How do you feel about solitary vs. collaborative writing?
Many of my poems are conversations, having multiple voices throughout, which require digging deep or stretching out beyond what is comfortable to gain some understanding of those voices, but there is still a familiarity to all of them. I recently began a collaborative exploration with another poet, and I am excited to see some of those voices come from someplace other than my own head, to have something unfamiliar, something almost alien entwined in my words.
What does the term “poetic process” mean to you?
Writing is tearing down the walls that allow me to move among civilized society so that I may stare into the abyss that Nietzsche warned us about. Editing is rebuilding those walls. The poetic process, then, is the repeated cycle of internal destruction and creation. This, I think, is why poets sometimes need to set aside writing for a while, and why their poetry can be drastically different from cycle to cycle.
Do you feel it still is (or ever has) been important to memorize poems?
I can barely remember my own cell number. I am notorious for my poor memory. I failed to memorize Longfellow’s Evangeline and the Middle English Prologue of the Canterbury Tales when I was in middle school. (Why I have held onto that for 30 years is the answer to a completely different question.)
I do, though, have the Best of Peter, Paul and Mary committed to memory, as well as every song from the Freedom Rock album. I do acknowledge that I did not really answer this question.
Do you ever get sick of poetry?
No. Never. Not that I would admit, even to myself. What I will admit to is that I do get tired of some of the trappings of poetry. There is the stigma of self-publishing vs. submission (double entendre intended) to the gate-keepers, the publishers, the organizers of chap-book prizes. One of the strangest encounters I’ve had was when a veteran poet, learning that I had a book published, suddenly took note of my existence and said to me, “Oh, you’re a real poet!” What the hell is a “real poet”? But then, having had a book published, I begrudgingly admit to feeling legitimized, feeling that I am a real poet compared to my pre-published self, that somehow I’ve arrived. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Do you have any advice to veterans of poetry?
Read Teen Angst: A Celebration of Really Bad Poetry. Remember that every poet wrote like that when they first began writing. Read it, squirm as you recall your own verse when you were a teen. Embrace it.
In your mind, are technology and poetry in bed together or still in an awkward flirting phase?
Poetry is, in many ways, anti-tech in an age that forgets that an ink pen was once highly advanced (you mean, the ink is IN the pen?). Technology helps to access, save or present poetry, but until you can tear down those civilizing walls with a laptop, exploring the abyssal well of creativity will continue to be a lonely and primal business.
Who are five poets, local and non local, dead or alive, that you admire?
William Blake. My first love affair with poetry. Cliché, I know.
Timothy Kloss, MC at Poets Monday, the longest running open mic poetry set in Milwaukee. He is open and inviting in ways that are reminiscent of a Buddhist monk. He listens, enrapt, to the most angsty of poets, losing himself in forced rhymes, horrendously abstract love poems or terrible cliches. Whenever I do get sick of poetry (do not take that as admission that I do!), I go to Poets Monday and just watch Tim listen to other poets.
E.E. Cummings, who stared into the abyss and wrote what he saw. I hated his work when I was young. When I am experiencing writer’s block, I read Cummings to help shatter walls.
Jesse Ball. While a poet, he is mostly a novel writer. His prose is more poetic than my poems will ever be.
I discovered Brenda Shaughnessy quite by accident when I first returned to poetry (I took a 20 year haitus) and was exploring contemporary poets. I simply love her. Here is why:
A Poet’s Poem
BY BRENDA SHAUGHNESSY
If it takes me all day,
I will get the word freshened out of this poem.
I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second,
and now it won’t come out.
It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,
so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow
and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked
Finally I reached up and broke a big, clear spike
off the roof with my bare hand.
And used it to write a word in the snow.
I wrote the word snow.
I can’t stand myself