On August 8, 2017, we will release Martina Reisz-Newberry's newest poetry collection Take the Long Way Home. We are thrilled to share this book with you as Martina is such a touching and brave poet. We asked Martina a few questions, so you can get to know her better! Here is what she had to say:
In an effort to facilitate some hearty promotion, we'd like you to answer the following interview questions.
1. What literary journeys have you gone on?
I tried writing short stories and a couple of novels when I was first taking myself seriously as a writer, but they never really satisfied me. Poems, when I’m writing well, are like a good meal. Very satisfying.
2. What is the first book that made you cry?
One of the books in the Wizard of Oz series. I still have them all--a gift from my son one Christmas--the entire set of the Oz books. I cried somewhere in each book.
3. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It depends. When I’m mud-wrestling words and I win, it’s extremely energizing. When the words and I just continue to fight each other, it’s very tiring and depressing. I write every day and every day is a different experience.
4. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
They don’t read enough.
5. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Hell, I have no idea! It’s not the size of the ego; it’s that a writer needs to have as much respect for the craft and for the reader as she/he has for him/herself.
6. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I’ve never heard this term before. No. I can always read.
7. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I like my name pretty well.
8. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
It depends on what is being written. I don’t know any writers who don’t feel emotions strongly, but I know poets and novelists. I suppose someone could write business or technical or research papers without emotion.
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Sad to say, those writers who were my dearest, closest friends and who influenced me to a huge degree have died. Larry Kramer was my mentor and teacher and brother. His work has influenced mine for decades. Marcella Carrie, a sister of my soul, was a writer who was just beginning to produce wonderful work when she died recently. “Friends” is a tough word for me. I’m very shy and a bit of a loner. My closest friends now are not writers or they no longer write.
10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think I’d like each book to stand on its own, and, at the same time there are definitely connections. Certain characters and stories come up in lots of my poems. They visit me all the time. I have to tell some of them to go away and come back later. I tell them, “I already wrote about you today.”
11. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My Norton Anthologies are my treasures. I have a Norton Anthology of Poetry, 1970 which is falling apart and I can’t part with it. Several other of the Norton anthologies are also writer’s tools which I am so glad I bought. I have them handy all the time.
12. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
C.S. Lewis is one. I didn’t much like his writing until I read his Space Trilogy and the Narnia Books. After falling in love with those, I came to like his other work very much.
13. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think I was born knowing it. I began reading way before Kindergarten and loved words and the way they sounded and felt in my mouth and mind. My father was a grand storyteller and some of my most wonderful memories are listening to him speak. His stories made me laugh and wonder and sometimes cry.
I have experienced the beauty and the terrible harm of language. I have never believed that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That’s nonsense. Language has great power to hurt. I remember vividly the first time I was told I was ugly, the first time my ex-husband said he hated me. But then there is the beauty of language. When my dear friend/mentor, Larry Kramer called me a “real poet,” I remember exactly how it affected me and where we were, and what the weather was, etc. There is a remarkable Spoken Word Artist named Monte Smith who uses language in a way that each word is palpable--you can smell, taste, feel his life in every word.
14. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
“Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry is one. I love the book and don’t know too many people who share my opinion of it. I also like “Wolf” by Jim Harrison.
17. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I owe them the privacy of not using their real names unless it’s a dedication or epigraph.
18. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have three books in progress and they aren’t published.
19. What does literary success look like to you?
I think I’d feel successful if I had a kind of following--maybe a couple hundred people who actually buy my books when they come out. And, maybe hearing from those readers that I affected them somehow. I am so grateful for those who do like my work, I guess I just wish there were more of them buying books and saying so.
20. What’s the best way to market your books?
Pardon my French, but I have no fucking idea.
21. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I am always writing poems, always thinking of how to weave them into a book. I read all the time, nearly as much as I write. I look up anything that strikes my fancy: subjects I hear people discussing on the bus or train or in coffee shops, odd names and places I hear on the news, bits of information I see in my reading. To me, researching is listening as well as reading.
22. How many hours a day do you write?
I write either on paper, on the computer, or in my head all day, every day. I am at my desk writing at least 4-5 hours per day.
23. What periods of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
They all sort of blend in my mind. I write about all of them.
24. How do you select the names of your characters?
They knock on the door of my heart/mind and introduce themselves to me.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? And if writing isn't your "day job", what are you currently doing to pay the bills?
I think I’d like to be a very, very exclusive, high-priced Call Girl.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
What are your favorite childhood books?
Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz series
Does your family support your career as a writer?
My husband is extremely supportive he is an artist in his own right, a Media Creative, and is incredibly respectful of everything having to do with my work as I am with his.
Last winter, Adela Najarro came to us with a brilliant proposal: let's make a chapbook that includes thoughtful critique and provoking questions, which can be easily used by teachers and readers.
We said absolutely!
In conjunction with the Puente Project and Adela Najarro's poetic finesse, we have been luck enough to make such a chapbook.
Najarro feverishly wrote the chapbook with all of the details for each poem and it is available for purchase via Amazon on January 27, 2017.
If you haven't heard of Adela Najarro's poetry, you should take a pause from whatever you're reading right now and scoop up her book Twice Told Over or Split Geography (or both!).
We Might As Well Be Underwater is a collection of poetry split into two parts: Travelling and Not Travelling.
Cooper-Novack lyrically discusses family, love, death, aging, and illness through travels. The collection travels through Cape Town, Sydney, Venice, Moscow, Chicago, Antarctica, London, Tokyo, Oregon, Florida, and many more places while also uniting the world through experiences. She lyrically composes stanzas that discuss the journey of life through aging and travels while also discovering home.
Readers will enjoy the sense of space and how specific memories or ideas are sprung from a specific environment. Throughout her travels Cooper-Novack explores many spaces, cleverly exposing emotion in places revisited and sharing memories in new environments. They will both feel foreign and familiar in both specific and general spaces.
Poet, playwright, and writer Gemma Cooper-Novack has had her poetry published in more than twenty journals. She also won the OUTSpoken Poetry Prize at Sundance Publishing in 2014. We Might As Well Be Underwater is her first book of poetry.
You can grab her book on our site or any major retailer.
How to Read Poetry Properly
Poetry is complicated. It’s often vague and flowery and most of it doesn't even rhyme. You would think you’d need a PhD in grammar to read some of the best poetry out there.
I remember the first poems I read were of the mass-produced sort in a Barnes and Noble edition of Emily Dickinson. I loved them. I’m sure it had something to do with the strange connection I felt with Dickinson. A bookworm like myself can easily relate to a recluse whose sole interests lay in family and literature.
I remember trying to write my own poetry. I was not very good at it. I wrote poems about the very serious unrequited crush I had in middle school. Then I would write one about a puppy in a window. I was all over the map. After that, I kind of lost interest in poetry until high school and college.
In college, I found slam poetry and a handful of poets with a cause. I also found open-mic nights. Now, even though fiction is still my first love, poetry is a close second and I am always searching for rising poets with unique voices and insights.
But I started out thinking poetry had to rhyme and it usually had to be about something extremely depressing like death and ravens. But poems can transport us, touch us and move us to action just as any other form of literature can. You just have to know what to look for.
Unsolicited Press published a collection of poems by Adela Najarro, entitled “Twice Told Over.” Najarro is an accomplished poet influenced by her Hispanic background and her family’s emigration from Nicaragua to San Francisco. “Twice Told Over” will be her first collection of poems.
To enjoy Najarro’s wonderful collection, here are some tips to get you to the next level of poetry analysis and subsequent enjoyment.
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