Jessica Goodfellow- Design & Poetry

We sat down with Jessica Goodfellow, the author of Mendeleev’s Mandala. See what she had to say about the intersection between poetry and space.
Traditional Japanese New Year decoration in front of hated paper doors.
Traditional Japanese New Year decoration in front of hated paper doors.
TellTell: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
JG: My design aesthetic is, unfortunately, completely at odds with a general principle I live by. I would prefer clean lines, open spaces, and only a few bold pieces. What I have is cramped spaces and lots of clutter. That’s because a principle I live by is that all the people I live with (my husband and two sons) also get a say in how our communal life (and thus our home) is arranged, managed, and displayed. The reality is that we live in a small apartment in Japan with little storage space and we share what little space we have. Sometimes I have to close my eyes to escape the chaos. So be it.

 

TT: How do you decide what goes in your space. How is that different from what goes into one of your poems?
JG: What goes in my personal space goes where it does out of necessity; there simply isn’t anywhere else to put things. Books are stacked under my desk where my legs and chair are supposed to go. Books are stacked up on my side of the bed. Books are everywhere. We do have bookshelves, and those are stacked three deep.What goes in my poems also goes there out of necessity, but not out of the desperate necessity attached to the stuff I keep in my physical space.  What goes in my poems is only what is necessary—nothing superfluous—if I’m writing well. That sort of necessity is completely different from the necessity of storing our family’s belongings, which I’m sure we could pare down to the minimum as I have the luxury of doing in poetry, but since everybody in our home has a say on our belongings, that doesn’t happen.

 

TT: What are you working on creatively right now?
JG: Right now I am working on a series of poems about my mother’s brother, who was lost in a mountain-climbing accident on Mt. McKinley when he was twenty-two years old and I was two. I’m writing about the tragedy and mystery of this famous accident (he was lost with six other climbers), about how the incident and the fact that his body was never recovered continues to affect our family today.

TT: What is your favorite object in your home?
JG: I have a strong affinity for fossils. I have a fish fossil from the Eocene era (about 50 million years ago) and an ammonite that’s about 412 million years old, which means that the answer I gave below about the oldest thing in my home isn’t correct. I also have a box full of sand dollars that I’ve collected on vacations, and a few of them are fossilized. I love all these things.


TT: What is your least favorite object?
I like the shoji screens in traditional Japanese homes (we have some) and I’ve come to terms with the rush mat flooring (tatami) of our one traditional Japanese room, but the paper doors of the closets in the Japanese room and the paper sliding doors that open up the living room to the Japanese room are the things I hate in our home. Their flimsiness does not make up for the atmosphere they do provide. In a family with children, they simply aren’t practical, and they’ve become tattered and shabby-looking from regular (not abusive) use. I routinely repaper the shoji screens myself, but cannot do the sliding paper doors. Many of my neighbors don’t bother to repaper their shoji screens very often, as they just get torn up quickly if there are children or pets around. In perfect condition, it’s a strikingly clean look, but that condition is hardly attainable for long in real living spaces.

 

TT: What poetry books have you been reading recently?
JG: Last month I read Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife, Shane MacCrae’s Forgiveness, Forgiveness, Douglas Kearney’s Fear, Some, and Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients. Yesterday I finished Richard Siken’s Crush. Next on my list is Craig Blais’s About Crows. As far as poetics, last month I finished reading Edward Hirsch’s A Poets Glossary and Carol Maso’s Break Every Rule. Well, I didn’t read the entire Edward Hirsch compendium, but I read all the entries that jumped out at me, and that took months.
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TT: What design elements have you been crushing on recently?
JG: Texture is important to me. I love collage that uses texture. I also love collage in poetry.

 

TT: If you had unlimited time to create, what would you make?
JG: I’m interested in weaving. I have some very crude hand looms that I bought at the local craft store, but I’d like to learn how to use a treadle loom. Of course, there’s no room for a treadle loom in our home.I’m also interested in collage. I’ve done a few that were successful, but more that weren’t. I’d like to take a class and see if I could get better at this.

TT: What is the oldest object in your home?
JG: I have a pair of cameo earrings that were my great-great-grandmother’s. My grandmother, whom I was very close to, gave them to me when I was in college. I have only worn them once or twice; I’m afraid I’ll lose them—they are the kind of old-fashioned earring with screws. I also have an old Japanese sword hilt that was given to me by a friend’s father, from his private collection. I don’t know how old it is. But obviously the fossils mentioned above are older than either of these things.
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TT: What do you love about your work space?
JG: I don’t write at my desk, not poems anyway (though I type them up on the computer there after I write them by hand elsewhere). I write at the dining room table or in a coffee shop. There’s one coffee shop I especially like, and a particular seat I am keen on. The relative height of table and chair suit me, the lighting is soft but not too dim, and the window is visible but not distractingly close. I sit next to a brick wall, in a corner in a balcony, so the wall behind me is half open to the first floor, giving me a sense both of openness and privacy. I often ask myself what it is I like about that space because we are planning to redo our home office in 2015, and I’d like to recreate as many elements of that space as possible.Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Mendeleev’s Mandala (Mayapple Press, forthcoming 2015), The Insomniac’s Weather Report (Isobar Press, 2014), and the chapbook, A Pilgrim’s Guide to Chaos in the Heartland (Concrete Wolf, 2006). Jessica’s work has appeared in Best New Poets and on Verse Daily, as well as on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. She is a recipient of the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal. She has a graduate degree from Caltech, and currently lives and teaches in Japan. www.jessicagoodfellow.com  www.jessicagoodfellow.blogspot.com

Nicole Rollender- Poetry & Design

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Ecletic. Nothing in my house matches, but I try to create a kind of harmony among items made from different materials (wood, metal, oil on canvas, stone) from different decades. Most of my walls are painted a very neutral milky color, which creates a serene backdrop for all of my random art: a da Vinci portrait, various incarnations of the Green Man in wood and metal, terracotta suns, large mirrors, oil paintings of Paris and the Italian countryside, colored-glass witch balls. Our sun porch is painted a bright yellow and has a lot of windows, and we’ve set up a large art table for my daughter who’s almost 6 to get creative. I love the feeling in this space the most — I have a large bookshelf and potted palm trees here too. This room just begs you to get creative in it.

 

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 How do you decide what goes in your space? How is that different from what goes into one of your poems?

Before I had children, I liked lots of antique furniture and groups of art on the walls. Now, with all the toys, hand prints, milk dribbles across the wood floors, I’ve become much more minimalist, which I’m assuming will be a temporary thing. I like bare wood floors, bare walls, bare table tops. That brings some sort of temporary order and comfort to my space. But I do like candles that add scent and ambient lighting.

My poems are like my design aesthetic before children. So I imagine my poems as spaces or rooms where I contend with myself: There’s a lot going on. Images, some leaping and association, some narrative. I try to unify and connect what might otherwise be discordant: a horse, a boat of rotting pears, my grandmother’s wrinkles in a stone bowl, a dream of owls. I’m not minimalist in my poems.

What are you working on creatively right now?

In 2014, I finished two poetry chapbooks that are both forthcoming in 2015: Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio) and Little Deaths (ELJ Publications). Finding those manuscripts homes freed me up to expand into new work. Ultimately, I’m working on a full-length manuscript, and my poems, which had been dealing with the dead: what the dead leave, how they inhabit the living, etc., are turning more to the living. I would say that my work is very personal. I don’t think I’d necessarily use the word confessional, but most of the poems I write speak to my experience at some level of being a woman, wife, mother, daughter, grandmother and some of the concerns of those identities. Like, how do you navigate yourself when your body isn’t “good’ at pregnancy and your children are both born premature?

 

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What is your favorite object in your home?
My great-grandfather who came to the U.S. from Poland in 1903 did carpentry on the side, and made a lot of furniture in the Mission style. Of the pieces that I have of his, my favorite is a large trunk. The top and sides are made of painstakingly inlaid pieces of wood that lock together in an intricate pattern. My children trace the wood and bang the heavy metal handles against the wood. They run their toys over the top. I love that I have these art objects in my home, made by a family member who was an artist at night and on the weekends.

 

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What is your least favorite object?
Wooden and metal baby gates. They’re all over the house right now to keep my almost 2-year-old from falling down the stairs or getting into the kitchen and at the stove or into the cat’s water dish. I tripped over one recently and fractured a toe, which is quite an active, painful reminder of how boundaried our open-floor-plan house is right now, out of necessity.

 

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What poetry books have you been reading recently?

I’ve been re-reading Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands. Also on my list are: Small Porcelain Head, by Alison Bemis White, Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers by Bhanu Kapil Rider and Nestuary by Molly Sutton Kiefer. So, all books by women and dealing with things like the dissolution of a marriage, childbirth, infertility, the loss of a friend to suicide.

What design elements have you been crushing on recently?
Anything simple or clean. Because our walls get hand-printed and the floors dropped upon and the windows and glass doors smudged up, I spend time every night doing a quick cleanup. I’ve minimized the decorations that we have out and hung and aim for the less-is-more approach. I love looking at pictures of reading rooms in other homes that have a fireplace, an art piece over it, a chair or two, wood floors and a book case. Nothing extra, and you imagine that room is warm and quiet – a place to retreat.

 

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If you had unlimited time to create, what would you make?

I used to draw a lot of portraits in pencil and charcoal, and I also did calligraphy. If I had time to create, in a space wholly devoted to creating art, with no other responsibilities (that would be in an alternate universe), I’d work on art pieces that combine words and sketches. Pretty much everything would have some poetry in it.

What is the oldest object in your home?

My husband’s family is from Gettysburg, PA, and the original homestead was a hospital farm, with a 200-year-old barn. We have bullets and arrowheads that my husband’s grandfather found on the property, that he found in the cornfields. Since the farm was a Civil War hospital, they’ve unearthed bones shattered by bullets and even a full soldier’s skeleton that was moved to a grave in the soldiers’ cemetery. We go to Gettysburg frequently and walk the battlefield, which has been preserved as a park since the early 1890s. It’s a very haunting place with a sense of active history. Having those objects in my home ties me to those fields even more. Bones appear quiet frequently in my poems.

What do you love about your work space? Why did you set it up that way?

I have what I call a “portable” work space, which is my laptop and whatever pile of poetry books I’m reading that week. Sometimes I write at the high kitchen counter on a bar stool. Sometimes, it’s at the dining room table. Sometimes it’s on the sun porch with a heater on. Sometimes it’s in bed. My work space is portable because there’s really no separate space for me to set up a writing nook in my home. Since I had young children, I usually write early in the morning or late at night. So what’s key is having quiet or maybe just music. Having an uncluttered writing space is also important to me, so wherever I’m setting up, I clear the table surface off so that I feel uncrowded.

 

Nicole Rollender is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Absence of Stars (forthcoming July 2015, dancing girl press & studio), Little Deaths (forthcoming November 2015, ELJ Publications) and Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications). She’s the recipient of CALYX Journal’s 2014 Lois Cranston Memorial Prize, the 2012 Princemere Journal Poetry Prize, and Ruminate Magazine’s 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize for her poem “Necessary Work,” chosen by Li-Young Lee. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, H_NGM_N, Harpur Palate, Heron Tree, MiPOesias, Ruminate Magazine and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. She received her MFA from The Pennsylvania State University, and currently serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches magazine, which won a Jesse H. Neal Award from American Business Media. Visit her online at www.nicolerollender.com.

Hila Ratzabi- Poetry & Space

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
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My design aesthetic involves lots of bright colors and artwork. We can’t paint our walls because our house is a rental, but if we could, I’d go wild.

 

How do you decide what goes in your space. How is that different from what goes into one of your poems?
I am always editing my space like my poems. The house can get cluttered and it requires deciding what to leave out, which is challenging. This can happen in poems as well.

What are you working on creatively right now?
I’m working on a manuscript of poems related to climate change. It is pretty close to being done, but I’m revising and editing and still may be adding new poems in, so perhaps not as done as I’d like to imagine.

What is your favorite object in your home?
My big red sofa, which inspired me to create The Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop. The sofa is huge and comfy, and ideal space for workshops.

What is your least favorite object?
The cats’ litter boxes… There never seems to be a perfect place for them.

What poetry books have you been reading recently?
I just read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen which blew me away (she was also my professor in undergrad).

 

What design elements have you been crushing on recently?
I’m obsessed with anything coral.

If you had unlimited time to create, what would you make?
I would do a lot more oil painting, which I used to do, and kind of come back to every other year or so.

 

What is the oldest object in your home?
We have an antique bookcase that we got for free from a place I used to work at. Not sure exactly how old it is, but old. And beautiful.

What do you love about your work space? Why did you set it up that way?
I love the little corner I set up with a colorfully patterned chair next to the blue typewriter my husband bought me when I was having writer’s block. I used the typewriter as a way to physically get back into writing, to feel it in my fingers. It worked. Now I don’t use it as much but it’s become more of a symbol and reminder of how to find new ways to enter my creative process.

 

Hila Ratzabi was selected by Adrienne Rich as a recipient of a National Writers Union Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, About Place, The Normal School, H_NGM_N, Cortland Review, and others. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Philadelphia where she founded the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop.

Something Strange in the Everyday

 

Christine Rothenbeck sat down with us to talk a bit about her design aesthetic and her poetry. This is the first in a series of poetry & design interviews. Enjoy!

 

 

bed

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

dining nook

 

I’m a grad student (I’ll be finishing my PhD this summer!), so right now it’s a combination of thrift store furniture dressed up in slipcovers and sentimental family hand-me-downs. I have the afghan I napped under as a toddler, the mirror that used to hang in my parents’ bathroom when I was little, a rocking chair that belonged to my aunt, and a chair that I used to sit in when I visited my next-door neighbor when I was in preschool. I have a lot of sentimental connections to furniture for some reason, but since I’m a thousand miles away from my family, it’s nice to have things that remind me of home. I also have lots of strange things I’ve collected over time and visits to thrift and antique stores, like a piece of coral, a lot of old bottles, and the ceramic animals that used to come in boxes of Red Rose Tea. So, eclectic cozy thrift store oddities?

How do you decide what goes in your space. How is that different from what goes into one of your poems?

I have some magpie tendencies in both decorating and poems. In decorating, I find weird old things at antique markets or thrift stores and bring them home—and then I try to find a place to put them. In writing, I tend to find interesting pieces of conversation and text, or ideas that I get excited about/obsessed with, and then I try to link all the pieces together into something different and new. I also do a lot of work with found poetry, which makes sense given my love of found objects. I’m always trying to find something a little strange in the everyday.

 

night light

What are you working on creatively right now?

I am working on finishing my first full-length manuscript, Quarry, trying to fit the poems together into a a coherent whole. I’ve been writing a lot about hunting lately. I’ve never actually been hunting, but I’ve been reading about the medieval traditions of the hunt, and I’m interested in the ways I can bring that into play with the rural New Jersey/Pennsylvania culture I grew up in—my dad and many of the other men I’ve known are hunters and trappers, and I grew up around antler trophies and talk of deer stands—and the language and ideas of relationships, the pursuer and the pursued.

 

red rose tea animals

What is your favorite object in your home?

I have so many favorite things that it’s hard to pick one, so I’m going to tell you about my most newly acquired favorite thing: my 1950s Remington manual typewriter. I won a gift card to a local Hattiesburg antique and craft store called The Lucky Rabbit, and the typewriter was just begging to come home with me. I like that it’s so much harder to operate in terms of typing than a computer keyboard, because I have to really concentrate on striking the keys and it slows me down and makes me really think about every word I put on the page. And I like the idea of being able to type even if the power were to go out—a distinct possibility in Southern Mississippi during storm season!

typewriter

What is your least favorite object?

Because I live in Mississippi, central heating isn’t a requirement for houses. My least favorite object is the wall-mounted gas heater that supposedly heats my apartment. Basically, when it gets cold out, I have to live with an open flame on my living room wall, which is terrifying, and also pretty inefficient, since it faces away from my bedroom. The heater itself is temperamental—it’s so hard to light that when I manage it on my first try, I feel like The Fonz with the jukebox on “Happy Days.”

What poetry books have you been reading recently?

living room from the other side

 

I’ve been reading Monica Ferrell’s Beasts for the Chase, Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones, and Caki Wilkinson’s The Winona Stone Poems. They’re all on my reading list for my comprehensive exam in contemporary feminist poetry, and I’m so lucky to have a reason to acquire so many fantastic books by women writers.

What design elements have you been crushing on recently?

living room from the front door

I’m obsessed with pallet furniture. I like the idea of building my own things, taking what has been thrown away and making it beautiful. I’m hoping I can build a pallet platform bed for my next apartment, wherever that may be.

If you had unlimited time to create, what would you make?

bedroom bookshelf

I’d like to build the aforementioned pallet bed, and this great bookshelf/coffee table I saw that was made from a cable spool. But I also love collage, and I would love to have more time to devote to making collage art/erasure poems. And maybe finally knitting an entire afghan. But first of all, I really, really want to finish this manuscript.

What is the oldest object in your home?

 desk space

I think it’s probably a three-way tie, actually. The chair I sit on at my desk belonged to my great-grandmother, I keep my linens in a chest that dates back to probably around the same period, which my mother got from her first mother-in-law, and I use my grandmother’s Hoosier cabinet as a sideboard/desk overflow storage/craft station/cookbook holder (I live in a really, really small space).

 

Grammy Redgate's Chair

What do you love about your work space? Why did you set it up that way?

I love that it gets natural light from windows on pretty much every side, and that I can look up and watch the squirrels and birds in the oak trees next door. A lot of my poems start out with me feeling some kind of way and looking out the window to see what catches my eye, so it’s good that I can look outside from my desk. The situation of my desk also turns my back to the rest of the room, so I can’t see anything I should be cleaning or working on (I’m a terrible procrastinator). I set my desk up here because it’s the only available outlet that would accommodate my electrical needs, but it’s also a very fortuitous placement. I also love my wall collage of poems and pictures, especially the print my friend Natalie gave me for Christmas a few years back—it’s a character from a Weakerthans song (“A Cat Named Virtute”), and its collar says “I know you’re strong.” I like that it’s there to stare at me both encouragingly and a little creepily every time I sit down to write.

 

Christina Rothenbeck is a PhD candidate at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Her poems have recently appeared in Reunion: The Dallas Review, Bone Bouquet, Sugar House Review, and Switchback. She is the author of two chapbooks: Girls in Art (dancing girl press 2012) and Erasing Innocence (forthcoming from dancing girl press). She lives in half of a tiny pink house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

How to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

Get Rid of Writer’s Block Fast

Writer’s block can be a terrible thing. Some people suffer from writer’s block for five days, and some of us are over here in the year to five-year mark. Sometimes we just can’t shake it. Sometimes our own insecurities block us from writing. Sometimes the pressure is overwhelming. In honor of my online writing class How To Beat Writer’s Block I came up with a short list of tips that might help you resolve your writer’s block issues.

 

TAKE OFF THE PRESSURE
When we feel pressure to perform, we fail. To lift some of this pressure. you have to start thinking about your normal routines in different ways. Don’t do the same thing every day. Move somewhere else. If you normally write at your computer, write by hand. If you normally write by hand, type on a typewriter. If you normally use the typewriter, write on the computer. Changing the way you write might help you begin to write. The pressure will be gone. You won’t be at your normal desk at the normal time with the familiar sensation that you have to write something immediately. This activity can be freeing.

 

DON’T THINK ABOUT WRITING
Sort of like the first exercise, this is an attempt to trick your brain. For a set period of time (one day, one week, etc.) don’t think about writing and don’t write. Don’t worry about the fact that you aren’t writing. Don’t worry about any previous goals that you had set for yourself. Just don’t write. Do something else. In this period, you should be reading and scouring magazines and going to museums and sitting outside and listening to people talk and staring at plants trying to decide what kind of plants they are. You want to come back to your writing desk with a wealth of information to start from.

 

WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING BORING
In an attempt to reduce the pressure and make it easier to write, you want to start with a topic you don’t care about or a topic you already know a lot about. What are you an expert in? It could be anything from sleeping to building toy cars, but you are an expert at something. Think about your expertise and write a timed 5-minute how-to article about your area. Try to be as clear and boring as possible. When you’re finished, you can take that information and change it to imperative mood. Or, if it’s already in imperative mood, switch it around and write in third person. Once you understand the basics of this activity, you can apply it to stories, poems, or essays that you’ve already written.

With these three tiny tips, you might be able to start making larger strides in writing. Writing can be hard when a million other things deserve our attention, but you have to decide what’s important and what’s necessary for you to live a full life. If that’s writing, then write! If that’s something else, then go do that.

 

 

Daria’s Reading List

After doing that interview with GIRL CANON, I started to think about reading lists. What do you currently have on your reading list? Below is mine:

 

Words for Empty and Words for Full- Hicok

Selected Poems- Ruefle

Dream Barker- Valentine

The Fact of a Doorframe- Rich

Madness, Rack, and Honey- Ruefle

Come, Thief- Hirshfield

 

But more importantly, here are some books that MTV’s Daria Morgendorffer read or talked about:

1984-Orwell

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- Kesey

The Dharma Bums- Kerouac

Being and Nothingness- Sartre

The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath

Moby Dick- Melville

Howl- Ginsberg

The House of the Dead- Dostoyevsky

The Prince and the Pauper- Twain

War and Peace- Tolstoy

Babbit- Lewis

Angle of Repose- Stegner

 

 

 

Interview with The MFA Years

Caitlin Neely, the founder of The MFA Years, talked to us about the MFA Years and her goals for the site.

  • Why did you start The MFA Years? I wanted to create a space for creative writing students to share their experiences and advice. As I was researching programs last year, it was hard to find articles and books about the actual MFA experience. I think that’s something that’s important to make available. When I saw that The MFA Chronicles had not been updated in a few years, I knew I wanted to help fill some of that gap.
  • On your website, you say that you started The MFA Years after being inspired by The MFA Chronicles, a now-defunct blog. What was it about The MFA Chronicles that inspired you? I started reading The MFA Chronicles much later in the season, after I’d already been accepted into a couple of programs. The blog got me excited about being able to actually study poetry at the graduate level. I was able to read about the ups and downs of studying at an MFA program, and the entire process I’d just put myself through suddenly felt a lot more real and tangible. I think that “excitement” is what initially inspired me to create the website.
  • How do you find students to interview for The MFA Years? I’ve posted on a couple of MFA Draft groups and one other creative writing group on Facebook. I’ll probably be contacting a few people I know directly, but we rely mostly on students finding our website, perusing the submissions section, and contacting us themselves.
  • So how does The MFA Years work? You find students who are interested in submitting blog posts about their workshops, classes, and submission information The MFA Years is broken up into two sections: the original idea for the blog was to follow 12 creative writing students through their first year of grad. school, so that’s our main focus. The second section came a little later on and that includes all of the guest submissions and interviews. As I said above, most people have reached out to us on their own, and I’ve also asked some people I know to write guest posts.
  • Are you currently attending an MFA program? If so, what was the best advice that you received about applying? I’m a first year poetry candidate at the University of Virginia.The best advice I received from multiple people is to send in your strongest work. At one point I was considering adding a couple of form poems and long poems to my sample because I kept reading about how showing “range” is important. But I dumped them at the last second after my undergraduate mentor told me it made more sense to send in the poems I felt were the best. All of the poems in my sample ended up being very short (that’s mostly what I write) and pretty similar thematically and aesthetically. I got into some awesome programs and I don’t for a second regret sending in the work I was most confident with.
  • What are your post-MFA plans? I’m not sure. I know I’ll end up applying to post-grad fellowships. Applying to PhD programs in either rhetoric and composition or creative writing will be on the table too. The only thing I know for sure is I want to move back to Cincinnati at some point.
  • What are some MFA programs that you’re crushing on right now. (Can you crush on an MFA program? Is that a thing?) You can definitely have a crush on an MFA program. Right now I’m in love with a lot of the programs I applied to this past application season. Of course, UVA is a the top of my crush list. I had great experiences with: UIUC (specifically Michael Madonick), Miami University in Ohio (Cathy Wagner is awesome) and Saint Mary’s in California (Brenda Hillman and Matthew Zapruder are great). I love West Virginia University because they have Mary Ann Samyn. I really like UW-Madison, though, I wasn’t able to apply there.  As you can see, I have a lot of crushes.

 

  • If you had to give one piece of advice to a student who is just starting their MFA program, what would you say? Well, I haven’t technically started my MFA program yet so I don’t have too much advice at the moment. But right now I’d say—arrive with an open mind. You get to focus most of your energy for the next however many years on your writing. Have fun, experiment, take risks, write bad poems and/or stories. You never know where those risks and experiments will take you. And hopefully you’ll learn something from them!

 

Interview with Books and Shovels

 

booksandshovels

Jeremiah, the founder of Books and Shovels, a traveling bookstore and publisher, sat down to give TellTell the ultimate scoop. Ya dig? (Ah. I couldn’t help myself with that one!)

What exactly is Books and Shovels?Books & Shovels is a traveling bookstore and publisher I’m launching at the 2014 NYC Poetry Festival with UndergroundBooks and Nostrovia! Poetry.  I’m Jeremiah Walton, founder of Nostrovia! Poetry.  I’m 19 y/o, and from N.H.. Some friends and I are going to be living out of Books & Shovels, a station wagon loaded down with chapbooks, street books, paintings, all forms of art that exhibit passion, and distributing the materials as we travel cross country hitting open mics, festivals, slams, and street corners.

How and when (and what were you eating/drinking) when you guys came up with the idea for Books & Shovels? Books & Shovels was initially a frame pack full of N!P and UB titles.  I distributed them while hitchhiking after I graduated high school.

What do you think Books & Shovels can offer that traditional bookstores can’t offer? How many bookstore can set up shop on a street corner, or move their place of distribution from city to city at a moment’s notice?

How do you guys feel about digital publications? The 21st century is an amazing time to be an artist.  We can hit the eyes of 1000s of readers and supporters in a day.  Nostrovia! Poetry receives over 15,000 hits per month.  It was built from the ground up, with minimal start up costs.  That’s amazing.  This is the best period of time to be an artist, a poet.  Hell, most of my books are available free through Scribd and embedded onto webpages.  We’re pretty into it.

What do you need to make Books and Shovels a success? We need pledges to jump start the journey.  This way we don’t end up stuck and homeless right off the bat, which is a very potential outcome in the long term picture.  If we end up stuck and broke, we’ll simply work through traditional channels / run Books & Shovels locally until we have enough money to migrate.

Is there a list of places that you’re going to stop? How do you decide? There’s no concrete plan.  The road has a habit of fucking those up.

What kind of soundtrack are you going to have on your drive? Ramshackle Glory, Rail Yard Ghosts, Days N Daze, there’s a lot of wonderful music we’re going to be blasting as we shoot down a sunrise highway.

Can you tell me a little bit about how Books and Shovels will work? Are you selling books? Collecting books from authors? Are you soliciting? What’s the deal? Books & Shovels is nonprofit.  All funds acquired are sunk back into the project, or purchasing books from independent publications and artists.  None of the money goes into our pockets.  We are selling books at a suggested donation price, but ultimately, the price is up to the buyer.  We are collecting donations of publications from authors and publishers currently.  

Why are you doing this? To murder apathy.  To encourage others to be willing to bleed for their dreams.  Too many folks are scared to dream. This isn’t for artists.  This is for anyone who is afraid to cut themselves open for what they love.