and ancient people in this landscape. Can you speak to this how you drew them in as a poet?

TS: I’m glad to know the treatment of landscape and place is done well! Poems throughout First Breaths deal with the state and its landscape in various ways–“For Kansas Poets” links the landscape to its residents in behavior and thought. “In Kansas” deals specifically with unique Kansas imagery: the Hutchinson salt mine, for instance, is now a museum housing such artifacts as the costumes from Star Wars and Gone With the Wind. As you mention, there are several unsaid pieces of that poem, including Kansas’s influence on poetry at large, and how I learned to be (somewhat) adult while living there.

The line “throw clove cigarette butts into the street” speaks to a pastime I shared with my wife, whom I met in Kansas and was then dating. We’d go for late-night cruises in my Nissan or her Ford coupe, smoking clove cigars and sometimes stopping for take-out. More than that, though, this line hints at possibility; the disparate activities in the poem are examples, suggesting that in Kansas, much more opportunity for exploring oneself can be had. In a way, then, the whole poem is about unsaid truths or opportunities.

The “ancient people” of the Kansas landscape are integral–I’ve long been fascinated with Kansas history and its people. My father collects Native American and Paleolithic artifacts on the Arkansas River as a sort of compelled hobby, so I had early exposure to the evidence people leave of their lives. Former Kansas poet laureate Denise Low discusses her own Native ancestry in several collections of her work, and her explorations fed my fascination with the ghosts of our state. Addressing these through writing felt like both the best fit and a way to contribute to what is very much a place-centered poetic tradition.

MHR: Throughout the collection. there are the interrelationships of men and boys, specifically the speaker of the poems and his elders–father, grandfather. The relationships are drawn very realistically and finely. The notes of coming into manhood are struck purely. I especially loved the poem “Mountains.” Not that it matters to the poem’s truth, but how much of your family history plays into this poem’s narrative? It’s quite colorful. Also, can you speak to the metaphor of “mountains” as you employ it in this poem?

TS: Thanks for noticing the relationship focus! It’s there on several levels–for example, “My Father Teaches Me to Shave” is a true account, and if altered at all from factual happening it would be by my fallible memory rather than any poetic license. My father and I wrote “For Kansas Poets” together over a period of about two weeks, comparing drafts and working them gradually together into their current sonnet form.

“Mountains” is interesting in this regard, as during the time when my grandfather was telling me stories of his father, my own dad was there in the Suburban with us as we drove into the Rockies. So, in a way, four generations of the Sheldon family were present for Grandpa Bob’s stories. His father Hubert Sheldon really was a surprisingly good boxer, a baseball player, and a liquor store owner. And with him, people really did know not to mess around.

In the poem, itself, those mountains work on a surface level–they provide scenery, and context for the conversation that’s the backbone of the poem. They’re also metaphors, I suppose–as we went deeper into the mountains, up to Grandpa’s mountain cabin, we went deeper into family history, with its complexities and intrigue. Another trip to the Rockies is probably due at some point, as I’m sure I still have a lot to learn.

MHR: I think we really covered a great number of interesting points about your eloquent collection. Thank you! The only follow-up question I would ask is if you would speak to the metaphor of a mountain as it relates to a man as a figure/a mountain in a boy’s or young man’s life.

TS: I suppose that mountains have a certain place in boyhood, and probably manhood, as structures that inspire awe. To say, “I’ve been up there,” and certainly to say “I’ve been up there with my father and grandfather” is a point of pride for me–those visits to the mountains gained status as a tradition over time and influenced me. The mountains became a symbol of proving oneself in nature, though in my situation they were a sort of middle-landscape. I wasn’t roughing it, out there in a tent hunting for sustenance, but I did learn a bit from my grandfather about building powder rifles, and how to shoot properly, throw knives with accuracy, cut firewood, tend a stove, and so on.

I’d say those activities are inextricable from being in the Rockies, at least for me–I’m being a bit glib, but you can’t necessarily practice target shooting when you’re in a suburban neighborhood, for example. So yes, mountains have a place in my boyhood and very young adulthood, and one that I remain proud of.

~

Interested folks can buy Tyler’s chapbook, First Breaths of Arrival, by emailing him at tyrsheldon@gmail.com, or by emailing John Jenkinson (Oil Hill Press publisher) at jjenkinson@butlercc.edu.

 

Tyler Sheldon

 

Tyler Sheldon is an MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Essay Award. Sheldon’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in journals throughout the US and in Canada, such as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Dos Passos Review, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal, and others. His chapbook First Breaths of Arrival is from Oil Hill Press (May 2016).

Clare L. Martin’s “Seek the Holy Dark”

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MockingHeart Review’s
 Editor, Clare L. Martin’s Seek the Holy Dark is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press.

Seek the Holy Dark is now available for pre-order. Trade paperback, 66 pages, only $10. Pre-orders will ship in early February. To order click here.

Any new book of poems worth its salt must reinvent the intelligences of poetry: trope, word, image, argument, sentence, strophe, music. The poems in Clare Martin’s Seek the Holy Dark will keep. They are salt.

~Darrell Bourque, Former Louisiana Poet Laureate, author of Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie and Where I Waited

From the holy dark of horror storms and freedom in the hand, to starving wolves and old women who live in woods, Clare Martin’s poetic imagery seeks in myth to locate depth of soul. She incants salvation “bone by bone” up from the shadows. Her writing has a beautiful fury, a hard questing and secret exultation that keep the reader poised and intoxicated. “Do you seek the heart too” the opening poem asks, and of course, we answer Yes and read breathlessly on. These poems “drop through this world/into dark awakening.” The strong-hearted will understand.

~Rachel Dacus, author of Gods of Water and Air

Seek the Holy Dark is a book of revelations in poems.  Clare L. Martin sees the richness and the poverty that are bedmates, proffers them as gifts, lays them at our feet.  Her poems suggest we join in the quest to be both humbled and exalted. Martin, who never looks away, fully understands the duality of nature, its light and darkness, exploring both in this lush and lyrical new collection.

~Susan Tepper, author of dear Petrov and The Merrill Diaries

A note from the Editor

I want to share an opportunity with readers of MockingHeart Review. Recently I decided to use my expertise to develop a program of mentoring writers, and now I have expanded this program to address the needs of creatives in other disciplines. Please read on.

I give nearly 200% of myself during the eight weeks I work with mentees. I have numerous strategies to get creative juices flowing. If you find you need creative coaching, consulting on a creative writing project, editing insights, want to work one on one in your craft, or all of the above, consider engaging my services.Mentorships will be conducted through email, phone, and weekly consultations in person, if local, or via Skype link up to meet anyone across the miles.

The writing mentorships are structured courses that provide energetic and substantive relative-to-now literary conversations between the mentor and mentees. Great emphasis will be placed on craft and form.  The mentee should have expectations of fast-paced, rigorous writing and reflective, nurturing and honest feedback from a skilled and admired contemporary poet and publisher.

My second collection of poetry, Seek the Holy Dark, is forthcoming from Yellow Flag Press in 2017. My widely-acclaimed debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published in 2012 by Press 53. My poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, Melusine, Poets and Artists, and Louisiana Literature, among others. I have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. I am a lifelong resident of Louisiana and edit MockingHeart Review.

I am also a visual artist and offer mentorships for creatives of other disciplines that address breakthroughs in creativity, the creative process, creative problem solving and honoring the self as an artist in a hectic, sometimes dystopic world.

Other unique approaches to customized courses may be considered. Inquire with Clare at the email below or by phone. The number is listed below as well. I will always be honest with you if I feel your need would not match well with my expertise. But I will try my best to brainstorm on how it could.

Specific goals of the eight-week course will be decided upon in conversation prior to agreements being made to engage with me. It is encouraged that the course is structured as goal-oriented to produce visible and viable results.

The fee for the eight-week course is $250 US currency, (non-refundable due to course limits, serious inquiries only), payable through PayPal or by check. The spots are limited due to the very intimate work and close personal attention offered.  For more information, please email: clmpoetrymentor@gmail.com or call (337) 962-5886

“Flood” by J Bruce Fuller

9781930454408

I cannot recommend this chapbook highly enough. Poem by poem, MockingHeart Review contributor, Dr. J Bruce Fuller, takes us into the depths of the human soul unearthed by floodwaters of two historic events: The 1927 Flood and Katrina. We feel the losses as our own, and they are. J Bruce puts us in the maw of the rivers and in the coursing waters to be carried away unless we cling to his language, which is deeply grounded, rooted in a passion for Louisiana in all her mystery and mystique. In light of the 2016 Louisiana Flood, I encourage you to purchase a copy of this perfect volume while it is still available. It will haunt you like no other book on the subject.

~ Clare L. Martin, Editor, MockingHeart Review

To purchase Flood follow this link:  http://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781930454408/flood.aspx

More about Flood

“In this sensual and deeply informed collection, J Bruce Fuller gives us two floods in the lower Mississippi River, almost a century apart. Describing the 1927 flood, the poems speak of men who stand on the levee to report the water’s rise. Some are forced to knit arms and legs, a kind of human dam, and are washed away. In 2005, the levees are strong, and people ‘in the shadow of the levee’ feel smug and safe. They see meteorologists on CNN, and they watch the floodwater and destruction follow Katrina. Beyond those differences, the poems make clear, in concrete language, that there was the same betrayal, superstition, family ties, same indiscriminate death, wealth and its small protections, poverty and its vulnerability. These poems do not elegize life on the river a century ago as a time that will never return, or evoke New Orleans as it used to be before the storm. These poems know, as the river knows, that time is not linear, it is cyclical. The river will be there when our brief stories are gone. The flood can come again, when it will. As one of the men on the levee says, and repeats like a line in a blues song: ‘What water will come, will come.'”—Ava Leavell Haymon