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  • VERDANT Journal

In Conversation: Joseph Fasano to Judge Verdant's 2024 Poetry Prize

MAY 12th—In light of Verdant's inaugural Poetry Prize, Verdant sat with acclaimed novelist, poet, and teacher Joseph Fasano, the 2024 Contest Judge, for a couple of questions. To uncover more on Fasano's latest endeavours, thoughts on the literary world and submission critiques, read on.


V : Can you share some of your recent literary endeavours? What projects have you been working on lately?

JF : I am working on a novel about a philosopher who has fascinated me for decades. It’s a book about madness, history, the ghosts that lead our lives, and the tragic and often comic ways in which these forces interact. I am also working on a new collection of poems that will follow the publication of my fifth collection, The Last Song of the World (BOA Editions, 2024).

V : What drew you to accept the role of judge for Verdant's poetry competition?

JF : Independent literary magazines are the lifeblood of literature. They are the spaces where a great deal of experimentation and aesthetic risk take place, and I am always passionate about supporting those endeavors and discovering new voices. 

V : As an accomplished poet yourself, what criteria will you be looking for in submissions?

JF : I tell myself, and I tell my students, we experience beauty when form and freedom are–or at least seem to be–one. That means I am always looking for magic and craft, for unflinching content that is inextricable from the craft that the poem, in its unique unfolding, needs. And I am looking, as we all are, to be astonished.

V : What advice do you have for writers who are considering submitting their work to literary

magazines or journals?

JF : Apart from the usual (and invaluable) advice–read everything you can, study craft, love the hard work–I’d say it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the aesthetic predispositions of the editors of magazines to which you might submit. That doesn’t mean you change your writing to fit those (perceived) editorial tastes. Never! Rather, get a sense of who might be reading your poem, and think about how you may be challenging them to hear your unique voice. 

V : Are there any particular themes or styles in poetry that you find especially compelling or that you hope to encounter in submissions?

JF : I am open to all themes, styles, words, voices, silences, wounds, histories, shadows, loves, furies, hopes, and souls.

V : Could you share a bit about your own journey as a writer and how it has influenced your perspective on contemporary literature?

JF : Perhaps I can summarize very briefly. I come from a small town in upstate New York, and when I went to Harvard in the autumn of 2000, I was astonished by a world in which people loved writing and reading and the desperate search for words as much as I. I studied with Jorie Graham, Helen Vendler, and one of my great guides, the late Sanskrit scholar and poet Kevin McGrath. In graduate school I was blessed by my teachers–Mark Strand, Lucie Brock-Broido, Timothy Donnelly, Richard Howard, and others–each of whom seemed able to hear a unique part of me. Perhaps there’s too much to explain and explore in this short space, but I can say that my work across genres–particularly poetry and fiction–has tuned my ears to the kinds of writers who can push the perceived limits of genre, exploring narrative tensions while caring deeply, deeply about the music of their language. But I don’t necessarily need sprawling narrative tension in the poems I read. I will always believe in the perfect, unachievable, crystalline lyric poem. The song.


Joseph Fasano is an internationally acclaimed poet, novelist, and teacher. His books of poetry include The Last Song of the World (BOA Editions, 2024), The Crossing (Cider Press Review, 2018), Vincent (CPR, 2015), Inheritance (CPR, 2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (CPR, 2013). His novels include The Swallows of Lunetto (Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2022). His honors include the Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle Poetry Prize, and a nomination by Linda Pastan for the Poet's Prize, "awarded annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet two years prior to the award year." His work–which has appeared in The Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The Times Literary Supplement, Tin House, American Poets Magazine, and other publications–has been widely translated and anthologized, most recently in The Forward Book of Poetry (Faber and Faber). His book of educational/creativity tools, The Magic Words, was released by Penguin Random House/TarcherPerigee in 2024. He teaches at Manhattanville University in New York.



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