A leading American poet and a multiple Pushcart nominee (with awards from Midwest Poetry Review, Peninsula Pulse, Poetswest, Womanspace, and others), Midwest writer Christine Swanberg just had her ninth poetry collection, Wild Fruition: Sonnets, Spells, and Other Incantations, published. A college and high school teacher, she is a featured national reader and workshop leader; her work has appeared in hundreds of anthologies and journals.
Your collection of 75 poems is grouped into five parts, each preceded with a color or b/w photo. How long did it take to complete? Was it more challenging than your previous collection, The Alleluia Tree?
It has been five years since my last collection. I experimented with sonnets and shaping free verse. Part of my process is placing the poems in journals before publishing them as a collection because I want them to have wide a readership; it makes the collection more professional and more publishable. The collection morphed into a cohesive manuscript when working with David Gecic, of Puddin’head Press. David believes in incorporating his favorite poems into books he publishes. Eventually, we could see certain poems that lent themselves to themes in the collection. I try to group poems in a way that leads the reader on a little journey.…
When I feel the telltale tickle in my throat, I want to cry. I thought this was over. All I ask is to make it through fifth-period calculus without causing any incident whatsoever. I’m sitting at my desk in the center of the classroom, surrounded (trapped) on all sides by my fellow classmates, who must surely be watching my every move. This is the worst possible thing that could happen. Instead of tossing and turning from dreams of showing up to class without pants on, I suffer from the absolute nightmare of coughing not once (which is bad enough), but twice during class. I’d rather implode from my un-coughed cough than face the humiliation.
To cough once is embarrassing. To cough twice is social suicide. I will be forever scarred by the traumatic memory of when I coughed for the first time five minutes ago. I’m sure everyone in class still remembers the very moment I opened my mouth and expelled a cough louder than a volcanic eruption, when I tried to cover my mouth with my elbow to muffle the sound, but it was no use, I could feel everyone’s gaze swivel to me for the briefest microsecond, the longest microsecond of my life.…
R. E Hengsterman is a Pushcart-nominated writer, film photographer, and flawed human who deconstructs the human experience through images and words. He writes under the Carolina blue sky. You can see more of his work here and find him on Twitter at @rehengsterman
In this episode, Editor-in-Chief Jordan Blum speaks with Hengsterman about balancing writing, editing, and photography, wrestling with self-doubt, the impact of modern technology on human behavior, and Citizen Cope, among many other things.