An Interview with Writer Kate Ver Ploeg

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Kate Ver Ploeg’s “Fall From the Sky” was incorrectly published in CALYX Vol. 28:1 as fiction. Her piece is, in fact, a true experience told from a vulnerable place in her heart. We are deeply apologetic to Ms. Ver Ploeg for the misprint, and wish to give her the space to reclaim the label and explain the significance of “Fall From the Sky” as nonfiction.

Ver Ploeg, who writes almost exclusively nonfiction, explained that writing this piece was a way for her to work through the questions her experience left her. The investigation of the harassment she faced brought up questions within herself and from others about her credibility and memory. When “Fall From the Sky” appeared labeled as fiction, those unpleasant feelings resurfaced.

“Seeing my explanation of that experience labeled as fiction brought back many feelings from those two years: doubt, uncertainty, erasure,” she said.

So much of her experience was about silence, and writing her story was a way to give a voice to herself and others.

“In publishing “Fall From the Sky” as nonfiction, I wanted people to know that this erasure, so frequently unmentioned in trainings on sexual harassment, happened to me, and it happens to many and it keeps happening,” she said.

There is a stark difference between fiction and nonfiction for Ver Ploeg, as she explained that nonfiction brings the subject much closer to the reader.

“Knowing that a story is about real people, that these events happened in a world that I too inhabit, shifts the story into a space that feels rawer,” she said. “In fiction, everything that happens bends in service to the story, and what doesn’t happen can be fabricated. But nonfiction doesn’t have that luxury.”

I wanted “Fall From the Sky” to be viewed as the truth. A slanted truth, in that it definitely represents my perspective, but true to the events that unfolded and the emotions I felt.

It’s important to Ver Ploeg that “Fall From the Sky” be published as nonfiction, because it changes the ultimate purpose and perspective.

“As a piece of nonfiction, I’m telling the readers that I did not fabricate the facts, that sections lifted from the university report and emails to friends are direct quotes, that my research is accurate, and the events are faithful to my memory,” Ver Ploeg said. “With the option to conveniently manipulate fact, the label of fiction introduces a seed of doubt. It calls into question the validity of those facts and can undercut the authenticity of the writer’s perspective…I think this affects how readers engage with a text.”

Additionally, Ver Ploeg viewed writing this piece and other nonfiction as a powerful tool for advocacy and change, which is a purpose that can be minimized with a fiction label.

“It became vitally important to me that this piece stand as a testament,” she said, “for those who have also been silenced and for those who have no idea of the extent of this silence or how it feels.”

“I wanted “Fall From the Sky” to be viewed as the truth,” she said. “A slanted truth, in that it definitely represents my perspective, but true to the events that unfolded and the emotions I felt.”

Featured TPIP Reader: Connie Eggers

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR! Connie Eggers

The Poetry is Political (TPIP) is a poetry reading event that will be held in honor of National Poetry Month. CALYX, Inc. embraces the words of women and other underrepresented voices, and so, too, is the purpose of this event.

Meet our final featured poet, Connie Eggers, and be sure to come out for an evening of poetry with an open mic to follow.

A native of Southern California, Constance Eggers lives in Corvallis and is a past member of the CALYX editorial collective. Before retiring from full-time employment in 2009, she taught English composition and literature to secondary and college-level students for 34 years. Her poems have appeared in Faultline, Jeopardy, The Seattle Review, The MacGuffin, Pudding, The Wilshire Review, Creative Transformation, Eclipse, Sounding, and Mount Hope. Her chapbook, Reliquary, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012.

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How do you believe poetry is political?

Everything is personal. Everything is political.

-Connie Eggers

Featured TPIP Reader: Amy MacLennan

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Amy MacLennanCALYX, Inc. is hosting a poetry reading, The Poetry is Political (TPIP), tomorrow in honor of National Poetry Month. It will feature poets who share an interest in poetry as a form of personal politics. This is the last of our featured readers, and we hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our poets.

We have featured some of our event’s readers this past week and have one more before the event. Meet our fourth featured reader, Amy MacLennan, and watch for the last featured poet tomorrow!

Amy MacLennan has been published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, River Styx, Linebreak, Cimarron Review, Elohi Gadugi, Cloudbank, Windfall, The Oregonian, and Rattle. Her chapbook, The Fragile Day, was released from Spire Press in 2011, and her chapbook, Weathering, was published by Uttered Chaos Press in 2012. Her book, The Body, A Tree will be published by MoonPath Press in January, 2016. Amy is an editor for Cascadia Review and The Cortland Review. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Why do you think poetry is political? 

Poetry is political when it addresses societal views and judgments. A poem can be obvious or subtle. I always look for metaphors that speak for the needs of others.

-Amy MacLennan

Featured TPIP Reader: Tammy Robacker

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Tammy Robacker

CALYX, Inc. is hosting a poetry in honor of National Poetry Month called, “The Poetry is Political” (TPIP). The event will feature poets sharing poems about identity and the different ways that poetry can be political. We will feature each poet with a blog post leading up to the event.

Meet our third featured poet, Tammy Robacker. Keep an eye out for the next few posts this week!

Tammy Robacker served as Poet Laureate of Tacoma, WA in 2010-11 and she is a 2011 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence award winner. In 2009, Ms. Robacker published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes, with the generous support of a TAIP artist grant award. Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Canopic Jar, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, Comstock Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Cascadia Review. Currently enrolled in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy is working on a second poetry collection and lives in Oregon.

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Why is poetry political for you?

Poetry is political for me because it is a place of freedom to describe what is just or unjust in our world. By using words, ideas, language and emotion to convey what the human heart cherishes or rails against, poetry becomes a kind of power.

-Tammy Robacker

Featured TPIP Reader: Qwo-Li Driskill

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

Qwo Li Driskill

CALYX, Inc. is hosting “The Poetry is Political (TPIP),” a poetry reading in honor of those who’s voices have been silenced. Poets will share how their experiences with intersecting identities have shaped their poetry, and how that is in turn political. We will feature each poetry reader with a blog post until the reading on April 23.

Meet our second featured poet, Qwo-Li Driskill, and watch for more poets in the coming week.

Qwo-Li Driskill is a Cherokee Two-Spirit and Queer writer, activist, and performer also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent. They are the author of Walking with Ghosts: Poems and the co-editor of Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature and Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions is Theory, Politics, and Literature. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, their work has been published in several publications including The Crab Orchard Review, Shenandoah and the Poetry Foundation’s online poetry database. They are currently working on their second volume of poetry, How to Make a Tear Dress, and their book Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory will be published next year by the University of Arizona. They are an assistant professor of Queer Studies in the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Oregon State University.

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How can poetry be political for you?

Poetry is an invitation to language to move into our body and transform the world around us. My poetry emerges from personal and intersecting community struggles for survival and healing in the face of ongoing colonization and violence. What I hope most is that my poetry can do the work that it needs to do in the world: bear witness, help others survive and thrive, and aid in multifaceted and ongoing processes of healing and decolonization.

-Qwo-Li Driskill

Featured TPIP Reader: Hannah Baggott

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Join CALYX Poets on 4/23, 7 p.m. @ Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, OR!

hannah baggott

CALYX, Inc. is hosting The Poetry is Political (TPIP), a poetry reading in honor of National Poetry Month. The event will explore identity and politics and how they are expressed through poetry. Each day until the reading we will feature one of the poets who is reading with a blog post.

Meet our first of the featured readers, Hannah Baggott, and look for more poet bios in the coming week!

Hannah Baggott is a Nashville, TN native currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Oregon State University while teaching writing courses with a rhetorical focus on gender and media; she has also recently become a regular contributor with PDXX Collective. Her work can be found or forthcoming in Calyx Journal, Bellevue Literary Review (2015 Marcia and Jan Vilcek Prize for Poetry), Tupelo Quarterly, The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Stockholm Review, Contrary Magazine, and other journals. Connect with her at hannahbaggott.com.

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Why is poetry political to you?

I see poetry as political in terms of its relationship with power, whether we write from a private, lyrical place or with a particularly public voice. As poets, we are exercising or seeking power over language and through language. When we are heard, we become momentary vessels of pathos; our audiences can experience being swept up in empathy, belief, and support of the poet’s voice.

-Hannah Baggott

10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

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Not sure what to do to make National Poetry Month special this April? Poets.org compiled a list of 30 ways to celebrate. Here are ten of our favorite!

1) Attend a poetry reading.

Calyx-Flyer4

CALYX is hosting a poetry reading at Imagine Coffee in Corvallis, Ore. to celebrate underrepresented voices during this National Poetry Month. Please come enjoy our featured poets, and stick around for the open mic. Bring your friends!

2) Pick you favorite poem and memorize it.

3) Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

via uopfindsomt on Flickr

4) Try your hand at writing different styles of poems.

5) Write or read a poem each day.

6) Start a poetry reading group.

7) Write a letter to you favorite poet to thank her or him for their work.

8) Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.

via jaynev on Flickr

via jaynev on Flickr

9) Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.

10) Visit poets.org for more National Poetry Month fun.

The Kinship Collective: Genealogies of Resistance

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Genealogies of Resistance by the Kinship Collective

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The Genealogies of Resistance created by the Kinship Collective is a zine formed by students in Oregon States Queer of Color Critiques course, lead by Dr. Qwo-li Driskill. The zine is a creative and collective project that demonstrates artistic activism, art that critiques, analyzes and reflects particular cultural, political and social concerns with an intention for creating change. Art activism is a powerful mechanism for transforming social phenomena across social boundaries by using art as a vehicle for change..

The Genealogies of Resistance thus utilizes art as a method of resistance, awareness and education, with an emphasis on critiquing dominant, often white, perceptions of gender and sexuality. These pages within the zine reflect powerful voices and perspectives, give honor and attention to QTPOC resistance in response to entwined systems of power, and provide a safe space for a theorizing of racialized sexualities. The use of multiple art forms within the zine further supports the Kinship Collective’s  mission and intention by allowing the artwork, to speak for themselves.

Written by: Karen Osovsky


Poetry I’m Reading: Toward What Is Awful by Dana Guthrie Martin — Written by Tammy Robacker

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Poet Dana Guthrie Martin has released an eBook collection of poetry titled, Toward What Is Awful, through YesYes Books (2012).

Martin’s work has been paired with mute-toned, creaturely illustrations of visual artist GB Kim. The result is a small collection of poems that combine strangely beautiful visual components and multimedia formatting. This is a work for both poetry and art lovers.

Because Martin lives, reads and writes as a dyslexic, she refers to Toward What Is Awful as a “dyslexic transliteration” of the Roman poet Catullus’s poems. She likens her poetic translation process to divining tea leaves.

Transliterating is like faux translating. It is what you think a translation could be. It’s like reading tea leaves or tarot cards.

“When I let my guard down or when I’m reading, my dyslexia acts up. Letters flip around on a page or I scan the page horizontally as I read. It’s about attention and inattention. Perception and misperception. What I see in the work, I will never see the same way twice,” said Martin.

In 2010, Martin began transliterating some of the Latin texts of Catullus and wrote over fifty poems in a few short months. Once Katherine Sullivan, editor and publisher of YesYes Books, was introduced to Martin’s poems, she published seven of the transliterations for her journal, Vinyl Poetry. Then, she asked Martin to send her a whole manuscript of the poems for a much bigger artistic rendering.

“Katherine had the idea of an eBook to expose readers to work in a new format. I was open to it because, why not, it sounded interesting. Katharine Sullivan is someone I admire in poetry and in publishing as much as I admire anybody. She has opened the right doors, she advocates for her authors, she represents the absolute best aspects of the poetry community,” said Martin.

Once Sullivan got Martin on board for producing an illustrated web book collaboration project, seventeen of Martin’s poems were selected and paired with GB Kim’s artistic illustrations for the final version of Toward What Is Awful.

Catullus’ poems deal with the themes of love, women, sex and poetry. So what message rises up from Martin’s transliterations of his work? Martin says her collection is in conversation with Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject, which is distinct from and exists in the space between the subject and object. “Kristeva is concerned with figures that are in state of transition or transformation. The abject is the consensus that underpins social order and, as such, disturbs social order and represents taboo elements of the self.”

To purchase Martin’s book, Toward What Is Awful, or to read samples of the new poetry ebook, visit: http://yesyesbooks.com/store/book/0201009/

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