Unearthing Surprising Moments: A Conversation with Poet Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Photograph of poet Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Sarah Dickenson Snyder has written poetry since she knew there was a form with conscious line breaks. She has three poetry collections: The Human Contract, Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019). Recently, poems have appeared in Artemis, The Sewanee Review, and RHINO. She has been a 30/30 Poet for Tupelo Press and was accepted both times she applied to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. One poem was selected by Mass Poetry Festival Migration Contest to be stenciled on the sidewalk in Salem, MA. Another was nominated for Best of Net 2017.

Sarah took some time to speak with me via email.

Frances Donovan: What first brought you to poetry?

Sarah Dickenson Snyder: The first time I saw a poem in a book and its intentional line breaks, I was hooked—I just loved how it looked. I was probably in 1st grade. I wrote and wrote even more when I realized that poems didn’t have to rhyme and that I could pour out a seemingly endless fountain of thoughts and memories. I ended up sending a stack of twenty poems to Bowdoin College as my college essay. 

Donovan: Did you study poetry at Bowdoin?

Dickenson Snyder: I took a few classes—there were only just a few in the English Department, certainly no writing classes at that time; I was a Religion major.

Donovan: Was there a particular poet whose work was really meaningful to you in those early years?
Continue reading “Unearthing Surprising Moments: A Conversation with Poet Sarah Dickenson Snyder”

Small Press Love in Massachusetts

Erica Charis-Molling at Mass Poetry has published a wonderful series of interviews with local small presses that publish poetry. Small presses are the lifeblood of the poetry world, and poets who publish with them often receive more support and creative control than with nationally known publishing houses. Also, buying local is good for so many reasons. Follow the links below to read about these vibrant, innovative organizations.

Perugia Press
Editor and Director Rebecca Hart Olander

Human Error Publishing
Founder Paul Richmond

Aforementioned
Co-founder Randolph Pfaff

Rose Metal Press
Co-founders Abigail Beckel (Publisher) and Kathleen Rooney (Editor)

Ibbetson Street Press
Director Doug Holder

Central Square Press
Editor Enzo Silon Surin

Grid Books
Editor Elizabeth Murphy

Broadsided Press
Editor Elizabeth Bradfield

Cervena Barva Press
Founder and Editor Gloria Mindock

May 2019 and June 2019 Boston Area Poetry Readings

Poetry and all that jazz

All that energy from National Poetry Month seems to have spilled into May and June this year. Of special note:

  • U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith reading at Harvard TODAY, May 2
  • Rafael Campo in Cambridge Monday, May 6
  • Gabrielle Calvocoressi in Belmont Thursday, May 23
  • New Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola in Roslindale Thursday, May 23
  • Cervena Barva’s monthly readings at the Somerville Arts at the Amory

Thanks as always to Daniel Bouchard for compiling these listings.

Thursday, May 2, 4 – 5:30 pm
Tracy K. Smith
Harvard Arts Medal Ceremony
Agassiz Theatre
5 James St.
Cambridge, MA
free ticket required
617-496-2222

Thursday, May 2, 5:30 pm
Dawn Lundy Martin
Brown University
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI

Continue reading “May 2019 and June 2019 Boston Area Poetry Readings”

Song and Compression in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry

Photograph of poet Emily Dickinson

Last semester I wrote a craft annotation on the subject of poetic structure and nonlinear time. Now I can see that this is very much an element of lyric poetry. Where narrative poetry moves like a road, lyric poetry unfolds like a flower, spiraling out from a single image or moment into a flurry of associations and other moments.

In The Flexible Lyric, Ellen Bryant Voigt calls out compression and song as two characteristics of lyric poetry. Emily Dickinson’s poems feature both of these qualities prominently. Her poems have a basic pattern: quatrains with alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter lines. But the thing that set her apart from the dominant aesthetic of her time was the way she broke from the pattern. What her contemporaries might have called spasmodic, imperfectly rhymed, and lacking in form, we today consider a masterful interplay of meaning and music. Some of her poems adhered more closely to convention than others. Consider “Because I could not stop for Death” (poem 712):
Continue reading “Song and Compression in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”

Boston-Area Poetry Readings for November and December 2018

Image credit: Mabel Amber via Pixabay, CC0.

New since the last listing:

  • James Grigg and Heather Dupont in Gloucester (11/7)
  • Amanda Doster, Anna M. Warrock, Richard Wollman, and Janet MacFadyen in Turners Falls (11/9)
  • Kate Colby, Amanda Cook, and Kate Tarlow Morgan read Charles Olson in (of course) Gloucester (11/10)
  • Gloria Mindock, David Blair, and Bert Stern in Cambridge (11/15)
  • Susan Eisenberg in Jamaica Plain (11/15)
  • Carla Schwartz in Cambridge (11/16)
  • Peter Fallon and David Ferry in Boston (11/27)
  • David Ferry and Bert Stern in Somerville (12/3)
  • Troy Jollimore and Heather Altfeld at MIT (12/12)

Also please note:

  • Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s reading with Wendy Drexler at Belmont Books on November 15 has been cancelled.
  • Tino Villanueva’s reading at the Omni Parker House in Boston has been moved from November 10 to November 17.

Thursday, November 8, 6 pm
Kate Colby and Anselm Berrigan
Houghton Library
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Thursday, November 8, 7 pm
Susan Stewart delivers the CD Wright Lecture
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI

Thursday, November 8, 7 pm
John Farrell
Recital of Eliot’s Four Quartets
Holy Cross
Carol & Park B Smith Hall Rehm Library
College Street
Worcester, MA

Continue reading “Boston-Area Poetry Readings for November and December 2018”

Interview with Sarah Nichols, Author of Dreamland for Keeps

Cover image for the chapbook Dreamland for Keeps

The latest chapbook from poet Sarah Nichols, Dreamland for Keeps (Porkbelly Press, 2018), uses found poetry to reclaim a voice for Elizabeth Short, victim of a brutal murder in 1947. The gruesome details of Short’s death led to sensationalized media coverage and the nickname “The Black Dahlia.”  Nichols lifts words from a novel inspired by the case and remixes them into a pointillist narrative–Elizabeth’s own story, rather than the story told about her. The resulting poems are spare, bold, and utterly riveting. Nicci Mechler of Porkbelly Press enhances the manuscript’s artistry with a beautifully designed, handmade chapbook.

Sarah Nichols took some time to discuss the book, her writing process, and the political implications of her work with me via email.

Continue reading “Interview with Sarah Nichols, Author of Dreamland for Keeps”

Craft Annotation: Nonlinear Time and Poetic Structure

Image of spiral clock credit: Chris Limb via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.

An issue I’ve struggled with time and again is how to incorporate multiple scenes in a single poem while still maintaining unity and clarity. Dividing a poem into separate sections with roman numerals or asterisks may work, but not all poems are long enough to justify multiple parts, nor does this method evoke the seamless way a particular sense perception or situation can trigger associations with another time and place. Proust and his madeleine are a famous example: the taste of a cookie kicks off the epic, multi-volume novel Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past). Few modern poets have the luxury of such sprawl. But regardless of the length of the poem, one must still learn how to deal with nonlinear time in a way that mitigates the possibility of a confused reader. We experience time in a single dimension (past to present), but the way we think about time is multi-dimensional. It includes past, present, future, and possible divergences from a single outcome.

I set out in search of poems that dealt with the issue of multiple moments (past, present, future, and possible). Continue reading “Craft Annotation: Nonlinear Time and Poetic Structure”