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Michael Ruby interviewed in rob mclennan's blog


Friday, March 06, 2015

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Michael Ruby

Michael Ruby is the author of five full-length poetry books: At an Intersection (Alef, 2002), Window on the City (BlazeVOX, 2006), The Edge of the Underworld (BlazeVOX, 2010), Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010) and American Songbook (UDP, 2013). His trilogy, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes Fleeting Memories, a UDP web-book, and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep, an Argotist Online ebook. He is also the author of three Dusie chapbooks, The Star-Spangled Banner (2011), Close Your Eyes (2013) and Foghorns (2014), and is co-editor of Bernadette Mayer’s forthcoming collected early books from Station Hill. He lives in Brooklyn and works as an editor of U.S. news and political articles at The Wall Street Journal.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book, At an Intersection (Alef Books, 2002), was published when I was relatively old, in my 40s.  Before that, I wrote many books’ worth of poetry, but I never thought about publishing a book. I didn't even start trying to publish a book until I was 38.  I was happy with what I had written, but I didn’t feel that it had to be published.  After my first book, I guess I became addicted to publishing and wanted to get my work out there (though most of that earlier poetry has never been published).

My recent books, American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013) and  Close Your Eyes (Dusie, 2013), feel very much of a piece with what I've been doing since the early 1990s.  Close Your Eyes is a sequel to Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill Press, 2012), which was written from 1991 to 2005.  American Songbook, which was written from 1999 to 2013, uses the same compositional procedure as most poems in Window on the City (BlazeVOX [books], 2007), written from 1995 to 1997, and Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), written from 1999 to 2007.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
When I started writing as a teenager, poems are what came out.  I wanted to be a novelist, but poems are what came out.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
For many of my poems, I create careful sketches and then compose the poems using the sketches.  I often spend far more time creating the sketch than composing the poem from the sketch.  Sometimes, I compose totally different poems from the same sketch and choose the one I like most.  The compositions usually are similar to the final poems, but shorter, because I cut anything I don’t like.

In general, I've always been in the habit of doing most of my new composition during the summer, preferably sitting outside at a park, or in farm country, or on a rocky coast.  For the past 15 years, I've also been in the habit of writing many books at the same time. In the first decade of the millennium, for example, I would break up the summer into parts and devote, say, three weeks to American Songbook, three weeks to its offshoot, The Star-Spangled Banner, three weeks to Compulsive Words, two weeks to the unpublished From the Mouth of the Bay, and whenever I was worn out but had mental energy, I would dictate into a recorder poems for Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep or Close Your Eyes or the unpublished Visions.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
A poem begins for me in an infinite number of places.  As for books, I most often write a group of poems and then realize that they could become a book.  That’s what happened with The Edge of the UnderworldWindow on the CityCompulsive WordsThe Star-Spangled BannerAmerican Songbook; the unpublished From the Mouth of the Bay and Trance Position; and the unfinished Sounds of Summer in the Country and Dreams of the 2000s.  That’s one model.  Another model is writing a book without realizing it.  For years, I wrote down memories on worksheets at work and they became a book, Fleeting Memories.  I wrote down dreams in the morning and they became a book, Dreams of the 1990s.  With several other books, such as Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep and Close Your Eyes, I decided to write a book from the start, but about psychic phenomena that had interested me for a long time.
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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed at BLOTTERATURE





This Visit


Review: How to be Another and This Visit by Susan Lewis
Červená Barva Press, Blaze VOX [books], 2014
Reviewed By Elizabeth Mobley

Susan Lewis’ full-length prose poetry collection, How to be Another and her full-length poetry collection, This Visit are highly abstract, punny, and rich in carefully planned out verbiage. Her soulful words seep into the mind to linger, resonate, and repeat resoundingly, always with a fresh understanding with every read.

In How to be Another, Lewis’ prose clenches in a visceral way, right from the beginning with

is all you ever say, & I do, becoming even grimier & less enlightened” (3)

leaving an afterthought to ruminate upon:

“So far, I have unearthed no secret treasure; no new perspective; no offspring of any kind; not often the slightest touch of your hand still unsullied, impossibly smooth, irresistibly trembling hand” (3).

The overwhelmingly sarcastic tone makes these prose pieces though-provoking but easy to read again and again, like in “Say Something”:

Say the end is a beginning. Say this is a matter of life & death. Say America is just another bubble. Say a thing or two about milkweed or super-heroes, vibrations or delicious speculation. Say the proof is in the pudding. Say each moment has a life of its own. Say you never want to blink. Say you sweet-talked fear to burrow for this moment. Say you can imagine another scenario. Say you’ll pay attention. Say there’s help on the way. Say there isn’t. Say what you’d rather not. Say what you please. Just promise to listen. (21)

Read the whole review here

Check out This Visit here 

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Susan Lewis interviewed in Grab The Lapels


Meet the Writer: Susan Lewis

I want to thank Susan Lewis for answering my questions. She is the author of several books, including This Visit and How to Be Another.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was seven years old, I read a collection of haiku by Basho. I was entranced, and became passionate about writing Japanese forms. I went on, as a child and adolescent, to write all kinds of poetry, as well as short stories and plays.

How have you developed creatively since then?

I still consider my writing identity a work in progress, and I suspect I always will! After high school, I didn’t write at all for a number of years. When I turned back to it, I wrote short fiction, which is what I worked on for my MFA. Later, I tried my hand at writing a novel. Only after that did I return to my first love, poetry. Over time my poetry has moved from more-or-less traditional free verse lyric to prose and lineated poems that are more fragmented and narratively unmoored. That said, I still write some prose poems that resemble surrealistic parables or fables.

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Kristina Marie Darling interviewed at Blotterature



Blotterature was excited when Kristina Marie Darling sent her collection, The Arctic Circle, our way for a review. We see her work widely published in the small press and admire her dedication to her craft–especially when taking risks. In her interview below, Kristina displays her positive attitude–a quality we all can admire.  And we can’t forget to mention that she has the coolest name. Hope you enjoy!


Blotterature has a strong connection to our place – industrialized Northwest Indiana – and it is reflective in our writing. Tell us where you are and how your place fits into your art. 

That’s a great question. I lived for three years in Buffalo, New York and the snow-covered landscape appears quite frequently in my poems. I’m very interested in the ways that poetry can explore the relationship between one’s inner experience and one’s surroundings, since the two are often inextricable. In many of my poems, the speaker’s innermost thoughts and emotions are projected onto the landscape, ultimately shaping how the reader sees and experiences that particular place. My most recent collection, The Arctic Circle, takes this idea to the extreme, suggesting that an ice-covered landscape houses not only frozen vegetables, but also, frozen hearts and frozen wives.

Who/What has impacted your work the most and how does that come through?

More than anything, my work has been impacted by my experience as a woman in academia. Most people associate academic prose with strict rules, and stricter genre categories. In my creative practice, I work with a variety of prose forms, including prose poems, flash fictions, footnotes, glossaries, and endnotes. I frequently fill these somewhat unexciting prose forms with subversive and unexpected content. By doing so, I hope to show the reader that anything is possible within a literary text, so one should never impose limitations on a piece of writing on the basis of its form or appearance on the printed page.

How do you generate new ideas for your work?

When I have writer’s block, the best thing for me to do is read everything I can get my hands on. I read poetry and hybrid pieces, but also work that would never appear on the syllabus of a poetry workshop. After all, writing itself is just one more way of grappling with the literary and cultural tradition(s) that we have inherited. For me, it’s impossible to write if I don’t have something to engage or respond to.

When have you been most satisfied with your work?

I’m most satisfied with my work when it initiates dialogue between writers, reviewers, or even visual artists and composers. The best part of being a writer is being part of a community, so I’m always excited to see responses to my poetry, whatever form they may take. I was thrilled when Dale Trumbore, a fabulously talented composer, set some of my footnote poems to music. And recently, I participated in an installation project, where my poem was sewn onto a kite. All of art is a conversation, so it’s impossible for me to work (and feel fulfilled in my work) in isolation.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

That’s something that every artist struggles with, I think! In my own practice, I know when a piece is finished after I’ve lived with it for awhile, and I can read it without thinking of revisions, edits, and other things that I would do differently if given the chance.

What has been your biggest failure and what − if any − lessons were learned?

I published my work too soon. While many writers would constantly reprimand themselves for publishing something before it was ready, I choose not to feel bad about it at all. I’m grateful that those editors took a chance on my work, and I’m thankful that those journals helped my work find readers. In many ways, what some writers would consider a failure or a lapse in judgment has taught me the importance of gratitude in any writer’s practice.

Read the whole Interview here 

Check out Arctic Circle here 

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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed at Red Paint Hill


A Glimpse into our Alien World:  Susan Lewis and This Visit

 Susan Lewis
This Visit

BlazeVOX [books]
Buffalo, NY
© 2014
ISBN:  978-1-60964-169-6


Astonishment. Astonishment and an extensive exploration of language through the masterful use of rhyme and alliteration makes Susan Lewis’ eighth poetry collection This Visit both a tremendously enjoyable and challenging book to read. When her speakers demand, “Admit you would play dead. / Permit me to seed red // lest we strut and preen / & prophecy . . .” (15), the audience pays attention, if only for the beautiful arrangement. But there is much more to this volume than music and word play. The poet’s 857 couplets provide the reader with tantalizing clues as how we interact with each other and the surrounding world.

            The basic, in fact the only, unit of construction in This Visit is the couplet, appearing occasionally in variant forms. This fact raises significant questions for several reasons, not the least of which is what or whom do these constructs represent? Chromosomes? Noah’s menagerie? Lovers? Pilot/co-pilot? Mentor/protégé? Whatever the case, Lewis ensures the poems reflect two viewpoints:  incisive, cogent, sometimes contradictory, and always worth hearing.

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Photos on flickr