This terrific blogger named Jess Witkins interviewed me about my new poetry collection,?Little Prayers. There’s a book giveaway, too. Here’s a teaser:
Jess: Why do you think poetry is important today??
Me: I think poetry asks us to tap into a different part of our brains than prose does. It demands and requires more intangibility. I remember well the time my mom told me she liked my poems but felt like she didn?t understand them. I told her she didn?t need to, that she should just appreciate what she got out of them. She told me later how freeing that was for her, that me giving her permission not to work too hard took away a lot of her anxiety and allowed her to just sit with the lines and enjoy them. I think that?s one of the things that?s hardest about poetry?we don?t always ?get it? in the way we might, say, a novel or a memoir, and maybe that?s why people run away from it. We don?t want to feel stupid or like we?re missing something. We want clarity, answers. Because poetry often raises?questions.?But?I think that?s a really good thing! Poetry can open us up to mystery and abstraction, which is good for our brains and our hearts. And the music of poetry?learning to hear it?is essential for anyone wanting to write or appreciate good writing.
I hope you’ll read it, and, if it feels right, share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or wherever you social media.
A living room. Where one could, say, sit in the sun and read poetry.
I’m going to say out loud something I have mostly only said in my head: poetry is a dying art. I don’t always believe that, but more and more, I do. In this world of blogs, tweets, and texts, we all have lost our attention spans. And poetry, usually, requires us to sit with things for a bit. It’s a hard task, and I wonder how many of us will still be sitting down to read poetry in ten or twenty or thirty or a hundred years.
Doing this blog all month, I have realized a couple of things about myself. I used to be a very dedicated poet. I inhabited that basement room where poets live: we were off the grid, into something a little off-kilter, part of what felt like a secret world, because so few others were in the room with us. And I loved it. I wrote many, many poems, some of which got published, many of which did not. I didn’t have to miss poetry because it was my entire existence.
Then, in 2004, when I cut out and went to travel around the world with my now-hubs, B., my relationship to poetry changed. When we got back to the States I decided I was going to write very seriously for a year, so we got a cheap apartment, I took a part-time job, and I wrote. The trouble was that I couldn’t fill the time. For me poetry happened in little fits and starts; I’d write all morning some days, and on others, I’d write for ten minutes. Or not at all. There was all that time. It was only natural that after a while, I started to write prose, which for me is something you can chip away at all day, all week (or for seven long years).
But I realized that I lost something when I stopped writing poetry: I had stopped slowing down and sitting with things in the same way. And I missed it. I still miss it.
I’m pleased to report that my long break from poetry officially ended when I started the postcard poem project with Mike Dockins. It ended because now I have an imperative to write a poem every couple of weeks. It’s not the same as it used to be, but it’s something. And it’s all coming back to me: that necessity of being slow, of being careful, even of being kind of frivolous and capturing a moment or an emotion without dogging it to death (as I do when I write, say, an essay). And I realized that the world really does need poetry, for that very reason. Because it slows us down, because it exists outside of our crazy world. It gives us a unique challenge. There’s nothing else like poetry.
Which is all to say that I hope I’m wrong that poetry is dying out, and I have resolved to help in that cause. Here’s how you can help, too.
Support Poetry Daily! It’s a great site, with a poem a day, and while I have not yet been featured there, I hope someday I will be. They’re in their spring membership campaign, and you can donate here.
Read poetry yourself. In addition to the many fine poets I featured this month, check out T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Robert Lowell, H.D., Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Ashberry, Gary Snyder, Jorie Graham, Louise Gl?ck, Adrienne Rich, Cathy Song, Carolyn Forche, Joy Harjo, Carolyn Kizer, Heather McHugh, Russel Edson, James Tate, Dara Wier, Ai, David Rivard, Tomaz Salamun, Wislawa Zymborska, Adam Zagajiewski, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Tess Gallagher, Marie Howe, Deborah Digges, Mary Oliver, W.S. Merwin, Charles Olson, Cornelius Eady, Matthew Rohrer, Matthew Dickman, Michael Dickman, Joshua Beckman, Cate Marvin, Brenda Shaughnessy….the list goes on and on. Who are YOUR favorites?
Finally, good news for me! I got a poem accepted for publication recently. It’s forthcoming in the journal Rock & Sling. Stay tuned.
Couple interesting things you all should check out.
Today’s post on popcorn, by Tara Conklin, is “My Top Five Books for Fall.” Recommendations for what to read this rainy, cool, wonderful season. She distills the much-awaited and much-acclaimed down to five, including the new novel by Zadie Smith. I won’t spoil the rest, but get your browsing self over to popcorn to investigate.
Bay Area folks, put on your calendar the November 3 screening of the short film “Sully Marooned” at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. (the film is less than ten minutes long; it will show with a bunch of others at the same time). This is the second film by my friend Chrissy Loader, who writes about music, love, loss, and frailty. This one is a hit–I loved it. Looks like you can buy tickets here.
I have been trolling the Web for good blogs about reading and writing (part of another project over on popcorn), and I found a couple that are witty, well-written, and fresh, including this great blog by the Bibliostrumpet. Beautiful writing, gracious book reviews. And that title! Methinks sex-obsessed San Francisco writer Stephen Elliott (whose site The Rumpus is another fave) would approve.
Which writing, reading, or literary blogs do you love, readers?
I’ve decided to start a new weekly feature (call me ambitious) on my blog called “Plugs.”
With Plugs I will do quick notes about things I’m “plugging”–writing contests, new books I’m enjoying, anything I want to recommend to YOU, readers. Know that I have no official sponsor, and no particular allegiance, but I DO love to advertise my friends’ work.
So here is today’s plug. My friend, writer Charles McLeod, sent me this great opportunity for California writers who have been published in the last 18 months to be in an anthology (I realize this may only apply to a handful of folks; sadly, it does not currently apply to me). Check it out.
Incidentally, you’ll notice that the small press who is putting together this anthology, Outpost 19, is also the one I plugged a few months ago, because they published Charles’s book and also Loud Memories of A Quiet Life by Tom Molanphy, which I blogged about here.
Do you have a writing opportunity/book/something you want me to plug? Email me/comment here and I just might mention it. No promises, but I’ll do my best.
I'm working from the premise that motherhood is not just all diapers, tantrums, and setting limits. It's interesting. Okay, sometimes.