Monthly Archives: June 2016

Interview with Robert Lee Kendrick

Next up we’ve got Robert Lee Kendrick, a fantastic poet down in (or up in, if you’re with me in Alabama, in which case, holler at your boy) South Carolina. Funny story: I wanted to publish both “Detour” and another poem of his, “Salvage Yard,” but
somebody scooped me. Teach me to wait two days.
Point is, I can vouch for all his poetry being as awesome as “Detour,” so I guarantee that Robert’s new chapbook Winter Skin will be worth picking up.
Robert Lee Kendrick photo.jpg
The interview:
Describe your writing in 25 words or less.
I hope it’s direct, clear, and hits something that’s worth the reader’s time.
Tell us about your poem “Detour.”
A young man I didn’t know well, but whom I saw and spoke to almost daily, died a couple of years ago on a road I drive every afternoon. It’s a persona poem, and one of several about this speaker and “Chris.” There’s another road I go down each day that floods when we get heavy rain. The image of the sunken road intersected with the memory of “Chris,” and the poem got going.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Place does it for me. The roads, creeks, and lakes of Pickens County, South Carolina, and the fields and towns of central Illinois where I grew up. I see so much road kill that I get a lot from decay and rot, as well — that’s been a big thing for about six months. Natural decay is a miracle, the biological process that nature uses to heal and renew itself. There’s no unfinished business, and I don’t know that humans can do that with loss, even with rituals, therapy, art, whatever.
Who do you consider your biggest influences?
I didn’t start writing until I was 46, but the poets I discovered in my late teens and early twenties are the ones I still go to now for study and inspiration — Richard Hugo, James Wright, Jack Gilbert, Jim Daniels. I’ve been studying with William Wright, who is a terrific poet and teacher, and he’s really shaped how I read and write.
Do you have a blog/website for your writing?
No. I probably should, but I don’t know how to code. I should get off my ass and learn.
What are you currently working on?
I read and write every day — even if there’s no vibe there, it’s still work on craft. I got a late start, and I’m pretty driven — I think that comes from having been an athlete for 35 years — way too long. Consistent, daily practice is what develops whatever ability you have. Right now, I’m reading Merlau-Ponty’s The Phenomenology of Perception, Judith Hemschemeyer’s translations of Akhmatova, Louise Gluck’s first four books, and Etheridge Knight. Merlau-Ponty is daily, the others are in rotation for a couple of weeks. Read for an hour, hour and a half, then write. Writing? Road kill, rocks, streams, trees, buzzards, rock n’ roll, trucks & cars & hourly jobs. That’s where the stuff always goes.
Where can we read your work next?
My chapbook, Winter Skin, has just come out from Main Street Rag Publishing. There are poems that will be in Louisiana Literature,Main Street Rag, Kentucky Review, Chiron Review, I-70 Review, and Steel Toe Review in the next few months. I’m pumped about Steel Toe Review. I like what they’ve got going, and all my extended family is originally from Birmingham.
You live in Clemson, but went to the University of South Carolina. Gamecocks or Tigers?
Oh man. Neither. I am a stranger in a strange land. I came down to South Carolina to get a Ph.D. in Eighteenth Century British Lit and Critical Theory, and the main thing I got out of the degree was learning that I didn’t know what I was going to do, but it wasn’t going to be teaching in college. I kind of bounced around doing the same kinds of jobs I did before college for a few years, and then I ended up teaching high school, which I’m happy with. I still live here and I love the landscape. But I don’t really like football, and my heart is still with my Iowa Hawkeyes. Basketball season is year-round, in my mind.
Any advice for your fellow writers?
Read. Read some more. Make a lot of mistakes. Try to find someone a lot better than you who gets where you are heading (although you may not know it yet), and helps you see what’s good, and what sucks, about your work. Then work & work & work & work.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Bop Dead City is a badass name. You nailed it. loved Issue 15!

Katy Haas, review editor for (a great place to find out about new and exciting literary projects from all around the world, btw), just heaped praise onto Issue 15, saying that Bop Dead City “consistently presents great writing to its readers” and that it’s “a slim little chapbook that can be stored wherever to be read whenever.” She also singles out Alison Liu, Lauren Spinabelli, Kailey Tedesco, Carla M. Cherry, and Tristan Silverman for specific love.

Check it out here!


Interview with Alison Liu

Hope everyone’s doing great. Thanks for all these fantastic stories and poems; I get the feeling this may be a supersized issue. Keep on keeping on, kids.

I’ve decided to bring back our interview series with the authors for each issue since I missed talking to the awesome folks that let me publish their work. I hope you all find them as interesting as I do.

Our first one for Issue 15 is with Alison Liu, whose “Freighthopping” won the fiction contest and was described by’s Katy Haas as evoking “both the airiness of dreams and the dreaminess of being with someone you love.”

Describe your work in 25 words or less.
This is a story that I hope will be meaningful in different ways to different people reading it.

Is this your first contest win? How did it feel when you found out?
In high school, I was one of the winners of Scholastic’s Art and Writing Awards, which was really cool. However, Bop Dead City’s contest was the first writing contest I’ve won that hasn’t limited entry by age. It was pretty big for me because it was sort of self-validation that I could maybe be competitive among all writers, and this felt great.

What inspired you to write “Freighthopping”?
During the time that I wrote Freighthopping, a very close friend of mine who lives very far away was going through a really hard time and I wanted so desperately to be there with him; it was also around the time that I had started volunteering at a suicide hotline. Although I do not think I am the narrator, the story is inspired by that feeling of helplessness when trying to be there for someone who you can’t connect with, either emotionally or physically — it’s about that desperation of grasping at anything to say so the person on the other end won’t hang up, and maybe a little about the way in which this feeling numbs you.

What influences you as an author?
In the summer when I was little, my neighbor and I used to sit by the creek behind our houses writing this really long, badly-outlined story about a circus. This was right after we’d read all of Ray Bradbury’s short stories and were enamored with this idea of being far away in time or space or reality, and I guess the circus was as far away from school as we could imagine. I just remember this afternoon when we had torn out pages from the story, and folded them into paper boats to send down the creek. So I’m not sure if this quite answers your question, but the thing that influences me as an author is how a combination of sounds or scribbles originating in someone else’s mind can make me feel like I am in a different place, like Mars or the future, and how it can make me want to move other people in this way too.

What drew you to neuroscience as a minor?
I’m majoring in English because it is the study of how we communicate with each other, but I’m minoring in neuroscience because it is the study of how we communicate with ourselves. Our neurons, with this really intricate and elegant electrical/chemical language, can tell each other when we’re in pain, or how to interpret an image in front of us, and sometimes can even bypass our conscious thinking (for example, tapping right below your knee can cause a jerk of your leg — that reflex is the action of your neurons protecting the muscle from tear). I love that neuroscience is a subject that explains me to myself, and reminds me that — chemically — we’re all so very similar.

Where can we read you next?
Recently, the Adroit Journal has published my short story “From the Glovebox” on their 2016 Adroit Prizes Editors’ List. In the past, Gone Lawn has published one of my short stories and Scholastic’s The Best Teen Writing of 2013 has one of my poems in it.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for giving my story such an awesome home, and I’m super honored to be included in an issue with so many amazing writers!