Escaping to the Woods: A 2021 Writing Retreat

A couple of weeks ago, I escaped from the routines of my everyday life and disappeared into the woods for four days. As the video above explains, the intention of the trip was to shape a small writing retreat for myself. I packed up some pens, notebooks, my laptop, and printouts of a poetry project (along with some books and art and mediation supplies).

The goals of the retreat were low-key:

  1. Disconnect from social media, the internet, and other distractions that fill my time with mental clutter.
  2. Rest, relax, and rejuvenate through reading, walking among the trees, and meditation.
  3. Write or create things, if I feel so inclined.

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Poet Spotlight: Sonya Vatomsky on breathing life into poetry

Sonya Vatomsky

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.

And the Whale by Sonya VatomskyCongratulations 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 (‘about’) finding power as a woman after sexual assault. 

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Poet Spotlight: Meg Johnson on Illness, Persona, and the Performance of Poetry

Meg Johnson

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. 

Without: Body, Name, Country by Meg JohnsonYour latest book of poetry is Without: Body, Name, Country. Tell us a bit about the project and how it came into being. 

Without: Body, Name, Country is my third book. It was published by Vine Leaves Press in 2020. Vine Leaves Press had previously published my second book, The Crimes of Clara Turlington. My first book, Inappropriate Sleepover (The National Poetry Review Press) came out in 2014, and my second book came out in 2015. I had Guillain-Barré syndrome after my second book came out, and it was a long recovery process. I was writing throughout the entire recovery process, but I didn’t stress about writing a certain amount because I was focused on my health. I think because there wasn’t very much time between the first book and the second book coming out, I didn’t feel the need to rush the publication of the third book. I waited longer to submit the third book for publication after finishing it than the first two books. 

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Only 14 Days Left to Preorder TWELVE

The official launch of my new chapbook is only 14 days away! As I sit here waiting for the exciting day, I decided to make a video showing off my author copies of Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. I also talk a bit about the original “Twelve Dancing Princesses’ story and how it inspired me to start writing these poems.

I continue to be amazed and humbled by the kind things people are saying about Twelve, such as this review on The Biblioshelf:

“In Twelve, Andrea Blythe manages to pull off a modern retelling in spectacular fashion whilst retaining the elements of fairytales and storytelling which all of its fans love. Taking each sister one by one, Blythe dedicates each of the Twelve Princesses with their own unique voice and identity giving fresh substance and purpose to the once subservient, archaic damsels-in-distress in search of their prince.”

Preorders the book are still open at AmazonB&N, and Indiebound. And, if you’re the giveaway loving sort, then you might like to know that Interstellar Flight Press is currently offering a chance to win copies of Twelve over on Goodreads.

Other Good Things

This morning, I wrote about “Dealing with a Sense of Collective Grief” on my newsletter. The world feels heavy right now, and like many people, I’m figuring out how to deal with it.


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Poet Spotlight: Rebecca Hart Olander on the Flaws and Snags of Love

dressing the wounds-rebecca hart olandera

Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Crab Creek Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Collaborative work made with Elizabeth Paul has been published in multiple venues online and in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press). Rebecca is a Women’s National Book Association poetry contest winner and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook, Dressing the Wounds, was published by dancing girl press in 2019, and her debut full-length collection, Uncertain Acrobats, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Rebecca teaches writing at Westfield State University and is editor/director of Perugia Press. Find her at rebeccahartolander.com and @rholanderpoet.

dressing the wounds-rebecca hart olanderYour new collection of poetry is Dressing the Wounds. Tell us about the project and how it came into being. 

The new collection is also my first collection, and it came into being in kind of an unusual way, at least for me. In sum, I created it with a specific press in mind, and I didn’t get feedback on the manuscript as a whole before submitting it for consideration. To explain further, in the summer of 2018, I was feeling pretty discouraged by the lack of success I was having placing my full-length manuscript. I had finished my MFA program three years prior, and each year I was having a steady incline in individual subs being accepted, but lots of rejections (and a nice bunch of semi-finalist/finalist nods) for the book. I felt like it was high time I had a book in the world, and it began to seem silly that I hadn’t even had a chapbook out yet. Even students of mine were publishing chaps, and I was feeling like I’d skipped a step trying to go from individual publications to placing a full-length manuscript. 

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