Steve Miller, Primordial Ooze, and Jaws: A Conversation Between the Editors

Molly:  I always miscalculate how fast a season can go.  I’m not sure if it’s having children who whir about me like dervishes, or if it’s just a matter of aging, but didn’t we just start summer?  What are some of your favorite literary events of this past summer?

Brett: Oh my God, don’t even talk to me! It’s definitely not just you; I can’t even believe it’s the first day of autumn. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future. But what Steve Miller didn’t tell you is that most of that time would be spent waiting for the microwave to beep, or turning the car back around on your way to work because you forgot your coffee at home. But I do love autumn, so I suppose it’s a fair trade.

I feel like I got to do so many literary things over the summer that it’s hard to choose! But there are definitely some that stick out. I took a trip out to Vermont to attend a reunion/anniversary party for the Bennington Writing Seminars, where I went to grad school. I also got to write poems for strangers at the Magers & Quinn 20th anniversary party in August. I was able to make it to a few amazing readings at Maeve’s Cafe, and I got to participate in a reading for Hazel & Wren, an awesome Twin-Cities-based pair of literary mischief-makers. All this while teaching a summer-term writing class, and between visits to family in Alaska and Ohio! I think this is one of the busiest summers I’ve ever had. What about you, Molly?

M:  One of the things I did this summer was head out to New Mexico with my poetry collective.  We packed so much into five short days:  a trip to the Valles Caldera, into Los Alamos (where you have to hand over an ID just to get into the town!), spent some time in the hot springs, did yoga, ate ridiculously good food, and most importantly, we watched Jaws.  Oh wait, most importantly:  we wrote together and we read together.  Last year, we went to the north woods of Minnesota.  As a stay-at-home mama, it’s a pretty important annual trip for me; there’s no dilution in this long weekend.

B: That sounds like absolute heaven. But I’m excited to be back in the swing of life, aren’t you? Routines suit me well, because when I have too much free time for too long, I go absolutely bananas and instead of doing all the things, I just do nothing. There are too many options.

M:  That makes me think of writing routines, as Wendy and Valerie talked about in their conversation, a section we’re just introducing this issue to Tinderbox readers.  I love writing reviews and participating in interviews, but even more, I love to see two poets nattering on about their passions, so I hope this can be a regular section of our journal.

My own writing routines are so unpredictable.  I love that Valerie says she’ll write for at least ten minutes a day, no matter what, but she embraces the quiet periods.  I definitely went through one of those towards the end of summer.  It seems like I’m one of those feast-or-famine writers, where I’ll just stream through a great writing jag, or I’ll find myself completely disinterested.  Often I can’t even read my way out of that well; I just have to wait until it fills up.  What about you?  Do you have any tricks for shaking the cobwebs out, or is that even an issue for you?  I’m interested in hearing about some of those fancy goals you set for yourself, especially the 100 Rejections Project!

B: That has been a huge obstacle for me in the past months. At my busiest this summer, I just wasn’t writing at all, and then I got super bummed out because I wasn’t creating anything. What’s been working for me the past couple of weeks is making sure that I write for fifteen minutes or one poem per day (whichever comes first). I set a timer, and try to crank out the primordial ooze of a poem in fifteen minutes. If I do at least that, I get a sticker on the calendar. Sticker charts are very motivating for me. I have the mentality of a second-grader. And yes, I’m still trying to stick with the 100 rejections goal for each calendar year. So far this year, I’m sitting at 65, and I have about 20 submissions outstanding. If they all tell me no, I’m almost there!

M:  It was your 100 Rejections Project, the goal of which is to collect 100 rejections in a submission year, that got me submitting again, and I really hit a nice stride.  I think it’s a nice way of looking at the act of getting the no, thank you note, kind of like the way people will wallpaper a room with rejection notes.  I find that our own slush pile is so stunning that we have to pass on some seriously good poems, and I think I come away from that thinking, I’m so grateful I get to read all of this.  I’ve been introduced to some amazing poets coming out of our Submittable pages.

Speaking of being introduced to great poets, what are some of the poets with only one or two books that make you swoon and you think our readers should keep an eye out for?  My own:  Rebecca Lindenberg, Valerie Wetlaufer, Lauren Berry, Paula Bohince, Eduardo Corral, Karen Rigby, Courtney Queeney, Ken Chen, and Brandon Courtney.

B: That’s an excellent question. Rebecca Lindenberg is on my list for sure, and I’m really looking forward to Richard Siken’s second book of poetry, which is coming out next year from Copper Canyon press. (Eeeeeeeeeee!) Also, TJ Jarrett’s second book, Zion, just came out and is on its way to my house right now, says the post! There are so many poets to be excited about right now, including all these ones we get to feature in Tinderbox.

M:  Yes, this one is full of wonderful surprises!  Many poets who are new to me, and I’m so glad to share them with these readers of ours!  Thank you, poets, and thank you, readers!

Molly Sutton Kiefer is the founding editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and she continues to stay connected to the journal by initiating an interview series with authors whose books have recently come out. Molly runs the sister-press Tinderbox Editions, which is a nonprofit press in southeastern Minnesota. Her book Nestuary is a full-length lyric essay explore themes of (in)fertility, the body as medical object, and pregnancy. She has three poetry chapbooks, most recently Thimbleweed, and her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Collagist, and Fiddlehead Review, among others. She lives in Minnesota with her family, where she teaches Montessori elementary school.