sestina award judge

The judge for our Ruth Morris Moose Sestina Award is Julia Beach Anderson from Massachusetts. She received a Master of Fine Arts from the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Occulum, Barren Magazine, and Flypaper Lit.

She has a unique take on how to deal with a dried up well of creativity:

“You’re going to need a bigger boat.” – Roy Scheider (as Sheriff Brody), Jaws

There are two things I strongly believe:

  • imagination is fueled by dissatisfaction with what it sees in the world
  • dissatisfaction springs eternal; therefore, the creative well never runs dry

I also believe, however, that a well-used bucket will eventually spring a leak. It’s tempting to say the well is dry, but what works for me is switching buckets for a time, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, I go for a bigger bucket. When I feel down in the imagination, instead of trying to get to the heart of poetry by writing a poem, I read craft essays by writers I admire. If that doesn’t work, I read reviews of collections I’ve already read and love. These are things I do anyway, but I tend to do it more when I’m not writing. Whatever I do, I do not increase the amount of poetry I read. That only increases my poem envy and gives me even more anxiety. Interviews and notes from the editor in my favorite poetry journals are also excellent places to find new buckets.

There are few things better than watching or listening to someone geek out over something they love. It’s impossible to remain jaded or empty in the presence of someone who is genuinely excited by what they’re experiencing or what they’re seeing, and it’s even better when they make you see it, too, or tap into something you already feel. I don’t want to just start throwing things in well to see if I can fill it up again: I want to get closer to the source that feeds the heart of the well and sometimes that means I have to change the way I get to the heart of it.

Sheriff Brody didn’t need a bigger ocean to make the beach safe. He needed a bigger boat to get closer to the thing that was keeping him out of the water.

A few of my favorite books. essays, and podcasts on the craft of writing:

  • Radiant Lyre, edited by David Baker and Ann Townsend (Graywolf Press, 2007)
  • Personism: A Manifesto, Frank O’Hara
  • The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young (Graywolf Press, 2010)
  • Lit from the Basement, a podcast hosted by Danielle Cadena Deulen & her husband, Max
  • VS, Poetry Foundation’s podcast hosted by Danez Smith and Franny Choi

Check out the poem she’s shared with us:

Autopsy of A Bird’s Nest

When they opened Frankenstein’s monster
after they wound the key on his back

after pulling him from the ice
and after carrying his body on a sled

built by the son of the town’s apprentice
using leftover firewood from the orphanage

where all the boys except one died last year
of a fever that bloomed under their beds

including the one that was already empty

and after sending for the executioner
    and his chopping block
after summoning the priest
    and his rosary axe handle

after the key unlocked the torso
and after the rib cage opened

    like a flower they found
    where the heart should be

    a bird’s nest recently abandoned

the undertaker, in slippery sunlight,
dug a grave and called it a defense wound.


*originally published in Barren Magazine, Issue No. 9 (2019)

Published by Craig Kittner

The Adult Contests Director for the North Carolina Poetry Society, Craig is an award winning haikuist, published in several journals, including Frogpond, Acorn, bottle rockets, Modern Haiku, and Bones. He is fond of birds, cats, and rain . . . but rarely writes of cats.

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