Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Wendy Mitman Clarke

Wendy Mitman Clarke’s poetry has been published in Rattle, Delmarva Review, and Blue River Review, and it will appear in the spring 2018 issue of Blackbird. She won the Pat Nielsen Poetry Prize in 2015 and 2017, and her poem “The Kiss” was a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her nonfiction has been published in River Teeth, Smithsonian, Preservation, and National Parks. Her novel Still Water Bending was released in October 2017. You can read and view her work at www.wendymitmanclarke.com.

Clarke’s poem, “Beachcombing,” appeared in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

Q: What’s the name of the form you use in “Beachcombing.” Why did you make that choice?

A: This form is a pantoum. I was really intimidated by form at first, but I learn so much from it. I’m intrigued by the paradoxical way it makes you more flexible, stretches your thinking and your effort, and often takes the poem to a place you didn’t expect or perhaps wouldn’t have gone at first. In this case, the repetition that this form required worked to establish the kind of rhythmic movement of waves upon a shoreline, and so the form complemented the poem’s setting and topic perfectly. I also think it’s fantastic that a form as ancient as the pantoum can so beautifully illuminate a subject that’s so vital in our contemporary world.

Q: Your poem begins with a statement from UNESCO about plastic killing marine animals. What’s the relationship in your writing between literature and social/environmental causes?

A: So many things are happening in our world today that demand that we bear witness and raise our voices, it can be overwhelming. I felt the need to prioritize. I have spent my whole life on the water, have sailed tens of thousands of miles and have been in some really remote places. Everywhere I have found plastic. My daughter and I are avid beachcombers, and yet with every perfect shell comes a disposable razor or a toothbrush or a tampon applicator or a little round ball from a deodorant dispenser or a mylar balloon, or just tiny, colorful, indiscriminate bits of plastic. It doesn’t biodegrade, and fish and birds and whales—anything that lives in or near the ocean—ingest it in some form. Without our oceans, we as a species and as a planet are dead. People don’t understand that with every choice they make for their convenience, they are killing the oceans and the animals that depend upon them—ourselves included. Plastic straws, plastic coffee cup lids, plastic water bottles—it’s ubiquitous and pervasive and it has to stop. I hope if I focus my writing on trying to make people more aware of issues like this, perhaps I can do my small part to help our natural world and the animals and organisms with whom we share it. The Lorax had it right: Someone has to speak for the trees. Also, artists like Chris Jordan—whose work “Midway: Message From the Gyre” absolutely shatters me—inspire me to raise my voice through my writing.

Q: You seem to write everything—poetry, nonfiction, fiction. What got you into writing?

I have been writing since I can remember. I come from a family of voracious readers, and writing was always valued in my family. My dad could recite things like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by heart, and at every Christmas or major family event like a wedding, he would write a poem to commemorate it. I had an amazing English teacher in high school—that one teacher you worship and for whom you want to excel, and after a I wrote a short story about a post-apocalyptic world, he encouraged me to pursue more creative writing. My nonfiction writing began when I was in college with a semester left to graduate and the urgent need to find a job. I started working as a reporter at my hometown newspaper, then was hired by The Associated Press, where I really learned the value of brevity, accuracy, and efficiency in writing. Eventually I shifted into magazines, and that’s where my nonfiction really was able to stretch.

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Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker’s work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She is the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves is the most recent. She has received a number of awards, including the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Award and the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, as well as three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts writing fellowships.

Crooker’s poem, “Road Trip,” was published in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

Q: Pardon my poetry ignorance, but I was surprised when I first saw “Road Trip” that it appears as two big paragraphs of text. You don’t seem to utilize line breaks the way other poets in the winter issue did. Am I right in this observation, or missing something? And is there a name for this sort of style of presentation?

The short answer is, this is a two-stanza poem. And it’s not in paragraphs or sentences, but rather, pretty carefully delineated lines. Let’s take a look at the first couple of lines.

Spring ahead, the weatherman said, which is what we did,
driving down I-95, watching its scroll unroll before us:
purple and yellow crocus in Maryland, a smudge
of green on the trees. In Reston, VA, the buds start popping,

See how differently it would read if I broke it like this:

Spring ahead, the weatherman said, which is
what we did, driving down I-95, watching its
scroll unroll before us: purple and yellow crocus in
Maryland, a smudge of green on the trees.

I typically create my lines based on breath units, where I would naturally pause to take a breath.

Then I think about where the line ends, as that’s where the emphasis should fall. I have an aversion to lines that end in “a” or “the,” or prepositions like “in.” Then I pay attention (usually by reading the poem out loud) about how the punctuation works with the pauses (noun + line break is a shorter pause than noun + comma, for example). Finally, I look at the poem as a whole, looking for shapeliness. . . .

Also, if this were prose, it would look like this:

Spring ahead, the weatherman said, which is what we did, driving down I-95, watching its scroll unroll before us: purple and yellow crocus in Maryland, a smudge of green on the trees. In Reston, VA, the buds start popping, and a cardinal sets his road flare on a bare bush.

Great question!

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Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Rachel Morgan

Rachel Morgan is the author of the chapbook Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey (Final Thursday Press, 2017), and her work is included in the anthology Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America (Ice Cube Press, 2016). Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, Bellevue Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Barrow Street, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She teaches at the University of Northern Iowa and is the poetry editor for the North American Review.

Morgan’s poem, “The Plural of Grief,” was published in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

Q: I just finished a writing program, so I’ll start off with a self-interested question. How did you navigate transitioning from being a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop into your next life? And do you have any advice for me?

How did I navigate the transition? Not well—cautiously and slowly. I don’t recommend it. I had a complex, at best, relationship with my MFA experience, and I think many writers experience something similar. Transitioning from MFA to WORLD is hard. The employment opportunities are often contingent or in the nonprofit sector, so the financial struggles are real. Additionally, finding and guarding writing time is complicated. Staying connected to writer friends in the same struggle helped; we could process the difficulties together and read each other’s new work. Meet, even virtually, with a group of writers for workshop on a regular basis. Also read, write, submit, and repeat. No matter how many “no’s” you hear, keep submitting. The right poem will eventually find the right editor and publication.

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Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Saida Agostini

Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet and social worker. A Cave Canem fellow, her work has appeared in several publications, including pluck! The Affrilachian Journal of Arts and Culture, Torch Literary Arts, Delaware Poetry Review and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on her first collection, uprisings in a state of joy.

On March 17 at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda (pictured right), Agostini read “Harriet Tubman is a Lesbian,” “Great Granny’s Last Night,” and “The Night before HB2’s Passage,” which was published in LPR‘s Winter Issue (available for purchase at this link).

Q: Who are some of your inspirations?

There are so many. I truly love Jacqueline Trimble’s American Happiness–it’s a searing and moving treatise on Black womanhood, family, and the inheritance of trauma. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to interview Joan Cambridge, a powerful Afro-Guyanese activist who has founded a retreat in the Amazon named Yukuriba. Yukuriba has been claimed by Cambridge and a collective of Guyanese women as the conscience of the Amazon. In this moment when so much is being visibly taken away from us–I am moved by the power of these Black women who stand in resistance against the destruction of our ancestral homes.

Q: What are your goals for this next year?

Thanks to a Ruby grant, I was gifted with the opportunity to return back to Guyana (my family’s home) to research my family’s history, travel across the country, and interview storytellers, folklorists, and other artists. In just one month, I met family I never knew existed, returned to my granny’s village and birthplace, Kabakaburi, and painted the grave of my great-grandmother.  My goal now is to figure out how in the world this makes a cohesive story.

Q: What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my first collection of poems inspired by the histories of my grandmothers–it is an attempt to celebrate their work to create an inheritance of liberation for their descendants, and what that work cost them.

From Our Current Issue: Q&A with Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Over the past two months, Little Patuxent Review has hosted two popular readings. In the video above, from our reading on January 21 in Columbia, Maryland, Teri Ellen Cross Davis reads her poems, “Knowledge of the Brown Body,” a response to poet Saida Agostini’s “Harriet Tubman is a Lesbian,” and “Ode to Orgasms,” which was published in LPR‘s Winter Issue (available for purchase at this link). Below the jump, Davis answers questions about her experience at our reading on March 17 in Bethesda, Maryland, and gives insight into her life as a poet.

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, published by Gival Press and winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is a Cave Canem fellow and has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is on the Advisory Council of Split This Rock (a biennial poetry festival in Washington DC), a semi-finalist judge for the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. Her work has been published in many anthologies including: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and Not Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality and The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic. Her work can be read online and in the following journals: ArLiJo, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Delaware Poetry Review, Fledging Rag, Gargoyle, Harvard Review, Little Patuxent Review, Natural Bridge, North American Review, MER VOX, MiPOesias, Poet Lore, Tin House, Torch, and Sligo Journal. She is the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and lives in Maryland with her husband, poet Hayes Davis, and their two children. Her website is www.poetsandparents.com.

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Winter Issue 2018: Two Poems by Katy Day

In a recent blog postLittle Patuxent Review board member George Clack writes that the latest issue was “a revelation” to him. In particular, this fiction teacher with “pretty high standards” was “blown away by all the youthful talent on display at the reading.”

This week on the LPR blog, we’re happy to release two poems by Katy Day, “Weeding, Etc.” and “People Who Push Other People Out of Cars Don’t Get More Cake.” Day reads her poems at our launch in the video above.

Day works in literary arts management in Washington, DC. Her poems have appeared in The Potomac and Little Patuxent Review.

The 2018 Winter Issue is available for purchase at this link.

 

Concerning Craft: Alan King and His Sources of Inspiration

The “Concerning Craft” series introduces Little Patuxent Review contributors, showcases their work and shares some insights on writing well. Our latest comes from Alan King, who writes that his “creative process” is a “meditative one.” “Poetry still asks me to prove myself, to take it to the next level,” King reflects, and he makes that push in part by “pull[ing] inspiration from two contemporary poets,” Patricia Smith and Tim Seibles, a.k.a. (to King) as Rogue and Iceman.

King’s poem “The Journey” appeared in LPR’s Winter 2018 issue. (In the video above, King reads his poem at LPR’s issue launch.) He is the author of Point Blank (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and Drift (Willow Books, 2012). A Caribbean American whose parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in the 1970s, he is a husband, father, and communications professional. He is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and holds an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. King is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Two weeks ago, I read at the Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia, Maryland. I was among the contributors helping to launch Little Patuxent Review‘s Winter Issue.

It’s exciting when the list of contributors for a publication I’m in is a reunion of sorts. The reading was no different.

I enjoyed rocking the mic podium with the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. I also got my first face-to-face meeting with folks, who until that moment, I only knew on Twitter and Facebook.

After the reading, thumbing through the pages, I smiled at the Editor’s Note:

“I’d even go so far as to say that poems, stories, and essays” – LPR’s Editor Steven Leyva writes – “when paired with the striking iconography of various visual arts, form an aegis against ‘a boogeyman’s appetite for innocent things.’”

The “boogeyman” quote is a nod to my poem, “The Journey,” which appears in LPR’s latest issue.

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