By Serena Agusto-Cox
(First published in Poems Niedengarasse)
The voice screeched above the river
like a noose-strangled finch.
Sunny weather couldn’t placate
her writer’s mind.
It whipped and squirreled
like a viper stalking prey.
Ran her ragged as she balanced
On a unicycle in busy Central Park.
The white make-up streamed,
Black teardrops on her skin.
The muse had taken hold of her mime,
trapped—her arms stiff against the wall.
The crowd gathered,
threw dimes and nickels in her hat.
They faded, her mind stilled,
an undisturbed pond.
She placed the change in her pocket,
Dragging toward the apartment.
The cardboard under the bridge--
the dark tunnel of her muse.
Her spiral notebook,
with ink-scrawled lines of poems
finger-smudged and dying
on her shivering lips.
You are the creator of an award-winning review blog. What inspired you to start Savvy Verse & Wit?
Savvy Verse & Wit began as a conversation with myself mostly about poems I found in literary magazines and in books that I loved and wanted to share. Then I started reviewing the books I was reading as a way to keep a record for myself, and now it has involved into a site that helps authors and poets, especially, reach their audience through reviews, guest posts, interviews, giveaways, and any other means possible. Of course, that means more work for me, but I love it. And now...about getting paid...who do I speak to about that?!
In addition to being an avid blogger, you are a published poet. When did you start writing poetry? Who are some of your favorite poets?
I've written poetry as far back as I can remember. I think maybe 4th or 5th grade. Some of my favorite poets include Yusef Komunyakaa, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and of course, a new favorite or two: Osip Mandelstam (have you seen the new translation by Christian Wiman? It's excellent), Erica Goss, and Kathleen Winter. But I could truly go on and on.
Poetry, because it is such a subjective art form, can be difficult to evaluate. As a poet, however, you are able to appreciate the form's idiosyncrasies. When reviewing a collection of poetry, what do you look for? Is there a particular type of poetry you like best?
First thing that comes to my attention is if a collection has a theme and if that theme is executed well throughout. If the theme is lost somewhere in the shuffle, it generally shows me that the poet lost steam in selecting their poems or that some of the poems were selected to fill out a page requirement. (Whether publishers actually have those or not, I don't know, but if they do, they need to worry about the integrity of the collection, rather than page amounts) I think of this much like many would have categorized albums from musicians before the introduction of iTunes.
I like poetry to be challenging, but also not so challenging that I can't understand or relate to anything in the collection. I think for poets, their work is an expression of themselves, but I also think they need to keep in mind that without dedicated readers, publication of poetry books will disappear. Other things I like are unusual word play and imagery that gets me thinking about things in new ways, references to pop culture, history, etc. I'm not too keen on rhyming or form poetry unless it's really well done.
When it comes to reading novels, many reviewers (and readers) have a style or genre they gravitate towards. You're quite different. While you read Cervantes, Fitzgerald and Austen, you also enjoy the Twilight series. Do you think that having a broad range of tastes has contributed to your success as a reviewer?
I'm not sure how much my eclectic reading nature has contributed to the success of the blog. I just love reading entertaining books, challenging books, classics, and more. And I think part of that eclectic reading style is based on the fact that I'm trying to glean from the best and worst in the market so that I can improve my own writing. I'm forever going to be a student of literature and writing because I always enjoy learning new things and discovering. But I'll always use my blog as a platform for promoting poets and poetry because I see them as underserved by the media and publishers' publicity departments.
Lastly, if you don't mind sharing, what are SV&W'S plans for the upcoming months?
Savvy Verse & Wit will still be posting reviews, author interviews and guest posts, giveaways into the near future. I just wrapped up the big April National Poetry Month blog tour, so I'm going to be taking a few months off to recuperate from any large events. Plus, I've got that pesky (really, she's darling) 1-year-old daughter around the house, so finding time to plan months ahead is too difficult.
I do hope to do a read-a-long of a poetry book later in the year, but I have to figure out which one I want to test everyone with. I'm also toying with another month long event about Indie and Small Presses like I had in March 2011.
I hope everyone stops by to check out the Virtual Poetry Circle discussions on Saturdays, and followsalong on Facebook and Twitter because there is always some news floating about that I share just through those venues.