One-on-One with Visiting Writer Susan Briante

December 8, 2016, by

DSC_8740-EditLast month, Susan Briante visited Houston as featured guest of the Gulf Coast Reading Series. Her most recent book, The Market Wonders (Ahsahta Press), was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She is also the author of the poetry collections Pioneers in the Study of Motion and Utopia Minus (an Academy of American Poets Notable Book of 2011). A translator, she lived in Mexico City from 1992-1997 and worked for the magazines Artes de México and Mandorla. Briante has received grants and awards from the Atlantic Monthly, the MacDowell Colony, the Academy of American Poets, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fundand the US-Mexico Fund for Culture. She is an associate professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Arizona. Read on for our exclusive interview following her visit.

  1. Your new collection of poems, The Market Wonders, personifies the economic structure we live by and philosophizes its existence. Can you talk a little bit about how the concept for the book was born and why you felt compelled to write it?

As the financial crisis began to take hold, the endless crisis from which many of us have never felt relief, I began to notice the dissonance between how that crisis was reported and how it was experienced. Stock market indices are described as if they were the most important measures of our national health. That’s not necessary. The way we prioritize the strength of our financial markets over everything else is dangerous to the values of this country.

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Spotlight on Alexandra Naumann–UH Creative Writing Program Student

November 9, 2016, by

DSC_8596-EditInprint Edgar M. Larsen Fellowship recipient Alexandra Naumann is a fiction writer of Lebanese-Mexican descent. She’s in year two of the MFA program at University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP), where she’s a nonfiction editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. She’ll be reading for the Gulf Coast Reading Series this Friday at Rudyard’s at 7 pm, along with featured poet Susan Briante and fellow UHCWP writers Sam Dinger and Nathan Stabenfeldt. We thought we’d ask her about who and what inspires her writing, the experience of sharing her work aloud, and returning to her hometown of Houston.

MELANIE BRKICH: You read for the Poison Pen Reading Series last week and now Gulf Coast coming up this week. How has that experience been, doing two readings almost back to back?

ALEX NAUMANN: Fun. A gift! I feel so grateful to be a part of a community where folks listen and share work, but I also feel nervous. Reading work aloud is like singing in someone’s ear. It’s intimate.

Reading work aloud is like singing in someone’s ear. It’s intimate.

MB: How do you prepare for readings?

AN: Step One: Panic. Step Two: Find pages that feel fraught or stunning or that contain the most tender, love-worn, raw/bleeding spots (narrative wounds!). It seems helpful, too, for reading fiction to find some narrative parcel that can be lifted from its larger context and still retain meaning, if that makes sense?

MB: Absolutely. What sort of projects are you currently working on? Are there certain themes/subjects that show up often in your work?

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Houston’s Word Around Town 2012

August 14, 2012, by

Houston poets and spoken word artists are in a buzz this week with the Word Around Town happenings. Many of you may already know about this week of poetic fun and some of you may have already attended one of the nightly readings. We asked Inprint friend and local blogger Dean Liscum to give us more details about Word Around Town 2012 and report on some of these readings for us..

What Is It?
The Word Around Town (WAT?!) Poetry Tour is the ONLY 7-day poetry marathon in the country. (And no that’s not Fulshear, that’s the United States of America.) It’s in its 7th year. Lucky 7s. Seeing as life is all a crap shoot, this is the year for poetry in Houston. Organized by Blanca Alanis, Joe B, Stephen Gros, and Lupe Mendez, the tour aims to introduce poets to venues and expose audiences to poets.

What is the format?
The basic format showcases a featured poet, who reads for about 20 minutes. This performance is supported by 15 other local poets, who read 2 poems each. Generally, the featured poet starts the reading followed by 6 or 7 others, a brief break and the rest of the crew. Continue reading

Tony Hoagland Powers Poetry

April 10, 2012, by

Two events stand out in my admittedly thin-broth of a writing life: my first piece ever to be accepted for publication (by the journal happy—anyone ever heard of it?) for which I still have the check, dated December 21, 1998, pinned to a bulletin board (it was for $5, so not a big sacrifice), and being accepted into a poetry workshop taught by Tony Hoagland.

Needless to say, if you are a lover of contemporary poetry, the second event was much more momentous. It was even tinged with aspects of intrigue.  I had been working for Inprint for about two years and had been writing poetry for only a few more, and mostly undercover, hiding it like some drug addiction that I did not want family and friends to discover, when I found out that Tony had come to Rich (the big fromage at Inprint) and offered to teach a poetry workshop for us. Even more surprising, and what nobody but the staff has ever known, he said that he did not want to be paid for it; he wanted to do it as a service to his new community. Continue reading

A Poet’s Novelist

September 14, 2011, by

In a 2005 New York Magazine interview with Nicole Krauss (click here to read), the interviewer asks to see some of Krauss’s poems, and Krauss declines, “having set aside what she describes as an impossible quest for poetic precision.” Of course, you can still listen to some of her poems here, at the Paris Review. And even these days–after the critically acclaimed Great House was a finalist for the National Book Award –she is often described in reviews and magazines as a “former poet” or someone who has abandoned poetry for the more suitable genre of prose. This might make sense considering that while her most recent novels are gorgeous tragedies, sprawling across time, with textured characters in vibrant settings, something of the poet in search of precision remains in her language.

In Great House, a novel weaving four separate narrative threads into a complex tapestry of sorrow, each voice carefully bears its specific tragedy in small, beautiful sentences. In the thread narrated by Arthur Bender, who is losing his wife to a slow dementia, he thinks this about the nature of their love at the end of their life togethe

The act of love is always a confession, Camus wrote. But so is the quiet closing of a door. A cry in the night. A fall down the stairs. A cough in the hall. All my life I had been trying to imagine myself into her skin. Imagine myself into her loss. Trying and failing. Only perhaps—how can I say this—perhaps I wanted to fail. Because it kept me going. My love for her was a failure of the imagination.

I thought Great House was one of the best books of last year, not only because the construction of it is a brave, multi-voiced beast of a story, but because inside that big structure are precise images and poetic confessions. The whole of Great House is made up of sentences like those above, and while you will be impressed by the structural feat, what will stay with you is the way the lyrical prose glimmered, making you feel as though each confession was only for you.

Toward the end of Great House, Arthur discusses his sadness by way of remembering the small things that represent the bigger, unspeakable loss:

We live, each of us, to preserve our fragment, in a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a keyhole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door.

In much the same way, what I remember most and appreciate most from Great House are the precise details and images that speak to something larger, but reverberate on the page all on their own. Perhaps Krauss’s inner poet has not been abandoned after all, but rather finally satisfied by the intricate assembly of poetic details into a grandly orchestrated novel.

Another Kingdom

April 14, 2011, by

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kay Ryan’s reading last night. I’ve been immersing myself in her poetry for over a month, so I felt that I had a good handle on the way her poetic mind works, but that’s a far cry from the way a person presents herself onstage. And that’s not even to approach the dire fact that great poets can be horrible, utterly disastrous readers of their own poetry.

Poets are not actors, after all.

But, if you’re lucky, a poet can be personable and completely charming, and so on the ball that each poem is surrounded by laughter even though – as you know, if you’ve been reading these blogs – the poems themselves are darkling meditations on life and thought and the pitfalls of human interaction.

One of the points that Kay Ryan stressed throughout the reading is that poems that other people have responded to as depressing – such as “Crustacean Island” and its depiction of a human-less land – Ryan actually finds hopeful, or peaceful, or beautiful. And on stage she may say that she’s somewhat misanthropic, but her personality belies her statement. She delights in play and willful misinterpretation, and those qualities can only be fully expressed in the presence of others.

It’s that sense of play mixed with her utter seriousness with regards to the art of poetry that allows Ryan to take chances with her reading that would derail another poet. How else does she get away with interrupting her own poems repeatedly without harming the integrity of the poem?

There are two things I’ll take away from that night.

The first is Ryan’s quip about the importance of the art vs. the importance of the artist. That if she and her book were on a life raft and another Kay Ryan was helming the rescue craft (admittedly, we’re clearly into the world of Ryan’s own poetry here) that was only big enough to save either Ryan or her book, she’d save her book.

The second thing is just this quote about poetry, what it does and what it is. “It is a roomier place that words create. It is another kingdom.”

Luckily, you have the key to that kingdom before you. All you have to do is open the cover and read.