Lyric Essentials: John Sibley Williams Reads Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week poet and educator John Sibley Williams has joined us to discuss the work of poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, what courage may look like, and the cutting details and musicality of a poem. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: We all have specific memories of the first time we picked up a specific book or read a favorite poet—when was the first time you discovered Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s work?

John Sibley Williams: I was lucky to have discovered Castillo’s work purely by accident while shopping at my local independent bookstore. I was there looking for a specific book, but this stark, brilliant cover caught my eye. I opened to the first page and was immediately hooked by the simple complexity of its first lines:


Because the bird flew before
there was a word
for flight

This linguistic and philosophical conundrum was followed by:

years from now
there will be a name
for what you and I are doing.

This unexpected shift to the intensely personal while remaining elusively abstract truly caught me off guard. I ended up reading almost a quarter of the book right there, standing in a narrow aisle in a crowded bookstore. And I think I finished it later that night.

John Sibley Williams Reads “Cezontle” by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

AH: I love the rich details and topics the poems delved into! What drew you to these poems specifically?

JSW: It’s so difficult to dismantle poetry that really speaks to you in order to pinpoint what exactly about it fills and breaks and then refills your heart with its music. But the musicality in Castillo’s work is definitely a part of its allure. Each line, phrase, syllable just seems to inspire and converse with the next, and the varied structures in every instance perfectly compliment its themes. But, beyond the evocative language and surprising shifts and richly universal themes, Castillo consistently strikes this astonishing balance between the concrete and abstract, the heartbreakingly intimate and highly conceptual. Everything just leaps off the page, demanding attention and careful consideration, while also asking us to throw all that out and simply sink unquestioningly into his world. There’s just this overarching sense that these poems were written specifically for me and at the same time specifically for everyone else. These poems are bridges across cultures and times, philosophies and deeply felt personal experiences.

John Sibley Williams Reads “Drown” by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

AH: In the Los Angeles Times, a reviewer described Castillo’s work as “courageous.” For you, as a poet, what has courage looked like on the page?

JSW: “Courage” can take so many (often overlapping) forms in a poem. It can be striking out to attempt something wholly new, breaking with one’s usual conventions and stretching one’s creativity just shy of the breaking point. It can be making bold linguistic decisions that may or may not work, that could be monumentally moving or utterly ridiculous, but still choosing to walk that tightrope whether or not the poem “fails”. I know it’s a cliché, but isn’t it a beautiful thing to master failure? To take huge risks and just pray readers follow your leaps and twists and experimentations? But “courage” can also be deeply personal. Most of the poems I love know exactly when and how to break and then to heal me. There’s a sense of genuineness, an authentic vulnerability, an unspoken agreement that poetry is meant to be one half of a conversation, trusting readers to be that necessary other half. Trusting others with your own deeply felt truth is true courage.

AH: What have you been up to lately? Got any exciting plans (anything!) that’d you like to share?

JSW: Although I haven’t been writing new work as much as I’d like to due to my shifting focus on being the best father I can be to my twin toddlers, I’m honored and thrilled to have two new books forthcoming. “The Drowning House” (winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Award) and “Scale Model of a Country at Dawn” (winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award) are both due out this coming winter. Professionally, last fall I founded Caesura Poetry Workshop, an affordable online workshop series focusing on both poetry and publishing. Each month I’ve been offering new classes, and I’ve been incredibly busy fostering and learning from the community we’ve built together. Beyond the creative, though, I am spending most of my time and energy on my children. It’s a tough world to be brought up into, and there’s nothing more important to me than ensuring they’re prepared to meet it with open hearts, open minds, and a strong sense of themselves.


Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, essayist, and translator. His collection Cezontle was selected for the 2017 A. Poulin Jr. Prize, and he is the author of the award-winning memoir Children of the Land. The first undocumented graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program, he aided the establishment of Undocupoet Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New York Times, New England Review, and The Paris Review.

Discover more about Marcelo on his website.

Read his poem “Essay on Synonyms for Tender and a Confession.”

Purchase his collection Cezontle.

John Sibley Williams is the author of seven poetry collections, including Scale Model of a Country at Dawn (Cider Press Review Poetry Award), The Drowning House (Elixir Press Poetry Award), As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize, University of Nebraska Press), and Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize). A twenty-six-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Wabash Prize for Poetry, Philip Booth Award, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, and Laux/Millar Prize. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and founder of the Caesura Poetry Workshop series. Previous publishing credits include Best American Poetry, Yale Review, Verse Daily, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly.

Find his website here.

Read two of John’s poems in North Dakota Quarterly.

Purchase his poetry collection Skin Memory.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Arhm Choi Wild Reads Mary Jean Chan

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we’ve chatted with poet Arhm Choi Wild about the beauty of Mary Jean Chan’s poems, what is means to survive, and how they discovered Chan’s work. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: You’ve chosen to read such rich, luscious poems—the entire collection they’re from, Flèche, is so wonderful. What resonates the most for you in these poems?

Arhm Choi Wild: I’m so struck by the rare mirror that these poems provide. Because of the history of erasure and curation of single stories such as the model myth minority, it’s only through intentional and pointed searching that I’ve been able to to find other queer Asian writers. There is such relief in finding that I am not alone in my experiences, that there is a commonality I can fall back on when faced with what feels like impossible questions. Discovering these mirrors makes the questions less daunting, knowing there are others to journey besides.

Arhm Choi Wild Reads “Conversations with Fantasy Mother” by Mary Jean Chan

AH: In “Names,” Chan writes: “You do know / how much I want you — us — to survive?” There is so much power in these last couple of lines, when combined with the forced distance between both the speaker and their relationships. I’m actually thinking about your writing right now. Would you say that as a writer yourself you dwell on similar themes of survival in particular situations?

ACW: Absolutely. In Korean culture there is such an emphasis on family. Since I was a child, I have been engrained with the sense that you do whatever is necessary for family and that they in turn will do anything for you. To think I might lose that support system, especially when my immediate family is small and all of our relatives are across an ocean, made it seem that being my full and authentic self meant choosing between survival and queerness. Only when it became clear that in order to survive, I have to come out to my family did I gather the courage to do so.

Arhm Choi Wild Reads “Names” by Mary Jean Chan

AH: We all have an origin story when it comes to reading our favorite poets. What is the origin story of you discovering Mary Jean Chan’s work?

ACW: I was introduced to Chan’s work in a workshop class I was auditing with R.A. Villanueva, an incredible poet and teacher. After attending many workshops where most of the texts we read were by white, cisgender, and straight people, it was such a joy to be introduced to R.A’s syllabus and Chan’s work.

AH: What have you been up to? Got any good news (about life, writing, anything!) you’d like to share?

ACW: I am so excited and honored to receive fellowships to the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing this summer. I’m working on a 2nd book of poems around coming out as non-binary, the death of my father, and navigating a divorce during the pandemic, and I’m grateful to have time to work on this manuscript!


Mary Jean Chan is a poet, lecturer, and critic based out of England. She is the author of the poetry collection Fleché, which won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry and was a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, among receiving other awards.

Find Chan’s website here.

Listen to Chan’s interview about her full-length collection here.

Read her poem “Fully Human” at New Republic.

Arhm Choi Wild is the author of CUT TO BLOOM, the winner of the 2019 Write Bloody Prize. Arhm received a MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and their work appears in Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Split this Rock, and other publications. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing. They work as the Director of the Progressive Teaching Institute and Diversity Coordinator at a school in New York City. For more information, visit arhmchoiwild.com.

Purchase their full-length collection, Cut to Bloom, here.

Read a portion their work here.

Read their poem “The Story of My Name” at Two Hawks Quarterly.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for EX/POST Magazine, is the Managing Editor of Mud Season Review, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Jihyun Yun Reads Emma Hine

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we’ve chatted with poet Jihyun Yun about the poetry of Emma Hine, surviving through chaotic times, and the wildness of dreams. We hope you enjoy reading through and listening to the poems as much as we did!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What was your very first experience with Emma Hine’s work?

Jihyun Yun: I attended NYU’s MFA program with Emma but our paths crossed very little during our years there. Funnily enough, my first brush with her work was several years after we both graduated when we were published together in an issue of 32 Poems. I was invited to write a short blog piece about another contributor’s work for their Marginalia series, and I chose to write about her poem “Mammoth Cave.” I was really drawn to the unhusked emotional precision of that piece, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Jihyun Yun Reads “Jaws” by Emma Hine

AH: Why did you end up choosing these two poems to read for us? What draws you to them specifically?

JY: I chose these poems because I feel like they encapsulate what I so love about her debut collection, Stay Safe. They’re both wildly tender and full of love, even in their careful interrogations of grief and impending loss, but they’re also simply wild in the same way dreams and fables are. There is a sense of transformations in these poems where girls become birds and take flight like in “Don’t You See” or are called towards the water by an almost supernatural pull like in “Jaws”. These poems make good promise of what can be found in spades in the book: world-building, a family’s emotional journey made mythic, but done in a way that we can still see our own lives and anxieties reflected in it. These poems are imaginative and sweeping, but still let us touch the ground.

Jihyun Yun Reads “Don’t You See” by Emma Hine

AH: When describing her poem “Don’t You See” for Poetry Society of America, Hine says that these poems from the collection tend to revolve around the fear of grief. For you, as a creative writer and human going through the turmoil that has been the past year, have you found yourself agreeing with these sentiments in your recent work?

JY: I sympathize with that sentiment a lot, and it might be why I’m so drawn to this book: it rings true to me. This past year we all had a crash course in both fearing the possibility of loss and then experiencing it in one way or another. I was no exception. My father-in-law was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer at the beginning of the pandemic, and every moment leading up to his passing was an exercise of dread. It changed the way I navigated the world, and the poems leading up to the loss and after the loss are very tonally different. So much of the grieving process is contained before the event of loss, and writing through it, whether it be poems or just diary entries, was essential in helping me compartmentalize the anxieties of that anticipatory period.

AH: What have you been up to lately? Got any exciting plans (life plans, writing, anything!) coming up?

JY: My partner received a fellowship and is headed to Korea in the fall, and I’m going to go with him (hopefully for the full year but if not, at least for a few months). My grandparents and I are all fully vaccinated now, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. I’ve also been drafting a YA novel, not with any intention of querying it, but to teach myself the basics of writing in a different medium. It’s been a lot of fun!


Emma Hine is a poet and essayist. She receieved her MFA from New York University and her poems have appeared in Copper NickelThe Missouri ReviewThe OffingThe Paris Review, among others. Her debut poetry collection, Stay Safe, was published by Sarabande Books in January 2021.

Find her website here.

Discover her poetry collection Stay Safe here.

Read three of her poems at The Offing.

Jihyun Yun is a Korean American poet from the San Francisco Bay Area. A National Poetry Series finalist, her debut collection Some Are Always Hungry won the 2019 Prairie Schooner Prize in Poetry and was published by the University of Nebraska Press in September 2020. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Adroit, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she is working on a novel. 

Find Jihyun’s work on her website.

Read her poem “Dialogue with the Husband Snitch” here.

Purchase her full-length collection Some Are Always Hungry.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for EX/POST Magazine, is the Associate Managing Editor of Mud Season Review, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Athena Dixon Reads Seamus Heaney

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! We’ve chatted with poet, essayist, and editor Athena Dixon about the universality of Seamus Heaney’s work, connecting past and present within writing, and moving forward in life. As always, thank you for reading!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What was your first encounter with Seamus Heaney’s work?

Athena Dixon: I first came across his work during my second tour through undergraduate school, but I didn’t really hold onto it until I was working on my MFA two years later. At the time I was compiling my creative thesis, Way Station, and quite a few of poems in that collection concerned my hometown and its working-class roots and routines. Heaney’s poems, especially those in Death of a Naturalist and North, were very concrete for me and I added them to my touchpoints for continuing to craft my final project.

Athena Dixon Reads “Digging” by Seamus Heaney

AH: Even if we are not Irish, living in the Ireland that Heaney wrote about, would you say that there is this universal aspect to his work that everyone can relate to in some form? 

AD: I think so and that’s what kept me connected to his poems after my initial introduction. There is a common thread that connects Heaney to his readers because the heart of his work is universal. Readers can relate to Heaney’s very clear reverence for family and tradition. I come from a very blue-collar background. My father was a steelworker and my mother was a factory worker. So, there was an instant understanding in how he describes the work, the physical toll of it, and how it can impact the individual and the family. His work makes me revisit pieces like Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” for the same reasons. There are for sure quite a few people who can relate in the same ways because we’ve seen this kind of labor ourselves or are participating in it to raise our own families. They can understand judgement from social circles and society at large. And they can understand the underlying desire to respect tradition, but to also move forward along your own path.

Athena Dixon Reads “Punishment” by Seamus Heaney

AH: In “Punishment,” we see this interweaving of finding a bog body and political strife in contemporary Northern Ireland. As a writer, how do you grapple with this tension of past and present in your own work?

AD: I try to find tension that is useful to the work and myself. There is, of course, always tension to be found when trying to reconcile the past and the present. However, writing for me has always been a way to filter through that tension and find what is going to be best for not only my art, but also my own personal journey. I think there has to be some balance between the two because what is tension if you aren’t trying to truly dissect it and discover some measure of beauty or questioning in it? I think anything else is just for shock value and that’s not the purpose of writing for me. I want to be able to go back to the past and come back changed in some way. I don’t want to wallow in it. That doesn’t mean there has be complete healing or understanding, but there has to be something useful if I’m going to add more tension to my life.

AH: Why did you choose these two poems specifically?

AD: “Punishment” was the first Heaney poem I encountered and it was like a shock to the system. I fell in love with how he broke his lines and how he crafted images. Those images are rich, but not overwrought. I found such pleasure in the idea he wasn’t trying to be opaque in the poem as well. It is both accessible, yet elevated. Heaney gives us something violent and troubling in a very concise way. It highlights how detached the punishment was despite the very passionate act that led to her demise. Also, his ability to move readers from a macro level to a micro level is brilliant. We get see the overarching expectations and rules of society, the woman’s actions, the reaction to her “crimes”, and even down to the very essence of her bones and brain. It’s an amazing journey in very lean lines.

I love “Digging” for some of the same reasons. I instantly wanted to dissect how there could be such depth to the world building in such slim stanzas. However, what I love the most is his use of sound and rhythm. This poem begs to be read aloud just to hear how the words bounce against each other, how they pull you from one line to the next, and how the poet uses word choice to engage our senses. For me, the poem also is very much an act of love that is recognizable on both sides. The caring of the father and grandfather through their manual labor which gives them the means to care for the speaker juxtaposed against the speaker’s desire to honor those men in the medium he has at his disposal is lovely. And the idea of generational betterment that isn’t couched in shame but rather respect and acknowledgement is close to my heart, too.


Seamus Heaney was a poet and playwright from Ireland. He is widely considered to be one of the finest Irish poets in contemporary history, as his poetry and writing was well-loved all over the world. Full of rich, luscious descriptions of Ireland and its natural beauty, as well as informing readers about the politics and history of the country, his poems showcased his prolific talent as a writer.

Discover some of his work at Poetry.

Read an interview he had with The Paris Review.

Read this New Yorker article on his legacy.

A native of Northeast Ohio, Athena Dixon is the author of The Incredible Shrinking Woman (Split/Lip Press) and No God in This Room (Argus House Press). Her work also appears in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books) and in various publications including GAY Magazine and Narratively. She resides in Philadelphia. Learn more about the author at www.athenadixon.com.

Read Athena’s essay “You Have the Right to Remain Silent” at Grub Street.

Find her essay collection The Incredible Shrinking Woman at Split/Lip Press.

Listen to the podcast Athena co-hosts, New Books in Poetry, here.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads forEX/POST Magazine, is the Associate Managing Editor of Mud Season Review, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Robin Gow Reads Margarita Cruz

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! For this edition, we’ve chatted with poet, novelist, and essayist Robin Gow about the work of Margarita Cruz, the origins of poetic inspiration, and how they discovered Cruz’s work. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What originally drew you into Margarita’s work and how did you discover it? 

Robin Gow: Cruz is an editor at Tolsun Books, the press that published my first book, and I have to say I love everyone’s writing on the Tolsun Team so I first encountered her writing when she joined the team there. I’m also a pretty avid reader of New Delta Review too and I read her poem “Actus Reus.” I’m drawn to her writing because of the ways she weaves emotion and memory alongside a keen attention to sensation and touch.

Robin Gow Reads “Billowing” by Margarita Cruz

AH: What is your favorite part of the poems and why?

RG: Ugh, it’s so hard to have a favorite part. I think though what I appreciate most returning to Cruz’s poems is way the poem’s narratives are kept aloft by rich and intimate details. Especially thinking about “Billowing,” I’m struck by the way the opening moment in the poem dangles over the other scenes to enrich them and then returns at the end in a seamless way.

AH: In these poems, we get these pockets of moments that are reminiscent of cinema. In your own work, have you found inspiration in other art forms? If not, where does your inspiration lie?

Robin Gow Reads “TODAY I LEARNED CICADAS IN ARIZONA APPEAR EVERY SUMMER BUT IN MY LOVER’S HOME STATE HE WAITS YEARS FOR THEM” by Margarita Cruz

RG: Definitely! I think my writing converses with just about all art forms. I mean I write poems about memes and YouTube videos even.

AH: Do you have any exciting plans to share with us? It can be writing, life updates, etc. 

RG: What a delightful question. Two things: I’m indulging myself in writing a trans boy gay cowboy romance and I started a new job recently doing education and outreach for a program that empowers survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence in my area and I’m loving it.


Margarita Cruz is a poet and writer. She received her MFA from Northern Arizona University, and currently is an assistant editor at Tolsun Books and a columnist for Flagstaff Live! Her work can be found in DIAGRAM, New Delta Review, [PANK], and Susquehanna Review.

Find her website here.

Read her poem “Sometimes I Fall Asleep in my Mother’s Garden and Remember Us Picking in Fields” in Pank.

Find her on Twitter here.

Robin Gow is a trans poet and young adult author. They are the author of OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL DEGENERACY (Tolsun Books 2020) and the chapbook HONEYSUCKLE (Finishing Line Press 2019). Their first young adult novel, A MILLION QUIET REVOLUTIONS is forthcoming in 2022 with FSG Books for Youn Readers and their first essay collection, BLUEBLOOD is forthcoming in summer 2021 with The Nasiona Publishing House. Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Washington Square Review.

Find their poetry collection, Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy, here.

Head onto their website here.

Read their poem “rice & rain” in Poetry.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads forEX/POST Magazine, is the Associate Managing Editor of Mud Season Review, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: GennaRose Nethercott Reads Miriam Bird Greenberg

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! Today we chatted with writer GennaRose Nethercott about the work of the poet Miriam Bird Greenberg, turning to folklore and mythology in times of hardship, and the rich, luscious details that go into language. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: We all have an origin story for when we began to obsess over certain poets. How did you discover Miriam Greenberg’s work? 

GennaRose Nethercott: In 2015, I did a residency with fellow poet Ben Clark out in the Nebraskan flatlands, at a magical place called Art Farm. It was in this town called Marquette—the only things for miles around were a bar called the Don’t Care Bar and this residency. The locals thought we were a cult, I think. Anyway, Ben and I were working on an epistolary series called Dear Fox, Dear Barn—and we’d turned this little Japanese tea house some other artist had built in the middle of a cornfield into our studio. 

One night, a tornado warning turned the sky dark and low. We hunkered in the teahouse waiting for it to pass. Ben was a big fan of Miriam’s work—and he’d brought her chapbook All Night in the New Country with him from home. I’d never read her, and he insisted I had to. We weathered the storm while handing the book back and forth, reading poems aloud by candlelight. Then Ben taught me to read fortunes using a poker deck with ‘50s nude pinups on the card faces. We slept under a tablecloth. Survived the night. Hard not to love Greenberg after an introduction like that.

GennaRose Nethercott Reads “I Passed Three Girls Killing a Goat” by Miriam Bird Greenberg

AH:  “I Passed Three Girls Killing a Goat” it’s like this capsule of a tragic and grotesque moment, of a goat’s death. As an American reading this poem right now, it almost made me think of it as symbolic for what’s going in the United States. During times like these, as a writer, have you found yourself returning to certain poems and reconnecting them to the chaotic world we’ve been living in? 

GN: Poems like Greenberg’s are so comforting to me in times like these, because they turn suffering into mythology. Terror, uncertainty, pain—these don’t sit easily in the body. But a story? A folktale? These we understand. These we can process. As I always do in times of turmoil, I turn to poems that speak in this sort of legend-voice, and I turn to folklore itself. Writing takes the harsh, stark realities in which we live and teases them out into myths we might whisper around a campfire in the next world.

GennaRose Nethercott Reads “Before the World Went to Hell” by Miriam Bird Greenberg

AH: Both of these poems you’ve shared with us have such rich, luscious details about the world around us, whether it is a natural occurrence or one orchestrated by humans. What stands out to you the most in these poems and why?

GN: One of my favorite aspects of Greenberg’s work is her deeply velvety, plump use of language. Words like crisp lab coat, spigot, black walnuts, blade on a strop, sweetheart, mustard flowers… They create this heightened, sensory world you can almost taste when spoken aloud. Which is incredible, because I think that’s how she’s able to turn the volume up on these stories, heighten them to the status of feeling like myths. She describes incredibly gruesome, gritty images using beautiful, ornamented language—and this uncanny pairing tips it almost into the realm of a dark fairy tale, a post-apocalyptic fable. There’s this idea in psychology that a sense of the uncanny is created by rubbing two things up against each other that don’t belong—for example, in a ghost story, the living and the dead interact, and it’s that chafing (not the ghost itself) that makes us afraid. In Greenberg’s poems, she rubs luxurious, satiny language against stark, ugly images—and so we are left with a feeling that these stories are not quite of this world, even if nothing strictly supernatural is happening. There’s a strange electricity beneath the surface.

AH: Got any big plans (writing-wise, life-wise, anything!) that’d you like to share? 

GN: So many plans! The big one is that I spent quarantine writing a novel—and I’m in the editing stage now, so my brain is officially pudding at this point. But it’ll be coming out through Knopf Vintage in a year or so, followed by a short story collection, and I’m very excited. The novel blends Baba Yaga folklore with themes of Jewish diaspora, ancestral trauma, and American adventure stories. It’s a hearty blend of fun and sad, just how I like em.

And as for life plans, I’m just holding my breath until I can get this vaccine. And then? Wow, who knows! I want to go to a circus! I want to make out with every stranger on the street! I want to go to the movie theater and just watch all the movies playing, one after another, until they kick me out! …but I suspect what will really happen is I’ll finally get to hug my parents again and that will be all my little heart can take before crawling back to bed.


Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of several poetry collections and chapbooks, most recently In the Volcano’s Mouth. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications such as The Kenyon Review, Poetry, and The Adroit Journal. The recipient of fellowships from Stanford, Poetry Foundation, and the National Endowment from the Arts, she lives and works in California.

Find her website here.

Read her work in Poetry.

Purchase her collection In the Volcano’s Mouth here.

GennaRose Nethercott is the author of The Lumberjack’s Dove (Ecco/HarperCollins) selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series, and Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog: A Story in Cootie Catchers (Ninepin Press). A born Vermonter, she tours nationally and internationally performing from her works and composing poems-to-order on a manual typewriter with her team, The Traveling Poetry Emporium. Her first novel and short story collection are forthcoming from Knopf Vintage.

Find her website here.

Discover her poetry collection The Lumberjack’s Dove here.

Read three of GennaRose’s poems at PANK.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Wendy Videlock Reads Virginia Hamilton Adair

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, Wendy Videlock is joining us to share the work of the poet Virginia Hamilton Adair and discuss the natural world around us, the vivacious language and choices made in these poems, and experimentation. Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you next time!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: Why did you choose these poems?

Wendy Videlock: I think they really represent Virginia Hamilton-Adair’s style, range and thematic interests. And of course they’re some of my favorites of hers. She really knows how to surprise the reader, how to pace a poem, how to pack a punch, how to avert our expectation. In “Keyring,” those first two lines, “My grandfather, when he was very old, / to one small room confined,/ gave me a bunch of his keys to hold.” assure us we are in good hands — the syntax, compression, and sonic interests alert us to that right away. Though she chooses a common subject, (one’s grandfather) she treats the subject uniquely, rendering the rather common subject uncommon indeed. And that close! Perfection. She embodies in this piece the diction, tone, and wonder of a child, and that “chuckling sound” the keys make is just a brilliant touch. She seems to work with what Frost called ‘the ghost of meter’ and often ends her poems on a note of mystery that widens, rather than closes off, or confirms our view. I think this little poem really exemplifies that.

“Yea Though I Walk” is a potent little piece with three discernible turns. I’m very drawn to a poetic that’s interested in pacing, that can equally surprise, delight, and devastate. She begins by lulling us into a pastoral scene, with sweet little lambs bobbing along and rather romantic perceptions of shepherding —then leads us to a stark reminder of efficiency, hunger, even cruelty: a wounded lamb unable to keep up, is left by the road we are told, its hooves wired together. The speaker imagines the shepherd returning that evening to collect his dinner. She then switches register again, panning out to a wider view, reflecting more meditatively, “The good shepherd of myths, psalms, and parable/ have always made me uneasy. / Something wrong there, leading me / however gently, to the slaughter”. This describes not only the shepherd and the lamb of course, but also how the poem leads us along with its shifting registers and perceptions — adding yet another layer of engagement to this devastating little poem.

Wendy Videlock Reads “Keyring” by Virginia Hamilton Adair

AH: What was your first experience with this poet’s work?

WV: I was given an anthology by a friend a few years ago called Poets of the American West, edited by Robert Mezey, and discovered one slim and wily little poem of hers called “Mojave Evening.” In it she closes the poem by describing coyotes at dusk this way: “their eyes coming out to hunt/ like all the other stars’. Again a common subject given remarkably uncommon treatment. I was hooked.

Wendy Videlock Reads “Yea Though I Walk” by Virginia Hamilton Adair

AH: Adair’s work is often inspired by the world that was around her. What has been inspiring you lately?

WV: Yes, I’m invested in the natural world as well, the character of the landscape, the wildlife, the changing skies, the cosmos. I’ve been experimenting a lot with prose lately, and testing the boundaries of genre bending, of specialty blending, of literary integrations and the imagination. So many marvelous opportunities for metaphor, intimacy, wordplay and surprising new insights. A writer never has enough time. One of my disappointments in the modern poetic is that it often goes straight for the cerebral, the hyper-ironic, the center stage “I” and the poet’s intention being its central purpose —very often neglecting the enchantment of song, the natural world, the elements, the very facts and shared understandings of our existence. Adair reminds us that poetry’s roots are in song, and that none of those things need be sacrificed in service of the poem.

AH: What have you been up to lately? Got any news to share?

WV: My upcoming book, The Poetic Imagination: A Worthy Difficulty is a collection of new and previously published essays, reviews, and prosimetrum (known in eastern tradition as haibun) on the elusive nature of language, landscape, the imagination, and the often misunderstood nature of verse craft or prosody. I’ve also got a new book of poems I’m readying for publication. I think both should be out by the end of the year or early in 2022.


Wendy Videlock lives in a small agricultural town on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  Her work appears in Hudson Review, Poetry, Dark Horse, The New York Times, Best American Poetry, and other venues.  Her books are available from Able Muse Press. Her upcoming collection of essays, The Poetic Imaginarium: A Worthy Difficulty, will appear in the fall of 2021. To see more of Wendy’s work, please visit: www.wendyvidelock.com, or tune in to this recent webinar she did with Tim Green, editor of Rattlehttps://youtu.be/OheIJ9Gg3C8

Read some of Wendy’s work at Poetry here.

Discover her full-length collection Slingshots and Love Plums at Able Muse Press.

Virginia Hamilton Adair was an American poet. Originally, she published a few pieces from the 1930s to 1950s, but then took a break that spanned fifty years. After this break, she found acclaim with her poetry during the last decade of her life. At eighty-three years old and after she had gone blind, her first poetry collection Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems was published in 1996. Over her lifetime, she had written over a thousand poems.

Read her poem “Buckroe, After the Season, 1942” here.

Find her poetry collection “Beliefs and Blasphemies” here.

Read more of her work at The New Yorker.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Rachel Stempel Reads Joshua Clover

Welcome back to this edition of Lyric Essentials! Rachel Stempel has joined us today to read poems by the poet Joshua Clover. Join us for a discussion about poetic origins, searching for meaning, and artistic responsibility. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: Why did you pick Joshua Clover? 

Rachel Stempel: I tell my creative writing students that poetry (writing in general) is storytelling, and storytelling is the most fundamental mode of communication. I think it helps demystify what poetry is. Storytelling implies a narrator and narratee—a contract between writer and reader and text. The existence of those relationships require work, and I love poetry that makes me work for meaning. Image-heavy, allusive, disjunctive, and somewhat comical.

Rachel Stempel Reads “Orchid & Eurydice” by Joshua Clover

AH: Is there a story behind how you discovered Clover’s work? 

RS: I majored in geology in undergrad, so it wasn’t until my junior year I even took an introductory poetry class, and I’m truly blessed to have taken one under a poet I admire—and whose work I’ve tattooed on my body—Crystal Curry. Whatever she told me to read, I’d read. She assigned “The map room” in class but it wasn’t until I was lurking around my MFA’s lounge for books to steal that I found the collection in which it appears—Madonna Anno Domini—that I really took notice of Clover.  

Rachel Stempel Reads “The map room” by Joshua Clover

AH: Do you find your writing relating to Clover’s in any way? If so, how? 

RS: I think poetry takes on a weird classification that most feel all art is exempt from—i.e., responsible vs. irresponsible—when the reality is the opposite. Nothing is apolitical. The motivation to apoliticize is like an act of erasure—more nuanced, but in what ways, I’m not sure I can articulate. So, Clover’s critical background—not necessarily academic—crafts his work.

In his Verso Books author bio, Clover states he’s a communist before any other identifying information. As a white, neurotypical passing, able bodied, AFAB person, I’m constantly questioning whether what I have to say—the art I have to make—is responsible. A lot of my work deals in my identity intersections—genderqueer, immigrant, Jewish—but what part of my thematic leanings are performance for the dominant narrative? For me, Clover’s work is driven by this one-sided panic as a subject of capitalist empire and seeks to unpack it through critically-informed strangeness. That’s what I want my work to do, too—serve as an archive of my panic.

Also, I self-identity as a middle-aged white man with tiny glasses.

AH: What have you been up to lately? Any exciting projects you’d like to share? 

RS: I’m grateful that my microchapbook, Craigslist Is A Place On Earth, will be a part of Ghost City Press’s 2021 Summer Series along with my friend, Robin Gow’s work (and yours!). I’m currently finishing up my MFA thesis—a YA novel in verse that contemporizes Slavic folklore. 


Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Ukrainian-Jewish poet and educator. They are a staff writer for Up the Staircase Quarterly and EX/POST MAGAZINE and a poetry editor for MAYDAY Magazine. They are the author of the microchapbook Craigslist Is A Place On Earth (Ghost City Press, 2021) and the chapbook BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press, 2022). Their work has appeared in or is forthcoming from New Delta ReviewInto the Void, Boxcar Poetry ReviewPenn ReviewHypertext MagazineSHARKPACK Annual, and elsewhere. They currently live in New York with their rabbit, Diego. Find them simping for Aase Berg on Twitter @failedcaptcha.

Click on the colored text in their bio to find samples of their work.

Joshua Clover is a writer and scholar originally from Northern California. He is the author of the poetry collections Red Epic (2015), The Totality for Kids (2006), and Madonna anno domini (1997), and has had three more books about cultural history and political theory published. He received the Walt Whitman Award and an NEA grant for his work. He currently teaches English literature and critical theory at UC Berkeley.

Read more of his poems here.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and poet. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Anna Meister Reads Diannely Antigua

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week Anna Meister will be reading Diannely Antigua’s work and discussing the act of reading a poem verbally, admirations, and future plans. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: Why did you choose Diannely Antigua? 

Anna Meister: I wanted to speak about Diannely’s poetry because I so appreciate and admire the frank, unapologetic way her work wrangles mental illness as subject matter. I almost wrote that her poems embody a fearlessness, but I think it’s more that the poet allows fear (of stigma, of succumbing, of survival) to be in the poems, and I find that honesty very brave and refreshing.

Anna Meister reads “Variations on a Theme” by Diannely Antigua

AH: Throughout the poems, there seems to be this theme of hunger for something. As a poet yourself, would you say you feel a connection to this concept of wanting something more in your writing? 

AM: Yeah, I certainly feel like my poems tend to come from a place of not knowing, searching for answers. And in that vein, the feeling of longing or unsatiated hunger propels me forward, which I do feel moving through Antigua’s work. It also makes me think about the biblical references and imagery in Ugly Music, how the speaker’s religious history and questioning/speaking to god are connected to an erotic hunger and understanding of her own sexuality.

Anna Meister Reads “Equinox” by Diannely Antigua

AH: Listening to you read these poems and actually reading them on the page was a completely different experience. How was the act of verbally reading these poems? Did it change anything for you?

I always like to hear things aloud as I’m reading; there’s such joy in how differently a poem’s music comes through when read versus on the page. And yes, her book is titled Ugly Music, but Antigua really does have such a musical ear and there’s a lot that’s just sonically delightful about these poems. Something else I noticed in reading them aloud is that, due in part to all of the poems being in first person, their vulnerability (and mine as the reader) felt amplified. The term “confessional poetry” can get a bad rap (which is pretty sexist), but I think Diannely is absolutely showcasing the power of the poem as a space for confession and saying the “unsayable” thing.

AH: Your poetry collection recently came out with Sundress. Got any exciting plans coming up in the near future? 

AM: While this isn’t related to What Nothing, I was just able to get a vaccination appointment for the end of the month and I’m pretty excited about that! I’m looking forward to the ways in which life will feel easier in the months to come, as more and more people get vaccinated and are able to be together again. I miss experiencing poetry with other people! To have my first book released during quarantine/a pandemic has been different than I’d imagined, though I have enjoyed partaking in virtual events and I’m grateful for the accessibility and connection they’ve provided. I’m hoping to travel a bit later this year to see friends, do some readings, and celebrate What Nothing more widely. I’m really proud that it’s finally out in the world!

Diannely Antigua is the author of Ugly Music (YesYes Books, 2019), which won the Pamet River Prize. Previously nominated for the Pushcart Prize and selected for Best of the Net, her poems can be found in The Adroit Journal, Bennington Review, and Washington Square Review. She received her MFA from New York University.

Anna Meister is the author of the poetry collection What Nothing (Sundress Publications, 2021), as well as two chapbooks. Meister received an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was a Goldwater Writing Fellow. Her poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Redivider, The Adroit Journal, BOAAT, and elsewhere. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her wife and son.

Find her at:

www.annameisterpoet.com

Twitter: @annameisterpoet

https://therumpus.net/2020/09/rumpus-original-poetry-two-poems-by-anna-meister/

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Esteban Rodríguez Reads Jay Wright

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, poet Esteban Rodríguez is joining us to discuss Jay Wright and the complexity and inspiration behind both Wright’s and his own poetry.


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What inspired you to choose Jay Wright for today’s feature?

Esteban Rodríguez: Jay Wright has always been fascinating to me for a number of reasons. His work (that is his work after his debut collection The Homecoming Singer) is considered quite complex, and he seems to be overlooked when we discuss contemporary American poetry, despite the fact that he has won numerous awards and fellowships (the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, a Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, the American Book Award Lifetime Achievement Award, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship). No doubt there is still conversation around his work, but enthusiasm seems to be absent, or at least minimal. I am enthused with Wright’s work precisely because of its difficulty and because I believe his poetry, in more ways than one, extends into philosophy, myth, and history, and brings its readers closer to the sublime. Any chance I get, I reread Wright’s work, and I recommend it to writers and readers.

Esteban Rodríguez reads “The Lake in Central Park” by Jay Wright

AH: At times, in the poems you’ve chosen, there seems to be snapshots of moments that are quietly intimate. During the past year, I’m sure we’ve all had a moment like this. Are there any specific moments from your life that have inspired you?

ER: I am always looking for the moments that upon reflection were actually much more meaningful than I had originally thought, and that show up in my poetry, especially in The Valley: Playing in a plastic pool in the middle of summer (“Recuerdo: Summer, 1996”), microwaving leftover food (“Recuerdo: Nuked”), or watching my uncles work on customizing their cars because of the promise those cars offered (“Recuerdo: Lowrider”). I don’t think the mundane is uninteresting, rather, I think it hasn’t had a chance to be looked at thoroughly, and I’m constantly referring back to these moments for inspiration.

Esteban Rodríguez reads “The Healing Improvisation of Hair” by Jay Wright

AH: The poems here are both from the same collection, Transfigurations: Collected Poems. Transfiguration means a metamorphosis, typically into something more beautiful or in a spiritual sense. So, to follow-up on the previous question, do you think these poems exemplify the idea of transformation, or, perhaps, the idea of beauty in the mundane?

ER: I think they do, especially over time. Rereading “The Lake in Central Park” now from when I first read it (back in 2018) has been a completely different experience. I’ve obviously changed and grown as a person and writer, so maybe I am seeing a transformation within them that doesn’t necessarily exist. Nevertheless, the best poems don’t try to be portraits a person, event, or moment, but rather they attempt to transform an idea into another, and I believe Wright’s work does exactly that.

In “The Healing Improvisation of Hair,” the speaker gives the following account:

How like joy to come upon me
in remembering a head of hair
and the way water would caress
it, and stress beauty in the flair
and cut of the only witness
to my dance under sorrow’s tree.
This swift darkness is spring’s first hour.


Wright takes what appears on the surface to be mundane (washing hair and viewing the way water caresses it) and he makes it meaningful, tying it in to spring’s first hour and a new phase in the speaker’s life. This is what makes Wright great, revealing how the ordinary is actually extraordinary.

AH: If it has, how has Wright’s work inspired you?

ER: Wright’s work has inspired me in the way that I approach not just a poem, but an overall manuscript in progress. There has been some debate in recent years about the book project versus the book of poems, and while I appreciate the latter, my work always veers toward the project. I don’t want to leave poems abandoned, and in my early days, when I was writing my first book, I left a lot of poems behind. Wright reinforced the idea of cohesion in a book, as well as the idea that poetry can incorporate various other elements, such as history, philosophy, surrealism, myth, and folklore, while still focusing on the complexity of the human condition. If I can do some of that in my work, then what more can I ask for?


Jay Wright is a poet hailing from the Southwestern United States. He has published fifteen poetry collections since the start of his career, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, the Academy of American Poets, Princeton University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His most recent collection of poems is Disorientations: Groundings (2013).

Read more of Wright’s work here.

Purchase Transfigurations: Collected Poems here.

Esteban Rodríguez is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Valley (Sundress Publications, 2021). His debut essay collection Before the Earth Devours Us will be published by Split/Lip Press in late 2021. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI, and a regular reviews contributor for Heavy Feather Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Purchase Rodríguez’s newest collection The Valley here.

Stay updated with Rodríguez on Twitter.

Read three of Rodríguez’s poems on The Rumpus.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for Mud Season Review and EX/POST Magazine, is the Playwriting & Director’s Apprentice at New Perspectives Theatre Company, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com