Creative Writing MFA Alumni Spotlight: AM Ringwalt ('19)

Author: Paul Cunningham

AM Ringwalt

"[...] developing my poetry thesis and studying with the support of Joyelle McSweeney was so fundamental to my writing and thinking. Her encouragement to write about my writing likely led me to the realm of citational poetics. The schedule of the MFA also allowed me to tour my music for the first time ever, which I write about in The Wheel."

—AM Ringwalt interviewed by Vasantha Sambamurti for The Arkansas International

A 2019 graduate of Notre Dame's MFA in Creative Writing Program, AM Ringwalt was also the winner of the 2019 Sparks Prize. She is a writer and musician whose work appears in Jacket2, Music & Literature, Black Warrior Review, and many others. In August 2022, Ringwalt's most recent album Summer Angel (Dear Life Records) was featured in Pitchfork's "34 Great Records You May Have Missed" list. Pitchfork's Sam Sodomsky called Summer Angel "a slow-burning, psychadelic sunrise with a chorus that both consoles and casts a spell." Sodomsky added that "Destroyer" was the album's centerpiece. Previous albums like Waiting Song received attention from both NPR ("unsettling") and The Wire ("haunted').

Longlisted for the 2020 Tarpaulin Sky Book Award, Ringwalt's debut book The Wheel (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021) received coverage by Entropy and The Arkansas International. A hybrid-memoir, The Wheel has also been praised by authors like Divya Victor ("It is a mourning diary, an inventory, a mixtape, a love letter, an archive of correspondent, a tourist's album, an occultist's chronicle, a devout student's reading a journal, a family history, a long goodbye, and also an invitation to listen"), Janaka Stucky ("In Ringwalt's gorgeously ambitious book, The Wheel, awakening is not a thing to be attained; it is a perpetual unfolding—both backwards and forwards—through time"), and Bridget Talone ("In this vibrant, collaborative book, Ringwalt rejects repressive frameworks and fixed categories in favor of flux states, and the possibilities of breaking through, of connection"). In an interview with Vasantha Sambamurti for The Arkansas International, Ringwalt not only speaks about the movement of The Wheel, but she also elaborates on her own poetics—which she calls citational poetics:

"In 'Poetry Is Not a Luxury,' Audre Lorde writes of 'learning to bear the intimacy of scrutiny'—an active process of discerning what 'feels right.' For Lorde, this is an 'ancient, black, non-european' act. This is where clarity comes from. Referentiality in poetry, or what I call citational poetics, is the 'quality of light' that guides my writing-as-reflection of feeling, the light that shapes my language. I am indebted to Lorde for articulating this truly transformative activity. Citational poetics—where deliberate movement with other voices pushes the writer beyond their self and into some kind of otherwise nonexistent sociality—is a performance of such intimate scrutiny."

Parts one through five of Citational Poetics can be read at the Action Books Blog. Other works of criticism, interviews, prose, and poetry can be found on her website. Most recently, Ringwalt announced that her next book (What Floods) is forthcoming from Inside the Castle in 2024. She is also a recipient of a fellowship at the International Literary Seminars in Nairobi and Lamu, Kenya, and a current visiting poet at Interlochen Center for the Arts.