The Lightning Room with Allison LaSorda

–Interview by Diana Clarke

Allison LaSorda’s poem “Playdate,” from the March issue, gets intimate with the iamb and an unnamed partner. It’s pretty hot.

1. “Playdate” is so dense and chewy, it feels like it must have taken ages to get just right, yet in its compactness the poem feels naturally a whole. How did you go about tweaking the thing into place? How long did it take?

I started with the first line, “you’ve got me where you want me,” which initially felt kind of flat and familiar, and wanted to pull it apart for meaning. The poem grew more in the direction of a creepy nursery rhyme as each line came out. I left about a month before doing any edits, just letting it sink in and feel comfortable for me, but really, the poem is very close to what I initially wrote down. I wanted to work quickly and go more by sound and playfulness rather than overthinking, which I usually tend towards. Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Arielle Greenberg


–Interview by Diana Clarke


Arielle Greenberg sees clothing as costume change, a way to perform for the world the identities we inhabit and move between:“ teacher, parent, activist, poet, sex kitten.” In January, PANK ran excerpts from Greenberg’s forthcoming book, Locally Made Panties. Below, she talks people-watching, punk, Buddhism, and George Saunders.



1. How do you, as a person—not a writer, or not only as a writer—engage with fashion and performance when you go out into the world? That is, how do you decide what, actually, to wear?

Oh, I love this question! The truth is, there’s probably some kind of algebraic formula which I’ve never quite figured out, a combination of factors that determine various parameters, eliminate certain choices, etc. Probably the primary factor is weather: I live in a place with four distinct seasons, and so the first question is always how cold or hot is it going to be. I check the weather on my phone. Is it going to rain or snow?

From there, I can make decisions like “wear those black wool leggings, and find a sweater that looks good with those.” A second factor is what’s on the schedule for the day: sometimes I’m running errands with kids, sometimes I have to look professional, sometimes I’m sitting at my desk all day, sometimes I’m going out on a date later. These things determine if I’m going to wear something that needs to be dry-cleaned (which are generally only broken out for interviews and special occasions) or if I can show a lot of cleavage or what have you. Probably the third factor on the list is how I’m feeling about my body, which is highly influenced by where I am in my cycle. I can almost guarantee that if I’m wearing a form-fitting little dress and heels, I’m about to ovulate, and if I’m in a big comfy sweater and dark stretchy leggings, my period’s about to arrive. Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Garrett Crowe


–Interview by Diana Clarke


Garrett Crowe’s furious, tender story “Teachings” demands that you read like your father is a felon, and like you are a human being, empathetic, fallible, and hungry. At least one of those things is certainly true. The other might be. Below, Crowe speaks on uncertainty, the second person, and being from West Tennessee.


1. I loved the tentative atmosphere you create for “Teachings” by using the second person and by beginning the first two paragraphs with possibility: “If your father…,” lending doubt to the narrative that follows, implicating the reader in the experience of having their father sent to prison, making it seem also as though the story could be autobiographical. How did you make that choice?

The point of view was actually discovered sometime after I wrote that first line. Originally, the opening was rhetorical only, thinking I’d somehow transfer to first person. Then it occurred to keep it second because, yeah, I wanted the reader to experience parental felony. I also found second person gave me distance away from the narrative. I could be a bit more technical, long-winded, kind of like a legal document. Continue reading

A Car With No Tires On It: A Conversation with Daniel McCloskey


–Interview by Rachel Mennies


Rachel Mennies: We’ve talked a lot about you seeing yourself as both a visual artist and a writer—I was curious if you could talk a little bit about a “hybrid novel,” the term you use to describe A Film About Billy?

Daniel McCloskey: I call my book a hybrid novel because it’s a novel that has comics in it. The book has 250 pages and about 80 of those are comics pages, but that term could apply to a broad range of longish narratives that integrate non-traditional elements.

RM: Okay—so that’s one way to distinguish it from, say, a more traditional graphic novel?

DM: Yes. A Film About Billy is more of a true prose book that has chunks of comics in it. It’s a novel about a kid filming a documentary about his dead friend during an international suicide epidemic—so it was important for me to have this character show part of his documentary. [My original] screenplay format wasn’t working, so I decided the text needed comics to give that glimpse. Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Josette Akresh-Gonzales



–Interview by Diana Clarke


January author Josette Akresh-Gonzales makes a case for for caring about commas after the apocalypse and remembering even when it would hurt less to forget.


1. I was so struck by one line in “The Trumpet Player”: “Mercy for caring deeply about commas/instead of migrant slaves.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what, if anything, poetry can or should do when the world is more visibly messed up than usual. By which I mean, do commas have a use? Why bother caring about punctuation?

Without commas, there would be no small intake of breath between phrases, no pause; it would be all hard stops, choppy and unforgiving, like a drill sergeant yelling at you. Of course, I’m a copyeditor, so I have to care about commas. But, do I have to be a copyeditor? That’s the question I ask myself. If the world were to end (I just read the MaddAddam trilogy, by Margaret Atwood, so this hypothetical situation is fresh in my mind), would survivors who know where to put commas be able to make a living? Or would it be more useful, would it be more valuable in a postapocalyptic society, to be able to grow wheat, to weave fabric, to hunt squirrel. Atwood argues in these novels that storytelling matters tremendously to human beings and to survival. Should poetry address the problems we humans face? I really don’t know how it can’t and still survive as an art form. Those whose work takes big risks with big, troubling narratives—like Jamaal May, Martín Espada, Allen Ginsberg—are so rewarding to read, because they are not selfish: they give a huge gift to us in attempting to take on these topics that matter.

2. The speaker in that poem says, “I have two kids so I’ve forgotten everything.” But whoever she is, she’s writing poetry—which is a kind of memory, not to mention that she’s lying, and that the purpose of the yizkor service is to give people permission to remember, and to mourn family members they’ve lost. What’s the relationship between loving and forgetting? Continue reading

Because of your fatal addiction to art: A Conversation with Chelsea Hodson


–by Julie Hart


I met Chelsea Hodson last July when she read at The Book Report, a reading series at the HiFi on New York’s Lower East Side. She “reported” on Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth by reading an essay about the boys of her own youth. I bought her chapbook, an essay called Pity the Animal (Future Tense Books, 2014), and read it on the subway home. This line severed me: “I was writing everything down as if I knew what I was seeing.” I almost immediately began my own piece beginning with, “I was writing down my opinions and calling them poetry.” This is the highest form of flattery I know.

Chelsea agreed to come over to my Brooklyn studio and let me interview her. We talked about her recently completed project, Inventory, a Tumblr blog pairing short prose poems with photos of every single thing she owns—all 657 of them. We also discussed her writing practice, Marina Abramovic, her favorite poets, the Tin House summer workshop, and our minimalist aesthetic.


Julie: First, I wanted to ask you about Inventory. How did you keep going for 657 days?

C: Well, when I started it, I didn’t think anyone would read it. But I liked the idea of it being on the internet, a public document. Putting it out into the world helped me feel accountable, so the longer it went, the more I realized it had to be completed. When I started it, I thought, “I’ll do it for a while, but I probably won’t do everything.” The longer it went on, the more I realized, “No, I actually do need to finish it.” But I didn’t realize it was going to take nearly two years to do. I thought it would take maybe a year. I don’t know why. I just started making an inventory, and I started in the kitchen. When I decided to do the blog, I began a narrative and just did whichever object I felt would logically come next. Something in the kitchen would remind me of something in a book, so I would get that book and quote that part, so in that way it became somewhat random. I wasn’t doing it by room; I was doing it by instinct, intuition, what I thought would come naturally in the inventory. Conceptually, it would not be good if I didn’t actually do everything. I just felt, what’s the point if I don’t do the whole thing? Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Tommy Pico


–Interview by Diana Clarke


Sing, O Internet, of the poems of Tommy “Teebs” Pico, who wrote “from IRL” and then talked about it on the blog.

1. “from IRL” seems to take as formal inspiration both epic poetry and internet diction. Can you talk about holding those two seemingly disparate influences together?

The idea first came to me after reading “Tape for the Turn of the Year” by A.R. Ammons, a book length poem written originally on one long piece of calculator printing tape. In it’s confines Ammons occasionally employed abbreviations that seemed a sort of proto-texting. I thought, what if I wrote a book length poem that could be sent as one long text message—a poem confined by the frame of the smart phone screen, but open to the shifting grammatical non-rules of texting, internet slang, typos, auto-corrects, etc. I guess holding Epic and Internet together, in my mind, had to do with wholly committing to them both and seeing where they led me.

2. I loved the idea of Muse as “finally giving me / what I want.” The traditional source of inspiration having her own power, deciding when and how much. What is your relationship to inspiration like? Continue reading

The Lightning Room with Christine Gosnay


–Interview by Diana Clarke


Christine Gosnay’s poem “The Pleasures of the Gut” appeared in [PANK] back in January, we sent her questions about it in June, and she answered them in October. Fortunately, good poems don’t get old, just wiser—or, in reading them, we do.


1. Early in “The Pleasures of the Gut,” the speaker is fixated with hunger, but by the closing section she throws untouched food into the trash, while her bowl of oatmeal “leaves four bends of a circle on my two legs/proof of the butter, and the grain, outside my body.” Can you speak to the long cycle you depict here, food moving through the body and also outside it, the speaker’s body participating in some bigger turn of consumption and digestion?

I think about food constantly. Hunger trains the mind and the body; food rewards. Real hungers, hungers you remember, individually, as physical and emotional experiences, shape consciousness and behavior as much as anything from love to abandonment to art. A market thrills me, any place to see piles of food lain out piece by piece, food waiting to be touched and seen; I love to watch people and animals eating, to see a person choosing a meal, to watch plates being cleared of bones, gristle, greens, crusts. Because consumption is a choice and digestion is automatic, there seems a lot to say about what happens to the mind after the body has eaten. Guilt, confusion, sometimes disgust, and sometimes pleasure, if everything was done right. I find it difficult to look at the world after I have eaten and impossible to look away from it when I have not. Continue reading

The Tangible and Strange: an Interview with Gina Keicher




Interview by Emily Coon


Consider the strangeness and dysphoria of modern existence in America. Poet Gina Keicher does in Wilderness Champion, which roams highways, explores curiosity cabinets, guards lawn volcanoes, and dances in a gun store after the apocalypse.

Emily Coon: Many – most – of the poems in this book are organized into paragraphs rather than lines. Some paragraphs include lines of dialogue. Can you tell me more about that choice?

Gina Keicher: At some point in revision, each of the prose poems saw line breaks. At some point, I also tried to offset the dialogue and give it more space on the page, but the momentum felt disrupted to me. If I write in lines, I tend not to give dialogue its own space, so when I transition to prose poems, I let that convention slide. The dreamy, fluid roll from prose to dialogue appeals to me.

Also, embedding the dialogue became a way to make turns on a technical level. In Wilderness Champion, things change, appear, and disappear. Things get weird. So, letting someone talk seemed like a strange crafty move instead of a strange subject maneuver. Continue reading

Behind The Fictive Veil: An Interview with Wendy C. Ortiz


–Interview by Brian Kornell


Wendy C. Ortiz’s story “Interiors” appeared in April 2012 issue of PANK. She is the author of Excavation, a recently released memoir from Future Tense Books, about family, secrets, sex, and coming to terms with her queer identity. It is a book that spoke to me in a way that very few books have before. Ortiz writes with emotional frankness about difficult subjects, while maintaining the lyric beauty of the world around her. I had the opportunity to talk to her about the book and the process of writing it.


Brian Kornell: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about stories that demand to be told or ones, especially when it’s memoir, that a writer cannot ignore despite their best efforts to do so. Was this book like that for you? Did you have any hesitation in writing it? If you did, how did you work past that to write it?

Wendy C. Ortiz: This book spent some time being ignored (I always imagined it sitting in a corner, sulking) but when I look back at this time, I recognize now that it was steeping. My hesitations have always been about how I might be perceived once the story was out. I got some practice when “Mix Tape” was published by The Nervous Breakdown last year and in the first 24 hours of it being on the web I went through physical reactions that were all about the hesitation. Then the physical reactions passed and I was fortunate to get good feedback on the piece and knew I was heading in the right direction. That was a good way of working past any recent hesitation I might have had. Continue reading