J’Lyn Chapman with Brenda Coultas

Brenda Coultas
Brenda Coultas

In April, Jack Kerouac School MFA students in my “Documentary Poetry” course read Brenda Coultas’ A Handmade Museum. At this point in the semester, students were completing their own documentary poetry projects, so one will notice that the questions relate to craft as well as to the role of the poet as documentarian or archivist.

Interview with Jaclyn Hawkins, Janelle Fine, Shitu Rajbhandari, JH Phrydas, Angelica Maria Barraza, Caitlan Mitchell, Ashley Margaret and Katharine Kaufman.

The Class: In “The Bowery Project,” how did you make decisions about structure and organization? For instance, the dates reveal it was not a method of linearity but perhaps one of item associations or the opposite, a panoramic diorama.

Brenda Coultas: As the project developed and became clearer, I began to add the dates and to take a weekly roll of photos. Once I had enough data, I began to shape it, but I didn’t want to be wedded to a timeline, so the narrative is based on balance, of creating a portrait, and of beauty.