Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast

Hear from the editors of Poets & Writers Magazine as they offer a behind-the-scenes preview of the new issue, talk with contributors and authors featured in the magazine, and discuss the lighter side of writing, publishing, and the literary arts in this decidedly DIY podcast.

Episode 17: Jane Hirshfield, Kaveh Akbar, Layli Long Soldier & More

In the seventeenth episode of Ampersand, editor in chief Kevin Larimer and senior editor Melissa Faliveno preview the January/February 2018 issue, which includes the magazine’s thirteenth annual look at the year’s best debut poets as well as strategies for reconnecting to one’s creativity by Jane Hirshfield. The episode also features excerpts of essays by Steve Almond and Jay Baron Nicorvo read by the authors as well as poems by Kaveh Akbar, Eve L. Ewing, and Layli Long Soldier.

0:05 “The world is in fact inexhaustible.” Jane Hirshfield 

1:20 The cohosts discuss some reading (and rereading) habits as well as the slightly awkward experience of discovering notations in books they read when they were younger. Books mentioned include Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Jesus’s Son and Already Dead by Denis Johnson, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit, and, of course, books by our debut poets.

Kaveh Akbar, whose debut poetry collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, was published by Alice James Books. (credit: Paige Lewis)

8:54 Kaveh Akbar, one of the ten poets featured in “The Whole Self: Our Thirteenth Annual Look at Debut Poets” by Dana Isokawa, reads a selection from his book.

11:05 Debut poet Eve L. Ewing reads two poems from her book, Electric Arches (Haymarket Books). 

13:08 Frequent contributor Steve Almond, whose next book, Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country, is forthcoming in April from Red Hen Press, reads from his essay “The Darkness Within: In Praise of the Unlikable,” in which he argues that unlikable characters can pose useful lessons about both the craft of writing and ourselves.

Jane Hirshfield, the author of eight poetry collections, including The Beauty. (credit: Michael Lionstar)

17:38 Jane Hirshfield reads her essay, “Reconnecting After a Silence,” part of this issue’s special section on inspiration. “Remind yourself why it is you wanted to write in the first place,” she writes. “That might be done by revisiting work by others you find awakening and electrifying, or find disturbing in useful ways, the way disturbed soil can become receptive ground for new seeds.”

24:02 Poet and novelist Jay Baron Nicorvo reads the first two sections of “Why We Write: The Unwilling Suspension of Disbelief,” an intensely personal essay in which he challenges the notion that writing through trauma is always a healing experience by investigating the challenges of writing with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from childhood sexual abuse.

Layli Long Soldier, whose debut poetry collection, WHEREAS, was published by Graywolf Press. 

30:00 Debut poet  Layli Long Soldier reads a poem from her book, WHEREAS (Graywolf Press), a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry.

31:24 Kevin and Melissa look ahead to the March/April 2018 issue, with a focus on writers retreats. And the episode would not be complete without a look at reviews from iTunes listeners who continue to post some much-appreciated reviews. (Enjoy the ride, Citizen Coco.) 


Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast is a production of Poets & Writers, Inc., and is edited and mixed by Melissa Faliveno. Music for this episode is provided by Podington Bear, Black Ant, Asura, Juanitos, Broke for Free, and Chris Zabriskie. Special thanks to Lou Judson at Command Productions Studio. Comments or suggestions? E-mail