In the Poetry Library With Marianne Boruch

– I do what I call
hospital rounds on my poems between five and six, I start,
and I have my pot of tea and I kinda just go through my poems, I read them
out loud and oftentimes, I’ll just, that’ll be it
and I’ll go to the next one. And so basically I’m just
hanging out with them, quality time with my poem
and just kind of slowly over time those poems
reveal themselves to me, so. And what they really are
and I kinda figure them out and they kinda grow into
their own creaturehood, they’re like really
separate, they’re not me, I’m not just xeroxing
my guts or something, so I don’t know, I think it’s
a really mysterious form, poetry, I mean, the more I
work with it all these years, I mean, I really, it gets
weirder and weirder to me in what it even is, I
don’t even know what it is. You kinda climb into it,
it’s like a little cockpit and you kinda step into a
place where I feel totally, in a certain way, bodiless, genderless, I could exist any time, I’m
still writing out of my own experience, clearly, but
there’s a kind of way that that’s kind of irrelevant in that I’m not sure
who writes those poems. But that’s a pleasure,
I mean it’s a pleasure sort of to be elsewhere. The book that I won the
Kingsley Tufts prize for was actually the scariest
book I ever wrote. There are poems that run through that book that deal with my mother’s death, there’s poems that deal
with the natural world in a kind of tooth and claw way. There’s a bunch of god poems for which I’ll be struck by lightning. Mostly they were written in
woods in various places I was in residencies and I would wake up and there would be another
one, it would just come at me and then wake up the
next day and another one would come at me and they were all, and I would cut them off
at 16 lines, boom, end. I’ve never written like that. There were what I call the voice poems where an older poet is sort of
tormenting two younger poets and I got to use language I
usually don’t use in poems. They were kind of sort of
like, they’re kind of comic and the younger poets get
pissed off at the older poet and I like to talk about
poetry in certain ways in those poems. That was really interesting to
have those different threads keep coming into it. I like the essay form a lot. I mean, I think it’s closer to poetry than it is to fiction, even
though they’re both prose. They’re both kind of dreamt in a way. They’re both have a kind
of interiority that I think it’s available to fiction
writers but not in the same way. Y.L. Stevens talks about
thought collecting in pools and a stanza is a pool
but so is a paragraph. As I’ve gotten older, I’m more tolerant of and really welcoming to abstraction. I think, Y.L. Stevens in his
Notes Toward Supreme Fiction which he called poetry, he talks
about the three definitions for poetry, he says it must give pleasure, which I think about in terms
of music or the imagery, the beauty of that, it must be abstract, and I’ve come to think now
that the meaning of that, at least for me is it has
to get bigger at some point, it can’t be just, oh I ate my
breakfast and blah blah blah and look out the window,
saw this beautiful bird blah blah blah, end of story. It’s like, it has to
get larger at some point and have that resonance, and
that’s what abstract means, I think. But the final one always I
loved, which is, it must change. Something has to happen. You have to be changed
by that observation, so if the poem changes, you have changed. Just by the weight of the poem, the weight of what you observe
and your attentiveness. I think poems actually are
having a resurgence in a way because as our attention spans shrink, there’s something about the
poem, which is a small thing usually on one page and you know, there’s
something wonderful about that, I think to the contemporary mind. But I feel like I really
can’t speak for poetry because I’m in this one
little corner of it. I mean, there’s so much to
read and so much to read from the past and find what’s
contemporary in older work I think is really important too.

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