This piece is a selection from Byobu, out this November from Charco Press.
The Sensitive Toad
From the bottom step, where the stairs rise from the stone path between two patches of grass, Byobu sees a toad cross in front of him, hopping from green to green. It’s followed by another, just as quick. Not long ago, Byobu read a horrendous list of little tragedies that could befall an Englishman in the nineteenth century: it included stepping on a toad, believing it to be a stone in the road. Byobu is not English, nor is he from the nineteenth century, but there he stands on one foot, like a heron, which luckily for these batrachians he is not. On a magnificent summer night like this it’s normal to hear them, but seeing them is not so common, thought Byobu when the third little fellow appeared. Why the third fellow? Well, because as we all know three is a sacred number, and besides, there were three.
Translation and Q&A: Ida Vitale’s The Sensitive Toad
Recently published in The BreakBeat Poets Volume IV: LatiNEXT, Cuban-American writer Kyle Carrero Lopez holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU and is the co-founder of LEGACY, a production collective by and for Black queer artists.
Carrero Lopez is unapologetic about his poetic concerns. In this powerful interview, he explains how sonnets give him the ultimate space to practice his multitudes in a pressurized space, and the way anti-Blackness is provoked by capitalism, dangerous clothing, and cultural brutalization.
Sasha Burshteyn (SB):You have such a feeling for form in your collection MUSCLE MEMORY— “After Abolition” and “Inheritance” are both sonnets, and “(SLANG)UAGE” is in the Oulipian beautiful outlaw form. What draws you to these forms? What do you feel they offer your work?
Kyle Carrero Lopez (KCL): In the case of the sonnets, something about the compression really works for me. I appreciate that a sonnet demands a turn via the volta. It’s a pressurized space for those two poems. They’re intense poems as far as the subject matter, but I wanted to work with brevity in both, and so the sonnet felt like the right pot to put the poem in. Terrance Hayes has said that a sonnet is a room that you can scream into.
Sitting with Ugliness and Complicated Beauties: An Interview with Kyle Carrero Lopez
Poet and journalist Sara Elkamel is currently pursuing an MFA at New York University, dividing her time between Cairo and New York City. Her work can be found in several literary magazines including the Los Angeles Review and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her most recent work is a chapbook, Field of No Justice, published as part of Akashic Books’ African Poetry Book Fund.
Birds, Language, and the Desire for Repair: An Interview with Sara Elkamel
Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex is Angela Chen’s first book: an incredible feat considering the breadth of topics that Chen covers with the adroitness that only an experienced journalist could bring. This is a book about asexuality, the often overlooked ‘A’ in LGBTQIA, and the ace community. But the book also challenges everyone, regardless of sexual identity, to interrogate their own relationship to romance, sex, desire, and culture. Chen is particularly interested in the phenomenon of compulsory sexuality, which, in her own words, describes, “a set of assumptions and behaviors that support the idea that every normal person is sexual, that not wanting (socially approved) sex is unnatural and wrong, and that people who don’t care about sexuality are missing out on an utterly necessary experience.”
Does a poet benefit from knowing more than one language? In what way do translingual poets approach their craft differently than their monolingual counterparts? Should translingual poets be understood as “self-translators”? Is translingualism a form of rebellion? How do we make home in, across, and between languages?
These topics are part of the following conversation between Ilan Stavans and Haoran Tong. Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin America and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is the author of the award-winning, book-length poem The Wall (2018) and the translator into English of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda and into Spanish of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop, among others. Chinese poet Haoran Tong is a student at Amherst College. The conversation took place electronically in Amherst and Wellfleet, Massachusetts, from June 25 to July 10, 2021.
The Poet’s Languages: A Conversation between Ilan Stavans and Haoran Tong
Elizabeth A.I. Powell’s most recent book is Atomizer(LSU Press, 2020). She is a Professor of Creative Writing at North Vermont University. Her poems are forthcoming in The New Republic and American Poetry Review. You can find her at www.elizabethaipowell.com.
The terrestrial assumption is that on any given day you can find humans crying out to the heavens. Elizabeth A.I. Powell is a poet who has “spent a lifetime trying to say the truth in a beautiful way,” and operates on the assumption that we all have celestial cries to process. In this interview, Matt Miller and Elizabeth A.I. Powell explore the invisibility of sexuality, the enactment of fury, and poem as atomizer. Walk through this synesthetic interview and discover how poetry approaches the smell of memory.
Come Angels: An interview with Elizabeth A.I. Powell about her new collection The Atomizer
This Way Back (West Virginia University Press, 2020) is Joanna Eleftheriou’s first book. She is currently an assistant professor of English at Christopher Newport University and a faculty member of the Writing Workshops in Greece. Dividing her time between Greece and New York, Eleftheriou’s work can also be found in Apalachee Review and Arts and Letters.
Most artists struggle with the role of responsibility and their art. Does art have a responsibility? In this insightful interview with Cameron Finch, Joanna Eleftheriou provides readers with a mini-manual on how to engage in the dialectic of identity, confront the privilege of choosing an identity, and how writers prioritize discovery. If you’re looking for advice on how to begin an essay, or a way to honor your wounds, this interview is an excellent starting point. Eleftheriou’s focus on freedom and all of its incarnations is a valuable canvas for artists who might find themselves at an impasse. “We deserve to see ourselves in art,” says Eleftheriou. Indeed, says The Common.
This Way Back: An Interview with Joanna Eleftheriou
Tanya Coke is a civil rights lawyer and writer. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Root, and USA Today. She is currently working on a graphic novel about race and suburban motherhood.
Your essay “Brother Love” reads not only as a heartfelt meditation on how familial ties can be rekindled, but also as an intricate, personal account of your family history over time. How did you navigate weaving the personal with the historical? How did you determine which moments in your life to highlight in your narrative?
That’s a good question. I didn’t write an outline or give much thought to structure. For me, it was a little like reviewing the tape of a home movie and picking the most emotionally laden scenes in a story that traverses 40 years. Or maybe squinting at a landscape to make an impressionist painting and trying to capture the most vivid things in the frame. Like the moment when my father told my sisters and me that we had a nine-month-old brother. The moment when he first handed this scrawny baby to me. The way it made me feel both special and grown up when my father took me to jazz club with him, when I was 14. The look of grief on my brother’s face at 17, when he was a pallbearer at our dad’s funeral. Or the joy on his other dad’s face, when he danced to a brace of Indian drummers on Shawn’s wedding day. Those became the touchstones for the essay.
Selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner for his sophomore collection, Club Icarus, and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Matt Miller published Tender the River this year with Texas Review Press. He is the winner of the 2019 Nimrod International Review’s Pablo Neruda Prize and has published poems in the Harvard Review, The Rumpus, and SouthwestReview. Miller also wrote The Wounded for the Water and Cameo Diner: Poems. He currently teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.
In this interview conducted by Kerrin McCadden, you’ll find a poet engaged in an exploration of rivers as national symbols of disparity, dispossession, hope, and boundaries. The meaning of “being from somewhere,” or “home” is thoroughly examined in Miller’s responses, as it is in his poetry. McCadden’s inquiry ignites the discussion until it becomes a lesson on craft, self-reflection, the history of a place, and the biography of a country as told by a poet who can make cobblestone and metal dance, who can teach us how to listen when memory tries to speak.
Hold the Mirror up to Nature: An Interview with Matt Miller