Jessica Farquhar on Poetry, Purdue, and Her Personal Writing Process

Poet Jessica Farquhar will read Friday at 7pm with fellow poets Ada Limón and S. Whitney Holmes for Speak Social Presents Catch Up Release Party at Java Bardstown (1707 Bardstown Rd.).

[Comic artists from this issue will not be in attendance, sorry for the mix-up]

Keep Louisville Literary: While in the Creative Writing MFA program at Purdue you served as the Assistant Director of Creative Writing. Since some readers may not know Purdue for its English dept. (although the Sycamore Review and Online Writing Lab are well known among students and writers), could you relay both a bit about the program and specifically your experiences as both a student and as Assistant Director?

Jessica Farquhar: Actually, Purdue is known internationally for its English Department. Teaching essay writing to engineering students and hanging out in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences library were bonuses to the MFA program (Marianne Boruch playing cassette tapes of bird songs in workshop is the obvious reason anyone would want to attend Purdue–or the opportunity to visit the cadaver lab where she composed these poems). My third year, I hung out with Mary Leader weekly, talking tarot cards and handless maidens. Like a midwife she guided that manuscript baby out of me. I also got to introduce (current U.S. Poet Laureate!) Natasha Trethewey when she read at Purdue. And interview Jean Valentine. The whole of the MFA experience was serendipitous and surreal. It was like a waking dream being there, among tens of thousands of sandhill cranes and amazing writers, my peers and the faculty. As assistant director, I was a representative of the program to the community, which means I got to experience it inside and out. It also means I could go on and on and on about what a great program Purdue’s MFA is. More of what I’ve said on the topic can be found here. Third-year fictioneer Natalie van Hoose describes the experience beautifully here.

KLL: What are you pursuing now that you are home, post MFA?

JF: Pursuing: my children, book publication, the next manuscript.

KLL: Your thesis collection completed at Purdue, Through a Tunnel You Are Leaving, was a finalist this year in Sarabande Books’s Linda Bruckheimer poetry contest. Since we may assume you will be reading from this collection Friday, could you tell us a little about your direction, intention, techniques or thematic for this collection?

JF: I used many different processes to write and revise the manuscript, and the third section (of four), which is the least likely to lend itself to an oral reading, includes the most process-oriented poem, “Institute Are To,” another example of a unique experience afforded me by Purdue. It’s a long mosaic poem made of pieces of language I borrowed from a book on Lithography and that also is inspired by the process of lithography, its duplicable and handmade qualities. Mary Leader challenged me to come up with a process that could produce ten different poems from the same source–an example of what she calls the proliferative mode. She also encouraged me to spend a lot of time and energy (and space!) ordering the poems in my manuscript. Through a Tunnel You Are Leaving starts in the darkest part of the tunnel, with the handless maiden in the middle of the woods in the dark, and the journey takes off from there.

KLL: Do you prefer to regiment your writing, sitting down and “clocking-in”, or do you prefer spontaneity? Could you briefly describe your process and the places where you write?

JF: I do like to have my dedicated space at home, but rarely a dedicated time. I have my iMac and a big work surface, also yoga mats and space to practice postures and meditation. A big benefit of the MFA for me was getting to really know my writing habits and tweaking my space. I write best in the morning, if I’m going to sit down and spend some time at the computer. But I really never know when inspiration is going to hit, and the discipline for me is putting pen to paper when it does.

KLL: In conclusion, a generic favorite: whose books are currently fueling your creative fire? If this question doesn’t apply, suggest to us some compelling work you are familiar with.

JF: Mary Ruefle’s essays collected in Madness, Rack, and Honey have been fueling my creative fire for a few months now. Anything by Rachel Zucker is a go-to for me, and I’m dying to get my hands on Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. I’ve been haunted in the best way by Nick Flynn’s memoir The Ticking is the Bomb, which I listened to over many drives between Lafayette and Louisville. I have to go now. Mitch Daniels (current Purdue President!) is on Stephen Colbert.

Jessica Farquhar holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Purdue where she was the assistant director of Creative Writing. She is a Louisville native, and current resident. Her poems have appeared in Catch Up, Word Hotel, ABZ, Transom, New Madrid, Poetry East, and Lumberyard; reviews and interviews in Sycamore Review.

Poet on Poet Interview: Erin Keane and (yours truly) Brandon Stettenbenz

[For this one-time interview, I bow to the superior journalist skills of Ms. Keane. At her suggestion, we will take turns answering questions about ourselves and our writing. Presenting, the KLL poet-on-poet one-shot!]

Erin Keane is the author of three books, Death Defying Acts (2010), and The Gravity Soundtrack (2007) both on Word Farm and the chapbook One Hit Wonders (2006) put out by Snark Publishing. Ms. Keane is a graduate of the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, Bellarmine University and Spalding University’s low-residency MFA program. She currently covers the arts for 89.3 WFPL, and has been an active contributor to and supporter of Louisville’s local literary community for many years, including a stint as director of the InKY Reading Series. You can find links to her poetry books and journalism at her home page.

Brandon Stettenbenz (“Keep Louisville Literary” author incognito) is a graduate of Indiana University Southeast. His poems are published or are forthcoming in Straylight magazine, GlassFire, and Crack The Spine. Brandon has also published reviews and news stories in L.E.O. weekly and The Louisville Paper. He lives in the Highlands of Louisville with his partner Ariel Fischer and daylights as a Barista. He is currently applying for entry into several competitive Creative Writing MFAs and submitting his tentatively finished chapbook manuscript to potential publishers.


Brandon. Q: Your education and experience is well-rooted here in Louisville and the Bluegrass Region. Could you elaborate on your past experiences with Bellarmine, Spalding, Velocity, and the Louisville arts community in general? With three books and an ongoing career in journalism relating to the arts, I assume you’ve found great support and opportunities here locally.

Erin. A: I have found great support for my writing here in Louisville. The Spalding MFA program was such an important apprenticeship for me, and the lessons I learned about work ethic and the importance of grindstone over genius go to work with me every day. After I graduated, I started a personal blog to keep myself writing without the pressure of publication, which led to a gig blogging for Velocity, which led to reviewing plays for LEO, which led to a full-time arts writing job at Velocity and The Courier-Journal, where my editors were extremely supportive of my literary career. Heck, my boss ran a literary journal and small press (Five Chapters) himself. Budget cuts, lay-offs, blah blah, back to freelancing, until I was hired by Louisville Public Media back in the spring. Now I’m a full-time arts and humanities reporter for public radio and I couldn’t be happier. I’m working for an organization that’s growing and that shares my values and coverage interests, and I’m lucky to feel a great deal of support for my work from Louisville’s arts community.

The thing about Louisville that I’ve always found amazing is how willing folks are to give a new event or a new publication a chance. You don’t have to spend a lot of time defending why you’re creating a new reading series, or a new magazine, or putting out a book, and why it’s cool enough for the “right” people to care about. We’re a fairly enthusiastic community, I think, with a natural curiosity about new projects. That welcoming atmosphere can be really freeing for an artist, too. In my less confident moments, I don’t have to worry about whether I’m creating something that fits into the scene, right? That leaves my less confident moments focused on myself—what I want out of my writing, what I need to create at this moment. The best way I’ve found to handle those episodes at this point in my career is to take a long drive or a long walk—depending on the severity of the crisis—alone, to free up my mind to wander without any distraction. Discernment takes time and space and a busy working and creating life doesn’t always allow for that to happen naturally, so I’ve learned to create time and space when I need it.

Erin. Q: So that leads me to my question for you, Brandon. As a writer, how do you handle your less-confident moments?

Brandon. A: As far as creative process & confidence, I try to write whenever I get an idea and to remain as non-committal about a poem as humanly possible until I’ve had time for multiple revisions. My natural self-criticism can be overwhelming at times, but I don’t toss anything until I’ve worked it over, sometimes for weeks. This can go the other way. At times, I torment myself over pieces that just don’t work.

Quiet-space and free-time have been in short supply for me since I started writing, so it’s hard for me to find the breathing room that can be necessary for writing. I’m naturally an active person, and when I start reading a story I have to finish it. Instead of resisting my nature, I’ll often bury myself in other people’s poetry. To prevent an assumption of another writer’s voice during these reading stints I make sure to diversify what I’m reading at any given time; I generally try to keep 2-3 poetry collections or journals with me. So, for me, its finding the right types and amount of creative ballast to keep my own writing afloat. Reading poetry during open-mic segments helps. Trying to have new, strong poems every few weeks to perform keeps me from slumping too much.

Brandon Stettenbenz. Q: As a reporter on the arts and culture in our fair city, you are able to continue endorsing the arts and helping our community to grow and thrive. Please tell us about your segment/column. Who are some performers you’ve been excited about covering lately?

Erin Keane. A: I report on the city’s arts and humanities news for our daily newscast, (89.3 FM) and I also write reviews and blog posts for our website, I am a theater geek at heart, and Louisville is a great city for a theater writer. Actors Theatre of Louisville is exciting to watch right now because they have a new artistic director who’s also an amazing director himself, and so things feel very energized over there, and because I don’t know all his moves yet, he’s so new, it feels like anything could happen. That’s fun for a reporter, when you can’t guess what will happen next. Smaller companies like Theatre [502], Savage Rose and Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble also do so much amazing work with not a lot of money or time. On Monday, I’m interviewing two writers—Jason Howard and Justin Torres—about their recent books, and that means it’s going to be a fun day at work.

Erin. Q: So you’ve become a player on the arts coverage scene as well, with the new Keep Louisville Literary online initiative. What made you decide to start this project? Have you learned anything about Louisville’s literary landscape that surprises you?

Brandon. A: The KLL blog is a community building concept that has been in the back of my mind for the better part of a year. The true story of why I finally pulled the trigger on it actually relates to WFPL. They had a job opening posted online for a “Web Content Editor”, or something along those lines, and although I had some editing experience and my B.A., they also required someone who could manage their social media. I realized I knew nothing of the way social media has evolved since Facebook. Avoiding excessive social media was one way I sheltered myself while zealously pursuing my undergrad. I decided then that I needed to add social media to my resume.

Another major part of the project was a realization that the few people I had met while attending InKY and other literary events over the past few years didn’t know each other very well. For example, being an IU Southeast student, I knew only one or two UofL students or grads. I attended events when I could and noticed that those who attended InKY often wouldn’t be in attendance for Sarabande Books’ reading series at 21c. As I met more people, diagrams of various groups took root in my mind, and I saw a lack of bridges between them. Everyone is very busy; I understand this whole-heartedly. While pursuing my undergrad, I worked five days a week and took five days of classes for two years straight; I only had days off in December. So perhaps no one can attend every event, but there’s no reason in our internet-age that they can’t at least have the opportunity and the motivation. Doing interviews, sharing event invites, and linking poems/stories/essays by featured readers on the blog and across social media means that most if not all of our literary community can be interested and informed across the board.

The surprising thing has been a phenomenal amount of support from everyone in our community right out of the gate. I didn’t have to convince anyone about my motivations, conviction, or sincerity, and I haven’t encountered any elitism. From the self-taught to the academics, from the up-and-coming to the well-established (none of those categories are exclusive by the way) Louisville is teeming with kind, enthusiastic, talented writers who are eager to share their work, their experience, and the spotlight. At this-year’s Writer’s Block festival, guests from near and far all had the same sentiment “you have an incredible literary scene here in Louisville!” Even more recently I’ve heard some locals saying things like “our literary community is booming” or “we’re on the verge becoming a recognized as a great place for writers and literature”. Going into this project, I hadn’t realized the extent of our community’s recent growth (thanks to Sarabande, UofL, LLA, Typecast, Stone Soup and new players like Speak Social and Subterranean Phrases) and soaring potential. I’m ecstatic to be a writer in Louisville right now!

Brandon. Q: Considering your first two books, one would assume your muse lives in the electric air of a packed night club and within the tormented lyrics and wild riffs of rock n’ roll. What transition occurred that drew you away from these inspirations and toward writing persona poems like those in Death Defying Acts

Erin. A: I do love music. I grew up in a house filled with rock and roll and my first rebellions were musical (hip hop, indie rock, things my mom didn’t care about). But music runs throughout Death-Defying Acts, too—I wrote a Book Notes ( about the different playlists I created for each character. But what I really love are subcultures, the rules and norms that a community creates and what happens when you push against them. So much interesting human material comes out of that question.

Erin. Q: What about the world around us inspires your work?

Brandon. A: Man’s indomitable will to survive. My work often goes through dark places, which I believe to be natural since we live in dark times, but I like to think that the light cast by humanity’s intrinsic fire shines through that darkness. When I’m writing about the way late-capitalism has ravaged a character, I’m also insinuating what they have lost and just as importantly, what has endured. It’s the same beautiful struggle humanity has always been fighting and losing, and also winning since our origins. The same struggle that religion is founded on, that love facilitates and sometimes conquers. We see this perseverance every day of our lives.

In more specific terms, I’m inspired by the stories of other people’s lives and of course my own. Whether told first-hand, read, or re-told, our stories reflect our will to endure. Life is a beautiful struggle, and that to me is inspiring. All artistic mediums are an attempt to relate this story, at least I believe that sincere artists attempt it, and I am influenced by those storytellers.

Brandon. Q: Death Defying Acts is written from the perspective of several carnival performers, each with their own dark secrets, tormented perspective, and sordid history. Each character is not only believable in their profession, but also complex and emotionally compelling. When and how did the inspiration for this book strike you? Could you tell us a bit about your process when researching and writing this particular collection?

Erin. A: I started writing persona poems in grad school, and my first collection is full of them. At the time, persona poems felt to me like the perfect intersection of story and character, and I loved the freedom of exploring someone else’s motivations and desires. I wrote the first poem for Death-Defying Acts as a one-off about a tattooed lady, and the next time I tried to write a poem, I ended up back in her voice. I went with it, figuring that I’d write a series in her voice, but when I started imagining her world, the voices of her co-workers started butting in, and from there it kind of bloomed into a bigger narrative. On some level, each of those four characters is a part of me, but I did do research to get the details right. I read a very instructive book on big cat taming, and I read lots on clowns and aerial training, and watched circus films like “The Greatest Show on Earth” to immerse myself in the world. I went to the circus. I drank bourbon with dissolute men. I got another tattoo.

Erin. Q: Do you research for your poems? What are you working on now?

Brandon. A: I have, in the past, absolutely buried myself in research projects of all kinds for college. But I’m bad about researching for inspiration or to seek a cohesive direction. Sometimes I think I should assume a more scholarly approach with writing, but I tend to get ideas and run with them. This hasn’t quite yielded a coherent manuscript, so far, though I’ve put together a collection that holds thematically with struggle and survival in the face of a corporate world. Much of it is, perhaps unfortunately, my own history and experience, though there are other characters. Since there’s not quite a narrative, some poems being unrelated aside from theme, I decided to make it conceptual, to embrace the chaos of my rapidly evolving, novice poetic. The collection, titled “Lineating the Cranium”, divides and categorizes said group of poems based on terms coined in the twentieth-century pseudo-science phrenology. Many of us have seen their drawings of human skulls cross-sectioned by dashed lines, even if we know little about the actual practice. Pherenologists thought that personality and behavior could be explained by physically mapping the skull, and that the size of a single area correlated to certain behavioral traits. Interestingly enough, four of the main categorizes that I used are attributed to humans and animals. The latter two, firmness and veneration, were only applied to humans. The manuscript is short and the table of contents resembles something like a textbook. I suppose the concept is an observation of the modern man’s struggle through a clinical lens. Without discounting religion or philosophy, perhaps in response to both, the collection approaches our struggle cerebrally. Whether successful or not, I can’t say, but that’s the attempt. As for my newest work, I have no clear focus, but I’m writing almost everyday.

Brandon. Q: Aside from the inspiration of experience, who are some particular authors that inspire your poetic? In what ways do they inspire you?

Erin. A : I have stolen more moves than I care to confess from Molly Peacock, Richard Cecil, Anne Sexton, Alan Michael Parker and Kim Addonizio, though I always hope that by the time I run those moves through my little sausage factory they come out assimilated into my own peculiar mess. When I’ve overspent my allowance, I go back to Eliot and Yeats. But I can’t really point to how they’ve inspired me, except to say that it’s all part of what grinds and churns up in the factory, which also includes the visual poetry of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Bill Murray’s sense of timing, the use of image in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Michael Stipe’s deep image lyric, and Wes Anderson’s world-building. What I’m reading right now: Jason Howard’s A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, Traci Brimhall’s The Rookery, and Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters.

Erin. Q: Who are you reading these days? Who’s really blowing the top of your head off?

Brandon. A: Timothy Donnely, Paul Guest, and Dean Young all blew me away with their last collections. M. Bartley Siegel whose book “This is What They Say” was put out this year by Typecast Publishing here in Louisville. That’s a great book, and his reading from it after Writer’s Block shook me up. He’s writing about the demise of the rust-belt and the closing of all those auto factories over the last roughly twenty years; gut-wrenching, true Americana.

I’ve also been reading more and more journals, many online, and there are literally hundreds of good writers who don’t yet have books or whose books I haven’t been able to read yet. I’m talking about journals like Diagram, Octopus, Transom, diode, Night Train, Pleiades (UCMO), Blackbird (VCU), Devil’s Lake (Wisc), Tin house, and many others. I could open up my bookmarks and drop the names of at least fifteen people I know almost nothing about whose poems I’ve read online over and over. A few: Sally Wen Mao, Rachel Marston, and J.P Dancing Bear. We also have many local writers who continue to innovate and surprise; I won’t name them because I’d feel awful to leave anyone out, but I will say that anyone reading this should go to a live reading and see for themselves. I think anyone could pick a Louisville or Lexington reading at random and be guaranteed at least one inspiring poet or poem, despite the obvious subjection of individual taste. Our regional literary community is growing exponentially every year.

Though the saturation is hard to filter and ultimately I can’t read even a fraction of what’s out there, I think this is an amazing age for poetry and writing in general. A writer may think that there’s too much competition and no opportunity, as I have lamented fleetingly in the past, but the truth is that there are many active writers starting new journals almost everyday. The tragedy, Twilight Zone style, is that we will never have enough time in our busy lives to read all of it.

Erin Keane and Brandon Stettenbenz will both read Oct. 28th at 5:30pm for the Stone Soup Series at The Bards Town (1801 Bardstown Rd.) with Ken Parks and Tish Moscow. Arrive early if you want to sign up for the open-mic; spaces are limited.

Poet Sean Patrick Hill Invites Us Into His Introspection

Freelance writer, teacher at Indiana University Southeast, father and poet Sean Patrick Hill will take some time out of his busy schedule to share work from his collections of poetry Interstitial (BlazeVOX, 2011) and The Imagined Field (Paper Kite Press, 2010) as well as some forthcoming work at Speak Social Oct. 19th, 7pm (@ Java Bardstown, 1707 Bardstown Rd. Lou, KY 40205) with fellow poet Lynnell Edwards. Keep Louisville Literary sat down with Hill to discuss his poetic:

Keep Louisville Literary:    Highways surface as a recurring theme in your work, often juxtaposed with flight. Either could be said to hold connotations of freedom, or the transformation of journeys. What significance do these two forms of travel hold for you/why are they prevalent in your poems?

Sean Patrick Hill:    When I was young, it might have been true that “highways” represented freedom, but I don’t think they do anymore. To me, highways, interstates, roads in general are oppressive. Looking back over “White River Junction,” which is the long poem that ends The Imagined Field, I can see that it’s not about freedom, though it is about searching. In the case of that poem, which I wrote while driving around Vermont, it’s about looking for a job—with all the attendant philosophy the poem contains, of course: What do I do with this life? How does one live in the midst of such disparities?

The highway motif in my newer poems is equally negative. For example, the poem “Rimbaud at 40” doesn’t discuss highways at length, but it was written entirely while driving the long run to my teaching job in Elizabethtown, a two-hour commute. It’s a nasty rant I’m quite fond of. Whereas “Tannin” clearly identifies the highway with images of death, and in “Utah” the highway is equally ominous, a kind of failed searching. “Crossing Idaho,” another favorite, imagines a highway through the void itself.

I guess poems like this come from a lifetime of driving. Maybe it’s just disappointment: when I was young, I had the freedom to go, and so the “traveling” in my life was exciting, new and fresh. Now I just drive to work, to the store, and so on. But as a poet, that’s what I’m interested in now: the inability to escape the drudgery. I drive all the time but get nowhere, it seems.

KLL:   In some of your poems, such as “Tannin”, the effect of time on your own life becomes the untamed mystery of other natural forces through one or more extended metaphors. Tell us a bit about your process when writing these meditative poems.

SH:    “Tannin” was written in the fall of 2010 while under the influence of Jack Spicer, who I had only just begun to read. Spicer opened up in me a certain freedom, of language for one thing. In his lectures, he talks avidly about a poem being a “dictation,” something I’d always believed anyhow, only now I can borrow some of his terminology. I have a bad tendency to get stilted in writing, to try too hard, especially when it comes to the “lyric poem.” It’s a real nightmare. Still, as a former teacher told our class, 99% of what we write is shit. But we keep writing for that 1%.

I had also been reading a lot of Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves. She’s the master of interior monologue, far more so to me than, say, James Joyce. Her style resonates in me. She has a sensitivity not only to language, but also to the depths of our emotional life. What she gifted me was a way to understand my own interior landscapes and to get them in words, in sentences really. I read recently, in an essay by Isaiah Berlin, that Virginia Woolf adamantly believed that “History” lies not in the doings of great historical figures but in the emotional life of ordinary people. That’s wonderful.

So to put these two influences together—and of course there were countless other influences at play—allowed me to just trust myself and let go. Now it didn’t hurt that, for a time, I was getting up very early, before the baby was awake, in order to write. Sometimes I’d be fresh from a dream, but in most cases I was just more open, and the internal critic wasn’t yet awake.  So with “Tannin,” and other poems, I just started writing, and the poem became a kind of happening. I looked out the window, saw the geese, and off I went.

Spicer believes the poem comes from outside, that it’s a message meant for us, the poets. The message comes filtered through a sort of cloud of language. The poem comes spontaneously, without our interference. To interfere with the transmission, to impose form or structure or idea or sensibility, is to kill the poem. He was against revision, though I know he revised to some extent. “Tannin” was a spontaneous gesture, not a constricted poem. It was received. It was also a gift. When I asked poet Kyle Thompson what he thought the secret was to getting a poem down, he just said it was intuitive, and he literally decreed it a Jedi mind thing. I went with that, and “Tannin” is hardly revised at all.

So I like what Szymborska said about poetry in her Nobel address; in regards to what poetry is, she simply said “I don’t know.” But you have to trust this “I don’t know,” what the French call the je ne sais quoi. Heidegger talks about poetry as a form of “unveiling,” a getting at the essence of a thing—how it happens is a mystery.

KLL:    Some of your presumably recent poems teem with images of wilderness. Can you tell us what draws your mind to memories of the American West, and alternatively, to the Kentucky wilderness?

SH:    A lot of my poems deal with the wilderness, and have for a long time. That comes from fourteen years of reading Gary Snyder and living in Oregon. It also comes from my inordinate love of American Transcendentalism—Emerson, Thoreau, all that.

At first I just wrote a lot of landscape poems. This interested me because, living in Oregon but having grown up in New York, I had no idea where I was. Different birds, different trees, different landscape, and hence a different culture that grew up out of that. I had to find a way for that culture to grow up in me, so I used my poetry to achieve that. The American West is a landscape that fits me, and Kentucky has never really achieved that passion for me. I don’t know why, though certainly it’s the fact of a flat Ohio Valley far away from any meaningful mountains. I’m used to living with peaks of at least 10,000 feet in view of my town, if not from my apartment window.

It’s challenging for me to write about Kentucky. Maybe it’s because my life has been difficult here, which takes me back to that highway motif. In Kentucky I write a lot more about urban landscapes, or even suburban. My poems contain garbage cans, rats, weeds, and especially clouds—I’m fascinated by the geography of clouds. Probably, I just want to escape into them. The struggle here has been one of trying to identify with this place. You know, I’ve only lived here three years. I was in Oregon nearly a decade-and-a-half.

So what I’ve been doing recently is working on two long poems. One I call “The Oregon Poem.” That poem is a way for me to cement that part of myself, maybe construct an interior world I can find comfort in. Maybe I just like to think about Oregon, but I suspect it’s more a case of me exploring the part of my identity that I associate with that place. Because I’m a romantic by nature, and I mean this in the sense of German and English romanticism, not to mention my long apprenticeship in American nature writing, I identify with the landscape I live in, or at least feel I belong to.

So to feel more at home, or to understand where I am, I also began writing “The Kentucky Poem.” It’s kind of thrilling, really. I find the poems are coming out spookier.

KLL:    In contrast, your works in Exquisite Corpse, Spork, and DIAGRAM seem more personal, the “I” often seeming to refer to yourself as opposed to any character. These poems are spiritual, perhaps existential and sometimes border on the metaphysical.  Tell us a bit about when and why you focus on philosophical problems.

SH:    Really, I am highly suspect of “spirituality” anymore, and I certainly do not trust the “metaphysical.” Now I loved all that when I was young, reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead and things of that nature, but I find that my more mature work has been concerned with trying to undermine those beliefs. To me, spirituality is like reading your horoscope. I don’t want to write poems like that.

The “I,” too, I’m learning to trust less and less. A lot of that comes of reading general readership books on neuroscience, which I find fascinating, and to which I can connect a lot of philosophy I’ve found meaningful, especially Lucretius or Marcus Aurelius.

Eliot talks about the “extinction of personality,” and I’m coming to understand that. To write a poem like “Tannin,” I have to let go of myself, the self that wants to control things, the self that wants answers. The metaphysical might creep in, but I’m trying to kick that habit cold. Still, some of the main things I have to work with as a poet is simply my own subjectivity and experience. I’m unfortunately self-absorbed and vain, too. So I try to subvert that by not being “confessional” anymore. Not being “self-expressive.”

Stream of consciousness is something I’ve found liberating, and that is a way to escape the personality, but of course even Jack Spicer would say that you can’t escape it totally. You have a mind, and that mind has what he called “furniture” for the creative force to arrange into art. His prescription is to read and read and read, and I certainly do that. You can write lots of poems free flowing off the top of your head but, to me, if there’s no concern, the poem becomes nonsensical, or threatens to. I think Stein’s Tender Buttons drives a lot of people nuts. It sounds great—though not as great as Stanzas in Meditation—but as an early review pointed out, there’s no deep ideas informing it. That’s not entirely true, of course, in that Stein was intensely interested in the power of language, but it does get old after a while.  I understand some people love that, but to paraphrase Sam Hamill, poetry is a mansion with many rooms, but I don’t feel the need to inhabit them all.

I read a lot of philosophy, and I want to absorb that so that my poems contain ideas, and big ones I hope. I struggle with what has come to be called “the history of ideas.” You should, as a poet, have a philosophical grounding. I think it was Stevens said that poetry is the philosopher’s art. Look at Gary Snyder: even when he’s being simple, his poems are weighted with the great concerns of humanity: family, justice, history, ecology, and so on. It’s not the meaning of life that interests me anymore, but HOW to live. I’m no longer concerned with metaphysical junk. Once you absorb the philosophy, you can write in a stream; your philosophical sense comes out in the poem—at least, that’s the furniture in my attic.

KLL:    These loftier poems also make reference to European and western histories and cultures, relating a distant past to immediate/eternal images of nature. Could you elaborate on your poetic intentions regarding these allusions?

SH:    Snyder, Eliot, and Pound all collage history to some degree. To me, Snyder does it best, or at least in a way that speaks to me: he links Chinese poetry, European history, and mythology to show that life is always life, that no matter the time, we are all humans with the same emotions, the same ambitions, capable of making the same mistakes. Which we do. This is what Nietzsche means by the “eternal recurrence.” It’s just the same shit over and over, regardless of empire or epoch. Nature is, I hope, always the eternal stage. Maybe that’s not ultimately true, for we know nature is mutable, but it has a solidity, too. It’s even dependable to a degree.

There is, too, the idea that your consciousness is a collage anyway, a patchwork; our understanding of the universe is necessarily a patchwork. We can’t grasp it all, but we can piece it together into some sort of meaning, something to keep us warm, the candle in the dark. If I make allusions to history I’m surely echoing the Modernists, and those allusions are there to show that there are constants in our human condition.

KLL:    In poems like “When This Freight Train Burns”, the reader is invited to glimpse the certainties of mortal existence between lines which contradict the certainties of nature. Do you feel that what is unstated, each reader’s own mortal fears and existential dilemmas, is evoked by your work? Or do you feel that this implied gravitas is focused on the images and immediate meanings?

SH:    I’m really just looking at my own existential condition. I’d like to think that there are similarities in our dilemmas, and there are, but I also doubt that. It’s a struggle to come to any convincing stand here. On the one hand, I contradict myself by saying I think we’re all human, and thus we have the same emotions, fears, etc. but we still have our own private experience. It’s taken me forty years to realize what Keats’ negative capability is about. There is no secret to life, much as it pains me to say. You have to hold the opposing nature of the world in mind, and in heart, without going insane—this is the bottom line of Keats’ philosophy of life, or maybe just his vision of Shakespeare’s genius. You can’t change the world. You can hardly change yourself! The new science says we’re hardwired, that we are destined for the life we lead not through karma, though there’s that, too, but simply through the notion of determinism.

So what does that have to do with my poetry? Well, that’s my “furniture.” These are the ideas that my own creative mind has to work with. You can only accept life for what it is. I’m trying to find personal wisdom, trying to “know thyself” and know that it’s impossible to do so. There’s the two opposing forces one must reconcile, and to me, the purpose of poetry, at least mine, is to seek that reconciliation, and at least to offer it to myself, if not a reader, to achieve a balance.

Additional biographic info from Sean’s blog: “Sean Patrick Hill is a recipient of an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. A freelance writer, poet, teacher and father living in Louisville, Kentucky, he is also a graduate student in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, studying poetry.”

Jennifer Woods Welcomes Us Into the Unique World of Typecast Publishing

Jennifer Woods founded Louisville, KY based Typecast Publishing in 2009. She previously worked for the non-profit Louisville, KY publisher Sarabande Books as their Assistant Editor and also as Editor-in-Chief for Gannet’s Custom Publishing Division. The Lumberyard Magazine, which started the creative fire that is Typecast Publishing, has bolstered Louisville’s reputation as an artistic, hip, weird, and literary place to be through its aggressive yet playful graphic format and unique poetic content. Typecast has since become a corner stone in the foundation of our growing local literary industry and community. Keep Louisville Literary interrupted Jen Wood’s manic schedule to get some behind-the-scenes info:

Keep Louisville Literary: The Lumberyard magazine came first, if I’m not mistaken, but that project seemed to lunge head-first into Typecast Publishing. Could you relate to us your “origin story”?

Jennifer Woods: Yes, you are correct. The Lumberyard began conceptually in 2006, with our first issue appearing on the stands in 2007. Initially, the project was an excuse for me to join with my brother, a designer and letterpress artist (, to combine our professional endeavors and see if we could make something new and fun. Back in 2006, you didn’t see the emphasis on aesthetics in literary publishing like you do today, and I just felt like poetry deserved that kind of venue. We made that issue mainly for ourselves, not really anticipating anything, but the project took off like a small wildfire, and after several years of continued growth and a positive review from Dwight Garner at The New York Times, I decided to make the leap and expand our efforts even further by forming Typecast Publishing. The magazine continues to evolve and, I’m happy to say, still delights us to make, but we also now produce books of various stripes both for our own publishing house as well as some works-for-hire for other presses who want to have the deluxe print experience but need a practiced hand to guide them through gorgeous and affordable book-making. We also house the Typecast Inspiration Institute, which hosts readings, workshops, and our online magazine, Sawmill, along with just about any idea we come up with that we think will actually inspire others as well as ourselves to continue investing in reading and writing.

Our grandfather owned a lumber supply store when we were growing up, and my father worked there with him, so every day after school the bus would drop us off at the store, and our afternoons were often spent exploring the lumber sheds, playing hide and seek in giant rolls of carpet, finding snakes in sawdust piles. All of these things influenced us in profound ways. And while neither of us picked up trades as practical and quantifiable, over the years we both found paths that morphed our fine arts careers into something less ethereal and into something more hands-on and grounded. The result has been a delicious ride reinventing the concept of what the arts can be, and so much of the creative side of what we produce now, ironically, requires the tools of our youth. We’re both very frugal, and upcycle most of what we make as a point of pride. At Typecast, unlike many indie presses, we don’t farm out any of our production to a large printing house unless we absolutely have to. We like to make things by hand that look as good, if not better, than anything you can mass produce and they still hold up in a contemporary market, not necessarily taking on that DIY feel that many crafted book projects do. I think our customers can feel the number of artisan hands that have shaped and molded The Lumberyard by the time it reaches the bookshelf. My favorite thing is when people pick one up and giant smiles spread across their faces as hands begin noticing the texture of the letterpress. They sniff them for the smell of the ink, they flip back and forth through its pages, and honestly, it’s divine to watch.

KLL: Speaking of the Lumberyard, which Typecast Publishing’s website describes as “the hottest place for swinging poetry and totally wasted design”, can you tell us about the evolution of the magazine (printed by The Firecracker Press letterpress shop in St. Louis, MO) and where it’s headed?

JW: Well, as I said, when we started out, I wasn’t sure that anyone would take to the project, so we just stuck close to what my brother and I felt like would make for a fun magazine that pushed the envelope of what poetry and design could do when forced into a relationship together. After the first five issues, we were winning design awards on the national and local levels, and so, in order to keep the magazine fresh and our readers intrigued, we felt it was important to continue challenging ourselves in terms of how the magazine is produced. We changed the format to a landscape format, which massively increased the amount of white space we had to contend with. The thinking was that this might give us new ideas of how to combine poetry and design, and allow us to chart new territory. Our final issue of 2012 will mark the end of that experiment, and in 2013 you can expect to find that The Lumberyard will change again.

We also introduced new editors and head designers this past year. Lindsey Alexander, the poetry editor at Typecast, now curates the issues, and Matty Kleinberg, who has been with Firecracker for many years now, heads up the design. At first it was terrifying to let go of control, but we knew fresh perspectives are key to growth, and these two young artists had already proven their talents in other projects, so it was a natural evolution. They have brought their own personalities into the magazine, and now I’m more excited than ever to see a new issue hit the stands. I couldn’t be more proud of what they do with the magazine.

KLL: We can tell you wear many hats for Typecast, but could you educate us about some of your major roles?

JW: Oh gosh, this is something I can’t stress enough: owning your own small business is not what you think it’s going to be. No matter what your initial projection is, the reality will be different. I’ve had to push myself and become four times the person I was before I started. In any given week, I’m an accountant, a mentor, an editor, a project manager, an events promoter, a shipping guru, a web programmer, the list goes on and on. When you have your own business, you learn to be self-reliant and creative. If you don’t know how to do something, often your only option is to learn. So I learn A LOT and all the time. It can be more exhausting than any job I’ve ever had, I won’t lie, but it’s also more rewarding than I could ever imagine. I joke that my biggest fantasy is to go back to work for someone else, but in reality, I can’t imagine how I would ever do that now that I’ve had three years of pushing through fears and hesitations, only to, for the most part, come out on top at the end of the work week.

My major role now is directing and being the honest-to-goodness president of a company. Finance is imperative, and we are a for-profit publisher, so someone has to be on top of how much capital we have and how we’re going to spend it as well as where more capital is going to come from. I’m a bona fide business lady, which is not a role I ever saw myself in when I was young. I’ve got a great poetry editor and a great fiction editor to work with, so while we collaborate on everything initially, as a collective, I’m no longer single-handedly working the business side and the editorial side. I love the editorial work, and participate as much as I can for my own fulfillment, but I also recognize that the best thing I can do now for the books is to literally take good care of the business. That old saying, “the buck stops here,” takes on new meaning when “here” is you. And ultimately, the health and success of Typecast depends on me to make good decisions not just about the book projects, but all the other mechanics that keep the lights on.

KLL: Typecast designs and assembles very unique books. Could you tell us how these unique designs happen? Does it take many sleepless nights to produce and ship your books? There’s an obvious quality vs. cost factor (Typecast does not create simple paper-back books) with your priority obviously being quality; how does an independent publisher compete in a massive, bare bones publishing industry?

JW: Well, this is our biggest trade secret, so I can’t give away all the goods. But I will tell you that, going back to the previous question, good business sense and the creativity to find new ways to make a beautiful thing is the key. Sometimes it takes us two years to finish a project, and if that’s what is required to make the best book, that’s what we do. My brother and I still collaborate on all the design and aesthetics for every project. In the beginning, these conversations were very, very hard. And intense. And not always pretty. But the books always come out better than I expected. We never throw in the towel. After several years, we’ve literally invented processes to make books, and with several trial runs under our belt, I think we’re much more efficient at the whole thing.

I can tell you that every book we produce gets intense consideration as to how it should be produced. We don’t just pick a standard size or method and execute everything one way. That doesn’t make much sense to me when every book is so unique and special. I spend a lot of time “marinating” on the manuscript, trying to figure out what kind of book it wants to be. And then my brother and I start trying to match that to actual production methods. Often it’s a twisty road lined with many failed experiments, but when the newest book arrives it always feels like, “yep, this is right.” It’s insanely gratifying, to feel that the writing and the printing are in healthy conversation with one another. It inspires me to find the energy for the next project, because who knows where we will go next!

KLL: Speaking of unique, the collection “Oil + Water” was a short anthology of poems related to petroleum consumption and the BP/Gulf Coast disaster of 2010. Packed with the book in a letter-pressed brown sleeve, post cards were included which were screen printed with facts related to oil consumption and related ecological damage. How do Typecast books become artistic endeavors? Does the importance of something like petroleum-impact awareness effect your motivation, format, or process?

JW: Oil+Water was an idea that came about during an early phase of Typecast when I was feeling very overwhelmed and, quite frankly, very scared to be on my own in business for the first time. When I’m working on something intensely, I often need white noise to stay focused, and so many of my days were filled with news of the oil spill playing in the background (I started out in newspaper, so I’m a news junkie through and through to this day). At the time, the Gulf situation felt pretty hopeless; it was clear that nobody knew how to stop the oil from spilling, and as a rabid outdoors enthusiast, it broke my heart what was happening to the Gulf. That made all my Typecast anxieties seem very petty and ridiculous. And I wanted to turn them into something positive, to use what I was building to create positive energy towards something much bigger than this new business or myself. So the idea to create a book whose profits would benefit the Gulf seemed like a logical step. I knew time was of the essence, thus I solicited several potential partners in the publishing world to help, and Holland Brown Books of Louisville, Tuesday: An Art Project (lit mag out of MA), and the Contemporary Arts Center of NOLA all stepped up to help me make it happen. I love that book and what it represents because I think the essence of it is what a great book should be. The work inside is not preachy or dogmatic in any way; its primary purpose is just to get you to think about water and oil and how they exist on planet Earth, both in nature and in modern-day life. What you do with those thoughts is up to you, and we’ve even given you postcards to express whatever that is, however you’d like, and to whomever you’d like to tell them to.

KLL: What Typecast project has you most excited at the moment?

JW: All of them! I mean that sincerely. We don’t take on projects that we don’t love from the outset. It’s that love that gets you through the tough parts that inevitably arise during production. But we have two books out next spring that I never stop thinking about. Scuffletown by Chris Mattingly, a poet from Louisville who now resides in Georgia, and Imperial Bender by Amanda Smeltz, a poet from NYC. It’s the first full-length book for both writers, but when you read the books, you’ll not believe it. I joke they are the yin and yang of 2013. One, a true southern poet, the other all NYC all the way. But both very exciting, so look for more on them in the coming months. We also got involved with the Slant Culture Theatre Festival that’s coming in November to Walden Theatre. We’re producing two shows I’m tickled to death about. One is a showcase of the young poets (13-19 years old) of Generation iSpeak, a local spoken word troupe based out of the west end of Louisville. They’ve been nationally recognized, and they are some of the most inventive and brave poets living in our hometown, but almost nobody I talk to locally has heard of them. That’s terrible if not embarrassing! So we’re giving them a stage, and you should definitely check them out. The other show is a one-hour performance from Chris Mattingly based on his upcoming book Scuffletown, which I mentioned above. If you like good southern stories, great poetry, and a big dash of charisma, you won’t want to miss his show. Finally, I’m also really excited about our Best New Stories of the South short story competition. There’s been so many great fiction voices coming from the south recently, and we’re dying to publish a great book of southern fiction. Wesley Fairman, our fantastic fiction editor for Sawmill Magazine (our free, online publication designed by Shawn Coots for great, mobile reading), is heading up the charge and submissions will open just after the new year. You can find out more about all of the above by joining us on Facebook or by visiting our website.

KLL: This summer Typecast hosted the Natural Habitat reading series at Quills Coffee on the UofL campus. Aside from former Guggenheim fellow and KY native Maurice Manning, the series also featured established and up-and-coming locals. Do you plan for this series to continue? Have any readers been selected for next year that we should be excited about?

JW: Last summer was actually our second year collaborating with Quills on a summer reading series. The first year we held them at the Bardstown Rd. location and invited writers from all over the US. This year, we really wanted to celebrate what’s great about Kentucky, as well as a new location for Quills. I adore the series, and we were lucky to have such amazing talent agree to visit our stage. Two years ago, there was maybe half the number of readings in Louisville, and almost none in the summer, which is why we decided to do something to keep the local community engaged during that time. But today, it’s clear that the number of readings are on the rise (a very wonderful development). If there’s a need for us to keep doing it, I’m sure we will, but if others are doing covering that terrain adequately, I can’t say that we will continue. We have so many events in any given year that even without a set reading series you’ll see us around town. We’re building up our partnerships with other local businesses to produce events unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and I think that’s primarily where our energies are focused for the next year. But yes, people have been asking what will happen to Natural Habitat, so if the community wants it back, we’ll be happy to give the people what they want!

KLL: Continuing with Typecast’s community involvement, you and your staff were also an integral part of the first Writer’s Block festival (along with Louisville Literary Arts, proprietors of the InKY reading series). Please tell us, if you can, a bit about that experience and other ways Typecast Publishing is involved in the literary community.

JW: Up until this year, I was on the board of LLA, and for some time we had been going round and round about this idea of producing some kind of larger, festival-like event. At the same time, there were many exciting publishing enterprises, both new and old, in and around the Louisville area and I knew if there was some kind of local print fair like you have in many other cities, it would be exciting for all of us who like to make books, magazines, zines, etc. I can be pushy as hell when I want something, so I proposed to LLA that we produce The Writer’s Block Festival as both a print fair and literary festival. LLA gave it the green light, and working with Lynnell Edwards and the rest of the board, we were able to pull off last year’s fest. It was gratifying to see it come to light, but I’ll be honest, the amount of work meant I had to sacrifice a lot of my own energy that needed to go into Typecast. I made a difficult decision to resign from the board this year, as well as the festival committee, but I’m happy to say that Typecast still donates design work and technical support for this year’s festival, and we will be among the vendors at the print fair. We’re also teaming up with Garage Bar for an after after party, to kick back with everyone at the end of a long day, as well as host the local launch of our current poetry title, This is What They Say, by M. Bartley Seigel. Seigel’s poems are songs of the rust belt through and through, and he’s coming all the way from Michigan, where he edits [PANK] magazine, in order to participate in the festival and the party at Garage. Anis Mojgani, the keynote for the year’s festival, appeared in our last issue of The Lumberyard, so I’m excited to be introducing this true powerhouse. He’ll also be on hand at the after party for folks to meet and talk with.

We’re deeply involved and committed to this region, and we never shy away from our southern roots. Despite lots of advice early on to behave to the contrary, I have found this to be one of the keys to our success. Even when I’m in NYC, folks seem excited about the level of creativity coming from this region (perhaps because their own misinformed bias about the south makes evidence of the strong arts community here a happy “discovery”). Many of the ways we’re involved I’ve already outlined, but we’ve got lots of tricks up our sleeves in the coming year, so I hope people will feel welcome to connect with us. My goal with Typecast was always to produce books not just for academia, but books that invited my people, the people I knew growing up in that lumber supply store, to engage with poetry and great books again. You can’t do that without maintaining an intimate relationship with the actual community you hope to reach. We hope any time you interact with Typecast, you leave feeling like you were served a proper dose of southern hospitality and inspiration.

Jen Woods is indeed hospitable, she even added her own hyperlinks, which saves me a ton of time. Small gestures like that and volunteering her time and expertise even when she’s already stretched thin on time and energy shows the southern stuff she’s made of. Head down to the Writer’s Block Festival Saturday Oct. 13 (@the Green Building, 732 E. Market) and check out Typecast Publishing’s table at the print fair. Jen Woods will be happy to extend you her best Kentucky welcome and sell you some completely unique, beautiful books.

Literary Events Up-to and Including Writer’s Block Festrival Oct. 13th!

In a moment I will outline the full schedule for the (second annual) Writer’s Block Festival this coming Saturday Oct. 13th with many exciting FREE events and very affordable workshop opportunities.

But first! The little literary things that make Louisville awesome!

Two events will be going on Wednesday Oct. 10th, back to back. First up, at 7:00 at Carmichael’s Bookstore (2720 Frankfort Ave) Sue Driskell will be reading from her new book Knocking On The Door Of Spring (Larkspur press, 2012) with current Kentucky poet laureate Maureen Morehead, whose books are also on Larkspur (they make some seriously beautiful, hand-crafted books, right here in KY!)

Second, head down to E. Market (or NULU if you prefer) and check out Subterranean Phrases downstairs at Decca (812 That will kick off at 9pm in one of the coolest (seriously, bring a jacket) spaces I’ve ever seen: an all stone cellar decked out in swankness! Poet Jay Sizemore is driving up from Nashville to read and will be accopanied by guitarist Jonny Sands and violinist Aaron West. This event is the newest brainchild of long-time literary arts promoter Rachel Short who also happens to be a composer, poet and musician. Subterranean Phrases is fresh, unique, and begins with an open-mic session.

Fast forward to Friday: another InKY series reading kicks off the Writer’s Block Festival with the distinguished poet Maurice Manning (who will be giving a worskshop Sat.), and award-winning fiction author Crystal Wilkinson (who co-owns Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington), music by Mike Karman and A Girl Named Earl. Open-mic sign-ups at 6:30pm, 7pm showtime at The Bards Town (1801 Bardstown Rd).

Saturday is the big day. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this fantastic, ONCE-A-YEAR celebration of the LITERARY ARTS! Everything I’m going to describe is FREE to attend accept for the workshops. Even the Keynote is FREE! Let’s start with the list of events:

Panels @ the Green Building (732 East Market Street; registration opens at 9am!):

10am-11:15 Making Matter: An Editor’s Discussion, w/ Tony Fasciano (Digital Americana Magazine), Jen Woods (Typecast Publishing), M. Bartley Seigel ([PANK]), and Matt Dobson (The Paper); moderated by Wesley Fairman (Fiction Editor, Sawmill)

11:30-12:45 Writer’s Block Conversation with Cornbread Mafia author Jim Higdon.

1-2:15 Younger Games: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing Young Adult Fiction.

2:30-3:45 Blog-In: with Martha Bourlakas, “Martha Muse” and featuring bloggers Amy Miller, “ADDled”; Donna Ison, “The Bourbonista”; Elizabeth Orrick, “Epicurious Louisville” and others.

Literary Louisville Arts (LLA) presents readings at Swanson Reed Gallery (638 E. Market, one block from the Green Building):

1-2pm Jeriod Avant (poetry), Sena Naslund (Fiction), John Gamel (non-fiction).

2-3pm Martha Greenwald (Poetry), Frank Bill (Fiction), Sonja DeVries (poetry).

3-4pm Adriena Dame (Fiction), Chris Mattingly (poetry), Angel Elson (Non-fiction).

note: I will be hosting one or more of the readings; come say “hello”!

The Print Fair (Green Building, 732 East Market Street) runs from 9am-4pm. Tables by Typecast Publishing, Sarabande Books, Accents Publishing, The Louisville Review, The White Squirrel, Hound Dog Press (letterpress shop that does the Writer’s Block posters) and more!

PLEASE stop by and check out these vendors between events. I know for a fact that all the publishers have new titles, several of which I’ve read and can assure you are awesome.

The KEYNOTE READING with two-time NATIONAL POETRY SLAM winner ANIS MOJGANI will happen at 6 pm, @ Cressman Center, 100 East Main Street. Make sure to reserve your ticket at registration. FREE courtesy of U of L’s creative writing program.

Head back to the Greeen Building right after the key note, for the OPEN MIC after party hosted be Jeriod Avant. Spaces limited, so head straight over after getting your mind blown by Anis Mojgani (from TWB page “Anis has performed for audiences as varied as the House of Blues, the United Nations, and TEDx and his work has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in the pages of such journals as Rattle, Used Furniture, and The Lumberyard. A founding member of the touring Poetry Revival, Anis is also the author of two poetry collections, both published by Write Bloody Publishing: Over the Anvil We Stretch (2008) and The Feather Room (2011)”).

The after after party party 8:30pm (hosted by Typecast Publishing) is at Garage Bar (700 E Market, basically next door to the Green Building) with readings by M. Bartley Seigel from his new book THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY. Anis Mojgani and Chris Mattingly are also hanging out.
(Full Disclosure: I do not work for nor am I currently published by or affiliated with LLA or any other organization or business associated with the Writer’s Block, but I am a volunteer for this day’s events.)

Writer’s Block Is Approaching, But in the Meantime…Several Notable Lit. Events!

Writer’s Block isn’t until next week, but there are a few other great literary events going on while we wait!

TONIGHT! Oct. 2nd, Against the Grain Brewery (401 East Main Street, Louisville, KY) Open Mike at 9pm

Thursday Oct. 4th: White Squirrel zine (UofL) open-mic at Quills Coffee (327 West Cardinal Blvd Louisville, KY 40208), 7:30pm.

Saturday Oct. 6th: Keep Louisville Literary Presents: IUS Faculty Readers @ Java Bardstown with Jack Ramey, Nettie Farris, Steve Bowman, Sarah White-Thielmeier and Michael Jackman. 7pm. (Wine special courtesy of Java Brewing: $5 glasses of wine and $5 off bottles all night!)

Tuesday Oct. 9: The Word Spoken at Haymarket Whiskey Bar (331 East Market Street  Louisville, KY 40202) 8pm

(Same night) The Kentucky Great Writers series @The Carnegie Center   for Literacy and Learning (251 West Second Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40507), 7pm feat. Al Smith (Wordsmith: My Life in Journalism), Nancy Jensen (The Sisters), and Frank X Walker (Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride)

Interview with Nettie Farris, 1 of 5 IUS Faculty Members Reading Saturday @JavaBardstown!

Teacher and poet Nettie Farris will read along with fellow Indiana University Southeast faculty members Jack Ramey, Steve Bowman, Sarah White-Thielmeier, and Michael Jackman Saturday Oct. 6th @JavaBardstown (1707 Bardstown Rd. Louisville, KY 40205).  Keep Louisville Literary, organizer of said event, caught up with Ms. Farris to ask about her poetic technique, upcoming poetry chapbook (from Accents Publishing Lexington, KY), and teaching at Indiana University Southeast:

KeepLouisvilleLiterary:  Your poems often have a terse, imagist quality to them; for example, your poems in Slow Train are actually broken via lineation into component syllables. Can you elaborate on your use of this technique?

Nettie Farris:  The shortening of my lines was a pivotal transition. I submitted a packet of poems to an Axton Writing Workshop led by Susanna Sonnenberg at the University of Louisville a few years ago. At the time I was trying, unsuccessfully, to develop longer lines, because I thought I should do that—Susanna said to stop it. That was so freeing.  So then I went in the opposite direction.  My lines got shorter, and shorter, until they became sometimes a syllable in length.  My goal is to arrest the attention of the reader, slow things down, and direct attention to the smaller component. There’s so much to think about in one syllable.

KLL:  Tell us a bit about your influences, both literary and otherwise.

NF:  Initially I was a dancer. I’ve always tended to think in terms of movement. I didn’t even realize that people thought in words until the end of graduate school. Fairly recently, I began thinking in sentences, but it’s the motion of the sentence that most appeals to me. Jamaica Kinkaid writes glorious sentences.  My chapbook was partially influenced by Chopin. My son was playing a lot of Chopin on the piano before I began writing these poems, so I was hearing it. My favorite ballet, Les Sylphides, opens with a nocturne, so there’s a nocturne poem. I’m most fond of the mazurkas. The opening poem is “Mazurka”—it’s a dance.

KLL:  Though you are primarily a poet, you have also published micro-fiction. Tell us a little about these super-short stories.

NF:  They’re short and getting shorter, like my hair.  Words more often separate us rather than bring us together. Also, I think the reader should participate in the conversation. When the writer says less, the reader tends to fill in.

KLL:  You have a book forthcoming next year from Accents publishing. Tell us about that collection.

NF:  This little book was written as a collection over the course of about two months—and they’re just about a year old—so they’re still very fresh. The first poem I wrote was merely a bit of impromptu play. It wasn’t a very good poem, but I liked the form, and continued to use it again and again.  I like to find a form and exhaust it. This allows me to write more quickly and spontaneously (I begin to think in that form). The title is Communion.  The world is so fragile, and it’s only those little moments of human connection that’s keeping it from flying apart.

KLL:  Accents publishing has a very interesting format: perfect-bound chapbooks which always sell for $5. Did their unique format interest you, or was it something else about the Lexington, KY publisher?

NF:  I love the Accents format.  However, the character of Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is what makes me most comfortable. She has an incredible ethos.  Also, Accents Publishing has a red door. They’re hospitable. I feel very honored that they are publishing this collection.

KLL:  Do you plan to do any sort of reading tour to promote the book?

NF:  Invite me and I will come.

KLL:  Though they do not offer a creative writing program, Indiana University Southeast does have a supportive faculty of long-time writers who teach everything English related from literature to argumentative and technical writing. Has teaching at IUS influenced your writing?

NF:  IUS clearly values writing. Historically, IUS students have been prominent prize winners in the Metroversity Writing Contest. These students are blessed with opportunities.  They have a yearly writing contest, publications (IUS Review and the Undergraduate Research Journal), and conferences (Indiana Undergraduate Research and Indiana Women’s and Gender Studies). It’s a productive environment.

An IUS student, Jana Morgan, inspired me to write micro-fiction.  Jana’s micro-fiction is superb.  At the time that met her, I had been wondering what micro-fiction was and how it differed from prose poetry. I’ve still not figured it out. But I’m working on it.

I’ve written about works of art in the Barr Gallery housed in Knobview Hall. I’m tactile, so, I confess, I touch anything with an interesting texture and housed in a space without a security guard.

Nettie Farris’s poems have appeared in Journal of Kentucky Studies, Louisville Review, and Appalachian Heritage. She is the recipient of the 2011 Kudzu poetry prize. You can find her poems online at Slow Trains and The Single Hound, and micro-fiction at CyberSoleil. She lives in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, with her husband and three sons.