Fill in the Blanks with Melissa Eleftherion

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I first became aware of Melissa Eleftherion’s work from her 2013 dancing girl chapbook huminsect. Although Melissa’s writing style is about as far from mine as one can get, I admire her work’s vivid imagery and movement, and I feel that I learn from reading her poems. Let’s see how she filled in the blanks…

Sometimes I wish I could turn into damselfly and then I could glide in circles over lakes and rivers. Here I’d fold my wings across my upper back & trip out with my giant compound eyes.

The most memorable saying or aphorism my parents or grandparents used when I was young was Ancora! (trans. Italian – “still” or “enough”; trans. Italian-American Brooklynese – “enough! shut up already!”)

My cat is such a show-off.

The item in my junk drawer that best describes my writing is an eroded piece of sea-glass I wore all the time as a teen because it’s been distilled from so much effluvial bullshit.

If I found a message in a bottle, I would probably show it to my son & ask him if he’d like to send his own message. Then I’d coax him into co-writing a short story with me about self-sufficient, short boys who roam a deserted island & obey no sound but their own roaring.  

I would not have sex with Donald Trump or any other bloated male Republican if you paid me a million dollars.

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Melissa Eleftherion grew up in Brooklyn. A high school dropout, she went on to earn degrees in film production, English literature, and library science. She is the author of huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013), prism maps (dusie kollektiv, 2014), Pigtail Duty (dancing girl press, 2015), and several other chapbooks and fragments. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Bone Bouquet, Delirious Hem, Entropy, Manifesting the Female Epic, Negative Capability, Open Letters Monthly, So to Speak, ​Tinderbox, ​& TRUCK. She works as a librarian with Mendocino County Libraries, and created, developed, and currently manages the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange.​ Follow her @apoetlibrarian &www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com. ​

Fill In the Blanks with Ruth Foley

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Ruth Foley and I met (although only still virtually, which we need to remedy) through mutual poet-friend Kristin LaTour. I only knew her as a poet and editor of Cider Press Review at first, but am happy to have made the acquaintance of this beekeeping, badass woman. Let’s all get better acquainted with Ruth as she fills in the blanks.

If I was one of the castaways on Gilligan’s Island, I would be the professor because I am always overthinking things and I’m pretty handy with a coconut but not so handy that it will actually be of any use whatsoever.

If I could have a relationship with a fictional character, I would choose Jimmy Stewart’s character in The Philadelphia Story(Macaulay Connor) because he has a good job, a good sense of humor, and Katharine Hepburn, divine goddess that she is, is not good enough for him. Also, that man could smolder when he wanted to.

My favorite unnecessary item in my home is my jar of beach glass, but don’t let it hear you call it “unnecessary.”

Fill in the rhymes for this failed Katy Perry song draft:  “Baby, you’re a waaaaaaffle fry, c’mon let your freak flag fly.”

I am dangerous when someone threatens my loves but easily tamed by those same loves, who usually don’t need me to defend them.

I have the ambition of a lizard, but the agility of a kangaroo.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foley.ruth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrainOfRuth

Five Things: http://fivethingsthatdontsuck.blogspot.com/

Cider Press Review: http://ciderpressreview.com/

Creature Featurehttp://eljpublications.com/available-titles/creature-feature/

Dear Turquoise: http://dulcetshop.myshopify.com/products/dear-turquoise-ruth-foley

Fill in the Blanks with Jennifer K. Sweeney

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I knew of Jennifer K. Sweeney’s work from her book Salt Memory before I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance online. One of my favorite poems of hers that is available online, “Ballad for the Daily Condition” ends:

That we wake all of us in beds in rooms in houses
to reconstruct the familiar.
The train surfaces to light and everyone sways like kelp.
To cross over is no small thing
but still we do it daily, wordless, with eyes half-shut.

Lovely. Find out more about her as she fills in the blanks.

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If I ran away to join the circus, my role would be elephant whisperer, floating mime, dark star cannon-shot.

In grade school, I was the ___kid, but I wanted to be the ___kid.

Oh, that’s a heartbreaker of course. The easy and predictable (and true) answer is: I was the awkward-insecure-uncoordinated-weak-unbeautiful kid, but wanted to be the assured-confident-athletic-strong-beautiful kid. It worked out good enough.

If they named a paint swatch color after my writing, it would be called:

(picture rectangular card with shades gradually lightening)

blue cadence

ink-drained 

moonbit

zinc-capped nudge 

no such sailboat

The vegetable that best describes my personality is: I want to say purple asparagus because that stuff is like the ramps to me, but really, I am more of a golden beet–rooted, reliable, earthy; come find me in autumn.

If you give me a houseplant, I will write a poem. I will rip the poem into pieces and drop them in a pitcher of water and listen to Joan Baez and make a casserole and swear when I forget about the casserole and burn it. Burning it will remind me about the water pitcher sitting in the window, late day sunlight filtering through the torn paper, and I will think how this is a much better use of the poem, how a poem should always be submerged and shot with light even if not literally doing so. I will eat the casserole anyway and it will take me three days to wash out the crusty pan. I will not shower or sleep much or do laundry or pay overdue bills because sometimes all the minutiae hunker under a tidal wave called Tuesday and then I will  look in the mirror and realize I am submerged and shot with light which will remind me of the water, the poem now a dull pulp, and I will pour it over the houseplant which I believe you gave me yesterday, and I will write you a note to tell you how much I love it, how I am taking such kind care of every single thing.

If I could listen to only one song from my teenage years for a whole month, it would be “Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison. No question.

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Jennifer is the author of three poetry books: Little Spells (New Issues Press, 2015), How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009) which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Perugia Press Prize and was a finalist for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory (Main Street Rag, 2006).

Visit Jennifer’s website: http://www.jenniferksweeney.com

Here are two recent interviews about her newest book and writing life:

http://www.tinderboxeditions.blogspot.com/

http://www.robmclennan.blogspot.ca/2015/02/12-or-20-second-series-questions-with_17.html

You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter: @jksweeneypoet

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of three poetry collections: Little Spells, newly released from New Issues Press, How to Live on Bread and Music, which received the James Laughlin Award, the Perugia Press Prize and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, a Hedgebrook residency, the Elinor Benedict Poetry Award from Passages North and two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards. Recent poems have appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Linebreak, Lumen, Mid-American Review, New American Writing, Pleiades, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily. She lives in Redlands, CA with her husband, poet Chad Sweeney, and their two sons. She leads private poetry workshops and offers manuscript consultation.

Fill in the Blanks with Jeannine Hall Gailey

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Social media has brought many writers to my attention, and many of them are warm and wonderful people. Jeannine is one of those – generous with her time, advice, and a real supporter of the poetry community. Jeannine’s books are on heavy rotation in my reading list for teaching me about book structure and persona. (I particularly recommend her newest The Robot Scientist’s Daughter). Jeannine is always busy – be sure to check out her projects below, and follow her on Twitter for great poetry info. Let’s see how she filled in the blanks…

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Robots still find it very difficult to walk on two feet and will surely evolve into Matrix-esque organic spider shapes in the future.

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Anything you can do, I can do better…except read maps!  I have an inherited inability to never tell which direction I’m heading, or to look at a map and figure out how to get somewhere. I have to memorize left and right turns by driving them over and over.

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The spa treatment that best represents my writing would be the five-layer facial because I love to use masks in my persona poetry!

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As a child, I was afraid of alligators, but now I am mostly afraid of murderous robots. Just kidding! I’m not afraid of those at all. Unless you mean hacked drones. Because I am totally scared of those.

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At a party, I’ll be the one talking animatedly about 1. Star Wars 2. Miyazaki movies or 3. my love of early Joss Whedon work and only meh-ness for current Joss Whedon work.

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An under appreciated use for a  beet is as an impromptu lip stain.

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Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained Fevers, and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, new in 2015 from Mayapple Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry ReviewThe Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner.

Her web site is www.webbish6.com.

Twitter handle: @webbish6.

Latest book, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter: http://mayapplepress.com/the-robot-scientists-daughter-jeannine-hall-gailey/

Fill In The Blanks with Lisa Mangini

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Lisa is both a poet and fiction writer, as well as the editor of Paper Nautilus. We are also chapbook press mates at Red Bird Chapbooks. In her role as editor, I appreciate Lisa’s dedication to her many literary projects and also the kindness and good humor with which she treats her contributors, as I am pleased to have been one. In her role as writer, I have come to admire the broad scope of her work. Let’s find out a little more about Lisa below as she fills in the blanks – and please check out all of Lisa’s many projects and accomplishments at the bottom of the post.

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My vaudeville act would consist of simultaneously assembling Ikea furniture while alternating between rehearsing lesson plans aloud and singing along to music from the late-90s.

I know that onions are evil, but no one believes me. Always sneaking into every food like some kind of requisite condiment. Yuck. 
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I own way too many outrageously colored/patterned blazers for one human being.
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No one would believe it if they saw me fully awake and functional before 7 a.m.
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I take great joy in the seemingly tedious act of grading assignments. Knitting.
Reorganizing bookcases. (I apparently love the seemingly-tedious?)
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The retail store that best represents my writing is probably that teenage accessory store, Claire’s, because it’s kind of whimsical, a little dramatic, and almost everything is compact enough to fit in your pocket. And because a part of me is secretly fourteen still.
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Lisa Mangini holds an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University. She is the author of Bird Watching at the End of the World, a full-length poetry collection, and three chapbooks. She is the founding Editor of Paper Nautilus, and a Lecturer of English at Penn State University.
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Twitter: @Lisaquarius
Bird Watching at the End of the World (Poetry collection)http://www.cherry-grove.com/mangini.html
Paper Nautilus Twitter: @APaperNautilus

DIY

Having been rejected by several residencies for this summer, I was resigned to writing at home before going back to teaching middle school in mid-August. But there is something about being in a different setting, among people who think about writing and words with a similar passion, that seems magical. So, with the help of a few friends who also write, we decided to make our own writing retreat.

me hiking

Luckily, my friends and extraordinary writers Rachel Bunting and Donna Huneke knew of a house for rent in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. So, along with Rachel, Donna and two other writers (fiction and poetry alike), we set off for a week in a large log home with plenty of space to spread out and write. It was very affordable to share the cost of the house and groceries over five people, and we could explore and do tourist things OR just stay at the house and write without any fear of offending anyone else. Our week was relaxing, fun, rejuvenating, fruitful, and all-around AMAZING.

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So here are some quick tips for creating your own DIY residency:

1. Find like-minded people with similar goals for the time frame. All of us had specific things we wanted to do – finish a novel, organize a poetry manuscript, create new drafts, get our writing mojo back. We all agreed that we didn’t necessarily want/need structured workshopping or craft talk (although we were available to each other for questions as they arose). And we also wanted it to be a vacation and give ourselves time to explore an area of the country that none of us had visited before.

2. Find a location that is accessible to all without extraordinary hardship. I flew to Rachel & Donna’s home in the Philly/South Jersey area. (The other writers were also from that area.) We drove together to the house, making me the only one that had to fly, which was fine with me. If every person has to get to a location that is geographically difficult, then the retreat will never work. Next year, we are hoping to do a “reverse” where Rachel & Donna fly to the Midwest and we drive from here.

3. Find a place with adequate space/amenities for all writers to feel comfortable. Do you need internet access to research your Victorian persona poems? Be sure your place has it. A table to spread out your manuscript pages? Ask if there is one. Do you need quiet? Make sure that your housemates have either similar needs or places to go where everyone can have the setting he/she needs to be productive. Does someone in your group have medical needs or dietary restrictions? Be sure that the surrounding area has access to necessities, whether that be a pharmacy or a grocery that carries soy products.

4. Take time to enjoy the surroundings. If you want to be holed up in a room writing all day at a retreat, that is understandable. But if you are like me, and you need to move and take in your surroundings, and have time to roll ideas around in your head while having some new experiences, then make sure you do so!

During this week, we didn’t all do the same things and didn’t always do things together. Some of us took solitary walks/runs on the mountain roads around the house. Some of us went out to swim in the local eddy under a covered bridge, to hike in a gorgeous state park, to visit a small town that boasts the world’s longest candy counter, to take a late-night moose -spotting tour. (Yes, we spotted three!)

We also found inspiration in the things around us: huge moths, the rush of wind in the trees, the smoked cheddar, the visible swath of stars.

Don’t pressure those who don’t want to explore, but be open to what might happen. (like finding a delicious, home-based bakery, luckily only a day or two before we left…)

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5. Take time to enjoy each other!  We cooked almost every night together, taking turns meal-planning. We had great conversations before/after dinner. Some nights we played board games. Some we all read or talked about roadblocks and successes in our writing that day. But we took time to be with one another and NOT just in our own heads every day. This is one of the biggest benefits of creating a residency with friends – social time will happen organically, and it will be refreshing.

After this experience, I’m not sure I will feel the need to spend money to apply for residencies in the future. Planning a retreat like this – whether with friends or alone – is certainly easy enough to do in this age of Air BnB and credit cards that provide airline miles. And whether your chosen place is a goldmine or a bust, being with friends will make it an adventure worthy of a new piece of writing, at the very least.

Fill In the Blanks with Nicole Rollender

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I first “met” Nicole virtually in Binders Full of Women Poets on Facebook and have since discovered her work online in Linebreak, Luna Luna, and other journals. Nicole was game to fill-in-the-blanks even though she has many exciting projects on the horizon. Make sure to read the info below for those details – and enjoy Nicole’s blank fillers in bold text.

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If I opened my closet and saw ELVIS’ SPIRIT LOUNGING IN ONE OF HIS RHINESTONE JUMPSUITS, I would ASK HIM TO SING ME “SUSPICIOUS MINDS.”
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I could win an Olympic gold medal in GHOST HUNTING IN ATTICS, BASEMENTS, CEMETERIES AND BATTLEFIELDS .
My favorite school supply is/was CHARCOAL PENCILS, BECAUSE I LOVE TO DRAW SHADOWED PORTRAITS OF DEAD WRITERS.
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In a candy store, I would head straight for the DARK CHOCOLATE.
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If my poems were a breakfast food, they would be A BOWL OF GRAPEFRUITS, BITTER ORANGES AND SANDCHERRIES DRIZZLED WITH WARM HONEY AND CHOCOLATE because THEY HAVE A DARK GLAMOUR, AND INVITE EXAMINATION THAT’S BOTH HARSH AND BEAUTIFUL.
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I wish BLACK KOHL EYELINER grew on trees.
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Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe JournalRadar PoetrySalt Hill JournalTHRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She is the author of the chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at nicolerollender.com.