I’ve known Dawn Tefft for about a decade, first as my student in the doctoral Creative Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. After she graduated, she returned for a while to UWM as a professional organizer with the American Federation of Teachers. We did organizing visits on campus to discuss labor issues and unionization during one of the most difficult periods in the history of the University of Wisconsin System. Under the banner of austerity and reform, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature were dismantling a century of progressive gains for public and private sector workers. The assault continues. Funny thing happened, however: my former student became my sister and good friend in the long struggle for equity and social justice. Our conversation focuses on Dawn’s new chapbook, FIST (dancing girl press). There are five questions or prompts. They represent the digits of the human hand, curling in on itself, in resistance and solidarity. —Mauricio Kilwein Guevara
QA, a collaborative project by Elizabeth Schmuhl and Sarah Xerta, is a (chap)book of questions and answers. Whether to read it as poetry or prose is up to you. The authors invite readers to write their own responses to the questions posed in QA, in the space provided. Each book is assembled by hand and zigzag stitched down the spine. And the cover—made of paper pulp infused with wildflower seeds—offers yet another invitation: to plant the book and see what grows. In the dialogue in QA, Schmuhl and Xerta explore questions like “What is the center of a poem?” and “When do you feel most alive?” This work invites a discussion of “the mystery that keeps us clinging to life,” among so many other vital things. After reading QA, I made a list of questions to send to the authors, then ceremoniously planted my reading copy. What follows is our edited Q and A. —Heidi Reszies
Heidi Reszies: I’ve heard writers say that in a collaborative project a third voice develops, so that you don’t know who “I” is. In this work, who is Q and who is A?
Elizabeth Schmuhl & Sarah Xerta: I think we both already felt like ‘one,’ so the third voice was both of us. I never felt or thought about a third thing, only OPEN, the space we’ve created between the two of us. It’s a space where we feel safe, where we feel comfortable revealing ourselves, opening, because we have no ulterior motives. We love each other unconditionally and we don’t experience this kind of love in other spaces/places often. I would say that not knowing is the point. It is my favorite kind of love.