Tag Archives: Lisa Fay Coutley

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley

Her Father Says She Worries Too Much

but she’s only trying to prepare
*******for the worst in a world of paper
**************lamps and Zippo lighters,

at a breakfast nook with two teen sons
*******whose yolks explode in their mouths
**************and drip on their plates—

one who cuts his meat into man-sized
*******bites with a butter knife and gags
**************at every meal, and another

who eyes how she chews and maneuvers
*******a city of four-way stops, where no-one
**************bothers with turn signals—

so it’s only right to worry: to bite and tear,
******to pluck and push and touch again,
**************again, to vex with her teeth

and shoulder the paper-lamp light
*******alone; because today a man passed
**************as she perched on black

rock, watching him skim the water
*******in a Coast Guard boat—the kind
**************designed to absorb spiller

waves and still remain sturdy—the man
*******who could be her life, who sees her
**************through binoculars,

who would turn starboard and stop
*******if he weren’t rushing to save someone
**************else, while she’s there, flailing

in her mind, where the cat has knocked
*******a pan from the propane stove, in her
**************home that she’s certain is burning.

This poem first appeared in Two Weeks, an e-anthology published by Linebreak

Q: What is your writing process?

A: My writing process is a lot like I am: moving ahead at full speed or sleeping. I write in swells, punching out a bunch of poems in a short time and then not writing at all for a month or more. It’s taken a long time to accept this as my process—to be okay with periods of quiet—(especially when so many writers swear by flexing those muscles regularly), but that seems to be the way I work these days, given my schedule. I write fewer poems, but those poems that I do write come out feeling closer to finished than they once did. I suppose I write fewer shitty poems on the page and instead slog through the muck in my mind. If nothing else, it’s an environmentally sound shift in my process.

Q:  Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?

A: I recently read Jennifer Perrine’s second book, In the Human Zoo, and found myself really excited about her language and metaphors and the brave project the book undertakes. I also really admired Dana Levin’s Sky Burial. And I’ll admit that I have fallen in love with Catullus (damn that man was snarky and dirty and wonderful in so many ways) and finally found a real fondness for Auden.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: I’d go to the Sporades Islands, where I’m quite certain that I would not write, but where I would hike and swim and cliff jump. I don’t do well under writing-pressure, but I believe that those quiet periods (or crazy-fun periods) are gestational periods during which I’m taking things in. I’d love to experience Greece, to take in the water, the people, the mountains and to funnel all of it through my writing as it occurred later, naturally. I really believe that living my life is more important than writing my life, and if I’m doing the former the latter will come in time.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is a doctoral fellow and poetry editor for Quarterly West at the University of Utah. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Seneca Review, Third Coast, The Journal, Drunken Boat, American Literary Review, Best New Poets 2010, and on Verse Daily.  

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley


And so it begins, with a slap on the ass,
an open mouth, and something foreign.
We say air where once there was water,
but that isn’t right. Pretend you’ve been
asleep at sea with a navy in your chest,
in your Unterseeboot. To wake is to begin
them moving your cargo through hostile
waters, with a promise of never leaving
the vessel, of maintaining radio silence,
and with a perfect naval crew, you neither
fall nor float. Your officers shift their hats
and deal gin rummy in a teardrop hull
that never crackles, in a shallow seabed
where they never strike a rudder or time
the missiles. They are geared up but never
engaged in combat, and they seem happy
enough. Until one day. Say someone loses
the king of spades or steals a porno mag
from a bunkmate. It’s been too long with
no word from home, waiting for a war
that never comes. It ends then, with a fist
in the face, dogpiled men caught
in a promise to neither leave nor love
one another, a fire lit in an airtight vessel
where no one can open the door.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: Boring though it may be, I prefer to write on my laptop. At my desk. In my office, which is large enough for turning cartwheels when all else fails.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: Gosh, there were so many early on. When I first started reading poetry seriously (as an undergraduate), I felt like every poem was opening up an entirely new world to me, but the two that come to mind (I can’t choose just one, sorry) are T.R. Hummer’s “Where You Go When She Sleeps” and Marie Howe’s “How Many Times.”

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to me in the past twelve months?

A: I suppose it was the last weekend in July of 2010, when I moved my two teenaged sons, my cat, and myself from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Salt Lake City, Utah. The day before we were slated to leave, the movers called to say that they wouldn’t be coming. Ever. So at the last minute I rented a U-Haul, and—with the   help of some wonderful friends—planned to move myself. Then the U-Haul was too small to fit all of our stuff, and the cat boycotted the move by hiding in (yes, in) the bathroom wall, and just one ridiculous mishap after the other made it seem as if we’d never make the trip. Eventually, of course, we did, but anything that may have been interesting before this 2,000-mile, pseudo-nightmare move with two kids and a cat is a blur to me now. Sad though that may be, this is the most “interesting” thing I can conjure from these twelve months.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of In the Carnival of Breathing, winner of the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in July of 2011) and Back-Talk, winner of the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). She is a PhD Fellow at the University of Utah, and her work has appeared most recently in Best New Poets 2010, Hayden’s Ferry Review, RHINO, Poet Lore, and on Verse Daily.

Lisa Fay Coutley Reads in Salt Lake City

Black Lawrence Press author, Lisa Fay Coutley, will read with poets Luke Johnson, dawn lonsinger, and Matthew Kelsey in celebration of their inclusion in Best New Poets 2010.  The reading is scheduled for Friday, December 3rd (7pm) at Ken Sanders Rare Books (268 South 200 East) in Salt Lake City, UT.

Coutley’s chapbook, In the Carnival of Breathing, won the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition and is forthcoming in mid-2011.

The Fall, 2010 Black River Chapbook Competition

Black Lawrence Press is now accepting submissions for the Fall, 2010 Black River Chapbook Competition.

The Black River Chapbook Competition is a semi-annual prize from Black Lawrence Press for a chapbook of short stories or poems. The winner receives $500 and publication. Previous winners of The Black River Chapbook Competition include: Helen Marie Casey, Frank Montesonti, D. E. Fredd, Sandra Kolankiewicz, Tina Egnoski, T. J. Beitelman, David Rigsbee, Lisa Fay Coutley, and Amelia Martens.

How to Enter

Please follow this link for information on how to submit your manuscript for The Black River Chapbook Competition.

The deadline for submissions is October 31.

We look forward to reading your work!

Reminder: Chapbook Competition Deadline


This is just a friendly reminder that the Black River Chapbook Competition deadline is May 31st.

About the Prize: The Black River Chapbook Competition is a semi-annual prize from Black Lawrence Press for a chapbook of short stories or poems. The winner receives $500 and publication. Previous winners of The Black River Chapbook Competition include: Helen Marie Casey, Frank Montesonti, D.E. Fredd, Sandra KolankiewiczT. J. Beitelman, Tina Egnoski, David Rigsbee, and Lisa Fay Coutley.

How to Enter: Please follow this link for information on how to submit your manuscript for The Black River Chapbook Competition.

Questions? Contact Diane Goettel at diane@blacklawrencepress.com.

We look forward to reading your work!


Diane and the BLP Team

Past Winners of the Black River Chapbook Competition

National Poetry Month Wrap-Up

As April draws to a close, we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Black Lawrence Press authors who participated in our National Poetry Month feature:

David Rigsbee, “Pilot House
Marcela Sulak, “Pomelo With Fallen Angel
Shelley Puhak, “War
T.J. Beitelman, “The Inciting Incident
Laura McCullough, “The Ellisionist
Jason Tandon, “Work
Abayomi Animashaun, “A New Religion
Carol Guess, “Kicks
Joe Wilkins, “A Roadside Diner in Iowa
Lisa Fay Coutley, “In the Carnival of Breathing
Matthew Gavin Frank, “After Il Sergente Serbo e Sua Moglie
Michele Battiste, “Nobody Leaves
Katharine Rauk, “How Many Weeks are in a Day and How Many Years in a Month?
Brent Goodman, “Another Prayer
Stefi Weisburd, “Behind My Ear is a Little Palace in Broad Daylight
Larry Matsuda, “Arc de Triomphe, 2003 Invasion of Iraq
Sandra Kolankiewicz, “Winter Sonata
Frank Matagrano, “Waiting with Alexandria for Her Mom
Hayden Saunier, “Beach
Kevin Pilkington, “Milk
Michael Hemmingson, “Sedona
Erica Wright, “Reservoir
Keith Taylor, “At the Living Creche
James Reidel, “Ave Maria afarensis
Helen Marie Casey, “Mary Dyer’s Courtship
Brad Ricca, “Workshop
Daniele Pantano, “The Oldest Hands in the World
Julia Cohen, “Panic at My Wilderness
Rachel Galvin, “In Cambium Lucida

And most importantly, thank you to everyone who read, shared, and commented on these poems — you’ve made this event a big success!

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lisa Fay Coutley


Call it a burning building or a sinking ship,
either way you’re in it when you phone to say
you can’t tie your shoelaces. I say report card,

a boy who rips the sole from his shoe on purpose,
alveoli. Not sure what this has to do with plants,
you say—this burning ship, this sinking building.

I don’t either. On tossing nights, I get out of bed
to smoke, just to watch my breath in, to see it out.
I tied my first laces on old clown shoes, one bunny

ear over another, under, through and pulled tight,
easy as a cursive L or anything else before Velcro.
Here’s a burning building. There’s a sinking ship.

Here’s me, two arms bent for buckets. There’s you,
two faces shaking through water, through smoke.
I’m double-knotting the world’s shoelaces for you

but the carousel keeps spinning, the balloons
keep twisting themselves into silent llama-dogs.
Maybe we’re all barking buildings, spitting ships,
all the laces in a sailor’s knot, a fistful of spoons.

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: I do—very clearly, actually, but to answer this question reveals a great deal about the content, which is risky for me because it steers the reading in a definitive direction. In any case, here goes: I started drafting this poem last spring when my father called me early one morning (something he doesn’t ordinarily do) to tell me that he was in the emergency room, that his emphysema had gotten much worse, that he couldn’t even tie his shoes. Later in the day, a family friend likened living with this disease to living in a burning building, and I couldn’t get the shoes or the burning building out of my mind, hence the villanelle.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: Adrienne Rich’s collection of poetry: Diving into the Wreck. In fact, some of the poems from In the Carnival of Breathing began while I was reading that book.

Q:  What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: I don’t know about sublime, but I ate one of my most memorable meals in Pecos, Texas, while visiting my dad. He was working there at the time, and I had just flown for the first time, traveled alone for the first time, and ate authentic Mexican food for the first time. I bet my dad that I could eat the entire plate of enchiladas without a drink of milk. I won. But I have yet to find comparable enchiladas since.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the Fall, 2009 winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition with her manuscript In the Carnival of Breathing, which will be published by Black Lawrence Press in mid-2011.

BLP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Black Lawrence Press will celebrate National Poetry Month by featuring a poem by one of our authors every day on the blog. Each poem will be accompanied by a short Q&A with the author. Participating authors include:

Abayomi Animashaun
Michele Battiste
T.J. Beitelman
Helen Marie Casey
Lisa Fay Coutley
Matthew Gavin Frank
Rachel Galvin
Brent Goodman
Carol Guess
Sandra Kolankiewicz
Frank Matagrano
Lawrance Matsuda
Laura McCullough
Kevin Pilkington
Shelley Puhak
Katharine Rauk
James Reidel
Brad Ricca
David Rigsbee
Hayden Saunier
Marcela Sulak
Jason Tandon
Keith Taylor
Stefi Weisburd
Joe Wilkins
Erica Wright

So be sure to check the BLP blog every day in the month of April for some great reading!

Black River Chapbook Competition Winner Announced

After untold hours of reading, the editors of Black Lawrence Press have chosen a winner for the Fall, 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition. Congratulations to Lisa Fay Coutley for winning the prize with her manuscript In the Carnival of Breathing. As the winner of the competition, she will receive publication, $500, and 25 free copies of the book. Black Lawrence Press plans to release In the Carnival of Breathing in mid-2011.

Congratulations again, Lisa!