Along with unicorns, cephalopods, and whiskers on kittens, our list of favorite things includes promoting amazing new writers. Last week we hosted four such talents at our Emerging Poets Festival, where attendees gained insight on publishing a first book, and got a preview of some exciting projects on the horizon. Here is an excerpt from a roundtable discussion (moderated by Assistant Professor Danielle Deulen), in which you will learn why Collier Nogues is defacing military documents, what Nathaniel Perry finds bizarre, why feminism’s got a beef with Shara Lessley’s new book title, and which garden tools Marcus Wicker finds praise-worthy:
Daniel Deulen: Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
Marcus Wicker: I’m juggling two different manuscripts, spending more time on this thing I call Cul-de-sac Pastoral. Praise poems to midwestern suburbia, to and against, so like, praise poem to the hermetically sealed lawn and Uzi sprinkler head, praise poems to black squirrels. But then, the other half of the book is a dialogue with god or a higher power, something like that. And it’s good fun. It’s unholy. It’s not what you’re thinking.
Nathaniel Perry: I have a second manuscript that’s done which is called Bizarre, and it’s mostly about parenting, which IS bizarre. And it has three suites of poems—one for each of my children. One’s modeled on Geoffrey Hill’s amazing sequence “The Pentecost Castle,” from Tenebrae, in which he thinks about love in all of its forms, both religious love and sexual love and other kinds of love. There’s a series of poems about moons for my daughter, and then another sequence based on some poems by the Appalachian poet George Scarborough. And then a long poem about an infanticide scandal from the Eighteenth Century that occurred in my neck of the woods in Virginia. Which is a weird place to start thinking about parenting, but I promise I think it works.
Collier Nogues: At this point I have several different manuscripts that are outgrowths of different projects I’ve started, and the one that I’m focusing on most stems from the fact that I grew up on a military base overseas in Okinawa. For a long time I’ve been really interested in how the state of war or preparedness for war becomes naturalized, begins to seem like a really natural thing, which I think is certainly of the moment, now, in the United States. And so, as a way to be writing different kinds of poems than I had been, I stared doing erasures. Those have taken off, and I keep trying to get original poems in this manuscript, but they’re not as interesting; I have less to say, I guess, in my own voice than from picking from other texts, which all participated somehow in currents of imperialism or colonialism or militarism that precipitate war, and they’re focused around World War II in the pacific, Okinawa specifically.
Shara Lessley: Danielle mentioned [my next book] The Explosive Expert’s Wife, and I’m horrified because I’ve read things about how this construction of the title is now passé, and that if we have another book that says something about so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s daughter that it’s going to set feminism back. But I’m about two thirds of the way through the project. I just returned from living in the Middle East for three years, and so today actually I’ll be reading poems that are rooted firmly in Amman, Jordan. Half of the book is really situated in that location, and then the other half has to do with the history of domestic terrorism in the United States, so, fun little numbers on the Unabomber and Oklahoma City and some of the things that happened during the civil rights era in this country.