New zine aims to start conversation about rape and abuse in indie lit/small press writing communities of DC & Baltimore

Gazing Grain Press reader Meg Ronan, together with writers Tracy Dimond, Michelle Dove, and Laura Spencer, have launched a new zine that plans to start an important conversation about the experiences of female and female-identifying writers in the DC and Baltimore small press and indie/alt lit writing communities.  They are currently seeking stories for the zine, and are also inviting those who want to continue engaging in this conversation to add themselves to their contact list. In light of the recent accounts of these problems in the alt lit community (see here, here, and here, just for starters, along with this fantastic response by our 2012 miniature author Natalie Eilbert), we at Gazing Grain feel this is a very significant issue, and we fully support this zine initiative.

Here is the call for submissions in full:

writer friends of dc & baltimore:

earlier this month, several rape and abuse victims within the indie lit/small press writing community spoke publicly about their experiences. most of you already know that these violations of our bodies and of consent are a pervasive problem, and that our community is not exempt from these offenses. a few of us, all female writers here in DC & Baltimore, want to start a conversation here. we know some of you have been here longer than us & had these conversations before. but we need this now.

1) if you have a story you want to share, of rape, of abuse, of harassment, of sexism, of verbal, physical, or sexual violence, of being talked over or talked at or silenced, if you have anger you want to share, or fear, or other responses, if you have ideas, if you have critiques of our rape culture, if you have solutions, we want to hear them, and we are saying here is one place for that. there need to be lots of different ways for people to talk about this. we are putting together a zine, the message of which is clearly that if you are generous enough to share, we want to hear.

2) if you are interested in having a larger conversation about our safety & our rights & our voices in our writing communities here in DC & Baltimore, please send your contact info & we’ll get an email list going. If you don’t respond asking to be added to the list, we promise not to send you any more emails after this.

no one needs our invitation to speak, and no victim should feel pressured or obliged to share their experience. but we think asking helps. in our own private conversations, we’ve found that we are often hesitant to speak out for various reasons, many of them due to the misogynistic culture we live in. because we’re afraid of judgment, because we’re not convinced people will care, because we’re not sure of our own opinions and not comfortable participating in conversations rooted in traditionally masculine communication styles. because we’re used to being called dramatic & gossipy, being told we’re wrong, being spoken over and spoken at in our beds and in our bars and at our jobs. we’ve all seen a lot of statements of support, and those matter. but one thing we think would be helpful to do as a community and to teach our men to do more of is to ask and to listen. not just to articulate support but to live it by creating spaces for people to talk about rape and abuse and discrimination. all the victims who have spoken out about their abuse have been incredibly brave. but we want to start making it a little bit easier, a little bit less risky. if we can do anything to make it easier for any woman or any victim to use her voice and be supported, if we can make our community a place where that is common, we want to. we want to talk to all of you about how to do it.

send material for the zine or requests to be added to the contact list to any of us at: // // //

Chapbook Review: Jessico Cuello’s By Fire

By Fire HGPJessica Cuello
By Fire
Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013
Ribbon-bound Paperback, $6.00
25 pages

By Fire is a text grounded in a history. Jessica Cuello provides a brief historical note, which is placed in the back of the chap, so I read By Fire the first time through without it. I felt placed by the titles, and by the character and voice of the poems themselves; I held my questions. The titles often give a year (as in the first poem, “The Births: 1186″). In the second poem, “Conversion: May 1204,” the vocabulary begins to build: we get “Foix” for the first time, as a place, and we get “Cathar” as a converting force. I experienced the poems in this way, before I reached the historical note. On subsequent reads, I had that information with me, and I appreciated it, but it is possible to access these poems cold. By Fire takes place between 1186 and 1238-44, when the last of the Cathars were burned alive by Catholic crusaders. The poems focus on Esclarmonde de Foix, a highest-ranking Perfect in the Cathars, and her efforts to defend the Cathars at a stronghold she built, Montségur.

What most impresses me about this book is how current a set of poems set in the 12th and 13th centuries can feel. The line that caught me, and which still plays in my head months after first reading this chap, is “I place/ the head of the girl with the girl.” This sentence is despairingly simple. At first, I found it too simple to understand. When I finally understood, I was struck by the fact that these poems end, this group of people was killed off centuries ago, and yet this is the stuff of news stories, now: “I place/ the head of the girl with the girl.”

This line comes from “Massacre at Béziers: 1209.” It ends like this:

When we had cleaned up best

we could, we sat apart in a field.
No one made food. We were afraid of taste.

These sentences are representative. The forms of the poems change. Some are very small in couplets, and others are long, featuring longer stanzas. The violence of the book is controlled by the restrained syntax and its resulting tone.

The speaker of these poems is tasked with a lot. We learn of Catharism through her body. Cuello does this well, while still treating her as a character with development. In “Material,” we get some knowledge of Catharism’s view of sinful flesh or maybe the speaker’s questioning of that:

My God had no argument,
he panted through my body
until the body was inward
like the caves: cool, cavernous.
Until it was as the cliffs:
terrifying. Dizzy.

And later, “You cannot eat/ your way through flesh/ to find the spirit world.” While the bulk of the poems move the narrative of the Cathars along, Cuello builds in time for the characters to be human. There is a wedding. There is a moment, the poem “Cat,” where there is no mention of war at all, just the interaction of two bodies:

Truth pursues me like a girl.
I shake her free
so I can enter in my dream
where you have shaved your cheek.

My bare fingers on your naked face.

I find myself wishing for the poems to continue. Ultimately, I think that is the work of a book or (especially) a chapbook—to leave the reader wanting. Ultimately, this is my favorite kind of poetry. The kind that seems to be about one set of things but which speaks through and outward and beyond. I didn’t know that I wanted to know about the Cathars. Here, I end up wanting more. And while I don’t think it is the job of poetry to teach me about things, I do think poems should make me wonder. These do that.


Hyacinth Girl Press is a feminist micro-press particularly interested in manuscripts dealing with topics such as radical spiritual experiences, creation/interpretation of myth through a feminist lens, and science. Jessica Cuello’s By Fire is available for purchase here.


M. Mack is a genderqueer poet, editor, and fiber artist in Virginia. Ze is the author of the chapbooks Traveling (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015) and Imaginary Kansas (dancing girl press, 2015). Hir poems have appeared in Gargoyle, Wicked Alice, Adrienne, and The Queer South (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), among others

Fall for the Book Launch Reading

by Jessie Szalay

Anne Lesley Selcer web

The launch of from A Book of Poems on Beauty, the winner of Gazing Grain’s 2014 chapbook contest, was held on a September Saturday during the Fall for the Book Festival in Fairfax, Virginia. The day was unseasonably chilly, with murky gray skies, wind, and persistent drizzles. The reading and launch, however, were a great way to warm up. Both contest winner Anne Lesley Selcer and contest runner-up Kevin McLellan read from their work and ignited my appreciation for their imagery, rhythms, and poetic daring.

Tall with jet black hair stark against a magenta shirt, Anne Lesley Selcer brought a commanding presence fitting for her crackling poems. The cadence of her poems was sharp and often list-like, with statements coming like bursts of lightning. “Creped skin, pipe smoked, citadel./Trampled leaves, black dirt, winding path./ I dress this way because I want to,” wrote Selcer. Many of her poems directly addressed women’s empowerment through wearing what they want or taking on controversial roles. In one poem, she took on the voice of porn star Sasha Gray, stating crisply, “I was not sexually abused. I am not on drugs. The acts I perform are always consensual./ I am a woman who strongly believes in what she does.” Selcer’s voice is as confident as her word choice; her vision of feminine empowerment rang fresh and honest. But vulnerability also crept into her reading in an emotionally fulfilling way. My favorite of her poems began, “When I was the beautiful girl/ the fireflies signified:” Easy answers aren’t given here, nor is the implication that the poet is no longer “the beautiful girl” resolved. Those of us in the audience were left with impressions of flickering and burning, but also of torches shining brightly, confident and empowered.

Kevin McLellan webRunner-up Kevin McLellan filled the reading with infectious warmth. Blue eyes sparkling, he jauntily greeted the audience and snapped a picture for his mother. McLellan’s poems were energetic but often heart-wrenching in their juxtaposition of natural images with harsh words. “My body will need/ to surrender. Like spills/ around the connifers,” McLellan wrote in “Tributary,” which is forthcoming from Barrow Street Press. He also read from his broadside, published by Gazing Grain, titled “Confessions of a Single Housewife Who is Also a Gay Man.” The title suggests possible contradictions, possible dualities, possible splits. But the lines themselves suggest wholeness. Pain and awareness are united together in honest realism: “I cook with family in mind and food becomes complicated/ because I am both hungry and not hungry.”

Showing off their distinct perspectives on gender, beauty, and expectation, Selcer and McLellan’s fiery lyricism made the launch not only a terrific way to spend a rainy afternoon but a chance to discover two exciting poets. The launch demonstrated that both poets offer valuable contributions to the feminist literary community as well as to Gazing Grain’s growing repertoire.

Anne Lesley Selcer, co-editors M. Mack, Lisa Hill-Corley, and Hadiyah Huma, and Kevin McLellan

Anne Lesley Selcer, co-editors M. Mack, Lisa Hill-Corley, and Hadiyah Huma, and Kevin McLellan


Jessie Szalay is the Editor in Chief of So to Speak: a feminist journal of literature and art. Her work has appeared in Waccamaw Journal, Killing the Buddha, Inside Travel of National Geographic Traveler, and elsewhere.

See more launch photos on Facebook!

Chapbook Review: Kassandra Lee’s Zombia

zombiaKassandra Lee
dancing girl press, 2014
Paperback, $7.00
33 pages

Kassandra Lee’s debut chap, Zombia, begins in the late 90’s in Lee’s native San Diego, where the classroom maps have not yet been updated from the Soviet era. In the flux from the Cold War to the post-9/11 “war on terror,” Lee’s world, as the title implies, is constantly on the verge of entering new seasons of danger; a girl in a cul-de-sac experiences “a sense of belonging like how a landmine belongs to the future,” and an evening of watching Netflix is seasoned by “the slow drone” of the blood circulating, “an old/ and serious battlefield.” In tight, driving poems, Lee’s speakers consider the “enemy,” real and imagined, with the humor and awe.

Lee’s poems are perhaps most accurately summed up in her own phrase: “arrows don’t accurately/ convey the phenomenon of cause/ and effect.” Lee positions herself in a generation with every reason to question causality—one whose earliest memories on a national political scale are suspect. This troubled relationship upends even the knowledge of one’s own body—“I’m not the same person I was then…” she writes:

            The other body fluids wanted
                 an easy way out
            But no black-hatted surgeon came for them

9/11 and the 43rd president take a central role as Lee meditates on the concept of “terror” for a young generation. In “Self-Portrait from the First Inauguration,” the speaker shifts from televised imagery into a jarringly personal reflection:

             He made you into a grey shed
            on a dirt-skinned molehill. You began
            to see the future would be filled
            with the enemy, so I filled
            your plastic water bottles with cement
            to smash in the faces of men who prove
            to be all tongues and no taste.

Once the potential for combustion is recognized, it has the potential to be realized; the simple reminder of a bird’s own bone structure presents the complication “that my veins/ are also a wine-stained corkscrew.”

I’m especially taken by Lee’s ability to push back against the potential for hopelessness in a country whose rhetoric is driven by fear and which, at times, dismisses its youngest generation as distracted. Lee’s metaphors and playful interaction with the language of celebrity crushes and social media places them into the conversation—not as spaces outside the dialogue, but as places where the harrowing reality has the potential for a candy-sweet kiss, anyway. For instance, Lee responds to responds to the mandate of the “men in the university” to consider post-capitalist language by hedging the poem “THE REAL KASSY LEE” with hashtag sarcasm:

            Roasted Chicken Breast: that’s a great feeling of control
            inside an #indifferent universe! Honestly, the bowed bones
            encaging my chest are a disco ball of lonely Red Bull cans.

And yet, the speakers’ bizarre sincerity creeps through in poems that reveal an earnest and urgent desire to love with similar abandon as we fear: “I want to pitch/ camp under your dried out/ thorax in a desert// when you die and spit chaw at/ approaching tarantulas.” In this world, brothers are still “glue-eared” and girls take on the nickname “Brass Tacks” with pointed sonic determination: “intact, weathered/ be corner bread and bone broth.”

These indications of hardened possibility are what ground the book. In love poems and memories, we encounter the repeated affirmation that something sharp has been within us all along, and that, perhaps, acknowledging it is the only way forward. In “Zombia,” Kassandra Lee artfully reveals the hazards we have grown accustomed to in the light that they deserve—one that opens a conversation about their danger while affirming the resilience of those who survive them.



Since 2004, dancing girl press has been publishing chapbooks by emerging women poets (to date, more than 200). Their 2014 series includes another round of beautiful, handmade chaps, including titles by AM Ringwalt, Shira Richman, Sarah Chavez, Irène Mathieu, and GGP contest semi-finalist Jeanine Deibel. You can purchase Kassandra Lee’s Zombia and other books here.


Kate Partridge received her MFA in poetry from George Mason University, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Colorado Review, Carolina Quarterly, Rhino, Better,  and Verse Daily. She lives in Anchorage, where she teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage and serves as a Count Coordinator for VIDA.

Tunes for your feminist fall

Whether you’re a student settling into the new semester, a teacher sitting down to grade your first stack of papers, or just a human who loves the glorious changing of the seasons from summer to fall, you definitely need our #fallintofeminism playlist.

Featuring a mix of timeless classics and brand new jams, this playlist includes songs and artists recommended by our editors and readers throughout the summer. This playlist includes a diverse group of artists and songs we admire, reflecting the value we place on an inclusive range of feminisms and feminists.

A few of our favorite lyrics:

“Let this be a warning, says the magpie to the morning, ‘Don’t let this fading summer pass you by.'” (Neko Case)

“All dressed up in my new suit–took my name, my sight, my song. Been trying to find myself all day long. I heard em say, ‘Love’ll be your curse or a restless friend.’ Love belongs in movies.” (Janelle Monae)

“Ooo, your kisses–sweeter than honey. And guess what? So is my money.” (Aretha Franklin)

Friends, enjoy!  Play. Dance. Write. Repeat.


Feminist Resource Feature: Minerva Rising

By Nicole Rollender

I discovered Minerva Rising Literary Journal while browsing, looking for new feminist literary journals that could be a good home for my poems. What drew me to the journal was its mission of creating a welcoming space (in print and online) for everywoman to be creative.

Minerva Rising Editor-in-Chief Kim Brown read somewhere that stories authored by women were “small” compared with those written by men. “That troubled me,” she said. “It devalued the work of women writers and the overall experience of being a woman.”

Then, after receiving a series of rejection letters for her own fiction, she began to wonder if it were really true ––that women’s stories were viewed as less important than men’s. “I lamented to anyone who would listen that there needed to be a literary journal for women that was interested in publishing and promoting the stories women write and want to read,” Kim said. “And then I remembered another quote, this one by Toni Morrison, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ ”

Because I was so taken with the journal’s mission and focus on women, earlier this year I reached out to Kim and asked her if she had any staff openings – and she did. After a few great conversations, I joined the journal as its media director and a poetry reader. One thing that I love about Kim at the helm is that she encourages us to work with emerging writers to get their piece just right for publication; in that way, while we publish established writers, we also give voice to new ones. We’re committed to developing all of the women artists who join our community, and our staff takes pride in the personal attention we offer to the high volume of exceptional material that’s entrusted to us month after month. And, as most of the staff are writers, we recognize the importance of funding our contributors; we pay writers $50 for fiction or nonfiction prose and $35 for poetry that we select for publication.

Minerva Rising has published five gorgeous, hefty themed issues. Here, I’ve handpicked some pieces that speak to our themes: Issue 1: Beginnings (“To the Left is the Beach” illustrates how sometimes a beginning comes after a devastating loss); Issue 2: Winter (we reflect on the parallels between a blizzard and our inward struggle of determination in “Storm”); Issue 3: Rebellion (one woman reclaims her body after a devastating diagnosis in “Naked Pictures”); Issue 4: Mothers (in the poem, “My Mother was Dead,“ a daughter walks the streets in Poland retracing the steps of all the Jewish mothers who came before her); and Issue 5: Turning Points (“Learning to Let Go” chronicles the journey of a woman who rediscovers life after the death of her long-time partner). Forthcoming this year are two more compelling volumes –– Issue 6: Food and Issue 7: Wilderness.

On, the journal’s newly-designed website, we foster a community for women to share and showcase their writing and art, which includes “The Keeping Room” blog that features contributors’ thoughts on life and art, along with weekly blog entries from staff members, plus news and other women-focused literary magazine reviews. Join us on and Twitter, @minerva_rising.

Minerva Rising also supports women’s independence by donating to charities like Women for Women International. In addition, we’ve created the Owl of Minerva grant, which awards $500 to provide financial support to one woman writer or artist who would otherwise not have the financial means to pursue her creative endeavors. The annual award is given in March during Women’s History Month. This year, Chelsey Clammer, whose first collection of essays, There is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub, was selected to receive the Owl of Minerva Award. Chelsey is using the funds to organize a women’s writing retreat in Colorado.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of our chapbooks goes toward funding the Owl of Minerva Award. Two White Beds by poet Laura Cherry is the winner of Minerva Rising’s inaugural “Dare to Be” chapbook contest. It’s a collection of poetry that tells the story of two young Victorian women, Sam and Millie, who fall in love during “months as a laudanum haze” and “dark nights that breed strange illusions.” The pair navigate this unfamiliar and exhilarating terrain. In “Millie Afire,” Millie says, “I can’t recall/ what underlay my days/ before this thrall.” They also take risks with their affair. In “Millie’s Vision,” Millie says to Sam, “You always called me brave/We’ll see of what I’m made.” These characters embody the women Minerva Rising publishes and supports: strong, daring, risk-takers.

This year’s “Dare to Be, Dare to Write, Dare to Dare” chapbook contest will be judged by poet Heather McHugh, a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and winner of multiple Pushcart Prizes for Poetry. When Minerva Rising Poetry Editor Emily Shearer asked Heather to judge this year’s contest and she said “yes,” the entire staff was thrilled to be working with such a prolific, supportive and wise poet. If you’re writing creative, deep-rooted poetry, consider sending us your chapbook (open to any form of poetry) between September 15 and November 15.

Minerva Rising wants to give voice to everywoman –– to proclaim her triumphs and struggles. From Lauren Lockhart Brown’s poem, “Wolf’s Milk” (Issue 3), this excerpt speaks remarkably to the journal’s mission of making women stronger – and heard:

From now on

nothing will invade me

and I will not be funneled into the city

by the warm fuzzy fun of a manufactured life.

May all greed dissipate from the hearts of men.

May all women be free.



Nicole Rollender’s poetry, nonfiction and projects have been published or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poet 2014, Creative Nonfiction, PANK, Ruminate Magazine, Salt Hill Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. She’s the winner of the 2012 Princemere Poetry Prize for her poem “Quickening,” as well as the 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize for her Pushcart Prize-nominated poem, “Necessary Work.” Her poetry chapbook Arrangement of Desire was published by Pudding House Publications. She received her MFA from Penn State University and currently serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Magazine and editor of Stitches Magazine.

Shanna Compton Talks Bloof Books, Poetry, Labeling & Feminisms

Sarah Marcus: You’ve said that you left Soft Skull Press and began your own press, Bloof Books, so that you could focus on poetry. Can you tell us about the history of the press? What kind of poetry do you publish, and as an editor, what do you look for in a manuscript or collection of poems? Many of the beautiful chapbooks you publish are handmade. Can you please tell us about this process?

Shanna Compton: The press happened sort of quickly, but it was actually something I’d been thinking about for a while. Working with everyone at Soft Skull was amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but the press was changing (and changing hands) and I also needed to move on for personal reasons.

Danielle Pafunda and Jennifer L. Knox both had second books ready (we’d published their first ones), and I also had a second book ready but the press that had published my first one had folded. Suddenly these books had nowhere to go, and I felt frustrated about the delay this was going to mean. Then I realized I knew everything I needed to know to go ahead and make them happen. We reissued Knox’s A Gringo Like Me and called the Soft Skull edition out of print, then did Drunk by NoonDanielle’s Soft Skull debut Pretty Young Thing was still in stock with them, so we left it intact there and did My Zorba via Bloofand my own For Girls & Others. I’m grateful that they trusted me enough to go along for the experiment. It helped that by that point we all knew each other well. So that’s our origin myth.

The chapbook series is relatively new, the first six being issued in 2013. But the handmades are actually a return to what I was doing prior to (and during) my time at Soft Skull with my tiny DIY press, Half Empty Half Full. I took a break from making chapbooks and broadsides but wanted to get back to doing those. I find them very fulfilling to work on, both editorially and physically. They’re really special to me, and I hope to the authors. All twelve so far (including the two coming this fall) have been selected in our annual Open Reading Period and are by poets we hadn’t published before, and who in a few cases haven’t had other chapbooks or books yet. I try to find a design, in collaboration with the author, that uniquely fits each one, so they’re all different shapes and materials.

People really seem to like them, and subscribe to the whole series, or snap them up individually (editions are limited to 100), so we’ve started putting them online as free PDFs and Issuu flip books after the run has sold out. I’d love to start turning the digital versions into something more like apps for mobile and web, but we’re not quite there yet. (We need a whole website redesign and I’m working on that, as well as our fall books right now.) We’re also going to release combined print annuals of the chaps, because people have asked about those, to see how they do. They’d be easier for libraries and teaching, for one thing. We treat the series like a magazine, except each issue is a single author, so we recently got an ISSN.

SM: You have a critical hand in many feminist publications and listservs. Tell us about Delirious Hem and the Pussipo listserv. How did you get involved with these projects and what role do these projects have in our feminist and literary community?

SC: Pussipo’s not a secret group, though it is private. (Any member can invite new members.) I’m one of several moderators there. It was started in 2006 by Anne Boyer. Danielle (Pafunda again) and I coordinate the features at Delirious Hem, the group’s blog/magazine, but that’s really a group project too—any member can propose and edit a feature, and they’re irregularly published, as things pop up. At the time the group was started, though I won’t speak for Anne, I think it was a response to a general frustration about the way certain poetry conversations were happening online. I think many women were frustrated to be shouted down in comment boxes, alternately skeeved, shushed, and hated on, and there was clearly a difference being a woman in the poetry blogosphere (it was mostly blogs then) vs. a man (not to mention being a poet with a disability, a poet of color, or LGBT). I was a bit naive, I guess, to have assumed our poetry communities (and all the ways they overlap and clash) would be naturally better at this than other social spheres. But who knew, people often behaved even worse online than in person. So the group was a place to discuss and connect on the internet, but less publicly than on our blogs, partially shielded from that. Delirious Hem came out of a question: Why aren’t there any women poets doing what, for example, Ron Silliman was doing then? Well, we learned why not.

Things have gotten better (or at least we’re no longer as shocked and can respond better), but the group is still there for us if we need it. It’s often very quiet for a long time and then gets busy again. And other groups and forums, like VIDA, are doing a lot of this work now too, making Pussipo less essential than it once was. I’m nostalgic for the MAIL YOUR PUSSI TO THE [MAGAZINE TITLE] sort of interventions though. Recently when another secret group for women writers was started on Facebook (it’s still technically secret but probably everyone’s read about it anyway), I opened Pussipo again to see if people still found it useful. As long as women are subject to various aggressions simply for speaking or existing, we need spaces where we can talk without being interrupted or dismissed or catcalled. So even when the groups go quiet for a while, they’re there as opportunities, as break-glass-in-case-of-fire options. It’d be terrific to feel so assured we no longer need these spaces that we could shut them down. Not yet.

SM: You are the author of poetry collections Brink, For Girls & Others, and Down Spooky, and several chapbooks. How exciting that Brink was recently reviewed by Stephen Burt in the Yale Review! What are you working on now, and how does feminism (explicitly or inexplicitly) factor into your writing?

SC: Oh, thanks. I’m really grateful for that review, and for all the reviews and readers my books have received. It’s always a bit awkward for me because I am in the position of promoting myself even more directly than most poets (since I’m an author in the Bloof collective as well as the publisher). But that’s a feminist move on my part too, and I don’t dwell on what’s “appropriate” anymore—I just keep doing.

As for how my feminism (and I’ve been reminded a few times this week about how our feminisms are not all the same!) factors into my writing, I naively thought, at first, it didn’t. I’m laughing at myself. Of course it does! It’s easy to spot in all the books, and most explicitly in For Girls & Others which was written as (spurious, stupid, ridiculous) advice to women on how to dress behave live look speak walk mother BE, based on centuries of advice from all corners: etiquette manuals, sermons, folktales, women’s mags, the internet. The world may never stop telling us how to Be Women (or even the Correct Kind of Feminist) so in that book I figured we might as well laugh, as we go on ahead being ourselves.

At one point early on I worried about being categorized as a “feminist poet” and even denied being one on my blog. But that was never true. By my denial I just meant “ugh, please don’t tell me how to do this too, along with everything else,” and I figured the label would be a handy way to dismiss my work. Probably true. The next book (in progress for five years and counting) is a speculative long poem, my take on the feminine epic in Notley’s sense.

SM: What question would you like to be asked?

SC: Have you had too much coffee? Yes. And after this and a panel this morning, I’ve been talking poetry all day. I think I’m done. Thanks, Sarah.



Shanna Compton is the author of the poetry collections BrinkFor Girls & OthersDown Spooky, and several chapbooks. The Hazard Cycle, a book-length speculative poem, is forthcoming from Bloof Books. She is also the editor of a collection of essays on the topic of video games, Gamers.