Here is the Room I Want to Fill with Birds: An Interview with Caitlin Bailey

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The story of Georg and Grete Trakl is a haunting one — a brother and sister living in the shadow of horrific war, sharing a life in poetry and music, but also sharing disastrous drug and alcohol addictions. They had an extremely close relationship, the extent of which no one firmly knows, but they no doubt cared for and protected each other until their untimely deaths — Georg by overdose and Grete, three years later, by suicide — before either had turned thirty.

It’s a story that Caitlin Bailey powerfully imagines in her debut collection, Solve for Desire (Milkweed Editions, 2017), which she dedicates to Grete. Assuming Grete’s voice through a series of richly textured lyric poems, Bailey explores an all-consuming desire that forever holds its subject captive. In the cold but safe interiors of these poems, persona and the personal are blurred, and history finds expression between individuals seeking each other across unimaginable distances.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.

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To Describe Our World: An Interview with Kevin O’Rourke

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“One could only begin simply by looking,” Kevin O’Rourke writes to welcome us into his new memoir: As If Seen at an Angle (Tinderbox Editions, 2017). Comprised of tightly woven essays on art, medicine, death, and grief, his new book is at once funny but heartbreaking, lyric but precise. It explores a fascinating range of topics — from Clyfford Still’s famously acerbic personality to the YouTube channel for the Benson Family Funeral Home in Chicago; from the untimely death of The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch to the history of German wunderkammer; from “The Pink House” where the author used to party in college to his father’s suicide and his mother’s subsequent grief and lost battle with cancer. Parsing the fogs of distant memories, flying over landscapes, zooming in on the details of artworks, and scouring all kinds of dictionaries and databases, O’Rourke weaves together a rich web of artistic, scientific, and personal inquiries.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.

Climbing Lion Rock: An Interview with Wawa and Henry Wei Leung

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Hong Kong poet Wawa writes from an extraordinary intersection. Her poems in Pei Pei the Monkey King, a book set within a city where enormous shopping malls and historic temples stand one next to the other, where pet birds sing from cages in city parks while Umbrella activists protest for universal suffrage, capture an urgent and tumultuous sense of change in a place hurtling toward its future—specifically, 2047, when Hong Kong will be fully absorbed into mainland China. And yet, these poems also serve as an astonishing preservation of childhood imagination, delivering raw fables alive with animal immortals and magical forces, in which caterpillars enter our bodies through our navels and flying trees whisk us away on starry evenings. . .

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review

Affable Beasts: An Interview with Michael Thomas Taren on Tomaž Šalamun

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It is a thrilling thing, for many of us, to consider a new book by Tomaž Šalamun. Now, nearly an exact year after Šalamun’s death, we have Justice, the first posthumous work. It is Šalamun at his very best, full of energy, always after different approaches, exploding his vision into a celestial pantheon of different realities. A few months ago in these pages I shared some thoughts, and, especially, favorite lines of Šalamun’s past works. This month I had the pleasure of chatting with Šalamun’s translator and collaborator, poet Michael Thomas Taren, about this first posthumous collection, working with Šalamun, and the unique endeavor of translation as a creative enterprise. His effervescent illuminations offer the perfect precursor to the new poems, available soon from Black Ocean.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review

Interview at New Books in Poetry

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I had a fabulous conversation with Jen Fitzgerald at New Books in Poetry about the Refusal of Suitors. It was so enriching to find myself having this conversation about my work in the context of American letters more largely conceived, to field her fascinating inquiries into form and continuity of voice, to talk about my childhood, the wilderness versus the urban, the virtues of listening to ska in different seasons, and of course, to read large swaths of the collection, which she expertly (and thankfully) curated.

Does form make the poem?

Robert Frost claimed that writing free verse poetry was ‘like playing tennis without a net.’ Ryo Yamaguchi‘s poetry challenges the notion of imposing our will and wonders after the permeability of content. This poet understands the subjectivity of perception and does not insist on form, but instead loosely allows the verse to be contained.

These are the experiences of a wandering poet–one who has known many containers, natural and man-made, who knows how little the natural world tolerates containment; how felled redwoods will sprout new life from up from their horizontal trunks and wisteria will climb and reach with the wide berth of the sun’s rays.

But Yamaguchi does not write rainforests and plains, he writes the internal life, the interactions, the ‘urban sublime’ and gives it the reach the natural world. He finds amazement in all versions of beauty.

Listen to the conversation at New Books In Poetry

What is Inside?: An Interview with Carrie Olivia Adams

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Carrie Olivia Adams is a poet as much of the line as what’s in-between them, and her newest book, Operating Theater, is no exception. A haunting drama of the liminality of the body, this dialogue-driven play-poem asks over and over one profound question:what is inside? Steeped in Victorian surgical manuals and medical X-rays, the voices here explore the tension between the mind and the body, between subject and other, asking how we can know, and from knowing, live together, in a house, or in a city.

I had a chance to ask Carrie a few questions about this book (and film her reading from a brief section). . .

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review