Chapbook Q & A with Ryan Bollenbach // In the House on the Cusp of Light

Read In the House on the Cusp of Light


What is poetry?  Part 2: why do you write it?

Poetry is a making. Reading is a making too. A poem is a dynamic thing. I write and read poetry to perform that making over and over again. For me, the making happens between what’s in the poem, my expectations about the poem (and/or poetry in general), others’ expectation about the poem (and/or poetry in general), and what’s around and in me in my life at the time (bodily, locally, globally). I try to write from where all these things meet. When I start writing, I put those things in then I turn them around until I don’t understand them anymore, until they become a question. Then the poem happens and puts those questions into action. My favorite place in a poem is the place where the question reaches its logical limit (where I’ve exhausted the turning motion), because, then, the question collapses into itself and becomes something new, other than/mirror to the starting point. I have trouble committing to end to a poem because the questions never actually stop. The only reason I do end the poem is because the end of the poem is just as artificial as the poem itself. In that way, the poem is always an incompletion, a failure, and I like that, because then I can start from where I left off. I can keep working and investing my energy into keeping that making failing. Keeping that failing making.     

What makes this a chapbook & not just a pile of poems?

I think this poem is a chapbook because it asks similar questions of all the characters that appear in the book: the speaker, the mother, the sun, the various animals, the pets and near pets, the “pests,” the house etc.To be honest, I’d love be able to make the poem even longer, to write a book-length poem, because, the longer a poem gets, the more ideas are in the air, and the more ideas are in the air the more mixed up things get. I like things being mixed up.

Are there any particular pronounced influences / guiding lights for the poems in this chapbook, or is it just the usual jumble & tangle (also, if so: what IS your usual jumble & tangle)?




I think jumble and tangle is just the word for it! I’m always reading many books at once because I love the tangle. At the time I drafted this poem, I was reading The Necropastoral by Joyelle McSweeney, The To Sound by Eric Baus, So You Know It’s Me by Brian Oliu, Take Care Fake Bear Torque Cake by Heidi Lynn Staples. I was also struck by a handful of epistolary and nearly-autobiographical pieces that my peers had published. Those readings were making me want to use the epistolary to compound (explode?) the relationship between autobiography, time, and artifice. Thinking about my reading habits brings me back to the genre question: I tend to be a quick reader and I generally don’t underline or write down quotes unless I’m writing a review or a paper. I only remember what really intrigues me at the moment, which, of course, means I forget a lot. That forgetting facilitates a new reading experience every time I open up a book, which is why I love re-reading so much. That tendency also speaks to why I enjoy the brevity of the chapbook form.   

Chapbook Q & A with Joanna Climaxus // Poor Banished Child of Eve

Read Poor Banished Child of Eve by Joanna Climaxus


What is poetry & why do you write it?

I think the definition changes with each poem/work
for this one, poetry is
The diaphanous—Synaptic—Liminal—Gauzy—Indeterminate—Apocryphal—When it hurts to look someone in the eye—A doppler effect—“Shame” as the failure to let go of a fantasy after it has abandoned you—The “…zinger of discovering that she has been trying, all her life, to seduce intermittent love into becoming a permanent and unconditional flow” (Berlant, on Sedgwick)—Pucker in the tapestry of ideas—Armoire of associations—Unconscious enactment of historical form—Quality of making light what is heavy—Excavation, the process of brushing past—A lingering cadence—Tone, or tonal shift—Residue—Rust—Saliva—Bridge, or a refrain—Parts that are not mistaken for their whole—Holes—Break into polyphony without the expense of fragmentation—(Remaining despite what threatens to atomize you)—“force of nature”—Inarticulate element—Crustacean’s soft body (relative to armor)

Right now the terms available to me to describe “why write” are inadequate—my muse doesn’t do safe words. 
I don’t see a difference between the human desire/need to speak & my desire/need to write poetry, in that I don’t know how not to: a compulsion? 
But “compulsion” feels pathological, & ^^^ isn’t. 
Maybe a drive: when desire/need is paired with survival? Could I survive without speaking/poetry?

Although we do not say a fig has a desire/need nor drive to exist, nor does it exist by compulsion or pathology. This might be an inadequacy in human understanding of plant consciousness. 

Poesis/being—being/process: poetry as a way of making space to survive the indeterminate—

What makes this a chapbook & not just a pile of poems?

It is probably neither—It doesn’t resemble a pile, anyway, & typically a chapbook is a sequence riding on a theme—Poor Banished Child of Eve is more of an epic in the thematic sense of leaving & return, although the psychic route is more of a ——👀——👀——👌——👀——🕸—— & its visual stitching is more of        //            //            //             //              with a lot of big-font texture: a tapestry or scroll. 
I’ve begun to embrace the chapbook as a poetic form—It is expansive enough to hold many ideas simultaneously, but short enough that I can catch up to my ambition in the end (my ideas tend to outrun me). The chapbook also allows for an object-flourish in the sense of making the book itself match its written content (e.g., the reason this one is digital: to allow for a “scrolling”—to hint at digital permanence—to nod to the virtual as an extension of the psychic—since the work is “about” the wear & tear of memory in time). 


I wanted to create texture/textile/tapestry, with “puckers” in the fabric—Large bolded fonts for voices that are not my own—To give the tapestry a hand-stitched feeling—Where the pucker is the object of an idea (a quote, like a little sequin-sing). I think one day I’d like to make a large tapestry-installation of it on handmade paper, perhaps handwritten. 


In the history of the tapestry, the form evolved from function—(wall hangings to keep out the damp) (Egyptians and Incas wrapped their dead in tapestry)—to something ornamental or narrative—another kind of function. In the 13th century the church used tapestry to depict bible stories for their illiterate congregation. So I suppose writing Poor Banished Child of Eve was a kind of reclamation of that. I wanted to unstitch the woven narrative (its imposition & history) with the warp & weft of affect & ambiguity (the blurring gesture of memory & presence). Not to blur the fact of history, but to repair its narrative (nerve-itive?) damage (the bible story of the immaculate conception, genetic contamination, definitions of “purity,” how that narrative gets passed on & becomes a traumatic reinscription on the social) & reclaim the psychology of the characters. The concept itself as colonizer and its expression as undoing/enacting it, depending. Alternative history/revision: the way in oral traditions, a myth changes to fit the atmosphere in which the story is told. 

Skimming through some articles on the art of tapestry weaving, I learn: The tapestry craftsman not only had to be an expert weaver but also needed to be skilled in the art of dying.   I read this wrong/it is spelled wrong—But either way it applies to writing—Stitching, dy(e)ing—a garment to protect a gainst a death drive?—Plath-style—Perhaps every poem is a kind of death dress for a co(r)pse of ideas. 

Are there any particular pronounced influences / guiding lights for this chapbook?


Formally/visually I was just having fun (see answer to question #2) but in a way the chapbook is about influence—who influences, who affects versus who is affected, who is the sewer & who is the sown etc.—these are interspersed in big bold text. Not very subtle, but since my writing tends toward the oblique, & Poor Banished deals with contamination of the gauzy or pure, I thought the “ugliness” of the domineering intellectual influence on the minuscula of the narrative made for interesting contrast.  

The pseudonym I used (which is also not-subtle in that I am not hiding in the name, more of a glasses + mustache ensemble) is a tip of my hat to Kierkegaard (Johannes Climactus) who used guises to explore doubt. So a way of ventriloquizing to explore questions or feelings—egolessness, or multiplicity. 

I started reading Alice Notley & Lauren Berlant’s work after I wrote this, but I feel like I channeled them both somehow, throughout. Always channeling Clarice Lispector and Helene Cixous, Claudia Rankine & Maggie Nelson.

Chapbook Q&A with Chance Castro // If My Air is Touching You

Read Chance Castro’s chapbook If My Air is Touching You

What is poetry?


To me, poetry is in a lot of ways just attention. Out of that attention is often an outburst of energy and emotion, or an attempt to reconcile or understand something I’ve witnessed or experienced and that’s how a poem at least generally begins for me. From there, I don’t know that I can answer this question with any conviction because poetry can also be vast and immeasurable—something we attempt to put our best toward while also never acknowledging that there is a “best” within us.


Why do you write it?


I write poetry because I feel that through it I am granted a nearness to the world which I find to be so alive and pulsating and marvelous. And since I am always seeking to be closer to life, poetry tends to satisfy that appetite within me. Sometimes I am close to beauty and human kindness and this is exciting. Other times I am near deep pain and loss, but regardless of the emotional associations I make, I find value in the deeper understanding I have with what I study or read or write. I am closer to the author for it and, sometimes, the author is myself.


What makes this a chapbook & not just a pile of poems?



This chapbook specifically is born out of super-related content with something of a narrative structure, and written in a similar process (by obsessively listening to a song/playlist of songs on repeat until each poem was finished). I sort of understand the speaker to be in search of a kind of love or closeness to his mother and he keeps trying to reconcile his understanding of love and what’s missing from this version of it in surprising ways. I don’t think that the whole idea could be complete if any particular piece were missing. I guess a short way of answering this question is that the poems are more impactful together.



Are there any particular pronounced influences / guiding lights for the poems in this chapbook, or is it just the usual jumble & tangle (also, if so: what IS your usual jumble & tangle)? 

 While writing this collection I was obsessively reading Roger Reeves, Chiwan Choi and especially Ocean Vuong. Not that I want to compare this collection to the work of those writers, but brilliant work always sparks energy in me to create something, and those three are pretty damn brilliant. Also, I had a playlist of music that I played on repeat during the creation of this chapbook and I owe credit to the artists on there. I’d say if I had some regular jumble and tangle of what guides my work, it’s usually a blend of obsessively listening to music, reading poetry and laboring through my own loneliness.


Tiana Nobile



In the ocean of my memory I forgot

how to swim. Starfish barnacles suction

to my eyes, my mouth a bent seashell.


Hold me up to your ear and listen

to the muffled song of unsent loveletters,

stifled melodies trapped inside envelopes.


I told you I wouldn’t do a lot of the things

I’ve done, but the past is a hallway

without wallpaper leading


to a room full of mirrors

that curve and contort like the fire

of a liar’s tongue.  The jukebox’s


repertoire consists of the songs

of ex-lovers, heavy beats that perch

on your shoulders like wilting flowers.


In an amphitheater the size of my wildest

nightmare, I take the stage,

a marionette without a mask


but wrists raised with rope and string.

My knees are sharp crooked crescents.

I bend like a rubber band


when the ground begins to shake.

I’ll break loose of this redeyed hurricane

before the flood breaks in.

Chapbook Q&A with CL Young // Overhead Projector

Read CL Young’s chapbook OVERHEAD PROJECTOR here!


What is poetry? 

Poetry is anything that pulls me out of whatever surface-level reality is occupying me at a given moment. It’s anything that returns me to a feeling of rawness where I am reminded that my capacity for complicated emotional and cognitive responses is most important.

Part 2: why do you write it?

I write with the hope that I might be able to return another person to that space. Poems in particular are good for this because they create feeling worlds with such economy. Selfishly, I write so I don’t lose my life—it’s a way to participate in time. The only way I’ve found that feels like it’s nearing enough.  

What makes this a chapbook & not just a pile of poems?

This grouping of poems is a little odd because it spans a relatively large timeframe and what feel like very different lives. Some were written in Boise early in 2014, some in Portland and Seattle a year later, several in Colorado just a few months ago. I suppose they are united by a kind of loneliness. Or an aloneness/singularness. The feeling of aloneness that comes with being a woman, a writer, the youngest in a family, of being a human at all, really. Aloneness in groups. Even the poems I think of as love poems often express feelings of isolation inside of relationships. They are also all single poems, which maybe speaks to that formally. I don’t write many “poem poems”—stand alone poems like these—or at least that doesn’t feel like a primary focus for me. So, perhaps it felt appropriate to arrange them this way, a bunch of islands floating next to each other.

Are there any particular pronounced influences / guiding lights for the poems in this chapbook, or is it just the usual jumble & tangle (also, if so: what IS your usual jumble & tangle)?

In addition to the above, I’d say all of these poems were written from a place of simultaneous wonder and disappointment with the world and with being alive. In both a day-to-day sense and a larger one. There is also a lot of grief in them. And humor. But maybe only I see that.

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