22 August 2015

Lines in Space

What is the defining characteristic of poetry? That the lines don’t go all the way to the end of the page? That the words and their music launch us into another sphere of attentiveness and sense? Something outside the poem that drives the poet? From what is its meaning made?

There are some responses to those questions proposed in this late summer issue of PQ, and some of our artwork has been chosen to explore the idea of white space—the space around the words (in poetry), around the more quickly identifiable forms (in visual art), around the sounds (in music), around the body (in dance), and, perhaps, around the experience (in life). White space, which of course can be any color or none, is the way what's there is shaped by what isn't there.

One’s management and awareness of white space creates much more than just form in poetry. Some say it’s the definition of poetry, that the words are not just a continuous thread in the space-time of imagination where we can hang our summoned images, logics, and associations—like prose—but that they are placed in a kind of visible space that wraps the entire verbal unit and defines some of poetry’s other operative characteristics: the caesura, the line, the volta, the stanza. How cool is that?

PQ likes to focus on the cool stuff about poetry and poets. Enjoy this late summer issue, read the poets we’re featuring, and become one of our contributors. Click submit.

CantoMundo Poets Head to Bread Loaf

Millicent Bórges Accardi

Founded in 1926, the famed Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference boasts an amazing literary and intellectual tradition, each summer, gathering together both emerging and seasoned writers, working closely together with a diverse and talented faculty. There are small-group workshops, as well as readings and lectures, with literary conversations taking place throughout the day and into the night. For many, merely the notion of Bread Loaf is magical.

This summer three Latino poets and CantoMundo fellows, Carolina Ebeid, Javier Zamora, and Diana Marie Delgado will head to the prestigious conference in the Green Mountains of Ripton, Vermont.

Carolina Ebeid was granted a 2015 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry and has received awards and fellowships from the Stadler Center, CantoMundo, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and the Academy of American Poets. Recent work appears in Sixth Finch, Gulf Coast, Linebreak and the Colorado Review, and her first book will be published by Noemi Press in 2016 as part of their Akrilica series. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers, and has begun a PhD in the University of Denver's creative writing program. She helps edit poetry at Better: Culture & Lit.

Diana Marie Delgado -- Growing up in La Puente, California, she is a graduate of the poetry programs at the University of California-Riverside and Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in the Indiana Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Fourteen Hills and Ploughshares. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Javier Zamora -- Born in La Herradura, El Salvador in 1990, he migrated to the United States when he was nine. He is a scholarship recipient from Napa Valley, Squaw Valley, and VONA; and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Zamora’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, and The Kenyon Review. He is the winner of Meridian’s Editor’s Prize, CONSEQUENCE’s poetry prize, and the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Contest.

Before Bread Loaf reconvenes, these three CantoMundo fellows agreed to answer a few questions about what they are looking forward to and, perhaps, ignite some of the mysteries and secrets about the famous writers’ conference.

PQ: Have you been to Bread Loaf?

Carolina Ebeid:  Yes; last summer I applied to be a waiter. My Stadler buddy, Jamaal May, told me I should apply as a waiter because the experience would be unbelievably fun. He was right.

As a waiter, one not only participates in the conference—taking part in the workshops, attending readings and lectures, etc.—he/she also helps facilitate the conference from behind the scenes, which allows for instant, full immersion into Bread Loaf. I appreciate the bonds that took hold among our little collective of waiters.

Again, I’ll be attending Bread Loaf, and also helping to run it. I was invited to be part of the social staff, which handles the conference’s parties and happy hours.

Diana Delgado: I haven't. I was on a losing streak. Stopped applying. Applied again and I'm in now.

Javier Zamora: I had the rare privilege to attend back in 2010, when I was 20 years old, and still had no real idea what I was doing in this poetry world I’d just learned about. Through Rebecca Foust, the poet who introduced me to poetry, I heard about the conference and about all the different scholarships. When she screamed, jumped up, and ran all over her house, I still had no idea how prestigious the “waiter-ship” position was. To me, it seemed like work, an opportunity to pay for my attendance, and not at all something I should be running around the house for. Once there, I still had no real idea how fortunate I was, how rare it was for me to be there at such a young age, so yes, I did take a lot of things for granted.

I’d never taken a college poetry class, never had a real workshop, and absolutely did not know all the names that were thrown my way in class, at readings, and the parties after. I felt lost. But, I had a notebook in which I wrote the names of writers I’d never heard of. The night Alberto Rios and Yusef Komunyakaa read back to back, I was brought to tears, I had goosebumps, I was moved. I’d never had a reaction like that. That moment truly convinced me to say, “I want to do what these people do.”

PQ: What will you be working on while you are there?

Delgado: I'll be workshopping a prose poem collection titled, "People to Run From." It's a bildungsroman of sorts. A warped autobiography rooted in non-fiction and poetic license.

PQ: What scholarships/fellowship were you awarded?

Zamora: I’ve been awarded a tuition scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition. I will give a short reading with other Tuition scholars, and that’s about all I know. I’m excited to learn more and to meet the other Tuition Scholars.

Delgado: I'll be waiting tables. Work-study. I'm a bit nervous because I can be forgetful, but everyone that I've checked with says the wait staff get super tight, and so I figure how bad can things go when you have a gang of super-tight poets on your side?

PQ: What are you looking forward to?

Ebeid:  First and foremost: the lectures/readings. I’m more comfortable listening than I am talking or writing, and Bread Loaf affords many chances to simply sit and listen. Last year, my imagination revitalized by Marianne Boruch. She was my workshop leader, gracious, and brilliant, and quirky. She thinks and explains in images. I’ve never liked the word quirky before now. I’m of course looking forward to seeing friends again, and being surprised by new friendships. Also, there is a bonfire one night wherein we give our bodies wholly over to s’mores.

Delgado: Building relationships with new writers who are on the cusp of something great. People who work hard. People who like to laugh. I say people because what I look forward to is meeting good people who happen to be writers. Those are the kind of writers who inspire me the most

Zamora: I left Bread Loaf 2010 with so many friendships; we’d all shared our own writing, drank together, and listened to poems and stories together. I felt close to the other waiters, we’d created a community, which I did not know could happen at a writing conference. I’m excited to have that opportunity again. An opportunity to also rub shoulders with my heroes.

That’s crazy! I hope I can have at least a word with people like Helena Maria Viramontes, Terrance Hayes, Afaa Michael Weaver, etc. Opportunities that also make me nervous and anxious. I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to be overly obvious of my groupie-ness lol.

PQ: What places are you planning on visiting outside of the conference?

Ebeid: There is a nice hike that leads to a swimming hole. I’d like to go there again. I’m sure there are writers’ ghosts haunting the place; they are everyplace.

Delgado: I've been so busy that I have not even built my itinerary. Which I should. It's always good to go somewhere new and have one destination point plotted out.

PQ: What scares you?

Ebeid: By day five, it can feel there was never a life outside of Bread Loaf.

Delgado: I joked recently in a social media post that I dreamt I got into Bread Loaf but Sean Penn showed up and asked for my green card. Now, I know that won't happen at Bread Loaf, but I am on the hunt for diversity, big and small to illustrate the true canon of talented writers that are writing – write now.

PQ: What rumors or myths have you heard?

Delgado: That it's Burning Man for Writers. A pagan place writers go to break the rules, get drunk, and rut in the grass. Now, do I think this really happens?

CantoMundo: http://www.cantomundo.org/

The Miracle of Mercury—An interview with Joan Hanna

Millicent Bórges Accardi

Peter Campion, author of Other People and The Lions has said poet Joan Hanna possesses a unique “ability to portray, in high resolution and with evocative power, the people and places that make up a passionate and compassionate life.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Hanna now lives in New Jersey with her husband, Craig. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from Ashland University and works as an Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Rowan University. She is Assistant Managing Editor for River Teeth, A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal. Her chapbook, The Miracle of Mercury will be published by Finishing Line Press this summer.

Millicent Borges Accardi: As an element, Mercury is both hot and cold. And the phrase Mercury in retrograde causes all kind of disharmony. Can you tell me how you selected The Miracle of Mercury as the title of your chapbook?

Joan Hanna: The opening poem in the collection is called “Mercury,” which recalls a very distinct childhood memory I had of playing with mercury after breaking a thermometer. The interesting thing to me was this idea that out of chaos comes a sort of beauty, if we are willing to see it. The fact that mercury is a metal, and a liquid and something that looks very harmless within the thermometer but releases its beauty and poison when the very thing that encases it is destroyed became a way to view the violence I saw as a young child. We respond to violence around us in many ways but the wonder and fascination of a child, even in the most serious circumstances, will always come through as miraculous.

MBA: You refer to ghosts real and imagined, “To all of the ghosts lingering on these pages. You touched my soul, wounded my heart, and nurtured my eternal sorrow. You are my chronicle, my melancholy, and my sheltered layers of truth in all of its imperfection” in your dedication: Do you believe in ghosts?

JH: [It] refers to the idea that once people have touched us they become a sort of ghost within us. The lingering effects of memory, especially when responding to childhood trauma can sometimes feel as though one is being haunted. So, as far as my belief in ghosts, for this particular dedication, it was much more of a symbolic type of ghosting, the idea that we hold onto these energies and resonating voices long after they are necessary.

MBA: Can you explain your process for putting together The Miracle of Mercury? Did you print out poems and rearrange them on the floor or revise on your Kindle for example?

JH: I work strictly on a computer or an iPad. Once I am sure that I have a first draft that has some kind of direction, I will print and edit on hard copy, arrange them into some sort of order but then I am right back on the computer. Once the themes I want to explore begin to gel, I actually write into the structure of the collection rather than moving poems into an order after the collection is complete.

MBA: How is a chapbook different than full-length?

JH: With the chapbook I was able to pull together very similar shades of the same idea without worrying about how to transition from varying broader themes. All of the poems in The Miracle of Mercury approach the topic of violence and destruction, internal as well as self-imposed. One of the themes I wanted to explore is the idea that once we are exposed to violence, we have a tendency to become self-destructive because it is what we have been taught.

MBA: Were the poems written as part of a controlling image?

JH: The idea for the themes in this chapbook actually began with the poem, “Bobby,” part of a triptych called “Junkies” which then became a fascination with people that have come through my life with addictive, violent, and/or self-destructive personalities. About how as an idealistic young girl, I navigated this hard-core view of life. I began to explore how it might have influenced my view of not only myself but the world around me.

One of my favorite passages comes near the end of the collection, “Glass,” where the point-of-view is turned inward, and I see myself as I might have appeared to others:

…Then it was all me. It was shooting imbedded
shards of glass out of my fingertips and spitting chunks
of undigested blood-soaked mercury and ash out of my

mouth like some banshee vomiting over-indulged
denial. It was a cleansing. A spew of deep, empowering
consummation. It expended all of my rage…”

MBA: Why do you write?

JH: Well that’s always the real question isn’t it? I began as a way to understand what was going on inside of me, trying to navigate. . . So, when I was younger, it was a way to reach a personal catharsis. But, I think now it is just what I do. I’m a storyteller, whether I am writing in poetry or prose. Someone told me that every family has an historian who records that family’s history. And, although I don’t see myself as a historian, these poems are those stories in all of their imperfections.

MBA: Can you share what you are working on?

JH: I am working on a sci-fi novel tentatively named, Are You Still My Girl? I know it seems like a big stretch to go from this type of very personally themed autobiographical poetry to sci-fi. I have spent that past seven or eight years completely immersed in poetry and am finding fiction to be gratifying at this juncture. It feels good to get outside myself and work with fictional characters, but I assure you, many of these same themes will always pop up in all of my work.

I am also doing research for a full-length poetry collection of persona poems that focus on some of the women in the bible, who I believe may be either misrepresented or, in the very least, misunderstood. I researching woman such as Mary Magdalene and Lilith. I am finding interpretations within various sects about who these women might really have been. The research has been fascinating, but I’m just beginning to decide on the shape this will take.

MBA: Jessica Piazza has a blog called Poetry Has Value. How do you think we can inspire and support journals and presses to create a sustainable business model that compensates writers?

JH: It’s such a tough subject. I have not been paid more often than I have, for publications, articles, reviews and essays and although this is very hard to explain to people not in this business, I do understand this as a type of proving ground. People see you grow and see you begin to understand this idea of support and networking. I have had some amazing things happen because I did a review of something and have found some very enriching and endearing friends along the way, which have supported me in the same way. I think this again goes back to the idea of literary citizenship. Supporting our community is not about how much I can make on something but more about how we can continue to support the community. Don’t get me wrong, it would be very nice to see a financial reward for this work, but I have found so many people who I can count on for support and advice, which to me, is a commodity we cannot put a price on.

MBA: What is most important for writers to do?

JH: The most important thing for writers to do is to just keep writing. The only thing we can do is to strive to continually hone our craft through reading and writing. You must read to continue to write. We can’t do any of this in a vacuum.

And then again, we need to have that strong literary citizenship community that we can depend on for encouragement and support so that when we crawl into those dark places where we find our poetry our community is there for support.

Millicent Borges Accardi is the author of three books: Injuring Eternity, Woman on a Shaky Bridge, and Only More So (forthcoming, Salmon). She is a recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the arts (NEA), CantoMundo, the California Arts Council, Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD), and Barbara Deming. She organizes the Portuguese-American writers’ reading series Kale Soup for the Soul. Follow her @TopangaHippie.