Elizabeth Cantwell is the guest. Her new poetry collection, All the Emergency-Type Structures, is available from Inlandia Institute.


Cantwell lives in Claremont, CA, where she teaches Humanities at The Webb Schools. She has a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including DIAGRAM, The Cincinnati Review, The Los Angeles Review, Hobart, and The Missouri Review.

Her first book of poems, Nights I Let The Tiger Get You (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), was a finalist for the 2012 Hudson Prize; she is also the author of a chapbook, Premonitions (Grey Book Press, 2014).

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Elisa Gabbert. Her new essay collection, The Word Pretty, is available from Black Ocean Press.

This is Elisa’s second time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 241 on January 8, 2014.

Gabbert is a poet and essayist whose other books include L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean, 2016), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean, 2013), and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). The Word Pretty was a New York Times Editors’ Pick, and The Self Unstable was chosen by the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2013. Elisa’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Review of Books, the Guardian Long Read, Boston Review, the Paris Review Daily,and many other venues. She is currently writing a book about disaster culture and human failure, The Unreality of Memory, forthcoming from FSG Originals. She lives in Denver.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Shauna Barbosa. Her poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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I saw Elizabeth Ellen before I’d read any of her work. There was a photo of her on a flyer for a book tour during the fall of 2014, and it piqued my interest so I googled her book Fast Machine.  The search result provided several dozen more striking pictures of Elizabeth and I remember thinking, who is this chick? I found her website and read everything I could find written by her online. My obsession with Elizabeth Ellen was born.

Lauren Haldeman is the guest. Her new poetry collection, Instead of Dying, is available now from The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. It is the winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry.

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Matthew Zapruder is the guest. He is a poet, editor, translator, and the author of a new book called Why Poetry, available now from Ecco.

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Who are you? And also, why do you write? Actually, why don’t you just write me a poem right now?

Poetry is: an artifact of the shining me, the radiant, the torn: the execution of that self: the contending with who do I think I am to live so freely here: walking this riverbed: kneeling in dirt: putting my lips to cemetery stone: loving the glow of metacarpal bones under me, in my stumbling: decay: in my children: their spines: their flows: their jaws: my God, where are you blinking?: because I am among the abandoned: scattered: fragmented: a broken word: do you know what I mean by broken?: because even swallowing: even: broken: witness: heard: any song: any move into slow: the dead hold out their palms: I approach as lamb: for food: for daisies: for slaughter: for an end to thirst: for white blooms on my tongue: for being in a body: disembodied: embodied: an embodied spirit: the intersection: revenant against my teeth: a rosary for sorrow: a litany to see the dead in mirrors: joy in finger bones: if I lay me down: if I lay me down: because I have wished for death: but now I would go fighting: the poem is: my voice: my clawing for light: my internal song/scream/cry: it’s the part of me that will endure: here: can I believe that there is a skyward: that my bones float in it: unsheltered: here.

Why do I write poetry? It’s the part of me that will endure: here.


This week on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with TNB Poetry editor Rich Ferguson , whose debut novel, New Jersey Me, is available now from Rare Bird Books / A Barnacle Book. Big congrats to Rich! Go buy his book!

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Michael Robbins is the guest. His debut poetry collection, Alien vs. Predator, was named one of the best books of 2012 by The New York Times, Slate, Commonweal, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Millions.

Dwight Garner of the The New York Times says

Mr. Robbins’s heart is not lovely but beating a bit arrhythmically; not dark but lighted by a dangling disco ball; not deep but as shallow and alert as a tidal buoy facing down a tsunami. Yet it’s a heart crammed full, like a goose’s liver, with pagan grace. This man can write.

Monologue topics: Patrick Swayze, tweets, drones.

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Photo credit: Clayton Hauck | Chicago Reader

What prompted you to write THE RECEPTIONIST?

I think I felt the urge many people my age experience – to set down (as honestly as I knew how) what it was like to live most of my adult life in the last half of the 20th C. in the USA. I meant it to be a kind of witness to my times.


How would you describe your experience at The New Yorker?

I often describe it as the story of the longest lateral career in journalistic history.

Homage to Mr. Berryman

For a brief period in 1960 when he was in New York on academic vacation, the poet John Berryman was of the opinion that I would make him a good wife. He proposed this to me regularly. It seems he was, in the years between his second and third marriages, proposing to every halfway decent-looking woman he met. It was perhaps his way of acknowledging guilt at the failure of his previous marriages and an indication of his good intention to do better next time. Late in the sixties, at a women’s group, he came up when the issue of male commitment arose — as an example of overcorrection. Among the seven women in the room, it turned out that he had proposed to three of us. And that was only in New York, in his spare time. The campuses where he taught in those bachelor years, 1959 – 61, were checkered with other potential Mrs. Berrymans. So it was perhaps not the mark of distinction it seemed in the moment.

From an obituary in the New York Times:

For all her verbal prowess, for all her prolific output, Ms. Rich retained a dexterous command of the plain, pithy utterance. In a 1984 speech she summed up her reason for writing — and, by loud unspoken implication, her reason for being — in just seven words.

What she and her sisters-in-arms were fighting to achieve, she said, was simply this: “the creation of a society without domination.”

My friend Susie called me the other day.

“Hey Snooze,” I said, putting on my headset so that when the dog tried to murder a squirrel, I’d have both hands free.

“Hey.” There was an ocean of melancholy in that “Hey.” Susie can say a lot in one syllable. I guess it’s not surprising that she’s a poet.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, I went to look at my book sales on Amazon, and I got all excited because I sold five copies.”

Why write?


 Why write?


 Why write?


Why write?


 Why write?


Why write?


Why write?

 Why write?


Why write?


Why write?


So what got you started writing?

Birth, nature and nurture or lack thereof.  Is there any other answer?


Yeah, that seems to be the default setting for many a writer.  What specifically about your childhood most influences your writing?

My relationship with my father.


What about him?

He was a shrink, then a neurologist.  A true narcissist in its most virulent form. 
  Unfortunately, I knew no better and worshipped him as a little boy.  By the time I had
 reached my early teens, I was running away from a home that should have been the 
American Dream, but was just a hell-hole in disguise.  I dropped out of high school
 and went to work.


What did you do for a release from that?

I stayed at friends’ houses as much as possible and abused whatever intoxicants I could
 wrap my mitts around.


You started writing in earnest later in life.  What was the genesis of the move to ink?

My father’s influence was strong inside me and I had no idea how much it was eating
 me alive and destroying my marriage.  Eventually, even though it takes two to tango, my wife decided she couldn’t take it anymore and we split.  It was devastating and served as the impetus to begin the journey to find self and maybe a bit of childhood wonder that I didn’t have when I should’ve.  I was going to explode.  In a way, I did.  I just did so on paper.


What else propels your word?

Ah, the usual.  Everything from angels to demons.  I’m often conflicted.  I’ve learned
 I need to let the good and bad fight it out to find equilibrium.  I don’t try and change how I’m feeling, especially for the purpose of satisfying, the “Don’t worry, be happy,”
 crowd.  They annoy me the most.  I feel how I feel until I no longer feel that way.  I
 boxed up my human emotions for too long, hiding them so only the hunter would be
 seen.  He collapsed in upon himself forcing acknowledgement of deep voids.

Frankly, I didn’t know how fucked up I actually was.  I had been working on Wall Street, with skin that took years to thicken as I always was an outcast with a big
 mouth that for a time wrote checks my ass couldn’t cash.  Eventually, I learned how
 to make good on my drafts.  I cash all checks nowadays, but the reason goes back to the home thing.  Bullied by a nasty old man, I would never again back down from confrontation unless it served a specific purpose.  I’d rather get my ass kicked.

I just at some point refused to allow fear of physical damage to stop me from doing what I had to after realizing emotional pain becomes a physical malady at the drop of a hat and no purely physical pain I’ve ever felt could compare to that which is born of a heart ripping apart at the seams.  I felt like that for much of the first 42 years of my 42-year life.
   So, pain of a poor childhood, a destroyed marriage, a dissonant mental dynamic and a
 mind that never quits solving equations which all add up to zero anyway, all contribute to that which I write.  Oh, all that and a seizure syndrome which drives me crazy and makes everything twice as hard as it should be.  The medical issues show up too.

The human condition, old buildings and history truly get me off as well.  Wherever I am, I find myself wandering the streets at night, sucking in the essence of life.  It’s something L.A. offers in such abundance and I do miss that.  At heart I’m city kid and clearly that factors in occasionally as a backdrop or subject of  my work.


Health topics aside, that sounds fairly normal for artistic types, but ‘artistic’ isn’t a word most people in your earlier life would use to describe you, is it?  What’s  the story?

It’s actually the root of much of the dissonance to which I refer above.  I was always into the punk scene, yet I was going to work in a suit.  I am not ashamed of the work
 I’ve done, despite the modern, monotheistic anti-capitalist sentiment that is pervasive in much of the underground segments of society.  I feel far more comfortable on the margins, I’ve discovered, but I’m slave to nobody else’s agenda.  I  thought that was what punk was all about in the first place; doing what you decide is right for you.  I didn’t realize that there was some sort of list of appropriate positions.  So fuck ‘em all.  I won’t be any scene’s hostage.  That said, I do feel some of that sell-out cliché in my own veins.  I’m being hard on myself, but that’s like saying I woke up this morning.

I just wish I never put that suit on in the first place.  I shut down the right side of my mind except for those spots my left side could hijack whatever creativity might be available to help with the its nefarious linear plans.  I realized when the world started collapsing around me, I had an angry creative side that finally declared war and started writing far more regularly.  I’m having fun with it.  Not really, but I need it.


On to the obligatory “Who are your major influences?” question.

That’s actually one I like to answer.  I love so many writers—Vonnegut, Orwell, Heinlein, Buk (yeah), Chandler, Ellroy, Rand, (no, I don’t drink her kool-aid), all the ‘Beats’, Leonard, Heller and Pirsig (just for Catch-22 and Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, respectively—don’t think anything else really caught me, but there’s a couple that can make up for lots of marginal product, no?).  I really enjoy Ferlinghetti lots.  D.A. Levy, Hunter and Burroughs of course.  I could go on forever
 on them.  Hemingway is another…P.J. O’Rourke and Clancy…there’s no end to what I enjoy reading, though unfortunately my work schedule and lingering neurological issues often make it quite difficult to sit and read for extended periods and what’s  likely far more important is what I haven’t read yet, but want to.  One day…

As far as other writers are concerned, there are just too many to list, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the influence of Iris Berry, whom I’ve known for years via
 a mutual friend.  Iris really put me on track with my writing and I wouldn’t be having this interview with me (ha) if not for her.  Besides, she’s a fucking stellar writer.  A. Razor has similarly been a huge influence on me and is becoming just a great friend.

While we have had somewhat more limited interaction, I’d have to say that Mark Hartenbach and Mike Taylor are also up there.  It’s not to say that there aren’t dozens  I’m missing (there are) whose word I read daily, it’s just that I know I’m leaving many out and I should just stop here and thank everybody who has shared theirs with me and add a special bit of gratitude for those out there (you know who you are, if we’ve had interaction) that have really done much to encourage and open their vaults of knowledge and understanding to me over the lest several years.

I am very grateful for the relationships that have grown since I began sharing with the 
larger community.  It’s a bit difficult sometimes as I live in my own head and tend to 
feel more alone in crowds than in a small room alone.  There’s no doubt, however, that I’ve
 grown through many of these relationships.


Well, there’s enough to choke a donkey in all that.  Is there anybody else you’d like to thank?  Any new projects?

Oh yes…I have to thank Dire McCain and Dave Mitchell of Paraphilia, Apryl Skies and Alicia Winski of Edgar Allan Poet and Yvonne de La Vega of The Examiner for  believing in me and publishing some of my word and Cricket Corleone for my inclusion in the forthcoming Into the Valley of Hinnom: A Dark Poetry Anthology,
 Volume 1, to be published by Heliocentric Press, which will include some of my work as well as that of ten other poets.  Finally, I have to thank Rafael and Melissa Alvarado, Iris and Razor (seems to be a recurring theme) for going out of their way to make an upcoming reading at Beyond Baroque on Dec. 3rd come to life. They really put a full court press on for this and I’m  eternally grateful.  With hope, a chapbook will be ready in time for the reading.  I know Raf is busting his ass to make that a reality.  Oh, and let’s not forget Rich Ferguson and his partners at The Nervous Breakdown for this opportunity.


Thanks for your time, Danny.  Good luck with your new projects.

You’re welcome Danny, and thank you for listening to me ramble.  Good luck with your health.