Open Alphabet welcomes Leah Poole Osowski and her book hover over her,
chosen by Adrian Matejka for The Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize,
and published by The Kent State University Press (ISBN 978-1-60635-297-7).

Leah Poole Osowski

Leah Poole Osowski's poetry has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Gettysburg Review, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, Indiana Review, MidAmerican Review, and elsewhere. This summer she will be the Paul Mariani Fellow at Image Journal's Glen Workshop.

Leah recieved her MFA in Poetry from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is from Massachusetts and now lives in Pennsylvania.

You speak in aged hinges
or the silent hiss of eels. Like theirs
your blood is toxic black, anaphylactic.

Your depth is something ravenous:
tornado, hyena.

— from "Lake"

Open Alphabet: How did you come to poetry? Do you have a memory of the first poem that you read? hover over her

Leah Poole Osowski: Growing up I was constantly reading, drawing, and journaling. In high school my journal became a bit strange -- entries of free association -- so maybe that's where my language play began. I also spent hours following along to song lyrics in cassette tape and C.D. booklets. I took a creative writing elective in college and was hooked by the possibility of image. But the first poem I ever read had to have been Shel Silverstein. There's also a poem by Thoreau on the wall directly opposite the toilet in my grandparents cottage in Cape Cod -- I think every one of my 19 cousins has it memorized.

OA: What was your biggest challenge in putting the book together? Was there anything that surprised you about that process?

LPO: I found it surprising how organically the book came together. I'd been writing poems for over two years in grad school before I laid them all out and realized my subconscious was having its own conversation. But sometimes the biggest challenge is knowing when to let a poem go. Just because it exists doesn't mean it belongs in a collection. The longer I spent with the work the more I'd start to hate some of the poems and that's when you realize you have to pull them out. I also received feedback during the publication process of what was missing from the book in terms of narrative structure, and had to try to write those blanks into poems. When I write with the intention of a subject it turns out horribly, so those poems needed multiple layers of revision.

OA: How did hover over her come to find and win the Stan and Tom Wick Prize?

LPO: I had wonderful mentors in graduate school that helped me find first book prizes. I remember the day of the deadline for the Wick Prize, standing in my kitchen, getting a better feel for the judge Adrian Matejka. The first poem I read of his online that day was about his daughter, and snow, and was full of similes. It felt like a fit. There's some luck involved with finding the right readers and judge. The Wick Poetry Center has been amazing, some of the best people and students I've met. They brought me to Kent State for a week, where I taught a workshop and read with Adrian. It became an experience, rather than just a book, and that meant the world for a beginning.

OA: Your book is divided into four sections. There are, however, recurring threads that conjoin each section -- the three girls, the various speakers, the hovering, the "you". What is the significance of the sections?

LPO: I like the structure and the relief that sections offer within a collection. These ones specifically felt like this: I. An introduction of hers, and momentum building; II. An underlying relationship, and with it, some darkness; III. A thawing, warming, reclaiming; and IV: a turn, a cleansing, a water focus.

OA: In the title, there is the word play of "hover -> over -> her", like one of those word games where one letter changes each successive word to something new. The word "hover" itself also appears throughout the book, with various connotations such as protection, threat, inspection or vigilance. How did this title come about?

LPO: I love the word, how it floats, but also its other definitions felt relevant for this group. I turned it around in my head for weeks, trying to figure out how to use it as a title. Then I realized it already contained the other words -- it birthed itself.

OA: There are many voices and perspectives in this book. Skin speaks, a lake speaks, the sky speaks, a knife speaks, girls speak, the ocean speaks, worms speak. There are also voices that speak to a "you", but the "you" is at times the impersonal you, a very personal, definite "you", or the reader. How do you see voice operating in your poems with regard to the speaker as well as the spoken to?

LPO: The series of "speaks" poems were inspired by Dave Eggers' poem "How the Water Feels to the Fishes." I wrote one for a class and couldn't stop, they're too much fun. The personal you was, as it usually is, a relationship, that was slowly disintegrating. I think using other voices was a way to approach that from all angles -- I was using the writing as an outlet for frustrations not being addressed in my own life. But I also like to play with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person. I'll write a poem in one pronoun then change it in revision. That process happens for the collection, rather than the individual poem.

OA: I'd like to ask about your creative process. Do you have a daily practice in a particular writing space? Has it changed with the publication of hover over her ? desk

LPO: I used to prefer mornings, after reading new poetry, always coffee. But working full time has a way of ruining that easy pace. So now it's often in motion, while walking or driving, and always on the notes app of my iPhone. I accumulate drafts for a couple months before bringing them into Word and giving them a real page and form. I do find poetry very elusive, and am often waiting for it to possess me. I've been living in a temporary space for awhile, so a set writing space doesn't exist right now. But this is the field that I stare down daily, and its influences are permeating my new poems.

OA: Where do you see yourself in the family tree of poetry? Who are your ancestors? Your siblings?

LPO: I'd like Rilke as a grandfather, and Anne Sexton as a grandmother. C.D. Wright and Frank Stanford for parents. Anne Carson, Marie Howe, and Sally Keith as aunts and Alberto Rios as an uncle. Siblings: Samantha Deal, Jeremy Morris, and Eric Tran, who's books are bound to be coming soon to the world.

OA: Who are you reading right now? What books are on your desk?

LPO: I've been reading all of Carolyn Forche's books in preparation for a workshop I have with her next month in Santa Fe. She's a force. I keep Eduardo Corral's Slow Lightning and Sarah Messer's Dress Made of Mice nearby for language inspiration. And Malena Morling's Ocean Avenue to remind myself that writing doesn't have to follow the rules of the earth.

OA: What can we expect to see from you in the future? What is next?

LPO: I'm working on a second book of poetry. Compared to hover it feels more focused on a shorter time period / relationship / single voice, and it's filled with animals. It's interesting how much changes in your writing when you change your physical location -- as if the world's writing us and not the other way around. The manuscript is in a constant state of revision as I submit it to contests and open reading periods. But very available if anyone is interested!

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Robert Lee Brewer Solving the World's Problems

Lori Desrosiers The Philosopher's Daughter

Michael Diebert Life Outside the Set

Robert Eastwood Snare

Howard Faerstein Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn

Brian Fanelli All That Remains

Rupert Fike Lotus Buffet

Annelyse Gelman Everyone I Love Is A Stranger To Someone

Annie Guthrie The Good Dark

Rochelle Hurt The Rusted City

Carey McHugh American Gramophone

Megan Merchant Gravel Ghosts

Seth Michelson Eyes Like Broken Windows

Ginger Murchison a scrap of linen, a bone

Ivy Page Any Other Branch

Lynn Pedersen The Nomenclature of Small Things

Connie Post Floodwater

Jeffrey Schultz What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask Of Each Other

Karen Skolfield Frost in the Low Areas

Clicking on the author's picture will take you to their website, if they have one.

Purchase books by these poets either directly from the presses or from your local bookstore. Clicking on the book cover will transport you away to an on-line purchase site.

Thanks for visiting!

About Open Alphabet

Open Alphabet spotlights poets who have recently published their first full-length book of poetry. Each of these poets open the language in a fresh, unique way and this I celebrate. The interviews are intentionally brief -- a glimpse of the poet's relationship with the language, poetry and other poets, their aesthetics, craft, methodology, and perhaps something of the nuts-and-bolts of bringing a poetry manuscript to release.

I find the places where poets work to be fascinating, so I often ask poets about their writing spaces and what is on their desk at the moment. Turn about is fair play, so here is where Open Alphabet lives during the winter months in Atlanta.


Thanks go to the excellent faculty of the New England College MFA program, who sparked this project, as well as to those who continue to give me feedback. Special, special thanks go to Jeannette, who sometimes feels like a poetry widow.

I'd love to hear suggestions, comments, recommendations or complaints. I send an email blast whenever there is a new featured interview, which is usually every 2-5 weeks. To sign up or to remove your address, or to send a comment, feel free to email me at . Please note that there is a real human being at that address, not a machine, and I will respond as soon as humanly possible. --maurice