How It’s Made: Kevin Latimer’s ZOETROPE

We’re so happy to have had the chance to look under the hood of Kevin Latimer’s wonderful debut, ZOETROPE (from grieveland, 2020). With our How It’s Made series, we endeavor to take away some of that ever-present mystery of how a collection comes to being.


What is the ZOETROPE?

Kevin Latimer: The ZOETROPE is a function of movement that uses grief as an engine to move. Dozens of characters appear in this book (sometimes the same person, but a different character). Grief—like this book— is not a cyclical process. I hope this book finds someone well; I hope it gets you closer to answering (or finding) the questions during those hardest times.


What were the most joyful moments of ZOETROPE‘s journey to publication?

This is difficult. I found joy at the same time I found questions. Much of the joy in writing ZOETROPE came from those moments where I could tell myself yes, this is okay. The figuring out of the puzzle (or acknowledging that I can’t figure out the puzzle) is this eureka! moment where another small piece falls into place. The joy is in the making of progress.

other times:

When I committed to making this book work. There were many instances —earlier in ZOETROPE’s creation—where I found it difficult to make the concept fall into place. There are many characters floating around the stage (sometimes parallel to one another. sometimes not) & that makes coraling all those stagehands difficult. That moment of sitting down & committing. There’s a lot of joy in seeing a project through.

Seeing my cover for the first time. My designer at GRIEVELAND, Angelo Maneage put a lot of time and care into the cover. When I first saw it I knew it was perfect for this book. The feeling of putting a face to an idea. I feel like the cover expresses the idea of a Zoetrope to perfection.


An author never really works alone—without whose support would ZOETROPE not have made it across the finish line?

This book could not exist without the poems of Emily Pettit, Amari Baraka, Heather Christle, & Consuelo Wise. The long editing phone calls between myself & Emilie Kneifel. I think of everything I was taught in undergrad by my creative writing professors at Cleveland State University: Michael Geither, Caryl Pagel, Hilary Plum, Peter Roth, Zach Savich. I think of my mother, of course. Her ghost haunts every pen-stroke.

My peers in the Cleveland writing community have been my biggest supporters. The hanging out, talking poems, going to readings. I wouldn’t have started the race without them.

I’d like to take time to thank J.David, my favorite companion & first reader.  When the room is dark and you need some light, walks in joy; walks in J.David. The countless hours of writing together, being in a parallel head space. A part of them exists in this book.


What did you learn about writing and poetry over the journey of these poems?

The fun in accidents. The fun in exploring those accidents. A lot of the poems in this book were originally one-scene plays then turned into poems once I figured out their function. There are a lot of similarities between poetry and the stage: the use of spectacle, the focus on tiny objects, props. I read. I read a lot. I read plays, movie scripts, poems, cookbooks, art books— everything. In the devouring I learned that poetry is everywhere: the garden, the cupboard, the cafeteria, inside the television, inside of all of us; our teeth.

Also— (going along with the previous answer)—new ways of seeing & the importance of repetition. Throughout the ZOETROPE there are moments of long text blocks and concrete poetry. That learning of this is the best way to express this feeling of being shot 137 times or this poem feels like a coffin, opened up entirely new worlds for me.


What’s your one sentence piece of advice for poets currently putting a collection together?

Cliché as it sounds: keep pushing & don’t be afraid of getting weird.  So much of the joy, so much of the journey comes from thinking of familiar problems in new ways. Lean into that impulse.




Kevin Latimer is a poet and playwright. He is the founder & co-editor-in-chief of BARNHOUSE, a writing collective. He co-organizes grieveland with Brendan Joyce. His poems can be found in jubilat, Poetry Northwest, Passages North, Storm Cellar, & elsewhere. His plays have been produced by convergence-continuum. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.


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