I have an uneasy relationship with poetry. Verse is meant to destabilize your verbal reality, baffle your intuition for the literal. It’s meant to transport the reader and open up the mind to newness. Attempting to write poetry can be transformative but frustrating, seductive and unforgiving. I don’t experience this conflict when I write fiction. I write the words as I think them, but poetry demands that I feel the words. And to feel effectively you have to let go of the material and open up to the uncertainties of the metaphysical. The more uncomfortable I am with poetry, the more I want to participate in the making of it.
I invited Michelle Peñaloza to co-edit this first volume of Poetry @ Digging Through The Fat. Michelle and I first met in 2009 at the VONA Voices writing workshops for writers of color. I remember this young woman with a charming smile ask me where I was from. To be frank, I wasn’t paying careful attention to the tour or any of the participants. Instead, I was stuck in my thoughts and worrying about my first workshop class with the formidable Junot Diaz. Being half Dominican and having grown up in New York City and New Jersey in the 70s and 80s, Junot’s work figured largely in my development as a writer. Seeing this beautiful, smiling figure made my worries subside somewhat. Michelle and I became good friends during that week of lows, highs, and everything in between. We talked about her poetry and what she hoped to accomplish that week and I confessed my most embarrassing fears about writing, Junot, my peers, and the ongoing struggle of taking creative risks.
Today, Michelle Peñaloza is the published author of two chapbooks: landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias Press) and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts). Her poems can be found in Asian American Literary Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, The Collagist and elsewhere.
I reconnected with Michelle when I interviewed her about her project landscape/heartbreak in June 2014. We had a conversation about how over the course of one year, Michelle created “a literary cartography of heartbreak in Seattle.” Michelle invited people to request a walk to a place of heartbreak in Seattle and wrote poems in response to the stories she heard from her fellow walkers. You can read more about her project here. But it wasn’t until AWP Minneapolis that we finally reunited in person. And that funny bonding thing we did six years ago was back in full force and so why not ask the best poet you know and love to be your first guest editor? Thank you, Michelle for your wisdom, insight, and generosity!
As always, after reading the work of so many artists, I feel humbled. And grateful. A call for submissions is a call to action. To all the poets who put themselves out there and submitted work to us, thank you. Michelle and I were challenged with the difficult task of selecting among so many wonderful poems.
If you didn’t make the cut this year, keep working and striving. Try us again next year.
I can’t wait to be humbled all over again.
With much gratitude,
Founder and Managing Editor