Our Spotlight series introduces you to the people behind Perennial Press. In our fourth post, we hear from Abby Bland, author of chapbook The Odds Against a Starry Cosmos. Her chapbook ‘explores the intimacy of human relationship and growth against the backdrop of the natural world, moving through moments of grace, brokenness, and wonder. Bland talks to us about her online + IRL poetry communities and shows us her bookshelf!
Have you been going to any online art / writing events during quarantine? Tell us about them.
I’m actually in an online poetry workshop with Desiree Dallagiacomo called “Throughline” right now. It’s a 6 week course where we’ve been studying a different poet each week. We’ve also had the opportunity to write poems and give feedback on drafts with our cohort members. It’s been nice to be in community with poets across the country and I’ve also written some poems that I’m pretty excited about.
What podcasts do you listen to? What are they about?
I listen to a ton of podcasts to be honest, but my absolute favorite podcast right now is VS which is a poetry podcast co-hosted by Danez Smith and Franny Choi where poets talk about the things that move them. I like the podcast because it has a particular focus on minority poets from a variety of backgrounds, plus Smith and Choi are hilarious and wonderful hosts and I pretty much binged the whole catalog during March when everything shut down. I also recently got into a newer podcast called Exolore by Moiya McTier - she is an astrophysicist and a folklorist who brings on experts from different fields to do fact based world building - like what a planet be like if all of its inhabitants were blind or if the world was entirely covered in ice.
Where do you create? Do you have a studio? A desk? What does it look like?
I recently moved into a new apartment and now I have a home office with a desk which I love. I use my office quite a bit, but honestly I tend to do a lot of my creative work, like drafting new poems, at my kitchen table because being in a different environment feels less like work and helps my creativity flow. But when I need to do editing or research, I’ll be in my office. A part of my office is also a studio set up where I keep my recording equipment for recording videos for my patreon and recording the podcast I started with some other KC creatives called Lark Gaming & Mischief, which is a Dungeons & Dragons podcast.
Are you involved in any organizations? Tell us about them.
I am currently the program director for the Kansas City Poetry Slam and the Poetic Underground Open Mic series. The Slam is currently on hiatus until it is safe to meet in our venue again - but the open mic and workshop series has moved online and happens every Wednesday evening via Zoom. While online we’ve been alternating open mics and workshops and it’s been a good way to stay connected with some of our local poets (and even some from out of town), though we do miss getting to meet in person quite a bit.
Show & tell: your bookshelf!
My bookshelf is largely dominated by poetry books and nonfiction essay collections/memoirs. It is mostly full of books I’ve read and reread pretty regularly. I downsized my library a lot when I went to college because I knew I would be moving around a lot during the next few years. One book I read at least once a year is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - which is her memoir about writing. I also really adore my copy of I Explain a Few Things, a collection of Pablo Neruda poems with both the Spanish and English translations, which I’ve had since I was in high school and influence a lot of my early poetry work.
Find more of Bland’s work, including poetry excerpts and updates on the Kansas City poetry scene, on her Instagram.