Friday, 27 March 2020

Sheldon Lee Compton : part four

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Honestly two come immediately to mind. In the order I discovered them I would say without hesitation Michael Robbins and Russell Edson. Prior to these two, Michael Ondaatje made a long-lasting impression on me, but that came through his masterpiece Coming Through Slaughter and not his poetry.

Michael Robbins had to have known when he finished writing his collection Alien vs. Predator that he had brought about a formidable shift of the poetic sensibility. Here’s a guy with a PhD. in poetry who is writing poems that every single person I’ve ever shown loves. Every single one. Memorable lines that unabashedly rhyme and take on other hyper-traditional structures and forms but have a kind of serious playfulness that is beyond what any other poet, novelist, essayist, short story writer, or playwright out there is doing. I’ll buy and read anything he writes forever.

But for total fearlessness, Russell Edson can’t be matched. Often called the godfather of prose poetry, the amazing thing is that he could have cared less about that. He didn’t care what was expected. Among many other blindingly imaginative poems, he wrote about a woman fighting a tree, a family having apes for dinner, farmers falling in love with hats. And in the midst of such faith in his own voice, there was his sense of adventure and risk. He is quoted as saying, “I sit down to write with a blank page and a blank mind. Wherever the organ of reality (the brain) wants to go I follow with the blue-pencil of consciousness.”

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Tyler Pufpaff : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

The most difficult thing for me when writing poetry is to not limit myself to my own experiences. I think often, “writing what we know” comes easiest, yet for me, roadblocks my creative process. When I first began, I only stuck to personal experiences, but after a dry spell I realized that I could indeed create from nothing. Now, I’ve only ever had one fictitious poem published… but at least it helps keep me writing. I think reaching outside a person’s perspective will inspire if not teach a poet to write in a way previously unknown.

Madeleine Stratford : part four

How does a poem begin?

As I speak and write in four languages, even now, it is as though I had multiple personalities, worlds colliding and merging within me. My poems have a life of their own. They are the ones that decide to be written in a given language, or to be written at all. I have never chosen what comes out when I write, and am often surprised with the result.

Eleanor Boudreau : 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?

Since we met in 2016, Tanya Grae has been the person I show my poems to first and most frequently. Tanya has read more of my work than anyone else and she has read draft, after draft, after draft. I doubt I’ll ever have a reader more dedicated than Tanya. I also show early drafts to Dorsey Craft and Alexa Doran, and they have helped me immensely, too.

Tanya, Dorsey, Alexa, and I are all Ph.D. Candidates in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Florida State University. We entered the program at the same time and that’s how we met and became friends. When I was first admitted to FSU, I felt incredibly lucky (and grateful), and that feeling has only grown, because once I moved to Tallahassee and started taking classes, I saw firsthand how talented my classmates are and how much effort they put into their work.

And the poetry classes I have taken at FSU, and also at the University of Houston and Harvard, have taught me invaluable lessons—lessons I am thinking about even years later, lessons I try to apply every time I write. But, somehow, I’ve never felt entirely at ease brining my first drafts to a workshop, so I’m glad to have found a small group I feel comfortable showing my poems to when those poems are in their roughest state. 

I also used to meet every Sunday morning with a group of classmates and friends, including Tanya, Lee Patterson, Marianne Chan, Josh Wild, and sometimes Dorsey. We’d eat pancakes and workshop poems. It was productive and sweet.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Ilona Martonfi : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

To wed the “political” with the “personal” the pathos of my poetry is plain. Poems call out and talk back. Expose truths, raise consciousness, one clipping at a time. My book The Tempest, does collage but makes deliberate choices when I put the pieces together. Each item, cut out, becomes one more word, one more symbol.

Offering free verse, prose poems, haibun, and haiku, I use poetry to build on my activism as a tool for achieving goals, taking a stand. My book is composed of poetry of  witness, ekphrastic poems, resistance poems, erasure poems, dream poems, persona poems, elegies. Witness-bearing poetry often comes out of great social tragedies. Exile from place, displacement, the refugee, immigrant. To disappear into a place. The dispossessed. The personal is political.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Kate Gaskin : part three

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

I return again and again to “The Abduction” by Stanley Kunitz, which reminds me to prioritize strangeness and beauty and to not be afraid to go for broke with the ending.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Koss : part one

Koss is a queer writer, fine artist and designer with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. They have been, or will be published in Entropy, Diode Poetry, Cincinnati Review Online Micro Feature, Hobart, and Spillway #27. They have a hybrid book due out in 2020 by Negative Capability Press. Keep up with Koss on Twitter @Koss51209969 and Instagram @koss_singular

Why is poetry important?

This has always been a difficult question for me—with poetry or art. There’s importance to creator and significance to audience, so I’ll try to answer both. Obviously one often writes poems out of personal need and urgency, whether it’s a way of understanding ourselves or the world around us. There’s also an element of attachment to making art—a secondary attachment that is not a mother or a lover—the oneness/connection felt while writing or painting and, later, the connectedness of reading out, sharing, and publishing.

Sometimes it’s an important message we send in a bottle—an artifact to the future, or a small comfort provided to a stranger who might pick a book of poems from a used bookstore shelf in 2050. Along with reaching strangers with my ghost words, I wouldn’t mind being immortalized in that musty book and have my art work hanging in the dead museum—proof I was here and I mattered. So yes, it’s about connecting with others AND mattering, here, there, now, or some time. Poetry defies time even while marking it.

As for importance to society, poetry, as traditionally defined by academia, is a fairly elitist activity, written and appreciated by few. One can say society needs poetry to remind us we are human, or we need it to converse with, comfort, instruct, and connect with each other. That has often meant three poets reading to 40 other poets. While this, in itself, isn’t a bad thing, the exclusivity hasn’t always enabled poetry to reach its full potential as an expressive medium or way to build communities.
I see that changing right now as poetry finds its way into mainstream culture via certain phenomena like Slam Poetry and social media. We are, in America, now seeing poetry as social action and protest. It’s exciting to see, in my lifetime, art as a vehicle for social change and political action, something vital in these dark times. It’s the stuff I’ve mostly only read about in history books, occurring, also, in some faraway country, not here in the states. I hope this phenomenon proves to be enduring.