Kellie Hayden                Stephen Mead                Bruce McRae

Featured Poets 2016

Kellie Hayden

Kellie Hayden - Notes on Coping: Atropa Belladonna

Kellie Hayden - Notes on Coping: Digitalis


Kellie Hayden is an undergraduate in the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Writer’s Workshop, and has just started a year-long senior thesis program in poetry supervised by Lisa Fay Coutley. Her thesis currently focuses on inheritance, or what and how we inherit from our family, as well as social and physical environments. She is serving as the current Editor in Chief of UNO’s literary publication 13th Floor Magazine. Once she graduates she would like to further pursue using collage poetry for social activism.

Kellie says about her winning poems:

I made these three collage poems while I was on antidepressants when I should have been on mood stabilizers—I’m really not sure how else to preface these pieces. It was a terrifying time, and while I’m glad that this work came out of it, I never want to back into the state that created these. I used old educational and medical books, random lit mags from thrif shops, and old National Geographics to find the poetry lines and collage pieces. All medium included is paper, tracing paper, watercolor, and ball point pen.

Kellie Hayden - Notes on Coping: Opium Poppy

How do you define poetry?

The more I think about it, the more I consider "poetry" to be a completely prescriptive term. There are so many wonderful prose poems out there as of late, and poems that increasingly utilize forms like footnotes, headers, or captions as creative devices. One of my friends is currently experimenting with poetry that is completely made of typography symbols, and another is looking into utilizing her written word to promote social activism by adding audible layers of sound that must be played as the poem is read. All of us are changing the very fabric of what can be considered poetry. If I *had* to define poetry, I might consider it to be a form of story telling that is somewhere between the personal distance of a narrative and the emotional closeness with music; you can read a poem and know it is not your story, but you feel it in your core so deeply.


What is an experimental poem (if there is such a thing)?

Traditionally, I'm sure experimental poems would be considered anything that doesn't follow a strict form. "Experimental" now might depend on who a person is. For me, my roots are in collage poetry, or looking at large blocks of text, seeing small chunks of 3 to 5 words that I like the look of or the sound of, pulling them out, mixing them into a pool of cut-outs, then putting them together to see what the result is. So, moving from collage poems to writing free verse has been experimental for me. In my thesis program, I have been encouraged to try to write some work that follows more "traditional" forms as an exercise, which is quite intimidating...I know little to nothing about formal poems. Part of me is 100% fighting the very idea of learning these forms because they can feel especially dishonest when not done well, but another part of me wants to learn them so I can find out how skillfully deconstruct them.


Why do you push against convention in your own work?

Kellie: Part of it is just being stubborn. I really don't like being told what to do. A lot of it is also therapeutic in many ways. This is work where I'm able to lose myself in sounds and what I feel when I hear them, or in letters and what I feel when I look at them, and I don't need to make sense of anything at first. It can be very freeing.


What do you hope to accomplish in your poetry?

This collection of "Notes on Coping" in particular wants to accomplish an understanding of mental health. These three pieces were made when my own mental health was not understood by myself or professionals. I was placed on anti-depressants, when all along I should have been on mood stabilizers (for those that might not know, this is incredibly dangerous). This ended up creating a version of myself that I hope to never be sounds cliche, but it was a very dark place, and it was all-consuming. Especially in more traditional work, mental illness is something that is glamorized, and I'm trying to get away from that. I'm not sure if I even fully succeeded in this, and it might be impossible to succeed because our culture so readily turns mental health into some kind of silly dichotomy of "you're either happy or you're not," but I want these pieces to be a raw look into what illness and improper treatment is like. In my free verse work, I am exploring this idea through what it means to have mental illness as part of your identity. Especially for people who have gone untreated for so long, where does personality end and where does illness begin?


How did you become a writer?  Why?

When I was younger I was *really* into writing stories with animals as protagonists. I also lied a lot to peers in grade school, probably because I hadn't quite learned how to contain story into appropriate contexts. I've bounced around quite a bit in my interests, but sketching, collaging, and writing are the things that have seemed to stick.


Who are your favorite and/or influential poets?

Currently Fady Joudah's "Textu" has been a collection I keep going back to, and has me wanting to get out my old flip phone to try and create poems in a similar way--it's very exciting to see how poetry is so quickly changing to integrate with our technology, and how artists are finding ways to connect through technology as a new way to express the self. Lee Ann Roripaugh's "Dandarians" takes my breath away every time because of her experimental techniques, as well as how much of herself she seems to have put into the work. Brigit Pegeen Kelly's book "Song" is another. Her work is so dense and calculated, but appears so effortless on the page.


What is an impossible thing you would like to do with your poetry?

I think getting someone else to feel the same emotional discovery as I feel through the process of creating a poem would be it. There's a type of discovery particular to the process of creation of a piece that is different from the type of discovery a reader has with a polished piece. That's one thing I like about collage poetry citations--you can read them and piece together those small discoveries of whoever created the work. I think the closest way to have the same emotional experience of the process would be to collaborate on work with others.


Stephen Mead

A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, maker of short-collage films and sound-collage downloads. His latest P.O.D. amazon release is an art-text hybrid, "According to the Order of Nature (We too are Cosmos Made)", a work which takes to task the words which have been used against LGBT folks from time immemorial.  In 2014 he began a webpage to gather links of his poetry being published in such zines as Great Works, Unlikely Stories, Quill & Parchment, etc., in one place:  Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead

Stephen says about the winning poems:

These pieces are a case of light dawning on Marblehead. I have been fascinated by writing and art a good deal of my life. Around 2000 I began seeking publication combining the two in various formats, including, early on, entering text directly on image. It was this year, while working on a new series of montages, that it occurred to me I might be able to obtain greater clarity by uploading/merging PDF files. Sixteen years later and here are some of the results.

Stephen Mead - Tea Strata Cloud


Stephen Mead - Covens Jesus Laughing

Stephen Mead - Singing Scat with Billy

How do you define poetry?

Poetry can be more than words, whether written or spoken, but I always think of it as organic. There is poetry of course in nature, and the geometric outlines of city landscapes.  There is poetry in all the other arts and something which might be considered mundane, but consciously or unconsciously present in itself, even if there is anger or sorrow underneath.  For me, personally, poetry is the means for which I become a conduit, for a voice or voices, not necessarily from my own viewpoint, that can not help but be expressed.

What is an experimental poem (if there is such a thing)?

Stephen: I do believe there is such a thing as an experimental poem, even if it's simple as, say, sitting down with paper or a keyboard and just seeing what happens when you may have words, phrases, images in mind and heart, but are absolutely unsure as to how they will come together, or how to handle it if they don't.  Will this experiment be inaccessible to the reader and, if so, is that the point, or is this a way of using language in a different way yet nevertheless managing to resound?

Why do you push against convention in your own work?

I don't know if I necessarily do.  I mean I hope I am just not trying to be contrary for the sake of contrariness because that would be more about me than the work.  If my work comes across as unconventional that's because the work has told me how it wants to try to be expressed.

What do you hope to accomplish in your poetry?

Emotional communion on some level.

How did you become a writer? Why?

I became a writer (and artist) more by something genetic in my nature.  I discovered that I had this certain urge and perhaps the facility to channel that.  The fact that I continue to create is a decision, a choice, some times against my better judgment, but nevertheless larger than my fear of being rejected, ridiculed or coming across as a foolish ass.


Who are your favorite and/or influential poets?

I am not much of a big name dropper simply because I am horrible with names and read all the time, thus I might really enjoy someone's work I come across in a small zine/site but my mind floats off elsewhere when trying to conjure the name again.  This is nothing personal.  It happens with my own writing where I'll go to revise a poem from a month or more ago, and forgotten what exactly I wrote or how it came together.  Still, when I was a teenager and into my twenties, I was drawn to the "confessional" poets, the bravery of their vulnerability some accused of indulgence, for at least they were writing something of passion and of interest rather than just exercises in being technically proficient.

What is an impossible thing you would like to do with your poetry?

Create global peace, respect and altruism between all life forms!  (This is pretty funny when I consider how often inwardly grouchy and stand-offish I can get.)


Bruce McRae

me in colour.jpg


Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pskis Porch), all also available via Amazon. His video-and-music poems can be viewed on YouTube’s ‘BruceMcRaePoetry’, or the Facebook page for ‘Thee Caretakers’.

Bruce says about his winning work: "The track being featured, ‘The Binoculars of the People’, uses a recording of William Burroughs as he reads from a random selection of cut-ups, a form of freeform poetry he devised by cutting out and arranging found words gleaned from books and newspapers etc. I then rearranged them in my own cut-up fashion over musical bits and pieces that was then also cut and looped. In effect the track is a cut-up using cut-up cut-ups to comment on the art of cut-up poetry. This is performed under the aegis of ‘Thee Caretakers’, a group formed in London that I’ve been a part of since 1980.

Interview with Bruce

How do you define poetry?


Describe orange. How long is a piece of string? This question reminds me of a Zen koan, but I’ll make a stab at it. Poetry is distilled perception converted into words and sounds and images and music.

It’s communication condensed to finer points. A sort of shorthand of the mind. A puzzle to be solved. But in the end, it must be different things to different people in different places at different times.


Why do you push against convention in your work?


The word ‘convention’ seems to imply averageness. And nobody wants to be beige, they strive to be bright yellow, or risk getting lost amongst the blurs and smudges. Not that everything I do jumps the rails, mind you. Sometimes working within limitations tests you and your abilities. However, one needs to push one’s self, to go deeper, farther than you went yesterday and the day before. You have to fall down if you want to get up. And sometimes you’ve just got to go for the gold.


What do you hope to accomplish in your poetry?


Self-satisfaction. Self-gratification. Getting one part of the mind to talk to the other part, to duke it out. To ‘know thyself’. You’d also like to entertain yourself and others, while at the same time examining your life from outside of your life. It also helps to kill some time between disappointments. Some days it’s a hobby. Some days it’s a condition to be suffered.


How did you become a writer, and why?


Why do some people have red hair? They just do. Like it’s their disposition to write poems or run long distances. Before I turned to the harlot poetry I was married to music. I wrote, and still write, a helluva lot of songs, which of course require lyric waffling. As I got older, heaven help us, I toyed with performance poetry, still aching for an audience, and for something to do on those cold and snowy nights. I suppose I wanted to say something, but didn’t want to be found just talking to myself. Talking to yourself isn’t a good sign, so I’d say writing is an exercise promoting good mental health.


What is the impossible thing you would like to achieve with your poetry?


To make a living from poetry! (ha-bloody-ha) But ideally, why not? Lounging about on the divan, eating grapes, petting the cat, watching the sky, the sea, the people, waxing on about this or that and getting paid for my efforts. Sadly, only a very few have done so. Then I’d have to settle for being read widely. That would be swell. But if not ‘impossible’, it’s increasingly unlikely though. Fewer people are reading, or can read well, and poetry is being pushed off the shelves by cookbooks and dragons and vampires. Still, just because you’re crawling in the mud doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the moon.

It’s so enticing.


Who are your favourite/influential poets?


Nobel-prize-winning-Dylan comes to mind, the link between music and poetry an ancient one. Vallejo. Vasko Popa. Kenneth Patchen. Charles Simic. Bukowski. Don Domanski. John Ashbery. Ted Hughes. Neruda. Charles Wright. The Beats. Pound. Plath. Sexton.

A number of central and eastern European writers whose names I can’t recall offhand or spell correctly. I read a wide variety of poems and have just discovered Norman Dubie as well.



Makalani Bandele

Featured Poet, 2015

Makalani Bandele is an Affrilachian Poet and Louisville, KY native. He is the recipient of the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Award and fellowships from Millay Colony, Vermont Studio Center, Kentucky Arts Council, and Cave Canem Foundation. His poems can be read in a wide variety of online and print journals.  Hellfightin’, published by Willow Books in October 2011, is his first full-length volume of poetry.


the essence of time is light documentary

middle choruses: the implied boom (of her)


Interview with Makalani


1) How would you define poetry? 

Defining poetry reminds me of the Western European Imperialist leaders setting up boundaries on the African Continent that eventually gave rise to the carved up mess we know as the modern African states. Birds don't pay a bit of attention to national borders. 

2)  What is the difference between a conventional poem and an experimental one?

The line between conventional and experimental is quite broad, dotted, and blurred. I think what you would find different on one side of the line from the other is the kinds of poetic/literary devices in use, and the prevalence of some devices over others. So, for example, in a conventional poem you would not see much use of "verbing" other parts of speech. You probably wouldn't see much use of non-representational imagery in a conventional poem. By the same token, an experimental poem might make little use of simile or metaphor, at least as it relates to making readily identifiable comparisons. At this point, I feel like if I make any finer distinctions I will just be reflecting my cultural biases.

3)  Why do you push against convention?

I feel like convention started it. I am only pushing back. Before I began exploring more experimental moves and poetic devices I always felt unable to express all the different sides and angles of myself. Opening up to incorporating more experimental moves in my work has made me like a painter that has a wide array of implements beyond brushes and palette knives for putting all kinds of basic and strangely mixed colors on a variety of media. Some poets choose to invent within familiar sounds. But it is my desire to make an unfamiliar noise that readers never knew they wanted to hear until they heard it for the first time.

4)  What kinds of things do you hope to accomplish in your poetry?

I hope to surprise, subvert, and deeply impact both emotionally and intellectually. Man, it would be great if my poems left readers wondering what just hit them like Cassius Clay did Sonny Liston in their first championship bout. 

5)  How did you come to writing?  What made you write?  Why poetry?

I first started writing poetry as a freshman in college. I started out wanting to be a rapper. The conscious Hip Hop of my generation by artists like Goodie Mob, Outkast, ATCQ, and Poor Righteous Teacher inspired me to want to express myself and my worldview. My interest in Hip Hop led me to read as much as I could about the art form. This is the 1990's, so there was not a lot of scholarly work being done on Hip Hop. Ultimately, my research uncovered a lot more about African-American Poetry, particularly the work of Black Arts movement writers, which immediately resonated deeply with me. So, I started trying my hand at Poetry and fell in love. I always tell people that Amiri Baraka is the father of my poetry and Nikki Giovanni is the mother. It was also about this time that my research into the sampling in Hip Hop music inspired a love of Blues and Jazz music, which both figure so prominently in my work. 

6)  Who are your favorite/influential poets?

This is a long list that I don't have time to get into, so I am just throwing out five off the top of my head Francine J. Harris, Fred Moten, Nathaniel Mackey, Lillian Yvonne Bertram, and Ed Roberson .

7)  Name an impossible thing you would like to do in/with/for/by a poem. 

I would love if at the recitation of my poems the social institutions that undergird White Supremacy, Patriarchy, and Hetero-sexism would catch on fire and burn themselves completely up. 


Makalani says this about his work in this issue:  

I am always more interested in sound and the sense that sound makes than I am meaning per say. I do not get all caught up in what I mean, but in what I am talking about and how I talk about it. In a 2008 interview in  POETRY, Terrance Hayes was asked about the meaning of his poems in the issue. He said among other things that "poetry is the language of suggestion not the language of meaning."  

The poem sureshot is a sonnet in the broadest sense of that definition, a fourteen line poem. I love to play with form, both traditional and invented.

The poem middle choruses: the implied boom (of her) is in a form I invented called the Unit, with Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures in mind and the desire to embody the feel of collective improvisation in Free Jazz. It is a prose poem made up of 16 New Sentences to be thought of like bars in a musical composition. The first and the sixth are combined to make up the twelfth new sentence. The New Sentence is a prose poem form invented by Ron Silliman. Some of the defining characteristics of the New Sentence are: “1) the paragraph organizes the sentences; 2) the paragraph is a unity of quantity, not logic or argument; 3) sentence structure is altered for torque, or increased polysemy/ambiguity; 4) primary syllogistic movement is between the preceding and following sentences; 5) the limiting of syllogistic movement keeps the reader's attention at or very close to the level of language. 

The way a jazz composition might have alternate takes, the poem implied boom (of her) is an alternate take on the unit middle choruses: the implied boom (of her). I like to do alternate takes of poems. It is something I picked up from fellow Affrilachian Poet Mitchell L. H. Douglas. He does several alternate takes in his first book Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem, which is about the life of Donny Hathaway recounted through persona poems. the essence of time is light documentary is an ekphrastic piece. My friend, Brooklyn-based painter and graphic designer, Rachel Ostrow makes paints do gymnastics. One of her paintings entitled "Last kingdom" spoke to me so I said something back.


(Isn't he cool?)


For more information about Makalani Bandele please click on the links below.


Yazmin Wheelock

shufPoetry 2012 Contest Winner

 Judge Derek Pollard, the poet and co-collaborateur of  Inconsequentia, explains his selection of Yazmin’s entry:

“I was immediately impressed by the ways in which Yazmin Wheelock’s ‘Foothill Presbyterian Hospital’ embraces the literary and artistic challenges that Shuf has been established to promote. The piece works—and plays—along the margins of genre, taking as its impetus a found object (in this case, a blank medical form) that becomes a ‘box’ out of which a bilingual narrative is built, a hybrid lyric that forcefully eschews the decorum of the very same boundaries it chooses to operate within… That Wheelock plays so intuitively with the constraints imposed by the medical form demonstrates a keen awareness of how we both use and are used by language(s). Congratulations to her for making us, her readers, share in that awareness.”

Yazmin Wheelock is an undergraduate student at CSUSB, where she studies both Creative Writing and Gender and Sexuality Studies.   She divides her time between managing the SMSU Women’s Resource Center, and writing non-fiction, poetry, and short stories.  Born in Colotlán, Jalisco, Mexico, and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Wheelock currently resides in the Inland Empire. Her work has previously appeared in Badlands and The Pacific Review.

Her winning poem, “Foothill Presbyterian Hospital” is below and her poem “To Do” is also published in Issue 1.

Foothill Presbyterian Hospital

2014 shufPoetry Winner

James Sanders

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Our 2014 judge Khadijah Queen  said about the poem, "Its intricacy and precision, intelligence and multiplicity kept me coming back to it."

To find out more about our judge, please click here.


James Sanders

James Sanders is a member of the Atlanta Poets Group, a writing and performing collective that has been operating for over a decade. His most recent book is Goodbye Public and Private published by BlazeVox, and his book, Self-Portrait in Plants, is forthcoming in 2015 from Coconut Books. The University of New Orleans Press also recently published an anthology of the group’s writing, titled An Atlanta Poets Group Anthology: The Lattice Inside. He can be found at,, or on Twitter @ATLPoetsGroup.


He says about his work that it is an "attempts to organize text in a way that is visual but still rigorous enough to permit performance."    


We say read it in order.