Q&A with Poetry Contributor Joannie Stangeland

Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring from Ravenna Press, plus three chapbooks. Her poems have also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. Her poem “Tending” is featured in the Summer 2017 Premium Edition of CarvePreorder or subscribe by Sunday, July 16, for special savings and discounts.


We are so pleased to publish "Tending," with its concision, subtle narrative, and lovely sound. Sound is important to the poem. How do you feel sound contributes to the overall experience of this poem?

I wanted to keep this poem fairly slow, to provide some space around it, and I tried to choose sounds that would help with that (for example, “shroud, shrugged” really takes some time to say out loud because you have to use your whole mouth). I also wanted some hard sounds that would reflect the setting and the moment of the poem.

It is often said that what is left out of a poem is just as important as what is left in. Which authors do you consider experts at achieving concision in poems?

I’d like to focus on specific works—Louise Glück in Averno, James Galvin in God’s Mistress, Jennifer K. Sweeney in Little Spells, Jane Mead’s World of Made and Unmade, and next I’ll probably kick myself for leaving out so many. Then there’s Emily Dickinson. Finally, when talking about concision, I think of the haiku writers’ ability to juxtapose brief images that anchor the poem while striking a bell that keeps ringing.

This poem has a beautiful balance of lyric-narrative. Do you consider yourself a more lyric or narrative poet?

I want to be a more lyric poet, but I think I’m narrative by nature, so I’m often pressing against that impulse. I treasure the lyric for its origins in and emphasis on music and also for its mystery, especially in the postmodern lyrics. In my own poems, I’m searching for a balance that engages and invites reading and rereading without being too obscure or self-conscious.

What current projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m finishing up edits on my collection The Scene You See, which is forthcoming from Ravenna Press in 2018. I’m also starting my second year of study at Rainier Writing Workshop, where I’m exploring the relationship between the body and the house and the planet—the sense of home and displacement. Finally, I want to carve out the time and space to rework the grief-centered manuscript that includes “Tending.”