1. Your poetry is so tactile, lush, and influenced by interactions; it explores the nature of relationships as it delves into nature itself. What about animals and nature inspires you? Since you experiment with form quite often, does nature also influence your poems in that way?
I think there is an alphabet and language of of the outdoors that helps me develop my own language in observance of human relationships that never ceases to delight and astonish me. In other words, I believe poetry about and from the natural world can make you feel like you’ve traveled, can give you a rush of understanding of less familiar landscapes, and a thunderstorm in your heart or brain. It can make you hear music all day even if the world around you seems music-less.
Salem’s eccentric writer Malcolm Miller died in 2014, but his story and poetry are getting a new life in Unburying Malcolm Miller, a documentary premiering on Friday 5 May at 5:30 as part of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.
The 60-minute work by filmmakers Kevin Carey and Mark Hillringhouse (both poets themselves) will be screened in the Morse Auditorium at the Peabody Essex Museum, followed by a brief discussion about the poet and the making of the documentary.
Quite probably, possibly, you know Ross Gay’s name or his poems or both. If you are fortunate, you’ve seen him read before; but if you haven’t, you’re still fortunate, because here comes your chance at Mass Poetry Fest 2017. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Gay’s third collection, has been much-feted since its publication in 2015; it was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry, and winner of both the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry and the Kingsley Tufts Award. He pulls off what seems, to me, perhaps the most difficult of poetic feats: while making space for sorrow and especially death, Ross Gay captures on the page the glories of sharing this planet with flora and fauna and human, the sheer joy of existence.
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When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?
Poetry emerged in my life as an expression of the inexpressible. Among the inexpressible was grief after my mother’s death when I was very young. I was an observant child, and the details I remembered were springboards for poems. Many of those details were aural. I imitated the way people spoke: my grandparents, who were from a tiny village near Kiev, my French teacher. I grew up in New York and spent time in the south, where I listened for the differences in dialect from region to region. Dialect remains to this day a hobby. Sit next to me on an airplane, and I’ll tell you were you grew up. Someone fascinated and compelled by the inexpressible and captured by the sound of language—how could I not become a poet?
Pulling off Patti Smith is hard, but Eileen Myles does it in reading glasses. She slipped into the podium, something akin to osmosis, and hushed the packed Ballroom A at AWP this year. I sat in the back, completely ignorant of Myles’ work and prestige. From the moment she started reading, I felt it immediately—her magnanimous nonchalance, swift and careless as a barber’s razor down my cheek.
Teaching writing, especially creative writing, can be scary. Faced with students who are sometimes eager to dig deep into the complexities of language and sometimes less than thrilled with the prospect of using that language to create something of their own, educators need to be ready. They need knowledge, enthusiasm, and resources to help them make writing a vital and accessible part of all students’ education. Perhaps even more importantly, they need to be reminded of what they themselves love about writing and why it is necessary work to empower students to find that love. Mass Poetry’s Summer Seminar led by Regie Gibson offers all of that and more.
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When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
Anytime I’m asked, “How did you get interested in poetry?” I credit Emily Dickinson with saving my sanity after I suffered a severe head injury in 1986 and couldn’t read, drive or work for six months. Ever since that trauma, I have turned to poetry to help me understand my own experience and to connect with others. My first poem, “seizure” was written during that time.