Paul Szlosek was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, but currently resides in the nearby metropolis of Worcester. He was co-founder and host of the long-running Poet’s Parlor poetry reading in Southbridge and Sturbridge, as well as a past recipient of the Jacob Knight Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in various local publications including the Worcester Review, Worcester Magazine, Sahara, Concrete Wolf, and Diner. He’s probably best known in the Worcester poetry community for his fanatical obsession with obscure poetry forms, and has invented his own including the ziggurat, the streetbeatina, and (most recently) the hodgenelle.
Here is the link to the very last edition of The International Imaginarium for Word & Verse for the year 2022 featuring the incredible 2021 Stanley Kunitz Medal-winning poet Eve Rifkah posted last Tuesday night on our new Imaginarium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure.
I want to thank my fellow bloggers John Ormsby,Angela Wilson (AKA poetisatinta), and (Gypsie) Ami Offenbacher-Ferris for graciously accepting my invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. Like last time, I have decided not to repost the entire Imaginarium here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions of the Virtual Poetorium because I feel that it is probably too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers (as a result, some really excellent poetry might be skipped, and that would be a real shame). So instead, I will just post this month’s Imaginarium group poem (which is probably one of my favorite segments of both the Poetorium and the Imaginarium). Since this was our last group poem of the year, the theme is fittingly the year 2022. Contributors were asked to send us one to a dozen lines beginning with either “This was the year of…” or “This was the year that…”. All contributions we received were then compiled and included in this month’s Imaginarium Group Poem. I want to thank Howard J Kogan, Karen Durlach, and Angela Wilson (AKA Poetisatinta) for participating and making the following poem possible (Angela’s contribution can be found published as an individual poem on her website Let’s Write…)…
The Year 2022
This was the year the threatened Red Tide happily died at sea.
This was the year we stopped mentioning his name, people even gave up Bridge.
This was the year of discovery and recovery but for some, a year of death and misery a year of hypocrisy, invasion, and migration of numerous variants and vast inflation while we observed the effects of climate alteration and now there’s controversy with the World Cup situation. In the UK we had a glut of Prime Ministers and the cost of electricity is bleeding us dry there was joy in June celebrating the jubilee but tears within months when we had to say goodbye as a nation we joined together in the mourning but now we have hope with the rise of a king.
This was the year of 8 billion 8 billion sets of hopes and dreams 8 billion sets of needs and wants and hungers. Gaia tipped over, spilled tears of blood, of flood, dry tears of drought, melting ice, enflamed with fires, war. 8 billion thinking themselves autonomous, each filled with billions more microbes, bacterias, viruses, fungi, living in symbiosis, more resilient than the vessels, poised to evolve again.
—The International Imaginarium Group Poem for November 29th, 2022
I’d like to invite you all to participate in what will be our very last International Imaginarium For Word & Verse of 2022 featuring the 2021 Stanley Kunitz Medal-winning poet, Eve Rifkah (I’d love to have a Christmas-themed Imaginarium this December like we did with the Virtual Ho-Ho-Etorium last year and the year before, but unfortunately I don’t think I‘ll have the time during this hectic holiday season) that I will be posting on the Imaginarium website on the evening of Tuesday, November 29th. To be part of our Imaginarium open mic, please send up to three of your own original poems or stories (they can be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year-themed or no particular theme at all, whatever you like to share) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, November 27th. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem or story, but that is totally optional.
Like always, we also need contributions to this month’s Imaginarium group poem. Since this will be our last group poem of the year, the theme will fittingly be the year 2022, so please send us one to a dozen lines beginning with either “This was the year of…” or “This was the year that…”. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in this month’s Imaginarium Group Poem to be tentatively titled “2022″. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Sunday, November 27th, 2022.
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Imaginarium poem, or anything else about the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.
If you’ve been meaning to participate in the Imaginarium, but have been putting it off, please keep in mind this will be your last chance this year. As always, I appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog. I hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to the last edition of the International Imaginarium of 2022! Thank you so much for reading, and have a fabulous Thanksgiving, folks!
“Writing is really difficult. It taxes every part of you. It’s a lifelong practice, not a month-long or a year-long.”
“My revision process may be a bit unusual, in that I usually revise within a very brief window of opportunity. I have written poems for so long that I write them with (at least) two minds—the present tense improvisor, and the revisor, with a longer view. I don’t move on until I get that particular poem, the poem-of-the-moment, right.”
“The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do without.”
“There are more poets than pigeons these days. I’ve known poets who aged gracefully into silence. I’d like to keep writing as long as I can because it feels good; it’s always been who I am. I don’t know how it will go down, if I’ll write myself into the grave or someday or other find I’m out of words. Maybe I’ll turn into a poem, and writing more will seem redundant.”
“Therapy is therapy. Poetry is poetry. Reading or writing a poem can be a therapeutic experience in the broadest sense of the word, but for me, poems don’t offer relief in the way we might hope therapy does. They can offer wisdom, which I think unfolds through study and time, and wisdom is often complicating, not a panacea. There are ideas in poems that I couldn’t begin to untangle when I first read them. Making use of them is a whole other story. It can take years. Maybe the most important poems gestate within us for a lifetime and only arrive on our death beds.”
“There is a risk in poetry circles of appearing to be retro-confessional, but I do my best not to worry about such things. My hope is that the telling I did will be emboldening to others. That it will have been of some use.”
“Why do you write? Spend some good time with that question. What does success look like to you? Consider how you can take care of yourself financially and emotionally. That’s important too, and it’s grounding. How you can have as safe a place as possible to live. Focus also on what you can give to others that you wish you’d had yourself.”
“I don’t think doubt is necessarily a bad thing, unless it is incapacitating. In fact, a lot of good poems have arisen out of doubt. No honor or award diminishes the fact that when I sit down to write, I am facing what all writers face, an unmarked page. That having written does not assure that you can write.”
“The poetry landscape is so challenging, in that social media blasts it all in your face 24 hours a day. It’s impossible not to compare yourself to others, and yet that is the least helpful activity imaginable. We’re led to believe that instant success is the expectation, that poems going viral is the test of someone’s potential for a writing life. There is so much temptation to let your work be guided by the capitalist notion of the poem as product — saleable and marketable. Of yourself as product, curated to draw a certain kind of attention and influence. All of this noise is external to the poem itself. I recommend taking the long view. Turn down the noise. Practice experiencing the world in its real vs. virtual form. Live. I really believe that if you are in deep conversation with your own particular history, the history of your people, whoever they are, with your strange, doubt-filled, funny/sad particularities and unheroic fuck-ups, and if you read what you need rather than everything in your face, and if you court periods of silence and solitude, and if you practice, and persist, you will be okay.”
“Poetry is language which arises from experience, though sometimes “experience” is mind, thoughts, imagination.”
I want to thank my fellow bloggers A. J. Wilson (AKA poetisatinta), and Tom Ewart (AKA tommywart) for graciously accepting my invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. Although the Imaginarium ended up being much shorter than usual, I decided not to repost the entire Imaginarium here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions of the Virtual Poetorium because I feel that it is probably still too long a read, and thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers (as a result, some really excellent poetry might be skipped, and that would be a real shame). So instead, I will just post this month’s Imaginarium group poem (which is probably one of my favorite segments of both the Poetorium and the Imaginarium). This month, we requested people to send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “Halloween is…” All contributions were then compiled into the following poem which I’m afraid. like the entire Imaginarium, is also rather shorter than usual this month since we only received submissions from just Karen Durlach and A. J. Wilson (aka poetisatinta) besides myself (I hope you enjoy reading it!)…
Just What Is This Thing Called Halloween?
Halloween is the night of scary things of witches’ brews and flying brooms of hissing cats and screeching bats of chills and mists that pierce the soul and whispering winds that keep you cold so stay alert, away from witchy spells then you’ll be safe from the hounds of hell.
Halloween is hanging by a thread, from a web, the rattle of bone, in the dark, alone, a fluttery sheet that has no feet, a headless hat, a phantom cat, a spooky night, such a fright delight.
Halloween is a holiday marked by the consumption Of confection, commercialism crass as Christmas, A celebration of contradictions when the so-called innocent don masks to extort the neighborhood, where the ominous and the whimsical Dance cheek to cheek at a costume ball, and you never know Either to expect a sack of candy corn or a bag of human bones.
—The October 2022 Imaginarium Halloween Group Poem
After mulling it over for a few days, I am very pleased to announce that, in spite of having a very hectic schedule filled with numerous poetry events this month (including our live Poetorium at Starlite show on October 27th in Southbridge, Massachusetts), I will be producing a special Halloween-themed edition of the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse (which I am tentatively dubbing the Scarynarium) and would like to open it for anyone who would like to participate, inviting all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of it. Unlike a regular edition, there will be no featured poet but instead will have an extra-long open mic to be divided into two sections. Because of this, we are requesting that you send us up to three of your own original poems or stories (ones that are scary or have a Halloween theme are preferred though not required) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to email@example.com by Sunday, October 23rd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself (extra brownie points rewarded if you are in costume) to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.
Like always, we also need contributions to this month’s Imaginarium Group poem. To participate, please send us one to eight lines starting with the phrase “Halloween is… “. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in this month’s Halloween edition of the Imaginarium Group Poem. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Sunday, October 23rd.
We will also be reviving (at least for this month) the monthly writing challenge which we once did with the Virtual Poetorium where we invited you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form each month. This month’s challenge will be to write a six-word story (your story can include a title or not, the choice is up to you), and once again, a Halloween theme is suggested. In case you are not familiar with this popular flash fiction form, you can read about how to write one @ https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-an-unforgettable-six-word-story#3-examples-of-sixword-stories. Please send us your best efforts by Sunday, October 23rd to be included in this month’s Halloween-themed Imaginarium.
Also if you wish, please feel free to send us any of your own original scary or Halloween-themed artwork or photos to be displayed and shared during our virtual intermission! Our new Imaginarium website has the ability to embed videos, so if you have any links to any scary or Halloween-themed videos you have created hosted on YouTube or other sites, please feel free to send them to us as well.
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Imaginarium poem, or anything else about the International Imaginarium itself, please drop us a line, and we will try to answer them right away.
Thank you so very much, my dear friends! We really appreciate your help and look forward to your participation. Please take care, and stay safe, but try to have a very scary but fun October!
Here is the link to the second first edition of The International Imaginarium for Word & Verse (which is the new name for The Virtual Poetorium) with the multi-talented writer, poet, lyricist, playwright and theatrical director James B. Nicola from New York City as the featured poet posted last Tuesday night on our brand new Imaginarium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure: https://internationalimaginarium.blogspot.com/2022/09/international-imaginarium-for-word.html
I want to thank my fellow bloggers John Ormsby,Diane Puterbaugh, Angela Wilson (AKA poetisatinta), and Tom Ewart (AKA tommywart) for graciously accepting my invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. Like last time, I have decided not to repost the entire Imaginarium here on this blog as I have often done with previous editions of the Virtual Poetorium because I feel that it is probably too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most of my readers (as a result, some really excellent poetry might be skipped, and that would be a real shame). So instead, I will just post this month’s Imaginarium group poem (which is probably one of my favorite segments of both the Poetorium and the Imaginarium). This month, we did a variation of what we did for our Poetorium group poem in September 2019, but instead of asking people to contribute a few lines of “something a true poet would never say”, we asked them to do the opposite and send us one to eight lines of “things only a real poet would say”. All contributions we received were then compiled and included in this month’s Imaginarium Group Poem. I want to thank Robert Eugene Perry, John Ormsby, Howard J Kogan, Karen Durlach, and Angela Wilson (AKA Poetisatinta) as well as other contributors who wish to remain anonymous for participating and making the following poem possible (both John’s and Angela’s contributions can be found published as individual poems on their respective websites Mr. Ormsby at Large and Let’s Write…):
Eight Things Only a Real Poet Would Say…
I. Love is eternal regardless of what life draws in Indeed, when we hold it at arm’s length It will eventually find its home again A ceaseless feeling that may rip you apart But the beauty of both love and a poem Is they are found in the heart.
II. The heart is a church with broken windows.
III. A metaphor is a revolving door That brings you back to where you were before.
IV. This is just to say I have eaten all the words You had strewn across the page They were delightful So full of life, As am I.
V. You see a marble I see the moon You hear a garble I hear a tune You hold me closer Without a sound I’m life’s composer Noting it down
VI. In regards to writing poetry, The money does not matter…
VII. The things only a real poet would say are lies And only real poets spout the gods’ truth. When the parrot poets, the mocking birds, and the mourning doves Taught the apes to sing and dance, Channel thought into word, thrum air into verse, Then all born would be poets, sharing stories, Forwards and backwards and inside out, Truth and lies, lies and truth.
VIII. When we first began to write, We were all convinced we would save The Universe with our verse. Then later we thought we would be the ones to rescue poetry from the world. But now in the final stanza, we, at last, realize It was, in fact, the poetry that saved us all…
—The International Imaginarium Group Poem for September 27th, 2022
I’m happy to announce that The International Imaginarium For Word & Verse (formerly known as The Virtual Poetorium) is back from its hiatus in August and would like to invite all of you to participate in our second edition (with the multi-talented writer, poet, lyricist, playwright, and theatrical director James B. Nicola as our featured poet) to be posted on our new Imaginarium website on the evening of September 27th, 2022.
To be part of our Imaginarium open mic this month, please send us one to three of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words altogether please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, September 25th (my apologies for giving you such a short time to submit). Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.
We will also need contributions for this month’s Imaginarium Group poem. This month, we will be doing a variation of what we did for our Poetorium group poem in September 2019, but instead of asking you to contribute your lines of “something a true poet would never say”, we are asking you to do the opposite and send us one to eight lines of “things only a real poet would say”. All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled and included in this month’s Imaginarium Group Poem. Once again, the deadline for submissions is Sunday, September 25th.
If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Imaginarium poem, or anything else about the International Imaginarium For Word & Verse itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.
Thank you so very much for reading, folks! As always, I really appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to our second edition of the International Imaginarium!
“Poems offer us counter-knowledges. They let us see what is invisible to ordinary looking, and to find in overlooked corners the opulence of our actual lives. Similarly, we usually spend our waking hours trying to be sure of things – of our decisions, our ideas, our choices. We so want to be right. But we walk by right foot and left foot.”
“At another level, though, poems can craft an eraser – we can’t revise the past, but poems allow us some malleability, an increased freedom of response, comprehension, feeling. Choice, what choices are possible for any given person, is another theme that’s run through my work from the start.”
“A certain amount of housekeeping also goes on in my poems. I wash doorknobs, do dishes, mop floors, patch carpets, cook.”
“Any artist, in any field, wants to press deeper, to discover further. Image and sound play are among the strongest colors available to poetry’s palette. For a long time, I’ve wanted to invite in more strangeness, more freedom of imagination. Yet music, seeing, and meaning are also cohering disciplines. They can be stretched, and that is part of poetry’s helium pleasure. But not to the point of breaking.”
“Poetry’s work is the clarification and magnification of being.”
“The ability to name poetry’s gestures and rhetorics isn’t required to write or read them, any more than a painter needs to know the physics of color to bring forward a landscape. The eye and hand and ear know what they need to know. Some of us want to know more, because knowing pleases.”
“One breath taken completely; one poem, fully written, fully read – in such a moment, anything can happen”
“I want to preserve a certain unknowing about my own poems – perhaps because unknowing is in itself a useful poetic thirst. To move the perimeter of saying outside my own boundaries is one reason I write.”
“A poem’s essential discovery can happen at a single sitting. The cascade of discoveries in an essay, or even finding a question worth exploring in one, seems to need roughly the time it takes to plant and harvest a crop of bush beans.”
“I require silence to write the way an apple tree requires winter to make fruit. Being with people is intimate and joyous, but at some point, I’ll wander off by myself. The paradox is that what began in childhood as an act of necessary solitude has led me straight to a life with others, in which I fly to China or Lithuania or northern Minnesota to read my poems and talk with other people who love language made into a lathe on which a life can be tuned and be turned.”
“The public has an unusual relationship to the poet: It doesn’t even know that he is there.“
“As to the proper length of a poem, there’s no ‘proper length’. It should be complete, should present a whole, rounded idea. But keep in mind that the longer a poem is, the tougher it is to write and the harder it is to hold the reader’s interest.”
“Poetry is innocent, not wise. It does not learn from experience, because each poetic experience is unique.”
“Poetry is not a way of saying things; it’s a way of seeing things.”
“Poets of course are even more unpredictable than other writers, overwhelmed as they are by the moment they inhabit and finding it difficult to connect yesterday with tomorrow.”
“Contemporary poetry or the kind a ‘long-hair’ might write is highly abstract and unnecessarily obscure. Those who write the stuff depend on ideas and tricks of language to such an extent that it is often impossible to extract any meaning from their poems.”
“The good poet sticks to his real loves, to see within the realm of possibility. He never tries to hold hands with God or the human race.”
“To write a good poem, the writer should feel pretty damn strongly on the point he’s trying to express. Give it everything, but use your own speech, your own idiom. This gives the piece individuality and strength.”
“Brevity, in poetry, as in the time a guy has to spend getting shot at, is very desirable.”
“A poem should make easy reading for the ordinary guy who doesn’t happen to be a brain trust. The reader should understand the piece and get enjoyment out of it. Otherwise, the poem would be better unwritten.”
Today’s post is the fourth in a series of interviews with poets reposted on this blog that originally appeared in the Virtual Poetorium. This interview with poet Therese Gleason was first published a little over two years ago in the May 26, 2022 edition of the Virtual Poetorium (I hope you will enjoy reading it)…
Therese Gleason is author of two chapbooks: Libation (2006), selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative chapbook competition, and Matrilineal (Finishing Line, 2021). She was a finalist in the 2022 Wolfson Press chapbook competition, and received an honorable mention for the 2020 Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Indiana Review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, America, and elsewhere. Originally from Louisville, KY, Therese currently works as literacy teacher at an elementary school in Worcester, MA, where she lives with her spouse and three children. She reads for The Worcester Review and has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. Find her online at theresegleason.com.Copies ofTherese’s most recent chapbookMatrilinealmay be purchased online through her publisherFinishing LinePressby clicking here.
RON: My first question is so who is Therese Gleason anyway?
THERESE; Mom of three, poet, educator, quasi-southerner with a midwestern twist, wife, double-twin (I’m a twin and the mother of twins), friend, unofficial family historian, astrology buff, non-native Spanish speaker, former marathon runner, erstwhile vegetarian, sweet tooth, inveterate napper, ceiling gazer, not necessarily in that order.
RON: Where have you come from, (meaning what city and state)?
THERESE: I was born in Springfield, Illinois, moved to St. Louis, Missouri when I was a toddler, and then spent most of my formative years in Kentucky, growing up in Louisville and then attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington for my undergraduate degree in Spanish and my masters in English. I also spent a summer living in Cape Coast, Ghana, and lived two years in Madrid, Spain, two years in Washington, D.C., and over a decade in Columbia, South Carolina. We moved to Worcester from South Carolina five years ago this summer for my husband to take a position directing the International Development, Community, and Environment department at Clark University, and I’m proud to call central Massachusetts home. I heart Worcester!
RON: Who influenced your abilities in writing?
THERESE: I am fortunate to come from a family of readers and lovers of literature and art. I grew up being read to from as far back as I can remember, including my father reading me and my two sisters picture books and then The Little House on the Prairie series when we were in preschool. My mother is a voracious reader and I have always marveled at her ability to completely lose herself in a book – probably a survival mechanism for a mother of five. She took us to the library practically weekly and we read rather than watch much T.V., which she limited stringently.
My grandfather, too, was a huge influence, never failing to ask me (and his other two-dozen plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren), what I was reading. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose poems he could quote by heart. A medic in World War II at age nineteen, he went on to father seven children and have a long career as a cardiologist, after which, in his retirement, in between learning French and golfing daily, he wrote three memoirs and was at work on his fourth at the time of his death. Not long before he died, he passed the torch to me when I congratulated him on his third self-published book, saying “you’re next.”
RON: Who is your most loved poet (or poets) and why?
THERESE: This is so hard to answer…but it’s probably Stanley Kunitz, for his humanity, imagination, intelligence, and the beauty of his language and insights. I could go on for pages about all the others I also adore…so I’ll spare everyone and stick with just one.
RON: Do you have children and do you write anything for them? Or about them?
THERESE: I have three spirited children who amaze me and make me laugh every day: my oldest daughter is thirteen and my twins, a boy, and a girl, just turned ten. They sometimes find their way into my writing, but I don’t tend to write things specifically for them.
RON: How much time do you spend writing? Like, do you write every day?
THERESE: I write almost every day, but that has not always been true. When my children were younger, I had long dry spells of not reading or writing poetry. I find it’s an ongoing process to carve out the time and space I need to write while being flexible based on my other roles and responsibilities, namely parenting and teaching literacy/reading intervention to students with dyslexia and other learning differences.
RON: Paul, do you have any questions you’d like to ask Therese?
PAUL: Yes, thank you, Ron. I do have a few… Therese, can you tell us what it is like to pursue your Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and do you think that is something every poet should do?
THERESE: I couldn’t speak to what other poets should do, but I am infinitely grateful that I took the plunge and have been able to pursue my MFA at Pacific University. I pondered doing this for years, and finally decided on a low-residency format, to allow me to keep working and taking care of my family while learning from a roster of poets so outstanding that I literally pinch myself that I get to study with them: Kwame Dawes, Mahtem Shiferraw, Marvin Bell, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Ellen Bass, and Shara McCallum, to name a few. In fact, I sought out Pacific University knowing Kwame Dawes was on the faculty, having been fortunate to work with him before. My main goals in undertaking the MFA were to cultivate a daily/near daily and regular reading and writing practice that I can sustain and maintain in the midst of ‘real life’ and my other family and work responsibilities; to improve my craft, and to find a community that supports and inspires me.
So far, one year into the program, I can say my investment is already paying off in spades. I am so glad I gave myself this gift and fortunate to have this opportunity. The way the program works is that over two years, we attend five intensive, in-person residencies with daily workshops, craft talks, and readings of 10 days each, which happen to be in beautiful Forest Grove and Seaside Oregon. During each of the four semesters, we are matched with a faculty mentor and advisor, with whom five packets of work are exchanged throughout the semester; these include about 4-6 poems each, and three reading commentaries on poetry collections. Each semester, our faculty advisors help us create a reading list of 20 books; third semester includes a critical essay and the fourth semester includes a creative thesis. The program at Pacific has an inimitable combination of rigor and warmth and is genuinely friendly and supportive while also challenging each writer to be their best.
PAUL: Do you ever do research while writing a poem, and if so, are there any particular subjects that you learned a lot more about now because of your poetry?
THERESE: I have benefited from the extensive genealogical research that my great aunt did on my maternal line: I have used the citations in her two meticulously researched books as a springboard for continued digging via ancestry.com and other online and archival sources. This has informed a cycle of poems (some of which were featured here), and that I am continuing to work on. Something I learned through this research is that one branch of my family has deep roots in New England going back to the earliest days of the colonies, with involvement in such formative events as the Salem witch trials and the American Revolution.
PAUL: Can you tell us a bit about your process of writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?
THERESE: Well, usually I begin writing by hand in a composition notebook, one of those speckled black and white ones with a mechanical pencil, sometimes from a prompt and sometimes when the spirit moves me. Then I move to the computer and type the poem, which allows me to manipulate the lines and language more easily. I tend to make many versions and changes, sometimes printing poems out and marking them up, sometimes emailing them to myself and reading them over and over at different times of day and in different places. I also read my poems out loud to try to refine the lineation and sonic elements. I’m lucky to have a couple of wonderful writing groups in which we read and share comments on each other’s work every week/biweekly. Having community to help refine the work and be in conversation with other poets is something I sought for a long time, and I am grateful to have this in my life now.
PAUL: How did your chapbook Libation come about? For instance, is this a collection of poetry you previously wrote, or did you write poems specifically for this chapbook?
THERESE: I didn’t set out to write a chapbook; Libation (Stepping Stones Press, 2006) came about from my daily journaling and poetry writing during the summer of 2000, when I spent May to August in Cape Coast, Ghana, with my now-husband Ed Carr, who was working on archaeological and ethnographic research in two small villages called Ponkrum and Dominase, just inland from Cape Coast. I carried my notebook everywhere and crafted poems out of my observations and experiences. I returned to Kentucky and workshopped some of the poems in my classes led by James Baker Hall, with a phenomenal group of peers. Then for two years the poems sat while I taught English in Madrid. When we moved to Columbia for my husband to take a position at the University of South Carolina, I was incredibly lucky to encounter the South Carolina Poetry Initiative at the university, headed by Kwame Dawes.
This is kind of like a fairy tale, but he graciously offered to read my manuscript and provided detailed, generous feedback. I also participated in the SC Poetry Initiative’s First Book Project, a small (free, open to the public) group of poets with manuscripts they were working to arrange into collections. We took turns reading each other’s manuscripts and providing feedback on the order and coherence of the pieces as a whole as well as making other editorial suggestions. It was led by Ed Madden, an incredible poet and teacher, and several of us ended up getting published afterward. I entered my chapbook in the inaugural South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition, and it was a co-winner, selected by Kwame Dawes and published by the Poetry Initiative at the University of South Carolina. It was a dream come true and a combination of luck and timing that I happened to be in the right place at the right time to access such a marvelous poetry community. I didn’t quite realize at the time how unusual and charmed my experience was, but I do now, and will always be grateful.