A conversation with Oomph! Press!

Transnational translation in action

Oomph! is part-southern, part-South American, part-Italian. Where will they go next?

You can read more about Oomph! Press at They got their start in Atlanta, and they're ready to make some moves in the world of translated poetry. Have an idea? Like what you read? Be in touch with them about your thoughts on the press and such.

a. How did you get the name Oomph!?

An interview with Black Ocean

Into the magic

Black Ocean's Carrie Adams responds.

Black Ocean, publishing quality books of poetry that you may have heard of, responds to my query. My hope is that you'll check out their amazing catalog after you find out what publisher and co-founder Carrie Adams has to say about the press and its history and influences.

a. How did you get the name Black Ocean?

Interview with Commune Editions

Small presses on the move

Fresh out of California, and fully embedded in the political, Commune Editions has been putting out books for a short time, but they are already on the move.

First up in this series of interviews is Commune Editions. You can read more about their mission and books at They have already taken part in other interviews, also, and if you go to their website, you can find links to evermore information about the press.

a. Do you think poetry has a political mission?

All poems have politics, whether or not their authors will admit it. And there is probably a strong case to be made for the connection between poetry and revolution.

Iterations and interstices

Endi Bogue Hartigan on fields and crowds and more

It was a brisk spring night when I went to hear Endi Bogue Hartigan read as part of the Loggernaut Reading Series in Portland. What struck me about her person was a quiet intensity; her work, with its eerie incantatory power, unsettled me.

Note: It was a brisk spring night when I went to hear Endi Bogue Hartigan read as part of the Loggernaut Reading Series in Portland. What struck me about her person was a quiet intensity; her work, with its eerie incantatory power, unsettled me. I admired this, found it refreshing in a time when a lot of poetry readings have a light or casual tone — with poets starting out with jokes or stories, or if they are from out of town, something they like about Portland. While I enjoy those readings, too, I was drawn to her work partly because the way she read aligned brilliantly with the collection’s strong aesthetics of muscular repetition and urgent complexity. I decided to approach her about an interview because I wanted to know more about how this collection came into being. What follows is an interview conducted over email, stringing out over several months as we slowly found an afternoon here, an evening there, to keep the conversation going. Eliza Rotterman

A short interview with Christine Leclerc

Christine Leclerc is a Vancouver-based author and activist. She is the author of Counterfeit (2008) and Oilywood (2013, winner of the 2014 bpNichol Chapbook Award) and an editor of portfolio milieu (2004) and The Enpipe Line: 70,000+ km of poetry written in resistance to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal (2010). Leclerc is a University of British Columbia Creative Writing Program graduate whose poetry, fiction and essays have appeared internationally. She is a communications manager by day and has been known to lead community theatre at corporate headquarters and occupy oil rigs at sea.

A short interview with Armand Garnet Ruffo

Armand Garnet Ruffo was born in Chapleau, northern Ontario, with roots to the Sagamok Ojibwe First Nation and the Chapleau Fox Lake Cree First Nation. Ruffo’s first collection of poetry, Opening In The Sky (1994), reveals an abiding interest in the complexities of Aboriginal identity in a multi-cultural society. His second book, the acclaimed Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archie Belaney (1997), is a creative poetic biography that further raises difficult questions about voice and identity, Aboriginal culture, human rights and the environment. Ruffo won the Archibald Lampman Poetry Award for his third collection of poetry, At Geronimo’s Grave (2001), in which he uses Geronimo’s life as a metaphor for resistance and survival. His latest writing project is the much anticipated Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, a creative biography based on the life of the acclaimed Ojibway painter Norval Morrisseau, which was released in the fall of 2014 through Douglas & McIntyre; The Thunderbird Poems, based on the paintings of the artist, will appear in the spring of 2015.

A short interview with Nikki Reimer

Nikki Reimer

Nikki Reimer is a writer concerned with emotional ecology. She has published books of poetry (DOWNVERSE and [sic]), chapbooks and essays. She also edits, including special issues of The Incongruous Quarterly and Poetry is Dead. Reimer is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, a past member of KSW, a contributing editor to Poetry is Dead, and a founding director of the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund Society. Visit her website (, or Calgary, where she lives.

'Chain' interview (pt. 1) and statement for OEI

Chain Letter icon, Chain no. 1, designed by AnJanette Brush
Chain Letter icon, Chain no. 1, designed by AnJanette Brush

Opening an email conversation on Chain with editors Spahr and Osman, I sent the following two introductory questions:

1) In the final issue of Chain, you note that the intellectual (and actual) climate in Buffalo prompted you to begin the magazine. The first issue — one of only three edited while you were both in Buffalo — presents a brilliant response. Originally slated to publish writing by women, Chain no. 1 features an editorial forum on editing magazines, a transcription of a panel on the ethics of small press publishing, and a series of poems composed via chain letters. Perhaps we can begin with a conversation on your plans for this first issue. What role did you see Chain performing in the poetics community at the time, in Buffalo and further afield?

2) The editorial forum in the first issue is particularly illuminating — offering a fascinating survey of female editors on gender and the work of editing. You interrogate the format of Chain itself in a following section entitled “Editors' Notes: Frameworks,” writing:

It is impossible to make a frameless frame (although that is the vision from which this project derived). We have instead begun the journal with a forum that takes a look at how and why journals are created and in what ways questions of gender have informed those decisions. It sounds absurd to edit a journal that's about the editing of journals — a nightmare of self-reflexivity — and yet it is a way of creating a body that shows its own skeleton.

How do the preliminary editorial statements from the first issue read to you now? Opening with this intensive self-reflexivity, in what ways did surveying experienced editors inform your own editorial position(s)?

In response, I was cheered to learn that these questions in particular were addressed in a short statement the editors penned for OEI magazine. We've decided to reproduce that document in full here. The statment can be read as a retrospective introduction to Chain from the persepective of 2008, resurfacing along with the magazine online today.

Robert Grenier

The ghostly presence of New England

Back in mid-March 2010, I traveled to Manhattan and met Charles Bernstein and Robert Grenier at the East Side apartment of Michael Waltuch, Grenier's old friend and collaborator. We recorded part 2 of what is now a long 2-part interview with Grenier about his early years. Part 1 focused on 1959-64, with a bit of a look back to Grenier's high-school years just before that period. Part 2 goes back a bit into the early 60s but then moves forward, covering 1965 to the early and mid 1970s. If last time the central topic was Harvard, this time the central topic, as it emerged, was New England: New England in the specific biographical sense (Bob G.'s wanderings there, especially on trips shooting outward from Harvard) but also in the meta-geographical sense--New England as a haunt, a crucial (it would seem now, in Grenier's way of thinking) ghostly presence in his thinking and in his writerly development.

We are pleased to release this second interview through PennSound - available, along with part 1 and many other Grenier recordings, on PennSound's Robert Grenier author page. It's a long recording (2 hours and 11 minutes) but I hope you'll find listening to it rewarding.

Christian Bok

Retelling the Illiad with the letter E

In 2005, a seminar of Penn students and Charles Bernstein spoke with Christian Bok, making a recording that is now part of the "Close Listening" series hosted by Bernstein. Here is the recording and here is more information about the session. Now Michael Nardone has transcribed the interview for later publication in Jacket2 but we cannot resist offering a brief excerpt here:

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So, while we are talking about Eunoia, can we look forward to a consonant sequel?

A consonant sequel? No, I’ve promised myself that I won’t ever write another constraint-based book again. The blood-pact I have with my peer group is that every book we write will be radically different from its predecessor, that the entire oeuvre should be completely heteroclite. So, the next project requires learning a whole new skill-set and re-training my brain, in effect, to learn something else. I probably would not have the endurance now or perseverance required to actually finish a constraint-based book.

So, clearly, this is very constraint-based, and from what you’re saying, you’re probably going to set yourself a new set of rules every time you write something new. So, are you arguing for something, for going back to sort of the poetic formality that has existed forever, against the tide of free verse, or stream-of-consciousness?

Well, actually, I have no problem with those poetic forms. I think my only complaint about those poetic forms you’ve cited is that they are not feeling much incentive to innovate and produce something new and reinvent themselves in a manner which is exciting and stimulating. And to me, it’s not so important that the work actually demonstrate some sort of formalistic character, so long as it has some kind of innovative rationale for its practice. So, I’m not making a case, I think, for a return to rigorous and strict formality. You know, I’m not that fascistic or school-marmish, I think, in my sensibilities. But I did this project thinking that it was a kind of experimental work. I didn’t know if it could be done, and I merely conducted the experiment to see what would happen. And to me, that’s really what writing poetry is about, it’s a kind of heuristic activity where you indulge in a completely exploratory adventure through language itself.

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