Interview with Dorothea Lasky


The Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry draws to a close tonight at midnight (, I thought it would be interesting to talk with the judge of this year’s prize. Below is our interview.

Wittle: What books are you reading right now?

Lasky: Today I am re-reading W.C. Williams’ Spring and All. Yesterday I re-read The Bernadette Mayer Reader.

Wittle: What books do you feel help poets write poetry?

Lasky: I feel that grounding poetry-writing in experiences helps poets write poetry. My favorite thing to do is write poetry in museums.


Wittle:  What is the key element that makes a poem a poem?

Lasky: The connection between a specific and the universal.


Wittle: In your opinion, what is the most difficult form of poetry to write?

Lasky: I am not sure that I think any form is more difficult than any other. I think fiction is extremely difficult to write. I have the deepest respect for fiction writers.


Wittle:  How do you find inspiration for a poem?

Lasky: In the visual world and the things people say.


Wittle: How do you know when an idea is a poem?

Lasky: I think all ideas are poems.


Wittle: What types of craft constructs in a poem really impress you (I’m thinking a “sneak attack” alliteration or something like that.)

Lasky: When the persona morphs into something I never would have expected.


Wittle: What types of craft constructs do you think are overdone?

Lasky: I think all can be fresh with the right poem.


Wittle:  How has technology helped and hurt poetry?

Lasky: It has helped poetry, because it has brought more poetry-readers together.


Wittle: What advice do you wish someone would’ve given you as you started your career in poetry?

Lasky: To relax. As Ice Cube says, “Life ain’t a track meet no it’s a marathon.” Writing poetry is a lifelong endeavor.


Dorothea Lasky is the author of AWE, Black Life, and Thunderbird, all out from Wave Books. She can be found online here and here

Anticipating Teen Day in Manayunk with Four Extraordinary Writer Friends


from the blog of Beth Kephart:

Many months ago, I received an invitation to read from You Are My Only at The Spiral Bookcase, a new independent bookstore in Manayunk, PA. I was, of course, keen to meet the store’s very dear owner, Ann. And I was thrilled to have a chance to support a new independent (how many new independent bookstores do you know?) But how much more fun would be had, I thought, if I could be joined in the event by some of the best young adult writers around.

And so Ann and I talked. And so one thing led to another. And so it is with a great sense of anticipation and pleasure that I am sharing news of the inaugural Teen Day in Manayunk, to be held during the afternoon of March 24th. There will be writing workshops for teen authors. There will be a writing contest with winning entries (judged by Elizabeth Mosier and yours truly) appearing in the extraordinary teen-lit magazine Philadelphia Stories, Jr. and on The Spiral Bookcase web; I’ll also be excerpting winning work here. There will be marching bands and media coverage and appearances by some very special souls.

I encourage teachers, parents, and young writers in the Philadelphia area to find out more about the writing contest, workshop, and meet-and-greet by contacting Ann at The Spiral Bookcase. I encourage the rest of you to consider spending time with some truly fine writers along the canal.

Here we all are. There we all will be.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is best known for her nonfiction books, including the Newbery Honor-winning Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow (Scholastic) and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor-winning They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of An American Terrorist Group (Houghton Mifflin). Her most recent titles include the novel The Boy Who Dared (Scholastic) and a picture book Naamah and the Ark at Night (Candlewick 2011), illustrated by the amazing Holly Meade.

Beth Kephart is the National Book Award-nominated author of thirteen books, including the teen novels Undercover, House of Dance, Nothing but Ghosts, The Heart Is Not a Size, Dangerous Neighbors, and You Are My Only; Small Damages is due out from Philomel in July. Beth, who is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania, blogs at

A.S. King is the author of the highly acclaimed Everybody Sees the Ants, a YALSA 2012 Top Ten Fiction for Young Adults book, the 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, ALA Best Book for Young Adults The Dust of 100 Dogs, and the forthcoming Ask the Passengers. Since returning from Ireland where she spent over a decade living off the land, teaching adult literacy, and writing novels, King now lives deep in the Pennsylvania woods with her husband and children. Lean more at .

April Lindner is the author of Jane, the acclaimed contemporary retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre and the author of several poetry collections. She is a professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University.

Elizabeth Mosier’s work for young adults includes My Life as a Girl (Random House) and My First Love (Delacorte, under the pseudonym Callie West), as well as numerous short stories in Seventeen and Sassy. She has recently completed a third YA novel, Ghost Signs.

Posted by Beth Kephart at Tuesday, February 21, 2012