New Books in Poetry: Oculus by Sally Wen Mao

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Sally Wen Mao about her book Oculus (Graywolf Press, 2019).

In OculusSally Wen Mao explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. The title poem follows a girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence speaks in the voice of international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny. With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them.

“I’ve tried to hard to erase myself.
That iconography—my face
in Technicolor, the manta ray

eyelashes, the nacre and chignon.
I’ll bet four limbs they’d cast me as another
Mongol slave. I will blow a hole

in the airwaves, duck lasers in my dugout.
I’m done kidding them. Today I fly
the hell out in my Chrono-Jet.”

— from “Anna May Wong Fans Her Time Machine”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: The Devil’s Dreamland by Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger-The Devil's Dreamland

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Sara Tantlinger about her poetry collection, The Devil’s Dreamland.

In The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes (StrangeHouse Books, November 2018), Sara Tantlinger intertwines fact and speculation to examine inner workings of H.H. Holmes, a man who committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century and who is often credited with being America’s first serial killer. Narratively arranged, these poems offer up an evocative and chilling imagining of life and times of Holmes along with his wives, victims, and accomplices. A profound and fascinating collection for anyone interested in the riveting realm of true crime.

“The building shivers
beneath each curve of my footstep,
my home, my castle
fit for Bluebeard himself,
entwining murder and luxury
like salt and sugar
placed gently on the tongue
where each tiny grain dissolves
in a way blood never will.”

— from “Shades of Wild Plum”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: all this can be yours by Isobel O’Hare

all this can be yours-Isobel OHare

My latest interview with Isobel O’Hare is up at the New Books in Poetry podcast and ready for listing!

Isobel O’Hare’s all this can be yours (University of Hell Press, 2019) presents a series of erasures crafted from celebrity sexual assault apologies. These poems offer fierce explorations of the truth hidden behind apologies intended to explain away or dilute culpability, rather than accept responsibility. The result is a powerful collection that opens up a wider conversation surrounding sexual assault and the need for change on a systemic level.

I was also excited to learn that the interview has been featured on LitHub!

Here’s a bit from O’Hare during the interview:

Erasure poetry for me started out as a magical, playful, light-hearted exercise to jog the brain, to sort of get me thinking differently. And it also started out as a conversation with someone else’s work, and sort of a reverent one—approaching someone’s work with great respect and the desire to bring something out of it that might be hidden beneath the surface. There are lots of methods of doing that—I’ve used whiteout in past erasures, and I’ve done blackout with Sharpie. I’ve experimented with cutting words out.

The idea is you’re removing something—or you’re not removing something. Jen Bervin had a really interesting term for it . . . something like restitution. It’s a really interesting word for what you’re doing with erasure, which is not necessarily removing something, but bringing something forward. So it’s not always you violently attacking someone else’s work, which it can feel like sometimes, but you’re allowing things to bubble up to the surface that may not have been apparent before.


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New Books in Poetry: Basic Programming by Megan Burns

Basic Programming by Megan Burns

Athena Dixon shared a new interview with Megan Burns for the New Books in Poetry podcast! Athena writes:

Basic Programming (Lavender Ink, 2018), the latest collection by Megan Burns, is an exercise in balance. Between grief and healing. Between humanness and technology. Between examination and acceptance. Building from her brother’s death and journeying through her grieving process, Burns guides readers into her heart and back out the other side, all of us changed and inquisitive after learning just what it means to be who we are both as people and programs.

You can listen to the interview on the New Books Network or on your favorite podcast app.

New Books in Poetry: Born Again by Ivy Johnson

Ivy Johnson-Born Again

A new episode of New Books in Poetry is up, in which I speak with poet and performance artist Ivy Johnson about her book, Born Again.

The poetry and prose in Ivy Johnson’s Born Again (The Operating System, 2018) beautifully dives into the ecstatic expression of religious experience. With its confessional style, this collection gives power to the female voice, rending open that which would be hidden behind closed doors. The work blends sensuality and spirituality, merging the grounded reality of existing a physical body in the world with a sense of worship, prayer, and spell casting.

“I submerge my hands in ink and smear them across the wall
I cover my body in rich purple paint and rub against white paper
I place a sticker of the Virgin Mary on my bedroom window next to the fire escape
She hurts with the glow of blue frost
I race down the stairs to make snow angels in the dog-piss
Fill the silhouette of my body with marigolds”

— from “Take a Moment to Gather Yourself”

You can listen to the episode here.

I’m still in the process of figuring out how to be a good interview podcast host, how to shuck off my own nervousness and dig up confidence enough to feel strong in these interviews. But whatever limitations I believe I have at this moment, they are more than surpassed by the intelligence and insight of my guests so far.


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