Woodland Pattern Presents Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger

Nikki Wallschlaeger and Meg Day
Nikki Wallschlaeger and Meg Day

Woodland Pattern Book Center is a non-profit cultural center which houses a bookstore with over 25,000 small press titles and an art gallery which hosts exhibitions, artist talks, poetry readings, experimental films, concerts and writing workshops in the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee.

This Woodland Pattern interview series will document conversations between some of the writers, artists and performers who pass through Woodland Pattern and Milwaukee.

Meg Day and Nikki Wallschlaeger read at Woodland Pattern on October 15, 2014. Below are excerpts from their reading as well as a conversation conducted via e-mail after the reading.


 

Meg Day, “Aubade Today,” “There’s Snow in the West,” and “Hymn to a Landlocked God”
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.

 

 

Nikki Wallschlaeger, “Sonnet 4,” “Sonnet 13,” and “Sonnet 15″
recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, October 15, 2014.

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Evelyn Reilly with James Sherry

James Sherry, Photo by Ben Sherry
James Sherry, Photo by Ben Sherry

A Conversation with James Sherry about Oops! Environmental Poetics, published by BlazeVOX, 2013.

Evelyn Reilly: You say somewhere early in the book “this entire work may be characterized as a figure of speech taken too far.” I know you might have meant this half-jokingly, but I also felt that the humor in this book was very serious. Can you talk about this a bit?

James Sherry: Well, it’s complicated in that it is funny, but a lot of readers don’t take into account the ambiguities that any writer notices in writing things down. Certainly you can go and read Jane Austin, and she has a lot of important things to say, but it’s also almost all tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think there’s very much interesting writing out there that doesn’t move between that serious tone and some humor, because everybody has to see themselves in the process of writing as being in somewhat of an absurd position.
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Ching-In Chen with Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera (photo credit: University of California, Riverside)
Juan Felipe Herrera (photo credit: University of California, Riverside)
This conversation is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-community solidarity readings and panels among poets involved with organizations such as Kundiman, Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), Institute of American Indian Arts and VONA (Voices at Our Nations Arts Foundation).

Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California as the only child of migrant farmers in 1948. These childhood experiences as well as his continued community activism, including a stint as a director of an arts space in Balboa Park converted from an occupied water tank, has shaped his writing. For the past four decades, Herrera has been a lightning bolt, a master at channeling the energy of the moment and documenting the world around him in his poetry. Known for writing on the edge of possibility and for his high-energy riffs and improvisations, Herrera has been celebrated by critics for his innovative style and constant re-inventions. This conversation was conducted shortly after Herrera won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems.

Ching-In Chen: Is it part of your writing process to write against what you’re comfortable with or known for? I’m thinking about your story about listening to John Ashbery invent a poem and feeling that you’re “condemned” to write political poetry.

Juan Felipe Herrera: When you’re a writer from the margins (or more than one margin, as Gloria Anzaldúa says), then it’s almost like a preliminary, required, or organic project to write and reclaim ourselves and our community. In the mid-80’s at the Bisbee Poetry Festival in southern Arizona, Ashbery read a piece from his new book Wave where he reconstructed a Nordic myth. I said to myself: well, he appears to be just choosing at random something he likes, reconstructing it and writing about it. I feel like I’ve been condemned to write in the manner that I write—to reclaim our history, our language, our various identities, to re-align what’s been said regarding our experience—since I started to write. Can I write like Ashbery—not in terms of style or craft, but metaphysically? Can I get out of myself that way? Can I reposition myself that way or will I be condemned to write as my own other?
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Tony Trigilio with Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh
Lee Ann Roripaugh

In his monthly poetry podcast, Radio Free Albion, Tony Trigilio interviews poets about their recently released or forthcoming books. Always informal, each interview is a conversation—two poets talking about the work and play of the creative process and showcasing some of the most innovative new work in contemporary poetry. In this interview, Trigilio interviews Lee Ann Roripaugh.

 


Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, , was released by Milkweed Editions in September 2014.  Her second volume, Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press), was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and her first book, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books), was a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series.  She serves as Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review and directs the Creative Writing program at the University of South Dakota.

Flying Object Presents: TRAUMA DOG

“Hotel California” plays at half speed as Cassandra Troyan and Rachel Ellison slow dance, one standing on the other’s feet. Classic Rock standard and childlike intimacy smash together, a song that emanates jukebox staleness slowed, almost unrecognizable, each guitar note seeping then dripping, as if from above, onto an embrace of feminine friendship. How would Don Henley interpret this? How do I?

Performance is an art of correspondences. Gesture with text. Image with song. Identity with conflicting identity, each new layer contorting the others, calling for reassessment. DADDY’S CAVE, the latest from performance duo TRAUMA DOG, attempts this non-hierarchical relationship between text, body, image, costume, sound. Honed while in residence this summer at Flying Object, Troyan and Ellison say the work starts with words, with each element then taking turns at center stage, overlapping contexts and superimposing signifiers. And as one moves through the chain of association, hopefully translation is lost, hopefully stereotypes seem nonsensical.

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Outline on Wall

At one point, Ellison traces Troyan’s body on the wall, once with hands extended, once with hands behind her head, once with hands on hips. They step away, leaving the outline, an empty figure in three poses, a bevy of possible interpretations. In the hands extended, I see echoes of Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” a five hundred year old sketch that somehow still remains in the contemporary image bank. In the hands on hips, I see the power pose, also known as “The Wonder Woman.” Hands behind the head could read as someone under arrest, or as a pin-up, turning and winking. Each association gendered, all forming a cacophony of signifiers, every role at once.

- Patrick Gaughan

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Megan Burns and Marthe Reed

Megan Burns and Marthe Reed
Megan Burns and Marthe Reed

This conversation focuses on Marthe Reed’s book, (em)bodied bliss, and Megan Burns’s book, Sound and Basin.

Megan Burns: As a starting point, I think of several things while sitting down with (em)bodied bliss this morning outside the coffee shop on what’s shaping up to be a hot New Orleans day: one, how we seem to have been at war or going to war all my children’s lives and, two, how over the weekend a one-year-old and an eleven-year-old died in shootings on the streets of New Orleans. I think a lot about how violence infects us, how its presence shapes our everyday even when we believe we escape it; and I wonder about our complicity and what it means. I think about how violence kills imagination.

The first poem in your book is titled “this doesn’t exist” and I think maybe we can start there. What is invisible? What do we know and not know or believe to know? And how does this reflect in our everyday lives and how is this part of our politics as a nation, as a society? “Resistance amid the rough chatter of definition.” How does the clear boundary of the poem shape our ability to define terror: “our tongues are tied”? And how do we reconcile two worlds, one where there is torture and unspeakable acts and one where we wake in the morning amid the blues and yellows of the day? “language translates into silence/babel (gate of god)/enters by means of/a language of flowers.” I see these motions in these poems. Can you talk a bit about how you got there? And how you feel these opening poems in the book begin to create a landscape for talking about these ideas?
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Rusty Morrison with Joseph Massey

Joseph Massey
Joseph Massey

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! –Rusty Morrison 

This interview concerns Joseph Massey’s book, To Keep Time

Rusty Morrison: Can you speak to the title and how it resonates through the poems in this collection?

Joseph Massey: To Keep Time, to seize a moment or a series of moments in motion before they degrade into memory, is an impossible task for the poem — for any work of art. There is no such thing as time, anyway, in the linear sense of the word. Phenomenal experience has no margins; but the poem defies that condition by attempting to say anything at all. I like that tension, that reach — I think, I hope, it’s what holds the book together.
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Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar

Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar (photo credit: Nora Lewis)
Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar (photo credit: Nora Lewis)

2013 Pulitzer Prize Winning Dramatist, Ayad Akhtar, and 2011 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Mary Cappello, discuss the formulation of turning points in the course of a life, the course of a career, and the course of a piece of writing; the spiritual (as distinct from religious) underpinnings of artistic practice; the place where a writing project begins and where it arrives; the literary traditions their work is in conversation with; the interplay of mastery and humility in the work of making art; and the pleasures and challenges involved in imagining audience. They also touch on teacher/student relationships: if, over twenty years ago, Akhtar was Cappello’s student, now she finds herself, his.

This conversation with Mary Cappello and Ayad Akhtar was recorded in the Hoffman Room at the University of Rhode Island’s 2014 Ocean State Summer Writing Conference (OSSWC).


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Patrick Norris with Todd Colby

Todd Colby
Todd Colby

Patrick Norris: A lot of your old band’s music carries a lot of poetic correlatives. The lyrical and melodic coloring of Drunken Boat’s Accidents and Balloon Song could fit perfectly into Splash State. Do you tend to look at all your work along these analogous lines?

Todd Colby: If you mean analogous to being lyrical and melodic, yes. That’s at the core of all good poetry. While I did write the lyrics to those songs a long time ago, and Splash State is current, there is a thread that runs through my work that could very well be traced to those songs, and before them the poems I wrote in my teens. An ex-girlfriend of mine gave me some old notebooks of mine from when I was 19, and while some of the poems were definitely written by a 19-year old, many of them had that DNA of my current poems, I just refined it over the years. That’s the pleasure of writing over a number of years and leaving a paper trail: you can see your progress, or things you were trying to work out as a younger writer. I feel very affectionate towards my 19-year old self. He was a good guy at heart, even when he was fucking shit up.
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Stan Mir and Mark Wallace

Mike Wallace and Stan Mir
Mark Wallace and Stan Mir

Stan Mir: What would you say some of the most formative experiences have been for you as a writer?

Mark Wallace: One thing that occurs to me to say is that I grew up not liking poetry, or thinking that I didn’t like it, like almost everybody in America is trained to think. Fiction was what I was mainly doing, and when I went for a graduate degree in creative writing, I did it in fiction, a collection of short stories. I think the thing that changed me about all of this was while I was at SUNY-Binghamton in the creative writing program; Jerome Rothenberg showed up and taught there for one year. And that one year that he was teaching there, Robert Creeley gave a reading. I didn’t really know Bob Creeley’s work. I didn’t really know anything about contemporary poetry at all, and I had one of those classic, cliché light bulb moments when Creeley was reading, “Oh, I get this, I love it. I want to do it.” Before that I had played around a little bit with poetry here and there, but not seriously. I think there was something about the contemporary nature of what Creeley did, the angular rhythm, which shook up my conventional idea of poetry. I had read the Romantics in college and just wasn’t interested. So I think that is the moment, and I started writing poems instantly after that. I walk into a reading and I walk out with a completely different perspective. And later on, I worked with Bob a bit, because he was at Buffalo.
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Caleb Beckwith with J. Gordon Faylor

J. Gordon Faylor (Photo Credit: Kate Robinson)

Caleb Beckwith: In your recent interview with Tan Lin over at Harriet, you give a really helpful account of Gauss PDF’s founding. Would you mind, in few sentences, recapping this for readers not familiar with that piece? And maybe also expanding a bit on the site’s editorial agenda—that is if gauss even has one? Also, how as any of this changed over GPDF’s now four-year history?

J. Gordon Faylor: GPDF was catalyzed by a desire common to many small publications/presses: wanting the work of friends and others made more readily available. I find problematic the vetting processes and sometimes latent conservatism promulgated by publications/labels as a means of caching a curatorially-determined set, and wanted to enable a more open platform for various cultural productions not limited to, but including poetics. Having spent a few years in New York and Philadelphia, I was fortunate to find overlapping groups and networks sufficient for getting a little Tumblr thing off the ground.
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Angela Buck on Leonard Schwartz with Nada Gordon

Nada Gordon
Nada Gordon

This monthly series features highlights from the Cross Cultural Poetics archive. Cross Cultural Poetics is one of the longest-running radio shows in America focused on contemporary poetry and poetics. Based at The Evergreen State College and hosted by Leonard Schwartz, the entire archive, running from 2003 to the present, can be accessed on PennSound.

This month from the Cross-Cultural Poetics archive, I’ve chosen an interview with poet Nada Gordon that originally aired in the fall of 2004. Gordon briefly discusses the eleven years that she lived in Tokyo, as well as the influence and subsequent reaction against the Haiku aesthetic in her work. She reads from the sonically rich and sprawling Are Not Our Lowing Heifers Sleeker Than Night-Swollen Mushrooms? (Spuyten Duyvil) and talks about the importance of cadence in this book, the desire to “beat out a pulse,” as well as to work against any set “rules of composition.” —Angela Buck Continue reading

The Poet “Ai” and I: Dramatic Monologues Unite—Celeste Guzmán Mendoza

Celeste Guzmán Mendoza
Celeste Guzmán Mendoza (photo credit: Mari Correa)

This piece is part of Intersecting Lineages, a series focusing on conversations with poets of color following a series of cross-solidarity readings and panels among poets involved with organizations such as Kundiman, Cave Canem, Canto Mundo, RAWI (Radius of Arab American Writers), Institute of American Indian Arts and VONA (Voices at Our Nations Arts Foundation). Celeste Guzmán Mendoza shared an earlier version of this talk at the Intersecting Lineages panel at the 2013 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Boston.

I am not a drama queen but a drama connoisseur. I’ve always enjoyed a good monologue, a booming rant. Since I was child, I would act out monologues, or what I called back then my shows, personas I would create loosely based on a family member (or more) and characters I saw on TV. My favorite was Mae West with a dash of my grandmother, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime, no que no?”

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Rachel B. Glaser with Natalie Lyalin

Glaser Lyalin
Natalie Lyalin and Rachel Glaser

Natalie Lyalin’s second book of poetry, Blood Makes Me Faint, but I Go for It (2014 Ugly Duckling Press), constantly negotiates issues of scale.  The narrator has a “mild stigmata.” In another poem, “Bad things happened, but I harvested a giant pepper and ate it whole.”  The narrator is often humble and matter-of-fact, though not without danger or conflict—“terrible jokes leapt out of me,” “I was exhausted and very mean,” “something changes in my eyes and I am terrifying.”  This anxiety or unpleasantness isn’t separate from the world—it is one of the cornerstone qualities of living.  “My head in an ache from all the life I was in.”  The poems show how the experience of living is constantly changing and often horrifying. “The sun had many knives of light.” The poems find a cutting beauty within the terror and uncertainty.  This is how life has always been. “What happened in caves in still happening indoors.”  
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Asleep You Become a Continent: Philip F. Clark with Francisco Aragón

Francisco Aragón
Francisco Aragón

I came upon the work of Francisco Aragón the way the best loves happen: by accident. I was searching on a friend’s Facebook page for a review of a book he had read, and instead came across the cover image of Glow of Our Sweat. Miguel Angel Reyes’ “Glare”—that ecstatic face (a male St. Theresa!) stopped me in my tracks and I was mesmerized. I got off FB and searched Amazon for Francisco’s book. It came the next day, which I spent reading its quiet but emotionally loud poems. Few works make such an impression on me, but these resonated with me like old church bells that I remember as a child.

I never know where to begin to explain what certain poems do—how can we explain a silence that is answered for us, or that a poem so bare and honest and small as “In Secret” can light up immense sensations? I also loved that he wrote about places, films, personages that I know and have connection to—I don’t think anyone has written about the Townhouse bar! Louis Malle’s Au Voir Les Enfants had a deep impression on me. Rilke, Lorca, Madrid, Rome, Jack Spicer (a great love of mine), eroticism’s mysteries and wailings. He touched on these and other subjects, but I saw them as Aragón showed them: in the distinct mirror of his eyes. His work is immediate, true, and disarmingly familiar.

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Rusty Morrison with Joshua Corey

joshua corey
Joshua Corey

Small-press publishers have the lucky opportunity to talk candidly with authors about the downturns and updrafts of the creative process which brought them to the moment of completion that we call a book. As Omnidawn’s co-publisher and senior poetry editor, I’ve had that great good fortune. It finally occurred to me that the readers and reviewers of these books might enjoy hearing some of this talk, too. Of course, a book of poetry needs no introduction or liner notes. But I’m always interested in any stories about how and where authors’ intentions and the actual creative work tangle together. So I started asking each of our authors a few questions in writing, and then enclosing these “interviews” with our advance/review copies. When the book is published, I post the interview on the book’s web page. The Conversant’s editors have asked if they might select some of those interviews to publish. It is my pleasure to say yes! –Rusty Morrison

This interview concerns Joshua Corey’s book The Barons.
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Female Aesthetic(s) Symposium (Part 2): Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Tracy Chiles McGhee and Arisa White with Metta Sáma

(clockwise from the top-left) Patricia Spears Jones, Monica A. Hand, Tracy Chiles McGhee, Racquel Goodison, Arisa White
(clockwise from the top-left) Patricia Spears Jones, Monica A. Hand, Tracy Chiles McGhee, Racquel Goodison, Arisa White

In 2009, the poet Monica A. Hand asked for definitions of “female aesthetics.” While there are no actual definitions of female aesthetics or woman aesthetics, there are working definitions of feminist aesthetics. I was intrigued by this notion of the female (vs the woman, aka l’écriture féminine and Hélène Cixous’s writing from the body) and what an aesthetics of female would like and who could who would claim this aesthetics. A bit later, I put together a panel on Twitter to discuss this concept, and I invited some of the participants from that panel as well as some additional people I thought would have something interesting to say, to have an informal symposium discussion via email. What followed was a series of questions, speculations, ponderings, and anecdotes with Racquel Goodison, Monica A. Hand, Patricia Spears Jones, Ruth Ellen Kocher and Tracy Chiles McGhee from August 13 to 20, 2009. The Conversant has agreed to publish that conversation in  two parts. – Metta Sáma
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