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.
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.
Visually arresting and utterly one-of-a-kind, Sarah J. Sloat’s Hotel Almighty (Sarabande Books) is a book-length erasure of Misery by Stephen King, a reimagining of the novel’s themes of constraint and possibility in elliptical, enigmatic poems. Here, “joy would crawl over broken glass, if that was the way.” Here, sleep is â€œa circle whose diameter might be small,” a circle “pitifully small,” a “wrecked and empty hypothetical circle.” Paired with Sloat’s stunning mixed-media collage, each poem is a miniature canvas, a brief associative profile of the psycheâ€•its foibles, obsessions, and delights. (Description by the publisher.)
â€œWhen I was doing [Hotel Almighty] and even now when I work on projects, a lot of what I find Iâ€™m doing is just expressing a love of reading and of books themselves,â€ says Sloat in discussing her new book. â€œI mean, I just love paper. To take a book and be able to make it into something â€” that was really fun and exciting for me.â€
Hereâ€™s a sample of Sloat’s writing and art from the book:
You can listen to the interviewÂ hereÂ or on the podcast app of your choice.
Meg Johnson is the author of the books Inappropriate Sleepover (The National Poetry Review Press, 2014), The Crimes of Clara Turlington (Vine Leaves Press, 2015), and Without: Body, Name, Country (Vine Leaves Press, 2020). Without: Body, Name, Country was nominated for the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards. Her writing has appeared in Bust Magazine, Hobart, Ms. Magazine, Nashville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Sugar House Review, Verse Daily, and others.Â