Sparks From The Anvil


An Audio Archive of Conversations with Poets


▶ List of CDs available for listening at Neilson Library

To purchase a copy of Sparks from the Anvil, click here or visit Christian McEwen’s website,

In 2009, local writer, teacher, and skilled interviewer Christian McEwen proposed that the Poetry Center partner with her in creating “Sparks from the Anvil,” a five-year project aimed at building an audio archive of interviews with poets.

Select visiting poets have been invited, as part of their stay in Northampton, to engage in a lively conversation concerning the basics of the poet’s biography, habitual writing practice, influences and developments in her work, her sense of the contemporary poetry scene, and whatever else comes up in the course of conversation—a kind of equivalent to the Paris Review Interviews, with an equally wide range of themes and subject matter.

McEwen pieced together grants and gifts to support her time, and that of technician Daisy Mathias. The college supplied a range of in-kind support: access to the poets, studio time in the recording booth at the Center for Media Production, and students to transcribe the interviews. McEwen received first rights to publish the resulting materials (several have appeared in journals and excerpts have been broadcast on local radio stations). The transcripts will eventually be held by the college archives, available for public use. CDs are available for listening at Neilson Library, a list of which can be found here.

A rich range of poets, from Eavan Boland to Patricia Smith to Iraqi poet Amal al-Jubouri to W. S. Merwin, have sat with McEwen in the booth and opened up to her in instructive and moving ways. The result is a treasure-trove—a wonderful addition to what we offer current friends of poetry, and safeguard for future generations.

In late 2013, as the end of the five-year project approached, and McEwen turned to the labor of preparing a book of selected interviews for publication, the Poetry Center Advisory Committee brainstormed how we might keep a skeleton version of the project going on our own. With McEwen’s blessing, we invited our faculty to propose occasional interviews with visiting poets in which they have a particular interest, so that we may keep adding, if more slowly, to the legacy the was begun in 2009. We are delighted that Maria Estela Harretche, faculty member of the department of Spanish & Portuguese and member of the Poetry Center committee, interviewed Brazilian poet Adélia Prado, and Conkling Visiting Poet in Residence Joan Larkin interviewed Alicia Ostriker.

Founding Interviewer of Sparks from the Anvil: Christian McEwen grew up in the Borders of Scotland, and moved to the U.S.A. in her early twenties. She has taught for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in NYC, the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, and numerous other schools and colleges, most frequently Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, teaching teachers to use poetry in the classroom. In the course of writing essays and reviews, she has also conducted many personal interviews. Christian is the editor of four books, including Naming the Waves: Contemporary Lesbian Poetry and The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing. She has also published a book of her own poetry, In the Wake of Home, and most recently, one of non-fiction, World Enough & Time: The Necessary Art of Slowing Down.