Lyric Essentials: Jennifer Schomburg Kanke Reads Annie Finch

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite authors to share the work of their favorite poets. This month, Jennifer Schomburg Kanke has joined us to discuss the work of Annie Finch, and the act of poetry as magic, formal poetry with contemporary topics, and resources to find similar poetry recommendations. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.


Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Annie Finch’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke: The first time I read her work was when Calendars came out from Tupelo Press in the early aughts. It stood out to me because it was the first time I was reading contemporary poetry from a major press that wasn’t being vague about magic. These poems went beyond being just metaphor and symbol, they were spells and chants, and their power was palpable. At that time I’d been a practicing pagan for about four or five years and Calendars just opened up so many possibilities to me as a writer (of course, then I went into a graduate program a few years after and that possibility laid latent for a bit).

RW: Where would you recommend new readers of Finch’s work start out? What other similar poets do you recommend?

JSK: I would suggest starting with Calendars or Spells, if you’re looking for a collection. You can also find a lot of her work on the Poetry Foundation’s page, so if you want a broad overview, that’s a great place to go (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/annie-finch#tab-poems). And Annie’s readings really bring her poems to life. You can find a lot of them on her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/Arcfinch). I think the exact combination of what Annie Finch has going on can be difficult to find in other writers. But, if you like Annie’s emphasis on prosody in her work, there are so many great poets out there to recommend. Patricia Smith, Rita Dove, and Mark Jarman come to mind for contemporary formal work. Another really great place to find poets similar to her is by joining the Poetry Witch Community online which is open to only women (cis and trans) and gender nonconforming writers. It’s a wonderful place to make connection with and read the poetry of others who have been brought together through an interest in Annie Finch’s work.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke reads “Winter Solstice Chant” by Annie Finch

RW: Why did you choose to read these poems specifically?

JSK: I picked out one of her poems about abortion, “My Baby Fell Apart,” because it’s a great example of how formal poetry can still tackle tough contemporary topics. I picked out “Edge, Atlantic, July” because it’s a more recent poem, and also because I love the way it reminds us of nature’s ability to bring us back to ourselves, to shake us out of our own shit. And I picked out “Winter Solstice Chant” because it’s one of my favorites. It’s beautiful in the way that it’s both comforting and creepy all at once.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke reads “My Baby Fell Apart” by Annie Finch

RW: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?

JSK: I’m incredibly excited that an excerpt from the novel I’ve been working on will be appearing in Shenandoah in November. I’ve been sending the novel to contests and haven’t had any luck with it yet, so when they accepted the excerpt it just really made my heart sing because I was starting to worry that maybe it wasn’t connecting with people the way I wanted it to. And really I think it’s that I just need to find the people it will connect with. It’s called A Pleasant Loitering Journey and it’s the fictional memoir of a woman who becomes a literal goddess after going through chemo for ovarian cancer. It has a non-linear timeline and an almost ridiculous amount of direct addresses to the reader (and some three page footnoted asides that I’m hoping will crack others up as much as they crack me up), and by the end, becomes sort of a self-help book where she gives the reader tips for how to be a goddess while also spewing out all the times she’s fucked things up.

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.


Annie Finch is a poet, writer, speaker, and performer known for her powers of poetic rhythm and spellbinding readings of poetry infused with magic. Her other writings include books, plays, and essays on poetry, meter, feminism, and witchcraft and the anthology Choice Words: Writers on Abortion. Her poems have appeared onstage at Carnegie Hall and in The Paris Review, New York Times, and Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her website is www.anniefinch.com

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke lives in Florida where she edits confidential documents. Her work has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, Nimrod, Massachusetts Review, and Salamander. Her zine about her experiences undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, Fine, Considering, is available from Rinky Dink Press. She serves as a reader for The Dodge. Her website is www.jenniferschomburgkanke.com

Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in The McNeese Review, Longleaf ReviewRejection Letters,  and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @wannderfullll or read her work at ryleighwann.com

Summer Flash Showdown: Punching Summer Time Clocks Winners!

Photo courtesy of http://www.cornwallsegway.co.uk/
Photo courtesy of http://www.cornwallsegway.co.uk/

Announcing the two winners from the Punching Summer Time Clocks challenge! These fourth round finalists are the last to join the winners circle of this righteous series we call the Sundress Summer Flash Showdown. The winners who have made it into this powerful, published collective will go on to compete for the majestic grand prize…

OF FIVE SUNDRESS TITLES OF THEIR CHOOSING AND THE SHOWCASING OF THEIR STORIES ON THE BLOG!

Congratulations to Amy Sayre Baptista for her first prize story, “Top Down.”

Let’s see what honored judge Adam Prince drew from Amy’s flash fiction:

It was hard to decide between these two stories (“Top Down” and the runner-up, “Housekeeping.”) Both offered deeply engaging reads. In the end, I went with “Top Down” for its massive whimsy and for the fact that it has a complete narrative arc in such a short space. It’s a very adept piece of writing that reveals information at just the right moment every time and really makes each word count.

The story gets into the psyche of young, hormonal Trevor, doomed to spend the summer managing his father’s Segway track in Branson, Missouri. “Some girls might dig it,” he tells himself, already knowing they won’t. And yet he continues to dream of “long legs slowly passing by, legs of every race, color and creed. Legs he was responsible for watching.” That last sentence is endemic of the writer’s skill with quirky, cutting short sentences. The sentence also gets at Trevor’s touching innocence, all the more striking when it comes smack up against a startlingly cold attitude toward his own mother. Really an intriguing piece of work!

Great job Amy! She earned the privilege of naming her very own FIREFLY FARMS CHICKEN! She describes her choice as “empowering and Portuguese.”

Introducing…Furiosa Fernandes!!!!!!

original (2) Sundress Publications would also like to congratulate Jennifer Schomburg Kanke for being the final runner-up with her powerful story entitled, “Housekeeping.” Great job Jennifer!

All the folks at The Wardrobe as well as Sundress Publications would like to thank all the contributors, judges, and minds that allowed this summer’s coolest flash fiction contest to become a reality. We continue to be humbled by the outpouring of talent evidenced by submissions, cherishing the amazing artistic community of literary souls that keep us inspired.  And don’t forget to check out our final challenge for our special selection of winning Summer Flash Showdown writers, coming your way soon.

Top Down

by Amy Sayre Baptista

When Trevor’s dad bought an event track, Trevor thought: finally. The break I need. Ascending the social ladder of Calvary Christian High School is now possible. But when twenty-four new Segways arrived, his heart sank. Segways are for old people, drunks, and kids. Mega-church students are a tough crowd. On the other hand, the track was on the main drag through Branson, and he was the summer manager. Some girls might dig it. Trevor imagined long legs slowly passing by, legs of every race, color and creed. Legs he was responsible for watching. Hope ended when his father revealed the billboard: Branson Segway: Feel the Excitement!

I’m finished in this town, Trevor thought. Social death. Weapon of choice: shame.

The first Saturday at work, a yellow VW Beetle with a large German Shepherd in the back, pulled into the empty parking lot. Trevor had already mastered talking on his phone and rounding the track on Segway #3, which he was doing as the woman stepped out of her car. Even from a distance, Trevor noticed she was beautiful.

“Customer gotta go,” he said cutting off his mother in mid-sentence. Trevor leaned forward achieving maximum speed before lightly pulling to a stop. Everything on her was long: legs, hair, lashes. He sighed.

“I’m Ashley,” the woman said, “I need some help”.

“At Branson Segway, the customer is always first,” Trevor croaked from a dry mouth.

“I need to rent the track today.”

“Today is open!”

The dog barked from the car.

“Hang on.” She went to the car and returned with the dog.

“How many machines?”

“One,” she said.

The dog nuzzled Trevor’s hand.

“I always wanted a dog.”

His mother groomed dogs, but refused to let him have one. Absolutely not, she said every time he asked, I work in hair all day, I don’t want my house full of it.

“Just one? You want the whole track for an hour for one machine?”

“Yes.”

“That’s like $200 dollars, miss.”

“I’ll give you $100 and you can keep the dog. He never took to me anyway.” She started to cry.

“Ma’am?” Trevor said.

“Look kid, in an hour, my husband, who bought this dog, who bought these boobs, he’s gonna come down that street in a convertible with his new girlfriend, a dog groomer. They think they’re a secret. I want him to see me riding this track in the bare skin I was born with. The joke is on him, now. ” She pulled a bottle of baby oil and a stack of bills from her Louis Vuitton bag. “Help me oil up, keep the track clear, and it’s all yours, ok?”

For a moment, Trevor could not speak.

“The groomer on Ashland?” Trevor asked.

“The same,” Ashley said, “know her?”

“Yes,” Trevor said. Feeling as if the world had finally righted itself.

“Yes to the rental or the groomer?”

“Both,” he said.

Ashley loosened the straps to her sundress, “She’s why he bought that dog in the first place. Cleanest goddamn dog in the county,” she said.

Trevor poured oil in his palm realizing the two things he wanted most in world were about to happen: real live breasts, and a dog. A dog even his mother could not refuse.

IMG_4848 Amy Sayre Baptista lives and writes in Chicago, Illinois. She is a co-founder of the community arts program, Plates&Poetry. Her most recent publications can be found in The Butter, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, and Chicago Noir.

Housekeeping

by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Anything can call itself a resort, but that doesn’t mean it is. Gulf Winds was a place with such aspirations. Slap the word “aromatherapy” on the soap and shampoo and even the most acrid chemicals are high class. Refill Jameson bottles with Old Crow and the whole bar’s top shelf. Who took the time to look beyond the labels? The management changed every six months, which Tammy liked. Just as someone was starting to ask questions— about her past, about her scar, about the difference between the name on her tag and the one on her checks— the owner would fire them and get someone else in there who didn’t know he was so ass and that the place was crawling with Ohioans who didn’t realize North Florida wasn’t really Florida.

The humidity was relentless, like her night terrors. Both pooled sweat at the nape of her neck and made her feel like a pit bull had fallen asleep across her chest, each breath an act of survival and will. She had gotten used to them back at home, but she somehow figured they’d disappear out in the world, that time would chip away at them until she slept peacefully through the night. She had been wrong. There was nothing she could do about the terrors, but for the heat she’d hide out in the guest rooms, taking an hour in each. She’d smell their perfumes and touch the soft cottons of their sundresses and cover-ups. Sometimes she’d open a wallet, if there was a wallet sitting around. She never took anything though, Tammy was no thief, although she’d told a guest she was once after being caught in the act.

“Did you just take money?” The woman had been quietly reading on the balcony, Tammy hadn’t noticed her.

“Yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Ma’am.” She took five dollars from the pocket of her uniform, a tip from the college boys in 215, and put it in the woman’s wallet. This was easier than explaining she’d been looking at a picture of the woman and her daughters, all gap-toothed smiles on some sunlit beach. Of all the things Tammy regretted, leaving her children was the one that haunted her the most. You’re always supposed to take the children, aren’t you? Or stay for them? Isn’t that what good women do?

Beth would be going on twenty now and, unless the last decade had changed her, she was a mix of her daddy’s meanness and Tammy’s own instinct for self-preservation. She knew the girl had been looking for her, calling around to all the hotels she used to work at. It wouldn’t be long before she found Gulf Winds. It would be better if Tammy found her first and…what? Explained? Begged forgiveness? Knocked her daddy’s demons right out of her? Nothing seemed possible. Instead Tammy would do what Tammy had always done. She’d pack a bag of the lemon verbena toiletries from her cart, buy a new hair dye (maybe red this time, she hadn’t been red for awhile), and find another run down resort town where the air conditioning was always pumping and nobody asked any questions.

jsk_bwJennifer Schomburg Kanke is a visiting faculty member at Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Fugue, and Stirring. She previously served as the poetry editor for the Southeast Review and was an editor at Quarter After Eight.