Author Archive

The Next Big Thing

Thanks to Catherine Pierce, author of Famous Last Words and The Girls of Peculiar, for tagging me in this self-interview series.

UPDATE! The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison is the winner of the 2012 Dorset Prize, selected by Kimiko Hahn. It will be published by Tupelo Press in 2015.

What is the working title of your book?


The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison.

What genre does it fall under?

Poetry


Where did the idea come from for the book?

Many of the poems were inspired by fables, traditional Latin American folk tales, and well-known fairy tales. Others are more autobiographical but relate well to the others because of shared themes and images and a unified tone. The more time I spend with the collection, the more I’ve grown to see the unifying theme as narrative itself—the stories we tell ourselves and our children, the stories we grow up hearing and believing, stories that have truth even if they are not “true.”

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


I’m not falling for this trap. Nice try.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?


It took two years to complete the first version of this manuscript, but I’ve spent probably six years on it as a whole—revising individual poems, taking poems out, adding poems, rearranging sections, changing the title, and so on. Several of the poems were published as a chapbook, The List of Dangers, which won the Wick Poetry Chapbook competition and was published in 2010.

Who or what inspired you to write it?


I was certainly inspired by The Brothers Grimm, Gabriel García Márquez, and Gabriela Mistral, but motherhood has had a huge impact on the manuscript. After all, so many fairy tales and folk tales are brutal and teach hard lessons about the world’s dangers.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

I don’t think it’s similar to any other book I’ve read, but other books I’ve discovered or revisited as of late include Traci Brimhall’s Our Lady of the Ruins, Nick Lantz’s The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House, Sarah Manguso’s The Captain Lands in Paradise, Mark Strand’s Reasons for Moving, and the list goes on and on.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Unknowns, I think. There are a lot of children and adolescents in the poems, and I can’t think of any child actor quite haunted enough to play them. Perhaps that über talented lead actress in Beasts of the Southern Wild—Quvenzhané Wallis?


What else about your manuscript might pique the reader’s interest?

The poem “Lights, Lemons,” forthcoming in Salamander, was inspired by something my daughter said to me last year, when she was three: “There were lights in the lemon trees so you could see the lemons, and a whistle so you could call your friends.” Maybe she has a future in poetry. Then again, maybe she’ll be a financial advisor. It’s just too soon to tell.

To pique interest a bit more, how about a little snippet from four of the poems in the manuscript?

She measures her distance in lines:
a sonnet for every fourteen steps down
a long hall of yellow leaves.

Little Bird of Many Colors,
you are the kind who confuses wondering with wandering.
You wonder around. Under your braids, a bright light.

Like tiny machines,
the sparrows print their messages over and over
on the air scrolling by.

The stories say the banished dead are wild now,
crouching among scrawny trees, skinning rabbits
and raising them like lanterns.

Next week, expect self-interviews from these poets:

Betsy Wheeler, Amy PickworthJason Gray, and Dan Vera.


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Mix Tape: Supermodel Novelists and Politician Poets

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Edith Wharton is played by a 30-year-old Russian supermodel? Dick Durbin is taking an online contemporary poetry course? Catch up on these stories and much more.


Mix Tape: Mindful Writing, Mindful Submitting

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: the pitfalls of the “buckshot or cluster-bomb strategy” of simultaneously submitting work to multiple journals; the three types of stories unlikely to survive beyond the slush pile, including “sad garage sale”; an interview with Dinty W. Moore on being a mindful writer; and much more.


Mix Tape: Inventors, Masters, Starters of Crazes

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Will the old writing you’ve disowned—the poems full of mixed metaphors, the stories you never knew how to end, the essays that seem to fall flat—follow you around forever? How is posthumous publishing like organ donation, according to the Paris Review? What do you need to know before sending poetry book manuscripts out to contests and presses this fall? Check out all of this and much more.


Mix Tape: Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: a look at the gratuitous-by-nature, name-dropping acknowledgments page; the rise of the book-review-for-hire; writing advice from Roxane Gay; and much more.


Mix Tape: Literary Crimes

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Andrew Scott’s response to the “ladder-climbing” and “posturing” behind nasty reviews and other writer-on-writer crimes; Flannery O’Connor’s response to an English professor who wrote and asked her to explain one of her short stories; and much more.


Mix Tape: Cover Me

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Is social media turning readers into yes-men/women? Are book covers a dying art? Can the Jonah Lehrer snafu get any worse? Check out these stories and more.


Mix Tape: Poetry Gold (and Silver…and Bronze)

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: the relationship between increasing literacy and decreasing brutality (maybe poetry has changed the world!); the history of poetry at the Olympics; a proposed alternative to the post-MFA adjunct grind; and much more.


Mix Tape: From the Mouths of Babes…and Speakers Sewn into Lace

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: the cease-and-desist letter Lazy Fascist Press received from Jack Daniels concerning a book cover; Lace Sensor Dresses, which play poems aloud through tiny, sewn-in speakers when parts of the dresses are touched; a 1968 BBC interview with a seven-year-old boy named Neil Gaiman about his experiences with Scientology; and much more.


Mix Tape: Tacos, Tears, and the State of American Poetry

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: literary characters and what they were almost named; meeting your literary nemesis in an MFA program; a Bukowski-Sondheim musical; and much more.


Mix Tape: The One

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: The 3:AM website disappeared last week, so what are the ultimate consequences for online magazines, if it’s this easy for one to vanish into cyberspace? Plus Michael Cunningham breaks down the Pulitzer breakdown, in two parts, and much more….including Johnny Depp’s new role as a book editor.


Mix Tape: “Be relentless. All over the world, people are working harder than you.”

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: gamers in Tehran will soon be able to carry out the fatwa on a virtual Salman Rushdie in a video game, “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict”; Sarah Manguso has some practical advice for young writers beginning their careers; publishers redesign classic novels with “that Urban Outfitters customer in mind”; and more great finds.


Mix Tape: Weapon of Mass Instruction

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: “The Book That Can’t Wait” demands your immediate attention—because it was printed using disappearing ink; research shows that a busy coffee shop is a better location for tackling a creative project than a quiet library; a new site—What Was That Book?—helps connect readers with the long-lost books they can’t quite remember; and more literary ephemera worth checking out and sharing.


Mix Tape: Rainbows Have Seams

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Do you like “suave V words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve” or “crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty”? Why do crayon names matter so much? What’s with Groupon’s literary style? And, wait, there’s more…


Mix Tape: Judge a Book

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: What are the top ten poetry presses based on their book covers? Where do things stand in publishing for writers of color, based on books reviewed by the New York Times? What does poetry have to do with utopia? Check out these stories and more water-cooler-worthy literary tidbits.


Mix Tape: Live Forever

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: remembering Ray Bradbury, who died this week at age 91; honoring Natasha Trethewey, the new PLOTUS; laughing at ourselves thanks to the fine writers at the Onion; and more.


Mix Tape: On the Move

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: a free writing workshop held on a No. 7 train on a round trip to Flushing, Queens; John Waters hitchhiking across the country for a new book; a student’s English-literature-AP-project-turned-art-installation at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst; and more gems.


Mix Tape: Message in a Bottle

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: What advice did Neil Gaiman give graduates at the commencement address everyone’s talking about? WWBBT (What Would Bob Barker Think) about the new Plinko Poetry game? How fast can you actually read? Check out these finds and more.


Mix Tape: Reinvention

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Marjorie Perloff, on how “well-crafted” poems are formulaic; Pentametron, a robotic Twitter account who turns tweets into metered poems; graphic designer Karen To, who revives “dead” words with creative typography; and more.


Mix Tape: Thematically Speaking, Death’s Still in the Lead

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: an infographic of the 2011 Booker Longlist novels broken down by theme shows that Death is still your best bet, but maybe Nanny Trust Issues, Homicidal Cowboy Brothers, and An Escaped Tiger will gain some ground in the coming years; new research in psychology shows that fiction molds us more than nonfiction (and in positive ways); Bret Easton Ellis is on Kickstarter, offering notes on your novel for a $5,000 pledge; and much more where that came from.


Mix Tape: Only Human

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: the dos and (mortifying) don’ts of author introductions (Chabon is not pronounced “Sha-BONE”); the $40,000 NEA grant USC will use to develop a Henry David Thoreau video game; Jonathan Franzen’s reflections on the suicide of close friend David Foster Wallace; and more literary odds and ends.


Mix Tape: “Recipes like poems are roadmaps”

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: Where’s the Springsteen or Mellencamp for struggling creatives—dancers, artists, actors, musicians, writers, designers—who are barely keeping their heads above water? What gives old books their signature smell, that “combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness”? And how does one edit a book of poetry?


Mix Tape: Word for Word

In this week’s Mix Tape on the Kenyon Review blog: On the Bro’d, a word-for-word retelling of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road…in bro speak; novelists speak out about the controversial decision not to name a Pulitzer winner in fiction; the true story of  a blind woman who sits down to write, but the pen is out of ink, so the manuscript is invisible; and much more.


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