What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?
Audience is hard. You have to make space for the reader and to leave room for her around my words isn’t always easy. I forget about her while composing, so then when I edit, I use that old adage from fashion about accessories: if I have four things going on in my poem, I remove two.
The certainty that my poems are, like, useful is important to me. I’m not sure if I can communicate this well, but I’ll try. Roots and upbringing are important and I really want to write poems that would be useful to my grandmother (a coalminer’s wife) or the neighbours around where I grew up, for example. I think of their female voices—gruff, tough, survivalist— and I want them to appreciate what I’m saying. But as far as I know, they had no use for poetry. So to make a marriage between poetry and use is difficult but I try. That is what I want to illuminate in my poems. I spoke to Marge Piercy about this a lot when I worked with her last summer. As you know, use is important to her too (See “To Be of Use”).