Kathleen Ossip with Jasmine Dreame Wagner

Kathleen Ossip
Kathleen Ossip

This interview focuses on Ossip’s book The Cold War (Sarabande, 2011).

Jasmine Dreame Wagner: When I think of the Cold War, I think of stalemates, secrecy and pervasive, unspoken anxiety. I think of difficult, uncomfortable alliances between powerful forces. Could you speak a little bit about why you chose The Cold War as the title for this collection of poems? If not a literal reference to a historical period, how are you using the historical period metaphorically?

Kathleen Ossip: The impulse for the book began as a bewilderment with the (post-9/11) present—how did we (as individuals and as a nation) get into our current predicament? By predicament, I mean the whole mess of hostility, anxiety, repression, compulsion that seems to dominate our culture and society. That mess looked very reminiscent of the Cold War period to me (which, remember, lasted from the end of World War II all the way through to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). So I started to wonder about the trajectory—how we got from there to here—and started to explore that wondering in poems. As a title, I expected The Cold War to have a resonance both as a historical marker and as a metaphorical one for an interior struggle.