Woodland Pattern presents: Oliver Bendorf & Trish Salah

To celebrate The Conversant’s evolving relationship with The Volta website collective over its five year run, Senior Editors Ching-In Chen and Caleb Beckwith have selected pieces from our archives which exemplify that relationship for our October issue. This conversation was originally part of our March 2015 issue. Enjoy!

Oliver Bendorf and Trish Salah
Oliver Bendorf and Trish Salah

This Woodland Pattern interview series will document conversations between some of the writers, artists and performers who pass through Woodland Pattern and Milwaukee. Oliver Bendorf and Trish Salah read at Woodland Pattern on January 17, 2015 as part of Shift: Guest Curators from the LGBTQ Community. Below are excerpts from their reading as well as a conversation conducted via e-mail after the reading.

Oliver Bendorf, “I Promised Her My Hands Wouldn’t Get Any Larger,” “Split it Open Just to Count the Pieces,” “The Manliest Mattress,” and “Patrón,” recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, January 17, 2015


Trish Salah, “Notes Toward Dropping out,” “Phoenicia ≠ Lebanon,” and “Reading the Book of Suicides,” recorded by Michael Wendt, Woodland Pattern, January 17, 2015

Cristiana Baik with Farid Matuk

To celebrate The Conversant’s evolving relationship with The Volta website collective over its five year run, Senior Editors Ching-In Chen and Caleb Beckwith have selected pieces from our archives which exemplify that relationship for our October issue. This conversation was originally part of our April 2014 issue. Enjoy!

Farid Matuk
Farid Matuk

Along with Andy Fitch, Cristiana Baik is assembling the Letter Machine Editions Book of Interviews, which also includes interviews conducted by Noah Eli Gordon and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. This talk will be published in that collection, due for late 2014 release.

Cristiana Baik: When introducing your work, Noah Eli Gordon evoked Keats’s negative capability, the idea that “man is capable of being in uncertainties.” Would you describe your work and poetics as reflective of and shaped by negative capability?

Farid Matuk: I would, yes, to the extent that I try to court a space in the poem where contradictory impulses, perspectives, discourses and images can play together.

That Which Quickens the Pulse: Neelanjana Banerjee, Lisa Chen, and Sunyoung Lee on Kaya Press

To celebrate The Conversant’s evolving relationship with The Volta website collective over its five year run, Senior Editors Ching-In Chen and Caleb Beckwith have selected pieces from our archives which exemplify that relationship for our October issue. This conversation was originally part of our March 2015 issue. Enjoy!

Sunyoung Lee, Lisa Chen’s Mouth, Neelanjana Banerjee

In 2014, Kaya Press celebrated 20 years of publishing innovative Asian Pacific American and Asian diasporic literature, including books like R. Zamora Linmark’s seminal Rolling the Rs and Sesshu Foster’s City Terrace Field Manual. Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2011, Kaya continues its mission to publish “challenging, thoughtful, and provocative” work including American Book Award winning Water Chasing Water by poet Koon Woon, and Shoshon Nagahara’s Lament in the Night (translated by Andrew Leong)—a historical rediscovery of a writer originally writing and publishing in Japanese out of LA’s Little Tokyo in the 1920s. Managing Editor Neelanjana Banerjee, Publisher Sunyoung Lee, and Lisa Chen—Kaya Press author (Mouth, 2007) and Editorial Board member—discuss creativity in the editorial process and whether ethnic-specific publishing will continue to be relevant in the 21st century. This is the first of a series of conversations which will highlight the work of Kaya Press.

Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy with Giles Benaway

To celebrate The Conversant’s evolving relationship with The Volta website collective over its five year run, Senior Editors Ching-In Chen and Caleb Beckwith have selected pieces from our archives which exemplify that relationship for our October issue. This conversation was originally part of our February 2014 issue. Enjoy!

Giles Benaway and Lemon Hound
Giles Benaway and Lemon Hound

The Conversant long has admired Lemon Hound’s lively, multifarious engagement with contemporary literature. In partnership with Lemon Hound, and in the hopes of encouraging further dialog between Canadian- and U.S.-based poetics, we have decided to re-publish a monthly excerpt from the Lemon Hound archive. The subject of this particular interview is Giles Benaway’s Ceremonies for the Dead.

Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy: I want to share my thanks and appreciation Giles, for you allowing your first published collection of poems to be a dwelling place for the Dead. How did the Dead manage to get such space, and why is this space ceremonial?

Cassie Mira Nicholson and N.I. Nicholson

N. I. Nicholson and Cassie Mira Nicholson
N. I. Nicholson and Cassie Mira Nicholson

Cassie Mira Nicholson: I hope this message finds you well and in good spirits. I am writing you in order to initiate a dialogue about a project I have been musing about that looks at the development of intentional family. When we first met on Facebook, I initially felt an odd relief to know someone with the same last name as I did was transitioning gender on a close timeline. Discovering that we were both disconnected from our Nicholson bloodline only made me more interested in getting to know you. Over the last few years, I have learned from a distance and the powers of Facebook that there are many similarities in our personal histories. For instance, while you work for the catholic church, I at one time lived in a catholic rectory. We both have fondness for poetry, etc. ….

Rusty Morrison with Jennifer S Cheng

Jennifer Cheng
Jennifer S Cheng

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! This conversation focuses on Jennifer S Cheng’s book, HOUSE A. –Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison: It is such a great pleasure for all of the poetry editors at Omnidawn that Claudia Rankine selected HOUSE A as the winner of our 1st/2nd Book Prize. As one of the blind readers who screens work for this and for all of our poetry contests, I recall my delight to see this manuscript in the blind submissions. I immediately recognized that this work had come to us before, in shorter form, through our chapbook contest. It had not won, yet I knew it to be an amazing work in chapbook form. Then reading it for this contest, I was stunned by the power of HOUSE A, and all that is included now in this text as a full book. Would you speak to the ways that the sections cohere, and how you made decisions to bring the text together in this form?

Jennifer S Cheng: Inside the book, there are: migratory birds, (un)tethered boats, water, sleep, the body in dislocation, shadows, mappings, weather systems, echolocation, nests, moons. Which is to say that all of our work as writers and artists are like maps of our obsessions, our preoccupations, our hauntings. I started writing “Letters to Mao” in summer months, and most of the prose poems in that series came quickly (which rarely happens for me; I am usually slow like a snail). I work mostly by intuition, and it made sense to me that other poems I subsequently wrote—those in the sequence “House A; Geometry B” and the series “How to Build an American Home”—were of a similar attunement and investigation. Maybe I can call it the poetics of an immigrant home: how the body is inscribed with a cosmology of home and vice versa. How, for example, are the subtleties of history, displacement, and migration woven into the shelter my parents made for me and my siblings? In all three sections, I am writing into a critical and personal silence, and I hope that by evoking the shadows and subterranean, I complicate the immigrant landscape, conjure the small layers it can carry.

Hamid Bouaicha with Natalia Treviño

Hamid Bouaicha and Natalia Treviño
Hamid Bouaicha and Natalia Treviño

This interview between Hamid Bouaicha and Natalia Treviño focuses on Treviño’s book of poems, Lavando La Dirty Laundry (Mongrel Empire Press).

Hamid Bouaicha: My first question is probably one you have been asked the most. How did you become a poet? And, what drove you to poetry?

Natalia Treviño: This is such an important question. I became a poet by playing with song lyrics by my favorite bands when I was a teenager. I began to re-write their titles to create sentences. I felt like I was unlocking language by seeing and hearing new word combinations. It was in the act of discovery that I became a poet. I think there are as many poets in the world as there are people who love rain. Taking it to a professional level has taken decades, even a decade of silence in my twenties. When I saw the words created whole internal experiences for me, something inside me woke up, and put me in touch with intangibles that make meaning. I am forever at the service of those intangibles, much the way a quantum physicist is certain that there is more out there than meets the limited scope of reference gauged by our feeble instrument.

Lauren DeGaine with a colleague/friend

Lauren DeGaine
Lauren DeGaine

The following interview is part of a series of interviews which were conducted as part of a project that was concerned with the subject of failure in relation to Alice Jardine’s concept of ‘gynesis’ (putting into the discourse of “woman”). I wanted to write about the spaces that failure creates, what happens just after the moment of failure, and how that sensation can be a horizon or a void (a generative space); I was also interested in the relationship between failure and rites of passage. Four specific conceptual inquiries were posed to a diverse group of people, who are anonymous here, and phrases from their answers were spliced together to create part of the rhetorical language in a lyric essay that is forthcoming from the online poetics journal, Something on Paper. – Lauren DeGaine


Lauren DeGaine: Please describe the feeling of stepping down when you think there’s a stair and there isn’t.

colleague/friend: The abruptness of gravity. I broke my foot that way, not looking down. Anticipating a non existent obstacle. Clumsily navigating domestic topography. Sometimes it’s a relief, not having to step down. An unexpected hello from the pavement.

Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang

Cindy Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang
Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang

This conversation between 1913 Press authors Cynthia Arrieu-King and Lily Hoang began with their latest books. Unlikely Conditions (1913 Press) is Cynthia Arrieu-King’s collaboration with the late Hillary Gravendyk. Lily Hoang’s A Bestiary was published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

Cynthia Arrieu-King: Where did these essays begin for you? What does essay writing allow you to do that poetry might not? Or does it matter to you at all?

Lily Hoang: Form and genre are really important to me, actually. I am insistent when I call these essays—and it all goes back to etymology, right? To essai: to trial, to experiment—even though it’s already been classified as both poetry and fiction. The essay declares itself as a challenge, to self and to form, by definition. This isn’t fiction’s concern, at all, and I’m a fiction writer, first and foremost, and so the rhetorical qualities of the essay—its ethos, pathos, and logos—were also foreign concepts to me, things that I had to learn. I think the essay demands a self-rigor that isn’t necessary in fiction, which is not to say that fiction isn’t rigorous! (I’m not really qualified to talk about poetry in the least so I’ll leave that kind of thinking to the poets and scholars.) All of which is to say: the essays in A Bestiary are essays, intentionally so, I argue they adhere to form and follow the rules of the genre. But that wasn’t in question at all, sorry.

Mary-Kim Arnold with Kate Colby

Mary-Kim Arnold and Kate Colby

In this conversation, we discuss New England frugality, ghosts, and how dance can inform poetics. Kate Colby’s Fruitlands won the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2007. Since then, she has written five books of poetry, including I Mean, her most recent, which was published in 2015 by Ugly Duckling Presse. Kate’s poems are taut, their movements agile. At display throughout her work is intelligence, wit, and formal inventiveness. Very little escapes Kate’s attention; she is a poet of wide-ranging curiosity and rigorous inquiry. We “spoke” over email and then in person, too.

Mary-Kim Arnold: Earlier this year, you hosted a “poet’s walk” through the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. How did the idea for this come about?

Kate Colby: It wasn’t an idea so much as the end of a trajectory. I had been reading and writing about Gardner for a long time and really wanted to engage with the physical museum.

A couple of years ago Brooklyn-based artist Todd Shalom, who is my best friend and foil, was invited to create an experiential artist walk at the deCordova Museum outside Boston, and he asked me to do it with him, since I grew up in and write so much about the region. The public programs director at the Gardner Museum attended one of the walks and she later asked me to do the same sort of thing at the Gardner.