Authors Talk: Catherine Kyle

Authors Talk: Catherine Kyle

Today we are pleased to feature poet Catherine Kyle as our Authors Talk series contributor. Join Catherine as she shares her thoughts on using a fantastical framework to talk about real feelings and experiences and how poetry provides a unique medium to do so.

“When you think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and turning it into something else.”


You can read Catherine’s poems, “Pysanky” and “The Village Remembers” in Issue 11 of Superstition Review.

Check out her works mentioned in her talk:

Flotsam
Coronations
Shelter in Place


Transcription:

Hi, I’m Catherine Kyle, and I’m going to be talking a little bit today about poetry and magic. When I looked back over the two poems that were published in Superstition Review in issue 11, all the way back in 2013, the biggest thing I noticed was that both poems have this kind of sense of myth and mysticism that I think is still really present in the kind of poems I write now.

So, 2013 was a long time ago—it’s seven years ago—and since then, I’ve experimented with poetry and magic in lots of different ways. I’ve had a few chapbooks come out since then, and one of them was about a kind of “guardian angel of art” who wanders around an abandoned city rescuing library books and forgotten paintings and things like that; the two poems that Superstition Review ran ended up in a chapbook called Flotsam, which was all about the ocean as a symbol of the unconscious that has a lot of mermaids and seaside villages and kind of a fairy tale vibe—things like that. So it’s been a definite thread in my writing for a long time, and in all these cases, I want to have stakes in the real world, but it has always been really helpful to me to frame real feelings and real experiences in this kind of mystical or magical light—to kind of approach it through a different angle. Part of what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is why poetry seems like the best way to do that, as opposed to a different type of art. Why I’ve gravitated to poetry specifically to do that. And something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been trying to untangle that knot is that poetry is really rich in metaphor, and I think there’s something almost inherently magical about metaphor. It’s transformative, right? Like, when you think of a metaphor, it’s almost like you’re casting a spell on one thing and turning it into something else. And to me, metaphor feels different from simile, because when you’re using a simile, you’re saying, “This was like this,” which is something you could do in creative nonfiction, for instance: say, “This experience was like being in a fairy tale.” But in poetry, you can use metaphor more freely, I think—in metaphor, you’re saying, “This was this.” It’s just a little bit different, but it feels powerfully different to me. Again, in a poem, you’re not necessarily saying, “This felt like a fairy tale,” you’re saying, “This was a fairy tale,” and there’s room in the poem for those two things to be true simultaneously. The literal thing is true, but also the figurative thing is true, and they’re existing simultaneously in this almost paradoxical and, to me, kind of magical way. It’s a liminal space where two things can be true at once.  

The other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot as far as why magic is this thread in my poetry is that honestly, I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy as genres for as long as I can remember—my whole life. And it took me quite a while to realize that part of what I really like about sci-fi and fantasy is also part of what I like about poetry. I think they both have the ability to ask, “What if…?” and answer it in some new way. They both rely on imagination to think about things that maybe don’t exist yet or could never exist in real life, that are only possible in the realm of art (at least at this point). For example, about a year ago, I wrote this sequence of poems where, like, an older, cooler version of me drives around in a car and picks up younger versions of me who needed a big sister figure and shakes them out of whatever situation they’re in and gives them a little life advice and dusts them off and kind of holds space for them. Obviously that can’t happen literally, right? Like, I can’t literally time travel. But the fact that it can happen in a poem makes a kind of catharsis possible that’s not possible any other way that feels almost supernatural to me. So those are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about.

I’ll just read you a couple of poems from my two collections that came out last year. I had a chapbook come out from Ghost City Press called Coronations that consists of some fairy tale retellings, and I had a book come out from a press called Spuyten Duyvil called Shelter in Place, which, unfortunately, now is a phrase many more people are familiar with. I’ll read you one from Coronations first and then one from Shelter in Place. In Coronations, again, my goal was just to revisit traditional fairy tales and give some of the princesses a little bit more agency. Other writers have done this, but I wanted to try it out for myself. I’ll read you one called “Collective,” which is inspired by Swan Lake.

Collective

Somewhere adjacent to the world,
we rule, gowns our feathers.

Moonlight soaks our birch grove
blue, our webbed feet tinted green.

When stars blink out like carbonated
water, limbs re-human. We rub

ourselves with bath salts, make a bonfire,
and dance. Lake a slice of armor,

silver breastplate we surround.
When dawn begins to infiltrate

the copse with prying hand beams,
we stamp out what orange coal still smokes,

pack up our camping gear. We do not wait
around for arrows, heartbreak, drowning—

none of that. We pirouette to bird form.
We sail beyond its reach.

Okay. So that was one inspired by Swan Lake. I just always liked the character of Odette and was sad that she meets a tragic end in the original. I think in some versions all her friends, her swan attendants die with her, so it was just putting them in a contemporary setting where maybe they would have a little bit more agency.

The other poem I’ll read you is from Shelter in Place. While fairy tales are my favorite type of magic or allegory that I visit in poems, Shelter in Place has more of a cyberpunk feel. The whole book is set across a backdrop of this dystopian, futuristic city, and I tried to use that not only to talk about some of the grief and heaviness I feel when I think about some of the problems the world is facing right now—environmentally, economically, in terms of human rights, all kinds of things—to articulate the pain of living in a time where we’re facing the things we’re facing, but also to look for metaphors of hope and resistance in the face of all of that. So, I’ll read you one that was inspired by a flower I saw on a walk one day that was just bursting through the cement. It was just bursting through the sidewalk, right in front of me. There were no other flowers around—it was just this sea of concrete and then this very healthy-looking flower somehow, despite it all, against all odds, living there and thriving in the sidewalk. So, this is called “Blossoming 1.”

Blossoming 1

On these evenings our heads tilt
up and become flowers, busting
out of our collars, all iridescent.
Geranium, freesia, gladiolus
erupting straight out of our
used T-shirts. With smartphones in
our pockets—our long winter
coats. Our cheeks shift to
druzy, a spiked hymn of glitter
refracting and clutching
the siren-scraped light. The red
-green-yellow No Vacancy din. We
are all wind, all magenta. Our laughter
a rooftop vertigo, a circle of lips
on a bottle’s swan neck. Geode
heartbeats keeping time. A wallowing,
a daisy in cement.

Okay. Thanks. I’ll stop there, but thank you so much to Superstition Review for inviting me to be part of this series. Thank you for listening in. It was really fun to be part of this, and I hope you’re reading and/or writing something fun today. Thanks again!

Authors Talk: Adam Houle

Authors Talk: Adam Houle

Today we are pleased to feature author Adam Houle as our Authors Talk series contributor. Adam talks with Mason Yarborough, discussing his poem, “A Time to Tear and a Time to Mend” which was featured in Issue 24 of Superstition Review.

Adam goes through his poem in detail, remarking on inspiration behind lines, the narrative the order builds, and how to know when a poem is finished. Adam also talks about how his writing has changed over the years, relating his work now to back when he first contributed to the magazine.


You can read Adam’s previous work “Three poems” featured in Issue 9 of Superstition Review.

You can also check out Adam’s book, Stray, at Lithic Press.


Authors Talk: Todd Dillard

Authors Talk: Todd Dillard

Today we are pleased to feature author Todd Dillard as our Authors Talk series contributor. Todd answers questions submitted by his Twitter followers, building a discussion of his new collection: WAYS WE VANISH, his methods, and ninja turtles.

WAYS WE VANISH centers around the loss of his mother and his grief at her absence. Todd details how he curated his collection, how he originally failed, and why his collection is better because of it.

Todd also talks about poetry in general–from knowing how to revise, to knowing when a poem is ready for publication. He also touches on a wide variety of other points like the importance of the musicality of poetry, line lengths and their effects, and how to assemble a book of poetry.


You can read Todd’s work “Rewind” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.

Check out Todd’s website and preorder your copy of WAYS WE VANISH.


Contributor Update, Sam Sax

Congratulations to Sam Sax for his recent poem Hangover 1.1.2019 published in ZYZZYVA’s issue 117.

Sam Sax is a queer, Jewish, writer & educator. He is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series selected by Terrance Hayes & bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. Sam has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony.

For more on Sam Sax, visit his website here.

To read more from ZYZZYVA visit there homepage here.

Congratulations again Sam!

Guest Post, Emma DePanise: Poeming the Poetry Book

Guest Post, Emma DePanise: Poeming the Poetry Book

Recently, while chatting with an author about their book of poems, I asked them about the ordering of their collection. I was particularly curious about the placing of a few poems about half-way through the book that focused on personal experience.

Reading these personal poems in the context of the prior poems, which were primarily concerned with the world outside the self, was incredibly striking. The author responded by first noting that he is always unsure how people will engage his books—whether they will pick up the book and read one or two poems and set it down, or if they will read the book in larger chunks or even in one sitting.

Poems are individual units of possibility. They enchant us and surprise us. We delight in their layers upon layers of meaning. But poems do not only contain layers of meaning—they contain layers of experiencing.

We can experience a poem through its visual appearance on the page, through its sounds and rhythms, through the way it feels leaving our mouths. We feel and come to understand all at once the tensions and releases found in reading both lines and sentences and seeing a poem as well as hearing it. These multiplicities are at the core of the lyric poem—they allow us to engage with the poem in a present moment and to return to its music often.

While we can experience the many facets of a poem all at once, often to gain a deeper understanding of the poem or an understanding of the ways in which the poem is crafted, we must isolate its particular components—such as solely examining a poem’s use of sound or whitespace. We often engage a poem not only in multiple readings, but in different readings.

I think this concept of engaging in multiple and different readings can apply to the poetry book. I also like the idea of applying some of Jonathan Culler’s Theory of the Lyric to poetry books. These books are rather different from other books we often read, such as novels. A poem within a poetry book is self-sufficient, yet is always altered by its existence within the larger text. And the text, the whole, exists as its own entity that at the same time cannot exist without the individual poems in their particular form and order. And in addition to the poem, there are other units within the poetry book that create complexity, such as series of poems and larger sections.

The complex dynamic between parts and wholes allows some poetry books to function much like poems. Through reading a poetry book, the reader is creating a web of connections and tensions that can be experienced in a present moment. This ‘web’ separates narrative forms, like the novel, from other forms, like the poetry book, which can be much more lyric.

While we can read narrative forms like the novel from beginning to end, we often read poetry books circularly—constantly referring to previous poems and ideas to consider the relationships between the many parts and wholes. When reading the last poem in a collection, we often return to prior poems in thought—the context of experiencing the whole changes the parts we have already experienced. We are continuously re-experiencing units of the poetry book in a ritualistic way, similarly to how we return to reconsider lines or stanzas or the title of a poem after reaching its end.

Just as there are multiple ways of reading a poem to yield new understandings or experiences, there are multiple ways of reading a poetry book. Sometimes, when poems expect a lot of us as readers, we must absorb them in smaller chunks. Other times, we may be able to read a collection straight through. After reading a poetry book in smaller chunks, we might consider re- reading it continuously. I think a continuous reading sensitizes us to the ebb and flow of a poetry book—to the various turns or climaxes within series or sections or the larger whole.

We can have a different experience through reading the last poem of a book back into the first poem. We could also isolate poems written about a particular subject or in a particular form and read them continuously rather than reading them in the order they appear within the collection. We could read a poem specifically in the context of another poem within the collection. These different readings will illuminate new aspects of both the poems and the book, providing us a way to experience the complexities of the poetry book as a form.

I am not advocating for a particular way we should be reading poetry books, but rather that many readings exist as possibilities for us to explore. Just as we delight in whole poems as well as in their lines, stanzas, sounds and rhythms, we can delight in whole books as well as in their individual poems, series and sections. We not only delight in these parts, but in the various tensions and connections present—the spaces that exist between these parts and their larger wholes. Regardless of how we read a poetry book, we should consider more often these spaces between—the wondrous web of meanings and experiences that draws us to encounter a poetry book again and again.

Contributor Update, Special Event

Contributor Update, Special Event

EVENT DETAILS:

WHEN: Friday, November 22, 2019 at 6:30 pm

WHERE: Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, 1738 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85006

PRICE: Free

Past SR contributor Sally Ball has helped to bring about a discussion event at a local Tempe book shop with the notable authors Chris Nealon and Wendy Trevino.

The Marshall Chair Borderlands Poetry and Performance Series is presenting The Poetics of Borders, Race, and Capital, which is supported by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, is free and open to the public. The reading event will be facilitated by the two authors and will take place on November 22nd at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore.

You can learn about Chris Nealon’s new book of poetry, The Shore, here and Wendy Trevino’s recent work, Cruel Fiction, here. To read our contributor, Sally Ball’s poetry go to Issue 6 of Superstition Review.

We hope you are able to attend this thought-provoking event! You can also RSVP here, though it is not required to attend.

book

Guest Post, Dana Curtis

“Palimpsest” is one of the poems I wrote in response to a friend’s death. It is not just about my own “sadness” and “fear” but my friend’s. Her pain was so much greater than my own. This poem is one of the ways I grappled with the inevitable and my helplessness. It is also meaningless in the face of reality. I have trouble grasping that the world could continue without her, that despite my knowledge of the terrible unfairness of existence, I cannot help but continue my protest and record my objections, as though they matter.

I did not realize I was writing a palimpsest until I had completed the poem. It was obviously one thing written on top of another and in the end, which was on top was irrelevant. Sadness and fear interact within the dark room that is this poem and can never be separate, maybe that is always the case: no escape.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get out of the darkness? For me, the worst thing is that writing the poem is an escape and did make me feel a little bit better. Of course, this also led to a sense of guilt and the feeling that I was exploiting not just my friend’s death but my own feelings about it. The starless night pulls me in, sits me down, and delivers a stern lecture about the world/unworld that expects me to do something, anything about it. And again, no escape.

I do find some refuge in Elixir Press. I really love reading all those manuscripts, seeing all this great poetry and fiction before anyone else then bringing at least a little bit of it into print. There is usually very little conflict between my own work and the work I do with Elixir. I’ve gotten pretty good at carving out time for myself without taking anything from Elixir. I have to spend some time on my own work, or I wouldn’t be able to run Elixir at all.
I think most people understand this.

#ArtLitPhx: Poetry Reading with Javier Zamora

#ArtLitPhx: Poetry Reading with Javier Zamora

Join the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing for a poetry reading with Javier Zamora on Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore (1738 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85006), courtesy of the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series. RSVPs are encouraged, but not required. This event is free and open to the public.

Zamora will be presenting his own bilingual, debut collection, Unaccompanied. It is poetry that delves into race, borderland politics, and immigration on a journey throughout El Salvador and Mexico, rife with civil war. Zamora himself was born in El Salvador and moved to the United States when he was only nine–over 4,000 miles–to reunite with his parents. In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works Blog, Zamora stated, “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people that have literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words”. 

 He is also the author of the chapbook Nueve Anos Inmigrantes/Nine Immigrant Years, which won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts Contest, as well as a winner of 2017 Narrative Prize.

The Piper Writers Studio will also be presenting a class with Javier Zamora, Engagement in Poetry/Engaged poetry from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Piper Writers House (450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85287). To learn about Javier Zamora’s class, you can find more information about it on the website.

#ArtLitPhx: An Evening with Danez Smith

#ArtLitPhx: An Evening with Danez Smith

Join the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and Burton Barr Central Library for a talk with poet Danez Smith on Thursday, September 12, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Pulliam Auditorium at Burton Barr Central Library (1221 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004). RSVPs are encouraged, but not required. The event is open and free to the public.

The #PiperWritersStudio will also be presenting Poeming in Code, Singing to Our Beloveds with Danez Smith on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Burton Barr Central Library, Pulliam Auditorium (1221 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004). To learn more about the class, visit the Piper Writer website at https://piper.asu.edu/classes/danez-smith/singing-to-our-beloveds.

Danez Smith is a Black, Queer writer & performer from St. Paul, MN who is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award as well as the poetry book [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Smith has been the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The poet’s work has been featured widely, appearing on platforms such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Smith is also a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Smith’s third collection, Homie, will be published by Graywolf in Spring 2020. 

For more information about Smith, visit their website. For further information on the event, see the Facebook page.

#ArtLitPhx: Underground Poetry Slam | First Friday Artwalk

In the streets of Phoenix, up to 16 poets will compete against one another in an open mic poetry slam for the title of champion and a $500 grand prize based on the audience’s applause. Hosted by International Poetry Interpretation Champion and Lawn Gnome Publishing founder Aaron Hopkins-Johnson, these poets will go head-to-head on September 6th, in the middle of the First Friday Artwalk in front of the Roosevelt Row CDC Headquarters (417 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, Arizona 85004), from 9pm to midnight. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition to his eight years as the Phoenix Poetry Slammaster, Aaron Hopkins-Johnson has spent ten years in advertising and promotions for Arts and Culture non-profits, small businesses, and social media heavyweights, while also contributing to the power of words and both spoken and written language. Some of his poetry collections include the titles “Roach Killer For Her”, “Chainsawsmoking”, “Rights4Lefty”, “Watering The Poetry”, and “Irony Stinks: My Life Is Irony”.

For more information, please visit the Facebook page.