Poetry — November 20, 2014 11:53 — 1 Comment

Three Super Important Questions For Seattle Poets

I reached out to some of our favorite poets to ask them three simple questions:

1) Who are your three favorite poets to read right now, 2) What is a line or short excerpt that’s really killing you, and 3) In a sentence or two, why did you start writing poetry?

Here are the responses from 9 amazing verse writers:


Maged Zaher

1) Donato Mancini, Don Mee Choi, Salah Faik

2) If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and if it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue. – Gertrude Stein

3) Good teacher + Loneliness + Searching for an unknown something


Kary Wayson

1) Ariana Reines, Sabine Macher, Emily Dickinson

2) “I want to hide what I dream/ In a big boot, and wear the boot // And starve as I lean upon the boot of my destitution/ And drag // The truth as a gimp would drag the weight of her body. / That would give me a feeling of honesty.” – Ariana Reines, from “The Four Seasons”

3) Alan Grossman calls poetry “the language of last resort.” That last resort is where I lived when I was growing up.


Ed Skoog

1) Chris Nealon (Heteronomy), Jericho Brown (The New Testament), Sarah Galvin (The Three Einsteins)

2) I tell the jokes here
And if you want to
Come into my house
Introduce yourself first
Don’t just go walking in
And telling the people you know them
Or you are the one they have been waiting for
They aren’t waiting for anything

– Dorothea Lasky, “I Am Eddie Murphy” in her new book ROME

3) To not die


Julia Larios

1) Well, the operative phrase is “right now” – next week I might have picked three entirely different poets, but here they are: Alistair Reid, Todd Boss, Joanie Mackowski

2) ….”And stars / grow feet and walk across the years, into these dozing, / ordinary days, climbing the spine’s winding // stair, where crickets yawn and history spins.” – Joanie Mackowski, an excerpt from the poem “Birdsong”

3) I started writing poetry because I starting reading poetry and loved it, and I said “Yes, I want to do that, I want to figure out how to do that.” I’ve been trying to figure it out for about fifty years. Haven’t done so yet, but the effort has been fun, with moments when I went reeling out of the galaxy, it was so nice. Also, I should admit, I had a crush on Mr. Ernst, my 8th grade English teacher, and he loved poetry, so I felt a sudden, desperate inclination to love it, too. It was like a mathematical problem: If A = B, and B = C, then A = C, with A representing Mr. Ernst, B poetry, C me.


Shin Yu Pai

1) Bill Carty, Carol Levin, Yoshinori Henguchi

2) I’ve been thinking a lot about Koon Woon’s work since reading his book Water Chasing Water. It recently won an American Book Award. I nominated the following poem for the Seattle Public Library Favorite Poem Project, but alas, it was rejected!


The high walls I cannot scale

( with apologies to Tu Fu )


Desolate in my Chinatown morning,
among the scraps and people sleeping in urine
doorways, I ache from the politics of the heart.

Pigeons flock together in Hing Hay Park,
no children to greet them.
I walk for my sanity, since alone in my room
before dawn, the mind constructs improbable things.

The city is humming for profits
and I wait for the porridge place to open.
A bowl of sampan porridge
adorned with a clump of watercress.

These Chinese and I are one, scattered
in the four corners of the globe.
I only have enough to pay for one bowl
and so sorry, my friend, I must dine alone.

3) As a young person, I started writing poetry as a means to having a voice and self-expression. I was born to immigrant parents from Taiwan and we are separated by culture and language – poetry was an effort to reconcile those differences and find a language through which to connect.


Cody Walker

1) My three favorite poets! That’s almost like asking for my three favorite friends. (Many of my friends are poets, and it’s their work I’m often most excited to read.) But I’ll take another tack and list the three poets I’m teaching this semester: Marianne Boruch, Laura Kasischke, and Mary Ruefle. Their latest books — Cadaver, Speak; The Infinitesimals; and Trances of the Blast — are all spectacularly strange and endlessly involving.

2) The writing that’s most haunted me lately is Mary Ruefle’s “Short Lecture on Shakespeare”: “They say there are no known facts about Shakespeare, because if it were his pen name, as many believe, then whom that bed was willed to is a moot point. Yet there is one hard cold clear fact about him, a fact that freezes the mind that dares to contemplate it: in the beginning William Shakespeare was a baby, and knew absolutely nothing. He couldn’t even speak.”

3) I’m not sure, but I think I started writing poetry because my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Chapel, made me do it. “Good Old Gray”: that was my poem’s title. “Good old gray, / gray as a cloudy day.” Except I ran all the words together, so it came out, “Goodoldgraygrayasacloudyday.” Eventually I separated the words, and I kept at it.


Adam Boehmer

1) Most recently I’ve been reading miscellaneous poems from Saeed Jones, also Emily Kendal Frey’s ‘Sorrow Arrow’, and Matthew Zapruder’s newest book ‘Sun Bear’. I am eagerly awaiting Richard Siken’s new book, ‘War of the Foxes’ which drops in early 2015.

2) I’m working on a personal art/design project right now where I’m lettering and illustrating two poems/fragments from Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley. “More important than having been born is your city, the scale upon which your heart when you die will be weighed” by Alice and “The world’s furious song flows through my costume” by Ted.

3) I started writing poems to see if I could actually do it. It turned out that I could. Then I shared it, and people seemed to be moved by the poems, and I felt better after having written them. Here I am 15 years later, and it still feels the same: “Can I do it still? Would you like to read this poem?”


Elizabeth Colen

1) This week: Jen Currin, Cyrus Cassells, Claudia Rankine

2) “And I saw that restlessness was neither the problem, nor the solution. Was just the fact. A force. And though it eventually might break me, I would not refuse it.” – Carl Phillips, excerpt from “On Restlessness”

3) As a writer I’ve always been interested—to the point of obsession—in the sounds of language, what the mouth does to words, what words do to the mouth and breath. I started writing long—novels, stories—but at times would get lost (think echolalia/glossolalia) in a particular section, sentence or paragraph. These would end up as poems.


Jane Wong

1) Right now, I’m reading Wong May, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Claudia Rankine

2) “Other eyes have eyed-
and stolen from my eyes”

3) My poem up at the Monarch sums up how I feel when writing poems. I started writing poems because I want to place all the beautiful and terrifying parts of our lives into language. It helps me grapple with questions I have about the self and our responsibility to the world around us. Poetry is a risk and privilege I am lucky enough to have.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

One Comment

  1. R Knox says:

    Gosh, this was a fun little reading. Like being at a potluck where every dish looks real good.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney