Gazing Grain Press AWP Events

If you’re attending AWP 2015 in beautiful Minneapolis, we hope to see you around!

We’ll be located at the bookfair in the George Mason University booth, #1308 and 1306. We’ll have miniatures, feminist candy hearts, and the coolest poetry business cards you’ve ever seen. In addition to new miniatures from Kevin McLellan and Tanya Paperny, we are launching limited-edition expanded collections of our miniatures series from 2012 (previously out of print) and 2013.

Please join us at the bookfair for signings by Meg Day, Kevin McLellan, and Sandy Longhorn, and make sure to check out our first-ever AWP off-site event, in  collaboration with three other amazing feminist publishers!


GAZING GRAIN PRESS AWP EVENTS

Thursday

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Sandy Longhorn signs The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths (Jacar Press) and her GGP miniature, an excerpt from the book

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Kevin McLellan signs his GGP miniature

6-8 p.m.: Weird Atlas/Gazing Switchback feminist poetry reading at the Crooked Pint Ale House, 501 Washington Ave. S, featuring readers from Weird Sister, The Atlas Review, Switchback Books, and, of course, GGP. Readers will include Meg Day, Natalie Eilbert, Marisa Crawford, Cathy de la Cruz, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Soleil Ho, Anne Cecelia Holmes, Jenn Marie Nunes, and Morgan Parker.

Friday

2-3 p.m.: Meg Day signs GGP 2013 title We Can’t Read This


OTHER GGP AUTHOR EVENTS

Thursday

11 a.m.-Noon: Kevin McLellan signs at the Barrow Street booth (1108)

12-1 p.m. Meg Day signs Last Psalm at Sea Level at the Barrow Street booth (1108)

7-9 p.m.: Sandy Longhorn reads at a Triohouse off-site event (details TBA)

7-9 p.m.: Kevin McLellan reads off-site at the “S&Q2″ event, located at Barnes & Noble, 801 Nicollet Mall

Friday

4-6 p.m.: Kevin McLellan reads at Barrow Street’s off-site event, located at Gamut Gallery, 1006 Marquette Avenue

7 p.m.: Meg Day reads at an off-site event with Malachi Black, Susannah Nevison, and Sarah Eliza Johnson (details TBA)

Saturday

Noon-2 p.m.: Sandy Longhorn signs her latest book, The Alchemy of My Mortal Form at the Trio House table (240)

7-10 p.m.: Natalie Eilbert reads at “Saturday Night in Minneapolis: Coconut + Bloof at AWP 2015,” located in Mason’s Restaurant Barre, 528 Hennepin Ave. S

On the Collaboration of Words and Art

by Laura Madeline Wiseman

The first time I made a book, I did so with words and art. My second grade teacher asked us to illustrate a story we wrote. She taught us book arts, how to sew pages, bind by stitching, design covers. I bound mine in red checked contact paper to suggest picnic, tablecloth, summer feast. My crayoned cover featured a girl and a bowl of fruit. I think I must have known at that moment that what writers do, is put together books, and that some of the best books are illustrated.

I wrote ekphrasis fiction in fifth grade. Each week my teacher tacked a poster on a bulletin board, invited us to write a story inspired by that poster in our free time, and hand it in by Friday’s story time. On Fridays, our teacher read our stories aloud as written—typos, spelling mistakes, grammar. We giggled over the senseless sentences, teaching us in this way to spell gril correctly as girl. As we listened to try and guess the author, we also gazed at the poster—a boy in a top hat, a girl with a daisy, a bridge, a city, outer space. I still find typos funny and to see someone read or make art from my work, is breathtaking.

My grandmother was an artist. She painted and quilted, stenciled the doorways in her home. She taught me to latch-hook, to cross-stitch, to tie french knots, to string my summer nights by beads of light as I made bracelets, necklaces, earrings for silver hooks. When I spent time with her as a teen, we made art. As a teenager, I also wrote a collaborative novel with my best friend. The Etacreus focused on a girl who wore an amulet that worked as a key, giving her passage to another world. We alternated writing chapters and creating illustrations for our book, written in longhand and sketched on double-sided notebooks. I think I fell in love with the collaborative process then, the art of combining visions, themes, and artistic expression. We worked on it endlessly—writing and rewriting, showing it to our teachers, talking plot and theme on the phone. My collaborations didn’t stop there.

TenTales_coverAfter Ph.D. school, I collaborated with artists to make broadsides and letterpress books. Artist Sally Deskins and I worked together to create Intimates and Fools, a collaborative book that explores women’s love/hate relationship with their bras. My newest collaboration is with artist Lauren Rinaldi, who makes gorgeous illustrations and paintings on the female body, such as her “Cheeky Sketches.” Our book The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters explores girlhood, coming-of-age, and the body in ten short stories with each story introduced by one of her paintings. The book features over fifty of her sketches. It was a book we wrote together—me revising and reworking the stories based on her art and she, creating new work for my words.

Sometimes people ask me when I learned to do this. My answer: in the second grade.

***

Sketches from The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters, by Laura Madeline Wiseman and artist Lauren Renaldi:

Barefoot FISH AND GIRLSfish and girls photoLBD

tattoo girl WHAT MARKS SISTERSselfie collage

HowToKillButterflies

fatday for Raw

Studio II

***

laura madeline wiseman, 2014Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her books are Drink (BlazeVOX, 2015), Wake (Aldrich Press, 2015), American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), and Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012). Her dime novel is The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard, 2014). Her collaborative books are The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters: Ten Tales (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2015) with artist Lauren Rinaldi and Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2014) with artist Sally Deskins. Her most recent chapbook is Threnody (Porkbelly Press, 2014). She holds a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has received an Academy of American Poets Award, a Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award, and the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Calyx, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, and Feminist Studies. Currently, she teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com

Weird Atlas/Gazing Switchback

Mark your calendars now for the beginning of April, feminists–we’ll be co-hosting an off-site reading at AWP with some of our favorites: WEIRD SISTER, The Atlas Review, and Switchback Books!

Thursday, April 9 from 6-8 pm, a quick walk from the convention center at The Crooked Pint (501 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55415)

Featured Readers:

Marisa Crawford
Cathy de la Cruz
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram
Soleil Ho
Anne Cecelia Holmes
Jenn Marie Nunes
Morgan Parker
Meg Day
Natalie Eilbert

Keep track of our updates and squeals of delight by joining the Facebook event here. We’ll also be back at the AWP bookfair this year, in booths 1306 and 1308 with other GMU-affiliated publications.

2015 Contest Judges: Natalie Diaz and Amber Sparks

Dear friends,

We’re delighted to announce the judges for this year’s poetry chapbook contest and our inaugural prose chapbook contest: Natalie Diaz and Amber Sparks. Contest submissions will be open from March 1 through May 15, 2015; you can view the contest guidelines here.

NDiazphotocredit_RobertoWestbrookPoetry Judge: Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. Her second book will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2016. She is a 2012 Lannan Literary Fellow and a 2012 Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. In 2104, she was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, as well as the Holmes National Poetry Prize and a Hodder Fellowship, both from Princeton University, a Civatella Ranieri Foundation Residency, and a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Diaz teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Rez MFA program and lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she directs the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program, working with the last remaining speakers at Fort Mojave to teach and revitalize the Mojave language.

Amber Headshot B&WProse Judge: Amber Sparks
Amber Sparks is the author of the short story collection May We Shed These Human Bodies, and co-author (with Robert Kloss and illustrator Matt Kish) of the hybrid novella The Desert Places. Her second short story collection, The Unfinished World and Other Stories, will be published by Liveright in 2016. You can follow her on Twitter @ambernoelle, or at ambernoellesparks.com.

 

An Interview with Melissa Studdard

Sarah Marcus: Cate Marvin wrote of your stunning debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast (Saint Julian Press), “In so many ways the poems in this book read like paintings, touching and absorbing the light of the known world while fingering the soul until it lifts, trembling.” Which is exactly how these poems made me feel, but I also had the sense that the “known world” was also somehow secret. The poem “In Another Dimension, We Are Making Love” ends with: “Everything we need to remember/ can fit on a scrap of paper/ smaller than your hand.” Which feels so impossible and so true! Can you tell us about this collection and your process of poem-painting?

Melissa Studdard: Of course you’re right—it’s impossible but true. What’s known touches the boundaries of secrecy, and what’s secret is also subconsciously known. That paradox, that interplay, is part of what thrills me about poetry. We can get right up to the edge of something and feel it deeply and still not fully figure it out, and that ambiguity is not only okay; it’s pleasurable. I like your phrase “poem-painting” in this context too, because in the dream-logic of poetic composition, ideas and concepts are often nestled inside images and metaphors. Therefore, we must paint poems in order to unpack the images.

In my process, a poem usually starts with a phrase or image rather than an idea. The process of writing the poem instructs me as to what it’s about. I rarely know before I begin. I’m usually just struck by something—a fist of leaves unfolding, a plastic Jesus hanging from a rearview mirror, the instant between a smile and when the smile fades—and I write until I know why the image ignited me. I often do that part of the writing with pen and paper, and then, when I figure out why I’m writing, I move to the computer so I can edit more easily as I go along.

And thanks to both you and Cate for the kind words about I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast! As I’m sure you can tell from the collection, I love art and ekphrastic poetry. Many of the poems are responses to art and enact a hunger for it and a desire to eat it and everything else that the cosmos contains. So, fundamentally, the collection is about an appetite for beauty and art and love and sex and life and divinity and even suffering and death. And of course, food. We cannot forget food.

SM: You are also the author of a best­selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah and a companion journal, My Yehidah (both on All Things That Matter Press). I think that this work is especially important because it is so empowering for young women. Can you tell us more about this book, your inspiration for the main character, and the awesome companion journal?

MS: Six Weeks to Yehidah is the story of ten-year-old Annalise, who, after being caught in a flash flood, finds herself thrust into a metaphysical dreamscape. She meets one challenge after another as she encounters underwater cities, cloud kingdoms, magic labyrinths, and an eclectic assortment of eccentric characters. It was critical to me that Annalise model empowerment not by putting others down or beating them in the traditional sense but by accessing the wisdom and independence within herself. Rather than looking outward or to others, she looks inward for solutions to all manner of problems, ranging from her own to other people’s to bigger societal issues and issues inherent in the human condition.

In many ways the tale is allegorical, and Annalise herself is largely archetypal—the Everygirl next door. In that sense, she’s a fusion of the traits of many people, but some of her more unique characteristics, the ones that aren’t universal, such as her musical and linguistic talents, are based very loosely on my daughter. In fact, the poem Annalise recites in the first chapter was written by my daughter when she was just nine. While all the other kids were drawing and coloring, she wrote it with crayon on the paper tablecloth in a restaurant, and, smitten, I took it home to include in the book.

My Yehidah is a journal and workbook I designed with the wonderful visual artist Cheryl Kelley to help kids recognize that they possess the same internal resources as Annalise and to help them tap into those resources through drawing, writing, and reflecting.

SM: As a host for Tiferet Talk Radio and The Tiferet Talk Interviews, you have had the opportunity to interview notable writers and spiritual leaders who have shared their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. How did you get involved with this project? How does this series influence your writing and your perspective as a feminist?

MS: I started with Tiferet as an editor, and after a few months, the publisher told me she wanted to launch a talk show and she hoped I would host it. I’d never done anything like that before, and I have no idea what made her think I could pull it off. But I’m glad she had faith in me! It’s been a great experience and a tremendous gift to my writing. The Tiferet Talk guests have shared such insights regarding the magic and craft of writing—and the wonder and sorrow and exhilaration of being human—that conducting the interviews regularly holds me in a constant state of creative awakening. And, of course, that translates into greater depth and meaning in my own life and writing.

When Ed Hirsch was on the show, he spoke of the magical, irrational element in poetry, and how the poet, like a priest or shaman, performs the vital function of bringing information back from the unconscious realm to the material world. He talked about how dangerous it feels to venture into that territory, and I felt this huge relief in knowing that the process of entering into unconscious territory feels so imperative and yet so dangerous to other people too. So, what I’m saying is that one of the most important things the show has done for my writing is simply to make me braver.

Now, about feminism—that’s an interesting question. Because Tiferet is a spiritual journal, I think what has influenced me most is the realization that Tiferet’s hope for a better, more peaceful, more tolerant world can best be met by both men and women embracing, enacting, and—yes—asserting, a lot more of the values and traits that have been traditionally thought of as feminine. As well, through Tiferet’s emphasis on tolerance, and through watching my girlfriend’s activism regarding issues that don’t directly impact her, I’ve come to realize how important it is for feminists to act as allies to other marginalized groups and to learn from and accept support from them as well. Great change can happen if we are open enough to take up causes that are not our own—because the truth is that all the causes are our own. Whether we are black or white, canine, equine, or human, we are all made of the guts of stars. We all breathe and live and long. We are all kin.

SM: Your work embodies inclusivity, and as feminists we often discuss the vitalness of this practice, but I’m wondering as a writer, what value do you see in fostering exclusivity within our writing community?

MS: So, at first this is going to sound like it contradicts what I just said, but it doesn’t. We may all be kin, but we’re individuals too, and not everyone acts like kin. Having exclusive relationships within the larger whole is natural and appropriate, especially now, when there is still so much work to be done. I particularly think it’s a good idea when we’re talking about creating and maintaining safe spaces for people within marginalized groups to come together to support one another. In the same way that Ed pointed out that the poet brings information back from the unconscious realm to the material world, these groups can engage in meaningful dialogue and planning and then bring the fruits of their conversations back to the world. As long as any groups of people are oppressing any other groups of people, exclusivity among the oppressed will be a vital means to restoring balance. If our writing community and society at large ever evolve beyond oppression, we can re-think exclusivity. For now, however, I think it’s important for the members of any group to remember that in addition to advocating fiercely for each other, they are part of a larger organism, and they are ultimately working for the health of the whole.

SM: What are you working on, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

MS: I’m completely obsessed (in the best way) with a series of poems I’m working on about a couple that finds an abandoned girl on the side of the road. She’s mythic and mysterious and terrifying and innocent all at the same time, and I can’t quit thinking about her or them or what they all mean to each other. I think it’s growing into a book.

Usually, I work on poetry and fiction simultaneously, but right now I’m wholly driven by poetry—and I like to be a good passenger for the muse.

Thanks for asking, Sarah. And thanks for this lovely interview.

cosmos-webMelissa Studdard’s debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, was recently released by Saint Julian Press. She is also the author of the best­selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah; its companion journal, My Yehidah (both on All Things That Matter Press); and The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, the Readers’ Favorite Award, and two Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards.

“Ungentle and In-between”: An Interview with TC Tolbert on Gephyromania

Gephyromania_webWith his poetry collection, Gephyromania, recently chosen for Entropy’s Best of 2014 Poetry list, TC Tolbert is on fire. But he doesn’t use that fire to burn any bridges. He uses it to create them.

According to TC Tolbert’s website, Tolbert “is a genderqueer, feminist poet and teacher committed to social justice. S/he believes in working across communities—building bridges wherever possible” (http://www.tctolbert.com/about.html).

Gephyromania (which is defined as an addiction to or obsession with bridges) explores that “bridge” between the self and the self, and between the self and the other. This book speaks on a lot of topics—gender, queerness, bodies, families, relationships, sex, love, representations, identity, and transitional spaces. The vulnerability and raw honesty will reach out and touch you, a bridge of letters and words.

The aesthetically intriguing format of Tolbert’s book beckons the reader into a different consciousness. It brings up themes that are inside the book itself, such as pushing boundaries, subverting expectation, and existing in a space not properly recognized by society. Content-wise as well as structurally, Tolbert’s poetry confronts the reader with their assumptions of normality.

Chelsey Burden: Can you speak to why the title Gephyromania resounded with you?

TC Tolbert: In all honesty, I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it/hear it and that title is the epitome of this practice of scavenging/combing/holding my ear to the ground and taking the whole world (or as much as I can hold) in. Maybe it’s not so much scavenging as it is a practice of collaborating. I find that the more I walk through the world and allow the points of connection to reveal themselves to me, they do. Sometimes I feel like I do very little work or have very little control over any of it (which is probably a good thing!).

I found a Reverse Dictionary at a thrift store and tossed it in my bathroom years ago and one day I was poking through it and came across a list of different types of obsessions and in that list was this word—Gephyromania—an addiction to, or an obsession with, bridges. And the thing was, I had been writing these poems for years in a notebook in which I had written the word “bridge” across the cover – at that time I was transitioning with many things (love, gender, physical location) and thinking of the bridge of a song as a way to get to a new sound/or at least a break in the rhythm but I didn’t know I was obsessed until I saw the word and it told me.

CB: What I love about this book is that certain lines are incredibly, almost unsettlingly personal. Yet, they strike something deep within me. For instance, a line that hit me was “Now that you’re dead, I can tell you. I ended up with your hand-towels.” Or the line “As of October 21, 2006, I will officially become a new kind of man./ You won’t forgive me for taking me away from you.” (For the record, you are one of the bravest people that I know.) How do you work up the courage to be so exposed and vulnerable?

TT: Hmmm. Thank you for saying that.

At some point I was taught, like many people, that vulnerability is shameful or, at best, cliché. This is not only a cultural message but one we perpetuate in poetry and it’s one I struggle with. I mean, on the one hand, I don’t want to read someone’s diary and I don’t want to publish my own. Strict confession often ignores the language it uses to reveal itself and that doesn’t interest me. I like to write into an admission. In other words, I don’t know how I feel until I hear what I say. In that way, I’m reading myself while I’m writing myself. That’s probably less courage and more necessity. I also really like being lost and then the way the world collects itself. Being alive as an act of discovery.

I’m also interested in those moments when the specificity of a line tears right through the fabric of our separateness. I’m infinitely interested in connection. And sometimes I think the most connected we can be are in moments of disconnection. So, that moment when a person leaves (takes themselves away – a thing you don’t have to be trans to have experienced) highlights the tether between the two almost more than when they were together. It’s stunning to me.

When one person is naked, everyone remembers they have a body.

CB: The cover picture of Gephyromnia is one of the more intriguing ones I’ve seen! What sparked that idea?

Tomiko Jones, the photographer and subject of the image (it’s a self portrait), was in the MFA program in photography at UA while I was in the MFA poetry program there, so I fell in love with her and her work about 10 years ago. But I didn’t really have a specific cover image in mind when I was trading ideas with the designer and publisher. They just asked what kinds of images I liked and I immediately thought of this series of Tomiko’s where she is peeing in public places. This image comes from that series but I hadn’t seen this one before. Much like the title, this image just made perfect sense when I saw it even though I didn’t know exactly what I needed.

CB: Do you write with a certain audience in mind?

TT: I try not to. I mean, when I create installations of my work (what some might think of as “readings,” I call installations because they are ephemeral and collaborative and incorporate some element of improvisation), I very much take into consideration audience and physical space. But when I’m writing (creating the work on the page), I hear voices but those are voices that I want to inhabit/embody/write toward and into. They aren’t really an audience. They are more like a chorus I want to join or collaborate with.

CB: I was blown away by the line “Even the mirrors have become bars we lean against.” Can you talk about this line? Do you see an intrinsic connection between identity and poetry?

TT: In the early 70’s, gay and bisexual men began using a hanky code to signal to other men what they were into (SM, fisting, oral, anal, etc), what they were looking for (tonight I want someone to hold me, or would anyone be willing to piss in my mouth?), and how they identify (bottom, top, or switch). This is known as flagging. Not only a way to clarify and communicate desire, but a public acknowledgment of a possibly dangerous combination of attraction and identity hidden in plain sight (queerness was, and often still is, met with social and individual violence). As a trans and queer writer, I say. And then: this is different, I think, than a writer who happens to be trans or queer. I am particularly interested in flagging and how this relates to language, audience, and accessibility. Can the subversive still be subversive if it passes into the realm of widely legible? How do we share the obscured, public confession? How are intimacy, desire, and connection wielded in common space? What passes as a body? What is the desire of form? What does it mean to be out?

Pema Chodron says, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are. How passing, for me, can be both a protection from violence and can perpetuate violence. A necessity and necessarily enigmatic. I write to experiment with passing, with being a self I can know, with flagging, with turning on.

CB: Can you speak on what your experience has been like regarding the presence of family members in many of your poems?

TT: Incorporating/using/working with the words, ideas, or experiences of family members is complex. I mean, part of that is that they aren’t writers and so if I take a liberty with something, shift the “truth” of an experience for the language that I think will get closer to the “truth” of the poem, then that can feel threatening or confusing to them. But it’s also been a tremendous way to integrate my family into my work. They (my family) made me as much as I’ve made me therefore their voices make my voice.

CB: You queer the English language in a variety of ways. Nouns are verbs, verbs are adjectives, and sometimes the word can be read multiple ways, eluding definition without losing meaning. Sometimes your syntax is off-kilter and unexpected. The reader is encouraged to really think about what is being said and how it is being communicated. Sometimes there is a difference between what a word usually represents, and what a word means within your poem. Can you discuss this ambiguous space you create?

TT: Well, honestly, I think you just discussed it better than I could! I would just add that I want a reader who is willing to collaborate with me to create meaning in the poem. An active reader. In this book I wanted that to be more explicit b/c I think it just reveals what readers do anyway – make meaning as much as the author does. CA Conrad points out that a thousand different readers of the same poem actually create a thousand different poems. And this is similar, to me, to how gender (or any identity) is a collaborative project of writing ourselves through acts and symbols that, at their core, have no meaning but which we have predetermined long before we know their context. I like thinking about the power of context.

CB: I’ve noticed repeating imagery of mouths, of brains, of erasure, and of repetition itself. Can you speak on why any of these elements continually return to you?

TT: I think the answer is as simple (and possibly as uninteresting) as lived experience. I am in a body with a mouth and brains and I’ve been taught (so many of us have been taught) to separate body and mind. I reject that segregation while also being seduced by it.

And life is nothing if not repetitive. A few hours pass and I have to eat again. I have to piss. I have to drink. I have to shit. I have to sleep. And so, what does all of this repetition prevent us from doing/thinking/feeling? Or, what does it give us the opportunity to do/think/feel that we wouldn’t have access to if we didn’t have to keep doing them, again and again.

Also, I was walking with my friend and fellow poet, Jen Hofer, through LA this morning and we were looking at graffiti (or, more specifically at the ways the state tries to cover up graffiti) and we couldn’t turn away from the fact that whiteness (and all of its implications) is used to cover up color. Or, as Jen said, “what we don’t have to say is more important than what you do have to say.” Erasure is everywhere. A force to be reckoned with.

CB: Throughout the book are equations, derivatives, symmetries and binaries. Do you remember what led you to incorporate this mathematical imagery?

TT: I’m a gleaner. I mean, I’m absolutely in love with the world. I don’t know shit about math and so I can get caught up in the magic of it. The language and the ideas. I took a statistics class (for fun – I was out of school and teaching at the community college so I could take classes at a discounted rate) around the time I was working on this, so that informed how I was thinking but not so much that any of it is accurate. I mean, I don’t know if I use those terms correctly. I just like playing with them. Imagining I know something about a thing I don’t know.

CB: I was first introduced to your work through your chapbook Territories of Folding. The book itself is put together and (literally) unfolds in a unique way. In much of your work, I’ve noticed that you play with structure and layout, using a mix of horizontal and vertical pages, stanza variations, white space, and different font sizes. Can you talk about your structure?

TT: In The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Button says: The significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are different people in different places and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be. I look at my house, my relationships, the things I’m writing, the way I’m writing, my body. These are synonyms. And I wonder how non-trans people (and other trans people) experience these things. Is your body an architecture? Is your name? What are you constructing now? Can you visit it, and therefore, can you leave?

I think of the textual body as a gendered body. My trans(gender) body is an unreliable text. The narrative is ruptured. Trust may be built or it may be broken. The veneer of coherence and safety completely gives way. Surrender and struggle with constraint.

As a body in a person, as a poet, as these lines in this order – white skin and male passing privilege, breasts I used to bind but no longer want to, soft belly, hips that could easily carry children but never will, facial hair that refuses my jaw while absolutely flourishing on the underside of my chin – I’m continually interested in the architecture we find ourselves in. At what point does construction become didactic? What is the space between container and constraint? What happens when we try, and is it possible, to subtract formula from form?

CB: You have done so much amazing work, especially with queer and trans communities. You’re co-editor of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics. You’re creator and director of Made for Flight, “a youth empowerment project that utilizes creative writing and kite building to create a living memorial commemorating transgender people who were murdered.” Would you like to speak on your experience with the relationship between poetry, trans and queer communities, and these projects?  

TT: In addiction and recovery communities, you will often hear this phrase: “The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.” And I believe this is pretty damn true. What I’m getting at here is that I don’t think of my poetry as separate from my activism. And my activism isn’t separate from my poetry and neither of these is separate from my life. I do all of these things from a place of fierce love and admiration. I fuck up a lot but I work like hell. I’m a Capricorn and just like any old goat, I’ll climb the most precarious places and not really think much about it. I like the focus it gives me. Also, like a goat, I like to climb sort of by myself but always near my family.

CB: I love that you incorporate the riddle “less than three.” Thank you for this interview and for all the amazing things you do with words. Less than three! <3

TT: EXACTLY. <3!!!

***

Chelsey Burden is originally from Kingman, Arizona. She is earning her MFA in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University, where she also received her Bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies/Sociology. She works on Thin Air Magazine as well as at the Flagstaff Public Library.

TC Tolbert often identifies as a trans and genderqueer feminist, collaborator, dancer, and poet but really s/he’s just a human in love with humans doing human things. The author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press 2014), Conditions/Conditioning (a collaborative chapbook with Jen Hofer, New Lights Press 2014) I: Not He: Not I (Pity Milk chapbook 2014), Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (co-editor with Trace Peterson, Nightboat Books 2013), spirare (Belladonna* chaplet 2012), and territories of folding (Kore Press chapbook 2011), his favorite thing in the world is Compositional Improvisation (which is another way of saying being alive). S/he is Assistant Director of Casa Libre, faculty in the low residency MFA program at OSU-Cascades, and lecturer at University of Arizona. S/he spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound. Thanks to Movement Salon and the Architects, TC keeps showing up and paying attention. Gloria Anzaldúa said, Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks. John Cage said, it’s lighter than you think. www.tctolbert.com

Spring is Coming! (eventually)

And with it, the GGP editors have some exciting announcements, including:

  • an off-site reading at AWP 2015 Minneapolis
  • the judges for 2015 our poetry and prose chapbook contests
    • see above: OUR FIRST ANNUAL PROSE CHAPBOOK CONTEST

Check back here soon for AWP and contest details, and in the meantime, get caught up with all of the current GGP titles by visiting our store.