Contributor Interview: Erik Johnson

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Johnson

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

The mirror, post-its, Marie and New York are all almost true.

The poem arrived over a couple years, as each piece found its way in. Recently I see the work of writing as kind of a web – holding several ideas suspended at once.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

Oh, all of the lines are fun for me. It’s a sentimental poem, written with a wisp of a smile behind the speaker’s voice.

But I like the idea of Marie’s name written “in cursive blue.” It’s a kind of relic, it has physicality, and it will mean something different as the years go on.

You were a finalist in the Francine Ringold Awards for New Writers, which means that this is one of your first pieces of published work in your genre. How long have you been writing, and what did being a finalist in the competition mean to you?

I’ve been writing poems since childhood, mostly out of a need to make sense of the world.

Doing an MFA was a big step toward writing with an ear for an audience, and publishing is the same. I’m excited to join a conversation that has been happening for a long time.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

I used to be a theatre teacher, immersed in Shakespeare. You can’t beat that kind of immersion – listening, teaching, speaking, all that repetition through the various senses. It wouldn’t need to be theatre, it could be intense friendships, open-mic nights at the Nuyorican Cafe, whatever seems worthwhile.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

Most of the writing I do takes place in a small, unheated shed, next to power tools, whiskey and a turkey fryer.

Erik Johnson holds a B.A. in Theater from Yale and an M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. A student-written theater piece he directed appeared in A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. Originally from Cleveland, he teaches in a school for homeless and runaway youth in Eugene, Oregon. This is his first poem appearing in a journal.

Meet the Interns: Elizabeth Young

Each semester (and summer!), Nimrod’s interns make things run more smoothly and efficiently in the office—we couldn’t do our work without them. With this blog series, “Meet the Interns,” we’ll introduce you to the hardworking interns who often are behind the scenes, keeping up with daily tasks, sending mail, reading manuscripts . . . and much, much more.

This week’s featured intern: Elizabeth Young

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Nimrod: Tell us a little about yourself:

Elizabeth: My name is Elizabeth, but I usually go by Lizzy. I am a junior at TU majoring in creative writing. I have 4 sisters (no brothers, yay!), and a cat who follows me around like a dog. I love to read, write, bake, and scrapbook. My favorite movie is You’ve Got Mail. If I am on campus but not in class or interning, you can find me in the reading rooms in the library. Around town I frequent the Central Library and Shades of Brown. Besides interning and taking classes I am also a nanny for 2 wonderful families.

Nimrod: What made you interested in working with Nimrod?

Elizabeth: I transferred in to TU in January of this year, and I was exploring the creative writing community on campus. My professor Dr. Stevens told me about Nimrod and introduced me to Eilis. I talked to Eilis and immediately knew this was something I wanted to do. I am interested in the publishing and editing field, and so I knew this would be a good fit for me.

Nimrod: What’s your major/what are you thinking about majoring in? Why are/were you drawn to that major?

Elizabeth: I am a creative writing major with an English minor. I have always loved to read and have been inspired by writers. I had never considered majoring in creative writing before college, but while I was getting my associate’s degree at TCC I had a wonderful professor, Josh Parish, who really encouraged me and mentored me and made me want to be a creative writing major.

Nimrod: Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Elizabeth: I am forever and always a Jane Austen girl. One of my favorite books is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is so beautifully written and just a wonderful book.

I have also always loved Ally Carter as an author—Heist Society and Gallagher Girls. And I was greatly impacted by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series as a teenager; those hold a special place in my heart.

Nimrod: What are you most looking forward to learning or experiencing with Nimrod this semester?

Elizabeth: I am most interested in reading people’s submissions and learning what editors are looking for in a manuscript. I am also really excited about the conference.

 

Contributor Interview: C.C. Lewis, 2017 Francine Ringold Prize for Fiction Winner

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we talked with contributors about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

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Nimrod: Your winning story is set in our world, but in the future after some sort of apocalypse, and it deals with themes of oral tradition, fairy tales, and more. What inspired you to write “Major Tom”—have you always been drawn to fairytales?

C.C. Lewis: I’ve enjoyed fairytales from a young age, particularly a 1940s anthology series of multicultural stories called Book Trails, among others. Like many children, I was drawn not only to the whimsical side but also to the dark undertones—and sometimes overtones—present in fairytales, despite the fact that the dark side of most modern tellings are watered down compared to the originals. In my experience, fairytales aren’t something one necessarily grows out of, and it occurred to me that maybe we discover more “adult,” non-traditional fairytales as we grow older, especially in popular culture. In the case of my story “Major Tom,” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is a song that greatly appealed to me as both a child and an adult, and I’ve been familiar with it for practically as long as I’ve been familiar with traditional fairytales. It interested me to consider the idea that other people might have had similar experiences: to some, the fictional character in a rock ‘n’ roll hit has become a household name, as well-known to them as the likes of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

It was this notion that partially inspired me to write the story, along with a desire to explore the nature of oral tradition and folklore. My mother’s side of the family, from the Appalachian mountain region, passed down rhymes and riddles through at least four generations, so that’s also a phenomenon that is of particular interest to me.

These concepts led me to the idea that the figures of today’s pop culture might become the fairytales of the future. And in the case of a creation as intriguing as Bowie’s Major Tom character, I hope they do.

Nimrod: Do you find that music often influences your writing?

Lewis: Yes, it absolutely influences my writing and has since I first started to write creatively. Even as a child I created comics involving members of real-life bands I listened to; as an adolescent I began to incorporate musical elements into my short stories. My first published story was named after the song “Green Onions,” and I recently completed an unpublished novel where the central narrative incorporates my knowledge of and passion for music.

When I read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity as a young adultI was inspired by the way the author included his own knowledge and love of popular music in creating his characters and themes. That novel shows how artfully music can inform a work of fiction and illuminate larger concerns and aspects of human nature.

At times I listen to music while writing, or I might have a specific song in mind when working on a scene. Occasionally I have tried to capture the mood of a song in the atmosphere of a scene, but I may or may not actually name the song in the piece.

Because music and writing are such important and vital parts of my life, it’s natural to me that the two so often intertwine.

Nimrod: How many times do you usually revise a story?

Lewis: I tend to go through several drafts, but the nature and extent of the revisions completely depend on the piece. Some changes might be limited to only a few sentences, while in other cases I might revise the work in a more drastic way.

 Nimrod: What are your 3 all-time favorite books? 

Lewis: Among many other favorites, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.

C.C. Lewis’s work has appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, from which she won second place in the 2016 Sudden Fiction contest. She was also a finalist for North Carolina Literary Review’s Doris Betts Fiction Prize in 2017 and 2018 and has received honorable mentions from Glimmer Train. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and currently lives in western North Carolina.

 

 

Contributor Interview: Laura Glenn

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Glenn

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

Re “The Open Window”: My friend Pat Duffy and I paused on the steep stairway to Samuel Menashe’s Greenwich Village apartment and wondered that a man in his eighties could manage it on a daily basis. Samuel, who wrote short, gemlike poems, had recently received the Poetry Foundation’s Neglected Masters Award. Seeing his apartment brought to mind his poem, “At a Standstill.” I saw the kitchen “Where the bathtub stands / Upon cat feet.” Paint on the walls peeled in layers. As we talked, the three of us shared coffee from a single mug. I commented on an enormous painting on the wall—an underwater scene with Klee-like beauty. Samuel stood up and began rhapsodizing about the light from a door-size open window that played on the artwork and was otherwise revitalizing, until I experienced a vicarious sense of transcendence.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

I like the lines in the poem about the small, innocent fish near the open mouth of the big fish. “The painting has a playful, / mosaic quality: near the open mouth / of the giant fish, small fish rise, innocent / as bubbles.” A little later in the poem I re-view the painting and grasp that the huge fish is actually swallowing a little one, which ties into the later “fish-eats-fish world.” Perhaps if I could see the painting again, I would envision it yet another way—maybe the small fish is escaping. The painting becomes a place where innocence and danger coexist. The changes in light repaint the artwork again and again and lead to an accelerated sense of the passage of time.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

As for daily writing habits, what works for one person might backfire for another. For me it’s important to keep writing, even when I’m not in my most inspired state. That way I stay in practice, and it allows for surprises. If new material doesn’t seem worth developing, I work on revisions of unfinished poems that needed to “incubate,” until an unexpected metaphor jumpstarts a new poem. Poetry stems from lived and felt experience, but it’s also important to read widely. When we read we vicariously expand our experiences, as well as consciously or subconsciously absorb possible new approaches to expressing ourselves.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

I do artwork as well as write poetry. Especially because my work as a copy editor occupies a lot of my time, sometimes art and poetry compete for my regard. At other times visual arts and poetry feel like very different aspects of a connected force and work together harmoniously. When this happens I picture a colorful fluid slowly flowing back and forth within a glass tubular infinity symbol, keeping me in balance.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

For many months I’ve been trying to put final touches on another book-length manuscript of poems that I had considered to be complete. I keep writing new poems, and reevaluating which poems belong in the manuscript. At this point, I need to focus on organizing the manuscript—not my favorite part of putting a book together—and accept that new poems can be the beginning of a future book.

https://www.lauraglennpoetandartist.com/

Laura Glenn’s book of poems I Can’t Say I’m Lost was published by FootHills, her chapbook When the Ice Melts by Finishing Line. Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Boulevard, The Cortland Review, EPOCH, Green Mountains Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Poetry, etc. Also a visual artist and freelance copy editor, she lives in Ithaca, New York.

Contributor Interview: Lindsay Illich

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Illich

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

“The Woman Who Rode Through a Tornado in a Bathtub and Survived” was inspired by reports last year that a woman in Texas did just that. I grew up in Texas and suffered nightmares about tornadoes and once was stranded on a roadside near Caldwell, Texas, as a tornado passed, so the story struck a chord. But the image of the white bathtub also reminded me of a sheet of paper, how it must have been like a magic carpet flying through the sky, how writing is the perspective of power but feels sometimes powerless, a desire both compelling and prone to fearfulness. Like me, the woman is reckoning with seeing herself from such a great height, coming to terms with the truth of it when she lands in someone’s (Marianne Moore’s?) garden.

I began writing “Crossing the Potomac in a Supershuttle Van” at AWP 2017 in DC. Going there so soon after the inauguration, I wasn’t sure how I would feel seeing sights I was so familiar with. But the experience of the city became for me less about the inert structures and more about the people I met and saw, the living tableau that felt like love, a familial love that felt like home. The writer James David Duncan writes about the more-than-human feeling of love he woke up feeling one night, and wrote to the ornithologist responsible for saving the peregrine falcon from extinction, asking him, “Have you felt it?” The morning I woke up in DC, I did.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

From “Crossing the Potomac in a Supershuttle Van,” the last scene where I’m waking up late, it felt like I was waking up in the Edward Hopper painting, “Morning Sun,” in the liminal lines of sleep and awake.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

My advice is to read widely from lots of traditions and to read widely the work of living poets. Finding the work that you’ll be in conversation with is as much about writing as the more writerly, craft-oriented elements.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

The older I get the less fun, strange, or interesting I find myself. And that’s fine. It isn’t me who needs to be any of those things–my work does.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

I just finished my second collection, Fingerspell, and I’m revising a novel. I’ve also been working on some essays. And right now it’s April, so I’m writing a poem a day.

Lindsay Illich is the author of Rile & Heave (Texas Review Press, 2017) and the chapbook Heteroglossia (Anchor & Plume, 2016). Rile & Heave won the Texas Review Press Breakthrough Prize in Poetry. She teaches writing at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Meet the Interns: Anna Johns

Each semester (and summer!), Nimrod‘s interns make things run more smoothly and efficiently in the office—we couldn’t do our work without them. With this blog series, “Meet the Interns,” we’ll introduce you to the hardworking interns who often are behind the scenes, keeping up with daily tasks, sending mail, reading manuscripts . . . and much, much more.

This week’s featured intern: Anna Johns

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Nimrod: Tell us a little about yourself.

Anna: I am a freshman who is undeclared for a major, which hints at my biggest talent: being indecisive. Learning will always be my biggest passion, and I am often overwhelmed by what knowledge could be at my disposal. There is a world I want to know so much more about, but finding precisely what I would specialize in is a daunting task. My mother is a high school English teacher, which caused my great love affair with literature. I have grown up analyzing and listening to classic novels, and my affection for fiction has never dwindled; in fact, my time at TU has only made it develop more.

Nimrod: What made you interested in working with Nimrod?

Anna: It goes without saying, but English is so important. I have always deeply admired the way authors can transfer indescribable emotions—loss, ecstasy, etc.—into something almost tangible, something I can feel. That’s what appealed to me with the Nimrod internship. I can use my passion for English in a productive manner (instead of procrastinating when it comes to reading a stack of novels at home), and I have the ability to see how a literary journal works and the intricacies of publishing.

Nimrod: What’s your major/what are you thinking about majoring in? Why are/were you drawn to that major?

Anna: I am undeclared, unfortunately. However, I am deeply considering English as a major; I thoroughly enjoy writing and its process—even though my writer’s block often leaves me in a cold sweat or playing some bird dating game simulator just because. The world of English is so vast in what one can do with it, and while the major intimidates me, it also inspires me.

Nimrod: Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Anna: Oh, boy. I love Chuck Palahniuk as an author. He plays with fractured narratives and huge twists in plot, and he really drags you along “for the ride,” so to speak. In one of my favorite books, Invisible Monsters, the name of the protagonist is unknown until the end of the novel. Palahniuk builds a mystery surrounding the characters and their motives, and his sense of humor as he creates these characters is admirable.

I also love the works of David Levithan, who writes LGBTQ+ young adult fiction. I love the characterization he uses because he makes the characters feel real, which is so, so important. He shows the reader how members of that community feel and how they love, and I cannot recommend him enough.

For more classic literature, I love Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen. Their work inspires me to no end; their greatest abilities are describing emotion and absorbing the reader into their plots and surrounding society. Hemingway is, sure, rougher around the edges and almost callous, whereas Austen is gentler and more emotional; however, the contrast is what really sells the eras of fiction in which they write. They are worth reading at least once in your life.

What are you most looking forward to learning or experiencing with Nimrod this semester?

Anna: I was looking most forward to learning how professional editing works and seeing the writing process from inside the lens of a literary journal. It gives me insight as a potential submitter of creative works into how it would work in a career field. My most exciting experience thus far was when I was assigned some works of fiction to review for publication, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to do what I love and talk about what I love (much to the dismay of everyone around me).

 

 

 

Contributor Interview: Lisa Moore

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Poet Lisa Moore in her backyard in Austin, Texas

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

“Poison Can Be a Pig” is a sestina made from language drawn from my experiences in meditation. I am always looking for representations of meditation, prayer, or spiritual practice that capture how bizarre and hilarious those experiences can often be; after all, we are seeking transcendence, so there is a constant oscillation between the ordinary and the extraordinary. This poem, with its demanding sestina structure, is a container for animals strange and familiar, spiritual objects like on offering of flowers in front of a Buddha statue, and a mix of pulled muscles and spiritual adoration. I hope it gets at the push and pull of practice, of just trying to be awake in the world.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

Part of the pleasure of a sestina is seeing what the poem does with the form’s repeated line endings, so I like the long sentence in stanza 4 that takes those end-words on a suprising journey: “The cock might swallow a snake, might stretch its/ neck out to transcend its cocky state, its own/ occipital exercise in adoration/ a midlife crisis perfectly relaxed.”

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Practice! Write regularly, even when you don’t feel like it and you’re not inspired. All you are doing is creating raw material. You can find a shape later.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

I grew up on a ranch in Alberta, where one of my chores was to shoot gophers with a .22 rifle (because they threatened the crops and our cattle tripped in their holes in the ground and broke their legs). Now I’m an anti-gun activist, suing the State of Texas over the law that allows people to bring a concealed weapon into my classroom at the University of Texas.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

My chapbook, 24 Hours of Men, just came out from Dancing Girl Press. I’m doing readings from that book and continuing to write new work towards a full-length volume.

http://lisalmoore.org/

What the heck is the canon, anyway, and why should my students care?

by Britton Gildersleeve

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As I gear up to teach a class of adult learners about poetry, I’m revisiting what makes a “good” poem. And what makes a poem not merely good, but great?

For decades now, the “canon”—those poets and poems academics feel should be studied, presumably for their greatness—has been the subject of heated argument. Poets (and poems) wax and wane in stature: war poetry of WWI is seen as canonical, while students rarely, if ever, see poetry from the Việtnamese War in anthologies.

And while there’s certainly consensus on, say, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, the inclusion of other poets remains up for discussion. If you’re an avid reader of poetry—as most of us involved with Nimrod are—you’re familiar with a LOT of poets whom other folks have never heard of, even though English majors, poetry lovers, and literati types know them well. Like Marianne Moore, whose poetry I love. Or Ishmael Reed, whose poem “I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra” was an epiphany for me. But I guarantee most of my friends outside English academia haven’t heard of either.

When you get to contemporary poetry it’s even worse. The lack of name recognition in general circles for many of the best contemporary American poets makes you feel like you’re speaking another language when you try to discuss them: Nimrod readers and those in poetry communities will be familiar with them, but other folks? Unlikely.

Since I’ve studied poetry, poetics, and the canon for decades, I feel like I ought to be able to give a nice, succinct definition to the students who will turn up next month expecting me to know stuff. But I can’t. Because I don’t: I’ve never understood the magic of inclusion, or the drama of exclusion, myself. Why is Shakespeare more familiar than Ben Jonson, who was a better poet? And sure: Jonson is canonical, but few high schoolers will ever get him in class. Why isn’t the entire English language world intimately familiar w/Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the best poets ever? How did Mary Oliver manage to become a popular contemporary poet—almost an oxymoron—(although she certainly deserves it)? And how did we lose Edna St. Vincent Millay?

Canon:
A list of authors or works considered to be central
to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture.[1]

These and other questions about poetic worth are the stuff of literary conundrums. When you have only 12 hours of class time and you know at least half of those will be devoted (with pleasure) to discussing the poems, how do you justify the often arbitrary, highly personal choices made? What should folks read? How do you make sure the wide diversity of poetry is adequately addressed, while still giving attention to the canon?

Many of the participants in this class will have little or no familiarity with poetry. If other classes are any indication, there will be engineers and historians and biologists and doctors and counselors and all manner of professionals. There also will be women who have never worked outside the home and retirees bored by endless hours of alone time. Now, you and I—as fluent readers and lovers of poetry—know that there is poetry that will speak to each of those situations. And speak fluently, in poetry’s own inimitable way. But since I don’t know the class demographics before I have to make a schedule, I have no idea who needs what poems. In that befuddled case, what would you suggest I offer?

When I took this thorny problem of the canon to the hive mind of Facebook, I was met with the kind of responses I should have expected: It’s what lasts. It’s what university professors say it is. It’s historical context. Sigh. Those just don’t work for me. And maybe they would work for my students, but it’s hard to teach something you don’t believe. I’m sure to slip up and say something flip about the whole canonical mess.

Perhaps the reason I like the above definition from the Poetry Foundation is that it leaves the door open to the problems I have with the whole canon thing.

This includes the highly problematic (for me) exclusion/elision of excellent voices—the historical context named—that accounts for why Robert Hayden is considered African-American lit, which is still pretty much non-canonical, although certainly there are crossover exceptions. Hayden and other black/brown/gay/activist poets didn’t and/or don’t “fit” with various readings of the American cultural and literary identity. Not even Library of Congress status can change attitudes quickly. The changes to the identity of American literature brought by social movements and the inclusion of these other, traditionally excluded voices remain highly problematic for far too many of the canon-makers. But textbooks are changing. Because, as Henry Louis Gates argues, “You have to have a canon so the next generation can come along and explode it.”Or perhaps it’s as simple as that canonical master T.S. Eliot said (here I’ve paraphrased): these are the poems that touch on human experience. The canon changes as we recognize the value of different experiences.

And that’s probably where I’ll begin on the first day of classes next month. What do you think?

[1]Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/canon, 9/2/18

Britton Gildersleeve’s creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, This Land, and many other journals. She has published three chapbooks and was the director of the Oklahoma State University Writing Project for twelve years.

Contributor Interview: Leah Claire Kaminski

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Kaminski

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

“There’s that red light over there.” began as a much longer poem about craving a cigarette after quitting. When I chipped that away, what emerged was this poem about another kind of craving — for childhood and a place that’s now gone to the speaker.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

The lines describing my sister and me, our faces to the backseat car window, transport me back to nights in Homestead, Florida (“when my breath and my sister’s on the glass were swept/ into the strange scented air that took me in,// brought me in line, effaced me into// the towers and the night”).

I’m also a fan of my cat in her meerkat pose, peeing while staring at the wall; it looks so silly, but she’s so serious and I envy her focus.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Identify the internal rewards, and keep facing them, turning yourself back to face them, no matter the external rejections (or acclaim). It’s a competitive field and it seems that’s becoming an even bigger part of it for young writers, earlier on. If you don’t maintain some pure love for the art (and for your community), it can feel pretty grim when you’re putting work out there to polite NOs for a long time. And conversely, even the successes never seem to warm you for as long, if that’s all you’re focused on.

Also, don’t be too afraid of fallow periods: sometimes they’re necessary and good (though sometimes it’s just laziness or fear, so try to figure out the difference).

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

It’s not the first thing you’d guess about me if you met me now and it’s a little embarrassing, but I ran away from college at 19 to hitchhike around Southern Europe, sleeping on beaches and paying my way by busking; I played a pennywhistle to accompany my travel partner on the Diablo. I tried to sew jaunty patchwork pants to wear for the performances but I had no sewing experience, so now I have these lopsided “pants” with no waist languishing in a box somewhere. I have that girl still in me somewhere, too—she doesn’t languish, but she bides her time.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

Later this year, after a few poems come out in Prairie Schooner and Bennington Review, Dancing Girl Press will release my chapbook Peninsular Scar (it’s set mostly in Florida, as my poem for Nimrod is, but it reckons more directly with things this poem only hints at—hurricane, wildfire, and other disasters collective and personal). I’m also actively looking for a home for my debut full-length manuscript Live oak nearly on fire.

www.leahclairekaminski.com

Leah Claire Kaminski’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Bennington Review, Fence, Vinyl, Witness, and Zyzzyva. Her first book has recently been shortlisted with Tupelo Press and Sundress Publications, and she will soon serve as an Artist-in-Residence at Everglades National Park. She teaches writing at UC Irvine and is assistant editor at The Rise Up Review.

Contributor Interview: Susan Rich

As part of the launch of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, we sat down with contributors to talk about their work in the issue and more. The following interview is part of this series. Please visit our website to see the complete list of contributors to Let Us Gather, to purchase the issue, or to subscribe.

Rich

Tell us a little about your work in Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts: what inspired it, how you came to write it, etc.

My poem, “17 Years After Her Death, Cousin Molly Appears to Me As A Young Dancer Outside Kupel’s Bakery,” began in class with my students. For the first seven minutes of the Creative Writing class I teach, we often write. Usually, I offer them a prompt and then use the time to organize my thoughts for the class but this day I joined in. Washington State Poet Laureate has videos of writing prompts and that’s where this piece began. However, writing a poem about my cousin Molly had been inside me for the longest time.

Do you have a favorite line, image, or scene from this work?

The teen

moves her body as if she were blue water

and loudly inquires if I prefer everything bagels

or pumpernickel? She is going to have both!

These lines weave the apparition of cousin Molly with the glory of the best bagels in the world. I love being able to bring her back from the dead. Molly Daytz was my mother’s double cousin: two brothers had married two sisters. Molly was the only person in my family who loved to travel, read books, and to have honest conversations. Nothing phased her. She seemed to come from an entirely different set of ancestors than my parents. I love that she reincarnates in the poem into a young, energetic dancer. If Molly, had been born in the later part of the 20th century, I know she would have become famous or perhaps, infamous.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing and reading and surrounding yourself with people who do the same. Glean something new from every poem you read, every teacher you have. One of the beautiful things about saying yes to the call of writing is that you will always be a student of word and sound and syntax.

Tell us something fun, strange, or interesting about yourself. It can have to do with writing—or not!

I have always secretly wanted to be a spy or a private detective. I read the book, Harriet The Spy, three times when I was in the third grade. I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series and all of the Edith Nesbit books where a gaggle of children would go off to discover another world. Poetry, however, came much later. The only way, other than poetry, that I’ve pursued this passion is by learning how to read palms. I once took a six week course in palmistry from a palmist who was also a plumber. Years later, when I was invited to Sevilla, Spain, for a wedding, I read palms for all the guests.

What’s on the writing horizon for you/what are you working on now?

Over the summer I hope to complete my next collection of poems, A Spy in the Afterlife. The poems are (mostly) complete but the arranging and rearranging of a book is what I always struggle with. The same group of poems arranged in a different order can either break or make a collection. I hope to help the book come together with the correct ordering and not to hinder it too much. Given my lifelong desire to be a spy, I’m hoping this book is the most honest one I’ve written yet; I know it is the most intimate.

Susan Rich is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, of Cloud Pharmacy (White Pine Press). She co-edited the anthology, The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Crossing Borders published by McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation. Rich’s poems have appeared in all 50 States including The Antioch Review, New England Review, O Magazine, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere.