Commentary, Interviews, Recent

In Conversation // “The Canyon and the Island”—John C. Morrison & Daniela Naomi Molnar

Two northwest poets talk about freedom, embodiment, emplacement, perception, humor, and sound.

by John C. Morrison | Contributing Writer

Daniela Naomi Molnar and I have been friends for several years as members of a poetry book reading group. When Daniela recently published CHORUS, the winner of the Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Prize, and a book that Kazim Ali described as a “lyric wail stunned into awakening by crises both planetary and personal,” I was struck by her profound accomplishment. A fascinating, stunning work, CHORUS was composed largely in a cascade of creativity during a visual arts residency at Ojito Canyon in New Mexico. My most recent book, Monkey Island, was the work of several years, and came out in the heart of the pandemic from redbat books as part of their Pacific Northwest Writers Series. Our conversation explored our differing starting points, and the curiosity of how our so different forms and processes contend with overlapping concerns, such as emplacement and perception. 

John C. Morrison (JCM): In your book CHORUS, the canyon is both a place and a central metaphor framed by the other two sections. Not to take away anything from the other two sections, but the canyon is where most of the book’s heavy lifting brings your work to light. I love the paradox: in a literal canyon is where so little of the light shines. I’m also fascinated by the name of the canyon, Ojito, which you translate for us as “little eye,” and in Ojito there is composition in the moment, and observation, and observing yourself as the observer. Does that description resonate with you?

Daniela Molnar (DNM): Absolutely. The heart of the book occurs in the canyon which is both a metaphor and an actual place. The speaker experiences the canyon metaphorically as an inlet of consciousness, a pocket of time, and as a deep opening in the skin of the earth which the sun and the moon move across like threads of light sewing a slow seam. But the canyon is also an actual place and this book felt written by the place, or at least in close collaboration with it. I don’t feel like it was a capital “I” who wrote the book. I think I was in the right moment in my life to be an effective conduit for the voices of the place. 

The other sections of the book orient the reader to the fact that the speaker is a visitor to the canyon and has limited time here. This book was written almost entirely in one month, from mid October to mid November 2020, which was obviously a really intense time politically, socially, and culturally. Being in this remote canyon at that time was a respite, a safe cove away from so much worldly turmoil. The COVID epidemic was, of course, raging worldwide. Portland was also experiencing additional upheaval: wildfires had recently devastated nearby forests, blanketing the city in unbreathable smoke and turning beloved forests and rural communities to ash. Protests were ongoing downtown, which brought the near-constant din of police and military helicopters along with flash bangs and heavily armed military police. The protests also brought long lines of Trump trucks that stretched for miles, wreaking havoc on transportation and drumming up more conflict. Houselessness was (and still is) an ongoing, visible crisis. And just in case all this isn’t enough, it was cold and rainy and gray, as it is in Portland at that time of year. So the speaker leaves all this and lands in the safe haven of the canyon, which is a very dramatic contrast to what was temporarily left behind. 

JCM: Right. The canyon is a genuine sanctuary where, among other things, the chances of you getting COVID were much lower than mine, in the city. I also see the canyon operating as a central image in CHORUS 31:

a canyon
is a type of tear
made into a seam by
sun’s bright thread
moon’s lucent thread

You follow that metaphor through the section and as you’re getting ready to leave the canyon, you take stock, like “how did it take me this long to figure this out?” Then, in CHORUS 32, in a goodbye poem to the canyon, the speaker makes some bold statements about how the place and the light have taught the speaker how to feel again. CHORUS 32 also says, “Emplacement is erotic. / Not-self, self: we become / what we can’t recover from.” Like some kind of philosophical syllogism, the emplacement has proved we become what we can’t recover from. These are really bold statements, “to recover is, at least in part, to conceal.”

You were consolidating important lessons learned, and a genuine realization, recognition. You end the poem with “I’m warmed and full lit/when I turn a hard left, west, heading home.” Did you get enough of what you needed from the canyon?

DNM: I hadn’t actually thought about the fact that there are a lot of assertions of belief in that poem, but thank you for that observation—indeed, there are. I arrived in the canyon completely shattered. I had been broken not just by the cultural, political, social, and ecological turmoil, but also by events in my own life. I didn’t even realize how shattered I was until I arrived there and it was suddenly clear to me that my sense of identity had been seriously damaged. I didn’t have any clear sense of who I was. That’s a deeply uncomfortable state to be in but it’s also a very receptive state. Being in the canyon allowed me to be in that state of not-knowing safely. The “not-self” comes up a lot in the book, which among other things, is a sort of negative capability: a capacity to welcome everything and to not need to identify or name or control or even understand it. The assertions that the speaker arrives at are gifts given by the canyon, learned by being a receptive conduit. 

JCM: So, as you describe it, you’re trying to get, at some level, to your own identity, which had been so broken to foundations as to be erased, or wiped clean. You weren’t really sure what to hold on to. The canyon allows for, or lays the groundwork for, all this possibility. And even if you could have done it somewhere else, in the mountains, or seashore or tundra, the canyon serves as a sort of a ritual space for you.

DNM: Yes, exactly. I was completely immersed in the life of the canyon, and also aware that I was creating the canyon, because that is what we do—we make the world up. We are where and what we notice, and what we notice is extremely subjective. I mean, it’s creepy. It’s strange. And it’s also a process that is constantly occurring and because we cannot witness ourselves doing it, it goes mostly unnoticed. This is an ongoing fascination of mine around which the book circles. If we’re constantly making up the world and ourselves, where are the edges of the self? Where do we begin and end, and where do our ethical commitments begin and end? 

We often think of our “self” as ending at the edge of our skin, a neat contained consciousness. But if I look out to the canyon’s edge, my consciousness extends to that edge, a mile or two away. And if I look up to the moon, my consciousness extends to encompass spatial and temporal distances that I can’t even comprehend. This book is fascinated by that daily mystery, the ways we translate the “imaginal” — the external world, whatever that means — to the “imaginary” — the internal world which we think of as the “self.” 

So I was really fully in the canyon. And I was also simultaneously aware of how I was inevitably creating the place through my perceptual orientation to it, a process which is only very partially under my control. 

And all this makes me think of Monkey Island. There’s so much emplacement in your book, as well. But unlike my book, your places often shuffle really quickly between the imaginal and the imaginary—between a world that seems “real”—and a fantastical world that seems to exist in the speaker’s imagination. Like in the first poem, “My father the gorilla,” you write, “He’d chase my cousins and me / around the year with a rolling, knuckle-running gait, whooping and tipping over baby hippos, and stuttering, You bad monkeys.” So at first we’re in a jungle, and then we’re suddenly, somehow in what seems like a suburban yard. There’s no warning, we just telescope rapidly from one to the next, which makes for a big, fun swerve. And in the poem that begins, “After the heist,” we move from the Zumwalt Prairie in rural eastern Oregon to New York City and back, all in the space of a few lines. There are also a bunch of poems that take place in the speaker’s childhood home, which I know for you is northern California farmland, but those poems, too, swerve between memories and impressions of place. Can you talk about how real and imagined places shaped this book?

JCM: We both have this obsessive love of place. I love where I grew up. I love my childhood and where I first gained consciousness, a landscape of rocks and creeks and oak trees. I also recognize that place for me can be limiting, unless what happens for you in Ojito Canyon, where place becomes incorporated into the body and, crucially, metaphor. I often reject poems that are just gorgeous descriptions of place or the natural world, because they remain a description, often bereft of feel or tone. So, when I invoke place in my poetry, I want to think I’m also traveling in line with the metaphor, and wanting the place to give rise to something yet undiscovered.

DNM: I see that, in a poem such as the one beginning, “Last fall, on our way / to a funeral,” where the speaker is traveling with a sister on back roads out in a delta grassland landscape. They come across a wind farm, which the speaker sees as “splay-handed giants.” I see how the mortality sneaks in, and the speaker of the poem wants out, or at least a comfort, so he creates one:

a long crisp track into the mountains and a railroad

to run like a model train past
the giants’ feet with a cheery clickety-clack
and passengers with bright faces
to wave from the windows
and assure me my time had yet to come.

JCM: Exactly, I don’t want to be stuck in a place. Is that how you work? In reading your poems I know how you will move in one page from a memory back to what is happening at the desk right now, and onto a fragment of a geology text. You do the whole range.

DNM: Yes, I believe in leaping to keep things alive, because that is how consciousness works. Our thoughts don’t move linearly, which means that time and space are connected, through us, in unpredictable and mysterious ways. We all contain a beautiful webwork mishmash of time, space, and place. 

JCM: I mean, I hoped I was writing something surprising and an adventure. And it’s like a game, to begin in one place and hope to be propelled, in a natural way, to end up as far away as you can. 

DNM: Yes, your poems are playful! And the movement within them feels natural, as in embodied and beyond logical control. I get the feeling, in your book, that the writer is having a lot of fun moving through time and space in each poem. I also get the sense that this movement is a crucial aspect of your poetics.

JCM: Well, I hate saying it, but I do want time to be mythic, and that the strange and startling can happen. This is why I’m fascinated by what happens in your book. The canyon creates a sustained trance. Even for the many ways our books are different, that trance might be the distinct overlap. Both books are seeking a freedom through an embodiment of place.

DNM: Yes, that is true, and well said. But I think your book is more playful in the way it approaches this sustained trance of embodied emplacement, which is something I admire. Even in the poems that touch on difficult themes, there is an amiable mischievousness lent by the swift time travel and the semi-real, semi-fantastical creatures who populate your poems. 

My version of embodied emplacement also involves a lot of zooming around, and I intentionally don’t try to control that or rein that in. But my zooming tends towards shifts in diction and styles of thinking or feeling rather than shifts into fantasy worlds. I’ll move without warning from the philosophical to the scientific to the intuitive. Where for you, there’s a consistent, solid base of beautifully detailed sensory imagery, even when we’re in a fantastical narrative.

JCM: Think about the poets you admire. They surprise. The poem’s raison d’ etre is to see what can or is about to happen. Monkey Island was written over several years, and a number of poems had their own lives in journals. Your poems, written in about a month’s time, could have gone to journals, but the turnaround time just wasn’t there. CHORUS was born and lives as a whole.

And the poems build you up, help you rebuild, and gather power. My book might do some of the same work, but more in discrete moments. A genuine power of CHORUS is concentration without second-guessing. Believe me, over the course of years, there’s a lot of time for second-guessing.

I can imagine you in week two of writing thinking, “oh, I am really in a flow, an electric current I have to follow.” If I’m lucky, I get up in the morning, and I might get lucky and find that current. But it can be trouble because I don’t want to record the everyday.

DNM: I wasn’t planning on writing this book. I was invited to the artist residency in this canyon primarily as a visual artist. And I did make some paintings and a lot of cyanotypes. But I came here, and yeah, you’re right, within about a week, I was like, “oh, okay, there’s a thing happening here, and I need to follow it.” And I wasn’t second guessing myself, which is very unlike me. But there was just a whole lot coming through me, so much so that it felt like I wasn’t exactly writing but transcribing others’ voices—other writers—but also the many other-than-human voices of the canyon. It felt clear to me that my role was to allow as much not-self in as possible, which ended up allowing me to begin to reconstruct a self. But the reconstruction of a self wasn’t my goal. I wasn’t interested in figuring out who “I” was. I’m still not very interested in that goal. The goal was just to let in as much as I possibly could. In doing so, the book sort of wrote itself. 

I’ve seen several books come out recently that I would characterize as “pandemic books,” not to cheapen any book, my own included, by that easy label. But the time at which CHORUS was written was an intensive moment for everyone, a moment of increased awareness of our simultaneous isolation and interdependence. The question of where one begins and ends became acutely important at that time.

JCM: First, it’s perfect that CHORUS came out of playing a writer’s hooky to your obligations at a visual arts residency. It’s like being in a double-secret allowed you to be open, including to the voices that begin the book and thread through. There’s the underlying grief or trauma and then there’s the acceptance in the canyon which brings on the torrent that transcribes the book.

DNM: That’s a funny thought, that maybe because I was sort of in hiding as a writer, I was invisible enough that the voices didn’t notice that they were moving through me, huddled at my dark, pre-dawn desk, dressed in black.

I want to return to the playful swerving in Monkey Island, which is maybe part of how you allow a place to become a metaphor. The swerve isn’t just between places and times, but also tonal swerves from very-serious to semi-silly and back again. We can move from a devastating image to being suddenly in a joke. I admire this tonal range—it’s so hard to do. It’s especially difficult to incorporate humor that doesn’t feel forced or fall flat. I’m curious if you actively incorporate humor. Do you have a notebook of funny things? How does it happen?

JCM: Well, I wish I were funnier. On my bookshelf is a goofy, fun McSweeney’s book, Comedy by the Numbers, by Hoffman and Rudoren. It was no help at all. I don’t have a good answer. If you say there’s funny moments I believe you, but only one poem in there made me laugh. “We’ve been together all night,” where they push God off the ferry.

DNM: That poem is really funny.

JCM: It’s literally from a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night and sketched it down, which never happens to me, yukking as I went. The rare gift poem, written in a semi-dream state.

DNM: So the funny just happens to you, enters the poems because that’s just who you are?

JCM: It’s nothing I aim to do but I welcome. 

DNM: I’m glad you welcome it. I love it. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book, which is such a gift. There’s also plenty of stuff that made my heart hurt, which is also important. And then there’s the fantastical stuff like in “Monkeys always argue their favorite color,” which is not exactly a joke, but it’s otherworldly and strange and full of pathos, which makes for an ambiguous tone that’s somewhere between joke and heart-hurt. 

JCM: The monkey section came in the long composition of this book. An earlier title of the manuscript was “King of Monkey Island,” from another poem in the book, “A mile from the slough, sawgrass” where the speaker and his friends, high school age, visit this chimp chained in the front yard of a cold house set off by itself in the wasteland of the slough. All true. The speaker and his friends start thinking of freeing the chimp, but then what? Send him to the conical concrete exhibit surrounded by a moat at the San Francisco Zoo where they keep the monkeys so he can be the King of Monkey Island? That’s still the Zoo. So I started writing short pieces about these monkeys, on an island, and what might occur there. I also figured, no one else will write monkey poems.

DNM: That poem about the chained monkey was painful to read—and I admire the poem. It does the work poetry aims to do, eliciting deep feelings that can change the reader. Thank you for that poem. I think of it as the quiet center of gravity of the book, surrounded by the funny, strange images and stories that are linked to, spin out from, and cushion this core.  

Here’s a direct question. Did you grow up in a religious household?

JCM: I was raised Roman Catholic.

DNM: I’m not surprised. There’s a lot of capital “g” God in this book, and the Devil, and a reckoning with faith, and then there’s a lot of monkeys. Can you talk about God and the Devil and monkeys and the ways they relate?

JCM: I think a world freed of God and Devil would be a lot like what we see on Monkey Island. At one time in the writing, I think there was a cat god, but she couldn’t have been much of a god, because she couldn’t even survive revision.

Those monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees, our cousin simians, we’re awfully close to them. And I bet they’d be some great friends. 

Let me ask, you took a hurt into the canyon, and there’s moments of trauma around your grandmothers, both of whom survived Auschwitz, and your grandfathers, who survived other concentration camps, and your friend Christine, who ended her own life, and your own difficult relationships. Your grandmothers and Christine carry the greatest weight. My sense is, you’re able to touch on the traumatic in one poem, to the extent you can, and then not return to it for another, say, eight poems, an almost parallel of the healing process. That’s how we contend with the big things: we can neither digest nor hurt all at once. It’s a kind of stitching, and I’m in awe of the “stitching” or “pleating” metaphor you employ throughout the sequence. Was that a conscious technique to, in a way, sew up your own wounds?

DNM: I was and wasn’t aware of the way the metaphor was working on me to, as you put it so beautifully, sew what needed mending. All of my grandparents sewed as tailors and seamstresses. I didn’t even know that was a presence in my subconscious until it appeared on the page and kept reappearing. I also didn’t know the extent of my grief in response to Christine’s recent suicide. Christine and I grew up together. Her house was two doors down from mine and our mothers were close friends. Obviously, I knew I was upset and sad about her death, but I didn’t know the depth of the grief and what her death and her life brought up for me about my own life. 

I very rarely—in art or life—know what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I’ve come to accept that that’s the case. It’s only when I look back at old journals or paintings or poems from six months ago or six years ago that I’ll sometimes understand what was going on. I think that is one of the primary skills an artist must hone: the capacity to move towards the unknown, to walk dumbly into the dark because you feel compelled to do so. It makes no sense. You know it makes no sense. But you keep walking, feeling your way forward, driven by something more powerful than logic.

When I got back to Portland in late November 2020, I wrote a few more poems and then I started editing the manuscript. It was only at that point that I understood more, far more, than I had when I was writing. With that hindsight, I edited feverishly for several months and finished the manuscript in March 2021. 

I think the not-knowing is also partly a product of the way this book was written. A lot of my first drafts were written almost entirely by ear. I would reach a point at which I didn’t know what came next and then I’d pick up one of the six or seven books lying open on my desk and read until I found a phrase or word that interested me. I’d write it down in my journal and continue to write from there. Usually, without planning it, rather than an intellectual connection, the word or the phrase would have a sonic link to what came before. 

Sound is one of the primary ways poetry seduces us and then keeps us in the moment while we’re reading the poem. The poem is an experience largely because of how its sounds turn its reader’s body into an instrument. The poem sings you, drums you, sounds you out. I see you using poetic sound very beautifully and deliberately in your book. Some poems feel almost entirely composed by sound. Is that true? Are you writing some of these poems mostly by sound?

JCM: Before I answer, I first want to thank you for the courage of your answer, and for the courage you show in CHORUS. At an early point, in “CHORUS 13,” you say, “The ghosts live me,” a premonition of sorts before the ghosts visit you. You cast back to your grandmother and the voice of the Kaddish you reference later. These poems illustrate your ritual practices, same hour of waking, same walks, same reaching for another text, as a way of staying in the creative trance. 

Now, about your question, I’m excited when poets write by line instead of sentence. To write to the sentence means you’re beholden to grammar and the larger syntax and you tend toward a narrative poem. I’m trying to write in both lines and sentences. Writing by line detaches you from the sweet pull and gravity of the period, and you keep yourself in each line for a longer time. You then can hear how the sounds are working together. When I’m working well, I literally compose out loud as I write on the page and that’s how the sound enters the poetry. That’s also why I can’t write in coffeeshops without people staring.

DNM: This makes sense, yes. Let’s open a coffeeshop where poets can talk to themselves in solidarity. I want to hear that din. In CHORUS, I’m writing in lines and in sentences often in the same poem. Parts are almost more prose than poem, and then I’m back to writing by line. This wasn’t intentional but it’s what happened because at times, I had more to say than could fit into a lyric line, so it became a paragraph. I wouldn’t have allowed myself this formal variation had I been in a typical state of questioning my own choices. 

One of my enduring poetic influences is The Lice by W. S. Merwin, his first book in which he completely abandoned punctuation. In describing this decision, he talks about the period as a nail that pins the sentence to the page. He didn’t want nails, he wanted free-floating music. So he eschewed all punctuation, making the line his primary unit of phrasing.

JCM: Right, he said he was writing music. For me, a central paradox of CHORUS is its superlative balance, both formally and in what the speaker comes to inhabit. Here’s the paradox: the book arrives at that wholeness through an exploration of disparate fragments. Did you eschew any single form, like you could no more settle on one form than on a singular consciousness?

DNM: Formally, the book is all over the place! The forms move around a lot more when I’m in the canyon because of all the disparate voices I was channeling. The forms also incorporate big chunks of blank space. Another key influence for me is Jorie Graham, who talks about the blank page as a sort of silence. When you write a poem, when you put words on a page, you are breaking the silence. I’m in love with silence, maybe even more than language. So, I tried to retain a lot of space on the page, spaces that I think of as vital silences. 

But despite the formal experimentation in the book, I was actually really trying to make this book a little less formally weird than my previous book, which is unpublished and probably unpublishable. The poems are visual poems that would be very expensive to publish correctly. So I was trying to contain myself. 

But I’m curious about the form of your book. While the form of each poem is fairly quiet, the overall form of the book is interesting. You have a section title and then several poems without titles. I’m curious how you arrived at this. Did each poem have titles at some point?

JCM: They all did have titles. Well, while we’re on the subject of unpublishable, when you send a poem to a journal you have a title. And I believe in titles. I love them. But this manuscript was with me for so long I really got bored of the titles. And I wasn’t sure what they were doing anyway. A book isn’t a journal. It’s not a reading. The truth is, Ed Skoog’s great book Rough Day has no titles. I stole the format from him and if you steal you should make it worthwhile. Stripping the titles helped me see the book as a book. 

DNM: Is the title to the poem analogous to what a period is to a sentence, too containing?

JCM: Maybe, but titles are—this has to have been said by so many people—are like handles on luggage. It’s how you transport or move a poem from place to place. I’m taking this to a reading, to a journal, I’m moving into this file, into this manuscript. You gotta have a handle. 

DNM: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that before. And it makes good sense. I’m terrible at titles. My art has the flimsiest of handles! You can see every poem in the book has the same title.

JCM: I considered that a very deft solution to a troublesome problem.

DNM: Well, it’s probably a copout—but thank you. I love the title structure of your book. Nice stealing. It might have been a way for you to finesse the work into a kind of cohesion, but it feels very elegant to me. It lets me consider the book in sections. The poems in each section are connected, but not thematically repetitive. Each section is like a little play in several acts.

On the topic of titles, I just learned the troubling story of Ojito Canyon’s name yesterday. I picked up a few old geology books that the little library in the canyon was getting rid of when I was writing the book. Their beguiling, complicated language found its way into the poems. On their maps of the area from the 1930s, the canyon is labeled as “Ojito Canyon.” I haven’t seen this label on any contemporary map, nor is it how locals refer to the place. But I loved the name so much, I decided to use it. Yesterday, my dear friend, the artist Nina Elder, a lifelong New Mexican and a talented and tenacious researcher, told me that the reason the canyon is no longer referred to as Ojito is because it was renamed by Los Alamos, the lab just to the north of the canyon where the atomic bomb was developed. The watershed formerly known as the Ojito was poisoned by the lab’s radioactive research. This poisoning was documented in local records according to the region’s then-name, Ojito. By renaming the watershed, the lab made it far more difficult for people in the region to claim damages or pursue legal action. They basically sought to eradicate the existence of the watershed by eradicating its name. It was fractured into smaller units with new names. The memory of the old name is now essentially lost. 

JCM: Well, maps and their kin are another stitch through the book. Had you not met that map in the early going, maybe you wouldn’t have had a book.

DNM: Possible. It comes back to what we were saying about titles. A name or title is a boundary. It draws a line around a thing, establishes an edge, which might be all that delineates its existence or non-existence. 

It’s so interesting to me that the process of making the poems into a book involved removing the names of the poems. You had to strip the individual poems of their names in order to unify them, give them a shared identity, which they readily assumed. The section names are sort of like place names, like each is a town, or an island, or a canyon. The poems live in this place you’ve created for them. One especially cohesive section, a place that feels very much like a singular place, is “Where I Walk.” Can you talk about this part of the book?

JCM: I think the elegiac tone holds those poems together. There’s an elegy for the wind where I grew up, poems for friends, a sound poem for the twilight. In the poem for Peter Sears, which feels a bit like some of his poems, I wonder if everybody has their own version of the dark. When I close my eyes, is it different from what you see? Literally our darks should be the same, total absence of light, but mine seems really grainy, like a black gravel. When you go to bed tonight, close your eyes and see what you see.

DNM: I shall do so, thank you. That reminds me of a Rosmarie Waldrop passage I love: “And we must close our eyes to conceive of heaven. The inside of the lid is fertile in images unprovoked by experience, or perhaps its pressure on the eyeball equals prayer.” 

Your invitation to see the internal dark also touches on a central obsession of CHORUS that we talked about earlier, the ways our perceptions actually create the world. The dark we see when we close our eyes is impossible to share entirely. I could write, talk, or paint it but I will always be using some form of language to draw a general boundary around the idea of “dark.” But the actual place, the sensory experience of it, will always be something entirely specific to the loose conglomeration of cells called “me.” Language is all we have, but it’s insufficient. My dark is ultimately only mine, and it is probably pretty different from your dark. I find that both a profoundly terrifying and alienating fact and also maybe what we’re here to do. Pay attention to and try to share our own dark.

JCM: And I also think for a moment if you write the poem well enough, what you say is true, it can’t be the same but for a moment, paradoxically, the listener can share the same dark or think they are. They might say, “oh, that’s the dark we’re talking about.” And I do agree that’s what we’re here for.

DNM: Yes, poetry can approach that confluence, which is one of many reasons I love poetry.

Daniela Naomi Molnar is an artist, poet, and writer collaborating with the mediums of language, image, paint, pigment, and place. She is also a wilderness guide, educator, and eternal student. Her book CHORUS was selected by Kazim Ali as the winner of Omnidawn Press’ 1st/2nd Book Award. Her work is the subject of a front-page feature in the Los Angeles Times, an Oregon Art Beat profile, an entry in the Oregon Encyclopedia, a feature in Poetry Daily, and has been recognized by numerous grants, fellowships, and residencies. Her next book, Light / Remains, is a hybrid of poetry, essay, and art, out in 2025 from Bored Wolves Press. She maintains a studio in Portland, Oregon but her work often occurs outdoors, in collaboration with global public lands and wildlands. A 3G Jew and the daughter of immigrants, she is a diasporic student of the earth. / Instagram: @daniela_naomi_molnar

John C. Morrison has published two books of poetry. Heaven of the Moment, from Cloudbank Books, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Poetry. Most recently, Monkey Island was published by redbat books. He is a recipient of the C. Hamilton Bailey Fellowship from Literary Arts, and his poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry East, Rhino, and the Cimarron Review, among other journals. He teaches as an associate fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters.