Robert Frost on Ezra Pound and the Modern Poet

Interview excerpt from The Paris Review:

That’s one of the best things you can say about Pound: he wanted to be the first to jump. Didn’t call people up on the telephone to see how they were going to jump. He was all silent with eagerness.

***

So often they ask me—I just been all around, you know, been out West, been all around—and so often they ask me, “What is a modern poet?” I dodge it often, but I said the other night, “A modern poet must be one that speaks to modern people no matter when he lived in the world. That would be one way of describing it. And it would make him more modern, perhaps, if he were alive and speaking to modern people.”

Read the full here.

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Kay Ryan on the Need to Rhyme

Interview excerpted from the Paris Review:

When I started writing nobody rhymed—it was in utter disrepute. Yet rhyme was a siren to me. I had this condition of things rhyming in my mind without my permission. Still I couldn’t take end-rhyme seriously, which meant I had to find other ways—I stashed my rhymes at the wrong ends of lines and in the middles—the front of one word would rhyme with the back of another one, or one word might be identical to three words.

***

What’s recombinant rhyme? It’s like how they add a snip of the jellyfish’s glow-in-the-dark gene to bunnies and make them glow green; by snipping up pieces of sound and redistributing them throughout a poem I found I could get the poem to go a little bit luminescent.

For the full, read here.

Vijay Prashad: The View from the Other Side

Interview excerpted from Jadaliyya:

The Poorer Nations finishes for me the project of telling the history of the contemporary world (the past hundred years) from the standpoint of the South. The perspective of these two books is that of the South—its investments and its contradictions, of course in terms of its relationship with the rest of the world and itself. It is not the view from Washington or Moscow, London or Tokyo—it is the view from the other side, as it were. I wanted to do this as a counter to the kind of global histories being produced, whose globality masks the Northern perspective and interests of much of this history-writing

Read the full here.

Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot on the Weight of Exits

Interview excerpted from the LA Review of Books:

There are lots of reasons why exits are hard. Society is so preoccupied with launchings and entrances and moving forward and meeting the next opportunity and tilting toward the future, which take our attention away from departures and leave takings. So we tend to interpret those leave takings as regressions, as failures, as negative spaces in our life journey. We associate the feeling brought on by exits with not doing very well.

***

Missing the exit is to miss at least half the story. When my doctoral students come in — they’re 35, they’re smart, they’re focused, they’re critical — they like to begin by telling me what they want to do, what will be their next steps. I always say, “What are you leaving?” That, to me, is a better marker to understand them.

Read the full here.

Kay Ryan’s Fairy Gift

Interview excerpted from the Paris Review:

A poem is an empty suitcase that you can never quit emptying.

***

People have trouble with my work because they want to say it’s humorous the way Billy Collins’s poetry is humorous, and that it’s witty. But there’s something else, this cartoony thing. When I read my poems to any audience there’s a lot of laughing, but I always warn them that it’s a fairy gift and will turn scary when they get it home.

Read the full here.

William Maxwell: The Landscape of Writing

Interview excerpt from the Paris Review:

Autobiography is simply the facts, but imagination is the landscape in which the facts take place, and the way that everything moves.

***

I just hang over the typewriter waiting to see what is going to happen. It begins with the very first sentence. I don’t will the sentence to come; I wait, as actively passive as I can possibly be. For some reason the phrase “Once upon a time” seems to be essential. Then, if I am sufficiently trusting, the rest of the story follows, and the last sentence is straight from the first.

For the full, read here.