Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Philip Graham interviews Angela Woodward at Fiction Writers Review

Creative Nonfiction Editor Philip Graham interviews Angela Woodward about her novel End of the Fire Cult (Ravenna Press) at Fiction Writers Review. Excerpts from End of the Fire Cult appeared in Ninth Letter's Spring/Summer 2010 issue.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Visiting Writers Series: Interview with Frank Montesonti

I am happy to say I had the chance to catch up with Frank Montesonti, the featured reader for Saturday's Visiting Writers Spring Reading, and ask him a few questions. Montesonti is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope, Winner of the 2011 Barrow Street Book Prize chosen by D.A. Powell, and the book of erasure, Hope Tree (How To Prune Fruit Trees) by Black Lawrence Press. A long time resident of Indiana, he now lives in Los Angeles and is lead faculty at the MFA program at National University. 

Natalie: If you had to, how would you describe the aesthetic associated with Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope? From where do these poems originate?

Frank Montesonti: Well, it will be nice reading in Champaign; the poems in Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope are mostly located in the landscapes of the Midwest--from the lush, humid summers to the bleak winters of endless miles of frozen, harvested corn fields. I grew up in Indianapolis and the quiet desolation of the Midwest has definitely infected my imagination and voice. The title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but with a serious core. Many of the poems are heavy in humor and language play, but their ultimate goal is to earn moments of real emotional exigency. I think that is the aesthetic core of the collection, and I think definitely it comes from a Midwestern sensibility.

Natalie: What are some of your big creative influences? Who inspires you?

Frank Montesonti: Well, it would be a very long list to include every poet who has inspired me or taught me something, so if I had to choose one poet only, it would have to be Walt Whitman. It’s not just because of his innovations in American poetry, but because of his outlook on the world, his sense of praise and his vulnerability. I go back to Whitman again and again because I feel like my poems start with the same impulse, the sudden appreciation of the abundance and beauty of life. It is that impulse that gives me the bravery to break the silence of the page.

Natalie: Do you enjoy teaching? How do you interact with the process of introducing students to poetry?

Frank Montesonti: Yes, I enjoy teaching immensely. I believe poetry is a conversation, and I like to introduce my students to a wide variety of poetic voices and then listen to hear what conversations they are compelled to enter; then I try my best to be a guide for them into those conversations. I feel it is often counterproductive to insert my own personal aesthetics into a workshop too strongly, though I suppose it is inevitable to some extent. But I digress; my point is that I enjoy helping students find their own voices and their own artistic projects. That is the primary source of joy in teaching to me.

Natalie: What kinds of poems are you working on right now?

Frank Montesonti: The poems I am working on now are quite different from the poems in my first or second books. They involve a series of overlapping scenes that build and develop each other interspersed with a series of exuberant love poems. The collection’s title is For Oh, Yvonne, I Am!

Natalie: If you could have dinner with any poet, living or dead, who would it be?

Frank Montesonti: Forget dinner, I just want to hang out in a dive bar with John Berryman.

Thanks again to Frank for taking time off during his book tour to answer my questions. Once again, don't miss his reading this weekend!

Line Assembly Poetry Tour

Coming in Summer 2013 to a place near you! The Line Assembly Poetry Tour, featuring poets S. E. Smith, Anne Marie Rooney, Zachary Harris, Adam Atkinson, Ben Pelhan, and  former 9L assistant editor Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, is a new kind of poetry adventure. From their Kickstarter page:

"Unlike most reading tours that focus on the presentation of the author’s work, our tour will combine readings with free poetry and literary arts workshops at libraries and community spaces around the country."

Line Assembly will also donate contemporary poetry books and develop a resource magazine with tips on organizing reading and writing groups, hosting productive workshops, and more! Click on the link above to support this fantastic project.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

UIUC Visiting Writers Reading: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

As part of the annual Boneyard Arts Festival, the University of Illinois will hold its first Visiting Writers Reading, featuring students from the PhD in Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and special guest Frank Montesonti, as well as students from UIUC’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Please join us on April 13th at 5:30PM for this special event, to be held at Mike 'n Molly's in downtown Champaign. Learn more about our readers here:

Ching-in Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press) and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press). A Kundiman and Lambda Fellow, Ching-In is part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities, and has been a participant in Sharon Bridgforth's Theatrical Jazz Institute. Ching-In attends the PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is Cream City Review's editor-in-chief.

Loretta McCormick is a native Angelino and creative writing PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studies and writes about freakery, disability and death. She is a fiction editor for Cream City Review, and her work has appeared in The Northridge Review. 
Khaleel Gheba is an MFA candidate in Poetry, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He grew up in Maryland. He once used a poem to lift a burning car off of a baby. He's very tired. Please don't wake him.

Natalie Mesnard is a student in the Creative Writing program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work is forthcoming in Copper Nickel and Kenyon Review Online.

Greg Rodgers is an author and Choctaw storyteller who appears at schools, libraries, universities, museums, and tribal events throughout the country. He has written two books, The Ghost of Mingo Creek and One Dark Night in Oklahoma. Additionally, he is a contributing writer for the graphic-anthology, Trickster, an ALA Children's Notable Book for 2011. Greg is listed as an official Smithsonian Associate and is currently a Graduate Assistant in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kara Van de Graaf is a doctoral student in creative writing at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a miniature silverware enthusiast. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthology Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Alaska Quarterly Review and other journals. She is a poetry editor for Cream City Review.  Her favorite animal is the goat.

Special guest Frank Montesonti is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope, winner of the 2011 Barrow Street Book Prize chosen by D.A. Powell, and the book of erasure, Hope Tree (How To Prune Fruit Trees) by Black Lawrence Press. He is also author of the chapbook, A Civic Pageant, also from Black Lawrence Press. His poems have appeared in journals such as Tin House, AQR, Black Warrior Review, Poet Lore, and Poems and Plays, among many others. A longtime resident of Indiana, he now lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at National University.