Colder Than Mars & Crapped-Out Cars: A Conversation Between the Editors

Brett: Did autumn & the holidays try to kill everybody, or just us? I say that half jokingly, though the past few months, for me, saw the demise of one vehicle in a pretty scary car accident, a semester of college writing gone horribly awry, and a bevy of health problems. But it’s a new year and I always feel hopeful when new starts roll around.

Molly: I’m so glad you and Mr. Brett are safe after being stranded in the wilds of Wisconsin!

B: Ha! Mr. Brett. I’m going to have to begin calling him that. He’ll… love it.

M: We actually are losing a car right now too, though more to being exhausted from the commute and the winter woes. Perhaps you and I should write a collaborative elegy to The Collective Car. I know this solstice snuck up on me in ways I can’t describe: I started teaching again (covering maternity leave which has led to a new gig this spring), our family decided we would do gift giving on the solstice itself (leaving the big Santa thing for Grandma who loves it), and I’ve begun a strange fiber arts journey that has left me with needles in my hands as often as pens.

B: I can just see it now: Ode to Crapped-Out Cars. We are busy women! With bad car luck. But I’m so excited to have it be January, and get another go at another year. It’s time I get some of these goals of mine in check, and it’s as good a time as any to do it. As my husband sometimes says, “Nothing to it but to do it!” Do you have literary goals for this new year of ours?

M: To get writing again. I’ve mentioned it before, I think, about how my brain seems to be swinging like a frenzied pendulum: fiber arts to the written word. Text/textile. I wish I knew a way to temper it so that I could be even-keeled in both aspects, but I haven’t managed that quite yet. I’ve also been thinking a lot about public personas versus what we keep private. Here we are, writing in this very casual way for our literary journal, which I think is important, because we’re human, and it’s nice to put people behind the work of a journal, but at the same time, I also feel that need to hibernate. I think it’s the weather. All that ice and delicacy. So right now, what I want the most is to just write and not worry about all the things that swirl around it–the expectations or consequences. Do you ever feel like there are too many expectations placed on you (by yourself or others) when it comes to your literary life?

B: Of course! Unfortunately, they’re mostly placed there by me, which makes writing somehow un-fun. I’m better at setting writing goals than I am at living up to them.

M: I hear you. You recently posted that you wrote several poems in one evening, which is such a stark contrast to my own current rhythm. What gives you energy?

B: Too often it’s guilt. Feeling guilty for not writing enough, not doing enough, not reading enough. But I’d like to change that around. I am also given energy by my friends, like you, Molly, and all my other writer friends in the Twin Cities (and online!) who are writing amazing poems and essays and stories. I’m given energy by so many amazing series in the Twin Cities, like the Maeve’s Session Reading Series, currently hosted by local champs Matt Mauch and Paula Cisewski. These things give me energy, and I need to remember that when I’m feeling the guilt. What’s your own “current rhythm” looking like these days?

M: I have a few personal essays percolating. I think I’m just percolating right now. The last weekend of the month I have this poetry retreat with a handful of some of my favorite Minnesota poets, and I know I’m poised to really soak in some of those vibrations. The Loft has a lot of wonderful opportunities coming up too: Todd Boss is hosting a manuscript workshop, there are two poetry classes I have my eye on (one on Duende with Katie Rauk and another on imaginative forms taught by Rebecca Lindenberg; also, Jude Nutter is offering a few classes, and I cannot say enough good things about her as a poet and a teacher–these three women are literally in my top dozen favorite poets).

B: The manuscript class with Todd Boss will be a little Tinderbox reunion! I’m excited to take that class with you and learn a thing or two about manuscript-makin’.

I’m really feeling the new year vibe this week, and I’m so excited to be putting out this issue right now. There are so many great poets in it that can start the year off for us. I know it’s late, which I do feel badly about, but crazy life gets in the way sometimes! And I’d much rather put these fantastic poems out late than not at all.

M: I think any journal in its first year will have a few bumps, and learning to navigate the winter solstice will be one of them–it’s end of semester and beginning of family holidays. It’s also such a fierce time here in Minnesota–or rather, it usually is. We didn’t have a very white Christmas this year, but a few weeks later, we plunged into colder than Mars, according to weather maps. This makes me think of Jessica Goodfellow’s glacial poems, which, in turn, bring me to Karen Neuberg’s dizzying green eye, and all of the water that has been invoked. Perhaps spring is not so very far away.

B: Here’s hoping! I could do with some green right about now. There are these three hedges on my walk to work that are always full of chattering birds, and it always reminds me of greener times. At least it’s been sunny, but I’m ready to come out of hibernation.

Molly Sutton Kiefer is one of the editors for Tinderbox Poetry Journal and she's also the publisher of the sister-press Tinderbox Editions. She is the author of the full-length lyric essay Nestuary (Ricochet Editions 2014) as well as three poetry chapbooks, including Thimbleweed, which will come out in 2016 from dancing girl press. You can find out more about her at