Lyric Essentials: Emily Schulten Reads Theodore Roethke  

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week writer and educator Emily Schulten is joining us to discuss the work of fellow poet Theodore Roethke, writing on grief, and first encounters. As always, thank you for tuning in.


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: How and when did you first discover Roethke’s work?

Emily Schulten: I imagine my first encounter with Roethke were in graduate school. At least that’s when his work impacted me such that it has stayed with me. There are some poets who can do this, who have this power to stick with the reader in her daily life, sometimes in the background and sometimes the foreground, but there consistently.

Emily Schulten Reads “The Lost Son” (Part 1, The Flight)”

AH: Roethke was such an inspiration for many, from former students to Sylvia Plath. How has his work inspired you as a writer?

ES: Roethke’s use of rhythm is so musical. The heaviness that he is able to create in tone pairs with these earth images to haunt the reader and even to contribute to his mythmaking. This musicality and myth-making inspire me as a writer, as does the ability to consume the reader with his creation of atmosphere.

AH: Why did you choose these poems? What drew you to them specifically?

Emily Schulten Reads “Root Cellar”

ES: Roethke is a grief poet. More than that, he is able to take grief and use it to transcend himself and to make sense of his grief. These poems are emblematic of the grief that inspired so much of Roethke’s work, the relationship he had with his father in both life and death. (A connection we see that Plath was particularly inspired by.) “Root Cellar” and “The Lost Son (Part 1, The Flight)” approach this grief in strikingly different ways, but with much the same outcome. “Root Cellar” depends so much on the greenhouse imagery to convey the emotion the speaker feels in this place that represents his father, and “The Lost Son” is a more inward journey and interrogation for the speaker. These poems illustrate well Roethke’s breadth as well as his use of sound and image.

AH: Do you have any news to share?

ES: I’m eagerly anticipating November’s release of my second collection of poems, The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar, from Kelsay Books.


Theodore Roethke was an American poet from the mid-twentieth century. After his father’s death and uncle’s suicide, he would become an educator who taught many giants in American poetry: Sylvia Plath, Carolyn Kizer, and so many more. During his lifetime he won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the National Book Award for two different collections.

Read more about him and his work here.

Read his poem “The Storm.”

Find his collected poems at Penguin Random House.

Emily Schulten is the author of two collections of poetry, The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar (Kelsay Books, November 2021) and Rest in Black Haw (New Plains P). Her work appears in PloughsharesPrairie SchoonerColorado ReviewThe Missouri Review, and Tin House, among others. Schulten earned her MA from Western Kentucky University and her PhD from Georgia State University. She is a professor of English and creative writing at The College of the Florida Keys.

Find her website here.

Purchase her collection Rest in Black Haw.

Read her poem “Navigating the Afterlife” in Salamander.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear 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: Summer J. Hart Reads Louise Erdrich

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! Today artist and writer Summer J. Hart joins us to discuss the Louise Erdrich, being left breathless by writing, and poetic origin stories. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What drew you originally into Louise Erdrich’s poetry? Is there an origin story of how you discovered her work?

Summer J. Hart: I encountered the novels of Louise Erdrich long before reading her poems. After graduate school I spent a year or so temping. One of my jobs was as a receptionist for a realty management office. A retired New Yorker cartoonist named Boris Drucker rented the office next door and we became friends. My job was neither challenging nor interesting, so I would often read or draw behind my desk. Boris saw my copy of Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine and the next day brought in his copy of Tracks. For the rest of my time in the office, Boris and I spent our lunch breaks talking about our love of drawing and Louise Erdrich. Erdrich’s writing, whether prose or poetry, never fails to goose-pimple my arms. I’ve spent years researching, collecting family lore, and making art about my own mixed Native and settler heritage. Before reading Love Medicine, I had never heard stories as similar to those my aunts and grandmother shared with me about life on and after leaving the reservation.

Summer J. Hart Reads “Owls” by Louise Erdrich

AH:I was absolutely in love with the details woven into the poems you’ve read! What were your favorite lines and/or images?

SJH: From “Owls”: “Each night the noise wakes me, a death / rattle, everything in sex that wounds.” I love the way Erdrich writes about sex in this poem as “raw need / of one feathered body for another.” The owl is a symbol of death so terrifying that even children don’t enjoy the lilting repetition of its name spoken in Ojibwe. Which was very fun to read! Kokoko. This poem rips bodies open—pulls feathers and bones from flesh. But, it also nourishes.

A barred owl asks again and again, Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
The couple in the apartment also have an aching, visceral need. “This is how we make love” she writes, “when there are people in the halls around us…” The world inside the apartment is stripped back until there is nothing left but two bodies clinging together. All around them the gears of domesticity churn, relentless. The grinding consumption and expulsion of days whir along. Outside, birds fly from one throat to another. Neighbors scrub plates in the sink. A glass breaks. The pungency of frying onions drifts down the hall.I am drawn to the images (and sounds) of the owls, the humans, and the dead tree. I read this poem as both love letter and Memento mori.

From “That Pull from the Left”:
I love how she begins this poem with a name. Butch. This Butch, even if I read nothing more of him, has somehow been with me my whole life. “But something queer happens when the heart is delivered.” The word delivered. She follows the first iteration of this line with “when a child is born…” A baby is delivered. Cattle are delivered and again to slaughter. Meat is wrapped carefully in brown paper and delivered to the outstretched palm of a customer. The heart, cut from the body is how we begin and end, the start / stop of a muscle. We cling to life in life (our lolling eyes), and our bones fight to keep the flesh and sinew attached even after a final blow delivers death. The poem talks also of the queerness of the woman’s own heart. How she can feel “That pull from the left…” Then, there is the queerness of the sky, or perhaps internal weather, before the dark plunge.

Summer J. Hart Reads “The Pull from the Left” by Louise Erdrich

AH: As a writer and creative human, how have you been inspired by Erdrich’s work?

SJH: Louise Erdrich is my forever-favorite. Her work absolutely inspires me to be a much braver writer—my instinct is to self-censor, skirt around the truth of a thing. But she writes fearlessly about living, loving, dying in the natural world…with a bit of magical reality woven in. Her words leave me breathless, but my senses are sharper having read them.

AH: Got any news to share? It can be life, writing, creative updates–anything!

SJH: I am honored to be the Land Acknowledgment Writer for The 3rd Thing Press’ 2021 cohort (forthcoming November 2021). My poem, “Salt for the Stain” appeared in the Massachusetts Review’s Winter 2021 special issue, A Gathering of Native Voices. The website accompaniment to this issue including video readings and links to Native resources will launch this fall. My first full-length collection of poems, Boomhouse will be published by The 3rd Thing Press in 2023.


Louise Erdrich is an American novelist, poet, and children’s book writer. A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, she has devoted her work to exploring the lives of Native Americans and those of mixed heritage. She has published three poetry collections and several novels, many of which have received critical acclaim.

Read her poem “Captivity” at Poetry.

Listen to an interview Erdrich had with NPR here.

Read her poem “Original Fire” at Lit Hub.

Summer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual artworks are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. She is the author Boomhouse (2023, The 3rd Thing Press) & the microchapbook, Augury of Ash (Post Ghost Press). Her poetry can be found in WaxwingThe Massachusetts Review, Northern New England Review, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries and shows including SPRING/BREAK Art Show, NYC; Pen + Brush, NYC; Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ; and LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is an enrolled member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation.

Find her website here.

Read her poem “Boy Crazy” at Waxwing.

Find her her forthcoming collection Boomhouse at The 3rd Thing Press.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear 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: Shannon Wolf Reads Olivia Gatwood

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we are joined by poet and editor Shannon Wolf to discuss the work of Olivia Gatwood, the particular power of seeing poetry performed live, and writing as a therapeutic act. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: We all have an origin story for when we discovered a favorite poet. How did you discover Olivia Gatwood?

Shannon Wolf: Just like many of her fans, I found Gatwood through Youtube performances of her poems. She has a huge following in the slam poetry scene, and I found both her performance style and the actual content of her poems really compelling. She’s best known for earlier poems – like “Alternate Universe in Which I Am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me” – and I think it’s because these poems (especially for women) are accessible in their language and ideas, which is not to say they aren’t well written. She has a wonderful eye for making magic from the minutiae. So many of her poems are about the female experience, the female body, and all of its burdens and blessings. Her work is somehow both refreshing and dark, and as a poet myself, that seems like one unattainable feat to accomplish.

Shannon Wolf Reads “If a Girl Screams in the Middle of the Night” by Olivia Gatwood

AH: During our correspondence, you mentioned that you’ve actually seen Gatwood perform her work live. How was the experience? Did the experience of hearing and seeing it performed change anything for you?

SW: It was really fantastic. I think it’s important to note how the venue was packed with so many people identifying as women and it felt like this safe, collaborative, familiar environment – the laughter and the emphatic noises of agreement you often hear at poetry readings seemed three times louder than usual in that room in Portland, Oregon. She performed with a musician, Mexican singer-songwriter Joaquina Mertz, setting her poems to sound, and it was a total sensory experience. Gatwood’s performances (with and without music) definitely add a layer of meaning to the written word. Her style of reading, her tone contextualizes the work – she has this great deadpan delivery that just lights each piece on fire. This particular performance was on the tour for her chapbook New American Best Friend, so I’d love to take in a reading of poems from Life of the Party, which I think drill a lot deeper into the female consciousness (and the dangers that seem to surround it).

Shannon Wolf Reads “My Mother’s Addendum” by Olivia Gatwood

AH: In an interview with The Adroit Journal, Gatwood said the following about Life of the Party: “I was in a constant state of feeling afraid, and instead of running from that feeling or trying to soften it, I held a magnifying glass up to it, tried to figure out where it was born, then write from the beginning.” As a writer, have you felt similar emotions and experiences when trying to write a particular piece?

SW: Absolutely! I would be surprised if there isn’t a writer who doesn’t use their work as some kind of therapy, honestly. I think whether it’s fear, or a specific trauma, or even just making sense of a memory, stepping toward it with your writing can produce something really striking. I often say that Gatwood’s poems are so personal – many in her chapbook refer to specific details from her own reality – but in Life of the Party, Gatwood appears to distance herself much more. Somehow though, this serves to bring the reader in even closer. In “If A Girl Screams In the Middle of the Night”, the singular scream of a girl becomes universal. In inspecting her own fear, she taps into our collective fear. I try to do this in my own work when I inspect generational trauma, and abusive relationships. Perhaps this hard stare into the sun eventually softens the fear anyway.

AH: Have any exciting news you want to share (it can be anything! Life, writing, new revelations)?

SW: I do. I just recently signed a contract for my first full-length poetry collection. Green Card Girl, which will be forthcoming from Fernwood Press in September 2022. It’s about my immigration journey from England to the US, the genesis of my chosen family, and the slow rot of toxic relationships. You can follow me on Twitter @helloshanwolf or check my website helloshanwolf.com for updates on the book! I also have poems coming out with Sledgehammer Lit and HAD, and I’ve just started a new teaching job here in my new hometown, Denver, CO. There’s a lot going on right now!


Olivia Gatwood is a writer and activist. She is the author of the full-length collection Life of the Party and has performed her poetry both in the United States and internationally. Her poetry has appeared in The Winter Tangerine Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Missouri Review, among others.

Find her website here.

Watch her perform her poem “We Find Each Other in the Details” here.

Purchase her collection Life of the Party at Penguin Random House.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer, living in Denver, Colorado. Her debut full-length poetry collection Green Card Girl is forthcoming from Fernwood Press. She received a joint MA-MFA in Poetry at McNeese State University and also has degrees from Lancaster University and the University of Chichester. She is Co-Curator of the “Poets in Pajamas” Reading Series. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in or are forthcoming from The ForgeGreat Weather for MEDIAHAD and NoContactMag among others.

You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

Read her poem “Ode to Tony Soprano” here at No Contact Magazine.

Learn more about Shannon on her website.

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: 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: 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: Stephen S. Mills Reads Frank O’Hara

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! In this latest installment, Stephen Mills reads us Frank O’Hara and talks about how O’Hara’s poetry has not only helped shape queer spaces in poetry, but has most recently provided comfort while living in New York City during the COVID crisis. Thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read Frank O’Hara for Lyric Essentials – and why these two particular poems?

Stephen Mills: From the moment I first read Frank O’Hara as an undergraduate, he’s been a touchstone for me as a poet as he is for many. I did, however, debate choosing him because he’s such an obvious choice for me. But as I was making my selection and setting about to record poems for this project, things took a turn here in New York where I live. 

As I began to deal with the reality of the COVID-19 health crisis in the city, I felt even more drawn to reading Frank O’Hara. I needed his poems and his New York. It’s hard to separate his poems from the city where he wrote a majority of them. He wrote with such joy and excitement, which was often tinged with darker themes or events. Some of his most famous poems are “walking poems” where he’s moving though New York and capturing everything that makes this city so thrilling and alive (though he often does so by reminding us of death). Due to the current situation, I haven’t really been out for four weeks and counting, so reading O’Hara was a way to reconnect with my own love of this city as well as his work. 

I selected “Steps” because it is one of my favorite poems. There’s a thrill and a speed to it that really captures the excitement of New York but also of love. It’s pretty hard to get away with lines like “oh god it’s wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too much coffee / and smoke too many cigarettes / and love you so much” but O’Hara makes us feel that and believe it so fully.

“St. Paul and All That” is a different kind of love poem. It’s full of an anxious feeling and an exploration of what it means to be with another person but to also be without them sometimes. In this case, O’Hara is writing about his lover Vincent Warren who was a dancer. I like the contrast between these two pieces which showcase O’Hara’s range. 

Stephen Mills reads “Steps” by Frank O’Hara

EH: Has O’Hara influenced your own writing at all?

SM: Yes, in very profound ways. I am especially influenced by O’Hara ability to combine so many different things together from his own life and friends to history to art to pop culture to open declarations of love for another man. And to know he was doing this in a time when most of those things were very taboo in culture and in poetry, makes him a huge inspiration for me. 

As a gay man who often writes about my own life and relationships, I found a deep connection to his approach. When I read him for the first time, it was like nothing else I had ever read. There wasn’t this secrecy or shame around his sexuality or love or life. There was excitement and joy and the thrill of being alive against a backdrop of the changing world of the mid-20th century (one of my favorite time periods). I’m very drawn to the personal set against the historical. 

In a very clear way, you can see a lot of O’Hara’s influence in my second poetry collection A History of the Unmarried, which explores the concept of marriage within the queer community by examining many of the stereotypes of marriage and family from the 1950s and 60s. The book includes direct references to O’Hara as well as Jackson Pollock, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the tv show Mad Men, which paid its own tribute to O’Hara in season two.  

EH: What is your relationship with reading poetry aloud?

SM: It is a huge part of my process as a writer. I read all of my work aloud over and over again as part of my writing and revision process. I’ve even at times recorded pieces just to hear them played back to me. Poetry is unique in that way. You want pieces that work both on the page but can also come alive when heard. The experiences can be very different. 

Personally, I’ve really grown as a performer of my own work over the years. It has taken me a lot of practice and a lot of public readings, but I now feel more confident in giving my own work a voice. There’s something thrilling about having that immediate response when you are in front of an audience.   

When I’m reading poetry by others, I almost always read it aloud. It’s very hard for me to read poetry silently, which means I normally have to read poetry books in private. 

Stephen Mills reads “St. Paul and All That” by Frank O’Hara

EH: How do you think O’Hara still speaks to readers, after all this time? 

SM: In many ways, O’Hara was ahead of his time, so his work still feels very contemporary. You could replace a few names in his poems with current celebrities or artists and it would feel like the poem was written today. But I think it is more than that. 

O’Hara is so good at walking a fine line between life and death. In the poem “Steps” he writes “and in sense we’re all winning / we’re alive.” O’Hara was well aware of how fragile life was from the deaths of friends and idols to living through World War II. There’s a rush to his work that acknowledges how close we all are to the end. This is magnified by the fact that O’Hara died young in an accident on Fire Island. 

This exploration of our connection to death is something that still resonates with readers. Something we still seek out in the literature we read or the TV shows we watch or movies we go to. And it connects to this very moment as we face a pandemic like nothing most of us have ever seen. 

Particularly for the gay community, O’Hara holds a special place for a lot of us because of the openness within his work. We don’t have to sit and decode all his poems to see his queerness and that is extremely refreshing and something that can still, at times, be hard to come by in mainstream poetry. Queers writers, like myself, are still questioned and sometimes pushed to the side for writers who are less open or direct.

EH: Do you have any current writing projects that you’d like to tell us about?

SM: I’m currently looking for a publisher for a new book manuscript called Shelter in Place that is my own exploration of our connection and fascination with death through a queer lens. The book looks at current events, historical events, personal events as well as TV and true crime documentaries for inspiration. I’ve also been working on playwriting and completed my first play last fall and I’m currently working on my second. 


Frank O’Hara is a celebrated American poet known for his key role as a leader in the New York School of avant-garde poets and artists during the 1950s and 1960s Manhattan. He wrote ninety poems, and his poetry collections were all published posthumously, with the exception of Lunch Poems. O’Hara was involved with the art scene, and incorporated dance, theater, painting and music into his life’s work, and is known for his poetic observations of New York City. He served as a long time art critic, and was long associated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a curator until his tragic death at age forty in 1966.

Further reading:

Read about Frank O’Hara’s New York in The New Yorker
Purchase the most recent collection of O’Hara’s work
Listen to O’Hara read his poetry out loud

Stephen S. Mills is the author of the Lambda Award-winning book He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices (2012)as well as A History of the Unmarried (2014) and Not Everything Thrown Starts a Revolution (2018) all from Sibling Rivalry Press. He earned his MFA from Florida State University. His work has appeared in Columbia Poetry ReviewThe Antioch Review, PANK, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, The Rumpus, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award and the 2014 Christopher Hewitt Award for Fiction. Two of his books have been placed on the Over the Rainbow List compiled yearly by the American Library Association. He lives in New York City with his partner and two schnauzers.

Further reading:

Purchase Stephen’s latest collection Not Everything Thrown Starts a Revolution
Read an interview with Stephen at The Rumpus
Learn more about Stephen at his website

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/