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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Review, Rejection Letters, and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @wannderfullll or read her work at ryleighwann.com