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.

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.

Linda Gregerson: The Pun-Ish Potential of Language

Excerpt from LA Review of Books:

Gregerson loves the pun-ish potential of language, the way the entangled accidents of time, circumstance, want, and will make meaning possible, and she frequently builds a poem around the unlikely marriages a single word makes. If the characteristic unit of much poetry is metaphor — the discovery of underlying likeness in seemingly unlike things — Gregerson is just as likely to turn that on its head, rhyming essentially unlike things based on surface likenesses. It’s a model of the ways in which she seems to love the world: not for what it hides but what it shows.

***

Gregerson has made the activity of her thinking into the driving force behind the language she uses, writing after clarity rather than for heft.

Read the full here.

Tanaya Winder: The Process of Honesty

Excerpt from Letters From A Young Poet:

We are so used to creating characters or writing scenarios, calling it like we see it, that this conditioned honesty can often come back to bite us.

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I used to think that was perhaps the best writing and never believed my instructor’s when they spoke about the importance of psychic distance. Sure it made sense mentally and intellectually but emotionally it didn’t feel right. It is only now that it makes sense – the process of processing.

For the full, read here.

Seamus Heaney: The Importance of Setting

Interview excerpted from Ploughshares:

I didn’t feel that my work was sufficiently the center of my life, so I decided I would resign; and I now realize that my age was the age that is probably crucial in everybody’s life—around thirty-three. I was going through a sort of rite of passage, I suppose. I wanted to resign, I wanted to leave Belfast because I wanted to step out of the rhythms I had established; I wanted to be alone with myself.

***

There is a connection at a deep level perhaps between the public demons and the private demons that were possessing people. The writers registered that connection but everybody in the place felt it within themselves.

Read the full here.

Philip Levine on His Poetic Process

Interview excerpt from The Paris Review:

I happen to believe Keats was right when he said the poet is the least poetical of beings, and that he or she must be ready to inhabit whatever the world presents, be free to “pick about the gravel with the sparrows….  I’m so weary of that anti-intellectual stance: I’m just standing here suckin’ on a beer writin’ these lines until the pool room opens. I love intelligent poetry.

***

I know a lot of people memorize their poems and give readings from memory, but I try to forget mine. I find that makes the readings more interesting for me; I’m often actually surprised by the phrasing, really quite delighted by it. Also, I don’t want to sit down and write my own poems again; I want my mind clear of them. At my age the big danger for a poet is that he’s going to rewrite his own work. One can feel very secure doing another version of what already worked.

Read the full here.