Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interviews: Poets of Instagram part 1

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

by José Angel Araguz

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share interviews with #poetsofinstagram, that is, poets who have chosen the social media site Instagram as the forum to share their work. Interviews range from poets who work with erasure/blackout poetry and found poems, to poets who combine their own artwork with their text. These interviews will focus on the writing itself as well as the sense of community to be found among poets on social media.

nomadic 3For this first interview, @nomadic_words shares with us a few poems as well as insights into craft and style of her poetry on Instagram. I was drawn to the work of nomadic_words for its lyrical play. Each poem works on the level of its own inner logic, building with the same engines as aphorisms and proverbs. Beyond wordplay, these lyrics seek to establish a sense of emotion in a brief space.

José: Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to poetry and the journey to where you are today?

nomadic_words: My introduction to poetry was, unsurprisingly, in the classroom. I enjoyed my creative writing English lessons more than others as it was an hour every other week I could sit and express myself more at school. I wrote my first real poem for a national poetry competition that was being advertised around school with the theme of journeys. It wasn’t really something I took seriously, but thought I’d try it and that afternoon sat on my aunt’s doorsteps writing out a poem inspired by Joseph Turner’s “Steam-boat off a Harbour’s mouth.” I didn’t win, but I put a lot of where I am now down to that day where I thought I’d try my hand at something new. My poetry has undergone a fair transformation since then, but if I’m publishing a poetry book this year I know exactly how it started and for that I’m grateful.

José: When did you get started with your Instagram account?

nomadic_words: I actually only started it in September! I’ve been accumulating poems properly over the past two years, writing pieces—or sometimes pieces of pieces—and only really started venturing onto social media with it around a year ago. Whatever your creative passion, it’s nerve-racking to go public, so I would occasionally drop poems on my personal Instagram as a way of dipping my toe into the water. After a few months I felt it was time to give my work more identity and made nomadic_words and now here we are.

José: Who or what influences you?

nomadic_words: My journey through life influences me and I find I’m writing the most when things aren’t so easy; when life makes you rethink the assumptions and ideas you have about people, yourself, love, and the world. It’s kind of a strange comfort, finding something good in the bad and it’s my way of documenting my thoughts and feelings as and when they come. Reflecting on these experiences is what makes you grow, I just do it through writing and it really makes it worthwhile when someone you’ve never met before reads it and identifies with the feeling.

José: In three words, how would you describe your poetry?

nomadic_words: Quiet. Personal. Me.

José: What ideas of craft do you find yourself working with, both in terms of linguistic expression and visual presentation?

nomadic_words: I tend to keep my vocabulary and structure fairly simple; these are my thoughts and most of the time I jot them down in the notes on my phone before the phrase fails me. From there, if necessary, I can flesh it out into its final form. If I have to keep coming back to a poem I usually abandon it because I think it speaks for something about the power of the message. I like to use a lot of enjambment as this can be used to create a play on words or change the path of the poem. Sometimes we rush through things and end up missing the detail between the lines and I love subtleties, it’s fairly metaphorical of life, I feel.

José: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of writing for Instagram? What do you find most positive about it?

nomadic_words: The uncertainty of not knowing whether what you’re about to post is going to be understood or received by people was the biggest for me, but I think as a result of this there’s definitely a tendency across Instagram writing to write what you think people want to read or feel, but most of the time I find it’s glaringly obvious when the poem has been put together for a general audience looking to identify with any quote. There is a lot being said about a little and sometimes nothing at all, which is a real shame to see. However, Instagram is great for bringing poets together, just check out one of the many hashtags such as #poetsofinstagram and you have a whole feed of people putting out their work which is lovely. From there, people who would’ve never discovered your work sometimes stumble across poems which put into words everything they wish they could say or reflections they didn’t even realize were worthy of recognition. You sometimes get messages from people on the other side of the world telling you your work made them feel some type of way and there are really no words to describe that feeling, it’s ineffable.

José: What advice do you have for anyone interested in writing poetry (for Instagram or in general)?

nomadic_words: This is your work, a product of everything that has made you you, so take pride in it, take your time, be honest with yourself, and never, ever, adulterate your voice because you don’t think it’s powerful enough to be heard by someone else out there. Somebody else speaks your language and they may need to hear what you have to say. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read as much poetry as I would’ve liked to, but inspiration comes from everywhere—my first poem was inspired by a painting, my second, a dream, my third, a daydream . . . you get the picture. Find what inspires you and be open-minded to what that may be; you might just tap into something totally new. Finally, I cannot stress the importance of making sure you write down anything that crosses your mind and makes you wonder; I’ve sometimes found odd phrases and sentences I’ve jotted down complement each other perfectly. So don’t be afraid to be messy behind the scenes!

José: What are you future plans in terms of writing projects?

nomadic_words: I’m very excited to be publishing my debut book this year! It’s at the editing stage and it feels right to do it now. It’s a big milestone for me and something I want to share with the world as other peoples’ work has inspired and helped me through tougher times. Stay tuned!


Follow @nomadic_words to keep to up to date with her work.

Also, be sure to check out José’s current Instagram poetry project, @poetryamano, which focuses on handwritten poems.

CR on YouTube

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

tubeeweUnveiling . . . our YouTube channel! If you were one of those folks who attended the launch of Acre Books at Books by the Banks this past weekend, you saw an extended trailer that included a snippet of an author interview, a visualized poem (voem? pideo?), insight into our process of submission assessment, and a teaser for the live musical performance of one of our art songs. Today, we offer the first episode in a series we call Words Likely to Be Misused or Confused. Though the clip light in tone, we aim to inform as well as to entertain. And hey, there’s a lot more to come: look for a new video every Friday and Tuesday. Huge thanks to Ben Dudley, who made this channel possible by way of both his technical know-how and his comic genius!

Contributor Close-Up: Steve De Jarnatt

Monday, January 12th, 2015

We just got wind of this extraordinary interview on Popdose with CR contributor Steve De Jarnatt, whose story “Mulligan” (8.2) was selected for 2012’s New Stories from the Midwest. The interview begins:

Not every creative professional can claim to have badgered Ringo Starr on network television, ushered the popular SCTV characters Bob & Doug McKenzie onto the big screen, and directed a nail-biting cult classic of ’80s cinema before having his first published short story, “Rubiaux Rising,” chosen by The Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2009. But as Steve De Jarnatt writes in “Mulligan,” another one of his acclaimed stories, “You can’t change your mind so easy if you keep yourself in motion.”

Click here to read the interview in full. And look for another of Steve’s signature stories, “Harmony Arm” (lavish with his special brand of lunacy), in issue 12.1—due out in June. A teaser:

Impressed with Earl’s creative thinking, Ma let him in on some oddball Gunderson history. In the nineteenth century, half the clan had briefly given themselves over to an offshoot of the Charles Fourier Phalanx and run off to Utopia, Ohio. This collectivist movement believed that if humans could live together in peace for sixteen generations, a new appendage would evolve, a human tail called a Harmony Arm.  It would be as powerful as an alligator’s, but supple as a cat’s. A sort of prehensile hand flexing at the tip—a huge thumb and two fingerish knobs with the retractable talons of an eagle. This reenvisioned noble ape in touch with his true nature would flourish, wielding the tail-arm as a labor aid, weapon, and even a source of sensual pleasure. Naturally, it was a failure of a dream.

Earl was never sure if Ma was joshing when she claimed that, as testament to those early Gundersons and their stalwart believings, one in three of the extended family had been born with a vestigial piglet tail, some as long as seven inches, still glistening with tawny lanugo. Doc Grandey always snipped them quick, before the newborn’s first bawling. Some of the witchy aunts supposedly kept a specimen jar with dozens for use in ancient harvest rituals.

Ma would never say if this was true of him, but young Earl sometimes wished himself a tail so bad he couldn’t sleep. He was sure he could feel the scar back there atop his heinie, and scratched his coccyx madly in hopes of making it grow. Of all life’s iniquitous fates, to have been robbed of this seemed the worst.

Emerging Poets Festival

Friday, November 15th, 2013

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.

Emerging Writers: Writer as Reader

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This month, UC’s English Department hosted its Emerging Writers Festival, bringing to campus  four fiction writers who are emerging from their rough-spun cocoons into full-fledged writerly beings. (Okay, maybe all of them already have awards and critically acclaimed books.) During their time at UC, they took part in readings, discussions, and discussions about reading, and this week we’re delighted to bring you some excerpts from a panel discussion dubbed “The Writer as Reader,” moderated by Professor Jim Schiff. Read about how W. G. Sebald broke Ben Loory’s heart and how Ron Currie Jr. is actually not afraid of the internet. Stay tuned for Part II, coming later this week.

Jim Schiff: Name a book you love, and tell us why.

Ben Loory: Probably my favorite book is Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. He was this German writer, this super, hyperintelligent, overeducated guy. All of his books were just him going to some foreign country, stumbling around in some depressed fog, taking pictures of buildings and thinking about all the horrible things that have happened there. And also the good things and the literature and art that came out of it. I just loved it. When he was writing, it was this brand new thing I’d never seen before. And then he died in a car accident. And that was the last time I read contemporary literature. I just couldn’t handle that I had found this writer and then he died. I just completely checked out. Now I only read people who are already dead or who have written enough books for me. But there’s something in his writing in which the entire world is a haunted house. All the books are these ruins of what happened and a forerunner of what’s coming.

Caitlin Horrocks: For me, it’s Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I was able to read it as escapism and enjoy it as a reader. It’s a book that’s fearless about what a book can do and what he’s capable as an author of pulling off. It’s a magic trick. You think, “You can’t pull this off,” and you’re waiting for him to fall off, and I don’t think he does.

Ron Currie Jr.: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’m reluctant to say it’s my favorite book, but it’s certainly the heavy-weight champion in terms of scope and ambition. It appreciates the importance of and demonstrates the possibility of being bound by nothing in fiction. I don’t really see the point of writing fiction if you’re not willing to hang your ass out in the breeze and just get as crazy as you possibly can without going over the edge. A lot of people think Wallace went way over the edge with Infinite Jest, but for me, it’s an absolute master class in the possibilities of fiction. [. . .] That’s what I was after as a kid. How far can we go with this; how fantastical can it be?

Schiff: In your view, what’s the contemporary literary landscape? Are people doing different things than they were doing ten, twenty, fifty years ago?

Horrocks: A contemporary writer who is a sort of representation for things right now is Karen Russell. She does such a great job in picking zombies or picking vampires or taking these playful things and integrating them into such beautiful stories, doing something that is both realist in some ways and magical in others. You can see that in the aesthetic of places like One Story. There is this hunger for things that are not magical realism in a Marquez sense, but a contemporary formulation that is still evolving. Also, Roxane Gay for both fiction and nonfiction. She somehow writes and processes at internet speed, which I can’t. She does so much online writing with quick turn-around and responds to things happening right now, but there is that depth of thought and that humanity and a gracefulness that comes through in a lot of what she’s doing.

Audience Member: How does the business of life affect your fiction?

Currie: Everything I write, including the book coming out in February, is very episodic, even when it’s published under the guise of a novel. That may be the result of the din of modern life. Maybe I don’t have the attention span, or maybe I can’t write a coherent narrative. I have no doubt that the staccato pace of information intake is affecting how I write. I sort of hope that it’s because that’s the direction we’re heading. It’s only going to get more compact and shrunk. I think the kind of book Franzen writes is a dying breed. I’m fascinated by possibilities of technology. I’m fascinated by that New Yorker story that Jennifer Egan did on Twitter. She wrote the story for the medium. It worked really well. I tried to imagine it being a longer narrative in that form, and I couldn’t do it.

Lorry: You go to a bookstore, and lots of books are similar, and I think that’s a result of writers all talking to one another. No one is developing in isolation, on their own.

Horrocks: But I think there is still a hunger for big books from readers. People want to sit and be immersed in a world. With the internet, people are always like, “This will usher in a renaissance for flash fiction or the short form because people only have a little bits of time.” But that’s not true. Even short forms require really close attention. Short forms take a lot of work for the reader. This is a weird moment when writers can think of being driven to short pieces, but for readers, as pressed for time as they are, there is still a hunger for that unbroken dream.


Ron Currie Jr. has had stories in Cincinnati Review issues 7.2 and 2.2—the latter story, “False Idols,” appeared in his collection God is Dead (Penguin, 2007). He is also the author of the novels Everything Matters (Viking, 2009) and the forthcoming Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles (Viking, 2013). Currie has also received the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Willard L. Metcalf Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Caitlin Horrocks’s story “Embodied” appeared in issue 3.1 of Cincinnati Review; it was her first published story and later appeared in her collection This Is Not Your City (Sarabande, 2011). Her stories have also appeared in the New Yorker, Best American Short Stories 2011, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009, Pushcart Prize XXXV, and elsewhere, and she’s won awards including the Plimpton Prize and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship.

Ben Loory’s fables and tales have appeared in the New Yorker, Gargoyle, and Antioch Review, as well as on NPR’s “This American Life,” and live at Selected Shorts. His book, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011), was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program and the Starbucks Coffee Bookish Reading Club.