from Leafmold

A blade of grass tickling an ankle. Not an ant, not a fly, not a mosquito, not a bee. Branches so thin they don’t cast shadows so the leaves appear to float, organized like a school of fish on the sunlit cedar. The feeling you cannot feel again but can only remember: God was in the church basement and your mind was a brushfire buffeted by his lungs. A fleeing like a stalk of something greener than green climbing the spine. Get the dishes done. Pack your bags. The weather is not your friend yet the weather is a shield and the weather is an arrow painted with your impatience. The arrow of your impatience is a thing for the flies to contemplate, a facedown mirror in the moss, a bucket of steaming towels, throbbing bass so loud on the third of July you can hear it four miles away. Who minds whose mind? Boom boom boom. boom. An aversion to aversions. A gaze of mud to collate sundown’s terms: followers carry zithers into the sky. Mallards were once seen here but no more—the braid of bird to land comes apart via avian botulism, absence of bats, noise of the world. Funny that these entities rebraid this place into a form to fit the self. The last egg cracked is a thing of fundament, an absolute too gold to not ignore.

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F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of three poetry collections, Settlers (forthcoming from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), as well as four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions). He is co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Willow Springs, Colorado Review, 32 Poems, TYPO, Terrain, The Collagist, and elsewhere. Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

On Poetry: An Interview with David Hornibrook

Tangible Wonder Display Case,” “Night Manual,” “Pop Blasted,” “A Stand of Pine,” “North,” “Refraction,” and “Submarine” are poems by David Hornibrook published in the winter 2018 issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 6), released February 17, 2018.

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What inspired you to write this these poems?

Poems come from so many different places!

“Pop Blasted!” is made up of recycled portions of an article by Randy Kennedy (originally published in the NYT), about pop culture and the space race. I wrote “Tangible Wonder Display Case” while looking at some collages by the artist and musician Robert Pollard. I finished in one sitting and had so much fun doing it. “Night Manual” started out while I was in a map library and noticed that the patterns on the marble floor were reminiscent of waves. I had a dollar in my pocket. I’m sure there was more I’m not remembering. Sand dunes form over time when a little bit of sand catches in some grass or a stone and begins to accumulate. Language does this too. Fortunately poems don’t take as long as dunes.

Why do you make art, and why write poetry in particular?

I don’t really know what else to do with myself! For me, poetry is THE way to process a truly bewildering, wonderous, and frightening world.

What do you like about reading or performing your work for an audience?

I absolutely love doing readings. There’s something really special about being able to partake in the energy of a group of peoplemaybe even direct that energy. Communication is everything and I think reading/performing is best when it’s an exchangethe poet is engaging the audience but also listening to the audience and responding. I also like the attention.

In what ways do you think art and poetry are vital to society today?

Every society needs prophets, mirrors, oracles, and listeners. Artists are any and all of these things. There’s so much damage going on all the time, especially now that we’re aware of what’s happening 24 hours a day via the internet and the constant news cycle. We lose our ability to focus and truly care about anything when we’re pressured to care about everything at once. Poems help us slow down, consider things, take on new perspectives. Lots of people have said this in better ways.

Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?

This is always the toughest questionit changes all the time. Music has been an incredible influence on my writing. I love Alice Coltrane, Robert Pollard/Guided by Voices, Neil Young. Poets that I come back to again and again include Ann Lauterbach, Laura Kasischke, Dorianne Laux, Bridget Pegeen Kelly, W.S. Merwin. I would probably give you a different list tomorrow.

Who were some of your biggest influences coming into your own as an artist?

The first poet I read was W.H. Auden. I came across his selected poems in a used bookstore and was immediately drawn to it. “September 1, 1939” is one of the first poems I loved. It was quite some time before I discovered any contemporary poets and when I did they were no longer very contemporary! Music had probably the strongest influence on my early exploration with poetry. I was listening to bands like The Promise Ring, Jets to Brazilstuff with lots of wordplay and coincidentally, quite a few references to american poetry. It was years before I realized how strongly influenced I was.

What are working on next, and what excites you most about the future?

Well, I have this manuscript I feel very good about called Night Manual. It’s travelling around a little, trying to find a good home. Most recently, I’ve been working on a project about what it might be like to live underwater crossed with a roadtrip across Michigan interspersed with psalms . . . is one way to describe it, I think? I’m in the thick of it, whatever it is.

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David Hornibrook‘s work has appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal, PANK, SiDEKiCK LiT, Rogue Agent, Five Quarterly, The Baltimore Review, The Columbia Review, Flyway, and elsewhere. He is a Pushcart Prize recipient and holds an MFA from the Helen Zell Writer’s Program at the University of Michigan.

On “Forethought” and “Hypersurface”: An Interview with Katie Willingham

Forethought,” and “Hypersurface” are poems by Katie Willingham published in the winter 2018 issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 6), released February 17, 2018.

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What inspired you to write each of these poems?

Both of these poems are about how time expands and contracts around particular emotions. Things we take for granted—stars, teeth—become powerful in the moment they refuse to hold their expected course, shifting out of control.

It wasn’t until Allison asked to publish these together, though, that I noticed these poems also have a similar turn of phrase. From “Forethought”: “I made a hole in the feeling and pushed / the fact through it” and from “Hypersurface”: “The feeling that has no end, / push a finger into it and feel the give.” At first, I thought it was embarrassing, suggesting I have only so many tricks up my sleeve, but I’m calling it out for you because I think it reveals how poetry can turn to the same imagery and activate it differently. This isn’t a shortcoming. Rather, it’s a tool, and a potent one.

It also shows I wasn’t finished processing the question this phrase articulates for me—if emotions are incredibly real but also intangible, what happens when I give them a physicality? And what might that physicality be like?

Why do you make art, and why write poetry in particular?

I’ve been talking a lot about feelings, but I fundamentally believe poetry offers a method of thinking. This isn’t to say that thinking might not be deeply emotional, but that making language of it and arranging that language fires all these mental processes for me. It gets me places intellectually I couldn’t go otherwise. The relationship between writing and thinking is incredibly fraught for many people, but my experience has been if the writing is fraught, the thinking is fraught. They’re forever intertwined. This is definitely not true to everyone’s experience, but maybe that’s why they make other kinds of art.

This reminds me—I like to ask writers if they could excel at another art what would it be? (I’m doing my own interview now, oops!) I always say dance. My body bewilders me. But of course I already have a movement practice—a particular way of walking, of pouring water from a kettle, etc.

TL;DR: A visual artist friend likes to say, “everyone can draw,” and I might add dance and write as well, but poetry has always felt like it eases my particular path.

What do you enjoy about reading or performing your work for an audience?

Sharing space, pushing energy around the room . . . Oh! And reading something I forgot was funny and hearing laughter!

In what ways do you think art and poetry are vital to society today?

If art functions how I described above—that it helps us think what we are unable to think by other means—then it has radical power to help imagine a better world and call it into being. This is not to suggest we are always realizing this potential, but it’s there.

Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?

In New York, I can be blessedly inundated if I want to be. Just last week I saw a free puppetry performance, including the funny and brilliant “Daydream Tutorial” by Maiko Kikucki and the following night I saw a musician friend break a guitar pick playing beautiful songs as Bring Prudence at The Way Station.

Poems by my dear friend Adeeba Talukder have been inspiring me for some time and I can’t wait for you to also be able to enjoy her book, winner of the 2017 Kundiman Prize and forthcoming early next year.

And finally, instant gratification: check out this incredible project curated by Jane Wong!

Who was your biggest influence coming into your own as an artist?

I’m going to use this space to make a long overdue shout-out to my parents, who fed those parts of me when they were young and hungry and impressionable.

What are you working on next, and what excites you most about the future?

I’m writing about the future and excited to write more about the future in the future (?!)

I adore my first book, Unlikely Designs. I poured everything I knew into it, but I’m writing different work now and I’m eager to see where it leads.

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Katie Willingham is the author of Unlikely Designs (University of Chicago Press, 2017). She received her MFA from the Helen Zell Writers Program where she also taught creative and academic writing. Her poems have found space or are forthcoming in numerous venues including Bennington Review, Kenyon Review, Poem-A-Day, The Journal, Rhino, Massachusetts Review, and Colorado Review. She has recently become the Poetry Editor of Michigan Quarterly Review and can be found most of the time in person in Brooklyn, NY and online always at http://katiewillingham.com.

On “Leafmold”: An Interview with F. Daniel Rzicznek

Six pieces from “Leafmold” are poems by F. Daniel Rzicznek published in the winter 2018 issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 6), released February 17, 2018.

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What inspired you to write this series of poems?

These pieces come from “Leafmold,” a poem in 365 parts inspired by the two-way solubility of mind into world and world into mind. At the time I began “Leafmold,” I had come to feel caged by my own style and process. My poems rushed to closure, struck polite and pedestrian postures, and came out feeling like parodies of their own intentions. I wanted to try something bigger, woollier, more open-ended, and, above all, inclusive. I knew I had more to say and that my poems at the time did not provide a viable space for that speech. “Leafmold” allowed me to reimagine my relationship with the page. I remember hearing rain rolling off of tree branches after a storm had passed and being struck by the efficiency of that. That was the beginning impulse and image of “Leafmold.” I have tried to extend the poem outward from that point, and in as many directions as possible.

Why do you make art, and why write poetry in particular?

Difficult to say. I started as a failed musician and then a failed painter—I say failed because I lost interest and abandoned both—but poetry came naturally to me, almost immediately. I was very lucky to have several good teachers recognize and encourage my talent. My grades sucked in college, except for my English and creative writing courses. I took that as a very clear message from the universe. Writing is a compulsion for me at this point; reading, too. I also listen to music for 4-5 hours a day, sometimes more. Art keeps me out of trouble. As for writing poetry in particular, I think I enjoy the malleability and fluidity of language combined with the invitation to song and incantation that is central to genre. I like how words sound and what they do to my mind, the images they create, the emotions they evoke, the challenges and limitations they explore/express, the messes they make. Also, there’s a certain satisfaction to writing a poem that you feel surprised by and happy to have written. I can only think of a handful (seriously, only 3 or 4) of poems I’ve written that performed this, but it’s a feeling I still chase. It keeps me coming back to my notebooks with new ideas.

What do you like about reading or performing your work for an audience?

To be candid, I’ve lately felt a little disenchanted with reading for audiences. I didn’t know it until recently, but the poet Frank Stanford refused to give readings of his own work. I’m not aware of his rationale for this stance, but for me, I’m no longer sure of how well the poem comes across read aloud. Part of it is that my intention while composing is always for the work to be read quietly to one’s self. Why drag it out of its natural environment? What’s more, for me to stand in front of an audience and read the work out loud signifies a sense of ownership that has made me uncomfortable the more I dwell on it: listen to me read my poems. They’re not my poems—they’re the reader’s! The very act of reading in public props the door open for the ego to enter, and this can be bad for the work. I haven’t read my work in public for about a year and a half. It’s been a nice break, but I will be interested to try it again sooner than later, and to see if my feelings have changed.

In what ways do you think art and poetry are vital to society today?

Poetry, specifically, is vital for me. Music, too. I won’t speak for anyone else. But I do believe Art is vital for everyone. Whether “low” or “high,” or “mainstream” or “indie,” or “cheap” or “fine,” all humans require exposure to aesthetic pleasure to be fully human. Whether they get it from the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop or a rerun of South Park doesn’t really matter. Our brains are wired for it. It’s one of our unique qualities as a species, and sets us apart from our animal kin. Yet, we are easily made afraid or threatened by art. It’s there to challenge our worst beliefs and most absurd faiths. It asks us to embrace multiplicity of meaning, and, especially in the case of poetry, to listen openly and innocently. This is an uncomfortable position to be in, so we shy away. Push and pull. Balance within this tension is vital to culture and society. I don’t think that balance is ever really achievable, but it remains something to work toward.

Who are some of your favorite poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers, or other artists?

I could fill pages in response to this question. My favorites are always changing. I’m a crazy music nerd, and my tastes are as wide as I can stretch them. Miles Davis and Frank Zappa would both be at the top of my list, mainly because of their consistently interesting and risk-staking outputs. Neither of them made music with pleasing the critics in mind. Someone like John Zorn would fit in as well, despite his dizzying catalog. Then you have Jerry Garcia, who was able to put his foot on a crack where four or five musical traditions all intersected: blues, folk, country, jazz, rock and roll, etc. For poets, I think James Wright and Larry Levis are my favorites. Like Miles and Zappa, these two also kept rethinking style, approach, and process, but their voices and touch are always evident in the work. Sylvia Plath has also been a very important poet for me. Jim Harrison is probably my favorite writer across all genres (he did it all), but not necessarily “the best,” if that makes sense.

Who was your biggest influence coming into your own as an artist?

I would share this between Larissa Szporluk and Amy Newman, both incredible poets under whom I had the good fortune to study with during the completion of my MFA. Larissa urged me to push my imaginative capabilities to a higher level while Amy challenged me to also weigh logic (lyrical logic!) in regard to those imaginative forays. Finding the balance between their voices led me to many years of steady writing. Also, they both, through example, taught me how to teach poetry: with patience, compassion, generosity, and incisiveness. They set the bar quite high, so I hope I’m living up to those expectations for the poets I have the privilege to instruct.

What are you working on next, and what excites you most about the future?

You could say I’m currently in between projects. Writing a little bit, but mostly polishing poems written in the last few years with an aim toward two manuscripts. I also started a long poem last spring that is tentatively called “Headwater” but it’s very loose and wandering at the moment. Not sure where it will end up. I come back to it every few weeks to add a line. “Leafmold” arrived in many fevered rushes of writing. “Headwater” is sort of a sibling, but moving at a much slower and more deliberate pace than “Leafmold.” We’ll see what comes of it.

What most excites me about the future is the direction of contemporary American poetry. Lots of exciting poets writing right now, and I’m excited to keep reading.

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F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of three poetry collections, Settlers (forthcoming from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), as well as four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions). He is co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Willow Springs, Colorado Review, 32 Poems, TYPO, Terrain, The Collagist, and elsewhere. Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

On “City Brain”: An Interview with Keith Mark Gaboury

City Brain” is a poem by Keith Mark Gaboury published in the REVIVAL issue of Orange Quarterly (OQ 5), released in fall 2017 (on October 31).

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What inspired to write this poem?

I wrote “City Brain” at a free workshop through the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute. After studying and discussing a chapter in Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, the teacher challenged us to a free write exercise around what defines a city. “City Brain” is what I wrote through this literary experience.   

Why do I write poetry?

More than anything, I’ve always defined myself as a writer/poet. I remember writing poetry in elementary school and a short story in middle school that at the time I thought was amazing. It was only natural that I studied English literature/creative writing in college and graduate school. Above all, I’ve always been captivated by the hypnotic pull that a well-crafted poem has on me. I hope to capture that feeling through my own writing. From my perspective, I love how great poetry is about compression of language where emotion is squeezed within such a tight space on the page. That’s why I write. That why I read. That’s why I care to get up in the morning and feel that I have a poetic contribution to make that hasn’t already been expressed before.

In what ways do I think art and poetry are vital to society today?

In a society where demand for news and gratisfaction streams into our minds, art and poetry gives us a vital opportunity to slow down and really focus on the details. When studying a poem or a painting, at times the literary or aesthetic response does not need to be a one-sentence catch-all you can fit in your pocket. Indeed, creative expression moves beyond the obvious into the surprising, the surreal, the challenging. I believe every citizen in our society should be surprised and challenged. Art and poetry are two avenues for which the status quo can be uprooted and examined for its validity in a twenty-first century time. I love that power. Don’t you?

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Keith Mark Gaboury earned a MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in such publications as Eclectica Magazine, Fife:2:One Magazine, and New Millennium Writings. He is a preschool teacher and poet in San Francisco, California. Learn more at www.pw.org/content/keith_gaboury.

#28

If you’ve never stopped to look at a spoonful of honey mid-drip, then you don’t know what it’s like to slow way down. You’ve never felt your eyes dry out wholly just to moisturize again from a thicker,
viscous air.

Go to your window, the one that opens up onto the parking lot and the green garden corner. Open up everything wide.

I’ve left a smear of liquid gold for you to press your nose against. For you to bat your eyelashes. Let the honey pearl up between dendrite hairs.

For you to hear the stretch of golden taffy. The hum of general motors later. It will all still be there out there somewhere for you. Trust the bees. They’ve been doing it for centuries.

But first, become unstuck to the way things used to come to you. Slit the skin between your thumb and finger. Remember the slow wave of pain. Remember the night your stomach turned to knots. It was starry and silent and beautifully complex.

Your fingerprints, renewed, how they will begin to glow. Soon, you’ll remember how to touch again.

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Cameron Finch is a short story writer and poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, Across the Margin, Dream Pop Press, Exceptions Journal, and elsewhere. She hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she likes to tap dance in place whilst waiting for the light to turn at crosswalks. Cameron is currently an MFA candidate in Writing and Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and serves as the Managing Editor of the college’s literary journal, Hunger Mountain. Find her online at https://ccfinch.com.

Metamorphosis

When the world gets small and tight, we want
someone who goes too far
when no one else will even try to mime
the dying art of fire,

someone who can talk to rain
the way the rain can talk to grass:
	
	Come up
	and make it green again,

who can speak from a tree
without ever leaning on a branch,
weightless, almost
even when no one else listens.

Take all the breath of candles
where the elders sinned,
all the chairs they could not fill
and put them in the wind.

Gather scars as though we own them,
tear down the scaffolding of our past, lean
into animate light that will pull us up
like plants out of the savage ground.

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Roberta Senechal de la Roche is an American historian and poet of Micmac and French Canadian descent from Maine who teaches history at Washington and Lee University. Her poems have appeared in the Colorado ReviewStill: The Journal, Yemassee, and Cold Mountain Review, among others. Blind Flowers won the 2016 Arcadia Press Chapbook Prize, and her chapbook Winter Light, is forthcoming from David Robert Press.

City Brain

I propped my neuro ganglia of dirt road origin up against
the Millennium Tower foundation Pa welded thirty years
back. His five o’clock shadow arrived at three o’clock as
sparks leapt like rabbits in a heat of progress. I’ve come to
a San Francisco city slap where the air is buttressed
between metal extensions, but I will not grow a city brain
in some concrete garden when the lettuce heads back home
are screaming my name.

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Keith Mark Gaboury earned a MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in such publications as Eclectica Magazine, Fife:2:One Magazine, and New Millennium Writings. He is a preschool teacher and poet in San Francisco, California. Learn more at www.pw.org/content/keith_gaboury.

[Ugly ground you are seen]

Ugly ground                you are seen
from on high    not transcendental       no
never that        but as overview           surveyed
Ugly ground                you make swell moss
feel so good     so real              ecstatic            swelling
for swell moss             and swell moss
that is to say                           contingent
on what swell moss feels        and feels like   and how
it feels you out            you ugly ground          as if
tendrils in darkness     as if     below water                again
though always             the phrase hazarded    above
With you         ugly ground     you bottom up                        upend
orientation       With you         unground         priority
precedence      from the vertical          Swell moss
is only so thick           you thicker      though             yet
the expanse is what matters    to matter
and swell moss grows with you on the reach of your limits

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Jacob Schepers is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (Outriders Poetry Project 2014), which was a winner of the 2013 Outriders Competition. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Dream Pop Journal, Verse, [PANK], The Destroyer, and Deluge, among others. He is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame, where is also working towards his MFA.

Hymn

My love, we live here
a sphere inside a sphere
inside a sphere
inside a sphere we call
the universe. Love,
let me love you
the way a planet teaches,
dearer and dearer
the sun. Let all
connection cease
but the graveness
of our orbit. But let
some happiness
reach us.
(What else to call heaven
but the absence of atmosphere?)
And when the sweetness
of that possible world
makes this one seem
a little too near, my love,
let us not grieve what
may have been there,
or here.

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Victoria Le received her poetic education from the University of Michigan and Brown University, where she earned her MFA. She is interested in the ways empiricism and revelation interact with manifested life. Her poems and translations have appeared in publications such as White Whale Review and Transference. She is currently raising a son, a husband, and three cats in Tallahassee, Florida, where she teaches writing to inmates.

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For more Victoria Le poems published in Orange Quarterly:

Origin

Critic

Terminus

Creative design from the South

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