Woohoo! Soundzine has accepted two of my poems for its April 2008 edition. This is a very cool sound-focused publication started by Salli Shepherd and Charles Musser, two amazing poets I first encountered through PFFA and then at The Gazebo. There’s no stopping these two!

About Soundzine:

Soundzine is an online journal for the spoken word. Poetry and stories can be traced at least as far back as Homer, who recited his epics by torch or firelight. It was born and flourished in the milieu of the cadences, inflections and stresses of the human voice. We’re not presumptuous enough to think we’ll revolutionize the world of literature by turning to the roots of things, which is the real meaning of “radical,” but we do think that the modern digital world offers an opportunity to enrich and enliven an art that has waned of late.

Go, guys!

Ten Questions (2): Edward Byrne

We’re excited and honored to have Edward Byrne of Valparaiso Poetry Review fame with us. A great deal in his responses to mull over, and several light bulb moments for us – including a reminder that, as all-absorbing as tactical poetry is and feels, strategic poetry is also a tool and a mechanism at our disposal (we have a really hard time retaining awareness of this, for whatever reason). As Edward writes: My relationship with my work does appear to be altered upon publication. After a poem is included in a journal, I then start to see it as a piece to be fit into a larger construction, a volume of poetry. Warmest thanks to Edward for his time and focus here.

1. Describe your publishing trajectory. Where did it start? Where is it now? How long have you been at it?

I was fortunate at the outset of my publishing career. While I was a graduate student in an MFA program a few of my poems came to the attention of Al Poulin, the publisher of BOA Editions. He apparently liked what he read. He contacted me and asked if I had a manuscript available; therefore, I mailed him the MFA thesis I had been developing, and he accepted it for publication. After its release and some good reviews, the collection, Along the Dark Shore, was selected as a finalist for the Elliston Book Award. The book also included a foreword with introductory words by John Ashbery. Consequently, the volume received some additional attention.

Over the years, I have had five collections published. My sixth book, Seeded Light, is forthcoming from Turning Point Books with a scheduled release early next year. I have just finished another manuscript of poems, all of which already have appeared in journals; therefore, I will look to find a press for it.

2. What would you do differently if you had to start all over again?

When BOA Editions published my first book and it received the good reviews, as well as the recognition as an Elliston Book Award finalist, I hadn’t thought ahead to what comes next. Al Poulin asked me to send him another manuscript when I had one in which my confidence was complete. Unfortunately, I was young and continually doubted I had a finished manuscript, even though I now feel I did. I kept thinking I surely had to surpass the first book’s work before I could submit a second manuscript. I dawdled and delayed, and I got distracted pursuing other types of writing projects in prose. By the time I finally felt secure with a manuscript I believed I would be pleased to show Al, he had become very ill and died. I wish I had created a second manuscript for him more quickly, and I regret not doing so.

3. Why did you start seeking publication? Why do you continue?

I have never been one devoted to publication. I admire the way some poets are so dedicated and persistent in submitting work for publication. When it comes to submissions, I confess to being lackadaisical. Indeed, half the poems I publish in magazines are the result of editors soliciting material, and I am thankful to them. I usually dislike the paperwork process of mailing and tracking submissions, even with the ease permitted by journals that accept email submissions. I know this sounds odd coming from an editor who reads others’ submissions daily and a poet who has had more than 250 publications in journals over the years.

Nevertheless, I continue to seek publication because I like sharing my work with readers. As I always advise my students, our written words are meant for communication with others. Additionally, I especially enjoy engaging in the ongoing community of authors appearing in literary journals. In fact, I usually submit to magazines in which I have seen work by writers I admire, and upon acceptance I am pleased to be invited to join their group.

4. Does your relationship with your work change after it is published and if so, how? How does the concept of publication affect your writing in general?

My relationship with my work does appear to be altered upon publication. After a poem is included in a journal, I then start to see it as a piece to be fit into a larger construction, a volume of poetry. I wonder how it will work as part of a unified collection, perhaps one work in a series or sequence of individual poems to be read as a whole. After a book of mine is published, I regard it as somewhat independent and on its own, as I turn my attention toward new material.

5. Talk about putting a chapbook together. How have you done it in the past, how would you do it differently now? Why are chapbooks a good thing or not a good thing?

I have worked on a few chapbook collections, but my favorite experience concerns the work that eventually appeared in my most recent full-length book, Tidal Air. When I was organizing the poems that make up that volume, I was putting them together as pieces in a series of poetry—actually two series. The first sequence included poetry about discovering a serious physical disorder in my son’s health, and the second sequence provided an extended elegy for my father after his lengthy illness. Originally, both sequences were conceived as possible chapbooks.

I contacted Palmer Hall, the editor at Pecan Grove Press, who had published my previous full-length collection, East of Omaha, and who also published chapbooks. I informed him I had a chapbook about my son’s health problem, and I wondered if he’d be interested in releasing it as a chapbook. Upon reading the sequence, Palmer agreed to publish the chapbook; however, he felt the poems so stirring that he wished they could be included in a full-length collection that would more likely receive reviews and a greater readership.

I then showed him the other chapbook sequence, and I suggested the two were parts of a book-length diptych. Both sections presented father-son sequences from differing perspectives: one about a son’s new life with a difficult situation in the condition of his health, the other relating the deteriorating health and the death of a father. Therefore, the book could even be read as a book-length poem in two cantos.

6. What’s your advice to someone putting together a full-length poetry manuscript for the first time? Share your thoughts on the importance (or not) of narrative arc in poetry manuscripts.

Indeed, I view each section in my books as a sort of chapbook, a unified and loosely sequenced series to be experienced by readers in the order presented. I don’t suggest this for everyone. Each poet has his or her own approach. However, I know the narrative arc or sequential experience is important to me. I like to imagine the poems as frames in a film or paintings hung on a gallery wall to be observed in a set arrangement. On the other hand, I do know poets who have told me they don’t worry much about the placement of poems in any order because they usually read books of poetry by dipping into the pages here and there or on the basis of titles in the table of contents.

7. Do you personally market your publications? If so, why and how, and do you enjoy it? If not, why not?

I guess I do “market” my publications, although I certainly don’t think of the process in that term. I maintain a personal web page with information about my books and with links for ordering copies from the publisher. I also regularly write a blog that contains similar information. Additionally, every time a poem of mine appears in a journal I make sure details about my most recent book and its publisher are mentioned in the contributor’s note. I have done a number of readings and book signings at places like the AWP conference, as well, and I like meeting readers in these situations.

In some ways, through my editing of Valparaiso Poetry Review, my writing of book reviews, and my posting of articles at the “One Poet’s Notes” blog, I am just as pleased to help promote the fine poetry of many other poets.

8. Complete the following sentence: Big-name poetry publishers are…

appreciated for keeping poetry in their catalogs despite the economic difficulties associated with producing and promoting such collections. By doing so, they contribute to a continuing tradition of poetry as an important art form.

9. Small- and micro-presses are…

a blessing. I applaud all the hard work and sacrifice involved in such publishing ventures. I admire their editors. I do all I can to spread word about them to other readers of poetry. Unfortunately, the economic conditions are even more stressful for such places, and the courage of the publishers is not often rewarded, as it would be in an ideal situation.

10. Describe the ideal relationship with a publisher and the relationship with a publisher from hell.

As I mentioned at the beginning of these questions, I have been fortunate with the publishers I have had. Even in my initial relationship with an editor—Al Poulin, who became a friend when we first met in New York City and he took the time to offer to a young poet wise advice and guidance I remember still—I have had good relationships with my publishers. Indeed, as I said in my comments about chapbooks, Tidal Air developed as the result of consultation with and encouragement by Palmer Hall, my publisher at Pecan Grove Press. The same kind of complimentary comments could be offered for each publisher and editor I have had with my previous books of poetry. All have become friends, people I admire. I’m told such a record of positive relationships with editors or publishers is not always the case and even may be rare. I hope that is not true.

I teach a literature course that examines the author-editor relationship as depicted by writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway with their editor, Maxwell Perkins, whom many consider a model for other editors. I can happily say I have been privileged to know editors who have faithfully followed this example.


Edward Byrne has had five collections of poetry published, most recently Tidal Air (Pecan Grove Press). A sixth book of poetry, Seeded Light, is forthcoming from Turning Point Books. His essays of literary criticism also have been published in various journals and book collections, including Mark Strand (Chelsea House Publishers), edited by Harold Bloom, and A Condition of the Spirit: The Life and Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington University Press), edited by Christopher Buckley and Alexander Long. He is a professor in the English Department at Valparaiso University, where he edits Valparaiso Poetry Review. He blogs at One Poet’s Notes.


Previously on Ten Questions:

1. Kristy Bowen
2. Reginald Shepherd
3. Carolyn Guinzio
4. Nate Pritts
5. Sam Byfield
7. Neil Aitken

Coming up:

8. Rachel Bunting, April 3
9. Brent Fisk, April 10
10. Ivy Alvarez, April 17
11. Michaela Gabriel, April 24
12. Reb Livingston, May 1
13. Ron Silliman, May 8

Answers posted by others to their own blogs:

Rik Roots
Rob Mackenzie
Steve Schroeder
Cheryl Snell

Standing Page

8 88

It starts off bright and spicy — saffron, yes, but also lots of pepper and coriander — with sparkling citrus and a touch of greenery. It is more sheer than rich, but the spices lend it a jagged, almost rough feel in the early stages. The citrus and the pepper fade as it dries down, and the jagged edges give way to a smooth, almost-velvety finish of pale woody amber-musk. After an hour or so, it is rather quiet and close to the skin, and the gorgeous saffron-coriander blend is creamy and just slightly sweet. It is savory but not foody, if that makes any sense. If you had to assign it a color, golden yellow would do, but other than that there is nothing about it that reminds me of gold, and while it is somewhat cold, it doesn’t strike me as particularly metallic.

                                    Now Smell This, perfume blog

a jangling noise of words unknown

That’s Book 12, l. 55. I didn’t find myself gripped by much else in this last book.  After all the excitement of Book 10 and previous, Book 11 began a trend towards the ho-hum and Book 12 defnitely consolidated it.

(No more Lucifer, of course, which probably explains it.)

So that’s it for boring endless posts with great chunks of Paradise Lost.

Thank you for your patience.

all the cataracts of Heav’n

More grist for the brilliant movie mill. Here’s the Flood:

Meanwhile the Southwind rose, and with black wings
Wide hovering, all the Clouds together drove
From under Heav’n; the Hills to their supplie
Vapour, and Exhalation dusk and moist,
Sent up amain; and now the thick’nd Skie
Like a dark Ceeling stood; down rush’d the Rain
Impetuous, and continu’d till the Earth
No more was seen

Paradise Lost, Book 11, l. 738-745

dæmoniac phrenzie, moaping melancholie

Not sure whether this is funny or wonderful, or both. One of the many and varied of scenes of future human misery Michael lays out for Adam. It reads like an engraving from the Inferno. Kind of.

Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeard, sad, noysom, dark,
A Lazar-house it seemd, wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseas’d, all maladies
Of gastly Spasm, or racking torture, qualmes
Of heart-sick Agonie, all feavorous kinds,
Convulsions, Epilepsies, fierce Catarrhs,
Intestin Stone and Ulcer, Colic pangs,
Dæmoniac Phrenzie, moaping Melancholie
And Moon-struck madness, pining Atrophie
Marasmus and wide-wasting Pestilence,
Dropsies, and Asthma’s, and Joint-racking Rheums.
Dire was the tossing, deep the groans

Paradise Lost, Book 11, l. 477-488

his bright appearances

Adam and Eve have been told by Michael that they’re being evicted from Eden, where they had hoped to be able to live out their disgrace, although in deep disgrace. Here’s Adam prefiguring multi-layered nostalgia, just too aching:

here I could frequent,
With worship, place by place where he voutsaf’d
Presence Divine, and to my Sons relate;
On this Mount he appeerd, under this Tree
Stood visible, among these Pines his voice
I heard, here with him at this Fountain talk’d:
So many grateful Altars I would reare
Of grassie Terfe, and pile up every Stone
Of lustre from the brook, in memorie,
Or monument to Ages, and thereon
Offer sweet smelling Gumms and Fruits and Flours:
In yonder nether World where shall I seek
His bright appearances, or foot step-trace?
For though I fled him angrie, yet recall’d
To life prolongd and promisd Race, I now
Gladly behold though but his utmost skirts
Of glory, and farr off his steps adore.

Paradise Lost, Book 11, l. 317-333

a dreadful din of hissing

Satan morphing into a serpent (brings to mind more Narnia — The Silver Chair, the scene in which the Lady of the Green Kirtle does the same in a bid to stop Rilian/Caspian et al escaping the underworld):

he wonderd, but not long
Had leasure, wondring at himself now more;
His Visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare,
His Armes clung to his Ribs, his Leggs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous Serpent on his Belly prone,

                                  Paradise Lost, Bk 10 l. 509 – 514

And so they all become snakes — again, a wonderfully cinematic moment: 

he would have spoke,
But hiss for hiss returnd with forked tongue
To forked tongue, for now were all transform’d
Alike, to Serpents all as accessories
To his bold Riot: dreadful was the din
Of hissing through the Hall, thick swarming now
With complicated monsters head and taile,

                            Paradise Lost, Bk 10 l. 517 – 523

And here’s Hamlet’s to-be-or-not-to-be speech (Milton was 16 when Shakespeare died, by the way — I had to look that one up) from a miserable Adam:

That dust I am, and shall to dust returne:
O welcom hour whenever! why delayes
His hand to execute what his Decree
Fixd on this day? why do I overlive,
Why am I mockt with death, and length’nd out
To deathless pain? how gladly would I meet
Mortalitie my sentence, and be Earth
Insensible, how glad would lay me down
As in my Mothers lap! There I should rest
And sleep secure; his dreadful voice no more
Would Thunder in my ears, no fear of worse
To mee and to my ofspring would torment me
With cruel expectation. Yet one doubt
Pursues me still, least all I cannot die,
Least that pure breath of Life, the Spirit of Man
Which God inspir’d, cannot together perish [ 785 ]
With this corporeal Clod; then in the Grave,
Or in some other dismal place who knows
But I shall die a living Death? O thought
Horrid, if true!

Paradise Lost, Bk 10 l. 770 – 789

full moon tonight

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

                                  Percy Bysshe Shelley, To the Moon

nature gave a second groan

Another great description of the natural world’s visceral reaction to bad humans eating forbidden fruit. This moment, when Adam eats, and the earlier one, when Eve eats, would be fantastic in a movie. Something like that freaky bit in The Mummy, when the sand suddenly sighs creepily and flips itself around. (These would obviously be thicker greener fruitier moments, but you get the idea.)

Earth trembl’d from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan,
Skie lowr’d, and muttering Thunder, som sad drops
Wept at compleating of the mortal Sin

Paradise Lost, Bk. 9, l. 1000-1005


CAIN. Ah! didst thou tempt my mother?

LUCIFER. I tempt none,
Save with the truth: was not the Tree, the Tree
Of Knowledge? and was not the Tree of Life
Still fruitful? Did I bid her pluck them not?
Did I plant things prohibited within
The reach of beings innocent, and curious
By their own innocence?

Cain: A Mystery, George Gordon, Lord Byron, Act I, Scene i

Narnia in Paradise Lost in Narnia in Paradise Lost

Remember this scene in The Magician’s Nephew?

The grassie Clods now Calv’d, now half appeer’d
The Tawnie Lion, pawing to get free
His hinder parts, then springs as broke from Bonds,
And Rampant shakes his Brinded main; the Ounce,
The Libbard, and the Tyger, as the Moale
Rising, the crumbl’d Earth above them threw
In Hillocks; the swift Stag from under ground
Bore up his branching head: scarse from his mould
Behemoth biggest born of Earth upheav’d
His vastness:

                                                                Paradise Lost, Bk 7, l. 463-473

Remember this scene in Paradise Lost?

“Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into humps. They were of very different sizes, some no bigger than mole-hills, some as big as wheel-barrows, two the size of cottages. And the humps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each hump there came out an animal. The moles came out just as you might see a mole come out in England. The dogs came out, barking the moment their heads were free, and struggling as you’ve seen them do when they are getting through a narrow hole in a hedge. The stags were the queerest to watch, for of course the antlers came up a long time before the rest of them, so at first Digory thought they were trees. The frogs, who all came up near the river, went straight into it with a plop-plop and a loud croaking. The panthers, leopards and things of that sort, sat down at once to wash the loose earth off their hind quarters and then stood up against the trees to sharpen their front claws. Showers of birds came out of the trees. Butterflies fluttered. Bees got to work on the flowers as if they hadn’t a second to lose. But the greatest moment of all was when the biggest hump broke like a small earthquake and out came the sloping back, the large, wise head, and the four baggy-trousered legs of an elephant. And now you could hardly hear the song of the Lion; there was so much cawing, cooing, crowing, braying, neighing, baying, barking, lowing, bleating, and trumpeting.”

                                                The Magician’s Nephew, Ch 9: “The Founding of Narnia”