The Life of a Poet: Conversations with Ron Charles – Poet Mary Ruefle



but it and I know I'll sleep well tonight let me just say a little bit about the library of congress and the poetry literature center before we start we are home to the poet laureate consultant in poetry our most recent pote Lori Charles Wright just finished his appointment as the 20th poet laureate we also do events readings lectures symposia stuff like that throughout the year a few off-site but mostly up the street at the library's Jefferson Madison buildings to find out more about those events you can go to our website which is wwl SC gov / poetry and now I'm very excited to introduce Mary rueful who will conclude our 2,000th font 2015 spring season of life of a poet she is the author of ten books of poetry including selected poems winner of the William Carlos Williams award from my old my old home the Poetry Society of America she has also published madness rack and honey collected lectures which was a finalist for the national book critics circle award in criticism and has published a book of prose in a comic book she is an erasure artist too whose treatments of 19th century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in the book a little white shadow her honors include the Robert Creeley award an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters a wedding award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and from the National done with the Arts do we have anybody from the NEA here tonight no there's any people there can they're missing out she lives in bennington vermont and she teaches intermittently at the infant program and vermont college and will do so this summer so Ron wrote a wonderful intro about this event and about Mary in the washington post this week if you haven't read it you should go back after this event and check it out he talks about in that in that in intro which is sort of a primer he talks about Mary's strikingly original poetry which he says is quote marked by flashes of sorrow and wit and he also says her palms contain echoes of Emily Dickinson which makes intuitive sense to me I first learned of Mary's poetry and hurt her read when I was a graduate student up in Amherst Massachusetts which is the kind of place that can inspire poetry arguably as much of not more than anywhere else the concision the imaginative charge the beautiful directness and playfulness this is how both Emily and Mary witness over in poem after poem but Mary's ability to move among genres and even art forms makes her an inspiring figure in a different way to me Mary is a reminder of the essential nature of artistic practice it allows for a kind of freedom and a kind of discovery that no other practice can offer I am so lucky to know her and to know her work and I'm delighted we will all will have the opportunity to spend the next hour or so learning about both so please join me in welcoming Mary rueful thank you rob and thank you for coming it's such a pleasure to have you here it's not a pleasure to read your work on her to be here this is biggest travel he's had yeah thank you all very much for coming to you once told an interviewer I didn't grow up anywhere Oh what do you mean by that you said I grew up without a singular home my father was in the military and we moved every year every two years the longest we ever lived anywhere was three years but since i said that i have heard an even more wonderful answer which i would outright steal from the poet da powell who said where did you grow up he said I'll tell you what it happened in a poem called the review you said all my life have helped the heavy hand of the poet making connections which is a shame because my life did have its moments of grace and strength oh did you did did you was it in a poem it was uh yeah in a poem among the mosque oh yeah yeah yeah yeah when did you really feel that calling as a poet wasn't always really um sub consciously or unconsciously I believe when I was a child was it a calling like a religious feeling and impulse I think that becoming a poet is a vocation that you don't choose it chooses you and you feel it instead of looking at all the possible vocations in the world and choosing among them lower your dog evil it you feel it inside yourself and inside yourself is a voice telling you this is what makes me happy this is what I want to do in the beginning it doesn't say this is what I should be doing but this is what I want to do then I think after a certain period of time it starts to say this is what I should be doing and eventually it the voice begins to say this is why I was put on earth and that may sound very prideful or inflated but it is a definition of faith to believe that were you encouraged no I was never encouraged at all no I was not I was not born in you can understand why I mean it was radical career choice yes my my parents were never happy with my career choice although I later after they died found out that they were secretly proud they never heard me read and they never read my books why but they bought my books and they had them displayed in the living room in a pile my father didn't like poetry if you don't like poetry why should you you would you shouldn't you don't have to read it my mother I think read the books looking for something she might recognize a place name or a person's name and found it once and that's the only time she ever responded to anything I wrote she said oh you mentioned you know the street or something but that's okay I mean means I had to find my own way and I think I found my own way in books I think we come to we become writers in one of two ways either were born into a family that loves the arts and encourages them and introduces every child from birth to their cultural heritage and to all the cultures in the world creative cultures the world over and as a child you're very very fortunate if you have parents who constantly read great books to you and take you to museums and help you fall in love with painting and music those of us who didn't have that can't really complain because what happened in my case and from my discussions with other people many other cases is you feel very lonely and weird and you feel you were born into the wrong family and you go into your room if you're lucky enough to have one I was I had a room of my own after a certain age and closed the door and read and in a book I said oh someone else is lonely too and that was that was it I mean then they became my friends and they became my family and my closest friends growing up I I mean I had real you know fleshy human for right but the friends the kinds of friends you make in books when you're a lonely child it's like nothing else and they've remained my friends my whole life I still love you know the books that you might read as a child the Wind in the Willows is one of my all-time favorite books you know a robert louis stevenson or who it's not just I love children's literature and then eventually one day you're reading Salinger and then you're reading Tolstoy and and then you're reading you know Gertrude Stein and so it goes and remember these self-deprecating lines my inability to express myself is astounding yes I still feel that way I don't think we all feel that way yeah it is not curious or even faintly interesting but like some fathomless some a number a number of the sum of equally fathomless numbers each one the sole representative of an if and ever ripening infinity that will never reach the weight required by the Sun to fall with that are you being since are you just being are you being funny there is that really the way you feel or is it just kind of a comic expression of exasperation that's a that's a good and interesting question i think when i wrote that particular poem i really was feeling that but in another poem when i say such an outlandish thing it might be I was being outlandish but I think I was feeling that at the time as sometimes when I get carried away I it it's hard and sometimes when I get carried away in a poem um it's an expression of my innermost being which is being swept away and then sometimes I'm very conscious of it I'm doing it on purpose and having fun that both can happen yes it once told an interviewer I can't gauge my work at all oh how can that be that is true how can that be how can you know when the poems done or when you should send it in or share it or sell it I can I know what a poems done but I meant gauging the quality of a poem I can I know when it pumps down a poem is done when it stops bothering me that's my definition have done this when it stops bothering me if I write a poem and I spend days and this happens all I spend days walking around with those lines that are not right it's not done but Oh gauging my work the poems that I've written that I love like nobody pays any attention to or as any interesting often they're not published or or my editor rejects them from books and things and I think they're like you know and then the poems and I'm like that's ridiculous everyone likes them I don't know would you read a poem for us sure I'd be happy to this first palm in your latest book Oh saga yeah everything that ever happened to me is just hanging crushed and sparkling in the air waiting to happen to you everything that ever happened to me happened to somebody else first I would give you an example but they are all invisible or off gallivanting around the globe not here when I need them now that I need them if I ever did which I doubt being particular has its problems in particular there is a rift through everything there is a rift running the length of Iceland and so a rift runs through every family and between families a feud it's called a saga riffs and sagas fill the air and beautiful old woman's sing of them so the air is filled with music and the smell of berries and apples and shouting when a gun goes off and crying in closed rooms faces who needs them eating the blood of oranges I in my alcove could use one abba's and Alma's come out of your huts travel halfway around the world inspect my secret bank account of joy my face is a jar of honey you can look through you can see everything is muted so terribly muted who could ever speak of it sealed and held up for all you published a collection of your lectures called madness rack and honey it's a great great collection I hope all of you get a copy you right in there I don't think I really have anything to say about poetry which is not true at all by the way other than remarking that it's a wandering little drift of unidentified sound and trying to say more reminds me of following the sound of a thrush into the woods on a summer's eve if you persist and following the thrush it would only receive deeper and deeper into the woods you'll never actually see the thrush the hermit thrush is especially shy but i suppose listening is a kind of knowledge or as close as one can come I thought you were kidding with that metaphor but as I read your work I did feel like I was chasing the thrush for the last few days I could hear it I thought it was beautiful but I couldn't always see it there were poems of yours that affected me and I had no idea why do you feel that way sometimes yes I feel that way every time I read a poem i love you try and analyze it but somehow the analysis seems inadequate or even irrelevant to the emotional effect of a poem the simplicity of your language for instance completely belies the complexity of what you're doing if i think is the real genius of your work in one of your poems you call poetry a sphinx in a sandstorm oh great it can be that terrible i am when i was younger i read all sorts of things that went right over my head but I love them I knew that I loved them even if I didn't understand them and that's part of what keeps a person reading I think I think I mean now I am older and I can understand a lot more of what I read right but like this poem kiss of the Sun oh okay kiss of the Sun if as they say poetry is a sign of something among people then let this be pre-arranged now between us while we are still peoples that at the end of time which is also the end of poetry and wheat and evil and insects and love when the entire human race gathers in the flesh reconstituted down to the infant's tiniest fold and LITTLEST snail I will be standing at the edge of that fathomless crowd with an orange for you reconstituted down to its innermost seed protected by white thread in case you are thirsty which does not at this time seemed like such a wild guess and though there will be no poetry between us then at the end of time the geese all gone with the Seas I hope you will take it and remember on earth I did not know how to touch it it was all so raw and if by chance there is no edge to the crowd or anything else so that I am of it I will take the orange and toss it as high as I can that's one of those poems it's beautiful it's affecting and I'm not always entirely sure what's going on well when you listen to music you're not also not entirely music and poetry of course share ancestors and their related I believe that if a poem gives you pleasure you have understood it and if you're a student and you're taking an exam and your teacher asks you to explicate the poem I want you to write this poem gave me pleasure therefore I understood it and have nothing else to say and if your teacher gives you problems give them my phone number call me in one of your poems you say one pair of eyes is simply not enough and I listening and looking our are the central activities of your poems you agree with that I totally agree with that I think paying attention to yeah they're all about what I get a sense that you think poetry is an act of extreme and inspired attention yes I do i do write in one of your poems they noticed you see that i was a noticing kind of person none of the poem you say poetry is a tourist it wears cameras around its neck and takes nice pictures of deadly things in a phone called the lake gulls and april includes these lines every time you are amazed you are a poet amazed at exactly the right thing that's the key looking I think all poets are notices and pay attention but but we pay attention to different things hence the wide variety of poetic concerns and subjects and styles some people pay attention to to the evolution of their past and some people pay attention to language always a great thing to pay attention to and some people pay attention to what they they see like a flower to nature or if they live or urban things in urban you know you pay attention to different things your poems make us pay more attention i think they sort of trained us to pay attention well that's the greatest compliment that anyone could give another person to pay more attention to the world around you and some of those very ordinary things in one of your poems this line struck me the elaborate stillness of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in wax paper at the bottom of a lung pale hard-boiled eggs I've never really looked at a horrible day and they have that Sheen the elaborate stillness and then Bob Dylan has a great line speaking of poetry in which it's a song he's totally ripping off the Scottish poet Robbie Burns it's my heart's in the highlands into a restaurant and he compares the waitresses long legs too shiny hard-boiled egg I don't know that just popped into my mind you said hard-boiled egg I said they're amazing and I thought of that line that's good I mean horrible eggs they're everywhere they're everywhere once you start thinking about them you see them everywhere that poem ends by the way so you see it all everything so terribly clear sticky notes here here's a poem about looking and seeing I mean all your palms are but that one struck me in particular early this is my first book Wow okay I read this in 40 years Street One it begins in the window and is broken by the Elm with a root for drinking everything is alive in a glass the woman in a clear plastic coat cellophane over the bread in her bag through a windshield I can see her face have cut by a wiper there a man stands in a gutter of water shifts in the drunkenness of leaves like his feet he has taken a single unnecessary step from here on out things will be different his heart an engine a small yellow Sun that appears to be stopping traffic to it is painful to look at the Snowman his eye sockets shoved with coal he is melting like white bread in the rain only the luster of his eyes will be left hard in the tall grass odd that the deadly event seemed to be sagging with birth unable to sleep or let go or perhaps it is everything happening at once a black coat taking with it the stock still man inside it is a dangerous thing to be walking without looking up and a chair is a terrible thing sitting next to a third-story window beautiful though but the dead do not have to look both ways it's a really early poem that this this dates from about 75 1975 I'm it read it in ages and I see all sorts of interesting things in it that I did then like consistently that would never do to have but um that was yeah yeah I was in an apartment and it was on the third story of a building and I had a chair right next to the window and I would sit and just look out the window thank you for that sure thank you oh you don't have a computer I understand no i don't why not I just don't have any time first you great cat videos you're missing I thought I have an iPad and I do have a favorite YouTube video it's about the only thing I like on the computer it's called pet penguin in Japan so if you haven't if you haven't looked up pet penguin in Japan or not it is an absolute cure for depression it works every time I don't have a computer not because I have anything against them at all but because I myself personally for my own reasons it has to do with the tension we live in a culture that more and more tells us what demands what we pay attention to that we should pay attention to all these things I reserve the right to choose what I pay attention to and I choose not to pay attention to the world online it hurts me in many ways because all of literature is moved online i'm all aware of that and you know i suffer from that a little bit but i have time to look out the window and you know open the fridge to check out the hard-boiled eggs and all sorts of things like that I it's just it's a personal choice of attention I do have an iPad it's not hooked up to a machine or anything I couldn't print anything out but I mean I'm not I I have experienced that world I thought it had something to do with wanting not to be distracted yeah I read it work you see one of your poems I have done nothing for long periods of time and learn to do it well I yeah I love this line ducks never acquire any knowledge because they never shut up that's true I love ducks too and squirrels and animals and you lived in Vermont a long time um yeah I moved there in 1971 40 years yeah I've been there more or less ever since except I had been a way to live in other states for a year at it I've been away for a year at at times five years in Massachusetts and then I've been many other places for a year but I always it was its home and nature is the primary subject of your work well it was but now I live for years many of these books were written I was very very fortunate and I lived on a lot of wilderness but those days are over and I now live in a really really bad neighborhood in a depressed mill town like right downtown and subsidized housing and at first I thought oh this is going to be depressing and I feel a great sense of solidarity now with it with neighborhood and I love I've been there 12 years now and I love getting slowly observing the acute insane suffering of the teenagers and the older people and the younger people and the kids and the adults and and I have I have friends who you know have a kind of idyllic setting and they live a bigger why does she live there why does she live there and I realized I can't express it again my inability to be articulate about where i live in my love of it but I do feel now a defensive solidarity with the stratum that I live among social stratum not that I live among yeah this is new really recently relatively no 12 years I've been there but all before that I was sort of caretaker for an estate with you know apple orchards and dear and all of that those were the subjects of your poems yeah for most part you see well you but you see a lot of that in what did it represent to you did it represent something else or was it just what it was just nature as nature well nature is not just nature it's a it's a planet moving through outer space and we are sharing that planet with plants and animals so that's the main picture we have to keep in our minds at all time right now we are in outer space we are in outer space literally we're on a ball of Earth in the middle of endlessness nobody knows where it ends or how big it is they only know it's a lot bigger than they fought and we're in the middle while we can't say middle right because you'll be on the edge we could be on the edge you know so literally this is our position we are in outer space it's the given you don't have to do anything weird or say anything weird to be in outer space you are in outer space and we are sharing this space with plants and animals if you wake up every morning remind yourself of that today will be pretty interesting do not disturb oh yeah guys I remember these do not disturb in a milk white mist in the middle of the wood there are two dead vowels the vowels in the wood are cared for by birds who cover them in strawberry leaves and in the winter when the bodies are mounted with snow owls keep a vigil from a nearby branch by the light of the moon poor vowels in the wood poor vowels in the wood they can't remember the vowels in the wood when they did woo how before they were dead they lay on vax and looked at the clouds speaking softly to one another four hours that poem is a riff on an old children's verse english children's verse babes in the wood which I kind of fell in love with and it sort of rift I turned the children into vowels babes in the wood which one this one is intermittent the anxiety of spring will come and the birds build nests out of circular ideas slender of means sparing of words the rain will fall the sun will shine and make things certain these things will remain a mystery next no contra from anywhere and the air be seriously entangled that was a spring poem it's hard when you you know live in the country not you know you have a spring every spring you're at a spring poem every fall you can't help yourself yeah not to embarrass you but the Emily Dickinson comparison does come up again and again and we're in writing about you end it and I felt it as i read your poems to the use of nature the wits of a strange paradoxical phrase and you're a great student of Emily Dickinson I understand student of I I love Emily Dickinson in reader but I never studied her in school I don't you know I'm what do you think about the comparison three things one I think the comparison began I could be wrong but it might have begun because I had a reputation for extreme reclusiveness and then it morphed into which is one thing right and then it morphed into the work and I was like doesn't entirely inappropriate it's inappropriate and it's entirely untrue you know actually I'm more reclusive than she I'm selling that no no because she lived with her sister and her mother and her father and I know I guess I still live alone but I lived alone my whole life till recently okay and she never never lived alone a day in her life so there was that reclusive you know rip that reputation and then it got the work which I felt was embarrassing and inappropriate and simply not true I mean I know her work and I'm not true and then my third take is it on it is deep inside of myself the thrill bell goes off I think all those other things and the thrill Bell is always there I'm not gonna lie well I sir I heard it again and again in your work I didn't know you were recluse and not all reclusive women are like Emily Dickinson that's for sure the ordinary words extraordinary lines of there are such distinctive moments in your poetry when you self consciously use very ordinary language and a beautiful poem about pain for instance you write it is a mistake to hope but not a biggie they're not a biggie according to TS Eliot there or sometimes you lay some cliche or nursery rhyme as in why am I not a good kisser you say a sailor went to see in me to see what he could see in me one of your poems begin star light star bright first star I see tonight I wish I may I wish I might have tranquility of mind in sight what are you doing in moments like that I was wishing on a star on that that one no I mean rhetorically what are you doing by taking this either cliche language foreign language or the language of a nursery rhyme and weaving them into your own language I love cliches if they're if they're put in a context where the world they become new or fresh again so I'm not afraid of using clichés I think English idioms are amazing well idioms in any language and so I'm very fond of idioms and nursery rhyme in archaic texts I don't I want to reinvent that stuff I don't want it to be lost you know when I was a little girl we played patty cake and it was a sailor went to sea in to see what he a lot of girls today don't know what that is but I grew up singing that and I used it in that poem I mean I didn't think consciously i'm gonna use this in a poem while i was writing the poem for whatever reason it popped into my head and I incorporated it I will incorporate in a poem anything that pops into my head while I'm riding and so that that showed up and another thing and I'm not only speaking for myself because many many posters I will take anything figurative literally and anything literal figuratively which is almost a definition of being a poet me if you yeah you just you hear things wrong it's a twist right it makes it alive to us yeah there's a lot of humor in your lectures and this humor in your poetry too you've got a very Morton sense of humor it can be wickedly dark too you've written possibly the greatest poem about middle school I've ever read to read this you know the one I'm talking about me it's called middle school middle school I went to Cesar purvis a middle school the gymnasium was a chapel dedicated to loneliness and no one played games there was a stained-glass window over the principal's desk and innumerable birds flew against it reciting shalee with all their might but it was bulletproof and besides our leaders were never immortal the classrooms were modeled after motel rooms replete with stains and in remedial cases saucers of milk on the floor for innumerable cats or kittens depending on the time of year in them we were expected to examine ourselves and pass the principal himself once jumped off the roof at noon to show a school spirit our mascot was twist-tie men our team the bitter herbs our club the reconsider errs it was an honor to have gone though a tad strict in retrospect you have probably heard that we all became janitors sitting in basements next two boilers reading cheap paperback books of Italian poetry and never sweep a thing yet the world runs fine so many middle schools there is this constant tension in your in your poetry I think between happiness and sorrow joy and despair often to the same poem so does in the same line as I meant for comic effect it's a very painful thing to part company with what torments you typical witty line or this line here life is the sweetest thing in this world when you fall it's awful spend the first half of your life acquiring feelings spend the last half trying to lose them and the spooky music of failure will haunt you all your days that's really dark what's the title of that poem this oh yeah yeah yeahs toward the correction of youthful ignorance you right I think they are right after all there's no love in this world but it's a beautiful place in fireworks you write the world was designed and built to overwhelm and astonish which makes it hard to live what is it is this melancholy depression well I have suffered from depression in my life but I don't think that's it I think how do okay basically what I'm trying to say is this you know life is not easy it's just not um I mean don't terrible things happen don't you don't isn't it just awful sometimes rejection failure accident illness death poverty I mean do I have to go on I mean don't things break down don't you have bad days but there's all that stuff and you have to deal with it I mean you have to sign leases and go get rabies shots for your dogs and you know get it's just it's eighty percent maintenance run errands and it consumes us and I think all of us are really sitting around saying everyone else has all this free time I'm the only one which is not true but it's all that and then great person but you're alive and you possess the greatest gift on earth which is consciousness I hate such a gift it's so it that's always going to be joy pure joy joy so there's the joy of being just being alive and then there's the terrible stuff that happens you know so you survived the accident but you lost a leg do you know I mean it's it's mind boggling I don't know this yeah maybe that wasn't articulate enough just just like a daffodil daffodil such an anodyne title where did I get that title from is it in the poll it's not like a daffodil what went on when I suddenly understood him yellow with age and disillusioned with the despair that had fired his student days I unfolded a map of the city knowing it would never fit in my pocket again in the very depths of myself I dug a grave no path leads to it and there I planted every bulb I ever felt for him I had the sudden urge to eat postcards of famous paintings I had a perfectly lucid definition of wine blue marble powder down to see I had the belief it all comes down to one untranslatable word in parramatta tease he was paying to see me with no other career than my emotions about things yet I was continually born forward by his sense of rooms I wandered like a flashlight through every room I spotted clocks everywhere eat but each one told a different our my accurate heart these rough chimes and our dead bodies these three things occupied my mind and joy and joy and joy I was in love and it was a big mistake huge bad news but one day it occurred to me you know it's the same as the other stuff if you ever some of you who are younger if you ever find yourself in that situation because you often have to pass through it you know you see it's the same thing I was saying before no there's nothing worse than a bad love relationship and yet your power to love the human capacity for that kind of passion is never anything but pure joy your capacity to love is a wondrous thing so instead of being awestruck by the dumb lover be awestruck by your own capacity to love the person it's being a jerk it's that closing line by closing line and so surprises and so makes the palm become electric at the very darkest point of the poem and joy and joy and joy it's a very daring thing oh there is a lot of loneliness in your poems in a poem called blue you refer to the leopard of solitude oh yeah oh great isn't it that'll be my band of my blog yeah I'm the pythoness of paprika in the replica you right you've wasted another evening sitting with imaginary friends discussing the simplest possible arrangement of an iris I want you to read a couple of years your loneliness poems to us what is called the great loneliness oh ok I know that one the great loneliness by March the hay bales were ripped open exposed in the fields like bloated grey mice who died in December I came upon them at dusk and there at are lifted my spine until I felt like turning over an old leaf so I walked on a walking pitchfork from every maple hung a bucket or two collecting blood to be distributed across America so people could rise from their breakfast healthy hoping to make a go of it again now this is a riddle explanation but I am a historian of pagan means and must walk five miles a day to cover the period i will call the great loneliness and the name will stick so successfully that for years afterwards children will complain at meals and on sunny days and in the automat at Easter that their parents are unnecessarily mute and their parents will look down harshly upon the plates and beach towels and leaves and bunnies and say you don't know what you were talking about you never live through the great loneliness and if you had you would never speak and the children will turn away and consider the words or lack of them and how one possible explanation might be that inside our bodies skeletons grow at an increasingly secretive rate though they never mention it even amongst themselves my hotel my hotel my hotel darkened the bed sobbed to itself i SAT naked on the bed reading the book of Job he overcame them in the night and they were crushed when I woke up the book was already back in its jour like a genie in its lamp I looked out the window the outskirts were gone I wanted to say something but it was very unissued something unheard of I left the soap and the shampoo the shoe MIT and shower cap and sewing kit behind without these things how did I go on call me a deciduous person the way sometimes a photograph falls down through a family and no one knows who it is so my life without me was lived I thought I was so clever to notice this theme of loneliness in your work and then I ran across a poem of yours called QA that includes this line we notice you use the word lonely in many of your poems speaker says why is that so miss riffle why is that you want me to read the poem no um Wow why is what's loneliness have you obviously no law I'm not ah are you noticeable of being bored and I'm incapable of being lonely yes there is a difference of course between solitude and loneliness um I truly do not feel a weight of loneliness but there was a period in my life when I did and I think many of the intensest loneliness poems came out of a period when I was not in my right mind and i truly was expelled excruciating Lee lonely but that is certainly not the case you know most of most of the time I don't know I was a lonely kid I spent a lot of time alone in my room reading cuz you know when you move around a lot it takes a while to yeah I was lonely kid and it's somewhat you noticed this in your poems that's why you wrote this one at home about it yeah well I was on the radio and i was asked that oh and you put it in the phone I I completely froze I said well you know she what I noticed weird loneliness a lot of your poems why is that you know and you know I I just kind of I thought that was getting a little personal or something and I just and I wrote the poem a few days later you know that in some way exercise the loneliness from you once you became self-conscious about it in your work not that your work is therapeutic so hard to talk about that because I know that it's everywhere in my poems and yet i'm not a lonely person people have always said to me how you know I have friends that tried to live alone and they can't do it and I'm like sees his thing in the world I don't know how you can live with another burden um so there's that versus my emphasis on it in in my work and it's hot again it's hard from me to articulate maybe it's just a kind of a French on Yui or a Japanese melancholy or something yeah I don't know the only way to really get to the bottom of the question is I'd have to it can't be done I'd have to date the poems and look at the dates you know and compare the dates for something yeah talk about these erase her poems of yours oh yeah which I had never seen before I'm sorry you can't see them and this is completely inadequate but here's an example this is a little book called the white shadow and she's taken a 19th century book and she's whited out most of the words the words are all missing almost all the words that are gone would you read I've march i read them too it's it's a joyful book you can read the entire thing in five minutes no one at the villa made me secretly think of children chasing butterflies the flapping white dresses of the fish rising sharply against the sky my ignorance was a refining influence the view from the window stopped and said here I lied day after day and the only things I possess which can travel can go no farther I think what will always linger longest in our memories of her we never would any of us miss suffering would lay back on her pillows exhausted with the intensity of hope but hearing them is totally is a totally different experience than reading yeah it's one of those archives you you have to you yeah you can visually yeah visually see the whiteout and they're fairly effective to hear but they're not the same not the same you have to the hard thing with the erasure books is there one I've made 7878 of them there's only you've published one is coming out next week another one but this is was the first and it's an obsession and it's me coming to terms with the fact that basically a failed visual artist and so it's a way to incorporate anyway I work on them every day of my life well you write poetry yeah oh yeah oh yeah isn't that odd yeah but it just happened it's a ritual to a routine now do you think of it as a creative process or a destructive process totally creative but you're mostly taking away someone's words I'm I'm creating something new and I don't choose a famous people you know I don't choose I don't erase poetry first of all and I don't erase the works of I choose really obscure little books with the exception of the Bible but that you know heard of that yeah that's it yeah I've heard of that but um I've done I've done the Gospels but you erased the Gospels yes yes I did you and Thomas Jefferson yes yeah exactly so but the books are very much you're absolutely right it's it's a physical one of a kind experience of turning the pages and seeing on the page what's been taken away though I don't read from them anymore for a few years I read out loud at readings and then someone I trust came up and said what's the point why do you do that so I I stopped because you have to see it yeah they say otherwise it just turns into a bunch of punchlines or something which is okay isn't analogous to the kind of constraint that the someone with a rhyme scheme deals with or someone working in a particular form where you really can only choose particular words you put you put your finger on it this is um one this is how I explain it I write in free verse I palms but the erasure to me I might be some people call it found poetry which infuriates me it's like excuse me I work to get those you know I didn't find what the text i had to work at erasing texts to create poetic text or interesting or funny tag it's a form when I write a poem I can choose from any word in the English language road I can only use the words on the page now occasionally I will cheat and I will if I need the award ah in a certain place and it's not there i have little transfer letters you know or i can cut it out of another book and glue it on but for the most part i can only choose from those words you guys what very restrained words it depends on the size of the book I mean they're all different but it's a challenge you can only choose from the words on the page and obviously choosing I'm very picky about the books that help I mean I won't some people say oh here I think you'd like to erase this and I can take one up you know spend a minute looking at the text and going I'm not going to work is it like a sculpture you know like I just carve away what isn't the tree that kind of thing or what how do you see it there on a page oh um all the words rise up on they hover they hover like a quarter inch above the page it's like a field and they're hovering I don't actually read the I don't read the page I read the words which is different so I'm looking and I see all the words and I go in and I pic a phrase or a word that's delicious that I really love like I might see the word spine and I go okay I like that where I can use spine and then of course I can use the word pine which is inside of it because you can there are words inside of words so even though there might be 100 or 150 words on a page you also have all the words that are inside of words so yet so you you learn to to see that you're also limited by the order on the page though absolutely you're limited by the order that you have to make some phrase out of the order I I oh I love so much there's nothing like it on earth I'm crazy about it and it's a completely different is it a sort of as you say completely different your free verse poetry yeah I find it meditative and i find it infuriating sometimes and challenging and and I like the smell of the whiteout dreadfully toxic really toxic and I like my hand doing this but the new books are not just txt the new books juxtaposed image that I've cut out of another book it's you I could never read them out loud because you the text only makes sense there's only meant to make the sense I want it to make when you see the picture that goes with it yeah picture and this didn't incorporate of any images visible how do you think of this is this like something that a lot of people don't know oh no Tom Phillips the Great British to act 20th century British artist sort of started this craze I suppose with his great one of the great art works of the 20th century human meant you can buy it in paperback although he was treating a novel to be read again as a novel so that's different than what I do I don't you know I don't he was treating a novel so you could read pages and it did be characters and stuff would happen some of my books are racial books are sequential and there's an ongoing story of loosely and some art you know yeah that was the price of acting they were to look at a lot of people hate them which is you know that's what the attainable oh I've talked to people who just why do you waste your time doing that yeah because it's fun and I love it that's why I'm looking for if you mind ending with this poem not at all chippy mind unable to actively love you for the rest of actuality I will love in your stead as if they were you the blue clouds beneath the wings of planes winter dover faces ascending on an escalator and nothing else I will not love the trees the rain the stars are dusk the backs of coats or the shadow struck matches making cupped palms I will not love the sea or layers of cake anything having to do with ink or horses houses or the moon none of these things and nothing else shall I love but blue clouds above the wings of planes and winter dover faces descending on an escalator shall be sacred to me the unchristian done clarified stunned ones the disappearing on personal ones the ones who stopped when they are behind and let the strange winds sweep through Sunday April fourth and never look where they are going the title of that pump is to be mind I don't know if I would title it that today because that sort of turns it and can you imagine having to mind that however you know we should try it unable to love you oh it would be crazy it's lovely poem fine very lovely oh it this has been an incredibly special experience for me I really have loved talking about your work and thank you so much for coming thank you for having me on requesting you just move it right there thank you thank you now we have a reception across the hall with artisanal cheese is this right tis no cheese I'll have the additional cheese this way oh it's it's not an unusual place it's at the end of this hall thank you so much for thank you all for coming a wonderful audience and thank you so much

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