Poet Profile: D. Gilson

D. Gilson


Title of the last poem you wrote: “The Little Prince”

The title of the last poem you read: “First Light” by Chen Chen

Two poetry books everyone should buy: Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Kaveh Akbar’s Portrait of the Alcoholic

A print poetry journal/mag you often read: Public Space

An online poetry journal/mag you often read: The Rumpus

A Denise Duhamel poem you enjoy: “Bikini Kill Villanelle

Poet Profile: Laure-Anne Bosselaar 

Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Title of the last poem you wrote: “It Wouldn’t Take Much”

Title of the last poem you read: “Do No Harm” by Frank X Gaspar

Two poetry books everyone should buy: Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly and I’ve Come This Far To Say Hello by Kurt Brown

A print poetry journal/mag you often read: Plume

An online poetry journal/mag you often read: The Cortland Review

A Denise Duhamel poem you enjoy: “The Widow”

Why I Write ~ Ben Kline

Why I Write – Ben Kline


I write because of the farm, where my grandfather planted sweet corn and cut his hair based on the moon phases. Where Skunk Tail hurdled a double-wire electric fence and stomped a dog to death for being too close to her calf. The farm was abundant living and everyday death. Grandpa had seizures between the celery in the family garden and while driving the 75 Ford into the hay field. His son my father explained how to pop the truck into neutral and engage the e brake. Skunk Tail liked to have her neck scratched with a rake. The farmable plots snaked between the hills ripe with beauty that might one day be art, despite all the stray cats, drunks from the dry township next door, nosy relatives and shit needing shoveled.

I write because of 1990. The queerest year of “Vogue,” the summer I attended driver’s education three mornings a week at the junior high, and my first STI, for which I feigned ignorance of origin despite knowing exactly who, where and when. My older female second cousins who were nurses in cities looked at my exposed loins with quiet dismay and suppressed worry my mother did not detect. Molluscum contagiosum is no joke. Truckers are the loneliest lovers. Of the seven of us taking driver’s ed that June and July, I was the only one who remained childless by 1992 and the second of three receiving a penicillin shot.

I write because of sex, rich with taboo and risk. Sex with other boys saying no but whispering yes once we were alone in his dad’s Jeep. Sex with men without names at the rest stop by the dam. Sex fast and busy with appendages, parts and actions like asanas flowing through to a zone where the body blurs with the mind, when the sweat splashing near the finish is the holiest water a man can ever know. Because even a fuck can be artful, of value beyond itself. Before the internet sex seemed another dimension. I wanted to know what vibrated beside me unseen.

I write because of Catholicism, which taught me that contradiction, hyperbole and paradox make for the best threesomes and the best short stories. During Lent and Advent, my mother made us kneel around the living room and recite the Holy Rosary. My father would be snoring by the third mystery. My siblings would fidget. I wrote poems about butts in my head during the boring Hail Marys. I cranked my volume on the Gloria Patri, as if it were the chorus of a pop song.

I write because of every issue of Uncanny X-Men between issues 138 and 275. Chris Claremont created a universe, weaving myriad ideas and characters’ lives through and around an epic story that spoke to concepts of social justice and equality in a fun, engaging, soapy serial format long before anyone knew what it meant to clap back.

I write because of John David, my uncle who died of ARC in the summer of 1992, who mentored me on culture, clothes and divas, whose open queerness terrified and thrilled me. He encouraged my writing. His lovers, friends and he died too soon. I dream about what their lives might be.

I write because of Betty Fisher, my freshman year English teacher, who read my first short stories and poems, who said “Do this,” who provided stinging yet constructive feedback.

I write because of Michael, Prince and Madonna. The only holy trinity I will ever need.

Why I Write – Julene Tripp Weaver

Why I Write – Julene Tripp Weaver

Book photo
Writing gives me a voice, and it is an avenue to bring my creative self into the world about issues that have personal meaning. In my life I’ve crossed many boundaries: sexual and racial, made the decision not to have children, or to get married. I’ve studied herbal medicine, hands on healing, and have practiced Continuum Movement since 1988; I’m a licensed therapist using a somatic approach.

The things I want to write about are difficult yet important: sex, abortion, sterilization, being bisexual in a long-term relationship with a man, being in an interracial relationship, my work through the AIDS epidemic, and being a survivor. Through my exploration and need to work, writing has gone underground various times in my life, but I experience a constant call to the page that I cannot ignore. I believe art (visual, written, sound) has great potential to impact us and promote change.

Ultimately, writing is my art. It meets my need to be aware, to express myself, and to be heard. It is a source for healing, a mechanism to promote social and personal awareness.

It is impossible to explore why I write without touching on my childhood. My mother was schizophrenic and while I was convinced she did not love me I was very closely bonded with my father. It was my father who insured words were in my life. He made certain I had a supply of magazines and children’s books—Nancy Drew and Heidi were my favorites.

When my father died a month before I turned twelve I found solace in words. I’ve always believed that reading saved my life; it gave me a way to escape from my mother and it helped to ease my grief after the loss of my father and being uprooted from the country to the city. From this time, writing became a strong internal drive; I started to write in journals.


My writing is strongly influenced by the feminist movement while it is rooted in a working class ethic. My father was from a farm family and served in the military (as did my uncle). From childhood I knew that life was much more than the work-a-day world and its obligations to daily tasks. I wanted to live the life of an artist, pay attention, find meaning, and explore my creativity. With this desire, I yearned to get a degree while I worked as a laboratory technician in my first fourteen-year career. I wanted to address issues I was becoming aware of in a creative way. Eventually, I was the first person in my family to graduate college.

In the 1970s, independent, living in New York City, I became aware of feminism and gay rights. I joined a poetry group, took a poetry class, became active in the Feminist Writers Guild; I was a representative at their national convention in Chicago where I gave my first reading. Inspired by the books and poets of the time: Gloria Steinem, Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Judy Grahn, Andrea Dworkin, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Pat Parker, etc., I went to marches, speak outs, readings, and had my consciousness raised about inequities in society and compulsory heterosexuality.

By the mid 70s I had my first relationship with a lesbian—my growing awareness became a powerful catalyst towards developing a desire to promote and effect change in the world.

Determined to fulfill my desire to write poetry, I returned to college full time as an undergraduate in 1982 at the City University of New York. Their program enabled me to study at Hunter and Brooklyn College, where I could study poetry with my chosen mentors: Audre Lorde and Joan Larkin; I was lucky to also find Louise DeSalvo. Immersed as a returning adult student I had a phenomenal experience of college and began my writing life in earnest.

Studying with Audre Lorde clarified important aspects of how I perceive poetry. After every poem was read, she asked, “What do you feel?” I accept her belief that poetry is written to make people feel. My study with her helped me dive deeper into my feelings to discover buried emotions and events. My long history keeping journals and using this material as seeds to generate poems is how I still work. My effort to capture and fully experience life, helps me remember and reconstruct, for me this is a healing process. I like to think that in the tradition of Lorde, my poetry makes people feel.


I view myself as an artist whose primary medium is writing. As an artist, I find the most compelling visual art to be that which contains/utilizes words or language. In my adult years, I’ve explored many art forms with a strong desire to create. I’ve experimented with drawing, painting, pottery, photography, collage, but writing is the most steady, compelling and persistent art in my life.

Also drawn to expressive movement, I took Emilie Conrad (founder of Continuum) and Rebecca Mark’s “Poetry in Motion” intensive in 1996, which combined movement with ‘hand-to-page’ exploration. Inspired by the cauldron of writing they created, I came home excited, and started running groups. I named my workshops, “Muse to Write,” and ran them for ten years. At that first Poetry in Motion intensive I started writing about my work in HIV, work that when crafted became part of my first published chapbook, Case Walking An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues.

Much of my writing stems from the devastating grief I experienced after my father’s death. I write to heal from this loss, which threw my life into trauma for decades. Tom Spanbauer has been referred to as a Wounded Heart writer, he writes to heal himself. He is one of the teachers/mentors I sought out.

Through this Spanbauer-inspired and trademarked Dangerous Writing, I’ve remembered moments from my past and reconstructed my life’s time line. Writing my many truths is a path to healing, as well as a process of profound integration and acceptance. This immersion led to my first full size poetry book—No Father Can Save Her. The processing of emotions and the recovery of memories about my life helps heal my soul. Writing also gives me a sense of hope that through my words my father will be remembered.


For each of us, our obsessions, loves, desires, needs, and fears, start early. We are born dependent and attached. Our early relationships form the strategies we use to survive. So too, my writing was seeded in these earliest days. Writing is the constant in my life; no matter what, I go to the page.

Why I Write – Aimee Baker

Why I Write – Aimee Baker

Aimee Baker 2

Why do I write?

Because it can take less than ten seconds for a woman walking alone along a quiet stretch of sidewalk to be physically forced from her path and shoved into the dark maw of a car trunk.

Because there was once a young woman who was pushed from the backseat of a speeding car into the dust and dirt along the I-10, the hulking body of Phoenix in the distance behind her. The woman had a blue heart tattoo etched into her chest and, if you only look at the right side of her morgue photos, you could believe she is only closing her eyes for a moment.

Because on early mornings waiting for the bus to take me to school my brother would stand close so I could hear him when he whispered that he wanted to kill me. His breath puffed into the cold air and across my face when he said he wanted to rip my intestines from my body. Wanted to hold my heart in his hands.

Because Gary Ridgway killed 49 women. Because Ted Bundy killed 35 women. Because Robert Hansen killed 15 women.

Because in rural Idaho a boy tells a classmate he wants to “kill all the girls.”

Because my Correction Officer student laughs when he tells me that at Clinton Correctional John Jamelske’s name is Bunker Bob. “But I don’t know why,” he adds. I want to say that it’s because over the course of ten years Jamelske kidnapped and raped women, imprisoning them in a concrete bunker buried in his yard. Instead, I remain silent, the words caught in my chest.

Because inside Clinton Correctional with Jamelske is Julio González who killed 87 people at the Happy Land club after his ex-girlfriend said she didn’t want to be with him anymore.

Because once, long ago, a young woman rode her bicycle along the edge of the desert, her legs pumping in time to the music playing through her headphones.

Because a polaroid is found in a Florida parking lot. In it, a woman and young boy are bound in the back of a van with their hands behind them, black tape covering their mouths. By her thigh the book My Sweet Audrina, a favorite of the woman who rode her bike along the edge of the desert the year before. The year she disappeared.

Because a teacher once stopped me in the hallways of my high school. Gripping my forearm tight with her hand she leaned forward and asked me to stop writing about violence. “Have you thought about writing something nice?” she implored.

I write because now you know it takes less than ten seconds to disappear.


Why I Write – D. Gilson

Why I Write – D. Gilson


Ars Poetica

Tuesday and I’m texting to ask:
Do you remember the movie Rushmore?
(1998, Wes Anderson, Dir.) and no,
you don’t and no, it’s been a busy
morning so we’ll have to talk later. Thursday
and later, like Christ, hasn’t come,
so I’m writing you this poem because the thing
I wanted to ask was, Do you remember
what Max finds in that library book
in Rushmore? When one man, for whatever
reason, has the opportunity to lead
an extraordinary life, he has no right
to keep it to himself. That’s Grade A bullshit,
maybe, but how can I tell someone even
though you don’t, I think you are extraordinary?
You know, extraordinary like a library book,
like the one on my desk from the Gelman Library
that hasn’t been checked out since 1978.
Can you imagine? What is the book about?
It doesn’t matter. (Shakespeare and agnostic
comedy) But it seems astonishing, does it not,
that I am the only person to check out
this book in almost forty years! And
here is a list of the things I could do
instead of write a poem for you:

  1. Learn to knit, finally.
  2. Write my dissertation.
  3. Call my mother.
  4. Send a messenger pigeon.
  5. Clean the bathroom.

That’s not exactly fair. Nine out of ten
poems I write, probably more, are not for you.
So I’m thinking of number four, the pigeon,
an idea I got from Rushmore,
which you don’t remember, and which
I would tell you about if you’d pick up
the phone, or maybe it’s better to write
you this poem (thesis: our lives
are extraordinary, even though you
haven’t thought that for three months). Yes,
here is a poem about a movie
which, the one out of ten, I wrote for you.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015


Tonight, I attended my first Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Charleston.  The service was sorrowfully beautiful.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the speech made by my friend, Chase Glenn, during the service:

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for being here tonight.  For showing up.  For taking time to pause and remember those trans men and women we have lost this year. 

If you’re here tonight, you probably already know that this year has been the deadliest on record for our transgender community.  More trans folks were killed in the first 6 months of this year than were killed in all of 2014.  Violence against the trans and gender non-conforming community is at epidemic levels.  21 transgender people were reported to have been murdered this year in the U.S. alone.  For trans women of color, the situation is particularly dire.  1 in 8 trans women of color will be murdered.  1 in 8.

Where is the public outcry?  Where is the mainstream media?  Why is this not on the front page of every paper and the leading story on every news channel? 

In a time when fear-mongering politics run amuck…. Where countless hours and facebook posts and tweets are given to spewing fear…. Fear of people who are different than us, fear of having our guns taken away, fear of others coming here from other countries…. 

Yet who is concerned for those transgender people who fear for their lives every day– when simply leaving their homes?  Who is using their voices, their influence, their social media platforms and relationships to stand up for trans people?  Some of you are in this room tonight.

Now is the time.  Now is the time to stand up.

Many of us in the transgender community carried the baton for marriage equality for years.  We put thousands of hours into the fight and we celebrated alongside our gay, lesbian and bisexual community when they were given the right to marry those they love.  And now is time for those same LGB brothers and sisters to pick up that baton and fight the fight for our trans community.  For the very lives of trans men and women.

We will continue to fight for ourselves.  We will continue to stand up for our own rights, but it is imperative that our cisgender friends and family stand up on our behalf.

You may be wondering what someone like you can do:

  • Educate yourself and begin to educate those around you.
  • Fight for safe spaces for transgender people.  Support the addition of gender neutral restrooms in all public places.  Including schools where our trans students are struggling every day.
  • When transphobic jokes are made—often times by unassuming people who consider themselves liberal and progressive—stand up for trans people.  Help them understand why these jokes are not okay.
  • Fight to ensure that gender identity is ALWAYS included in non-discrimination legislation.  
  • Get to know a transgender person.  Listen to their story.  Don’t automatically try to normalize their experience—saying things like….  I know exactly how you feel.  Because you don’t.  While everyone has their struggles and anxieties and fears, the experience of a trans person is unique and their fears of violence, abuse, homelessness, being fired from their jobs and rejected by their families is fueled by real life experiences.  
  • And finally….  Show up.  Like you did here tonight.  

Remember those whose lives have been cut short.  Say her name.  Say his name.  Say their names.

May their memories be a blessing.  May their memories be a call to action.  And may they rest in peace and rest in power.

Interview with Lambda Award Winner Valerie Wetlaufer

authorphotocolorI am excited to present to the blogosphere my interview with Valerie Wetlaufer, author of Mysterious Acts by My People (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014).  This is part one of a two part interview with Valeria; the interview started on June 2. Enjoy!

DB:  Congratulations on your Lambda Literary Award win in the category of Lesbian Poetry for Mysterious Acts by My People (Sibling Rivalry Press)! How are you feeling the morning after your win?

VW: Thank you! Honestly, I’m still in shock. I had to get up at 5am to take the dog out, and I kept checking my phone, rereading the texts that alerted me to the fact that I won. Was this a dream? Did that really happen? I feel so incredibly honored. This is something I’ve wanted since I first started writing poetry, but it’s hard to believe it’s real.

DB:  Tell us about the experience of discovering your win.  Where were you? Who told you? Who was the first person you told? Spare no detail. Inquiring minds want to know. 

VW: I had just gotten to my parents house, where I was having dinner after a day spent at the dentist. I was sort of groggy and out of it. I knew someone would livetweet the Lammy’s, so I figured I’d follow along throughout the course of the night. I went to check my phone, not sure if anything would even be posted yet, as the ceremony had just begun. Before I could even open Twitter, my good friend and fellow nominee Meg Day started texting me congratulatory messages. I said sort of casually to my parents, “Oh. I won.” Still not totally believing it, I went to Twitter to find confirmation, and sure enough, people were reporting me as the winner. My parents were screaming in joy, congratulating me, pouring drinks, and I just sat there kind of stunned. I didn’t expect to win, because all the nominees are so incredibly talented. I’ve read all their books, and I didn’t envy the judges having to choose a winner from the bunch. My parents, at this point noting my stunned silence, asked me why I wasn’t happier about it, and I told them I was just in disbelief. Honestly, my mouth really hurt from the dentist, and I was feeling pretty hungry, because I hadn’t eaten lunch, being numbed up from dental surgery. Then my editor, Bryan Borland called from Little Rock, and that helped it sink in. He said a lot of very sweet, encouraging things, and I started to believe I’d really won. My best friend from college, the novelist Chandler Klang Smith phoned. “Did you just win the Lammy?” she asked, having seen a post someone made on Facebook. “Yeah, I guess I did!” She congratulated me, and recalled how I talked about someday wanting to win when I was still a baby poet in college. That made me tear up a little, because it’s true; since I started writing poetry, this was a dream of mine, but I thought it would be a long way off. My parents were especially happy for me, and I’m glad I was with them to celebrate. They’ve given me unconditional love and support, and I’m so grateful for that. Since last night, I have been blessed with so many kind words and texts, calls, tweets, likes and posts. I had to turn my phone off so I could get some sleep last night, which is a nice problem to have. I feel very somber, to be honest. For over a decade, every year, I’ve read the books of the finalists for gay and lesbian poetry. That was one of the main ways I discovered new poets to read and connect with through the pages, and I think the prominence of Lambda does help young queer kids find connection and community. To think that someone might now find my book and it might mean something to them, help them feel less alone as a lonely Midwestern rural queer kid, that is an enormous honor.

DB:  Would you share part of your journey from as you say, “baby poet,” to Valerie Wetlaufer, Lammy winner?  As in, how have you seen your work change over the years?  Who are writers whose work you’ve kept close or whose work has pushed or inspired you?  Is there a close circle of friends who serve as your rock?

VW: I think that my idea of what poetry can contain has expanded. I used to have an idea that poems all had to be about large, lofty things, but the more I’ve read, the more I realize there is room for everything, even the grotesque everyday in a poem. In 2010, I challenged myself to write a poem a day, which I’ve continued to do on and off over the years, and it welcomed those smaller details of life into my work. The monotony of trying to come up with something new each morning also led me to get weirder in my words. Many of these daily poems from 2010 are in Mysterious Acts. For about a decade, I worked on two projects concurrently. The book-length novel in verse that is my second book, to be published by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2016, and the poems not in that project that were collected in my first book. I have spent so long with both of these books that I’m still figuring out what I’m writing next. I’ve been quite lucky to spend time in graduate creative writing programs where I got to work with brilliant professors and talented peers, who all introduced me to new realms of poetry I wasn’t previously familiar with. I’ll always come back to Thomas James, one of the first poets I studied deeply, and I never tire of reading Lucie Brock-Broido’s poetry. What most gets me to my desk to write, though, is the inspiring work of my peers. Rebecca Lehmann is a brilliant poet, and her work galvanizes me to create, too, which is always a mark of talent, in my opinion. Barbara Duffey has this effect on me as well. He poems are like picking up a situation and turning it around to look at it in a completely different way than I previously would have done. Throughout my writing career, I’ve had a variety of groups I worked with, especially at Bennington College and Florida State. My best writing buddy, who always encourages me, is fiction writer Chandler Klang Smith. We met at Bennington, and have remained close ever since. She’s always the first person to remind me that if I’m not happy, it’s because I’m not writing.

DBAre you able to share any details about your second collection forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press?  Title?  Topic?

VW:  Yes! The collection is entitled Call Me by My Other Name. It is basically a novel in verse about a queer couple in the Midwest in the late-19th century, based on historical documents. Two people, both assigned female at birth, lived together as husband and wife, and it was discovered when the masculine partner was arrested and jailed. This really happened. Of course labels are anachronistic, but the book explores issues of gender and sexuality and weaves the stories of Frank and Gertrude together alongside a more contemporary lyrical narrative about equal marriage rights in the US and the difficulty of marriage. I worked on it for about a decade at the same time as I was writing Mysterious Acts. It’s really the book I was focused on the most, but then it wasn’t getting picked up anywhere, and I kept working on it, kept revising it, and eventually it was accepted at SRP.

DB: I don’t want to stray too far from Mysterious Acts, but you’ve piqued my curiosity.  Can you share why the person was arrested and jailed, or will it give too much away?

VW: Not much is known, but they were arrested for stealing some money. During that time period, there was an economic depression, and I imagine things were tough to find work for two people who were read as women. I explore these issues a lot in the book.

DB:  Thank you for sharing. Denise Duhamel once said that she believes poets write from a deep wound.  In 2009, she elaborated on the comment: “But what I mean is I believe that there is some wound (early perhaps?) from which many poets write.  This is not a scientific fact by a long shot, and I believe this to be true from anecdotal experience.  Why else would we write poems?  (Many poets would disagree with me….”).  What are your thoughts on the topic?

VW: That’s a great quote. While I’ve been enormously privileged in my life, I have always felt like an outsider. There were so many ways in which I never fit in, and writing became the primary way I sought to make space for myself in the world. Books became my friends, my community. I’ve had family members ask why I can’t write happy poems, and I’d argue that I do and have written happy and even funny poems, but it is true that in many ways the best poems anyone writes are those poems that seek to express some kind of pain, particularly trauma. So I’d have to agree with Duhamel.

DB: Let’s talk about Mysterious Acts by My People.   If I may, I’d like to ask about the dedications.  Your book is dedicated to Elizabeth Huddleson, JaNeill Weseloh, and Laura Hershey.  Are you comfortable talking about the reasons behind the dedications?

VW: Sure. Liz, JaNeill, and Laura were all very important people to me at different times in my life, and they all died far too soon. Their deaths affected me profoundly and I wanted to honor them in whatever way I could. Liz was a friend from childhood who died in college from meningitis. She was one of my closest friends when I was young, and always supportive of my writing. JaNeill was a close friend of mine from college and also a writer. She committed suicide the summer after graduation. We were in a writing group together at Bennington, and when I started my MFA, her death loomed huge in my life. Laura was an incredible poet and disability rights activist I met when we were both Lambda Fellows in 2010. We kept in touch and helped one another with our writing until shortly before her death. Though I didn’t know her for long, she had a profound affect on me, and her friendship meant a great deal. Many of the poems in Mysterious Acts were revised with her guidance at Lambda. I was lucky enough to publish her work in the first issue of Adrienne, thanks to her partner Robin’s assistance.

DB:  I remember when we first met.  We don’t have to admit how many years ago that was in West Palm Beach.  I recall you raving about Mark Wunderlich.  You admired him.  If my memory serves me correct, Wunderlich was a mentor to you while in school. How did it feel when he agreed to blurb Mysterious Acts?  What was your reaction when you first read his blurb?

VW: Mark was my first poetry professor, and he has always been very supportive of my work. I was so grateful to him for taking the time to write in support of my book. It’s always illuminating to discover what other people think of your work, but especially so when it’s someone you really admire. I remember feeling very gratified that what I was aiming for came across to a poet whose own work I respect so much.


& it’s a wrap for part one of my interview with the talented Valerie Wetlaufer. Do you have a question or two for Valerie? If so, email your questions to dustinvbrookshire@gmail.com; please include your name and city/state of residence. Your question may be answered by Valerie in part two of our interview.

WHY I WRITE – Bryan Borland

Why I Write – Bryan Borland 


Though I always wrote, somewhere along the way, my studies turned more toward publishing than craft. This was out of necessity. When I founded Sibling Rivalry Press, I legally contracted myself to be a publisher. When the press became a reality, I had writers to represent other than myself. Instead of spending time understanding why Adrienne Rich often used spacing rather than punctuation or why Merwin used no punctuation at all and what these things did to the rhythm and voice of their poems, I had to learn the proper discount to give to independent bookstores versus college bookstores, to understand credit adjustments when books are returned, and to proofread until my vision was blurred. I went along with this happily. My poets broke through. I published the first chapbooks of Ocean Vuong and Saeed Jones. My journal of gay poetry, Assaracus, was recognized as a “Best New Magazine” from Library Journal. Stephen S. Mills won the Lambda Literary Award. Megan Volpert got us noticed by Andy Warhol’s people. Sibling Rivalry Press was established. And I was suddenly established as a publisher. Nagging at me, though, was the fact that, in my mind, though I had two books to my credit, two books of which I’m absolutely proud, I’d yet to establish myself, at least in my own mind, as a poet.

Then something unexpected happened. I fell in love with someone who loved poetry as much as I wanted to love poetry. For the first year of my relationship with my now-husband, he was in his final year of an undergraduate writing program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Like any program, be it undergraduate or postgraduate, the quality of the program comes from the quality of the teachers within that program. My husband was fortunate enough to study under poet Nickole Brown, who, for her most advance students, ran her undergraduate program as if it were an MFA. The result was that I got a taste of the beauty and best of academia and of a real writing program, something I’d been hesitant or unable to explore. I did the writing exercises and studied the poets alongside my husband. I became a student.

The result is that as I fell deeper into love with the man I would marry (at AWP in Boston, no less), I feel deeper in love with poetry as an art and as a craft. This all began an intense study of poetry, one that I’ve now learned to balance with running the press. One that continues daily.

All this has culminated in a manuscript-in-progress that will become my third book of poetry. The working title is God In Reverse, which, of course makes everyone think of the word dog. I’m fine with that, as my husband came into my life fully-equipped with a blue-healer-mix rescue pup named Remy. But the title comes from a line in the second poem of the manuscript, “Poetry.” When I’m asked to speak to students about poetry (and often these aren’t writing students or English students or poetry students), I have a series of descriptions of what I think poetry is, the noun of it and the verb of it (because trust me, marry a poet and “poeming” becomes a verb). After giving the spiel and my definitions a few times, my standard explanation began sounding like a poem. I tell them, “Think about–not your first kiss, but your second. The heaven-faced anticipation because now you know what hunger tastes like in another mouth.” I tell them poetry is like a reverse prayer. It’s directing your energy, your thoughts to something specific that poetry, that the power of poetry, can create and hold up or make tangible. Think about that second kiss. Those lips. It’s a prayer to those lips. It’s a prayer to the torso. It’s god in reverse.

The poems are also about what I think of as the reverse of the god I was taught about as a child in my hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist church. That god was so separate, so harsh, so other and unavailable. And yet so structured, I mean in a limiting sense. In a way, there is a parallel between that description and how it was taught to me in early schooling: poetry as separate, harsh, other, and unavailable. The reverse, then, is something that’s inclusive and inviting, that’s lovely, that’s all around us and available. It’s inward. It’s here. It’s the now.

So why do I write? Ten years ago I would have said I wrote because I had to. I had no other choice. It saved my life. Now, I write because I want to. Because I’m in love with poetry, what it is and what it can be. Because I see my gods in poetry. I write to go to my church.

“The name Sue underwhelms me.”

Get excited!  I’m sharing a poem from David Herrle‘s forthcoming collection of poetry, Sharon Tate and the Daughters of JoyI’ve pre-ordered my.  Be good to yourself; order a copy too.  Give “A Girl Named Sue” a read, and check back in a few weeks for an interview with David.

A Girl Named Sue

The name Sue underwhelms me. Put some lipstick on it
and make it Susan or even Suzanne, then I’m partly
wooed, for I find deep importance in a female’s name,
believe that it predestines her looks-wise, or at least
augurs a cute-proneness, shapes the coming woman
as perpetual water sculpts mountains and hews canyons.

Margarita Carmen Cansino shaped a Rita Hayworth,
a Cleopatra Thea Philopator seduced imperial Rome.
Plain Joan Lucille became platinum Mamie Van Doren,
Lulamae Barnes was dyed and reborn as Holly Golightly.

Charmed names beautify so-so physiques and faces while
fair faces redeem drab or marmish names after the fact,
veto their givens’ ominous sonorouslessness or tendency
toward plainness (“Sharon” and Mary” are a dime a dozen
but “Jane” is far from plain) and imprint them as mighty
beasts leave traces on soft land (pre-Marilyn Norma Jean,
singer Harriet Wheeler, painter Whistler’s Maud) — like Princess
Margaret and Ann-Margret, unlike poor Margaret Fuller.

Sue Lyon of Lolita fame triumphed against heinous Suellyn,
Quixote’s “Dulcinea del Toboso” turned a peasant into a queen.
Just one k added to “Ivana” birthed the fairer Ivanka Trump,
and cries of “La Esmeralda!” ring to drown Notre Dame’s bells.

Augustus, Augustine, Pythagoras, Archimedes, Elvis, David:
these sing to me, but names glow only when emasculated,
ovaryly sugared, Candy Darlinged and drag-queened by
Aubrey Beardsley — then there are females cross-dressed in
male names (painter Schiele’s Wally Neuzil) and abracadabras
that crack clouds when chanted in full bloom: Anais Nin becomes
Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell.

Incant: Lola Falana, Leonor Fini, Zhang Ziyi, Dree Hemingway, Aaliyah!
Gina Lollobrigida, Artemisia Gentileshi, Rihanna Fenty, Sussudio!

Familial iterations of gender-neutral “Drew” forged Drew Barrymore.
My anthroponomastic case rests on Dakota Fanning and January Jones.