Catching Up With Tinderbox

Cover of "Brazen Creature" by Anne Barngrover: a chimeric creature with a fox's body and tail, antlers, and big gray wings. It has an eye in the middle of its forehead and the middle of its right extended wing.
Brazen Creature by Anne Barngrover

Where can we read some of your recent work?

My second full-length poetry collection, Brazen Creature, was published with University of Akron Press last year.

I have new(ish) poems up at decomP, Four Way Review, Superstition Review, and The Spectacle.

A lyrical essay about chronic illness was published in Grimoire.

My artist friend Heather McGuire and I collaborate on a feminist web comic called Keepin’ It Chad.

Some of the comics are being reprinted in Queen Mob’s Teahouse.

I also wrote a guest blog post for Superstition Review about our purpose behind the comic.

What are you reading right now?

The three best books I’ve read so far this year are the novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, the lyrical memoir Insomnia by Marina Benjamin, and part pop culture critique/part memoir Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Although they deal with opposite ends of the spectrum—the first a fictional account of a young woman who drugs herself into constant sleep, the second a philosophical and literary rumination on sleeplessness-I found both My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Insomnia to be lush, gripping, devour-the-whole-book-in-one-sitting reads. Because of my autoimmune condition—or perhaps because of who I am as a person—I often whiplash between sinking fatigue and restless insomnia, and so both books helped me to reconsider my ever-changing relationship to sleep, dreams, and both the unconscious and conscious mind. I loved how Moshfegh’s novel captured a very pressing sense of despair and dark humor yet oddly ended on one of the most hopeful notes I’ve encountered in a long time. Likewise, Benjamin’s revelations that insomnia “is not just a state of sleeplessness, a matter of negatives [but] is a state of longing” and, what’s more, “a product of excess. An excess of longing and an excess of thinking” struck me because it was so radical yet so obvious (6; 98). Of course lacking means longing! In that way, insomnia doesn’t have to be analogous with despair but with desire.

Finally, as a huge fan of Hanif Abdurraqib’s work, I admired his boldness, innovation, and bigheartedness in Go Ahead in the Rain. Even though I knew little about A Tribe Called Quest beforehand, Abdurrqib’s passion and vulnerability made me love what he loved. I learned, and I connected. “I am from an era when we learned not to waste songs”; he does not waste words either, and I would read anything Abdurraqib writes on literally any subject (108).

As a side note: all three of these books are remarkably beautiful in their colors and textures. Can we go ahead and just say it’s alright to judge a book by its cover, because these covers are stunning!

What’s next for you?

I am reading, gathering, thinking, and slowly writing new poems. I have a nonfiction book-length project that I’ve started on, and for once it has nothing (and yet, everything) to do with me. And I need to write about something in particular that terrifies me. I am trying to muster the courage and strength to do so.

Anne Barngrover

Anne Barngrover’s most recent book of poems, Brazen Creature, was published with University of Akron Press in 2018. She is currently an assistant professor of English at Saint Leo University, where she is on faculty in the Low-Residency MA program in Creative Writing. Find her online at or on Twitter at @Anne_Barngrover.