Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Evan Jones : part two

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Every one of my books has involved translation at some level, and it’s that in-depth reading that a translator does that affects my writing most. I read the same way, looking at where the verbs and nouns fall, thinking about why one adjective and not another, wondering if an adverb is even necessary. So, right now, it’s Cavafy. In the past, I’ve translated French and other Modern Greek poets, like Robert Desnos (1900-1945), Andreas Embiricos (1901-1975), and Kiki Dimoula (1931-2020). I like to think like other poets think. That’s what translation allows me. I’m not terribly interested in the self and that kind of thing. I write by reading, always.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Bill Neumire : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

When I was a kid I think poetry was a purely musical gesture (via Dr. Seuss, song lyrics, nonsensical rhymes), but then at some point it also became emotional, adding a level of moving what was inside of me out, and then again later it added a dimension that was social, writing poems in conversation with other poems, other artists; and then, too, there was a time when it added a dimension of the spiritual, in the sense that I came to sense the habits of writing had become habits of living and appreciating and considering greater questions of mortality.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Renée M. Sgroi : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I have a gut sense that the poem is finished, and this is especially true for me with poems that I think are really good. I’ll trot the poem out to my writing group, and the response I’ll get will usually confirm my own perceptions. That’s also true when I feel that the poem is unfinished, or has a weak spot, and it’s kind of exciting when others point to the exact spot I was concerned about because it tells me that I have a fairly well-developed sense of my own work, which is a great feeling.
Having said all of that, in some ways, I don’t know if a poem is ever really “finished”, because I think that as writers, we’re always hoping to perfect the work, and when we look back at our writing after a time, we might think: “oh, I wish I’d written that line differently” or “oh, I can’t believe I actually wrote that in that way”. So in a way, a poem is never really “finished”. It just reaches a point perhaps where you think: “ok, I’ve travelled with this poem long enough, and I can’t go any further”. It’s as “perfect” as it can be, and so out into the world it goes.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Michael Sikkema : part one

Michael Sikkema is the author of 6 full length books, and over a dozen chapbooks, most recently Caw Caw Phony, forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press, 2021, and Here On Huron, from Above / Ground Press. He edits Shirt Pocket, a chapbook press, and lives in Grand Rapids, MI.

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I chose to answer this one first because it touches on some core ideas of my poetics and practice. I value poetry over the poem. Not thinking about the singular poem, but thinking about poetry is a great way for me to generate a lot of writing and get better thinking done. I don’t sit down and try to write a poem, with clear beginning, middle, and end, etc. I sit down and try to write some poetry and then later I’ll figure out where edges or borders or connections are. I try to wait a while and turn into the reader of my own work, trying to figure out what the poem is teaching me. I can then see how things are supposed to go together and maybe what’s missing. As far as when a project is done, it’s usually when I stop obsessing over it, or coming up with new ideas for it while doing something else. I think ‘finished’ is wholly subjective. People get a piece published, hate how it looks in print, and then rework it. I can usually tell when I’m done with a piece because I’m not interested in it anymore. I want it to leave the house and go off on its own adventures.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Jade Wallace : part two

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes! In at least three ways:

1. Politically—I have always appreciated poetry that is politically engaged. When I was young, that tended to mean poetry that took a clear stance and argued for it. Now I prefer poetry that sharpens my consciousness and forces me to confront new ideas without being didactic. I usually distrust people who are dogmatic about their politics and claim to have definitive answers, even if the person in question is me. Beyond a basic imperative to care about each other and try to limit suffering, I am not sure that there is much I find to be absolute about human relations.

2. Aesthetically—I used to read and write as if poetry's primary purpose was to express truths, as if it were a mere vessel for some important idea. During this phase, someone suggested that my poetry, perhaps, lacked adornment. I fixated on this word, adornment. It was soon after that I started dating my now-partner, who is an artist, so I found myself spending more time in art galleries and antique shops. My partner would often use a particular phrase for things he liked: “that's a beautiful object.” I thought about this phrase a lot as I looked at things that seemed kind of useless but were also inexplicably transfixing, like a century-old Art Deco compact. I began to get enamoured with craft in a way that I hadn't been before. What if poems could also be as ornate and stunning as any other tiny trinket you might see and wish to carry in your pocket because it is so lovely?

3. Cryptically—When I was about ten I bought an anthology of poetry because I wanted to learn how to read “adult poetry.” By adult poetry I meant things that didn't sound like nursery rhymes and that didn't have immediately obvious meanings. I read the whole book while I was on a road trip with my parents. I'm not sure I understood much of it; mostly I was annoyed by it. Yet I would often return to that book after reading others and find that more and more of it made sense to me each time I came back. I now read and enjoy many of the poems, though ironically a lot of them seem over-simplified and sentimental. I still don't much enjoy poetry that I can't understand at all, but the more I read, the more I appreciate poems in which meaning slips elusively in and out of sight, always evading but always returning.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Rory Waterman : part two

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

Well, a poem can’t be a protest song: the best poems have a tension at their heart, not a simple answer. It can’t depict something in the same way a painting can. It can’t unfold like a novel – unless, of course, it is a novel in verse, and most of those are awful. It can’t affect you directly, on a sub-linguistic level, in the same way music can. But it is the finest, most fine-tuned explicatory art, or so says me – which is also partially why poems are so hard to write well (even though they’re very easy to write badly). Unlike almost any other art, most poems – all the shorter ones, at least – can be memorised. If you memorise a poem, you have it whole, always, wherever you are – the real thing, not the memory of it, or an inferior facsimile. That’s powerful.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Alexa Doran : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

For me it’s a combination of image and sound. The sounds in the poem will start working up and up and all the sudden I will feel the need to deflate, to yank back out. When I feel that moment musically, I try to catch it in an image, like the sounds are runoff and that last image the perfect basin.