I’m always lucky to be with my dear friend and mentor, the poet Sharon Olds. I sat down with her during a visit to New York City, in her apartment on Washington Square, with my 4yo daughter, Odette in tow, and we discussed the complexities of thought and identity during the isolation of the pandemic, self-reflection, biography, poetic form, and I share four questions from some Twitter followers and get the down-low on Sharon’s favorite ice cream…..
Listeners will have the treat of hearing three unpublished poems from her new manuscripts, Balladz.
Please enjoy, and you can buy Sharon’s most recent book, Aria’s, here.
Photo: Hillery Stone
Sharon Olds is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent collection, “Stag’s Leap,” she has been the recipient of several other honors and awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her work, often autobiographical in nature, is well known for its treatment of marriage, motherhood, intimacy, and the human condition. Olds’ poems have been anthologized in more than a hundred collections. She was the Poet Laureate of New York from 1998 to 2000, and held the position of Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012. She most recently published the poetry collection “Arias.” Her next book, “Balladz,” is forthcoming in 2022.
I’m thrilled to have had a conversation with two incredible minds, at different stages of their career, Mark Wunderlich and Shanta Lee Gander. Mark talks how he almost became CIA, but thanks to “early luck” in having some amazing creative writing teachers (“This creature comes into the room–she was wearing all purple. Her winter coat was a cape!…Who is this glamorous creature who has come into our lives?”)–didn’t. In a very different vein, Gander “came to writing as a punishment” including a teacher making her copy out dictionary pages. She figured out that writing was a way to talk to the page in the way you couldn’t talk to adults. “When I started reading Victorian Literature, I was like ‘Oh! I belong there.’” The “Zig-zaggy path” towards poetry.
In creating the manuscript, the book, the process: Mark loves the poem, more than the book; what is the “project”? What does it mean to create a book? Mark talks about looking at the manuscript, asking: “What am I worried about?” “What am I repeating?” “What do these all sound like?”
“If you can’t be free in your life, at least be free in your poems”
“Don’t be the hero and victim in your own poem”
“Endanger yourself in your poems”
Shanta discussing the evolution of her newest collection, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA, which has that characteristic uncertainty that comes in those early stages of the development of the book. “I knew it was with me” “Entering into these different conversations with different voices”
Be sure to look at The Snowman by Wallace Stevens, as Mark discusses was pivotal in turning him onto the witchcraft of good verse:
One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think Of any misery in the sound of the wind, In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land Full of the same wind That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
ABOUT THE GUESTS:
Born in 1968, Mark Wunderlich grew up in Fountain City, Wisconsin. He holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts and a BA in German Literature and English from the University of Wisconsin.
He is the author of The Earth Avails (Graywolf Press, 2014) and Voluntary Servitude (Graywolf Press, 2004). His first collection, The Anchorage (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), won the Lambda Literary Award. As J. D. McClatchy said of Wunderlich’s debut, “The Anchorage bravely takes up the raw mess of desire and pain, the cold ache of longing and loss, and in sleek and searing poems exposes the way we live now to the larger powers of the racing heart and the radiant imagination.”
Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional. Her artistic endeavors include writing prose, poetry, investigative journalism, and photography.
HEALTH / POETRY / CARE / CONSCIOUSNESS / DYAD / INFINITUDE / BODY MIND
“Having spent most of his life exploring the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and its implications on the relationships among consciousness, mind, body, and society, Anoop found that our understanding of these is outdated and incomplete. He’s spent the last several years speaking around the world, writing books, and encouraging audiences to rethink consciousness and unveil a more complete experience of life that also informs solutions to real-world problems. Anoop communicates his vision through the lens of the Three Minds–a framework inspired by Advaita Vedanta that places consciousness at the heart of reality.” —from anoopkumar.com
Addendum to conversation:
Bianca: I remembered something I wanted to mention. It was about the poem being “containment” for something unstable…
Also I was just obsessively thinking how I wanted to mention Winnicott early on when you were talking about the child not seeing the separation between self and world– there’s this great quote about the child “creating the breast over and over” And it’s the mother’s job to disillusion them from thinking they create reality…
Anoop: I’m not sure that the child is not creating the breast over and over, in a sense. Not the child as an individual per se, but rather that which expresses as child and as breast is called into relationship, and in that sense the child is creating the breast. I think it’s in that same sense that we are the world. It’s not just a metaphor. It’s literal. We are the world in a sense and we are not the world in a sense, and both senses are exactly true and necessary. So necessary.
Bianca: My God, what magic. It’s true, entirely. (And not true, as the case may be…) But what infinitude is there. It’s the opposite of anxiety. I feel our everyday anxiety and frantic abstract despair is from the fact that we’re told to believe we weren’t involved in the creation of the breast.And there’s a false isolation from the world–which is madness, since it is us.
Anoop: Beautifully said. The opposite of anxiety. Exactly. And again, exactly: what arrogance to say that we are not involved in the creation of the breast. Do we and the breast not share simultaneous and temporal existence? How can this be overlooked? Only an osteoporotic mind can do so.
And again, beautiful exactness: the world is us. How could we ever have been separate from it? To consider this is madness. To reject this is even sweeter madness.
“Poetry is a voicing, a calling forth, and the lyric poem exists somewhere in the region–the register–between speech and song.” –Edward Hirsch
“I made it out of a mouthful of air,” –W.B. Yeats
I”m very excited for this new series on the Podcast, where I will be reading you a poems out loud! It is important, I realized, not to just intellectualize and philosophize about the art of poetry and the mechanics of creativity: we must constantly come back to the poems themselves. To experience what is it we talk about in the conceptual.
The poem I am starting with is a long poem. I chose a long poem because I was sitting on my porch reading poems, and I found I was skipping over the longer ones. Why, I mused, this laziness? I found myself reading the longer poem out loud, and was struck by its multifarious nature, and winding beauty, that I would never had the chance to experience without putting forth the effort to engage with it. I wanted to share that experience with you.
Some advice for listening to a 18 minute poem…. try not reading along, and just submitting to the language, letting it surprise you. One minute you may be spacing out and bored, the next vividly hit by a line.
and/or listen again while reading the poem on the page. Besides seeing where I probably mess up, see what surprises you about the different experiences
I’m taking requests, if you have a poem you’d like me to read (a published poem, not your own please), make a note in the comments, or send to firstname.lastname@example.org
It was really a pleasure to talk with Justin Marks about his new poetry book THE COMEDOWN from Publishing Genius. We discuss the complexities of memoir/poetry, sobriety, politics and most of all the huge unease of the self and how to explore that in a book of poetry. What I love about this book is how we’re seeing the journey of the self, mirrored in the creation of a manuscript. It is not a surprise that writing a book of poetry (especially one like this where Marks deliberately wanted to explore memoir) is a meditation on a psychic journey. But what also happens is that the creation, editing, and seeing it through to publication, is a whole new journey, that and evolution. Great books of poetry will have layers of understanding, for the writer, reader and the poems themselves, and will never be static, but continue to show and highlight discovery and insights.
Bianca Stone sitting on a creaky floor with a very good, sensitive mic, talking with the poets Emily Brandt & Julia Guez about constructing their first books of poetry, published in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Rambling about poems to the lull of traffic.
Julia Guez is a writer and translator based in Brooklyn. Her essays, interviews, fiction, poetry and translations have appeared in Guernica, POETRY, The Guardian, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail and Kenyon Review. Four Way Books released her first full-length collection,In An Invisible Glass Case Which Is Also A Frame, in 2019. After Hours Editions will soon release her first collection of poetry in translation, Equestrian Monumentsby the Costa Rican poet, Luis Chaves, co-translated with Samantha Zighelboim. Guez has been awarded the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship and The John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize in Translation. She holds degrees from Rice and Columbia. For the last decade, Guez has worked with Teach For America New York; she’s currently the senior managing director of design and implementation. She teaches creative writing at NYU and Rutgers.
In this podcast, Bianca Stone talks with VT writer and multi-faceted artist, Shanta Lee Gander, about her new book GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, from Diode Editions June 2021 *
“What does it mean to move away from the shadow of one’s mother, parents, or family in order to come into being within this world? As collective memory within the Black diaspora has been ruptured, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA time travels by creating and recapturing memory from a fractured past to survive in the present and envision a future. In her first full-length collection GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, Shanta Lee Gander navigates between formal and vernacular styles to introduce the reader to a myriad of subjects…” (from shantaleegander.com)
Shanta Lee has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College. She is currently the Director of Publicity and Outreach atMount Island—a small press and magazine dedicated to rural LGBTQ+and POC voices/artists and gives lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince as a member of the VermontHumanities Council Speakers Bureau. Shanta Lee is currently completing her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
The poems in Hyperspace inhabit an invented liminal space into which the psyche is projected. The psyche drifts around there, wondering things. At first, I thought I was writing poems about solitude and longing, but as I kept writing from hyperspace, hyperspace became more and more populated. Maybe even loneliness is better in company! The poems try to work that out.
Zoë Ryder White’s poems have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Salamander, Thrush, Hobart, Sixth Finch, and Threepenny Review, among others. Her chapbook, HYPERSPACE, was the editors’ choice pick for the Verse Tomaž Šalamun Prize and is now available from Factory Hollow Press. She co-authored a chapbook, A Study in Spring, with Nicole Callihan. Elsewhere, their most recent collaboration, won the Sixth Finch chapbook competition in 2019. A former elementary school teacher, she edits books for educators about the craft of teaching.
In this episode we’re very excited to be talking with the poet, Ed Steck about his investigations into the intricacies of “worldbuilding” which Steck describes as “the process of constructing a fictional world, including the political and social atmosphere, history, environmental landscapes, government, and any other expandable concept relevant to the construction of a believable (or unbelievable) world.”
Ed Steck is the author of An Interface for a Fractal Landscape (Ugly Duckling Presse), The Garden: Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation (Ugly Duckling Presse), The Rose (with Adam Marnie, Hassla), Far Rainbow (Make Now Books), and others. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA.