Getting to Know Wyn Cooper and his new book Mars Poetica

Available on Amazon

 Wyn Cooper has published five books of poems, most recently  Mars Poetica.  His work has appeared in  Poetry, Ploughshares, Slate , and more than 100 other magazines, as well as in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry. His poems have been turned into songs by Sheryl Crow, David Broza, and Madison Smartt Bell. He has taught at Bennington College, Marlboro College, the University of Utah, and at The Frost Place, and has given readings throughout the United States as well as in Europe. He worked for two years at the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, a think tank run by the Poetry Foundation, and now lives in Boston and works as a freelance editor. www.wyncooper.com

Wyn Cooper has published five books of poems, most recently Mars Poetica. His work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Slate, and more than 100 other magazines, as well as in 25 anthologies of contemporary poetry. His poems have been turned into songs by Sheryl Crow, David Broza, and Madison Smartt Bell. He has taught at Bennington College, Marlboro College, the University of Utah, and at The Frost Place, and has given readings throughout the United States as well as in Europe. He worked for two years at the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, a think tank run by the Poetry Foundation, and now lives in Boston and works as a freelance editor. www.wyncooper.com

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?

I started writing poems in fifth grade, which is when my first poem was published. I continued publishing in high school, and realized I was pretty good at it, so I continued.  

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write? 

I write six days a week from 5 to 7 in the evening, in my favorite chair.

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?

My poems always begin with sound, with the unconscious, and sense follows. As humans we are hard wired to make sense, so I don’t worry about that. 

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?

I really have no answer for that. I don’t like to play favorites! I do go back to Larkin and Bishop more often than others, though. 

What's the significance of the title?

Mars Poetica is a play on ars poetica, and the reference to Mars came from outer space.

Are there over-arching themes?

I don’t really see over-arching themes, but I do think the poems in this book both mourn and celebrate the people and places I love, and how to make that love balance the hate that’s in our world right now, and in me.  

What was the process of assembling it? Was it a project book?

My most recent book was all loose sonnets, and the one before that was all postcards poems. This book was a relief from that in a way, because I was able to include as many kinds of poems as possible; I didn’t have to leave anything out because it didn’t fit into the program. But assembling it was hell, even though I work as an editor. 

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Read an excerpt from his book here:

How Silent the Trees


        --for Liam Rector, 1949-2007


How the hell are you, I want
to ask but can’t—you’re dead.
 
How hard the snow fell,
how slowly it melts. 

How to tie a knot big enough
to choke the wild pain.  

How to listen carelessly
to words used carefully.

How answers to questions
often contain no answer.

How to wind a watch
so tight time stops.       

How silent the trees, how
loud the shots of hunters.