Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we are joined with poet and educator Allison Blevins, who has read the work of Kerri French. Join us in a discussion about when we first discover our favorite poets, literary inspirations, and what’s next. As always, thank you for tuning in!
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: When was the first time you read French’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?
Allison Belvins: I first read her book Every Room in the Body in 2018. I had just given birth to our youngest child. I was experiencing postpartum depression and something about French’s struggle with pregnancy resonated with where I was. Ultimately, this book is about the body. At the time, mine was betraying me. I was supposed to be joyful. The book made me feel a little less lonely.
AH: How has French’s writing inspired your own?
AB: In 2019, I was slowly paralyzed from the waist down. I learned to walk again and was eventually diagnosed with MS. Not only did I have to learn how to be chronically ill and disabled, I had to learn how to write my new body. My research and reading became only books on disability, pain, and illness. Every Room in the Body was a book I came back to. How do you write the truth in a way that able bodied folks will want to hear it? French’s book is able to haunt but without overcoming the reader. This was incredibly inspiring to my own work.
AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically?
AB: I picked these three poems because they were the ones with creased pages. I’d marked them. I knew I’d come back to them, and I was right.
AH: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?
AB: I have a collaborative chapbook from Seven Kitchens Press publishing in March with the poet Josh Davis. I have a lyric memoir publishing in April from BlazeVox, and I have a collection publishing in September with YesYes Books. I’m also currently working on an anthology of work by queer disabled folks with an unbelievably awesome team of editors!
You can read more from this interview at our Patreon.
Kerri French is a poet and author based outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of Every Room in the Body (Moon City Press, 2017) and received degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, and Boston University. Her poems have appeared in The Nashville Review, Washington Square Review, and Copper Nickel, among many others.
Find her website here.
Purchase her collection Every Room in the Body here.
Read her poem “Like a Prayer” at Barrelhouse.
Allison Blevins is the author of four chapbooks and the collection Slowly/Suddenly (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021). Her books Handbook for the Newly Disabled (BlazeVox, 2022) and Cataloging Pain (YesYes Books, 2022) are forthcoming. Her work has appeared in such journals as Mid-American Review, the minnesota review, and Raleigh Review. She is the Director of Small Harbor Publishing and the Executive Editor at the museum of americana. She lives in Missouri with her partner and three children.
Find her online at http://www.allisonblevins.com.
Discover her chapbooks here.
Read her poem “Who’s Afraid of Silence” here.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist, writer, and journalist. Her writing has appeared in Barren Magazine, Hobart, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com