Oregon Poetic Voices

In a world that really

doesn't seem to value

the small, quiet voice,

I think they felt like

they mattered

says Doug Erickson, as he finishes a day recording people and poems in rural Oregon.

Oregon Poetic Voices, founded by Erickson in 2009, is the nation’s largest online poetry repository, offering a comprehensive digital archive of poetry readings from all over the state.

OPV contains recordings of almost every significant Oregon poet — including a 1921 recording of Oregon’s first poet laureate — and over 300 contemporary poets of all ages, backgrounds and accomplishment. Access to the wesbite is free, and participation is open to all.

“We hope to be as inclusive as possible,” he says. “Early on I thought it was important that this not to be a juried project. I felt that to really capture the essence of Oregon and its poets, it was important to leave it completely open to all. It gives the site a mixture of literary, cultural, and anthropological layers.”

Though not a poet, Erickson — who works as special collections archivist at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon — carries an enthusiasm for the written and spoken word. As a result, OPV is growing fast. He travels town to town, across the state, inviting new, established, and self-described poets to share their words.

“I have had people come on horseback and on bus, from homeless people to the wealthiest of our state,” he says. “Each with a story, and a medium to share their thoughts, ideas, and creativity.”

Doug Erickson, Oregon Poetic VoicesYou are not a poet, yet you appreciate poetry, and think it worthy to archive. Why did you create Oregon Poetic Voices?

I do not self identify as a poet, but I am a writer, and know the highs and low of trying to communicate through printed words. Early on I thought it was important for me to not be a poet, and for this not to be a juried project. Much of the academic world that I live in is peer reviewed and scholarly. While I am a big believer in this type of scholarship, I felt that to really capture the essence of Oregon and its poets, it was important to leave it completely open to all. This has enabled the site to grow much faster that it would have been if every poem and poet was vetted. It also gives the site a mixture of literary, cultural, and anthropological layer to it. I imagine that not only those interested in poetry, but also anthropology, sociology, history and literature, in the future will find this site useful. I hope it becomes a time capsule for the thoughts and ideas of many Oregonians from this time period. 

When and how did you start OPV? 

The idea comes out of the encouragement of William Stafford, who was my colleague and friend at Lewis & Clark, who wrote and encouraged writing every day. When his archives came to the college, and I saw the nearly 50,000 pages of correspondence, I realized that much of these letters were from fellow writers, those that were famous, and those that were just simply trying to write, or become writers.

His teaching philosophy was "no praise, no blame," meaning encourage people to continue to pursue and grow as writers and thinkers. Sometimes praise and blame can lead one down a path that takes away from that seeking. While I don't fully subscribe to that notion myself, I do think in the case of OPV, this approach is a good one. Sure, there are many bad poems, yet there are also some very good, if not great, ones. They all represent a place in time for a writer/poet. Some with bad poems will go on and write great ones, and vice/versa. So, I wanted to capture and create a medium where this could take place.

Oft times historians and archivists wait for the history to come to them, rather than go out and harvest the activity that is happening presently. History is full of examples of recording that survived over time, the ruling class, and the prevailing race. With technology, and hopefully more cultural compassion, we can harvest the history of people, regions, races, genders, and voices, hereto forgotten or destroyed. And we can do it in the season that it is being created. I hope this is what OPV is doing. 

What do you hope listeners will experience? 

I hope they encounter the breadth, and expanse of this collection. There are so many self-identified poets that really feel passionate about their writing, and words. I have had people come on horseback and by bus, from homeless people to the wealthiest of our state. Each with a story, and a medium, to share their thoughts, ideas, and creativity. I think that Oregon is unique in having so many poets, but I also think that if other states were to try this same project (and I hope they do!) they would find that many people would come forward to share their writings. 

Here's an excerpt of an email I received. I share it with you because I think it captures the feelings that many have when they come together and are able to share their work. I just happen to be the person who brings the equipment. The real OPV is simply the poets, young old, good, bad, famous, and not famous. Each share equal footing here, and collectively make up the voice of Oregon:

 . . . I'm the woman who was so emotional I insisted on hugging you and thanking you for letting our voices be heard. What you may not know but should, is that when my friends came out of the recording room their faces showed the joy of accomplishment. We sat around the table and our poetry tribe found a reason to be a community together because a community happens sometimes when you don't know it will and reading our work brought us together. Reticent, shy people bubbled over with talk. People who I'd had to nag and keep after dared to come and do something they truly feared but wanted to do so much and, because of you, they just did it.  . . .  In such a complex, difficult, unknowable place as this earth, this life, I love when something is so clearly GOOD, and Oregon Poetic Voices simply is. 

How is OPV funded?

OPV started with an initial grant from the Library Service and Technology Act, a grant distributed to all 50 states and administered by the State Library. The money originates with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

We only have funding through January 31, 2012. After that, well . . . we are working on it. We are not really in a position to take donations, unless some angel wants to come in and be a major funder. We are looking to small granting agencies to see if we can keep some of this program going after Feb. 2011. I am Head of Special Collections and Archives here at LC for the last 20+ years, so I will continue in that role, and hope to keep OPV alive in some small way if no money comes our way. 

Bonus Question:  Anything I didn't ask that you'd like to answer?

None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of my team at Lewis & Clark College: Melissa Dalton, poetry project fellow; past poetry project fellow, Tessa Idlewine; Jeremy Skinner and Paul Merchant, my colleagues in Special Collections and Archives; OPV's design team Jeremy McWilliams and Annelise Dehner, and student interns and assistants past and present, Rachel Sims, Chris Keady, Natalie Figuroa, Anna Fredrickson, Caitlin McCarthy, and Becca Dierschow; workshop leaders, and all the local folks in communities across Oregon who helped to organize and prepare for OPV, and for making us feel at home in your communities. 

To learn more, and listen, to Oregon Poetic Voices, visit



Paulann Petersen

We write to discover, to define

— moment to moment to moment —

who we are, who we are becoming.

This happens as we write.

Because a few direct questions can offer insight, I'm happy to present Fast Five — short interviews with my favorite writers. Life may be short but who doesn't have time for five questions — and a chance to win a great book?  (To win, simply post your name and contact info in the comments section. See details below).

Paulann Petersen, Oregon’s Poet Laureate, is a former high school teacher and author of five poetry collections and four chapbooks. She has led workshops and given readings in hundreds of places — from Powell's in Portland to Omsania University in India — and in nearly every nook and cranny of Oregon. A Portland native, she is a member of Friends of William Stafford and organizes the annual Stafford birthday readings. Petersen’s most recent book is The Voluptuary, published in 2010. 

You are an accomplished poet and teacher, and now Oregon's esteemed poet laureate. What do you know now that you didn't know when you first started writing poems?

I know now what I couldn't have possibly known when I began writing poems: how the process itself would buoy and sustain and inform my life.  We write to create ourselves, to discover, to define — moment to moment to moment — who we are, who we are becoming. This happens as we write. Not until I was immersed in the process could I begin to realize its potent effect.

You've been called a writer of embodied poetics, and have said, "I believe in body poems, poems that rise from the body."  Would you please elaborate?

A poem is a creature of sound. A poem comes to us, all poems come to us, through the oral tradition. Yes, a poem has a certain life as mere text on a page. But that life as text is only a fraction of the poem's complete life. A poem can't assume its complete life until it's been given voice.   

A poem has a sound form, it's comprised of a sequence and combination of sounds. A poem has musical devices. A poem has kinetic energy. A poem has risen from the physicality of its maker, and it speaks to the physicality of a listener.

For me, writing a good poem means writing an embodied poem.

You've written five full-length poetry books and taught hundreds of classes. What makes a poem work?

Sound form. Compression. Line integrity. Unpredictability — a little or a lot. A sense of incipient recklessness. A sense of conveying something that's coded in the blood. These make a poem work.

A good poem is a vehicle for transformation. It transforms the listener/reader as she or he hears or reads it.  A good poem, in the process of its making, transforms the poet.

Of all your poems, which is your favorite? Why?

Hmmmmm. I avoid hierarchies when I can. Vertical structures are dicey at best. (Best. There's one of those vertical structure words!) So picking a favorite poem: that's a dicey proposition. But there are two poems that I read frequently when I'm giving readings. And both of them sonically and conceptually feel right to me, even after repeated readings. They are among a group that feel like embodied poems, time after time.  "Appetite"  and "Bloodline." 


The moon is wet nurse
to roses. She suckles
each soft-mouthed poppy.

Blame her for menses.
Rail at her for the craving
to binge and purge.

Please her when you choose
to delay the day for planting,
biding your time
until night has fattened
her silver torso. Praise her
when the fleck of seed
poked down into damp dark
takes hold and swells.

Any girl-child is always
her offspring.

Upbraid her for your daughter's
sass and door-slams,
that hot hurry to be what most
differs from you.

Long ago, the moon decided
on a pathway against the route
stars take. No one else
would dare to walk
the black sky backward.

- Paulann Petersen

I'm a collector of words. What are your favorites?

I'm smitten with noun lists. I use them when I'm teaching writing workshops (workshops designed to generate new writing from participants). One of the noun lists I give to participants contains nouns I took from my own work. I often remark that I couldn't have a noun list that didn't contain blood, magpie, magnolia, ink, salt, skin and moon. 

Bonus Question: Is there something distinct about an Oregon poet? or Oregon poetry?

Oregon poetry, like Oregon itself,  is characterized by remarkable variety.

Oregon is mountains, ocean, high desert, rain forest. It's the hotsprings in Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, the Church of Elvis in downtown Portland, pelicans on Klamath Lake, herons in oaks Bottom on the Willamette. Oregon is abundance; it's variety, vast and gorgeous. Our state teaches its poets inclusiveness and gratitude. Oregon encourages a wide embrace, and its poetry does indeed have a very wide embrace.

Another distinction: my bet is that there are, given our total population, as many good poets per capita in Oregon as anywhere on earth.

Meet Paulann

In Waldport, Oregon
Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 2pm
Waldport Community Center, 265 NW Hemlock St.

In Medford, Oregon
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Oregon Book Fair

See more events on Paulann's website.

Win this book!

To win The Voluptuary by Paulann Petersen, add your name and contact info in the comments section below. Feeling shy? Email me, add 'Book Drawing" in subject line:

Your name will be entered in a drawing, and the winner announced on Monday, October 17, 2011.




Kelli Russell Agodon

Because five questions can lead to endless insight, I'm happy to introduce you to Kelli Russell Agodon. Her poetry collection, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, is easily my favorite book of 2010.

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of two poetry books, and is editor of Crab Creek Review. Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was published this month and is dedicated to "those who write letters to the world."

I was delighted to see that many of these poems — and the book title — were influenced by your stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, which is very near where I live. Which came first, the poem-letters, or the Emily Dickinson Room?

The poem-letters. I had been working on the collection for about two years when I stayed in the Emily Dickinson Room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel on a writing retreat with friends. It was in that room where I realized what I was writing about and was able to focus my collection and begin to write the poems that were missing. The title poem, “Letter from the Emily Dickinson Room” was written in that corner hotel room looking out at the Oregon coast realizing how much I craved calmness.

How would you describe your writing style?

If you’re asking about my style as in my method or process then my writing style is to write as many poems as I can and revise the ones I like best.  (And to try not to over-revise, something I’m quite good at.  I have killed many a poem by over-revising it and sucking out all of its energy and every spark.)

If you’re asking about my writing style as in characteristics or what is my voice or distinct form and/traits, then my writing style is conversational, sometimes surreal, sometimes narrative, sometimes humorous, usually accessible and with a dash of darkness for kicks.

Or maybe my writing style is glasses plus casual Fridays and black boots.

What is your favorite poem in this collection? Why?

Great question!  I like having to think about this as my easy answer would be, “They are all my favorites…”  But if I have to narrow it down to one, I’d say, Questions at Heaven’s Gate is probably my favorite because it was an underdog poem that I stood up for.  When my manuscript was accepted, I received some great advice on edits and suggestions on what poems to take out to make the collection stronger. This was one of the poems that was on the suggested “remove list.”

I remember feeling a deep gut instinct inside me that said: This poems needs to be in the collection.  On a personal level, this is very deeply an autobiographical poem about my father’s death and who he was, and in a certain way, how I’ve dealt with it (imagining him speaking with God, etc.). I love that I had to speak up for this poem and was glad I did.  I think it’s my favorite because it was almost not included.

Questions at Heaven's Gate (an excerpt)

When my father meets God
he says, Let me introduce myself . . .

When my father meets God
he says, Am I too early? Too late?

When my father meets God
he says, Do you serve drinks here?

When my father meets God
he says, It was easier not to believe.

When my father meets God
he says, I can see my house from up here.

When my father meets God
there is only the sound of my father

When my father meets God
he says, I can breathe again.

When my father meets God
rain returns to the city.

As an editor of a literary journal choosing from hundreds of poems to publish, what do you love? What do you loathe? 

I love poems that surprise me (and not in that shocking, swearing, taboo words/subjects way), but in fresh language, new images and putting the extraordinary into the ordinary. Anyone can write a poem about a shocking topic and have it stand out because it’s about a tragic occurrence or because of the nature of the subject, but I’m interested in writers who can write about a shopping trip, the forest, an experience in a way that connects me and makes me stop and pay attention.

There’s little I loathe beside people being unkind or poor manners. There’s more to love in poetry than to dislike.

I’m a collector of words and have my students collect words, too. What are your favorite words?

Hipsway, lollygagging, inky, salsa, penlight, oaf, shenanigans, tangle, moth, humdrum, hipbones, madronas, whiplash, bamboozle, numbskull, foxtrot, and prayer (though not necessarily in that order).

My least favorite word is filibuster

To win Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, add your name and contact info in the comments section below by Friday, Oct. 22, 2010. Feeling shy? Email me!:

Your name will be entered in a random drawing. The winner will be announced on Saturday, October 23, 2010.


Mark Thalman

An English teacher for 26 years, Mark Thalman has an impressive body of work as a Poet-in-the-Schools, an assistant poetry editor for Northwest Review, and a board member of the Portland Poetry Festival. His book of poems was published this summer. He was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon and now lives in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Congratulations on the publication of Catching the Limit! You have been widely published in journals and anthologies. Is this your first book?
Yes. It’s been a long journey getting this manuscript published. Holding the book in my hands almost doesn’t seem real. Like so many writers, it’s difficult finding a publisher or winning a contest. This manuscript has been a semi-finalist for the Walt Whitman Award and a few other contests. Four years ago, it was selected to be part of Bedbug Press – Fairweather Books, Northwest Poetry Series.

Why is Catching the Limit dedicated to your parents and grandparents?

My parents were always very supportive and positive about getting a good education. When I was growing up, they gave me a lot of opportunities: snow skiing, playing golf, fishing, guitar lessons, taking us on trips around Oregon. My mom read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to me when I was about five. She loved taking my sister and me to the public library to check out books. My grandparents, who were great story tellers, used to own the Willamette Pass Ski Area and had a cabin at Odell Lake. That’s where many of the poems in the second section of the book take place.

Please tell us about your writing process.

I write like an artist paints. (If you visit my website, you can also see some of my paintings.) Some poems may take a few months to finish, others have taken 16 years. A lot of times, a poem will be almost finished, but I am waiting to learn or discover what it needs to give it that finishing touch. Some poems go through a lot of revisions, others don’t. If I can write a few good lines each time I sit down, I’m satisfied.

What is your writing style?

I write lyrical poetry. Each word has its own music, and a poem has to sound right and have a presence on the page. I like to have internal rhymes, but not hard rhymes at the end a line. I love good similes and metaphors. It’s probably just easier to read you a few lines from “North Umpqua, Summer Run” so you get the idea.

In a smooth flash of motion,
deft as a blade, the fish strikes
and the surface explodes.

Trembling violently in air,
amid spray and foam,
the steelhead blazes like a mirror catching sun,
falls back, extinguishing the fire,
only to lift again,
a flame out of water.

Your poems have such a rich sense of landscape and place – specifically Oregon. Do you consider yourself a regional poet, a nature poet?

Someone said that all writing in some sense is regional, but when I sit down to write, I don’t think of myself as a regional or nature poet. Catching the Limit is about the Oregon Coast, the Willamette Valley, and the Cascades. Sure, I am interested in how a whole forest continually renews itself as in my poem, “In the Silence of a Pine Cone Falling”, or how different trees decompose in “Blowdown." There is a lot of nature in the book, but hopefully the themes and the “human condition” will transcend any regional boundaries.

Your work wonderfully combines your specific experiences/observations with universal understanding. How do you do this, and is it intentional?

(Laughs briefly and good naturedly.) Sometimes “art” happens! I can only think of a couple of poems where it is intentional. Such as the last line in “On the Dock at Evening” where the narrator says, “I have lived my life for just this moment.” That line is a response to James Wright’s well known poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm . . .” where his narrator claims, “I have wasted my life.”

One of my favorite poems is one I read several years ago in Ingrid Wendt’s,  Starting with Little Things: A Guide to Writing Poetry in the Classroom. I’ve used your poem, “Born in Oregon” in numerous writing workshops with youth, and it was such a treat last spring to meet you and hear the poem in person.

Born in Oregon

Some days I am a fir. Squirrels eat from my limbs.
Other days I am a rhododendron. My genes are coded
as cuneiform. Toadstools and moss grow in the caverns
of my lungs. I am accustomed to the sky,
gray as wax paper.

What is your favorite poem in Catching the Limit and why?

I don’t have a favorite. It depends on my mood. My poems are like children, and I try to treat them equally. I like it when people tell me what their favorite is. Everyone has their own experiences and perceptions they bring to a poem.

Do you have a tight group of poet friends? And how would you suggest others cultivate a writing network?

Yes, I have a group of poet friends, most who I’ve known for a long time. However, people have become so spread out, its really the Internet that makes staying in touch possible. Over the years, my wife, Carole, has become one of my best editors, because she’s seen so much of my work and understands what I am trying to do. As far as cultivating a writing network, if a person attends writing workshops, they might find some like minded poets who want to start their own poetry group.

Where can we get your book?

Presently, Catching the Limit, can be ordered from my website, Unfortunately, Tony Gorsline, my publisher, passed away this summer from cancer. With Tony’s passing, Bedbug Press – Fairweather Books did not survive, so I don’t have any small press distribution at this time. However, I will be giving some readings at bookstores, and I’ll be signing books after my reading at Wordstock (in Portland). In a few months, you should be able to find it on However, if you purchase it from my site, you will always get an autographed copy, and I’ll ship it to you right away.



Rhett Iseman Trull

I want to go back to the winter I was born and warn you

that I will flood through your life like acid

and you will burn yourselves on me

— from The Real Warnings Are Always Too Late


 Rhett Iseman Trull's first book of poetry,  The Real Warnings, won the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2008, and Prairie Schooner. She received her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she was a Randall Jarrell Fellow. She and her husband publish the literary journal Cave Wall in Greensboro, North Carolina.

 In choosing your book for the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, Sheryl St. Germain says “Open this book up anywhere and you'll find a poem of fierce and uncompromising energy and insight . . . I've never read a poet who understands more fully the brutal paradoxes of love and of loving damaged things.”  What influences or inspirations led you to poetry, and to these ‘fierce’ poems?

My biggest influence always has been reading. In fact, before I could read, I used to listen to my storybook record of Disney’s The Fox and the Hound over and over. I can quote it still: near the end, there’s this moment that goes, “Sometimes, on warm summer nights, Tod and Vixey would leave the forest and climb the hill overlooking Copper’s house. As Tod looked fondly down at his friend, the voices of a little fox and a little hound seemed to echo in the breeze…”

That sentence did something to me as a child. I could feel the words go straight to my heart and move me in some mysterious and vital way. And I think all of my writing, ever since, has been an attempt to recapture the kind of feeling that ran through me when I first heard those words.

I started by writing short stories and novels. But when I was twelve, I discovered poetry. I was in a summer musical, Annie. I got to be an orphan because I was little and cute, not because I could sing. I wanted to sing, though. I yearned for that world of musicals. More than anything, I wanted to be a Broadway star, but I knew I didn’t have the talent for that path. Singing in musicals lit that same fire the The Fox and the Hound ending did. I think what led me to poetry was that need to sing.

An older girl in the musical that summer showed me her notebook of poems, which she used as a kind of journaling device, pouring her deepest wishes and pains into these poems. I had never thought of poetry that way, as a kind of whole-body song on paper. I was hooked. I went home and started my own poetry notebook.

I like that word Sheryl St. Germain used: “fierce.” I’m honored by that word. Emotions that are fierce are hard to capture in language, and yet that’s why I write poems: that driving need to try to turn whatever I feel with ferocity into some kind of music.

What is your favorite poem in this collection? Why?

That’s a tough one because each poem is special to me for different reasons, and my favorite of the moment changes often. Right now, Heart by Heart the House is my favorite, I think. I wrote it as a challenge and promise to myself to try to live more in the moment. I tend to be a catastrophic thinker, always worried about what awful thing is going to happen next. Most of us live that way, with our minds more in the future or past than the present. I’m learning to love the moment and enjoy the moment more. Heart by Heart the House is a kind of love poem to my husband, Jeff, and to our life, to my life in the moment. 

How do you support your poetry habit? Do you have a ‘day job’?

Right now, my “day job” is the non-paying day-and-night job of publishing a poetry journal, Cave Wall. But over the past six years, while trying to complete and polish the poems in The Real Warnings, I’ve had several jobs, from teaching undergraduates at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to working in my local comic book shop, Acme Comics. I miss teaching and hope to return to it soon.  

You are the editor of Cave Wall, a literary journal. How do you balance your work promoting and publishing other writers with your need to do your own writing and promote yourself? 

I love working on Cave Wall. I love every aspect of it: discovering poems and art that move me, figuring out the best layout, mailing a finished issue into the world, calling bookstores, opening the mailbox to find a huge stack of submissions. I spend more time on Cave Wall than on anything else in my life. And although it has taken away from my own writing time, I think it’s helped me grow as writer. It’s led me to appreciate more the moments I do have to work on my own writing so that I use that time more wisely.

Before I started Cave Wall, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, feeling extra critical of every word I wrote. I still get that way sometimes, but Cave Wall has connected me with so many poetry-lovers and poets—not just those we end up publishing but all those who submit their work and all our readers—that gratitude has swept over me and outshined the self-anger and frustration. My writing now comes from a better place inside me. And just realizing how huge and varied the world of poetry is has inspired me. So I think the loss of some writing time is a small price to pay for that feeling of gratitude, inspiration, and awe that Cave Wall has awakened in me.

Balance is difficult both to achieve and to maintain. As soon as one finds it, watch out: something else is just around the corner, coming at you, and you will have to learn to balance all over again. But my advice to all writers out there who are trying to juggle many things (jobs, family, kids, etc.) is to try to catch the frustration as it rises and turn it into gratitude. It’s easier and more fulfilling to write from a place of gratitude. 

What poets would you like to emulate? What fiction has your interest?

I have way too many favorite writers to name here, but I will list some. I read a thousand times more than I write, in all styles and all genres. In fact, if I say I’m going to sit down and write this afternoon, that means I’m going to sit down with a stack of books and read and hope something moves me to write. Some of the poets whose work I return to often are Elizabeth Bishop, Mark Doty, Christine Garren, Jack Gilbert (especially The Great Fires), Jeffrey Harrison, Edward Hirsch (especially Wild Gratitude), Richard Hugo, A. Van Jordan, William Matthews, Theodore Roethke, William Butler Yeats, Robert Wrigley (especially Lives of the Animals), Adam Zagajewski.

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot from the poetry of Robert Dana, Sarah Lindsay, Erika Meitner, Jud Mitcham, Liz Robbins, Alison Stine, Natasha Trethewey, Cecilia Woloch…you can’t go wrong with any of those. My favorite novels include Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

I love short stories, as well, and have been spending a lot of time lately with beautiful stories by Holly Goddard Jones and Kevin Wilson. Also, one of the best short stories I’ve read recently was published earlier this year in the journal One Story. It’s called Hurt People by Cote Smith. I think it was his first published story, and I can’t wait for more by him.

I read many comic books, as well. My favorite recent titles are Alias by Brian Michael Bendis, Cassanova by Matt Fraction, Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn, and Fables by Bill Willingham. 

I’m a collector of words and often have my students collect words, too. Do you have any favorite words?

The words that come to mind are the names of my cats: Charm, Chulita, and Pita; and Chulita’s nickname, Boombadoom. That’s weird. Maybe it’s because I say those words more often than other words throughout the day and associate them with happiness. Theodore Roethke wrote that poetry is giving a cat its right name, or something like that. So yeah, I’m gonna go with: Chulita, Pita, Charm.  

You’ve done many interviews and readings since your book was published. What question hasn’t been asked that you’d like to answer?

I haven’t been asked about the importance of revision. For me, the majority of the writing process, and the place where the magic happens, is revision. It’s not unusual for me to work on a poem for years before it’s ready for an audience.

There’s a sequence of poems in my book called Rescuing Princess Zelda. It’s made up of nine poems that take place in the adolescent wing of a state mental institution. From start to finish, I worked on that series for ten years. When I wrote the first poems for it, I didn’t know it was a series, so I guess I should clarify that I worked on the poems in it for ten years and worked on it as a series for about six years. I’m not quick to let go of a poem. I like to slow down, let a poem sit in a drawer for awhile, and return to it many times over many months to see what emerges.

Every now and then a poem will spill out almost whole, almost polished, in a first draft. This happens for me with maybe one out of every 25 poems I write. And that’s a great feeling, a boost in confidence and energy.

But I think, maybe, the more rewarding feeling for me is when a poem I’ve worked on for months, even years, comes together and all that time spent pouring over dictionaries and research, all that time switching around the syntax, pays off. The majority of my poems need that kind of time to find their right shape and language. I am a big believer in the transformative gifs that come from time and distance.