NBCC Poetry Finalists in Conversation with New School MFA Students

by admin | Mar-16-2016

Thanks to the cooperation of the NBCC and Creative Writing at The New School, as well as the tireless efforts of their students and faculty, we are able to provide interviews with each of the NBCC Awards Finalists for the publishing year 2015.

Interview With NBCC Poetry Finalist Sinéad Morrissey

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Kay Sorin, on behalf of the Creative Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Sinéad Morrissey about her book Parallax and Selected Poems, which is among the final five selections in the category of Poetry for the 2015 NBCC Awards.

Kay Sorin: The title of this collection takes its name from the word parallax, an apparent change in an object as a result of an actual change in observation. It is a compilation of poems from previous publications, including those written as many fifteen or more years ago. What is it like to see your work compiled in this way, with some of your earliest published work juxtaposed with your more recent writing?  As your position as an observer of your own work has changed over the years, have you experienced a parallax?

Sinéad Morrissey: That's a very good question and one I haven't thought of before... Yes there's an obvious disjunct in the book between the earlier and later poems as my writing has developed, and the styles and themes are very different.

KS: How were the poems for this collection selected?

SM: I didn't want any of the poems from my first collection included, as it's a book I can no longer stand over. Other than that (my own stipulation) the list was agreed between me and my FSG editor, Mitzi Angel.

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Interview With NBCC Poetry Finalist Ada Limón

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Jessica Alberg, on behalf of the Creative Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Ada Limón about her book Bright Dead Things, which is among the final five selections in the category of Poetry for the 2015 NBCC Awards.

Jessica Alberg: What is your title process for your poems?

Ada Limón: I am obsessed with titles, beginnings, and endings. I feel like poetry is hard to access for a lot of people and I want to make it as easy as possible for someone who is perhaps not a poet but just a reader to enter a poem. I want them to be enticed and intrigued and at home from the first get-go, and so a lot of the openings of my poems, like we were talking about setting, really focus on grounding people in place. Then the same thing with the titles, I want to give an idea of what I’m really going after, like I have this discussion with people all the time that sometimes I feel like poems just need to say the thing. They just need to say the thing. They dance around so much. So with titles I’m really trying to intrigue and entice but also to ground and draw in.

JA: I was particularly fascinated by how your work flirts between description of scene and honest experience of emotion. You have a straightforward way, which isn’t at all shy. Can you explain the importance and significance of having work such as this, and the creation of honesty within poetry?

AL: I think that I’m very interested in not just being honest but also excavating what I truly mean in a poem, and I think that in some of my earlier work and in some really great contemporary work there’s so much obfuscation happening. Sometimes it’s in the name of beauty, sometime it’s in the name of song, and sometimes I feel like it’s unnecessary and with my poems, especially with this book, I wanted to write a book of poems that wasn’t necessarily for poets.

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Interview With NBCC Poetry Finalist Ross Gay

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Russell Janzen, on behalf of the Creative Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Ross Gay about his book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press), which is among the final five selections in the category of Poetry for the 2015 NBCC Awards.

Russell Janzen: I first encountered your work when I heard you read a few months back in NYC. You’re incredibly charismatic when you read your work, and it was a pleasure to hear your voice as I discovered more of your writing in Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. I’ve struggled with how to phrase this question, but would you be able to speak to the connection, or disconnect, between your speaking voice and your voice on the page? Is reading poetry aloud a part of your writing process?

Ross Gay: Oh yeah, I read the words as I write them, and hearing them (or not hearing them) is part of my revision process. It's also, the more I think about it, part of my composition process. I wonder if I'll actually be able to say a phrase in a reading, you know? It can be a tongue twister, but not one I can't say. So that's part of it. As far as my speaking voice and the page, I'm trying to approximate something like a kinda Ross Gay voice in a certain kind of mood in a poemy kinda way situation I think. You know? Like I am trying to get close to a familiar diction or thinking, but I'm also building that, and imagining it, and crafting it, and you know, they're poems!

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Interview With Michael Wiegers, Editor of NBCC Poetry Finalist Frank Stanford

Sam O'Hana, on behalf of Creative Writing at The New School and the NBCC, interviewed Michael Wiegers about his book What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford, which is among the final five selections in the category of Poetry for the 2015 NBCC Awards.

In a project that has been over five years in the making, Michael Wiegers, editor in chief of Copper Canyon Press, discovered Mississippi-born poet Frank Stanford while working with the late CD Wright and was startled by what he found. Wiegers speaks about how he wanted to share the intimacy of that experience, giving people a better understanding of how Stanford worked as well as the time and situation in which he lived.

Sam O'Hana: Half of the work in this volume is previously unpublished. Where did you find your source material?

Michael Wiegers: About twenty years ago I started editing and working with the late CD Wright. At that time I knew nothing about Stanford, but while telling a friend about working with CD, they said, “Oh, wasn’t she connected to Frank Stanford?” I had little idea who he was, so they gave me a copy of Stanford’s book-length poem The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. Later, over the course of working with CD, I would try to convince her that we should consider a retrospective of his work. She was initially a little hesitant, only owning half of his literary estate–the other half belonging to his second wife, Ginny. However, later, when we all first really agreed to do this, she took me to her office at Brown University and put me in front of her file cabinet, saying, “Go ahead and rummage through.” She then left for the day.

CD was already in the process of donating her Stanford archives to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. She was also in contact with Ginny, and would later encourage her to do the same. So it started out with my going through all CD’s material, finding old notebooks, for example. When all the archives had been donated to the Beinecke, I started spending a number of days sorting through a quite substantial number of boxes. It involved a little sleuthing to figure out how the pieces fit together and which of the many drafts were the final ones. One of challenges was that he would intentionally repeat and borrow from himself, occasionally extracting from The Battlefield to produce separate poems.

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