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Flapper Press Poetry Café Welcomes Catherine Buercklin to Discuss the Art of Collaboration

Updated: Sep 2

By Annie Newcomer:



The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets from around the world. This week, we highlight the work of Catherine Buercklin.


Catherine Buercklin is a contemporary poet who enjoys collaborating with other writers and artists. She’s a sucker for anything covered in chocolate and refuses to choose sides in the coffee vs. tea debate, as she loves them both equally. She feels most at home sitting outside watching birds and imagining what it’s like to live under a mushroom. She lives in central Arkansas with her banjo-lovin’ husband, Aaron, and her feisty but lovable cat, Winnifred. You can purchase her book of poems, A [Social] Distance: Poetry and Prose in the Time of a Pandemic, on her website.


Instagram: @curlygirlpoetry

Website: curlygirlpoetry.com


Meet Catherine Buercklin!

 

Catherine Buercklin

AN: Welcome to the Flapper Press Poetry Café, Catherine. Thank you for submitting such an excellent and diverse sampling of your poetry, with wonderful backstories to your poems. How I found you was through your poem "Parenthesis," which I loved when I read it in eMerge, a publication compiled from the works of writers who have completed residencies at The Writers' Colony in Arkansas. Please share a little about your experience at The Writers' Colony and why you feel workshops and residencies are important for a poet's development.

CB: I’m honored to have my poems in the Flapper Press family! I have not yet done a residency at The Writers' Colony, but I plan on staying this fall. That said, I truly believe in creating a space to be intentional in your writing, whether that means finding space in your mind (making room for thinking about what you want to write/what you want your next project to be) or finding a physical space to work on your craft. Places like The Writers' Colony make that possible because they provide support and resources on top of a beautiful space to explore your next project.


AN: In your bio, you mentioned that you enjoy collaborating with other poets and artists. Can you share with our readers why you enjoy the collaborative process and expound a little more on what "collaboration" looks like for you? The reason I ask is that I have written some collaborative poems with poets, and I loved creating with another. While this exercise is a huge challenge, our final product tended to be unlike anything I had ever written before, and this was exciting.


CB: Collaboration has looked different each time I’ve done it, haha. And I agree, the final products have been really awesome! I wrote my first book of poetry during the height of the COVID pandemic, and I kept seeing people share blips of their experience on social media. I wanted the book to end on an uplifting note while also leaving space for ALL the mixed emotions we felt after a year of uncertainty. I took to my Instagram and Facebook pages and asked my friends/followers to describe their experience during 2020. I weaved all of their responses together and made it the last poem of the book and put everyone’s name who contributed after the poem. It's one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done.


AN: Who are/were your mentors, and how did you come to poetry?


CB: I came to poetry when I was in my early teens. I loved writing, and I had a LOT of feelings, so poetry came naturally. In high school, I fell in love with Emily Dickinson’s poems. Then we read Maya Angelou, and I could hear her voice in every poem she wrote. That’s so powerful to me; when you read something and you instantly know who wrote it. In college, I branched out to more contemporary work. Mary Oliver, to this day, is still one of my favorite poets. What struck me most about all these women writers was their honesty—things in this world can be beautiful, but they can also hurt, like a wound that’s in the middle of healing. On the other side is this strange sense of hope, and I wanted to write like that. My current mentor/consultant is Andrea Hollander. She lives in the Northwest now, but she was the Writer-In-Residence at Lyon College when I was a student there. I took a class of hers, and I enjoyed the way she taught the art of writing poetry—it’s not something that happens with no work, you still have to mold the words you write no matter how serendipitous the muse may be.


AN: Do you select your writing subjects from your heart or from your mind? By this I mean, do you wait to be moved emotionally to write a poem or are you mindful and disciplined intellectually when you write?


CB: I’m absolutely heart-led. Everything I do, say, or think comes straight from the heart; so yes, most things come to me and move me to write about them. Then I’ll let it sit for a few days if I feel like there needs to be more or if the poem is missing something. That’s when I’m a little more disciplined and mindful about the words I use. The questions I always ask myself to help with this are: Is there a synonym for this word that would fit better and have a bigger impact on the person reading it? What is the poem trying to say? And is the message clear? My mentor, Andrea Hollander, told me that the poems that do best with most readers have little to no abstract language, and that helped me realize when I’m trying too hard or trying to pull out literary tricks; it’s probably better to walk away and come back another day.


AN: Do you spend a lot of time editing your work? When do you "know" that your poem is finished?


CB: I think it’s a lot like eating a meal: sometimes you overeat and you think, Ugh, this doesn’t feel good/natural—sometimes I stuff a poem so much that once I come back to it, I think, Okay, let’s take it one bite at a time now. There’s normally a sweet spot, when I’m satiated and I come to a point where I’m comfortable with what I’ve said. Oftentimes, there’s nothing left to say. When all of those thoughts and edits align, that’s when I know the poem is “done.”

AN: Thank you so much for joining us here at the Flapper Press Poetry Café as we endeavor to bring poetry to a larger audience. Now let's take time to look at some of your lovely poems.


CB: Thank you! Happy reading.


 

I know very little about astrology, but I've always felt in tune with the moon and the phases of planets and stars. There are certain times of the month I get overwhelmed with emotion, and I often think my life has run off course. I find it funny that everyone blames that kind of stuff on Mercury being in retrograde, but I also think maybe there's a bit of truth to that. I wrote this poem as a way to remind myself that I'm right where I need to be in this moment, no matter what the planets are up to.


Retrograde


I’ve cried four times today


already


I trace the lunar calendar

with trembling fingers

see the waxing crescent


but I know this isn’t

celestial meddling

and rather a worldly worry

that I’ve missed my moment


again


the sun and the earth

on opposite sides of the moon

a slow and steady pull


a dance none of us

can ever really master

 

I wrote my first book of poetry, A [Social] Distance, throughout 2020. I realized a lot of the poems in the book had parentheses in them, and I wanted to explore why I felt they were necessary when I wrote the selected poems. I love the idea that, as we speak it, our words and the message we want to convey evolves. I wanted to bring those subtle changes to a poem on a page, something that is more permanent, but add a kind of grace for the afterthoughts I had while writing and thank parentheses for existing as a tool for writers to use.


Ode to Parentheses


My words

cupped in your

soft hands.

Suspended

in anticipation

of an exclamation

I am frightened

to put in fully

fleshed ink.

Holder of all

unuttered phrases.

Your sides

glide in and out

as forgiving as a womb.

Amenable.

Open ended

in your rather

precarious nature.

You anchor me

in your fluidity.


 

My grandmother had a beautiful garden that I was enamored with as a child. She passed away from ovarian cancer when I was 12, and it was really difficult for all of us. Their home was so whimsical to me: they had a front room with a piano in it and a sunroom in the back where we spent every morning when we visited them. One of the things I loved most about her was how attentive and devoted she was at creating a beautiful garden. Her garden was a little oasis. It's hard to know what your relationship with someone would look like in the present after they've been gone for so many years, and even harder to explain it in a way that perfectly sums up the exact feelings and sensations you experienced while they were still here. All you can do is reflect on the love you had and the memories you shared with them.


All the Things I Can’t Explain

How could I explain

the type of

still magic

that defined you.

It lingered

in the air

after you read

the morning paper

like dust floating

in and out of your room

in the early sunlight.

Subdued as snow.

Time would slow

down to a whisper;

that’s when I fell in love

with the romance of

tending to a garden.

Everyone asleep

or bustling about

in the backrooms

of your perfect home.

And you were out there

breathing sweet secrets

to the lilies.

Some days, I swore

I heard them

whisper back.

A subtle language

I could never hope to speak.


 

It's overwhelming, the grief you can feel for people you don't even know after a mass shooting. The sadness that creeps in when you feel like you can't do anything for those who lost a loved one. The anger toward government officials for not working together to pass common-sense gun laws. I heard a report from a doctor who was working when the children from Uvalde came into the hospital. The scene he described turned my stomach, and all I could think about was what we tell people when they are scared. How we soothe children with lullabies, how we make plans for the future, knowing that sometimes those plans will never be realized. That we can't let go of hope, but we have to create pathways for change. We can't be complacent, because we are the voice, the hands, and the feet for the most vulnerable among us.

After Buffalo and Uvalde


We dust off old

lullabies so our babies

don’t cry.

Tell our grandmothers

Everything is all right.

I’ll go to the store for you,

get milk for the morning,

salt for your wounds.

Maybe all of this

will be over soon.

I’ll buy some seeds:

Poppies, aster, chicory.

I’ll pick a place in your yard

Pluck out the weeds.

Don’t shift your body

I know it’s been hard.

You don’t have to be frightened

or make one more decision

I’ll do the heavy lifting.

We’ll graft the skin

of this world

back together.

Wait for a sign

You go and hide.

I’ll tell you when it’s safe

to come outside.


 

Annie Newcomer teaches poetry classes at the University of Kansas Medical Center's Turning Pointa place for hope and healing for people suffering with chronic health problems. Her North Stars series shares interviews with poets and writers and Annie's own experiences through writing.


Annie is also helms the Flapper Press Poetry Café—dedicated to celebrating poets from around the world and to encouraging everyone to write poetry!


Flapper Press launches the Flapper Press Poetry Café.

Presenting a wide range of poetry with a mission to promote a love and understanding of poetry for all. We welcome submissions for compelling poetry and look forward to publishing and supporting your creative endeavors. Submissions may also be considered for the Pushcart Prize.


Submission Guidelines:

1. Share at least three (3) poems

2. Include a short bio of 50–100 words, written in the third person.

(Plus any website and links.)

3. Share a brief backstory on each submitted poem

4. Submit an Author's photo and any images you want to include with the poems

5. Send all submissions and questions to: info@flapperpress.com

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