Brett Warren

Pine Row Issue No. 5 Summer 2022 - Featured Poet

The Hawk Elizabeth

When the hawk swept in

to light on the juniper

an arm’s length from me

and did not move,

I knew it was you.

I flashed back

to how we met—

strangers among strangers

in the crowded room

where you read your poem

about a phone call

to inform you of a death,

and you set the receiver

back in its cradle, twirled

and danced around

your living room.

I think you even sang.

You spoke your ecstasy

out loud, no explanation

but fear nothing life brings—

rise up to meet it.

You, a green shoot

of survival

from the dark soil

of the underworld

we shared. You,

a flare sent up

to embrace everything

unafraid. Even today,

the way you flew in

to say hello, the only

word you would use

as you got old.

Never goodbye.

Angel with talons

and a razor mouth,

you sweep open

the grand doorway

of the sky, your blue

going-blind eyes

lit, lit, lit.

Interview with Brett Warren

How did you get started as a poet?

I’ve been writing since I learned how to write! Like many poets, I started out writing colossally bad poetry in high school and college. But I kept reading, beyond what I had to read for my English degree. I started writing poetry seriously around the time I turned 30, and have continued since, with some notable interruptions when life had other plans. The limitations of the pandemic and the overwhelming desire to escape the turbulence and anxiety of recent years created a “perfect storm” of productivity.

Favorite quote:

“Poetry is life distilled.” —Gwendolyn Brooks

Most interesting writing habit:

I keep a notepad and pen next to my bed for ideas and lines that arise as I’m falling asleep or when I wake up in the middle of the night. I learned the hard way that even the most brilliant ideas can vanish by morning. (I’ve also been humbled by the discovery that I’m not always quite as brilliant as I thought I was at 3 a.m.) I’ve had to refine my technique for writing in pitch-dark so that I can actually decipher my notes the next day (learned that the hard way, too).

Book on bedside table:

I’m a librarian’s daughter, so I always have a tower of books. I’ve just started Bitch: On the Female of the Species, in which biologist Lucy Cooke upends the notion that females are the weaker or more passive members of various species. The writing is lively and funny and smart. A similarly entertaining science book I read recently is Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders. I actually laughed out loud while reading the chapter on vomiting. I read fiction too, but I never read poetry before I fall asleep. It activates my brain too much.

Advice to someone just starting to write poetry:

Read a lot of poetry and dive into the work of poets whose work resonates with and inspires you. Take classes as often as you can. Watch readings and craft conversations online. Make sure you’re in at least one workshopping group—I’m currently in two—because you need candid feedback from objective, attentive readers who are not longtime friends or family members. Poetry groups are definitely a source of support, but their main function should be to make each poem the absolute best it can be. Hold yourself to a high standard. Think a lot. Do the hard work of revision. Send poems out for publication, and get used to being rejected most of the time. Push through self-doubt and commit to honing your craft.

Anything else?

I’m thrilled that my first collection, The Map of Unseen Things, is forthcoming from Pine Row Press!

About Brett Warren

Brett Warren (she/her) is an editor whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Canary, The Comstock Review, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Eunoia Review, Green Fuse, Halfway Down the Stairs, Provincetown Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Rise Up Review, Unbroken Journal, One Sentence Poems, and Shot Glass Journal. She lives on a peninsula in the Outer Lands archipelagic region of the Atlantic Ocean. Her house is surrounded by pitch pine and black oak trees—nighttime roosts of wild turkeys, who sometimes use the roof of her writing attic as a runway.

Her forthcoming book The Map of Unseen Things will be published with Pine Row Press later this year.