From time to time, I interview poets (and occasionally artists) about their work. If you have a new book/chapbook out and are interested in being featured in a spotlight interview, please contact me at andrea [at] andreablythe [dot] com.
First place winner of the 2021 Elgin Award, The Sign of the Dragon is an epic fantasy about a young king who must defend his kingdom against a number of outside forces, both human and terrifyingly otherworldly. Lee draws from Chinese culture to create a legendary figure in King Xau, one of honor, nobility, and subtle magic. With light, clean, and lyrical language, these poems shape an epic story of heroism and humanity.
“Who saw them raft over the river, three hours before daybreak? Who saw their half-dark lanterns glimmer on helmut and shield?
The heron in the reeds; the crane startled to air.”
— from “Crossing”, The Sign of the Dragon
You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.
Amelia Gorman is a recent transplant to Eureka, California, where she enjoys exploring the tidepools and redwoods with her dogs and foster dogs. Read some of her recent poetry in Vastarien, Penumbric, and the Deadlands. Find her fiction in She Walks in Shadows from Innsmouth Free Press, Nox Pareidolia from Nightscape Press, and the Nightscript series. She’s online at www.ameliagorman.com.
Tell us about your new chapbook, Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota. How did the idea of using invasive species to explore the connection between ecology and human nature come to you?
When I started (and finished) writing this book I was living in a very small apartment in downtown Minneapolis with my husband and our two dogs. So it seemed really important to get out and to green spaces in my free time when I could. The Twin Cities area is really great for that, with a state park and a national wildlife refuge right on the train line, and of course all the lakes. And like a lot of writers I was of course writing about what I was seeing.
The first couple I wrote weren’t imagined as part of a bigger project, they were just some fun little story-poems. I liked writing about invasive species because they turned the purpose of a lot of standard field guides on its head — the ones that are about helping you spot desirable species. They don’t take into consideration many of the plants and animals you actually see, since typically the nature spaces we enjoy aren’t truly a wilderness, they’re all some degree of impacted. Choosing only invasives became a way to write about real climate change, real ecological concerns but also tell these very misfit, weird stories.
Podcasting was not a challenge I ever expected to take on. When I approached the New Books Network with a request to be interviewed on theirÂ New Books in PoetryÂ podcast about my recently published collection of poetry, the founder and editor-in-chief, Marshall Poe, confessed that the company did not have a host for the poetry podcast at the time. He then asked if I would be interested in adopting the role.
After some further conversations with Marshall, a fellow poet and writerÂ Athena DixonÂ and I decided to jump onboard and accept cohosting duties for the New Books in Poetry podcast. Although I canâ€™t speak for Athena, I confess that I personally had zero podcasting experience prior to taking on this challenge. Since New Books in Poetry was an existing channel with a following, I was fortunate that my first foray into the process was not started from scratch (with all the steps that that requires), allowing me to ease my way into learning how to plan, record, and edit an episode at my own pace through trial and error.
Thus far, cohosting a podcast has been a fun and interesting journey. In the time since Athena and I started hosting, Iâ€™ve had the honor of speaking with a number of amazing poets about their books, their work, and their writing process. Iâ€™ve learned a lot, both from the poets Iâ€™ve spoken with and about the podcasting process.
I am by no means a podcasting expert. However, on the chance that it may help someone else starting out in their own podcasting journey, here are a few of the lessons Iâ€™ve learned about podcasting thus farâ€”along with many more things that I still need to work on.
A Camera Obscura is a lyrical exploration of external and internal worlds. The heavens described in these poems could be the stars glittering above our heads, the pathways of faith, or the connection between human beings. Playing with scientific understandings of the world, along with the linguistic conventions of the poetic form,Â A Camera ObscuraÂ is a compelling journey that simultaneously drifts through the cosmos while being rooted to the ground beneath our feet.
â€œWhen the sun rose it was smaller
than in my dream. I had been asleep
for what felt a long time, and woke
confused and claustrophobic.
The texture of the sky still magnetized me,
a desert bright day. But the light is streaked
like too much everything pulled to the edges
of a window in storm.â€
â€” from â€œA Science Fictionâ€
You can listen to the interviewÂ hereÂ or on the podcast app of your choice.
Sonya Vatomsky is the author of poetry collection Salt Is For Curing (Two Dollar Radio) as well as chapbooks My Heart In Aspic (Porkbelly Press) and And the Whale (Paper Nautilus). A digital alchemist, their creative output ranges from mini-documentaries for the CDC to reported features in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Smithsonian Magazine. Sonya is a member of the Cheburashka Collective, a group of female and non-binary writers from the Soviet diaspora, and lives in Manchester, UK. Find them by saying their name five times in front of a bathroom mirror or at sonyavatomsky.com and @coolniceghost.
Congratulations on publishing your new chapbook, And the Whale. Can you tell us a bit about the project and how it came into being?
Thank you! So, the bulk of the poems were written in late 2015 and throughout 2016, though I didn’t actually assemble the manuscript until 2019. It’s always strange to talk about the “about” of poetry, because so much of the medium’s magic is cupping it into your own hands and breathing life into it, but the poems in And the Whale are — to me, anyhow — about two things.
One, about the death of a dear friend. About death and loss and grief and the foreverness of sorrow.
And two, about coming out as non-binary the same year I released my full-length book Salt Is For Curing, which was about finding power as a woman after sexual assault.