An Interview With Michael Schmeltzer

Michael Schmeltzer

An Interview with Michael Schmeltzer
| Published May 1, 2014 |

By Kristy Webster
Thursday Review contributor

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Schmeltzer eight years ago, at the Rainier Writing Workshop, a three year low residency MFA program hosted by Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Michael was one year ahead of me at the time and already an accomplished and seasoned poet and writer. From the moment I met Michael I found his enthusiasm infectious, his talent remarkable and his feedback in critique groups and workshops inestimable.

I’ve also had the happy opportunity to hear Michael read his work, at his graduation, and at a reading for Pacifica Literary Review. Both times Michael stood in a class of his own, his poetry bringing an added edge and “wow” factor that beguiled the crowd. It is because of his persistence as a writer, his raw talent as a poet and his outstanding gift for motivating, encouraging and inspiring other writers that I chose to interview Michael for National Poetry Month.

1. Name a poem that still gives you goose bumps.

“Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly immediately comes to mind. I probably first read this poem fifteen years ago, and it never left me. From the title—which in a lesser poem would have become a throw away—to the imagery, to the events and how the characters are affected. How she paces the entire piece. How it unfolds, haunts, and stains. She made something so completely balanced between beauty and horror that the reader can’t tell which is which. It’s the best type of magic, one where we are convinced the illusionist didn’t trick us at all; she is simply not of this world.

2. Do you have any quirky writing habits or rituals?

Does not writing count as a quirky writing habit? Because I spend a lot of time sitting at the laptop not writing. As for any other quirks, no, I don’t imagine my habits are any different than a lot of writers—multiple tabs open on screen, researching life spans of narwhals or if cats can, in fact, understand everything I’m saying. I do enjoy coffee or hot cocoa at night and often eat jelly beans as a side. It’s probably a subconscious desire for sweets in order to combat any bitterness I may gain by sitting and staring wildly at my screen hoping suddenly a poem appears.

3. If you could raise any poet from the dead, who would it be?

My first instinct was John Berryman (one of my early literary idols) whom I felt if he knew of how he died, would change profoundly. He seemed a deeply repentant man in many ways (as well as an alcoholic and vitriolic one too). But then I began to think of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Reetika Vazirani. Who deserves to return, if any of us? Would raising them erase some of the effects of their suicides? I felt a strange amount of pressure to answer this. Like being granted just one wish. You think it’s like being offered a choice among several gifts but the question, after having thought about it, feels more like cutting wires on a bomb. If I could raise one, I’d raise all. If someone granted me only one, I’d demand this being grant more. I was never very good with rules anyway.

4. When you’re writing, boxers, briefs or commando?

Well, look at you being all scandalous. Luckily, I lack the shame-gene as a friend of mine once said. A good majority of the time I am in boxer-briefs (because who am I if not a fan of hybrid work?) As for the other times let’s just say I’m very, very comfortable.

Deep Wound Singing


A brown buck shot in the side.

A son who days ago said

pulling a trigger frightened him the same way thunder did

as a toddler. And now childhood and blood

populate the spoor, mar the blades of grass,

and stain the desolate woods

with their strange brand of harmony.


The father stalked the blotches, the bulk

of a dying beast

cacophonous, so much so the son

cried in his bed, prays

he never shuffles again

as if chained behind his father,

the world linked in a primal song

pulsing from the blood.

The anxious son

dreams in the dark of his room

as if in the middle of a field

soaked in that darkness.


The boy shudders out of sleep, the girl

beside him pale & nude. He remembers

last night’s moon. Still he thinks

of the buck, how it struggled downhill

toward the river as if called. He listens

for that song until the sun ignites

the girl’s yawn. Her eyes open

(stanza continued, Deep Wound Singing)

like an eclipse passing.

He notices blood on his fingers,

on his thighs. The girl is humming

into his chest as if the heart heard

music. Her first time she warned

and although she bled, she thanks him for it.

(originally published in Water~Stone Review)

BIO: Michael Schmeltzer earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. His honors include six Pushcart Prize nominations, the Gulf Stream Award for Poetry, and the Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Prize. He has been a finalist for the Four Way Books Intro and Levis Prizes as well as the OSU Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. He helps edit A River & Sound Review and has been published in PANK, Rattle, Natural Bridge, and Mid-American Review, among others. Visit Michael Schmeltzer on the web.