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“Endanger yourself in your poems”: Mark Wunderlich & Shanta Lee Gander in Conversation

The Ruth Stone House Podcast
The Ruth Stone House Podcast
"Endanger yourself in your poems": Mark Wunderlich & Shanta Lee Gander in Conversation

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”

enjoy listening

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.



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.

Her poetry, prose, and personal essays have been featured in PRISM, ITERANT Literary Magazine, Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, DAME Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, on the Ms. Magazine Blog, and on a former radio segment Ponder This.

Shanta Lee’s photojournalism has been featured on Vermont Public Radio ( and her investigative reporting has been in The Commons weekly newspaper covering Windham County,VT. Shanta Lee is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts and 2020 and named as Diode Editions full-length book contest winner for her debut poetry compilation, Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak in Woke Tongues.