A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Donna Vorreyer

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Donna: I can’t remember when I started writing because I was always doing it as a child. Even if I couldn’t read words, I would copy them- I loved the feeling of making letters on paper. I have poems my mother saved from as early as grade one, but I didn’t start working on my writing seriously until I was in my thirties. Early influences would have been the classic poets I had access to in my young life – Frost, Dickinson and Shakespeare, though I wouldn’t say I write like them. Currently, I don’t know who influences me most, but many poets inspire me to be better. I do use nature imagery a lot in my poems, so maybe Mary Oliver could be named as an influence.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Donna: When I started to take workshops to see if pursuing writing was something I wanted to do, an early mentor, Diana Goetsch, mentioned in class that the best writers had a fire that she could see in their work. When she signed her book for me at the end of the workshop, she told me that I had that fire. That was an a-ha moment for me, one that occurred in my early thirties. That has been enough to carry me through thirty more years of many, many rejections, fallow times, and bouts of imposter syndrome.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Donna: Early on, mentors like Diana were crucial to me as I didn’t have a writing community. I don’t have an MFA, and my career was in middle school teaching (I’m retired now), so my networks were non-existent until I found a community online. Blogging poets like Kelli Russell Agodon, Molly Spencer, Carolee Bennett, and Dave Bonta gave me access to a world of writers and poems that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. And as that online community grew, I found Sundress and Erin Elizabeth Smith, who were kind enough to publish my poems in their journal Stirring and then take on my first book after it had been making the rounds for years. Writers Rachel Bunting, Kristin LaTour, Donna Huneke, and Mike Nees are my stalwart first readers and workshoppers, and I rely on them for their honesty and intelligence. Really, anyone who has ever read and/or shared one of my poems helps me grow.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Donna: I grew up in the suburbs just outside of Chicago, and I still live in the same general area. I think a Midwestern practicality as well as the fickle and lovely changing seasons have influenced the images and topics I choose to tackle in poems. I have been lucky to have traveled extensively around the world, and every experience I have influences me as a person, which then finds its way into the poems somehow. I haven’t written much directly about the places I’ve traveled – I find that rendering experiences like that are much more difficult than traversing internal or imaginary landscapes.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Donna: I’m not sure how to answer this question, but I’ll try. When I write outside of my own experience, those poems, when they are successful, make me proud, My second book Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story is an example of a crafted narrative that has resonated well with others despite the fact that it is not confessional. Much of my other work, more confessional or even sentimental in nature, is meaningful to me (and I hope others), but not as much of a creative reach.

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax?

Donna: I have recently rediscovered how much I enjoy creating visual art, but I’m also a fan of long walks/hikes, good books, and just hanging out with family and friends. It doesn’t take much for me to relax now that I’m not working.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writing?

Donna: This is like asking someone to choose a favorite child, which for me would be easier since I only have one. I am particularly fond of this line from my poem” Declaration”: “A great love swells in my body like a successful ad campaign.”

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Donna: I started writing poems in my teens by writing songs, so I always pay attention to structure and sound in my work. I love live music, particularly rock music, and it gets into my body in a way that nothing else does. But I can’t listen to music with vocals while I write, so my favorite go-to writing music is Explosions in the Sky or the Ghost tracks from my favorite band, Nine Inch Nails.

Q9: Do you have any upcoming books, events, etc that you’d like to promote?

Donna: I am currently working on a fourth manuscript, but it is in its earliest stages. I am the host of an online reading series called A Hundred Pitchers of Honey that is free on Zoom every third Thursday at 6:30 Central. All of the readings are also cached on YouTube, so I’d love for people to give our readers a listen. Promoting the work of other writers is important to me, and I love hosting the series.

Bonus Question: Any funny or strange memories that you’d like to share during your creative journey?

Donna: Most steps of this writing journey are funny or strange or awkward for me, so I will choose to share a happy/strange occurrence. Once I got my butt kicked at ping pong by Stephen Dunn at a writing conference – that is one of the favorite memories that writing has given me.

http://donnavorreyer.com/

http://donnavorreyer.com/books.php

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Alycia Pirmohamed

Bio
ALYCIA PIRMOHAMED is a Canadian-born poet based in Scotland. Her debut collection, Another Way to Split Water, is published with Polygon (UK) and YesYes Books (US). She is co-founder of the
Scottish BPOC Writers Network and a co-organiser of the Ledbury Poetry Critics. Alycia received an MFA from the University of Oregon and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, and she currently teaches on the MSt. Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge. She is the recipient of several awards, including a Pushcart Prize, the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize, the 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize, the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award in Poetry, the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, and the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award.

Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most? 

Alycia: I feel like I was always writing. As a child, I wrote stories for my younger sister and my love for
 prose writing continued on into adulthood. I encountered poetry a little differently. What I learned in school never really resonated with me, or at least, never compelled me to attempt writing poetry
 for myself. I actually started writing poetry after joining an online community, a writing forum for teenagers where we’d post and critique each other’s work. This format, seeing poetry written almost
 in real time, was thrilling and opened up a world of possibility for me. It was basically my first workshop experience, and this is probably why I feel community is so integral to my writing practice
 itself. My early influences were writers like Bhanu Kapil (who is still a major influence on my work), Richard Siken, Nazim Hikmet, Derek Walcott, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly. I feel like I still learn from the works of these poets even today. More recently, I’ve been influenced by writers like Sandeep Parmar, Julietta Singh, Aria Aber, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Dionne Brand. I’m actually constantly reading and finding new influences/inspirations, so this is a difficult question!

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?


Alycia: This moment, if there was one, was probably during my final undergraduate poetry workshop. I decided then to apply for an MFA (even as a bio major!) because I realised I was happiest and most
fulfilled when writing. I also met some of my very best friends, Nico Lachat and Adi Onita, in that workshop and they are still pursuing writing like I am. It was really special and transformative for a
lot of us, I think.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Alycia: To be honest, I have had so much help from so many people I couldn’t really name them all! It really took guidance, kindness and generosity from so many teachers and mentors and friends.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced
 your work?

Alycia: I grew up in Alberta, Canada, and I think this has deeply influenced my work. A lot of my poems reflect on and articulate my different formative experiences in cities like Edmonton, and in very
small rural towns like Vilna. I also write a lot about the landscapes present in Alberta – some poems follow journeys or experiences in the Rocky Mountains, or meditate on the long stretches of prairie
that were so prominent where I lived. I hope that Another Way to Split Water echoes with these different spaces; I hope it illustrates the love I have for the land.

In terms of other places influencing my work, I also have an interest in figurative homelands. I’m interested in crafting figurations where physical spaces coexist, where language crosses borders. The
environment of Scotland, where I currently stay, is also present in my work. I find myself drawn to writing about bodies of water here, from rivers to the seaside. I also visited Dar es Salaam with my
father in 2019; this is where he was born, and though this place/those travels are absolutely an undercurrent in this book, I do find it difficult to write about that experience explicitly still. The poems I’ve written that orbit those travels don’t feel right, or they feel forced. I’m still figuring out whether that means I let them go, or if it means the poems are yet to arrive.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Alycia:  Although I cherish Another Way to Split Water, because it took so long to put together, and so many years of attention and care, I have to say Second Memory is the most meaningful to me. Writing collaboratively with Pratyusha brought out so much more in my work than would have ever happened alone. Responding to her words ignited different thoughts and prompted me to navigate
material I might already think about often in new and exciting ways. Also, two publishers, Baseline Press and Guillemot Press, created beautiful physical versions of the work. The book feels like a
 special piece, an artefact almost.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Alycia: I love being outdoors and in nature, and especially love camping and hiking. Some of my favourite places include the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve more recently enjoyed
visiting the east coast of Scotland. Another thing I love to do, and really miss since moving away from home, is have a really good laugh with my sisters.

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

Alycia: ‘Faded’, which was originally published in Glass Poetry Journal, and which opens my collection has
the following favourite lines:

Remind me that I am not a swan —
I am a long night of rain
with my mother's eyes.

Q8: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?

Alycia: I have a few events lined up in London, Newcastle, and Edinburgh in early October, and a digital event with the Sylvia Plath Literary Festival on the 22nd of October.

Also, the US Edition of Another Way to Split Water will be released in mid-November with YesYes Books! It’s currently up for pre-order with 20% off. 

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Chuck Harp

Q1. When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most?

     Chuck:  I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was always scribbling stuff down and drawing comic books.

Q2. Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

      Chuck:  I don’t think it was ever some conscious decision. I just was always creating something and writing was the one thing that crossed over into all mediums I enjoyed.

Q3. Who has helped you most with writing and career?

       Chuck:   Obviously I had a massive amount of support from my family and friends. And my friend and fellow writer Benjamin DeVos convinced me to start submitting my poetry, so shouts to him for that.

Q4. Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

     Chuck:   I grew up in the shadow of Philadelphia, which is a large influence on me creatively. There has always been a great amount of artistic talent surrounding the Philly area. Everything from murals, to music, to graffiti.

               If anyone has read my work they can easily see that traveling and interacting with people is a huge part of my writing. Road stories and the bizarre communities we infiltrate can be the most powerful inspiration.

Q5. What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

               My poetry is probably my most meaningful creative work, as it is completely freeing during its process. However, I still get excited like a kid when I see my comic book scripts come to life.

Q6. What are your favorite activities to relax?

           Chuck:   I frequent the movies and go to as many concerts as my wallet will allow.

Q7. What is a favorite piece of writing you have done so far? Any meaning behind why?

        Chuck:   This changes every so often. As of today I am going with my poetry collection, Working Title, that was released in 2020 with Unsolicited Press. There’s a lot of myself, my friends, and family in those poems.

Q8. What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?  Or what is a writer or book you always come back to when you’re needing that extra inspiration?

               Chuck: I hate to say it, but I tend to listen to a little of everything. Artists range from Bob Dylan to the Wu-Tang Clan. I grew up surrounded by skateboarding and hip hop so obviously rap is a main inspiration for me.

               While I write however, I tend to have on jazz. Some that have been recently helpful are Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Irreversible Entanglements, and Yesterday’s New Quintet.

                As for writing, I always come back to Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the comics of Dave McKean and Howard Mackie.

Q9. Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, projects that you would like to promote?

               Chuck: I recently released my newest poetry collection, People Watching, with Alien Buddha Press. I’m extremely proud of this work and is easily what I think to be one of my best as it highly focuses on my more observational style of poetry, used to deal with internal demons and concerns.

               Plus that cover is just too sick.

Q10. Bonus Question: Any funny or strange stories you’d like to share during your creative journey?

                Many, but none that should probably be printed.

www.chuckharp.com

Bio: Chuck is a writer and winner of the Mad Cave Studios 2020 Talent Hunt. In 2021 he participated in Grimm Tales from the Cave anthology from Mad Cave Studios. Chuck released two works of fiction and his fourth poetry collection, People Watching, was released by Alien Buddha Press.

A Poetry Showcase from Chuck Harp

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Jess Levens

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most?

Jess: I started seriously writing poetry in December 2021, but I have been a writer for a long time. I began my career as a journalist and photographer in the Marine Corps in 2002, and I’ve been a writer in some capacity ever since. My influences—and I hope they shine through in my poems from time to time—are a mix of classic adventure fiction authors like Melville, London and Kipling, and poets including the Roberts (Frost and Bly) and Dickinson. I also love the New England transcendentalists, Thoreau, Emerson and their ilk.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Jess: I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a writer, specifically. I’ve always been a creative person, and that comes through in different ways. In my day job, I’m a graphic designer and video producer. I love photography, and yes, I love writing. I’ve always been in awe of and jealous of painters, and I feel like poetry is my way of painting with words.

There was a specific moment when I knew I needed to write poetry. Last winter, I was watching The Durrells in Corfu with my wife, and the mother recited Dowson’s poem, Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam. It blew me away. Shortly after that, I wrote my first poem which would become Tides (Prometheus Dreaming, May 2022). After that, I was hooked.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Jess: Well, my dad was a very creative person. He always encouraged my writing (and inspired much of it), and he passed down his wonderful/infuriating ADHD brain to me. As a journalist in the Marines, I was fortunate to have two mentors who truly cared about quality writing and my progress as a writer—Ethan Rocke and Scott Dunn. As a poet, I’ve found great help on Reddit’s subs r/OCpoetry and r/poetry_critics, and more recently, I’ve found a wonderful community on Twitter.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Jess: I grew up in Pflugerville, Texas (for reference, this is where they filmed the TV show, Friday Night Lights). Shortly after High School, I joined the Marines and was stationed in San Diego, then I moved to Rhode Island, back to San Diego, then Massachusetts, then Tennessee, and now back in Massachusetts for good.

I think the way my place of origin influences my work is still unfolding. I grew up in a Southern, white, conservative, middle class family, and as I’ve been out in the world making my own experiences, I’ve been able to look at things I thought were gospel (pun intended) through a different lens. It’s apparent in some of my work. Empathy and open mindedness are ongoing endeavors that require deliberate practice.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Jess: Without a doubt, it’s the current poetry collection I’m working on. It’s deeply personal, technically sound, and I’m incredibly proud of it. Earlier this year, I found my old creative writing journal from my early 20s, and it is just filled with shit (which I thought was quite good at the time). Now, at 39 (or 40, depending on when this is published), I’ve really found my voice. My writing has a clear purpose, and I’ve harvested more life experiences for inspiration.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Jess: Nothing crazy—hanging out with my family. Watching TV, hiking, fishing. I work from home, and I usually like to get up before everyone else and go for a drive in the New England countryside with the windows down and music up.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?

Jess: My first couplet from Tides will always be special to me. It’s the first piece of “real” poetry I wrote:

All bones and brains in battered boxes—
my father’s ashes lost at sea.

A more recent stanza I’m especially fond of is from my poem, Powder Point Bridge:

We’re flowing back and back when she flashes
teenage eyes from the side of her shades and 
I go all irresponsible; the kids, 
the house, the job all vanish for a breath.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Jess: I’m not sure I find a ton of writing inspiration in music. When I’m out exploring/thinking/brainstorming, listen to a lot of dark classical, post rock and lo-fi hip hop. My ADHD makes it difficult for me to focus on tasks if I’ve got vocals pumping into my ears. When I don’t need to focus, I tend to gravitate toward artists with strong lyrics—the Decemberists are probably my favorite. Their singer, Colin Meloy is a fantastic writer, and I really respect the writing of Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service). Right now, I’ve got Ethel Cain’s album Preacher’s Daughter on repeat.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, events, other projects that you would like to promote?

Jess: Yes! My first chapbook, A Break in the Spine (Alien Buddha Press) will be available Oct. 26. If you read it, all your wildest dreams will come true.

Bio: 

Jess Levens lives with his wife, sons and dogs in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he draws inspiration from New England’s landscapes and history. His debut chapbook, A Break in the Spine, is available from Alien Buddha Press, and his poetry has been featured in Fevers of the Mind, The Dillydoun Review, Prometheus Dreaming and Roi Fainéant Press, among other literary journals. Jess is a Marine Corps veteran and Northeastern University alum.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Mo Schoenfeld

Q1: When did you start writing and who has influenced you the most?

Mo: I started writing poetry in my teens, in the 1980s, and into the 90s after university, but I stopped in the mid-90s while pursuing an acting career (unsuccessfully). I started writing poetry again following the EU referendum vote here in the UK in June 2016, writing a bit and participating in Hammer and Tongue slams in Oxford. Between Brexit and Trump, I was very angry and scared and I started to become bitter, and the handful of poetry I wrote during that time reflects those feelings. I started writing haiku during the first lockdown after recovering from Covid at the very start of the pandemic, as a coping strategy and because it felt manageable through the brain fog, a short form. Brevity is not my strong suit, and it can take me quite a while of talking to find a way to express difficult emotions. Haiku connected me to the natural world and also helped me process very difficult feelings in a healthy, direct way. Haiku and the right friends coming into (and in some cases, back into) my life at the right time helped me steer away from bitterness.

As far as for who influenced me, there wasn’t one particular poet, I just liked poetry. I loved lyrics, too, when they are so well written they weave within the music. The first poem I remember really getting jazzed about was Shelley’s OZYMANDIAS. I love the haiku masters. As for currently, oh there are so many I’ve come across on Twitter I don’t even know where to start…

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Mo: No, I’ve always liked writing, but I’ve struggled with focus through the years, and it was difficult for me to pursue it as a career path. I write now to connect. That keeps me focused, and I feel more a part of a greater whole. Poets seem to me almost like the writing equivalent of jazz musicians.

Q3: Who has helped you the most with writing and career?

Mo: That is hard, as I don’t really feel I have a career. The person who definitely gets the most credit is my friend Dan Holloway (an amazing human all around). He encouraged me to get back into writing and come along to the poetry slams in Oxford in 2016. In my latest phase, in the past two years, I credit Nikki Dudley (MumWrite and Streetcake Magazine) as well as the many poets I have met in the poetry community on Twitter, generously sharing their work, their process and their support. Damien Donnelly and Gaynor Kane recently gave my poetry a boost by including one of my pieces in The Storms inaugural journal in August 2022, which was a BIG boost. The poetry communities on Twitter have been a pure gift.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Mo: I grew up in Doylestown, PA, Bucks County, outside of Philadelphia. It was a rural area when we first moved there, which became a suburb by the time I was a teenager, a pretty but boring small town filled with mixed memories. I can’t spend more than 4 days there before my skin feels like it starts to crawl. It’s a place I left, and have no desire to return to, even to visit. I remember making my mind up at 10 years old that I was going to move to NYC and then to London – two dreams that did come true. My travels have influenced my work in that they’ve given me a sense of who I am apart from the huge Irish Catholic family I grew up in. And, of course, all the different experiences I’ve had when I’ve travelled, different customs, landscapes, experiences, etc., all got stored in my memory and are there to draw on.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Mo: I’ve been writing haiku daily since June 2020, and that is a sort of creative baseline for me now, part of my DNA it seems almost. I walk every day, I haiku every day, this I feel is most meaningful because it has helped my mental and emotional health throughout the lockdowns, and continues to do so. It is like a springboard, which I am just now starting to spring a bit from.

Q6: What is a favorite line/stanza from your writings?

Mo: I don’t have one.

Q7: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Mo: I love jazz and could listen to it forever without getting sick of it. I like blues a lot, too, but my soul runs out of patience with blues after a point in a way it doesn’t with jazz. Jazz changed so much through the decades that it’s like many different incarnations of itself that also seem separate. It’s ever-evolving. It’s alive, collaborative, includes improvisation and creative freedom, and it often conjures for me distinct moods that help me write, especially in those magic moments where it seems to evoke an emotional memory that I did not actually ever experience. It gets my imagination going. I have my moods, lately especially, where I just want to listen to McCartney songs. I loved him as a teen, and sometimes I just need to hide in those old songs, Beatles, Wings, his solo stuff. He was my retreat as a teenager, and lately, it’s been helpful to retreat into his music again. I feel safe there.

Q8: Favorite activities to relax?

Mo: I’m terrible at relaxing. I am not good at sitting still. Not in a way that leads to anything productive half the time, just restless. Walking and hiking help, and I love just sitting and staring into the ocean, but don’t get much opportunity to do that, living near a river and not a coast.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, events, projects that you’d like to promote?

Mo: Well, again, I was in the inaugural print issue of The Storms, that’s Damien Donnelly who does the Eat the Storms poetry podcasts. That was the most recent one.

Bio: I’m a ‘born-again poet’ living in Oxfordshire, UK. I started participating in writing prompt challenges on Twitter during the summer of 2020, then took some courses with @MumWrite, then participated in various other readings, launches and workshops since then, online. Since August 2020, I’ve been published in Irisi Magazine (http://www.irisi-magazine.org/healing/healing-haikus-and-senryus-by-maureen-schoenfeld), The Best Haiku 2021 Anthology and the upcoming The Best Haiku 2022 Anthology (https://haikucrush.com/), Tiny Wren Lit (https://www.tinywrenlit.com/intentions) and several times on Pure Haiku’s blog (https://purehaiku.wordpress.com/). I’ve appeared in print in ‘Poetry in 13: Volume 3 (2020)’ and ‘From One Line: Volume 2’ (2021). One of my micro-poems appears in Eat The Storms podcast’s inaugural issue of The Storms later this month, published by the creators of the Eat the Storms poetry podcast. Twitter: @MoSchoenfeld