National Poetry Month Spotlight: Shelley Puhak

On Having Sex, Grief-Stricken
Summer underfoot: toads,
vipers, adders and serpents,
even ambulances, and in
the eaves, chipmunks, and on
our napes, the rubber paw
of the attending.
Driving home, the car clings
to the yellow line and I will it
to cross over. You pull over
for gas, but can only beat
the car with the pump handle,
over and over, metal on metal.
And somehow—a hotel.
Easy-care earth-toned
bedding, claw-foot
in the corner. We can’t
look at one another.
I straddle you, sobbing.
I’m stunned our bodies
can still screw
together, the threads
can catch: what has
steeled in you winding
up into my wooden.
Poem first appeared in The Pinch (Spring 2012): 110.

Q: What is your writing process?
A: Phrases scribbled on the back of receipts, in the margins of grocery lists, or even texted to myself on my phone. Scraps underlined in scientific journals and the odd biography. Negotiations late late at night when the house is quiet until a draft emerges. Revisions early mornings with a cup of tea.  Many, many mornings.
Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?
A: Lately, I’m on a bit of a Sandra Beasely kick. And just this past week, I discovered both CA Conrad and Francesca Bell.
Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you travel?
A: I’ve been lucky enough, over the course of my MFA, to have studied in Prague, Madrid, northern Italy, and, in the past year, participated in writing conferences in San Miguel and Edinburgh. I’d gladly go back to any of these spots (northern Italy would be first on the list).
If anyone wants to invite me along on a retreat, I’m game to go almost anywhere. But when my own budget allows, I want to strike out for an A-frame in the high Tatras, on the border between Slovakia and Poland. My people started just south and north of here, and I’m struck by its constant castle ruins and sudden canyons, its remote fields and forests, its incessant quiet.
Shelley Puhak is the author of Stalin in Aruba, winner of the 2010 Towson Prize for Literature, and the chapbook The Consolation of Fairy Tales, winner of the 2011 Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.