Salem is a water-logged corpse
floating in America’s chest,
a child-sized noose
found in law books.
— Casey Rocheteau, “Your Heart is a Swollen Witch (Never Forget, 1692),” published in Black Heart Magazine
it’s as if everything that has happened
is nothing but Security which you have to pass through
in order to get into summer
god tossed a heart like a coin
inside me
as if i were a pond
he made a wish
and lingered in the air
and everything belongs to me but hope
— Valzhyna Mort, “Music of Locusts,” from Factory of Tears (trans. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Franz Wright)
I’m always inspired because I’m alive. It’s a gift to be able to do this. I don’t need outside inspiration. I need time. And if, and when, I get it, I use it. It would scare me to have all day long to write. I need pockets of time, spaces where it is tempting to write before the clock strikes the end. That’s where poems are born for me, when time is so compressed that the idea sparks out.
— Nick Ripatrazone, from a self-interview in The Nervous Breakdown
I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke—take your pick—an apprehension of the divine.
— Maggie Nelson, from Bluets
I think a lot of people close themselves off when they hear an argument they disagree with, or a metaphor written in poor taste, or a clumsy rhyme. And I understand that in certain situations that might be a matter of emotional self-protection, or a question of just being too damn tired, and I respect that completely. But if I’m physically in the room with another poet, I really try to listen. Because what you get out of a poem has as much to do with the quality of your engagement as the form or content of the work itself. So I try to respect the work, and I try to respect the newcomers. I even try to respect the fools—Shakespearian tragedies could have been avoided by listening more closely to fools.
— David Winter, interviewed by Hanif Abdurraqib for 30 in 30(0)
& anyway, isn’t this what the body
was made for? In each photograph
she is a dandelion at the birth
of a tornado, granting heaven
its every furious wish. To see
her move - the stuttering ballet, machine
gun scripture inked into the muscles
of her legs, is to know the body, at last,
as not a conduit for prayer, but prayer
— Jeremy Radin, “St. Vincent Live at the Wiltern,” published in Drunk in a Midnight Choir
I have a big thing about endings. I don’t know what it is, but I really think endings just make or break a poem for me. When I see a good ending I die with envy. (Chop off the reader’s head! Stab us in the neck! Make us ring and ring!) Also, have a big thing for finding the right balance. I love it when a poem is working on many levels, when it’s got that exciting music and sound work (oh rhymes!), but also has that great plain language that gives it the guts, the ‘I am a real human being writing this, not a robot’ part, and then finally, I like a poem with a lot of capital H (Heart). I’m a fan of the ‘big ticket’ stuff; I like a poem that’s not scared to raise the stakes while also making sure it’s not too manipulative in how it uses its emotional currency. I ask a lot of my own work and fail a great deal, but I’m always trying to get it right. I’m always trying to balance that egg upright at the end of the table so it’s sturdy enough that I can slam the door shut without it shattering.
— Ada Limón, interviewed by Suzannah Windsor for Compose Journal