Interview: Luke Hankins on Poems of Devotion

Poems of Devotion

Luke Hankins is Senior Editor at Asheville Poetry Review and the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions, a chapbook of translations of French poems by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, I Was Afraid of Vowels…Their Paleness and editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets. This Sunday, December 9 at 5 p.m., at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Luke will read selections from Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets along with other featured contributors: Malaika King Albrecht, Richard Chess, Morri Creech, Richard Jackson, Suzanne Underwood Rhodes, and Daniel Westover. Luke agreed to a quick interview to discuss the recently published Poems of Devotion.

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Tell me how the anthology, Poems of Devotion, developed from concept to final printed book.

Luke Hankins

In my final year of graduate school, I took an independent study course with the superb poet and teacher Maurice Manning, which essentially meant that I chose an academic/creative project and he offered input on and evaluation of it. I have had a strong interest in spiritual poetry for many years, so it was natural that I would choose a topic that reflected this passion. The essay I wrote for that class was an examination of a particular set of qualities that characterized many of my favorite spiritual poems, qualities which, in my mind, constituted a distinct mode of composition. The essay was an early form of what is now the introductory essay of the anthology, examining what I call the devotional mode in poetry. When I first wrote it, the idea of editing an anthology hadn’t occurred to me, but as I continued to revisit and revise the essay after graduate school, I felt increasingly that the compiling “poems of devotion” would make for a superb collection of poems. As an experiment, I began gathering poems that I would include in a theoretical anthology, and that’s when I began to feel a real impulse — a “call,” if you will — to bring these poems together in an anthology. I sent out a proposal to several publishers, and I eventually signed a contract with Wipf & Stock Publishers.

What followed was — well, let’s just say a year of very hard work! Gathering the poems I wanted to include was one aspect: reading widely, taking recommendations, spending long days in the library or in coffee shops with large stacks of books. But all of that, though difficult, was full of pleasure and felt deeply rewarding. The other aspect was obtaining — and paying for! — permission from copyright holders to reprint the poems. That process was often labyrinthine, frustrating, and, not least of all, expensive. But it was worth it. I’m very excited about the finished anthology, and am moved and challenged anew each time I read it. Truly.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

Maurice Manning is becoming one of my favorite living poets. At the public library, I discovered his book Bucolics and then had an opportunity to attend one of his lectures at Warren Wilson. But I digress. You beat me to the second question which is what did you learn most? Seems like the whole publishing side of the anthology was quite a classroom of experience. If you will, highlight one moment during that year long process that “felt deeply rewarding” for you.

Luke Hankins

I think approaching the copyright aspect of the anthology with a certain level of naivety in many instances worked to my advantage. People were more inclined to take mercy on me and my minuscule budget! But there were a few publishing houses who were absolutely unmovable, and I had to pay out my teeth, so to speak, to include poems I felt were necessary to the anthology. So I learned to rejoice in small mercies where they came, and to practice stoicism about what I saw as exorbitant pricing from some of the major publishing houses.

Regarding your second question, I wouldn’t want to try to single out one moment that felt rewarding. I’ll just say that the process of discovering poets I came to love, whose work I had never read or had only read cursorily, was one of the most rewarding aspects. Re-reading poets whose work has been very impactful for me was another aspect. Also, there was an overall sense of being blessed to be able to dedicate myself to an undertaking that felt like an important fulfillment of who I am. I felt that I was working with real purpose. I felt that I was doing what I was meant to do.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

One final question, what’s the biggest thing you hope readers take away from Poems of Devotion?

Luke Hankins

I hope that readers — whether religious or non-religious, theistic or non-theistic — come away with a conviction that the devotional mode is a powerful, ongoing, vital mode in literature. I believe in these poems and their ability to do just that.

Kathryn Stripling Byer Poetry Reading & Booksigning

Sunday, November 11, 2012, 3:00 p.m., Malaprop’s presents a poetry reading and book signing for Kathryn Stripling Byer.

From Malaprop’s news release:

Poetry reading and booksigning event with Kathryn Stripling Byer, former North Carolina Poet Laureate and another favorite here at Malaprop’s.  On November 11 she will read from and sign DESCENT, a collection of poems described as “navigating the dangerous currents of family and race,” in which Byer “confronts the legacy of southern memory, where too often ‘it’s safer to stay blind.'”

David Hopes, Holly Iglesias & Richard Krawiec

Malaprop’s presents Poetrio, November 4, 2012, 3 P.M., featuring David Hopes, Holly Iglesias and Richard Krawiec.

From Malaprop’s:

Richard Krawiec is an extraordinarily versatile writer who has published novels and short fiction as well as nonfiction (including textbooks on teaching writing), plays, and two books of poetry, Breakdown, and She Hands Me the Razor.  …AND LOVE… is the fifth anthology for which he has served in an editorial role, and this anthology includes his own poem “She Hands Me the Razor.”  The editors’ introduction to …AND LOVE… offers an enormous (and still not exhaustive) list of varieties and aspects of love, summarized, at least for the moment, in this way: “Whatever it brings, love is the only thing that makes everything else ring true.  And that’s what this collection is all about.  This burgeoning landscape of love, collected here, in the words of 125 poets.”

Holly Iglesias is well known to those who attend Malaprop’s poetry events regularly.  She last read at Malaprop’s for the October 2012 all-poetry Writers at Home event, and she has previously read on more than one occasion at Poetrio.  She has published several collections of poetry, the latest of which is Fruta Bomba (February 2012), and is the author of the critical study Boxing Inside the Box: Women’s Prose Poetry. Among her many honors is a 2011 fellowship in creative writing from the National Endowment for the Arts.  She teaches in the Master of Liberal Arts program at UNC-Asheville and contributed the poem “American Impressionists” (from her book Souvenirs of a Shrunken World) to the anthology …AND LOVE….

Poet David Brendan Hopes is also a prize-winning playwright, memoirist, and actor who lives in Asheville and is Professor of Literature and Language at UNC-Asheville.  His poetry has earned him the Juniper and Saxifrage prizes in poetry, and he continues his work as a playwright with a Lincoln trilogy for theater (the first two parts are completed), while working as well on a novel about Asheville.  He has published a number of poetry collections, and he read from his book Dream of Adonis at the Malaprop’s Poetrio event in 2008.  We are very happy to welcome him back for the presentation of …AND LOVE.., to which he contributed the poem “Before Supper.”

September 16, 2012: poetry at Malaprop’s

Writers at Home – Sept. 16th

This Sunday at the Malaprop’s cafe at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, join the following poets as they read from their recent books: Holly Iglesias (ANGLES OF APPROACH), Sebastian Matthews (MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS), and Katherine Soniat (THE SWING GIRL). More details here. Link.

Poetrio, this Sunday, at Malaprop’s Bookstore

August Poetrio — 2012

This sunday, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café continues the monthly poetry reading series, Poetrio, with Meta Commerse, Cassie Premo Steele, and Pauletta Hansel.

In an email from Virginia McKinley, of Malaprop’s, here’s a write up about August’s featured poets:

Meta Commerse. . . is the author of six books, including a novel intended to be a book of hope for middle-school-aged black girls.  That book began as her culminating project for the MFA degree in creative writing at Goddard College.  RAINSONGS: POEMS OF A WOMAN’S LIFE is her most recent book of poetry. . . .

Cassie Premo Steele’s poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines, and journals, including such publications as Sagewoman and Calyx. Her work has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. . .  Her most recent book of poetry, THE POMEGRANATE PAPERS, is based on the Persephone/ Demeter myth and addresses the themes of mothers, daughters, creative cycles, loss, healing, and living in harmony with the seasons. . . .

According to Jackie Demaline of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Pauletta Hansel has been “an arts administrator and an unflagging arts advocate, [but] doesn’t like to talk about herself.”  Yet she seems happy to talk about the work she finds most interesting: “community organizing and community arts.”  . . . . Pauletta Hansel has published poems in . . . journals . . . and . . . has three previous collections of poetry, Divining, First Person, and What I Did There; at Malaprop’s she will read from her most recent book, THE LIVES WE LIVE IN HOUSES. . . .

Hope to see you Sunday, August 5, at 3:00 p.m. for Poetrio!

June 2012 Poetrio reading series with Donna Lisle Burton, Alice Osborn, and Erica Wright

Sunday afternoon, June 3rd at 3 p.m., the Poetrio monthly reading series continues with Donna Lisle Burton, Alice Osborn, and Erica Wright. Details here [link].

From Malaprop’s community outreach director, Virginia McKinley:

Poet and visual artist Donna Lisle Burton. . . . has two previous collections of poems; is also an accomplished painter, portraitist, and photographer; and has four decades of experience as a special education teacher. Of Donna Lisle Burton’s third collection of poems, LETTING GO, award-winning Asheville poet Pat Riviere-Seel has written, “Do not be misled by the title: once you start reading, there will be no Letting Go [sic].”  North Carolina Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers has offered this additional appreciation: “Reading the poems of Donna Lisle Burton is like happening upon a cache of tender and beautifully crafted love letters.  Among the objects of her most intimate affections are lovers both old and new — parents and siblings and children; students and friends; flowers and bridges and mills.  And, finally, her luckiest of lovers, whoever might open the pages of this exquisite book.”  The variations on letting go that are gathered in this collection are not entirely beautiful or easy, and not always for the reasons one might anticipate. . . .

Alice Osborn is another transplant to North Carolina. . . . AFTER THE STEAMING STOPS is her most recent collection of poetry; previous collections are Right Lane Ends, and Unfinished Projects.  The latter prompted these remarks from writer Homer Hickam: “I love Alice’s poetry.  She gives me thoughts I’ve never thought, and dreams I’ve never dreamed.  She uses words like a master potter — molding the clay of the mind into vessels that hold not things, but life, place, and time.”  AFTER THE STEAMING STOPS seems a book more of broken dreams than of new or unexpected ones.  There is no sentimentality in the face of death, departures, endings. . . Before the fierceness of nature and life, love becomes fierce — but after the fact, and nearly as helpless as the child who declared, “I’ll find my own way!” — and bicycled off as a tornado approached, “no clue dueling cyclones ate children / near the road he and Daddy drive on every day to school.”

Erica Wright. . . . serves as poetry editor for Guernica, a magazine of art and politics, and teaches creative writing at Marymount Manhattan College. . . . Of her 2011 book, INSTRUCTIONS FOR KILLING THE JACKAL, Christopher Crawford observed in a recent review for the literary magazine Neon, “Wright is not afraid to use the darkest of imagery combined with a violence of language. A great number of the poems here are in tercets and couplets and Wright makes good use of these forms[,] which allows her to move her short, sharp-edged anecdotes with disquieting ease from beginning to end. Wright’s poems often follow the tracks of her thoughts through various twists, turns and enjambments. The darkness that informs these images is always just below the surface, the music in the lines is subtle and tense . . . The poems give a sense of someone trying to find something while at the same time avoiding it, leaving the scene while simultaneously confronting it. . . .”  Erica Wright’s imagery, settings, and situations often recall the elements of tall tales — but tales whose paths soon wind toward mythical landscapes, the unsettling territory and characters of fables, a realm of constant metamorphosis and of faith mingled with superstition. . .

Hope to see you at this month’s Poetrio reading series.

Tonight’s Malaprop’s reading featuring Sebastian Matthews, Sybil Baker and Chris Hale

Just received this email from Malaprop’s regarding tonight’s, June 1st, reading at 7 p.m.

Triple reading event, featuring new poems by Sebastian Matthews, and selected poems from his most recent collection: MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS; a reading by Sybil Baker from her novel INTO THIS WORLD; and a reading by novelist Chris Hale from her just-completed memoir, LINE OF SIGHT.

I’m very excited to learn of Sebastian Matthews’s new collection of poems.

It’s here… Asheville Wordfest 2012 begins tomorrow

“It’s a good time to come together at the table of poetry,” says Laura Hope-Gill, the director of Asheville Wordfest, in a recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.[1] I’m very excited to be part of the local Asheville poets who will be reading during the festival. I’m also excited to listen to the guest poets attending this year’s poetry festival. Some of the guests include Arthur Sze [2] (author of The Ginkgo LightArchipelago and other books) and Matthew Shenoda (author of Somewhere Else and Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone of which A. Van Jordan writes, the poet “uses a quiet language to bring some of the most striking lyrical intensity.”).[3]

This year’s Wordfest includes a memorial reading for poet Carol Novack. On a rainy evening last summer at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar was the last time I saw her. She was with friends and admirers reading selections from Giraffes in Hiding.

This morning I received an email from the director of Asheville Wordfest with the official schedule for the Asheville Wordfest 2012. It is listed below for those who have not received the schedule:

Wednesday

• 9-11 p.m.

Open mic hosted by Caleb Beissert. Vanuatu Kava Bar, 15 Eagle St.

Thursday


• 7 p.m. “Poem-ing the 28801,”

with Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay at Vanuatu Kava Bar.

Friday

• Noon, informational luncheon with Lenoir Rhyne University graduate studies program director Paul Knott, who will talk about the Masters in Writing program. Chamber of Commerce building, 2nd floor, 36 Montford Ave. RSVP required to Sara Landry at 258-6136 or Sara.Landry@lr.edu.

• 5-7 p.m., MadHat Reception honoring Carol Novack. Refreshments.

• 7 p.m. “Voices of the City,”

Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matt Mulder, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess.

• 9 p.m. “An Evening of Translation,”

with Erik Bendix, Caleb Beissert, Thomas Rain Crowe, Nan Watkins and Luke Hankins.

Saturday


 • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., “The Poets of Press 53,”

with Terri Kirby Erickson, Joseph Mills and Kathryn Kirkpatrick.

• 1-2 p.m. The Carol Novack Memorial Reading,

with Terese Svoboda, Marc Vincenz and Jeff Davis, Asheville Wordfest co-founder and host of Wordplay.

• 3 p.m. “Fixing to Tell About Jack,”

a celebration and benefit for Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, featuring storytellers Sheila Kay Adams, Gwenda Ledbetter, Vixi Jil Glen, David Novak, Connie Regan-Blake and Ted Hicks. $12; additional donations welcomed.

• 5:30-6:30 p.m.The Poets of the Asheville-Buncombe County Schools Poetry Slam.

• 7-9 p.m. “Our Honored Guests,”

with Sara Day Evans, LeAnne Howe, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Arthur Sze and Matthew Shenoda

• 10 p.m. until late. “Late Night Open Mic.”

Sunday

• 10:30-11:30 p.m. “Children’s Poetry and Children’s Poems,” hosted by Barbie Angell..

• Noon-1 p.m. “Morning of Spirit,” with Tracey Schmidt and James Davis of Logosophia Books, Michael Ivey on guitar and Matthew Cox from Shantavaani on tablas and hand drums. An open mic will invite people to share their own spiritual poems.

• 1:30-2:30 p.m. “Voices of the City,” with April Fox, Eric Steineger, Lisa Sarasohn and Meta Commerce.

• 3 p.m., “Poetrio,” with Maureen Sherbody, Mark DeFoe and Jessie Carty. Malaprops Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St.

• 5 p.m. until whenever, “Poetic Wine-Down,” Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Grove Arcade.[4]

NOTES: [1] “Asheville Wordfest celebrates poetry of all stripes, May 2-6″ [2] The Poetry Foundations bio of Arthur Sze [3] Matthew Shenoda’s web site [4] Asheville Wordfest 2012

April Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe

National Poetry Month begins at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe with Poetrio this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. This month’s featured poets include Ed Madden, Ray McManus and Anne Harding Woodworth.

Here’s an abridged version of the poets bios from the Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café news release:

Anne Harding Woodworth is a member of the Poetry Board at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  She is a part-time resident of both Washington, D.C. and the Western North Carolina mountains. On April 1 this year, she will read from her fourth book, THE ARTEMIS SONNETS, ETC.

Ray McManus teaches creative writing, Irish literature, rhetoric, and composition at the University of South Carolina, Sumter.  We are very pleased to welcome him back with his second poetry collection, RED DIRT JESUS, for which he won the Marick Press Poetry Prize.

At the November 2009 Poetrio event here at Malaprop’s, Ed Madden read from Signals, the 2008 poetry collection for which he won the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize.  His most recent collection of poetry is PRODIGAL: VARIATIONS.

Learn more about the April 2012 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe at their web site.