On this month’s episode of the Deerfield Public Library Podcast, we are thrilled to welcome Chicago-based poet Rachel Mennies for a conversation about her recent book of poems The Naomi Letters (BOA Editions, 2021). 

Each poem in The Naomi Letters is a dated letter or draft from the speaker of the poems to the woman she loves, named Naomi. Recounting a year in the life of this speaker, a Jewish woman under the pressures of mental illness and longing, this unique form invites a wide range of poetic materials: memories, observations, quoted poems by other poets, and self-revelations. This form also allows us to explore a profound question: can a fictional character an author creates change that author’s life? You’ll hear Rachel’s answer, as well as many poems from her new book, and more in this illuminating discussion. Listen here:

You can check out The Naomi Letters here from the library’s collection and you can find more about Rachel Mennies and her writing on her website: rachelmennies.com. Mennies is also the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards (Texas Tech University Press, 2014), the series editor of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry, and she is the reviews editor for AGNI. She edited, alongside Ruth Awad, the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs and Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2020). 

Rachel’s poem “[unsent draft]” was also featured in our recent Pride Month podcast series Queer Poem-a-Day. As part of our conversation, we also read “Male Beauty” by Richie Hoffman, again from Queer Poem-a-Day. 

Finally, I’m very humbled and honored to announce that my work on The Deerfield Public Library Podcast received the 2021 Illinois Library Association Readers’ Advisory Service Award. Thank you to ILA, the Adult Reading Round Table, all my colleagues at the Library–and especially to our guests and listeners who’ve made this program what it is today. 

We hope you enjoy our 49th interview episode! Each month we release an episode featuring conversations with notable guests, including authors, artists, and leaders from Deerfield, Chicagoland, and around the world. Learn more about the podcast on our podcast page.

You can listen to all of our episodes in the player below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts. We welcome your comments and feedback—please send to [email protected]