Oh, so many! First books I’ve admired include but are not limited to: Field Folly Snow by Cecily Parks, Into these Knots by Ashley Anna McHugh, If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting by Anna Journey, 0°, 0° by Amit Majmudar, Rookery by Traci Brimhall, and Shore Ordered Ocean by Dora Malech.
As for second books, I really liked Field Knowledge by Morri Creech, For Love of Common Words by Steve Scafidi, and Fragment of the Head of a Queen by Cate Marvin, among others.
I also can’t help but highly recommend another first book published just a couple months ago: Dirge for an Imaginary World by Matthew Buckley Smith. (Full disclosure: he also happens to be my husband).
What’s on your poetry to-read list?
I’m eager to read Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars. Also Secure the Shadow by Claudia Emerson and That Was Oasis by Michael McFee. I just finished Olives by A.E. Stallings, which was wonderful. She’s one of my favorites.
Now pick a Great Old Poet you admire.
I love Yeats. I love his grandiosity. I love how he was crazy for Maude Gonne. I love how he hung out with Madame Blavatsky, chatting up spirits and concocting wacky theories about phases of the moon. And there’s just nothing better than Yeats’s very best poems. They’re sonically beautiful and sweeping in scope. Two of my favorites are “In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz” and “Sailing to Byzantium.” But I also sort of love Yeats’s imperfections. I love how he writes a little bit badly at times. You can just tell that Yeats must have written so many terrible drafts, so many terrible poems that never ended up seeing the light of day. To write the very best poems I think one must also have the courage to risk writing truly god-awful stuff. People should read your best poems and weep, but they should also read your worst poems and weep, for different reasons. My guess is that Yeats probably had, tucked away somewhere, the absolute best worst poems ever. And if you don’t write the good bad poems, you never get to write anything good.
So what’s your best worst poem?
A long, multipart poem circa 2001 called “Crush Face” about a ghost lumberjack named, of course, Crush Face. He haunts an old logging town while wearing a bridal veil. This was all based on a summer camp legend a friend told me, and I clearly thought it had epic potential—Friday the 13th meets The Aeneid. There was a creepy villanelle involved. This document is still saved on my computer as a sort of time capsule of awfulness.
Aside from ghost lumberjacks, what topics are you obsessed with?
I’m a sucker for ghosts, ventriloquists, mythology, documentaries about precocious children competing for something, working-hard montages, old-timey carnivals, cults, abduction stories, mysterious imposters, dance battles… If any of these topics appear in a story or poem I’m reading or writing, I lose all powers of discretion.
So are there cults or dance battles in Oldest Mortal Myth?
No. But there are sword swallowers, conjoined twins, faith healers, gunshot testicles, and escaped wild animals.
Trying to publish poems is like__________________________________.
It’s like going to a cocktail party, taking all your clothes off, putting out a hat for tips, and breaking into song. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the only other people present are naked and singing also.
Trying to publish formal/formal-ish poems is like_________________________________.
Same cocktail party, this time add a choreographed dance routine. Beat-boxing optional.
Isaiah Berlin divided writers into two categories: foxes or hedgehogs. For W.H. Auden, it was Mabels and Alices. Are you a fox or a hedgehog? A Mabel or an Alice?
I’m a fox named Mabel who occasionally steals Alice’s ID.