Catching Up With Karen Donovan

Where can we read some of your recent work?

I’m excited to say that my new book of poems, Planet Parable, came out this summer from Etruscan Press. It’s part of an innovative multi-author volume that Etruscan invented called Trio, bound together with books by Diane Raptosh and Daneen Wardrop. Three in one! You can find it at this link: For anyone who’s interested in hearing about the collaborative path we followed, there’s a Q&A in the book itself, and H. L. Hix invited the three of us for a virtual conversation about Trio that’s posted on his In Quire page: Much love to my Trio-mates Diane for Run: A Verse-History of Victoria Woodhull and Daneen for Endless Body. (Some of your readers might know that Daneen passed away suddenly this spring, leaving a gorgeous legacy of work that everyone should explore.)

What are you reading right now?

I recently reread Primo Levi’s great memoir The Periodic Table, because I got turned on by John Barnett’s new book Carbon: One Atom’s Odyssey, which is an exquisitely illustrated rendition of the last essay in the collection. John’s book is a tribute to Levi’s vision, revealing the magic immensity of nature that underlies it. His drawings and accompanying text help us see how everything in the grand narrative of physics and metaphysics is connected. You can get the book from No Starch Press here:

I’m reading two books of poems by Katherine Soniat, Bright Stranger and The Swing Girl (both from LSU Press here: Really love following Katherine’s well-crafted lines of thought, feeling, and image. Her voice is deeply wise and human, intimately tied to place and to the other creatures we share it with, earthbound but somehow illumined with light from the afterlife. “Point and counterpoint. The journey. / A song sparrow / sat beside me a moment ago, turning a cup of tea / to warm vibration. Filling it.”

I am also in the middle of D. M. Spitzer’s A Heaven Wrought of Iron, which I would have to describe as a rereading, rewriting, reimagining, and reliving of Homer’s Odyssey, an unusual work that is not quite a translation, not quite a retelling. It gives the feeling of epic poetry being turned inside out so all the existential innards are exposed. Very interesting to read alongside any version of the Odyssey you have handy (I’m using Lattimore’s). It’s another Etruscan book you can find here:

One more? Glenn Mott’s remarkable Eclogues in a Mustard Seed Garden, from Turtle Point Press: The I Ching of poetry. I don’t know what else to say. Just go get it.

What’s next for you? 

I collected rocks during the pandemic. A lot of rocks. So I’m writing a rock book. It’s short prose featuring a cast of thousands, with cameos from my pandemic collection. For this reason, I can spend hours perusing my copy of the American Geological Institute’s Dictionary of Geological Terms, third edition, without feeling like a total nerd.


Karen Donovan’s new collection of poems, Planet Parable (Etruscan Press), was published in 2021 in an innovative multi-author volume called Trio, which also includes complete books by the poets Diane Raptosh and Daneen Wardrop. Her two other books of poems are Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients (Persea Books), which won the Lexi Rudnitsky / Editor’s Choice Award, and Fugitive Red (University of Massachusetts Press), which won the Juniper Prize. She is also the author of Aard-vark to Axolotl (Etruscan Press), a collection of tiny stories and essays inspired by the illustrations in a vintage Webster’s dictionary owned by her grandfather. From 1985 to 2005 she co-edited ¶: A Magazine of Paragraphs, a journal of very short prose.