Friday, 30 March 2012

Afzal Moolla


in the debris of the past,
scraps of casually discarded emotion.

in hastily trashed yesterdays,
an inkling of moments flung away.

in heaps of rubbished words,
that tiresome sigh of defeated thought.

in the layers of moulted skin
the wilting self that once was true.

in the reflections between the ripples,
for the whispered pangs of roaring desire.

in the blank eyes streaming endlessly,
an echo of the faintest sigh of new life.



TSTmpj:  Your poem documents a multi-faceted quest.  What are you personally searching to achieve as a poet, both in this poem, and more generally in your poetry writing?

Afzal Moolla:  My poem "Searching" is an attempt to convey the desolation that one feels at times, and to reflect on the different paths one has taken in life and the people and places that often get left behind.

The desire to find a measure of equilibrium in these different aspects of one's life is something I have tried to express in "Searching".

"Searching" and many of my other poems are an attempt at achieving a 'catharsis by verse', primarily for myself but also in the hope that the reader may relate to some of the emotions expressed.

TSTmpj:  How has your background and upbringing informed your poetics?

Afzal Moolla:  My childhood was spent in exile in different countries, where my parents were political activists working for the South African liberation movement, the African National Congress.

Those formative experiences of being constantly on the move and of not having a permanent home or a country to call one's own have had a profound impact on me.

The injustice of the Apartheid regime in South Africa prior to 1994, as well as the fact that our family was split with my two elder siblings living in South Africa and my being born in exile has left a lasting imprint on me. I try to give expression to many of these feelings when I write.

I also hope to give a voice to the feeling of emotional and physical dislocation, and how they affect the idea of home, of belonging, and the search for one's identity.

The thought of being a 'perennial immigrant' is one that I try to convey in my writing.

TSTmpj:  I know that sometimes you write more political poetry.  What do you see as the relationship between poetry -- your poetry and also poetry in general -- and politics?  Can it play a role in political change?

Afzal Moolla:  The idea of words being a powerful political tool is something I find fascinating. I try to convey issues of a social and political nature, more as commentary on what I observe, as well as writing topical poems about specific events.

The relationship between poetry and politics in my writing is at its core, the poetry of protest.

It is a point that can be argued, but I believe that poetry can and does affect politics. There is a long history of protest in verse and in song, as well as in prose.

Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason comes to mind as an example of protest-writing.

The poetry of Pablo Neruda in Chile, Primo Levi in Italy, Dennis Brutus in South Africa, Agostinho Neto in Angola and Amilcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde among others inspire me to write and to understand poetry as more than just verse.

The use of poetry as a medium by which the many conversations on social and political change are made more accessible to the world at large is of immense interest to me.

I do believe that poetry can be a catalyst for change, be it personal, social, political or economic change.

Finally, I live with the hope that as long as there is something interesting, painful, joyous or sad to write about, there will always be someone who will write a poem about it.

Bio Note

Afzal Moolla lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes for pleasure and enjoys reading non-fiction and the occasional novel.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Emily Strauss

Qing Ming: Grave-Sweeping Festival

Second great uncle, grandpa’s
younger brother, we have come,
the fireworks announce, cascading
down the gully, the entire family
panting up the dirt path clutching
a whole roast piglet, assorted
plastic shopping bags, snotty
fat ten-year-old great grandson,
come to sweep your grave of rare
tropical pine needles, lording over
the fully-automated container port below
while high up the hill golf carts
don’t even pause, the players smile
at such loud pops, this is China,
the one from Arizona sweats
in the hot fog while Mr. Mak
wishes he could simply call
these ghosts on his mobile
to report on his wife’s affair.


TSTmpj:  Your poem suggests you may have visited China, and or have some familial connection with it.  What do you admire most about Chinese culture?

Emily Strauss:  Actually after living almost 8 years there, I became quite disenchanted by the culture. Admire? Sadly, not much right now, except maybe their tenacity, their extreme longevity. They were always curious to meet a foreigner, which I was called a hundred times a day on the street. They could be friendly too on occasion, and I received some decent treatment by strangers. They are certainly survivors.

TSTmpj:  How have your preoccupations as a poet changed in your over thirty years of writing poetry?

Emily Strauss:  I used to write only when a strong emotion flooded me and I needed to express it. Later I took some workshops and realized I could respond to prompts. More lately, I consider many things that occur in daily life around me, snippets of scenes, or old events in my life, and realize I can write about all of them. It has become more mundane, less mental, but also easier to find topics to deal with. Now I just try to express a whole scene or story; my poems are much less personal than at first.

TSTmpj:  Do you wish to share any thoughts on your method of composing poetry?

Emily Strauss:  Composing? I sit with a pencil and any slip of paper. I have an idea and begin gathering words and phrases. I imagine emotive words that express a feeling or image. I write them down and then scratch and circle. I sometimes use a thesaurus. I feel for a desired shape. I put it away and come back to it many many times later, sometimes years later. It's not very brilliant but I keep at it; if I were really good, I would have had books published long ago.

Bio Note

Emily Strauss wrote poems for 30 years before admitting it; talk about coming out of the closet late. Now she’s published.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Helen Haloulos


To take my hand and slowly tear it
Through your hair and rip your pride
And foolish ways to shreds
To yell and cry until my voice grows hoarse
And I run out of tears
To be angry and not be able to
Let it exit my body
To not let it vent
To trap it
And keep it
And pet it
Until it swells
And bursts
And I leave


TSTmpj:  "Wrath" deals with the expression of strong emotion.  Are you drawn to poetry and other writing that does  this?  Sylvia Plath's final poems before her death perhaps?  Or other confessional poetry?  Or are your influences completely away from this kind of writing?

Helen Haloulos:  My influences are always drawn from personal experience. If I can reach a reader with my work, then I know what I have been through is real enough for others to feel it through my words.

I have not studied other poets and admire all sorts of writing, from all kinds of authors. However none which influence my writing style.

TSTmpj:  Here's a broad question, to which I've no inkling how you might respond.  What matters most to you, as a freelance writer?

Helen Haloulos:  What matters to me most in freelance writing would have to be the 'creative' side of the writing. To me being freelance, at this time in my life, gives me license to write about what interests me. If I am fortunate enough to get any exposure, that is a wonderful bonus, but I enjoy writing, just for me.

TSTmpj:  Melbourne has long had a vibrant writing scene.  Have you any links to parts of it?  Do you read your work?  Are there any local literary figures that you have been influenced by or especially admire?

Helen Haloulos:  I am a member of Writers Victoria, I have been over a span of 10 years, on and off again. I have not read my work nor have I been active in the scene to date. I am currently doing a Professional Writing & Editing course with C.A.E. this has prompted me to start submitting my work and possibly getting published. There is no-one I can say who has influenced me, or admired locally.

Bio Note

Helen Haloulos is a freelance writer from Melbourne. She writes because she loves to: children’s books, short stories and poetry.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Holly Zwalf

strange heat of a heartland

you arrive like a flurry
of freefalling snow, wet
against a red iron backdrop
a landscape so old
it has rusted in place
fused against the saltwater sky

like a ghost-gum, you haunt me

you are sweet
all bare, gleaming flesh
a freshwater fish
in my mouth

you flicker in a desert
of dry grass and  lust
the shimmer of heatwaves
and heartlands
between us


TSTmpj:  What haunts you?  Love, perhaps?  In what way?

Holly Zwalf:  Until recently I was being haunted by a bone.  A clavicle, to be precise, both fragile and firm, supporting that sweet stretch of skin bridging shoulder and neck, glowing like the woman who wore it.  This poem is about her, about the distance between us, and about the delirium of a dehydrated heart.

TSTmpj:  Your poem finely observes the landscape while at the same time being erotic.  If given a choice between being alone in that landscape (even though you may be surrounded by strangers); and being in an austere, windowless room with a lover, which would you choose (an explained faux-choice from you, perhaps?)

Holly Zwalf:  When I first wrote this poem I would have chosen her.  I would have chosen that freshwater flesh, hands pinned above her head, stretched against the blank backdrop of a peeling motel wall.  But gradually I began to realise that the bone that gave shape to this woman had itself been imagined, all along.  I had it all wrong—she wore a button-up shirt the night we first met, not the clavicle-baring singlet I remembered.  I had never actually seen this curve of the collarbone that lingered like an apparition in my infatuated mind.  She was the ghost of a ghost, felt in passing.  She was a trick of the light, late afternoon sun flickering through stunted trees.  I changed my answer.  I opted instead for the terrifying expanse of that heartland, where your blood runs as red as the dust that settles in drifts in sharp corners, deep gullies, soft wrinkles.  I chose that teeming void, reaching across impossible distances that suck you in and strip you bare, strip you back to bone.  Real bones, made with calcium and marrow, not the imaginary scaffolding of a poet's verse.  But of course this debate is nothing but an act.  If I am to be so bold as to call myself a poet, I must also brave honesty, too.  A true poet will deliberate, will make a great show of weighing up the choices in her hands, but in the end she will be forced to admit that, in fact, there was never a question to begin with.  Given a choice, the poet will choose the girl.  Every single time.

TSTmpj:  Unless I'm quite mistaken, I pick you as an Australian poet.  Is there anything you wish to say to the predominantly so far other-than-Australian TSTmpj audience about your poetics?

Holly Zwalf:  I have always hated landscape poetry.  I used to skip over the skylines and vistas, sharpening my focus instead on the human shapes: their stories, their sorrows, their passions.  And then one day foreground and background collided and my short-sighted glasses were smashed.  In this poem the landscape is not the backdrop but the cornerstone of the piece, acknowledging that sense of place and sense of self are synonymous.  Indigenous Australians have known this for many centuries; white people are still grappling with this knowledge.  Journey out to that part of central Australia that is nothing but dry dirt and sky: it will seem dead only until you embrace it.  The desert is the heart of this country and the heart of this poem, and it is where my flatlining heart woke up in surprise and gratefully beat once again.

Bio Note

Holly Zwalf's a queer poet who likes working on her PhD on kink, loves Cyndi Lauper, and hates wearing shoes.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Dennis Thomas

Then Stars

Perhaps things are not real, the big house, lies still in the rain, celestial
gardens, unfading flowers, paradise, gazed, reflection, crystal foundation.

Descended, hills, sun picked its way, then stars.

Timeless ground, magnificent murmur of whispering, shuffling bare feet, lit a
lamp, nature, ordinary things, from somewhere.

I write lines, poems of days gone by, sheets of silver, across odd places,
inside lost faces, hidden; unceasing wind, history passes, crumbling walls,
discoloured smoke.

She entered, shadows, almost invisible, life opens up, larger world of

Ultimate awareness, choice, soar; we are spiritual in nature, soul has no
boundaries, laws, it is dimensionless, formless, invisible, soul is endless.


TSTmpj:  Your work speaks to me of the ocean; waves upon waves of clauses that cumulatively move to create the overall effect.  Given that you live in Canberra, not on the coast, do you have a favourite coastal destination, one that perhaps you feel influences your work?

Dennis Thomas:  No, I don’t have a special place at the coast. My place in composing can be anywhere in nature, or on a busy street. It is all a matter of my state.

My poetic creation, sometimes in meditation, is deep, meaningful with lots of colour, inner expression, compressed language, expresses ideas, imagination, dreams, mind experiments, nature , beauty, sometimes its comes from somewhere else, I am a part of this creativity and beauty.

TSTmpj:  I know that you have travelled to India; and this has influenced your poetry, along with your interests in ancient Indian, Chinese and Tibetan mysticism.  There is no way of doing this really, but, given this now global legacy of spirituality, could you give TSTmpj readers an insight into your personal philosophy of living as a westerner in the twenty-first century?

Dennis Thomas:  Yes, I have travelled to India, spending time at a meditation centre, gathering spiritual strength and wisdom from that experience. I meditate most days poetic creation comes from this discipline, encountering my imagination, in deeply mystical language, coexisting conscious will, comes my poetry. Reunite in reflection, comes the production of poetry, purest of ideas, whispering in my ears, from world of spirits. This creation has been formed by my interest in Eastern philosophy in Tibet and China, in their past realm of spiritual wisdom. It is the true focus of inspiration.

TSTmpj:  The music of the 1960s has long spoken to you.  I can see Donovan’s dreaminess in your work.  Any thoughts on this?

Dennis Thomas:  Yes Donovan, Doors, Jimi Hendrix, some of the many creative artists from the sixties with a dreamy melodic voice with lines to match something out of a mystical maze. From this and other forces my work blends into a combination of what I consider to be beautiful words, blending into spontaneous images, possessing a great deal of mysterious beauty, just arrived from nowhere, just sitting back, waiting for it to burst into my consciousness, line by line.

Bio Note

Australian Dennis Thomas’s third collection is Standing in a Cloud.  For him, the Pantheon is a living, breathing, shaking thing.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Edward Reilly


The genome from which I’m constructed
Was restricted to certain parameters,
But that’s like most people I know:
We’re ordinary, rather than exotic
Specimens about whom the papers rave,
Not quite from the boglands,
More cowdale and sheephill.

The latest news is that I am regressive,
At least by some five or so percent,
Which would explain the reddish beard
They say the Neanderthals sported,
Sprouting when first it grew,
Though these days it’s more like bracken
Stubbornly hanging onto a hillside,
Threatening to slip into the fens.


TSTmpj:  I found your poem to be deceptively flat, "ordinary, rather than exotic", only giving up its riches to my fourth and fifth rereading.  Where, and or from whom, did you learn your poetical craft?

Edward Reilly:  About flatness: we must realise no longer live in a Keatsian, much less a Eliotian, world, and so the whole question of poetic diction (in contemporary Australian English) really needs to examined. In 'Genome', I take my linguistic cues from Robert Lowell's History. I started writing seriously in the early 1970s when under the influence of some early poems by Seamus Heaney, then went on to closely read Shakespeare's Sonnets, all of Yeats, and then the Donald Hall anthology, especially the post-War USA poets. The books of Robin Skelton (1925 - 1997) were inspirational. Trevor Code at Deakin Uni. was my MA supervisor & Sue Hawthorn at Victoria Uni. kept a rein on my doctoral work in poetics.

TSTmpj:  Given your Irish lineage, this is an obvious question, but I’ll ask it, who from the Irish Pantheon do you admire, and why? 

Edward Reilly:  1. Antoine Ó Raifteiri (1779 –1835) for his vision & defiance against the onslaught of the Sassanach & their garbled tongue 2. Padraig Pearse, for his revival of Gaelic as a medium of discourse, his poetry & his supreme sacrifice in 1916 3. Yeats 4. Tomas Kinsella (b. 1928 & on whose poetry I wrote the MA thesis) a consummate modernist.

TSTmpj:  Do you see in any of your students any specific echoes of where you were when you were a much younger man, beginning to become a poet?  How do the upcoming poetry generation’s preoccupations as a whole offer similarities or differences, given the digital age we live in?

Edward Reilly:  Yes, from time to time I see that a student will start writing, maybe give take a break for a while, and then come back to the task in their early thirties. On the other hand, one lass started writing verse when she was in Year 11 & has gone from strength to strength, has not really stopped! Others have transmuted their initial impulse into the hard grind of post-graduate studies & teaching. But, it depends entirely when the Muse chooses to appear & what she commands one to do. As for our present age, it's a mean, grey era we live in, wars and rumours of catastrophe assail our ears & eyes every evening, everything is happening around us like lightning storms without relief, when a nascent poet's need is for silence, love & prayer.

Bio Note

Edward Reilly (b. 1944 Adelaide); sessional lecturer in literary & education studies Victoria University & President of Geelong Writers; is internationally published.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sarah Dickhudt

A simple pair

At the time
I was with another girl
We came in to check out the store
Me and her
We kept looking at eachother
Me and you
At the time
You and that old lady were working
You helped us
Me and her
Find a certain size
You noticed it was a narrow shoe
The funny thing is
Your mom had the same shoes
And she liked them
You said
She liked them when she went on a trip
Just seeing if you see this
So you can see
The you and me.


TSTmpj:  You have told me that your poem is a Found poem, based on a craigslist advertisement.  What else inspires you to write?

Sarah Dickhudt:  The voice in my head chuckled when I read the original ad on the 'lost connections' section of craigslist. The author of the ad created a window into his or her psyche for me to peer into. Once upon a time, my talent for over thinking details was a burden. Through writing, I've found ways to extort these thoughts into pieces of art.

TSTmpj:  I understand that you came to poetry writing again later in life, after quite a break since your school days.  Was there anyone in those early days who you now remember fondly as someone who would have approved of your current direction, and what did they mean to you then, and now?

Sarah Dickhudt:  Writing always came naturally to me in school. I especially remember my sister enjoying my stories. I would ask her to proofread for me and afterwards, she would look at me with honest eyes and tell me she enjoyed my story. Once I started writing outside of school assignments, I found my niche. 

TSTmpj:  Who is your greatest influence at the moment? What is the single most important piece of wisdom you have received from them?

Sarah Dickhudt:  Dessa Darling. She is a spoken word artist from Minneapolis, MN. I have been following her music for a couple of years and I find her to be truly astonishing. She holds her own in a mostly male-dominated atmosphere. She started by reciting slam poetry and now incorporates music. In one of her songs she says, 'underrated writer, overrated rapper.' She would rather be acknowledged for writing than her music. This I find to be inspirational because she has kept true to the roots of her success.

Bio Note

Sarah Dickhudt is a US poet who when she is not writing enjoys finding meaning in seemingly meaningless places.

Friday, 16 March 2012

AA Norton

The Ecstasy of Ground

The smell of sun-warmed dirt
is so rich, it snaps my skin
into a stinging mingle
of alive.  

With each new step,
arrows shoot
from sod stone earth –
piercing first one foot

with a fierce joy,
then the other with a sadness
steeped so long on this hillside,
I'm forced to stop

while the breath of the world
sucks through me.


TSTmpj:  What was your earliest inspiration and influence; and who was the first poet you admired?

AA Norton:  As a kid, I mostly remember song lyrics on the back of the albums (disco, Dylan, etc) and the cool language found in the Bible. My father is a minister so I heard many a sermon, hymn, and Bible verse.  Powerful language definitely grabbed me.  However, it took a human 'in the flesh' to really inspire me.  The first poet I truly admired was Ricardo Sanchez who ended up being a friend and mentor.  We were both living in Washington State in the early 1990s.  We met through a local poetry class he taught at night on the high school grounds.  We were both from Texas.  His persistent loyalty to his own experiences and his expression of those experiences through poems was mind-blowing for me.  He's described as a "high-school drop-out, ex-convict who gave poetic voice to the Chicano protest movement of the 1970s with his first book Canto y Grito mi Liberacion". For me, Ricardo Sanchez was brazen talent, vibrancy, raw courage and a desire to speak, listen and live authentically.

TSTmpj:  When did you realise you wished to write poetry into adulthood, and why?

AA Norton:  There wasn't a single 'moment' for me.  Rather, there were persistent, intermittent reminders to write.  I often get titles or phrases delivered to me in dreams.  I'll wake up with a title, for example, "The Importance of Counting to Two", in my head.  I can't get rid of it until I write it down. Sometimes writing has a physical urgency to it, not unlike being thirsty and needing to address that.  My desire to write sky-rocketed after my second child was born. I had this great sense of becoming, of having become who I wanted to be, and having not only new freedom and energy to write, but also of finally being the person whose viewpoint I wanted to write from.  I'm not saying I wanted to be a mother before I could write or take myself seriously, I just had a very clear sense at about 35, after my kids were born, after I had done research science for nearly a decade, that I could trust my own writing.   I have a vivid memory of that time, I was in a book store and randomly pulled Tony Hoagland's poetry What Narcissism Means to Me from the shelf.  That book is amazing.  I spent a lot of time with the Many Mountains Moving group in Colorado, who were/are impressive in a very honest, warts-and-all human way.  I worked with John Latham, an English poet and scientist, on a dual-voiced poem that felt divine.   Then I moved to Arizona and met a whole new crew of talented poets, including Rebecca Seirferle, the Casa Libre en la Solana group and so many others.

TSTmpj:  If you could take three poetry books to a desert island, which three would you choose, and why?

AA Norton:  The complete works of Tony Hoagland, the complete works of Anne Sexton and my own unpublished book of poems with plenty of blank pages in it.  I'd make sure Hoagland's and Sexton's books had those awkward author photographs on the back cover, too, so I could cut them out, make paper dolls with them and role-play in the brackish tide-pools of my desert island.

Bio Note

AA Norton is a research astronomer who loves magnetic fields and poetry.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

rob mclennan

Emergency, (a faux-sonnet,

Relatively small, and spoken. Let the empty page
and box of envelopes. A shutter, tarmac.

Hands had to move so fast, we
singled out. Disappearing plastic valve.

If we navigated telling, could this
measure. Jacket, wall pegs, scarf.

Nations, if they do some good. Sharper,
as it glimmers. Still alive.

Current, rides these frequencies. The wound
of meanings, bloodlet fingers.

Stay with me, reason. Tactile,
auditory clues. Divulged, but rarely spoken.

A noble lie, compassionate. Before this
moment, choices. Corner of an eye.


TSTmpj:  From the information you shared with me when you submitted, it seems that you are a prime mover in the Ottawa writing field. Could you share with readers something about one of your ventures?

rob mclennan:  For international audiences, the most obvious ventures become the online ones, including a blog I post to regularly ( with book reviews, essays, notices, interviews with authors and other pieces. Since 2005, I’ve edited and published an Ottawa poetry pdf annual, ottawater (, which appears every January. Recently, the fourth issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics ( appeared online, which I edit/publish, as a replacement to the original site that Stephen Brockwell and I co-edited for eight issues. I’ve been working to explore various poetics, opinions and writers through soliciting materials for the journal, including essays, interviews, new poems and manifestos. Fewer and fewer venues, it would seem, provide critical consideration for what has already appeared, making it more difficult to comprehend what has been made, holding up the possibilities of what might happen next. The journal works to further conversation, therefore furthering comprehension, discussion and response. There is so much yet unexplored.

What else can I tell you? I do this alongside the other work I do as a writer, editor, publisher and everything else. To explore and follow the blog, for example, will provide many more details of what else I’ve been up to, if anyone is interested.

TSTmpj:  You use the compound word “faux-sonnet” in the title of your poem. It’s not a traditional lyric; it’s what I would term an objective lyric. Remembering T.S. Eliot’s resuscitation of the objective correlative is now over ninety years old, where to from here? Be an Alvin Toffler of twenty-first century poetics, and, on the basis of what you perceive now, make a prediction or two for us.

rob mclennan:  Only yesterday, I was at a talk at Ottawa’s AB Series by American poet and blogger Ron Silliman, and he predicted that there are so many threads of English-language poetry at the moment (he suggested 20,000 publishing English-language poets currently publishing within the United States) that, in a few years’ time, various threads of what is self-called “poetry” might be completely unrecognizable from each other. I think it’s already happened, with varieties between what even Canadian poets Lisa Robertson, Karen Mac Cormack, Margaret Christakos, Christian Bök and derek beaulieu have been producing, against the work of writers such as Stephen Brockwell, Tim Lilburn, Ken Babstock, David McGimpsey and Karen Solie.

Art is a living culture; it has to move, and move it does, to remain alive, and vibrant. Who knows where it might end up? Part of the appeal, as writer and reader both, is simply not knowing where it might, it could or even should. We want to be surprised; we want to be amazed.

TSTmpj:  Your poem resonates, among other things, a European sensibility to me. Ingeborg Bachmann comes to mind. Would you agree? Have you spent much time in Europe, and if so, what do you see as contemporary similarities between, say, a northern European country’s poetry and Canadian poetry?

rob mclennan:  European? Interesting. I know so little of European writing and writing traditions that I wouldn’t feel close to comfortable commenting on such. I’ve read a number of French works of prose-poetry in translation over the past few years—predominantly works produced by Burning Deck, translated by such as Norma Cole, Keith Waldrop and Cole Swensen—that have provided enormous inspiration, but not directly to the poem posted here. For most of my twenties and into my thirties, my influences were predominantly Canadian, with a shift over the past few years into more and more American works, including the translated works mentioned above.

But I revel in Milan Kundera. Why can’t he go back to writing novels?

About a decade ago, Stephen Brockwell and I did some readings in Ireland, returning a couple of years later to read in London, England and Cardiff, Wales. It’s as far as I’ve been east, so far.

Bio Note

Ottawa writer/editor/publisher rob mclennan is the author of 26 trade collections of poetry, fiction and non-fiction.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Raster Jones

The Guardian Angel of Grant Wood's American Gothic

Dress for the life,
to tend to the seeds' needs.
And seasons change regardless: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.
The devil's in the details
and God's in overalls.


TSTmpj:   I assume Grant Wood might be one of your favourite painters?  Do you wish to share any thoughts further to your poem on your perception of him, and or his art?

Raster Jones:  I do like Wood's work a great deal. This particular painting is fascinating, though, in many ways because it has become iconic, or we might say that it has become partly iconic. People know the painting; but for many the painting is just those two figures, when, obviously, there is so much more to be seen, so much more going on: the painting is named for the house in the background, after all.

TSTmpj:   The relation between visual art and poetry seems to be becoming more popular.  Are there any perhaps lesser known Galleries in South Carolina that you would recommend as perhaps offering visiting poets inspiration?

Raster Jones:  I recommend spending time in the Native American Studies Archive, if you find yourself near the USC-Lancaster campus. Beyond that, I think that posing this question - and, thereby, getting poets to think a bit about this, no matter where they are - is more important than any answer I could give. We should, as poets, be seeking out narratives of lives lived in "lesser known" places and the ways in which folks try to express those lives: paintings in small town galleries, for instance. I feel inspired to inquire about art galleries in any small towns I visit from now on. Thank you for that.

TSTmpj:   Are you fond of Gothic architecture?  Have you any thoughts to share on it?

I very much like the house in the painting. But the above questions made me first think of Poe conjuring his castles in the American landscape. "Gothic" has always suggested weighty and cold to me: which is not the first impression I have of the house in the painting, but, maybe, it is the second.

Bio Note

Raster Jones lives in South Carolina, USA. His poems have appeared in several venues, most recently in Four and Twenty.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

William Wright Harris

the loss of virginity

the awakening of the spirit

lying on soiled earth
toes curling in
to them
holding a dying flower
in one hand
an animal
furred and panting
the other

the sky still blue
mountains and grass
remaining green

painted the
river red


TSTmpj:  To quote you, you say "In my work I juxtapose concrete images with abstract notions, often write in structures such as unrhyming couplets and triadic verse, stress economy, and utilize such literary conceits as the ekphrasis poem, parallel structure and the incorporation of mythology within my work."  What do you consider to be the dominant societal mythology at the moment, and how, if at all, do you seek to express it in your poetry?

William Wright Harris:  The dominant societal mythology in contemporary America; wow, great subject for an essay. There are so many. As a country, we are a theocracy in the guise of democracy; and the religious constructs that were so effective in evoking fear and submission from the masses of humanity (think Marx, saying, "Religion is the opiate of the masses") are largely irrelevant today. The church that for centuries has emphasized the blind aspect of "Blind Faith" has been proven to be filled with a history that turned a blind eye to the transatlantic slave trade, to the holocaust, and to the paedophiliac acts of their own members. Another mythology is in America itself, a country founded by white slave owners that just wanted to be free? In a land that is supposedly free to practice whatever religious practices one desires within said borders, citizens are forced to use a currency with the monotheistic Judeo-Christian deity's name printed thereon as well as swear your allegiance to said deity in the Pledge of Allegiance? At what point is that freedom? Also, the American governmental system is based on a Republic in which the smallest fraction of the population controls the majority of the country's wealth. Supposedly, it is the American people that elect their Commander-in-Chief; this is simply not true. Said office is elected by the Electoral College, rendering the vote acquired by the masses utterly worthless. Finally, the social construct women in this country have engrained into their psyche from the cradle is simply sickening. That a woman must be some dainty figure distressed and in need of their masculine counterparts to not only rescue them but preserve them is a disgusting cultural conceit.

TSTmpj:  I understand you have been in workshop settings with such poets as Jesse Janeshek, Marilyn Kallet, Arthur Smith, and Marcel Brouwers.  I'd like you to share an insight or two that you have gleaned from one of them.  Which of them do you feel you see most in "loss of virginity"? 

William Wright Harris:  I really don't see on particular professor's influence; rather I see an amalgamation thereof. Jesse Janeshek taught me to spend the time learning the rules of poetry so that I may spend the rest of my life breaking said rules as well as how to own your work. Marilyn Kallet taught me that I own my own work as well as how to apply my knowledge to such forms as unrhyming couplets and triadic verse. Arthur Smith taught me the movements of the poem (strophe, antistrophe, and vehicle) as well as supplying me with some of my favorite contemporary poets. Marcel Brouwers taught me how to use titles, a thematic problem for me traditionally, as well as the fact that sometimes the poem is bigger than the poet. So, again, it is hard to see one professor standing out in this piece above others. I hope this helps.

TSTmpj:  What is next for you as a poet?

William Wright Harris:  Next I intend to pursue a career in teaching. As a poet I am submitting my first manuscript, Songs from the Kitchen, for publication while constructing my second manuscript around ekphrastic poems.

Bio Note

Tennessee poet William Wright Harris's poetry has appeared in nine countries. Currently, he studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Graham Nunn

Steam Ghosts
for Samuel Wagan Watson

He wonders why the street behaves
so strangely; tonight, after rain, its silence
unnerves him. He knows that it's unusual
for the steam ghosts to show themselves;
spirits whose lungs once bellowed
campfire songs, lost souls.

In this place, men slip into corner stores
to gather meat and fish; cleaned and pre-packed
they fill their plastic bags to bursting.
Without fire, pans spit and crackle
and we curse still air's smoke curls.
This is no time for dreaming.


TSTmpj:  When an Australian poet uses the word "dreaming," it connotes something that perhaps some in the international poetry community may not be fully aware of.  Can you offer some thoughts on your interpretation and usage of "dreaming" in "Steam Ghosts", for both the international and Australian audience reading this?

Graham Nunn:  "Steam Ghosts" is dedicated to Samuel Wagan Watson, one of the finest Indigenous poets writing in Australia today. Several years ago, Samuel dedicated a poem to me in his collection, Smoke Encrypted Whispers, titled "Tigerland", a term of endearment for the place where we grew up, Mt Gravatt East. So, I have always wanted to return the favour... I wrote this poem driving home (to Mt Gravatt East) after the launch of Samuel's latest collection, The Curse Words (Vagabond Press Rare Objects Series). It was a typically sweltering Brisbane night; the rain had come down hard and the humidity was edging 100%. Driving home, I was still in the spell of Samuel's words and I found myself watching the steam rise off the road. Before I knew it, I had pulled over; the poem revealing itself to me almost in full. The use of the word dreaming refers to a time pre-invasion; a time when the Jagera and Turrbal people lived, hunted and gathered along the Brisbane River. A time of spiritual beauty, now almost completely overshadowed by our fast-paced consumer culture.

TSTmpj:  Who is your current favourite poet, or poet who has most recently impressed you?  What do you wish to say about their work?

Graham Nunn:  Without doubt it is Robert Adamson. What to say about his work... who would have thought that a river (the Hawkesbury in this case) could hold a lifetime of poems? His work courses with the lifeblood of the Hawkesbury; diamond sharp in its ability to capture the natural beauty of the river and its inhabitants.

TSTmpj:  Forty or so years ago, Michael Dransfield wrote "to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment".  What is your take on this?

Graham Nunn:  I was recently reading some research on living as an artist in Australia and I guess it is no surprise that the statistics are not very favourable. That said, the digital revolution has made the world a much smaller place for poets; in fact, we are no longer bound by place. I feel that as a poet I am able to reach out to a global audience through digital platforms such as my blog, making it easier to develop meaningful networks that allow my work to travel much further than Dransfield may have ever imagined.

Bio Note

Graham Nunn blogs at, has published five poetry collections, and was the recipient of The Johnno Award in 2011.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sam Silva

A Few Choice Hours of Solitude

Night of music
within my private Gallery
...the art of my lover
and all of her borrowed
islands of song
put down in paint
by their sundry artists
...detailed and magnificent wild
images beyond poetry.

I looked at the Moon and cried
last night, tonight
shimmer and shadows fade in that place
from that satellite in outer space
circling this soldier town
circling my house and home
...a few choice hours of solitude
...where I am not alone.


Sam Silva declined to be interviewed.

Bio Note

Sam Silva is an extensively published poet from Fayetteville, North Carolina, US.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Amanda Earl


instead i drink tea, take a bath, eat an orange
contemplate the possibilities of emergence

this day idles like a ready-for-takeoff whirligig
frenetic tinfoil pinwheel waiting to spin

O when will we be aprilled
short sharp bright bursts of happy

a clarinet and cello duet sets me in the smoke
but i desire a triple horn fanfare morning


TSTmpj:   What first brought you to writing ghazals?  Who are the best exponents of the form, in your opinion?

Amanda Earl:  My dear friend Jamie Bradley sent me some he'd written. I thought they were excellent & different from other ghazals I'd ever read, imaginative, intense, minimal & painterly. [link to one of his ghazals: .] He was reading John Thompson's Stilt Jack, which I'd always been meaning to read. His ghazals were so intense & immediate, not reflective or abstract. Once I read Thompson's poems, the form caught fire with me & I began to write ghazals of my own in response to his. To me, Thompson, an expatriate American who died in 1976, is the finest exponent of the form.

TSTmpj:   Your web links (below in the bio note) suggest you're full of creative energy.  How do you do all that you do; and if the Powers That Be gave an edict that you had to restrict yourself to just one creative activity, what would it be, and why?

Amanda Earl:  Thanks. Writing & publishing are my chief activities in life. I started fairly late, in my mid 30s to read contemporary poetry & to share my work with others. I am driven to explore & learn & to share these explorations with others so that we can all learn from one another. I think when you are able to spend eight hours or more a day on these activities you can accomplish a lot. I still wish there was more time. There's always so much more to learn.

If the PTBs tried to tell me what to do, I'd resist or find a way to "cheat at this game" as the French poet René Char said. I do what I want to do & heaven help anyone who gets in my way.

TSTmpj:   Who are some of your Canadian contemporaries, in any creative field that you're involved with, that we should look out for?

Amanda Earl:  I have to talk about those from Ottawa & environs since we're so active here. &  I'll have to name people in four disciplines, rather than just one because we cover such a broad range of creativity. In visual art, Michèle Provost. In poetry, Jamie Bradley, Christine McNair, Pearl Pirie, Sandra Ridley. In music, Glenn Nuotio. Unfortunately, John Lavery, the finest & most imaginative contemporary fiction writer I've ever read, died last year, but his novel Sandra Beck & his two short story collections remain. They are brilliant & should be read by anyone who loves word play, crazy, quirky characters & insightful, empathetic studies on human nature.

Bio Note

Amanda Earl is a writer & publisher from Ottawa, Canada. Severe winters & whiskey inspire her obsession with the ghazal

Friday, 9 March 2012

Howie Good

Drive Safely

I wait
in the slow line
of vehicles
for my turn.

The wailing
of sirens
fades down
the highway.

It’s difficult
to grasp
if you’re not

but dying
is the last kindness
any of us
will ever do.

Maybe others
can overhear
what I’m thinking,
maybe not.

I have just
enough body
to keep
a soul in.


TSTmpj:  Your poem reminded me of William Carlos Williams's work.  Do you prefer to read his sort of poetry; and do you always write in this vein?

Howie Good:  Williams has been an influence, as the success of his work seems to give permission to write poetry in a kind of conversational mode. I have been reading his poetry since I was a teenager. I return particularly to his book, Pictures from Breughel and Other Poems. I have also read a number of biographies of him, including Paul Mariani's massive tome. But I write in other styles, too. People who are familiar with my poetry tend to characterize it as surrealistic. 

TSTmpj:  I recall Ted Kooser talking, in a book of poetics he wrote, about the merits of using simple words, and not using obscure ones.  What is your opinion of the Moderns (especially Pound, Eliot and Stevens); what do you believe they offer contemporary poetry?

Howie Good:  I admire innovative language, but detest when obscurity and incoherence are passed off as innovation and experimentalism. My journalistic background has shaped my own choice of language. I grew up in a profession that puts a premium on being simple and straightforward. But while my poems can appear simple, the appearance is somewhat deceiving. There's something complicated going on underneath, or so I hope. The reader should get a sense of something mysterious or menacing lurking just out of sight.

TSTmpj:  Is there a poet that perhaps is little known internationally, who you would recommend to those reading this as one to seek out?

Elke Erb

Bio Note

Howie Good’s new poetry collection is Dreaming in Red (Right Hand Pointing). All proceeds go to a crisis center:

Thursday, 8 March 2012

B.Z. Niditch

In Transit

Escaping from the ice
of parental storms
no longer standing
on volcanic motives

without travelling
passports, maps
or green cards
near distant mountains

on the other side
of a wandering world
between two oceans
without diaries
or visible guardians
along snow-kissed trails

altering latitudes
as any plumed butterfly
or glowworm
on windy directions
of half-opened horizons
undaunted by dialects
as any well-seasoned exile
without memories
of deafening time

or by other soft footprints
at deceptive first light.


TSTmpj:  Can you give an insight into how you compose a poem?

B.Z. Niditch:  With me a sudden phrase, evocative image, a dream or feeling from the substratum of my being may prompt a poem of mine. Even from a disorderly mind's assembly of ordinary words and daily experience, patterns of rhythm and sound emerge. I aim for music and euphony in my voice which leads me to a poem.

TSTmpj:  I understand that you also write short stories, plays, and so on.  Can you share some thoughts on the different challenges these different forms pose for you, compared to writing poetry?

B.Z. Niditch:  My fiction and plays reflect an amalgam of characters or characteristics of people places or situations somewhat analogous to composing a poem yet broadened by dialogue and speech.

TSTmpj:  Have you travelled much?  How has your life's journey -- considering the word "journey" in any way you will -- informed the composition of "In Transit"?

B.Z. Niditch:  I have travelled through North America, Europe, the Middle East and I have family in Australia. Though observation and a daily journal “In Transit " emerged on my literary journal.

Bio Note

B.Z. Niditch is widely internationally published. His just released latest poetry collection is Lorca at Sevilla (March Street Press).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Joan Payne Kincaid

Like a TV Butterfly II

when you  woke it was to realize it
would be that holiday again

but unlike like those before;
the sky was a summary of global warming

we thought we were in the tropics
plenty of sun and girls running in bras

for lack of snow
strangely they were strangers;

tales and memories in the shadows tonight
waste of time who said

marriage is a coffin…some Botox celeb
trying a little sin

we’re  players without a game
in the event a group might pick-up

maybe a tango or two
then sleep

with fluttering wings
hovering over the pillow.


TSTmpj:  As a practising American poet, can you offer a personal insight into the American poetry canon?

Joan Payne Kincaid:  As to my insight into the American poetry canon, my response would be that the field is so vast and so varied that to make generalizations is an impossible task. My work is writing, and except for the school studies and what I’ve read over my life since I graduated from Hofstra University is like the proverbial drop in the poetic bucket.  Of course I have my favorites:  Ashbery, Pound, Stein, Stevens, Joyce, Eliot among them. I think the Found poetry has been a regenerative force and a breath of fresh air as an alternative to Confessional Poetry which I find to be pretty much of a turn-off and regrettably, seems to be the most popular and commercially viable form of the day. Very few editors will publish poetry that is generated by the poem itself, as is the case with the poets and writers I mention at the top. I find that the poets such as John M. Bennett who purely work with word and letter variations are intellectually challenging and satisfying. They make a reader wo  r   k!

TSTmpj:  Who was the poet you read most recently, and what do you wish to say about their work?

Joan Payne Kincaid:  What I like about John Ashbery is the way he lets the poem find itself. I think he’s really brave in the way he allows himself to be a vehicle for original connections and variations to pass through and beyond himself to find their own creation without concern for how people may react. Very courageous, I think.

TSTmpj:  What do you feel you still wish to accomplish with your poetry?

Joan Payne Kincaid:  What do I wish to accomplish with my poetry, you ask?  Pretty much to get myself out of the way of it and let the muse have the upper hand.

Bio Note

Joan Payne Kincaid lives in Sea Cliff NY with Rod; and Fancy the Fox Terrier and Cordelia the rescue tabby.