Ripple Map: Threa Almontaser

This summer marks the tenth anniversary of Tinderbox Poetry Journal. To commemorate the collective effort of contributors, editors, readers and staff throughout the years, we’re launching an interview series called “Ripple Map.” In this series  we connect with past contributors about where they are and what they’ve written since publication in Tinderbox. The idea is to trace the ripples, the effect, this little digital journal with a ten-year history and significant contributor archive has had on readers and writers all over the world. 

Cover of The Wild Fox of Yemen: A black cover with a title in white script, the silhouette of a fox foregrounds an illustration of an ancient city. The cover acknowledges the book as the winner of the American Academy of Poets’ Walt Whitman prize.

Take us back to your Tinderbox acceptance email, what was that like? At that point, how long had you been submitting work?

I was stoked to get my Tinderbox acceptance! It was at a time where I had just begun submitting my little fetus poems into the world. In the beginning, I had to self-navigate the journal and magazine submissions world with very few tools. The younger me felt validated receiving a “We loved it!” from a reputable journal that had published so many great poets before me who have gone on to write fantastic books. That acceptance pushed me forward.

Trace the path from that poem then, to your writing now. What’s different, what’s consistent?

Such a great question. I think the work I produced during that point in my career was way rawer. I’ve learned to add a thin layer of plastic wrap around my poems during the editing phases that I used to tear straight through back in the day. Though I’ve become more selective, I hope the intimacy still shines through.

What would you say to encourage emerging writers?

Disentangle yourself from that vision of success or victory being in the hands of the institution. And allow your poems to change. Give yourself as a writer that kind of grace to know you’re always capable of change in yourself and in your work. Especially when it comes to imagining more possibilities for yourself and where the poems can go—aim high and aim widely!

Threa Almontaser, a woman in a black hijab (headscarf) and a long trench coat.

Threa Almontaser is the author of the debut poetry collection The Wild Fox of Yemen (Graywolf Press 2021), winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American poets, the Maya Angelou Book Award, and the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize—and nominated for the National Book Awards and the NAACP. She is a recipient of writing fellowships from Duke University and the Fulbright Program. She earned her MFA from North Carolina State University and teaches English to immigrants and refugees in her area.

Lauren K. Carlson, a white woman with blonde hair wearing a hat, neutral expression

Lauren K. Carlson (she/her) is the author of Animals I Have Killed (Comstock Review Chapbook Prize 2018). A poet and spiritual director, her work has appeared in Waxwing, Salamander Magazine, Pleiades and others. In 2022 she was awarded the Levis Stipend for her work in progress. She lives with her family in Michigan.