As we celebrate older women poets with our special Crone Issue that was released on October first, we thought it important to ask one of our contributing poets to share her wisdom in an interview. We chose to interview Tricia Knoll because she has appeared in our pages in past issues and contributed three pieces for the current issue. We were delighted that she readily agreed and are proud to present her insights here.
GR: Tricia, you’ve been published a few times in Gyroscope Review. What made you decide to submit to our call for work by women poets over 50 that celebrated the idea of wise women?
TK: I’m 70. I’ve been very lucky to feel that I know many women my age who are wise, loving, kind – whose political fervor is balanced with a sense of how we are one with all parts of the universe. I’ve written many poems on this theme. I have an unpublished manuscript, “Gathering Marbles,” which I have recently revised heavily and am submitting once again. It highlights collecting marbles rather than losing them. And, I have a collection of marbles including some very old handmade German marbles. We can find treasures in our life at any age. I feel blessed to know other feminists who live in resiliency and love in the face of today’s sometimes overwhelming challenges.
GR: We love the idea of collecting marbles rather than losing them! Do you feel that older women poets are well-represented in poetry journals today? Do younger women poets have it any easier?
TK: I have a library of poetry books, probably 90 percent are written by women. In online journals I’m drawn to the work of women poets to read first. I sense that a great number of the poets I read are younger than I am. Some have MFA’s. From my perspective the only reason younger poets may “have it easier” is that they have longer than I do to practice this craft. Possibly they have a more contemporary voice for whatever that might mean. I love to do whatever I can to encourage young women I meet at workshops and events to stick with it. To keep writing!
GR: What are some of your favorite women poets and why?
TK: I enjoy the work of Ursula LeGuin, who I started reading as a fantasy/science fiction fan decades ago. I lived in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, for decades and heard her read frequently. I have her poetry books that have come out in the last couple of years and look forward to her collection coming out in Fall of 2018 from Copper Canyon. Grace Paley. Jane Hirshfield. Maxine Kumin. Lucille Clifton. Louise Gluck.
I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s work over and over again because it touches me deeply –I have had the privilege of studying with her. Just as I go back to Wislawa Szymborska over and over again.
The work of women poets in my community also matters to me. I wonder what are women writing who live where I do, those who are experiencing this changing world in the same timeframe and environment that I am. The upside of this is being able to hear their voices at poetry readings.
That said, I also have favorite male poets: W. S. Merwin and many others. I spent my high school years reading poems from anthologies, hearing predominantly the voices of male poets.
GR: As did all of us who studied literature. Male poets, male writers are the examples we were most often exposed to. It delights us to hear more women’s voices in poetry readings today, see more women being published in all kinds of places. Where is the most interesting poetry being shared today? Can you talk about that a little bit?
TK: What interests me is the popularity of hip hop. What I’m searching for bends toward the political and acknowledges the changes and impermanence we are experiencing due to climate crisis from the point of view of personal history and emotions. I love poetry that blends the traditional lyricism and emotional resonance of poetry with science. A poem that comes to my mind frequently as an example is Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power.” We all can welcome the news of poetry’s increasingly popularity among young readers and voices. I also admire the words of those who are aging.
GR: What advice would you give to a poet who is just starting out?
TK: That’s easy. Keep at it. Don’t stop. I did stop as I was enmeshed in a career writing press releases, scientific reports, newsletters, and annual reports, etc. Find time to write even if it pinches other parts of your life. Carry a tiny notebook with you always to write down stray impressions, dreams or words that spark your imagination. Write about those when you find time. Find other poets in your community that you can share with, who can provide feedback on your work. Send poems out. Don’t stop because of rejections. I’ve written a poem about rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back to you for more petting and feeding, ringing a little bell as they enter their loft. Read poetry every day…it is so easy with the large number of online journals available now.
GR: Rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back for more petting and feeding is one of the best ways to look at rejections we’ve ever heard of. That gets right to the need for revision to make the poem something better rather than giving in to rejection dejection. What are you working on right now?
TK: I finished a collection of poems I’m calling One Bent Twig during a two-week April residency at Playa. These poems focus on my vision of trees as sentient lifeforms with whom I share a world and who are experiencing climate crisis along with other creatures. It is perhaps more lyric and narrative than that may sound. It is out looking for a publisher.
Two months ago I moved 3,003 miles from Portland, Oregon, to rural Vermont. The poems I’m writing now are about my experience in moving to be nearer my daughter, to “renuclearize” a nuclear family, to respond to a new (to me) eco-system with love, curiosity (why ARE all those barns red?) and respect. I don’t have a title for this collection yet. It acknowledges that I continue to age. :>) That I am a crone or walking down that road.
GR: That’s a huge move to make and we look forward to the poetry that comes from that. Any links to your work you would like to share?
Find details about my four collections of poetry:
GR: Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom, Tricia!
This highly-anticipated issue surprised us by eliciting an intense response from poets who sent work for our consideration. We are so grateful to have opened our doors for a demographic that is too often pushed aside even as they have powerful words and visions to share. This issue offers 41 authors, some of whom are not over-50 women poets but whose poetry, which came in through our general submissions, nicely dovetails with the themed work. We hope you will not only enjoy this issue, but will find yourself moved to think about and discuss this work for a long time to come.
To purchase a print copy, click HERE.
To purchase a Kindle edition, click HERE.
To view our PDF version, click HERE.
To let us know your thoughts about this issue, contact us HERE.
Thank you to all the amazing poets who made this issue possible and thank you to all who choose to read and share this issue of Gyroscope Review.
One more thing – our submissions are open for our Winter 2019 issue. Please read our guidelines to fully understand what we look for in the poetry that is sent our way.
For today’s post, we asked our assistant editor Joshua A. Colwell to review Darren C. Demaree’s new poetry book, Bombing the Thinker (Backlash Press, 2018). This is Josh’s first time writing a review for our website. We hope you enjoy it.
Poet Darren C. Demaree writes from Columbus, Ohio. His works have won him numerous awards, including: 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, the Nancy New Taylor Award from Emrys Journal, among others. He has seven other collections of poetry and is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology, and Ovenbird Poetry.
In his ninth collection of poetry, Demaree takes a deep and thoughtful look through the eyes of the sculpture, The Thinker, who feels more like man than marble. The Thinker reflects on life, the bombing that scarred him, and the “rust-belt brilliance” of Cleveland. Tenderly wrought, yet at times as harsh as the winter winds whipping off Lake Erie, this collection commands your attention from the outset.
The poems, to me, often seem to reflect the grit and rust from native Ohioans. The poem A Damaged Thinker #2 is short in length, but not on message. “I was raised up to be / here. I was destroyed / to be here forever” (p. 15). As someone who grew up in western Pennsylvania, right across the border from northeast Ohio, I see the faces of those people in these words. A blue collar crowd shaped by the sleet and snow of harsh winters and unforgiving economic times, they were born and raised against the backdrop of forgotten steel towns and winters that the locals still talk about to this day.
Another piece I really enjoyed to was A Damaged Thinker #24. The poem revolves around those who bombed the statue on March 24, 1970. The second and third stanza of the poem speak of being made into something worth being seen. “cruelty of time without / the punishment / of my assaulters. I want / them named, with Rodin / as the men that made me / something to be seen” (pg. 49). While this poem speaks directly to the attack several decades prior, this poem couldn’t be more timely. With the #metoo movement empowering women to come forward with their stories, they are taking control of their situations and making themselves not only heard but seen.
The collection is in many ways philosophical. Take for instance the lines from the poem Stabilized, Washed, and Waxed, “& the memory of how no art is ever / finished being made into more art,” (pg. 67). This is such a great way of showing how we as humans are always changing and evolving. We ourselves are works of art, damaged like The Thinker, forced to carry our scars and burdens through life as the onlookers snap their photographs.
This was an incredibly deep and thought-provoking collection that I would recommend to anyone. While I only touched on a few poems in this review, the book itself is bursting at the seams with poetry you’ll find yourself thinking about long after you’re done. As the book came to a close I “was left / wanting / more bronze, / more marble.”
Find out more about Backlash Press here.
Bombing the Thinker is available from Amazon here.
It’s true – our fall issue reading period was scheduled to run until September 15 OR until we had enough good work to fill the issue. Guess what? We got tons of good work and were able to fill our issue more quickly than we imagined. Breathing room for all is the happy result as we move into our production phase. We appreciate all the poets who submitted work to us and are stunned by the overwhelming response to our special crone-themed category that asked for work celebrating aspects of being older, wiser, braver, and the many other wonderful things about crones from women poets over 50. We were very interested in pieces that did not conform to stereotypes.
And that leads us to a few things we’d like to share about the pieces that were rejected this reading period.
We noticed that there were several submissions in our special category that focused only on the poet being an over-50 female. Being part of a demographic is not the same as writing to a theme. If a piece came into that special category without being connected to the theme, it got rejected even if the poet was in the demographic we sought. There were some good pieces in that group, pieces that we might have considered as general submissions for another issue if they had come to us that way. It saddened us that this was the case so often and we thought it would be good to point that out here. Poets, be very careful when you are asked to write to a theme that also asks for work from a specific demographic. You have to hit both marks to make it work.
And, among those that didn’t really stick to the theme, we noticed a lot of work about loss, abuse, failure, fear. We get a lot of poetry about loss in general, and we have gotten very picky about that. Writing about loss needs to have a bit of hope woven into it, or a bit of internal change that happens as a result of loss – something that the reader can grab onto. Pieces that wallow in loss become difficult for anyone to read all the way to the end. If you are a poet who writes about loss, ask yourself what you hope the piece will eventually do for you and for your readers. Leave some breathing room, some glimmer of light that provides a way out.
Another thing we noticed was that there were many pieces that did, indeed, celebrate aspects of aging but they missed the mark as far as steering clear of stereotypes. Aging is a complicated process, different for everyone even as women over 50 share many aspects. When it came to celebrating memories, several pieces focused on the late Sixties, a time period that has been done almost to death. We kept asking ourselves, as we read the work, what might be celebrated here that is unique? Or that is universal, but the narrator’s take on it is a little different? What is being presented as joyful but is a cliché? What memories connect to this moment in a positive, joyful, meaningful way? Do grandmothers, for example, have to be defined in relation to their grandkids, or can they take the idea of grandmother and breathe new life into it? What is funny about this whole aging thing? What is dignified about it? What has emboldened women of a mature age? What older woman believes it when someone tells her she has become irrelevant? You get the idea.
Finally, we noticed that we received submissions in both categories that were out of season. We pay a lot of attention to the seasonal feel of the pieces we accept and, if a piece sent to us for the fall issue feels like summer or spring, we must – and do – reject it. We’ve consistently published work that fits the season in which the issue appears and don’t plan on changing that about our journal.
There are other reasons, of course, for rejecting some of the poems that come to us, and most of those have to do with the work not fitting the aesthetics of Gyroscope Review. We want you to know that we read everything. We considered everything. We looked for gems. Each poem that comes to us is handled with care and respect.
We hope that this post helps future poets figure out whether their work fits here, and encourages more attention to the details in our guidelines, seasonality, special themes, and work that has previously appeared in our pages. Part of our job as editors is encouragement and education around submissions from poets everywhere. We hope we’ve done well by you.
Our next reading period opens on October 1, 2018. We are looking for pieces for our Winter 2019 issue, so if you write poems with a seasonal bent, think of winter after the holiday season. Remind yourself what we are looking for by reading our guidelines HERE.