Role at Red Bird: Editor in Chief, Poetry Editor
How I became Involved with Red Bird and why I agreed to do it:
My initial introduction to Red Bird was from a couple of mutual friends – Ama St. John and Pete Heiden – who told me about the press, gave me a copy of Ama’s chapbook Landscapes Painted with the Left Hand, and introduced me to Dana. The following year, while Ama was working as the editor for the Broadsides Project, she mentioned they were looking for contributors and I had the opportunity to create the artwork for Kelly Hansen Maher’s “Elegy for the Deer in Spring.” From that initial introduction through following the Broadside Project, I have cherished the blending of visual and written artistry that Red Bird has come to embody for me.
The following year, while talking with Dana one evening, she mentioned that the poetry submissions were increasing and she asked if I would be interested in editing for the press. Having previously served on the editorial board for Water ~ Stone and finding that experience to be both invigorating and generative, I welcomed the opportunity to edit again.
I agreed to edit for Red Bird for a collection of reasons, not the least of which was to support this amazing press and by extension the range of talented poets and artists associated with it. I knew the experience would strengthen the rich local literary community I am fortunate to be a part of. It would expose me to a wide range of new voices, diverse subjects and formal structures I might not normally be drawn to. Additionally, editing for Red Bird would deepen my attention, benefiting the creation and revision of my own poetry and art.
Editing for Red Bird has been a wonderful way for me to remain engaged with fellow artists/writers and has reinforced the prominent role the written word (my own and others’) holds in my life.
Recent Red Bird project(s):
· Andrew Jarvis’s Sound Points was published in March 2013
· Carol Berg’s Her Vena Amoris is forthcoming
· Michelle Chen’s Postcard from Across the Street is forthcoming
A little about my own work and what I am currently working on:
I am currently working on two distinct bodies of work, while also actively seeking a publisher for my full length poetry collection, aftermath.
While in the MFA program at Hamline University, I had the opportunity to study Martin Espada’s work and was able to meet him and hear him speak about the role of the poet as witness. That experience had a significant impact on my writing, and as a result, I have been developing a body of work focused externally at goings on within our society which I believe deserve voice and require our earnest contemplation as global citizens. I am working on a collection of poems related to our country’s military-industrial complex in general, as well as a specific focus on the US Drone Warfare program.
The second body of work that I am currently developing is a multimedia collection inspired by my adventures rock climbing in South Dakota’s Black Hills. My childhood rooted in rural woodland, I have always had a great appreciation for the outdoors. Over the years I’ve found I am equally contented to sit in stillness and contemplate nature as I am to tackle a singletrack on my mountain bike or climb a technical slab of rock – I find the trails and terrain around me to be regenerative. This collection is a blending of poetry and digital photography: observations of the physical world which also explore the inner landscape faced while pushing one’s body past physical and mental limitations.
My favorite thing(s) that can be found in the public domain:
There are a handful of written works I turn to when the hustle and bustle of daily life crowd too heavily upon me. I find each, in their own unique way, to exert a restorative influence on me.
Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar is for me a whimsical, surreal world which I can settle in to for a few hours and escape my present reality. It serves as a cleansing contemplation of something so utterly unlike our present world and yet so comfortably familiar in its friendships, sense of community and interpersonal relationships that each character feels inherently relatable. Imagine the sun being a different color everyday and nearly everything being made as a derivative of watermelon or with stones or pine: a simple life in a strange place.
Mark Nowak’s Shut Up, Shut Down is a beautifully crafted melding of poetry and image. The collection integrates photographic images with a series of poetic explorations of the collapse of the steel industry and the broader economic and political landscape. Nowak deftly incorporates found language – snippets of conversation, political speeches, etc. – with his own observations of a time and place particularly influential to me. I have found his range in form and his calculated use of white space very instructive and inspirational.
Just about anything I’ve read by Arthur Sze… Given my predisposition to shorter works, and my own preference towards writing poems typically twenty lines or (much) shorter, I am in awe at how he can so deftly hold my attention for pages upon pages. His incorporation of the scientific realm – largely in the form of observations of the natural world – is another aspect of his work which is utterly engaging for me. Not only does he demonstrate a technical acumen and thirst for knowledge, I’ve also found several poems in which he seems to allude to chaos theory/quantum mechanics much to my delight.
And of course this list would be incomplete if it omitted the most influential poems I remember reading as a child: “Flowers and Bullets” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (http://speccoll.library.kent.edu/4may70/83yevgeny.html) and “Condemnation” by Nhat Hanh (as translated by the author with Helen Coutant).
Listen to this:
yesterday six Vietcong came through my village.
Because of this my village was bombed – completely destroyed.
Every soul was killed.
When I come back to the village now, the day after,
there is nothing to see but clouds of dust and the river, still flowing.
The pagoda has neither roof nor altar.
Only the foundations of houses are left.
The bamboo thickets have been burned away.
Here in the presence of the undisturbed stars,
in the invisible presence of all the people still alive on earth,
let me raise my voice to denounce this filthy war,
this murder of brothers by brothers!
I have a question: Who pushed us to this killing of one another?
Whoever is listening, be my witness!
I cannot accept this war.
I never could, I never shall.
I must say this a thousand times before I am killed.
I feel I am like that bird which dies for the sake of its mate,
dripping blood from its broken beak and crying out:
Beware! Turn around to face your real enemies –
ambition, violence, hatred, greed.
Men cannot be our enemies – even men called ‘Vietcong!’
If we kill men, what brothers will we have left?
With whom shall we live then?