Melissa Carl: Poet Interview

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Please welcome Melissa Carl to Poetic Asides!

Melissa is a teacher and poet who lives in York, Pennsylvania and Oak Island, North Carolina. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals, magazines, and e-zines, including Blood Lotus, The Broken Plate Review, The Copperfield Review, Mouse Tales Press, Third Wednesday, and more. Her second poetry collection, Brutal Allure, was published in 2011. She maintains a blog at

Melissa Carl

Melissa Carl

Here's an example of Melissa's poetry:

"And Suddenly," by Melissa Carl

the past evaporates from it all: the open window
and insects declaring themselves all over the dusk,

their sounds of precision and life rich with summer,
the veins of leaves. If you listen well they are

a wanting, a need, a wideness, a crossing--
you can forget again and again the oak-like

weight of your secrets, your calendars of night-long
watching, the injuries that come undone. You can listen your way

to an opening, to something like love but deeper, more carefully
prepared, something going forward that allows your following,

like honeysuckle any place the mind imagines.
You have this offering, this loosening, this intimate

veil of sound, the wind-clung branches.
You have the blades of grass, all the blades of grass,

all their lives touching.


What are you currently up to?

I am currently working on ordering the group of 30 found poems I wrote during The Found Poetry Review's National Poetry Month Project, called the Pulitzer Remix. 85 different poets were assigned a Pulitzer-winning novel as the source book from which to create one found poem per day. My assigned book was The Killer Angels, and I would like to publish them in a collection along with about half a dozen other found poems I created from other sources.

I am also working on a thematic series of "postcard poems," each one in the form of ten longish lines. I am also in the process of preparing for another upcoming school year--working on my classroom website, reading articles, and considering some new ways of doing things.

Brutal Allure, by Melissa Carl

Brutal Allure, by Melissa Carl

Brutal Allure is published by Bryce Cullen Publishing. How did you go about getting that book placed?

I found the company online and sent a draft of my manuscript to David Gettis. I asked if he might be interested in publishing it, whether or not he felt the quality of the work was something to which he was willing to attach his company's name. His enthusiastic reply was the beginning of the process that led to publication of Brutal Allure.

Brutal Allure is your second collection. Do you have a certain methodology to assembling your collections?

Ordering a collection is difficult for me, as I am always seeing new combinations and possibilities, and any of them or all of them could work well for different reasons ... any order that I finally decide upon is arbitrary, really. I will say that I like to break my books into thematic sections, if possible.

I also insist that the last poem in any collection I assemble is one with a positive message or trajectory. Many of the poems I write are "dark" or intense. I have lived my whole adult life with a mood disorder, and much of my work reflects that, but I always think of Sylvia Plath's own version of Ariel, how she had originally intended it to end with her cycle of Bee Poems and the phrase, "They taste the spring." Her husband Hughes' arrangement, ending with the overtly fatalistic "Edge," did a great deal to form and perpetuate the "doom myth" of Sylvia Plath.

Despite the very real pain I have endured, I believe in the blessing that is my life, and I want that message to be "the final word," so to speak.

Do you have a writing routine?

I would like to have more of a routine than I currently do.

Generally, I write later at night and on the weekends when I have longer stretches of uninterrupted time. I have been known to write my way through my lunch breaks at work. I tend to have multiple poems in progress, so I shift back and forth between them as my moods and inclinations shift.

I usually start writing a poem by hand in a notebook, then type it into the computer when I have a solid first draft.

Your poetry has been published in many print and online publications. Do you have a submission routine?

I always try to have a number of poems out in circulation at any given time. Electronic submissions make the process so much more manageable, I think.

I look at my completed poems and try to send them to places that I think are good matches for the length, subject matter, tone, etc., of the work. About twice a month, I send out a number of batches, then wait.


Pre-order the 2014 Poet's Market!

The latest and greatest edition of Poet's Market is now available for pre-order and will ship later this month. It includes new articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry, in addition to new poems and hundreds of listings for poetry publishers, publications, contests, and more!

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Do you have any favorite revision tricks?

I read my poems out loud to myself repeatedly. More than anything else, reading aloud helps me identify what needs more attention.

What (or who) are you currently reading?

Most recently I've been re-reading Roger Housden's book Saved by Beauty about his travels in Iran. In poetry, it's Robert Bolano, The Romantic Dogs. I am waiting for the release of Anna Journey's new collection as my next poetry book of choice.

If you could pass on only one piece of advice to other poets, what would it be?

Notice things.

Poetry is the Art of Noticing. Bits of overheard conversation. Pieces of trash on the street. Words from other languages. The names of plants and flowers. The natural history of salt. Focus your mind intently and widely, and the poems will come.


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community. In addition to editing books like Writer's Market and Poet's Market, he maintains multiple blogs, edits a weekly newsletter, writes a column for the magazine, and other fun stuff. Voted the 2010 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, Brewer's debut full-length poetry collection Solving the World's Problems is due out from Press 53 on September 1, 2013. He's married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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