number5Jonathan Hobratsch, writing in the Huffington Post, celebrated National Poetry Month by posing “5 Questions for Poets” by readers of poetry.

I’ve tried to answer each of his questions (this is the 5th and final). You can find my answers to other sets of questions, herehere, here, and here. Here’s a link to Jonathan’s original Part 5 post and the other poets’ answers: 5 Questions for Poets.

And here are my answers:

1. How hard should you work at a poem?

As hard as it takes to get the poem where it wants to go and get the author out of the way.

2. According to The Atlantic, over 50 percent of people think computers will be able to write great works of literature in 50 years. Do you hold with the majority prognostication?

Great works of literature? I doubt it. But then, when artificial intelligence takes over, great will be defined by a different standard.

3. What would poets like for undergrads to know about poetry?

Poems are pleasure, as Donald Hall wrote in “The Unsayable Said: an essay,” “Poems are pleasure first, bodily pleasure, a deliciousness of the senses. Mostly, poems end by saying something (even the unsayable) but they start as the body’s joy, like making love.” I think if students had this in mind — maybe a few teachers too — poetry would be better taught and more widely read.

4. What interests outside of literature work well with writing poetry?

Many and various interests outside literature work well with poetry, sports, romance, hiking, travel, even work. I found my work with The Nature Conservancy exposed me to so many of nature’s wonders and details that it proved a storehouse of inspiration for my poetry. But even now, when I work for a Big Four firm’s cleantech practice, I’m in one of my most productive periods. It’s all about paying attention.

5. If you were poet during a different era, when/where would you want to exist?

In a workshop long ago Gary Snyder accused me of having a 17th or 18th century sensibility as a poet. So, maybe that’s where I’d find a home. But I’m very happy where I am right here and now.

 

 

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Isabel Rogers featured this fascinating interview between two of my favorite contemporary poets, john Glenday and Don Paterson. The two speak about the process of editing a manuscript into a book. In this case, John Glenday’s GRAIN, which is a wonder, and which Don published in his editor role at Picador.

isabelrogers.org

There’s a lot of talk about editing prose: a writer can employ a professional editor for a novel before querying an agent, then it may be edited again by their agent before it lands on a publishing house editor’s desk for another go.

I was recently asked if there is a similar process for poetry. The road between laptop and published page is often shorter and straighter with a poem. You don’t need an agent, to start with. I’ve had poet friends suggest changes as a poem evolved. My work has been published in magazines, the majority with no tweaks at all from the final draft I sent.

Publishing an entire poetry collection is different. Because I haven’t yet reached that stage, I questioned two far more experienced people (ok, a bit older) to illuminate the process:

Don pic

Don Paterson is head honcho of the Picador poetry list, as well as…

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Red 5-JPEGJonathan Hobratsch, writing in the Huffington Post, celebrated National Poetry Month by posing “5 Questions for Poets” by readers of poetry.

I’m going to continue to answer these questions (this is Part 3 for me, but out of sequence with the original; you can find my answers to other sets of questions, herehere, and here). Here’s a link to Jonathan’s original Part 4 post and the other poets’ answers: 5 Questions for Poets.

And here are my answers:

1. April 23 was Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary. If you went back in time and could ask him one question, what would that question be?

How the hell did you do it?

2. What bothers you most in your literature community?

That I don’t get to spend more time in it – whether it’s my virtual community “52” or the one where I live in Brooklyn. There are some wonderful poets – wonderful people! – in those communities and I really wish I had more time to hang out with them. In the larger poetry community: careerism, cronysism, and churlishness.

3. Which poets, alive or dead, are overrated/underrated?

I’m sure I’ll offend with this comment but I find Charles Bukowski completely overrated and over-read. And his influence is dreadfully felt. Among contemporaries, I also can’t see what all the fuss is about Dorothea Lasky, there doesn’t seem to be much there there.  (I can see the email daggers massing in my in-box or, for that one.)

There are way too many underrated contemporary poets to mention them all, but among the dead Lorine Niedecker, Kenneth Patchen, and Walter Pavlich have always seemed unfairly neglected in my book.

4. Are prizes like Pulitzer, NBA, NBCC are good for poetry. Is there discrimination against women poets, non-white poets, gay poets?

Prizes are for poets, not poetry. It seems like a popularity contest more than anything. I’m sure there is discrimination; you find that wherever there are human beings, cliques, factions, and dominant cultural hierarchies. Others have VIDA stats and ratios to prove it.

5. Is poetry useful?

Poetry is neither as useful as a tool nor as useless as a whim. Of course, I couldn’t live without it.