3 min read

Friday Open Thread (with Poetry)

An extravagant sunset over the Rideau river. A fiery sky reflected on the water, dotted with lily pads, framed in grasses.

Dear Friends,

We're more than halfway through September, and I'm feeling it in every hour – the tilt of light, the twist of air, the sense of endings and beginnings. Sunset's earlier and earlier, and I'm eating several summers' worth of nectarines and watermelon as the season unravels. But the teaching term's under way, and I've cautiously signed up for some in-person fitness classes that should stretch (as it were) into the winter, and I'm hopeful – about new activities, maybe meeting new people, and most of all, training myself to leave my home on a regular, purpose-driven basis as we head into the colder months.

I had a great conversation with Fran Wilde last night, under the auspices of Word Bookstores, about her lovely new poetry collection Clock Star Rose Spine. If you missed it, good news: there's a replay available for free. Please skip the first ten seconds where I don't quite realize we're live yet.

Fran Wilde + Amal El-Mohtar - Crowdcast
Award-winning fantasy author Fran Wilde returns to her roots in Clock Star Rose Spine.

I have a really hard time watching myself on video (particularly on videoconference playback situations, where I get very startled by how fidgety I am and how difficult it is to ... look neutral while reading the chat or listening to someone else speak), so I'm describing the event from memory when I say we talked about art, photography, poetry and curation as types of engineering, interleaving drawings and poems, Tables of Contents as fantasy maps, and more.

During our conversation, I asked Fran a question I often ask my students before we embark on a poetry module together: what, for you, is the difference between poetry and prose? I have my own, oft-cited answer, but I'd love to know your own. What makes something poetry for you specifically? It doesn't have to be a definition you defend against all comers, though it can be. Do you have types, genres of poetry you seek out, or favourite poems you'd like to share? Have at it.

Wishing you a soothing sort of weekend,



I've got a couple of other virtual appearances happening next week!

  • On Monday, September 20, from 2:00-3:00 PM EST I'll be at Word on the Street, moderating a conversation about epistolary fiction with Wayne Ng, Francesca Ekwuyasi, and Lindsay Zier-Vogel.
  • On Saturday, September 25 at 6:00 PM, as part of the Library of Congress' National Book Festival, I'll be chatting with P. Djèlí Clark about his debut novel, A Master of Djinn! (I'm on record as having loved The Haunting of Tram Car 015, a novella set in the same universe, and am really looking forward to this.)
  • In reading news, I'm halfway through Lee Mandelo's Summer Sons and I can't get enough of it. It was extraordinarily difficult to pause reading for long enough to write up this newsletter to you! I'm sure I'll have more to say anon, but for now know that it's a broken-hearted book about hauntings, queerness, masculinities, and the South, and I'm dazzled by it. The book drops on September 28, so get your pre-orders in ASAP – those supply chain troubles are no joke.