Jon Curley: Can you envision what kinds of poems, whether structurally or thematically, you might consider writing beyond the realm of your past practice? Are there elements of poems outside your usual patterns and activities you might try to integrate into your work?
Rachel Hadas: I find myself in close, ongoing collaboration with a video artist, Shalom Gorewitz. His “Yemaya,” (made under the pseudonym of Solace Salentino) a video rendering of a new poem of mine, can be found here. Due to my illness this summer, I became interested in making an offering to the ocean mother divinity, Yemaya, and this video depicts that. We plan more videos going forward.
Psychoanalytic discourse (Winnicott’s “good enough” mother, the devouring mother, etc.) haunt the Western imaginary, wherein parodies of our socio-cultural schism (virgin/whore) are attenuated by iconic representations of gender (Madonna, Gaga). Here I explore with writer Janice Lee the fine line between these mythic representations, the work of mourning and lived generational narratives. We also consider contemporary memes, such as the “feral feminism” of The Hunger Games, eating disorders, infertility and other symptoms of cultural malaise, and the damaging myth of a woman who has (or does, as an extenuation of capitalist production values) it all. Rage on. —Virginia Konchan
Nature Theater of Oklahoma talks to Philip Bither, Senior Curator of Performing Arts at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, about ego, humility and identity. Is it an arrogant act to program work (or make work) that you may personally feel is important—for an audience who may not want that kind of challenge? What is the grass roots work a good curator has to do to find and foster public interest (as populist as we can make it) in these so-called “difficult” works?
In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Jan Conn’s Edge Effects.
H.L. Hix: Though the poems in Edge Effects occupy “this intermediate realm,” they enter others frequently, and suddenly; they “superimpose / one horizon onto another.” I’m no mathematician and no scientist, but I think I “get” the concept of self-similarity at all scales, as it gets emphasized in popular accounts of fractals, and I wonder if some version of “self-similarity at all scales” is at work in the movement from one realm to another in these poems (from the music of the spheres, to my being “dog-eared and decadent”; from “a train / racing overhead” to “ground level / among the centipedes and beetles”; etc.).
In the hopes of encouraging a broader exchange among U.S. and Canadian poets, H. L. Hix has designed a series of one-question “mini-interviews” for his Canadian peers. A selection of these interviews will be incorporated into his forthcoming book Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2015). The subject of this interview is Sue Sinclair’s Breaker.
H.L. Hix: I am struck by the ambiguity of the book’s very last poem, “Asleep,” especially its last line. “We sleep side-by-side with eternity, and never touch” might mean that we two humans (the speaker and the particular person being addressed by the speaker) sleep, both of us alongside eternity, and we two humans never touch one another, or it might mean that we humans each of us individually sleeps alongside eternity, and we never touch eternity. (The line might sustain other meanings as well.) No doubt the ambiguity is intentional, so I do not ask you to “settle the matter” by removing the ambiguity, but I do ask: How does the line’s ambiguity cast back over the poems that preceded it in the book? Does it magnify other ambiguities?
This transatlantic interview series, “The Slow Boat,” provides a setting for poets to engage in occasional conversation over the course of two months. It strives to be an invitation to further inquiry into the methods and complexities of a particular composition. The aim is not to be conclusive, but, in tandem, to further explore what it is to make a poem.
Jim Goar: The opening lines of The House of Zabka (“Carrie was born in the best of times and the worst of / times”) weave A Tale of Two Cities into its tapestry. When her father dumps pig blood on her head, Carrie is incorporated into Carrie. On the following page, Toto appears at the entrance of a forbidden zone amongst “ancient symbols and a mobile phone number.” The reader, at the border, is forced to grind pop and canonical material just as Carrie’s father rolls “up that pig meat into all kinds of kielbasa.” And, like the consumer of these mysterious meat products, I am not certain that I know what I am eating. After all, this is a land in which: “You could swap the dog for your boyfriend or girlfriend.” I am pulled to these trades. If we could swap the dog for your boyfriend or girlfriend, could we also swap a Dickens novel for another Dickens novel or a newspaper for a fish? Does it all taste the same or are the specifics of the trades important? Do you choose the transactional material or does it choose you? Did you have the source books open and the movies playing while you were writing The House of Zabka? Maybe we could start somewhere in the vicinity of these concerns.
This interview series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” began as part of my Thomas J. Watson Fellowship year (1992-1993). Vladimir Petrovich Burich (1932-1994) was a groundbreaking Russian poet known for his experiments in free-verse poetry. Born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Burich moved to Moscow and worked as an editor. His poetry, which was first published in the 1960s, only received broad readership in the 1980s, with the appearance of the first collections of Russian vers libre: “Beliy Kvadrat” (White Square), “Vremya Iks” (Time X) and, later, the Anthology of Russian Vers Libre.
Philip Metres: Tell me something of your biography that might help illuminate your work.