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.

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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.

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An evening of poetry at the Downtown Books & News

Tonight, 7:30 p.m., Downtown Books & News presents an evening of poetry hosted by Jeff Davis and features Evie Shockley (recently selected for Holmes National Poetry Prize), Holly Iglesias, Luke Hankins and Tina Barr.

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

Big night in Asheville for poetry readings

Malaprop's reading for Nov. 11, 2011

Last night Asheville hosted two great poetry readings.

Loretta’s Cafe featured the Flood Reading Series with poets DeWayne Barton, Gyorgyi Voros, and Landon Godfrey.

Malaprop’s featured readings by Evie Shockley and Luke Hankins.

Unfortunately, I missed both readings because I was on the road and didn’t return to my adopted hometown until after the readings. Anyone have a report to how the readings went? Please feel free to offer a review of the readings in the comments.