Article Archive: Direct Quote

Articles from Poet & Writers Magazine include material from the print edition plus exclusive online-only material.

An Interview With Poet Nick Piombino

Pamela D. Toler

Nick Piombino has been associated with various schools of poetry, but he is, perhaps, most well known for being one of the theorists who initiated the investigation into what became Language poetry. He spoke recently about collaboration, collage, and his collection Contradicta: Aphorisms, forthcoming from Green Integer Press this month.

An Interview With Writer Robin Romm

Lauren Hamlin

What began for Robin Romm as an exercise in navigating the loss of her mother evolved into a memoir, The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks, published this month by Scribner. She recently spoke about transitioning from fiction to nonfiction, and back again, and the difficulty of releasing a memoir into the world.

An Interview With Poet Pattiann Rogers

Jeannine Hall Gailey

Pattiann Rogers, author of twelve poetry collections, including Wayfare (Penguin, 2008), recently spoke about the process of writing her latest collection, the importance of investigation, and the pleasure of naming the world.


An Interview With Writer and Editor Ander Monson

Meehan Crist

Ander Monson’s fourth book, the poetry collection Our Aperture, was published in January by New Michigan Press. It’s a short thirty pages, but it further extends the reach of the author’s genre-bending work. Poets & Writers Magazine recently asked Monson about his predilection for playing with genre.


An Interview With Poet and Fiction Writer Grace Paley

Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler

Celebrated short story writer and poet Grace Paley died of cancer last August at the age of eighty-four. A lifelong activist, pacifist, and an early figure in the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, Paley was one of those writers who managed to combine a public life of frequent readings and appearances in support of a range of causes with work lauded for its artistic integrity. We interviewed Paley a little more than a year before her death at her home in Thetford.

An Interview With Poet Philip Levine

Sally Dawidoff

Throughout his long career, Philip Levine has established a reputation for poems honoring the working class, beginning with the people he encountered as a young man laboring in the factories of Detroit. Though he has taught in writing programs nationwide since the 1950s, his poetry has maintained a stronger identification with the autoworker than the academic. Poets & Writers Magazine asked Levine, who turned eighty in January, how his writing is going these days.

An Interview With Creative Nonfiction Writer A. J. Jacobs

Frank Bures
A. J. Jacobs is an editor at large for Esquire and one of the premiere immersion journalists and humorists working today. His previous book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to be the Smartest Person in the World (Simon & Schuster, 2004) recounted his attempt to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. His new book, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, published this month by Simon & Schuster, tells about another quixotic endeavor. Needless to say, it was a difficult one, given the Bible’s eight hundred explicit rules, many of which are bizarre and unexplained—no mixed fibers; no touching unclean women—plus lots of guidelines and suggestions.

An Interview With Poet Cathy Park Hong

Joshua Kryah

Cathy Park Hong is a poet interested in the porous boundaries between languages and cultures. In her newest collection, Dance Dance Revolution (Norton, 2007), winner of the 2006 Barnard Women Poets Prize, Hong creates a poem sequence that takes place in a future city called the Desert. It is in this tourist town, modeled on the likes of Las Vegas and Dubai, that Hong introduces the Guide, an amalgam of new and extinct English dialects, Korean, Latin, Spanish, and other miscellaneous pidgins. Acting as the reader's escort, Hong uses the Guide to address the issues of identity, both personally and geographically, in an increasingly globalized world.

An Interview With Poet Kathryn Starbuck

Henry Stimpson

Kathryn Starbuck has been around poets and poetry all her life, but she never wrote a single poem herself until about seven years ago, when she was grieving over the recent deaths of her parents, brother, and especially her beloved husband, the poet George Starbuck, who died in 1996 at the age of sixty-five, after a twenty-two-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

An Interview With Fiction Writer Robert Olen Butler

Ken Gordon

Earlier this month Chronicle Books published Severance, a book of extremely short stories, each told from the point of view of a person who has been decapitated. Nicole Brown Simpson, John the Baptist, and Cicero are among the narrators. But Severance isn’t the work of some drooling, maniacal scribbler. In fact, the author, Robert Olen Butler, has published over a dozen books of fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection, A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain (Henry Holt, 1992).

An Interview With Creative Nonfiction Writer William T. Vollmann

Ben Bush

The author of fifteen books, including eight novels, three short story collections, a memoir, and a ten-volume treatise on the nature and ethics of violence, William T. Vollmann is often associated with his most controversial subjects—crack and prostitution among them. He is also characterized by a few signature stunts, such as firing a pistol during his readings and kidnapping a girl who had been sold into prostitution and turning her over to a relief agency while writing an article for Spin magazine.

An Interview With Fiction Writer Jay McInerney

Mark Eleveld

Perhaps no single book details the excesses of the 1980s—in particular the debauchery of the New York City social scene—better than Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (Vintage Books, 1984). The author’s commercially successful debut novel was adapted into a movie, starring Michael J. Fox and Keifer Sutherland, in 1988.

An Interview With Fiction Writer JT Leroy

Litsa Dremousis

Eleven years ago, JT LeRoy was a teenager living on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, turning tricks and suffering from dissociative episodes. Today, he is a critically acclaimed author whose first two books, the novel Sarah (Bloomsbury, 2000) and the collection of short stories The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (Bloomsbury, 2001), have been translated into more than a dozen languages—most recently, Turkish. His novella, Harold’s End, illustrated by renowned painter Cherry Hood, with an introduction by Dave Eggers, was recently published by Last Gasp, an independent press in San Francisco.


An Interview With Editor Lewis Turco

Daniel Nester

In the world of hip-hop, Lewis Turco would be considered an “Original Gangsta,” an “O.G.”—a title given to someone who started it all. In the more genteel business of poetry writing, however, Turco would be called an “Institution,” and what he started was nothing less than a renewed appreciation of poetic forms. Since its first edition in 1968, his reference book The Book of Forms has become a standard text for poets of all stripes. A cross between The Joy of Cooking and According to Hoyle for poets, Turco’s text remains a rarity: a reference book with personality. Turco’s lucid, empathetic entries on every form under the sun continue to serve many poets writing their first pantoums or settling drunken bets on the rhyme scheme of the rimas dissolutas (abcdef abcdef ghijlk ghijlk ..., if written in sestets).

An Interview With Creative Nonfiction Writer Augusten Burroughs

Litsa Dremousis

"I believe I control the world with my mind," Augusten Burroughs writes in the title essay of his new collection, Magical Thinking: True Stories. And who’s to say he doesn’t? Having survived a tumultuous childhood and an early career as an advertising copywriter while struggling with alcoholism, Burroughs—now a bestselling author—has indeed controlled his world. Magical Thinking is his fourth book in as many years, taking its place alongside Sellevision, his satirical novel about cable television’s home shopping networks, and his memoirs, Running With Scissors and Dry.

An Interview With Creative Nonfiction Writer Hank Stuever

Michael Depp

For the past fourteen years, Hank Stuever, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, has published his unique brand of creative nonfiction in the form of newspaper articles in the Albuquerque Tribune, Austin American-Statesman, and the Washington Post. The subjects of his articles—haunted waterbed stores, plastic lawn chairs, beauty pageants, and discount funeral homes among them—hardly seem fodder for probing essays on the American psyche. But what might fall into the realm of light comedy for many writers takes on a lyrical profundity in Stuever’s work.