Q & A with Rogan Kelly by Eric Steineger

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June 22, 2022 by The Citron Review

Eric Steineger: Rogan, it’s been a while since we caught up. How are you and what you have been up to? 

Rogan Kelly: I’m thriving in some places, Eric; and getting by in others. We just had our virtual poetry reading for SMOLFair and our offsite in-person reading for AWP. Spring submissions are open for The Night Heron Barks

Eric: When Zest got started back in 2019/2020, I reviewed your chapbook as the first Zest entry. Demolition in the Tropics remains one of my favorite chapbooks and a fine example of the prose poem style. How does what you are writing now compare to what you were writing pre-pandemic? I’m thinking more from a stylistic standpoint, here. 

Rogan: I’m extremely grateful for that review. You spoke for the work in ways I’m not sure I could. It still means a lot to me. Much of Demolition was tied to my first trying out the prose poem form. I was discovering my own voice within it. I look back and know poems I was unsure in, though that can work out to great effect. I have more confidence in the new work, more ease with some of the boundaries of the form but also in breaking rules. I’m playing with tense in the same poem and writing more in second person; though there’s a certain amount of that in Demolition. There are a couple poems in Demolition that hint at the shifting style. “Kitchen Help, West Egg” is one of them. “Withers Street” is another. Those Brooklyn poems. You and I have talked a little about this right after the chapbook came out. In certain pieces, I deliberately got away from compression. I’ve mostly stopped doing that.

Eric: Who are some of your favorite writers? Do you find inspiration from authors in other genres, such as fiction, creative nonfiction, or drama?

Rogan: Lydia Davis, Nick Flynn, Deborah Garrison are earlier influences. And it’s wild, because I was able to publish Lydia with our Star Bassoon project. I got to read with Deb Garrison back in October. And we’re publishing three Nick Flynn poems for Poetry Month at Night Heron. Arisa White is a poet whose work has been a more recent influence. She bends genre and I find her work so affecting.

I do find inspiration from other places. Work in the associative essay style, Chris Pureka’s songwriting, I loved the depth of wordplay in Hamilton, those sonic elements amidst all that narrative. Bojana Novakovic had an improv performance piece she did called The Blind Date Project. Even though it was unscripted, I found the energy and heart of it inspiring. You can still find clips of it online. I had a chance to experience it live at Alan Cummings’ club in NYC. You should be altered by a poem after reading it. That’s art’s charge. It’s the same for a play or song or photograph. I’m here for all of that every day. 

Eric: Tell us more about your journal Ran Off With the Star Bassoon. It’s a recent undertaking for you and different from The Night Heron Barks.

Rogan: It is. It’s most of the same team. We’d talked about a prose wing but I wanted to be unshackled from the constraints of what we designed but also promised at Night Heron. I really admire a number of the journals that focus on flash work but they seem so sure they know the difference between short prose and poetry. I’m less sure. Sometimes form and genre are essential to the work and part of the artistry. But often I think these things are more the design of marketing or even our need to label something so as to be comfortable with it. It’s a space where we say no traditional lined poems. It’s a space for flash and micro prose and the prose poem. I think the quality of what we published in the first session was outrageous. I’m really proud of what we did there. We’ll see how the team is feeling, but I hope to open again end of summer.

Eric: As poets, we have different intersections that inform our writing or show up in our writing. For me, some of my intersections include food, current events, family life, and art. Can you speak to some of the intersections that inform your poetry?

Rogan: Transportation. There’s often a car or a train. Food, film, art, music, romantic love. Two people on a train. A sandwich between them.


Rogan Kelly’s poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Diode, New Orleans Review, The Penn Review, among other notable journals. He is the author of ‘Demolition in the Tropics’ (Seven Kitchens Press 2019). He has a second literary journal project, Ran Off With the Star Bassoon. He is also the web designer of the literary magazine and press, RUBY. Follow Rogan on Instagram and Twitter: @JerzyPoet. He can also be found at RoganKelly.com





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