As we just barely catch the tail-end of National Poetry Month, we thought it might be a good idea to sit down with Heidi Czerwiec, our current poetry editor to discuss her aims and ideas for the future of the poetry section of the journal. Heidi is a poet, essayist, translator, critic and professor at the University of North Dakota. When Heidi approached her first issue of The North Dakota Quarterly, she didn’t have any submissions to draw from. She states that she “welcomed the opportunity to start from scratch” with that first issue, and when I sat down with her at Archives Coffee house on the UND campus, she stressed very much how important it was and is still to her to include a diverse range of writers and subject matter.
She said that the first issue, 80.1, included mostly models of poems that she was looking for in future issues. Of course, she leaned toward most of her own interests in writing, but also pointed out how interested she has become in less formal poetry. She told me that she is drawn to people who work in traditional, received forms of poetry but that she also has become more recently interested in poets who do really “interesting things with form and structure” in their poems. She listed prose poetry and the lyric essay as two types that she has been drawn to lately. She stated that what she loves most about these two are the intersections of prose and poetry. She also said that she tends to like poets who adapt a form to these intersections, even within their structures. Heidi also mentioned how much she appreciates wordplay in poetry. She looks for writers who “have a terrific ear for the music of language and putting words together.”
Along with being interesting in prose poetry and the lyric essay, Heidi also told me that she is interested in narrative poetry, and how certain writers are able to tell a story within the lines of their poems. Despite the fact that she has been recently drawn to these nontraditional types of poetry, she also has been trying to challenge herself to choose other kinds of poetry as well. While she doesn’t subscribe to any one style or school, what she is trying to promote are well-crafted poems that are playing with the structures of the forms in interesting ways and that have a very musical and playful sense of language.
One of the things she stressed most during our meeting was how interested in these intersections of form, structure, content and language she is, along with the fact that one of her biggest aims is to publish as much diversity in the poems as possible. What one can take away from this sit-down with Heidi is that she intends to make the poetry sections of The North Dakota Quarterly even better than it has been in the past. She intends to do this through diverse writers, forms and subject matter in the poems she chooses to publish.