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.

Contributor Interview: Mary Christensen

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.

Christensen

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.

Both poems deal with the liminal space that comes with being multi-racial. It’s that feeling of “otherness,” of not perfectly fitting certain aspects of a race or culture, though your grandmother or first cousin might. Quite a few of my poems explore this. “Curating” looks at this through a made up scenario, while the fashion exhibit in “Out of Style” really did come to an art museum in Portland, Oregon, and my significant other really did take me to it.

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

Oh, this is hard. Both of these poems are ones that I’m very proud of, and they were staple pieces of my M.F.A. thesis. If I had to pick, though, I really do like the Trail of Tears painting scene in “Curating.”

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Read. Read the genres you write, read the styles you write, read the genres you don’t write and the styles you don’t necessarily like. You’ll be surprised by what will inspire you or help better your skills, even if you just learn what you don’t want to do.

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

I guess this isn’t too strange for writers, but I read my writing out loud as I go. I like to know how things sound not in my head, and this especially helps with editing. However, if you mumble to yourself in coffee shops you may get strange looks and people may not sit next to you. And here’s something not writing related: I’m really really into horror movies and for the most part, that’s pretty much the only genre I’ll watch.

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

I’m currently sending out my chapbook manuscript, and am attempting to re-work my full-length manuscript.

Mary Leauna Christensen has lived in Southwest deserts and in kudzu-infested Appalachia and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University and is an assistant poetry editor for The Swamp. Her work can be found in Permafrost, Driftwood Press, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among other publications.

The Importance of Libraries to a Community

by Helen Patterson

By now many people are familiar with Panos Mourdoukoutas and his (since deleted) article, “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” In this article, Mourdoukoutas seems to misunderstand or misrepresent what libraries do. Modern libraries are not dusty book depositories sucking up taxpayers’ dollars and offering nothing in exchange. They provide community services and public spaces, connecting people to vital resources. As someone who works at the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL), I see the ways the library constantly supports my community. Readers and writers have an obligation to support libraries for the good of their communities and themselves.

Although we live in a world that is increasingly connected and dependent on technology, many people do not have access to the internet—this could be due to age, income, or other life circumstances. Without internet, it can be difficult to access jobs, do taxes, or finish homework assignments. In most public libraries, including TCCL, wireless internet and free public computers are available.

In addition to internet access, TCCL has eBooks and digital audiobooks available to download. A library card allows you to learn languages with Mango Languages, take classes with lynda.com, and study for your GED with Learning Express. We have dozens of academic publications and databases, magazines, and information about starting a business, running a non-profit, or applying for a grant.

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Onsite, libraries offer classes, STEM workshops for kids, and free seminars that range from retirement to ancestry research. Libraries have reading programs and storytime for parents and children of all ages. They have book clubs and rooms available for community groups and non-profit meetings.

I love all these services, but my great love of libraries stems from their support of books and reading. Libraries host visiting authors and group discussions. Through libraries, communities can pool resources so that everyone can access more books, more perspectives, and more ideas than an individual could amass in a private library. Almost every author has a story of when they first encountered a library and fell in love with books. Without a space that displays and celebrates words and learning, how many fewer authors would we have? How many fewer people would consider writing a possibility?

I was heartened by the strong negative reaction to Mourdoukoutas’s article, because the feedback shows that communities have not given up on their libraries. The future is increasingly complicated and uncertain, and it is becoming easier to leave each other behind. As writers and readers, we have the opportunity to learn and to preserve knowledge. However, our primary responsibility isn’t to abstract ideas—but to people. We need to use the empathy, some of it even gleaned from books, to help others.

Libraries help us think about what kind of people we want to be and what kind of stories we want to tell—and what kind of stories we want told about ourselves.

Originally hailing from Colorado, Helen Patterson is a graduate of The University of Tulsa. She works at the Tulsa City-County Library, writes literary horror, and loves a wonderful Okie boy.

Contributor Interview: Sophia Stid, 2017 Francine Ringold Prize for Poetry Winner

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.

Nimrod: “More Love,” “If You Are Tough Enough, Let the Thing You Love Rot,” “Rust Wilderness,” and “The Wait” all focus quite a bit on death and mortality. Were these poems all written near the same time as a result of a preoccupation with this topic, or do you find this is a recurrent theme in all of your poetry?

Sophia Stid: Mortality—an awareness of it, a grappling with what it means for our lives—is a persistent thread in my poetry, providing a skeleton or structure around which the body of each specific poem takes shape. Even when mortality isn’t literally in the poem, it’s there, I think—the same way that this is true of our lives. This contemplation of mortality is a part of one of my central questions as a writer—and as a person, really—which is, what does it mean to have a body? Our bodies are both fragile and strong, controlled by us in some ways but also completely outside our control. They make us vulnerable, and they also make us possible. They mean we will die, and yet they are how we live. We have a say, and yet we don’t, and that’s terrifying. Simone Weil says, “This world is the only reality available to us, and if we do not love it in all its terror, we are sure to end up loving the imaginary.” Or, as an elderly friend of mine—a fierce Mormon woman who could catch a rattlesnake with some rope and a PVC pipe—used to say, “I love mortality.” I’ve carried those words in some secret place ever since. I want to be able to say that and mean it, and I am writing my way towards that. Writing into questions of the body, or mortality, is my way of loving what is real. bell hooks speaks to this beautifully when she says, “Contemplating death has always been a subject that leads me back to love.”

NimrodWho are the poets and writers you find yourself frequently returning to?

Stid: Some of my touchstone poets are Marie Howe, Adrienne Rich, Carolyn Forché, Emily Dickinson, and Joy Harjo—I learn so much from returning to their work over the years. Recent books of poetry that I’ve returned to countless times are Carlina Duan’s I Wore My Blackest Hair, Eve L. Ewing’s Electric Arches, and Molly McCully Brown’s The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. I keep Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary on my desk—her books are very important to me, particularly On Being IllThree Guineas, and To the Lighthouse. I find myself often seeking out writers who work across boundaries of genre, and particularly love Claudia Rankine, Anne Carson, Joan Didion, Maggie Nelson, Terry Tempest Williams, and Rebecca Solnit. Recently, I’ve been coming back to notebook-style work that engages with the visual and the physical—especially Derek Jarman’s Garden, Anni Albers’s On Weaving, and the notebooks of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Nimrod: What’s your revision process like?

Stid: My revision process is revising itself this year, as I move from spending a lot of time in M.F.A. workshop to revising more on my own during the third year of my program, a year without workshop. I’m finding that revision for me is really a process of discernment or learning to listen. I get quiet and slow. For me, learning to see revision as another facet of writing itself, instead of an external after-the-fact process imposed on the writing, was a really crucial shift that empowered me to feel more at home in the return to my work. (I know that for some writers the exact opposite is true and it’s important to separate writing and revision as much as possible! I love how Richard Hugo points out this contrary nature of writing advice in The Triggering Town: “You’ll never be a poet until you realize that everything I say today is wrong. . . . It may be right for me, but it is wrong for you.”)

Nimrod: What tips would you give to new or aspiring writers?

Stid: This is possibly a very strange answer to this question, but something I really believe in is the importance of finding a physical practice that helps you learn to listen to your body—to listen to yourself. An important part of my writing practice is getting really sweaty in the gym once a day in workout classes with hilariously intense names. I know this isn’t possible or desirable for everybody, but it works for me. Discerning with my body in a really literal way—am I in the right form, is this weight too much, do I need to push myself harder or to be gentler with myself today—has helped me learn how to honor my own instincts. And even though writing can be very cerebral, poetry has always felt physical to me: rhythm, breath, image. Poems live in the body. And, finally, I’ll end with a quote from a letter Audre Lorde wrote to Pat Parker in 1985, advising her as Parker began a year off to write. This is some of the best writing advice I know—and said more beautifully than I could ever say it: “Beware all that hatred you’ve stored up inside you, and the locks on your tender places.”

stid headshotSophia Stid is a writer from California. Currently in the M.F.A. program at Vanderbilt University, she has received fellowships from the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Lannan Foundation. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Image, Beloit Poetry Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, DIAGRAM, and Crab Orchard Review, among other publications.

 

Contributor Interview: Jacqueline Alnes

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.

Alnes

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.

I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember. I swam in elementary school through high school. In the water, I felt strong and untouchable. Only out of the water did I feel the tension between my identity as a woman and a competitive swimmer. Moments with coaches over the years left me with a grimy feeling, something amorphous I couldn’t quite identify. I wrote this poem while taking a poetry workshop at Oklahoma State University, where I am working toward my Ph.D. in Creative Nonfiction. Janine Joseph, my professor, and my peers in workshop were instrumental in helping me clarify form and themes in revision.

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

The memory of a coach pulling me aside to examine girls’ legs to see if they had shaved or not is one that haunts me. At the time I explained the moment away by telling myself that analyzing competitors was part of competitive athletics, but, as I insinuate in the line “my name a singling out / my name a sin,” I now feel deeply uncomfortable about what happened.

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 started creative writing during my undergraduate years, and since then I have earned my M.F.A. from Portland State and am working toward my Ph.D. I used to write poetry a lot in college but hadn’t returned to the genre until last year. I can’t tell you how much I love reading poems that sing on the page and reverberate through me. Being named as a finalist in the competition, especially for a poem that means so much to me as an athlete and a writer, was a true honor.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

One of my favorite professors once told me to “treat writing like a job,” and I have followed his advice ever since. I wake up at 4:44 every morning to write, and I’ve been in that practice for years. Carving out writing time and honoring that commitment is what has helped me develop most.

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

I once ran a marathon alone around town as a means of celebrating my 25th birthday. And I ran a personal record!

www.jacquelinealnes.com

Jacqueline Alnes is a Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University. When she’s not writing, reading, or teaching, she enjoys long distance running and baking way too many cookies.