Thursday, 30 June 2022

Magus Magnus : part four

How does a poem begin? 

A poem begins with an intimation. Now, whether this is the echo of a hint and whisper of some profound intimacy with knowledge up to that moment unknown or thought-words themselves arising as event and deed from the source, I doubt it will ever be for me to know. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Michael Joseph Walsh : part five

How does a poem begin?

Rarely with a specific line or bit of language, as seems to be the case for others. More often, it’s more of a physiological sense that if I try to write, I’ll end up with something worth keeping—there’s a charge there, and I can feel it. I can only rare say where the charge comes from, but once it’s there, I can sit down to write and know with some certainty that I’ll end up with something “good,” by my lights, even if (as is most often the case), I won’t have any idea of what that something will look like.

But I actually think this is a bad way to work for anyone with meaningful time constraints. Waiting around for inspiration works well when you have a lot of free time, but not if you don’t. Luckily, there’s no need to wait. I think feeling “the charge” is a positive indicator, but its absence isn’t a negative indicator; I’ve had plenty of experiences where forcing myself to write has actually turned out very well. I think often about something John Ashbery says in his Paris Review interview: “…on the whole I feel that poetry is going on all the time inside, an underground stream. One can let down one’s bucket and bring the poem back up.” I think this is basically right, at least for me. Sometimes the water is near the surface, and you barely need to lower the bucket at all—whatever you try turns out to be the right thing, or close to it. But other times the water is lower, and it takes a while for the bucket to reach it, and maybe, in a given sitting, it doesn’t touch the water at all. But the water is always there. The trick is that you have to actually go to the well to draw from it, and many of us (me included) could do a better job of that.

Bex Hainsworth : part two

How did you first engage with poetry? 

As a teenager of the emo persuasion, I had written song lyrics and some rather dark rhymes, but my real poetic catalyst was the English Literature GCSE anthology which featured poetry by Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy. This was my first experience of modern free verse and it certainly served as inspiration for tentative attempts at serious poetry.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Andrew Michael Gorin : part two

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

I think poetry often operates outside of capitalist economies of value and exchange, simply because it’s not deemed valuable by the broader culture. Many people know James Sherry’s old joke (as retold by Charles Bernstein) that “a piece of paper with nothing on it has a definite economic value. If you print a poem on it, that value is lost.” Of course, poetry in the age of social media and the academicization of the literary arts has a cultural capital which increasingly translates into actual capital. So I should say that poetry can operate outside of conventional economies of exchange, perhaps more than other forms.

This is good and bad. It’s bad because poets have trouble making ends meet, and those with independent resources have an easier time of it. It’s good because poetry may be somewhat less beholden to the economic interests of powerful institutions and corporations, especially given all the small press and self-publishing that goes on. To put it in more personal terms, I regularly feel the dismissal of poets and poetry that comes from the American professional elite and even from many sectors within the academic humanities. There’s nominal approval of our supposedly noble endeavor, sure. But deep down the lawyers, doctors, scientists, policymakers and other members of the middle or managerial class think poets are lazy masturbators. 

Because of this, many poets are able to write against the status quo, and many become activists in one way or another. Compare the number of formally experimental and/or politically active “successful" poets to the number of successful novelists who fit those characterizations. Whereas in my scholarly work, I’m constantly aware of and influenced by the demands of “professionalization” and the list of things humanities departments are currently looking for from prospective faculty, in my poetry, I tend not to think about these things, for lack of expectation that I will be rewarded if I do. This is probably naïve, because English departments are now virtually the ONLY places in the US where experimental poets can be financially supported for what they do.

Joanne Epp : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I’ve been reading Leaving Holds Me Here: Selected Poems by Glen Sorestad, whose poems about his mother resonate with me right now. Also Time Capsule, a posthumous collection of new and selected poems by Pat Lowther, whose work I am just getting acquainted with. And I just bought David Yerex Williamson’s brand-new first book, Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Aaron Kreuter : part five

Why is poetry important? 

Poetry is the creation of a space, a vessel, a vacuum, that can hold whatever it is you need held. Besides that, I find myself pretty allergic to statements of what poetry is or is not. For a genre that is so unbelievably varied in its contemporary existence, how can poetry be one or the other thing? All of which to say, poetry is more important or less important depending on the context of the poem, the intent of the poem, the community of the poem, which way the poem allows power to flow. I personally gravitate towards poetry that refracts the gaze of the universe, that catches the glare of our world’s multiple violences and throws it back, that laughs defiantly and off-kilterly at this place we call the now. It’s held as common knowledge, at least for the last number of decades, that poetry (and literature in general) doesn’t do anything, especially in the world at large. I wholeheartedly reject this viewpoint. I know what poetry, what novels, have done to me. They’ve rewired me at the molecular level. If that isn’t important, then what is?

Katherine Lawrence : part two

How does your work first enter the world? Do you have a social group or writers group that you work ideas and poems with?

I seem to wait for two things to occur. First, I get a feeling sense of something. Next, I read or hear a word or phrase that somehow aligns or reminds me of that feeling sense. I may not keep the phrase but the ‘found’ language gets me going. 

I’ve always been part of a writers’ group. I currently hang out with two groups of trusted writers. The back and forth, the feedback we exchange with each other, is gold.