Sounds and Senses

Three poems
by Neil Slevin
Food for Thought
“What’s eating you?” they ask
when I push the food around my plate.
“Nothing,” I say rawly, not pausing
nor stealing a moment to hesitate.
I lie to them but not myself
(no, not to me, I see my fate),
knowing what’s eating me,
eating is, all-too-figuratively.
And so, eschewing truth,
I respond with nothing, quite literally.
I eat myself bite by bite, bone-by-bone –
body, brain and soul.
Because I can. And I can’t stop me.
And why should I want to stop
when this is a game that only I can win and lose
and see me, raise me or fold?
I will have to stop, in the end, but not for me.
I live a life divided into selves;
each and every one of us is no longer whole.
I hate my body,
know that he hates me.
Like a loveless marriage,
we are stuck together, indefinitely.
Not because we want to, need to, must,
but because we have to be.
I’ll eat away at him
while he eats away at me.
That disused section reeks
as if its books have defecated
at the thought of being left:
their spines no longer fingered,
pages no longer thumbed,
words no longer read nor imbibed
into some greater consciousness
where they can come to rest.
They squat there, passive in their dirty protest,
waiting for death’s hearty greeting
at the bottom of a pit licked by a flame
that’s gentle at first
then burns them from the outside in
until all that’s left are the charred reminders
of their hardback covers,
their scattered words falling
as ashen snowflakes
over Berlin.
In sobriety, singularity
and silence,
I search for
and solicit me.
I seek solace
in syllables,
sounds and senses
that stream
from somewhere inside,
some space
they spring from
and stretch to fill.
Neil Slevin MA, BSc is a writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland, whose poetry has been published by various Irish publications, including The Galway Review, Skylight 47, Boyne Berries, and Into The Void, and numerous international journals, such as Scarlet Leaf Review and Artificium: The Journal. His flash fiction appeared in The IncubatorHe is a founder and editor of Dodging The Rain.

Poet Interview #64: Neil Slevin

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)?

My name is Neil Slevin. I’m a writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland whose poetry has been published or is forthcoming via various Irish journals, including The Galway Review, A New Ulster, Skylight 47, Boyne Berries, and Into The Void, and numerous international publications, such as Scarlet Leaf Review and Artificium: The Journal. Meanwhile, my flash fiction has appeared in The Incubator and I am a founder and editor of Dodging The Rain.

I suppose that answer depends on what you define as ‘writing’, but if I avoid being too philosophical about it, I’ve been writing on and off since I was a teenager. I loved words and English and was quite creative as far back as primary (elementary) school.

The level of challenge and encouragement I received from my second-level (high school) English teacher meant I began to take the subject and writing itself more seriously and I became known for prose that was highly descriptive – flowery, if I’m less kind.

I was never a big fan of writing dialogue or focusing on everyday details so those factors complemented the urge I had to begin writing poetry when I emigrated in 2011. I found I could express some things best, sometimes only as poetry, and those early scribblings became what I know now as The Letters I Never Sent, my first official batch of poems, which I wrote to people, places, experiences and more to set the record straight for myself.

I am a big admirer of Donal Ryan, arguably Ireland’s #1 novelist right now, whose unique brand of sparky, poetic prose is one I’d love to emulate. I’m willing to read almost any type of poetry, providing it’s not too explicitly traditional, so rather than name-checking I’ll just say that I’m enjoying reading Rattle’s daily poems because almost every one I read is different to anything I’ve read previously and feeds the experimental nature of the poems I’m working on.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your muse each day and let the words just … flow?

The inspiration for a poem typically comes to me as a thought or image, sometimes from something I say or overhear during a conversation, I thought I have and don’t share, or something I wish I could say but can’t. Now that I have written 100+ poems, I do actively look for ideas. Sometimes I find them when I read others’ work, when I attend poetry readings, or even generate them in response to prompts I find online.

I wouldn’t describe them collectively as coming ‘out of the blue’ but they do tend to be instinctive. I prefer to write when I feel I have something approaching poetic to say rather than searching around and about me for it; so no, we don’t have a set meeting time each day. However, I am more disciplined and structured when it comes to prose and find it easier to adhere to a routine when writing it. But I feel my prose remains some way off the level of my better poetry, and that’s probably why I find it easier to write.

What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?

I can’t really convey what poetry means to me just yet. Perhaps I haven’t lived or written enough. But I know it’s my go-to medium of expression and feel it suits my personality and way of being best. I like to be direct and concise in what I say and do so I enjoy saying what I have and/or need to in a reasonably quick burst, then leaving it alone for a while before returning to edit and overthink until it’s as ‘done’ as it can be.

Again, I can’t say my idea of poetry and what it represents has changed because it was never particularly fixed but I know my approach evolves with every poem I read and write. I’ve become a lot less concerned with it being lyrical, how it looks on the page, and whether it rhymes than I am ensuring it says something meaningful, is written in a voice that is my own, and that it will add something new to the billions of poems it joins under that beautiful umbrella term we use for writing that forsakes the prosaic; poetry.

Right now, the poetry I experience regularly is either Irish or American. The Irish poetry I experience most often focuses on imagism and reading and sounding beautifully, sometimes at the expense of saying less than it should. The American poetry I read is less concerned with what could be deemed as superficial beauty, more with conveying a message, memory or experience. I don’t think I can say with confidence where I see poetry going, but I hope it will favour the latter.

You recently launched the new venue Dodging The Rain. How has that experience been so far? What type of work are you generally looking for from those who might be interested in submitting their words?

Dodging The Rain continues to be a rewarding experience. We’re four issues in and already receiving so much quality work that we have to reject some of it or at least be creative in finding ways to include it. Last year I edited a culture column and an entertainment section for a student newspaper, so for me DTR is very much a process of building on that experience, and I get to do it alongside three friends and former MA classmates.

As per our Submissions page, we’re open to all forms of creativity, both written and visual. We receive an abundance of poetry (my co-editors blame my influence!), all of which I enjoy reading, but we are hoping to receive more prose going forward.

I am a huge fan of flash fiction, mostly for its brevity and punch, while my co-editors tend to write fiction ranging from flashes and short stories to novels and plays; so we should receive more prose than we do. Perhaps us poets are an exhibitionist lot, or just find it easier to submit our work.

Words aside, we would love to receive more visual art, to publish standalone posts of paintings and photography or, even better, illustrated poetry or prose. Also, we are interested in pairing visual art with poetry and prose because we like to illustrate each post regardless of genre.

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

Yep, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn; the lot, pretty much. I’d say social media fits around rather than into my writing life. I like using it to share my work and ensure that people who might be interested have the opportunity to access and read it. To me, a writer’s work is little more than sentiment without someone to read and extract from it.

However, sometimes I’m guilty of spending more time on social media posting about my work or looking for places to submit it to than writing. I try to tell myself that the promotion side of things is important…

I’m yet to set up my own writer’s blog or Facebook page but I’m sure I will eventually. I sense my friends and acquaintances are tiring of my self-promotion as my posts seem to get a lot less impressions now than when I was starting out. But I hope they’ll still buy my books if and when they appear!

On the plus side, I also do a lot of writing via SMITH Magazine, which is a social media writing community all its own. The basic outline is, each member has an account from which they can post six-word stories with the option of including backstories that expand on their six-worders; they can also favourite or comment on others’ sixes and participate in competitions. I’ve been on the site since 2013 and tend to post something on it most days.

My sixes often lead to longer pieces and vice versa while SM was my first experience of being part of a larger writing community, one that prepared me for my MA in Writing experience and for the career path I’m now wandering down. I also like the immediacy of being online and having the opportunity to get feedback on something I’ve written almost instantly.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

As above, SM was my first real experience, albeit an interactive one, of being part of a writing community. From teaching and my MA year, I continue to have a couple of like-minded writing friends with whom I exchange work and feedback quite regularly, while I remain close with a few my old classmates both inside and outside of DTR.

Right now, I’m enjoying the independence of writing alone but I would like to participate in more writing classes, groups and workshops in the future as I find being in that space and atmosphere conducive to forming new ideas.

Rattle aside, I’m almost out of new books to read, but today I received the wonderful gift of Johnny Cash: Forever Words; The Unknown Poems so I look forward to starting that. I’d like to find another fiction or non-fiction book to read also; reading too much poetry can be like eating too much dark chocolate or reading too many classics one after the other. Little and often is best.

As 2017 continues rolling steadily along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new books/projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?

Expectations can be a dangerous thing for a writer, but it’s important to have them. Primarily, I need to keep writing and submitting my work for publication. I’m still in a place where I’m trying to have as many of my polished poems published as possible before I put them together as a part of my first collection. I have finished a draft of a chapbook, tentatively titled Inhaling Silence, and I continue to write poems for what will be my first full-length collection.

Currently I’m working on a new batch of poems entitled ‘Nostalgia’. I’ve started to write poetry as part of themed collections; most these poems play with the idea that nostalgia is not necessarily a positive thing, nor indulging in it a positive practice – i.e. the past and all things in it are the past for good reason. They are more experimental than a lot of the poems I’ve written thus far.

I also dabble in fiction and non-fiction now and again. Flash non-fiction is probably the closest description of what I write, as these pieces tend to be inspired by memory. They tend to be quite imagistic in nature, a la my first fiction credit ‘My Ball’.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

The main thing is the obvious write and write often, then edit lots and get feedback when you need it, especially if you’re still learning to write. My MA experience helped me a lot in that respect but I’m still living and learning from one poem to the next.

If you’re not writing for whatever reason, don’t beat yourself up but look to keep jotting down your ideas and keep your eyes open for inspiration. Read widely, watch and listen; your next piece may find you.

Sending your work out is important. You should look to get feedback and advice at least informally from someone who knows how writing works before you start submitting as the early rejections can be tough to take. However, the sooner you start submitting your work and being rejected the quicker you’ll become immune to the experience, and begin having your work read more widely when you get that first acceptance.

Experiment. Try new styles and voices and run with new ideas and ways of working. I love when a book, story or poem I’ve read returns to me in some way when I’m writing something new in the form of a new idea or style. Don’t force your work into being something new and edgy just for the sake of it, but run with new when it makes its way onto your page.

Live a life worth writing.

Flickering Flames

Two poems
by Indunil Madhusankha
He is Just Asleep!
The metal huts built in the compound were all crowded
with his relatives, neighbors and fellow soldiers in the army
In the midst of the verandah, there was the sealed coffin,
a stylish wooden box with pale embellishments
His wife was seated there, leaning against the casket
All she wanted was just to be close enough to him
as she had always craved with all her heart,
and as they had both promised to each other
It had been more than half a day now
and she would not cease to leech
Then her mother came towards her
and caressed her head for a while saying,
“Come, my dear, it’s already the afternoon,
You have to eat something now,
You must be very hungry.
Let’s go, my dear!”
She replied in an uneasy tone,
“No mom, no, he’s still asleep, isn’t he?
You know mom, he’s just asleep!
They told me, you know, the fortune tellers!
There was nothing wrong with his horoscope.
So, how come?
Wait, I’ll come together with him to lunch.
He’ll knock when he wakes up.”
As she laboriously jabbered these words,
a few tears that had been struggling so far
rolled up from her reddish eyes
and fell on the floor thus bursting into droplets.
A Portent Warns a Soldier’s Wife
The gutter of the wrenching lamp flame
twisting itself wildly
made a warning
It jumped, skipped, pulled
and spun round and round
And was,
in the end,
dragged away by the roar of a brisk wind
Her pulsation was hit for a moment…
Throughout that night,
she was armed against her heart
The next day,
it was late in the morning
as she learnt he was gone,
Gone with that very flame of her lamp.
Indunil Madhusankha is currently an undergraduate reading for a BSc Special Degree in Mathematics at the Faculty of Science of the University of Colombo. Basically, he explores the miscellaneous complications of the human existence through his poetry by focusing on the burning issues in the contemporary society. Moreover, Indunil’s works have been featured in many international anthologies, magazines and journals.

Poet Interview #63: Indunil Madhusankha

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

I live in Sri Lanka, aged 24, and am currently reading for the final year of my BSc, Mathematics (Special) degree in the Faculty of Science of the University of Colombo. I am academically involved with the subjects of Mathematics (Applied & Pure), Statistics and Information Technology, and am also interested in such areas of study as Education, Psychology, Management, and Language and Literary Studies. I have always been cherishing a passion for English language and literature since the earliest days of my school career. Whenever I have some free time, I love to read poems, stories and novels written in both English and Sinhala. I think that it is my ardent desire for reading that has often been the driving force behind me becoming a writer. So far, I have produced poems, essays, short stories, articles, interviews, translations and research papers, and I am delighted that those works have been published, both locally and internationally, in various blogs, journals, magazines, anthologies and newspapers. Even though English is not my first language, I started writing in English at the very young age of 11. I remember my first publication, an essay entitled, A Tsunami Speaks (2005) featured in the Expressions page of the Junior Observer which is a supplement of the weekly Sri Lankan English newspaper, Sunday Observer. I still have that paper with me and it is always an immense pleasure to revisit my first publication. During my school days, I was able to clinch a large number of awards from many creative writing competitions at zonal, district, provincial and national levels. It is at the age of about 14 that I started writing poetry, inspired by the engrossing and enlightening poems that I read in my English Literature class. Further, I compiled my first collection of poetry titled, Oasis when I was 16, and to quote from the Introduction to the book;

Oasis is a volume of poetry the function of which is to articulate the shallowness of manifold moral failures of the human race; to admire the beauties of some spectacular social dimensions scintillating with the density of their fragrance; to scrutinize them through what you may call ‘poetry’ with a clear perception of the ambivalence governing the matters concerned; and to provide the reader with an itinerary to go in quest of the ‘oasis’ instead of crawling into a morally sterile society.”

The pieces in this collection were well received internationally and have appeared in publications of countries like Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. At present, I am working on my second collection, Reflections of Life, and also on a book namely, A Rare Kind of Beauty, Yet Unexplored:  A Selection of Modern Sri Lankan Sinhala Poetry featuring a translation of a set of select Sinhala poems written by some famous Sri Lankan poets.

There is quite a long list of poets, both national and international, that I have enjoyed reading and drawn inspiration from. I highly adore the work of such great poets as William Shakespeare, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I have further been inspired by the poetry of Sri Lankan English writers like Patrick Fernando, Lakdasa Wikkramasinha, Anne Ranasinghe, Yasmine Gooneratne and Jean Arasanayagam. Apart from that, I highly appreciate the writings of Sri Lankan Sinhala poets such as Gajaman Nona, Kumaratunga Munidasa, Monika Ruwanpathirana, Wimalaratne Kumaragama, Wimal Dissanayake and Parakrama Kodituwakku. I also like to read the works of such Indian English authors as Anita Desai and Nissim Ezekiel.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

One important thing about my literary career is that I do not have any set schedules or time slots when it comes to writing something. I start writing whenever the thoughts knock at my door, no matter where I am and what I am doing at the moment, and in case I can’t find a pen, I would type the lines using some app on my phone. In my experience, writing has to be authentic and spontaneous. It needs to have a natural flow of emotions, and the moment you start forcing your imagination or the thought process, you tempt to get yourself detached from the originality of your expressions. Thus, the repercussion is a poem lacking in colour, vigour and life. That being said, I also have to tell that the muse is not always haunting around me. Sometimes, she appears abruptly and leaves in an instant so that I barely have the time even to write the title of my piece, and then I go on waiting for hours, may be days, for her to return. Penning poesy, in my perspective, is an experiment of some kind, and therein the writer has to indulge in a subtle exploration into the particular object, event or situation which provides the basis for the thematic preoccupation of the work.

Yes, my idea of what poetry is has constantly changed as time passes by with my enthusiastic involvement in writing and my continued exposure into the literary world. It has always remained a definition which looks somewhat imprecise and incomplete, yet evolving incessantly with experience. And, I am pretty sure that I will have a lot more to add to my definition of poetry as I thrive more in the world of literature in times to come.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

Actually, I use both Facebook and Twitter, though not very active with the latter. Also, I am eagerly keeping contacts with a worldwide network of writing professionals on Linkedin. It is striking that Facebook has often proved to be an ideal setting for keeping in touch with contemporary writers throughout the world. Thanks to my active membership in writers’ groups like Contemporary Poets, Their Works, Current Poetry Projects, News, Links administered by the renowned American poet, Michael Lee Johnson, I have been able to learn a lot of good tips for writing and also to discover numerous venues of publication (blogs, zines, mags, etc.). Further, I share some links to my publications among these groups and that has enabled me to widen my audience internationally. Moreover, I was recently added to the list of editors at the Facebook page of Poets International (The Peregrine Muse), and hence am looking forward to publish and share on that page too.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

Yes, I share my work among the aforesaid poetry groups and I regularly update my Linkedin profile with links to my published works. Also, I am currently working as an editor and blog administrator at Chrisolite Writerz which is a literary organization of young writers based in Nigeria.

I am presently reading Dubliners by James Joyce and Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze which is an anthology of contemporary poetry edited by Michael Lee Johnson.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

As a burgeoning poet and author, my advice for the amateur writers is to read as much as they can. To be clear enough, here, I would like to modify the cliché, “Reading maketh a full man” as “Reading maketh a successful writer”. The more you read, the richer your writing will be. Moreover, it is really important to have constant feedback from your colleagues and constructive reviews from well-established writers. For those who are just starting to submit work for possible publication, I would like to encourage them to first consider small presses. During the initial phase, you may try the blogs, e-zines and e-journals which are willing to publish emerging writers. And, the most important piece of advice would be not to get disheartened by rejections, because I personally know that even the giants in the contemporary literary society get declined at certain times. You may be refused, for instance, for twenty times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be rebuffed by the next press in your list too. So, never give up. Try harder and harder until you get the wings.

Finally, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the team at W.I.S.H. Press for the great opportunity lavishly offered to me in order to share my ideas with the literary community.

Readers can find out more about me and my work by following the links given below.


Poet Interview #62: Chani Zwibel

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Who/what first inspired you to begin? Who are some your favorite writers and artists (past and/or contemporary)?

From the time I could talk, maybe as young as three, I remember putting my toys in little “scenes” and then telling a story. My parents and grandparents read to me often, and so even those earliest years were informed by story-telling. Even before I learned to write, I would get lost for hours imagining adventures. When asked as a child “what I wanted to be when I grew up”, the answer was always “a writer”.

I grew up in rural area, and I think that landscape of forest, creek and field, spending time alone in nature, coupled with fairy tales and Bible stories, impressed me with an inner map of mythology I was constantly exploring.

Favorite writers and artists are so hard for me to pin down, because every book or every painting or every song I’ve ever heard that moved me has influenced me, whether I stopped to add a name to the footnotes of my life or not…I’ll stick with writers for the sake of simplicity.

Grew up on Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, those earliest poets being read to me by parents, grandparents, and babysitters informed a large portion of fantasy, rhymes, nonsense poetry. L.M. Montgomery, I must have read the Anne series a hundred times over. I was totally obsessed and had to act out that scene where she’s floating down the creek in the boat. There was a creek by my house and I literally got in a little boat with flowers on my chest and floated down. My imagination and love of history was lit ablaze by reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those descriptions of food in The Little House series were visceral, and I could smell the wood smoke. I read the covers off Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman.

When I turned thirteen, my aunt gave me two books by authors who would become imbedded in my personal mythology. She gave me Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

The Jane Eyre would lead to a lifelong obsession with the Brontes, Charlotte, Emily, Anne, not only their novels and poetry, but their lives. I was fascinated by how their childhood play informed their work, as my sister and I did that, too.  Rebecca left me feeling haunted, and always does. I think I’ve read that book more times than any other piece of writing I own. I read all the Daphne DuMaurier the local library had, but always came back to that masterpiece.

I was also really into Langston Hughes during that same time, which were roughly my middle to high school years.

In high school, and early college, I went through the punk phase, the “tough guy” phase and I got into Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. The other side of that coin was fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Then in later college years, it was all about Gertrude Stein, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker. I’m into Nikki Giovanni and Warshan Shire.

I’m always changing and my “tastes” are too. I like a new story, a fresh perspective, work that lifts me to transcendent heights, sometimes (often) by way of hard roads.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … flow?

Most of the time, poems drop out of the universe and into my thoughts. It may be an image or phrase and then INSTANTLY I’m there, pen in hand and it’s on the page. I get great ideas when I’m about to go to sleep, and often in dreams, so I keep a notebook in my bedside table at all times. Often, it’s when I’m doing something else, like working at my day job or washing dishes. It’s like a lightning bolt; it’s an act of nature. Every now and then I’ll sit down to talk to the Muse about something specific. I’ll focus, then un-focus. It’s meditative. It’s exploring the visions of the inner eye. If it just isn’t happening, I’ll flip through a dictionary, and words will start jumping out and dragging me along. I’d like to have a schedule, I might get more work done, but the truth is, it’s very much an ebb and flow. I don’t force it if it’s not happening, and I don’t dare dam the river in high flood.

What does poetry mean to you, and has your idea of what it represents changed over the course of time? Where do you see it going in the future?

I could probably write you a whole essay on what poetry means to me, because like anyone deeply in love with their craft or their field, it’s everything. Poetry isn’t separate from life, it is life. It’s in the housewife’s cupboards, in the salesman’s tie pin, in the cashier’s apron, in the interminable creep of traffic, in the mirror-world shining in the orb of a dew drop on a fiddlehead fern.

Poets are truth-tellers, and ours are truths you may have forgotten or overlooked. Does a culture become dead and stale when it trades its magicians for preachers? Who steps into that knowing-unknowing place? Poets.

Poetry for me means being the glowing embers on the cold hearth.

Poetry is the light in the darkness of ignorance.

That’s what I want to bring to the world, with room at the table for everyone.

What has being the poetry editor at The Blue Mountain Review taught you about the craft? What type of work are you looking for there, and what advice would you give to those who are submitting their words?

I love my poetry editor gig at The Blue Mountain Review! It’s truly a joy to wake up, have some coffee, and read poetry from people all over the world. I’m fascinated by the different voices coming to me from all kinds of cultures. It heals my soul to know people still care about poetry, still actively engage in creating it, and it’s not just old, dead white dudes. I’ve looked at work from poets from Iraq, India, Ireland, Africa, Mauritius, Canada, as well as England and the USA. I’m very open in what I’m looking for. I welcome all voices. I’d like to see even more diversity going forward. Much like writing, my editor’s style is intuitive. If it moves me, it’s in. If it leaves me cold, bored, or if it’s ugly hate speech, No. I’d say a guiding principle is: Don’t be a pretentious asshole. I want to see the dirt under your fingernails, not the sun-glints off the marble window sill of your ivory tower.

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As of right now, these are my personal social media and reflect me as private citizen more than Writer or Poetry Editor. I guess at some point I’ll have to make a professional Facebook, so everyone won’t have to see how messy I am. (laughs) Everything informs my writing life. In many ways, Facebook is a form of journaling. I get to practice thoughts and phrases. And share memes. What a time to be alive!

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

I belong to an artist collective called The Southern Collective Experience. They are my writing community and family. I also still go down to the Clarkston campus for GA State, which used to be Georgia Perimeter College, for Writer’s Forum meetings with the English teachers there who encouraged me in all endeavors poetic, back as a college freshman.

As 2017 begins rolling along, what are your expectations for the year ahead? Do you have any new projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?

I’ve been published online every year since graduating college in 2011. My goal is to continue with that, and I’d really love to get a chapbook published this year. I’ll be continuing my work at The Blue Mountain Review, and I hope to elevate it to further heights as well. I’m also working with The Good Acting Studio and The Southern Collective Experience to bring a monthly open mic poetry night to Marietta. Make poetry readings more than just a bunch of stuffed shirts in a claustrophobic, humid library room.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Do it because you love it, and don’t ever give up. Find publications that match your style, and continue to work with those that publish you. If you find a like-minded group of people to work with, stay. Treat them like gold. Share. Write. Love.