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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Finding the Incarnate in Poetry - an Interview

I'm delighted that IthacaLit, that fine litmag out of Ithaca, NY and piloted by poet Michele Lesko, has published Barbara Ellen Sorensen's interview with me, as well as a couple of my new poems. Barbara's interview focused on topics of importance to us both: imagination, creativity, and spirituality. Barbara, author of the recent collection Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, asked me questions that made me dig down into my sources. I especially liked thinking about and responding to this:

Why do you suppose more poets don’t write with spirituality in mind? Particularly those who write poetry inspired by the natural world, not dipping into spirituality seems almost antithetic. I would say that acknowledging any type of spirituality in the poetry world, specifically, is not going to buy you any friends. I would venture to say it is a lonely endeavor to introduce it into poetry. Yet, you do. So the obvious question is: why is the acknowledgment of spirituality necessary and important? 

We talked a lot about this, and my answer occupied a good chunk of the interview. It boils down to this:

Few write about, or know, the whole of the human condition. We need more balance in our poetry. Poets writing from belief are telling an important facet of the human condition, but they are often ignored for doing so because it’s still thought unseemly among intellectuals to believe in God. Or at least to speak of it at the dinner table and in poetry. And it’s absolutely unheard-of to think of Divinity as broader than a Biblical Judge up in the stratosphere.

A few are boldly writing about these things and we need more. Gregory Orr, a contemporary poet who writes about the spirit without nailing anything to dogma, wrote a wonderful villanelle on this topic. In his long sequence, “The City of Poetry,” Orr writes:

Ask any poet why this is. Talk to him or her
About why many poems blithely
Include deepest grief and horror—

They’ll tell you this city, like the human heart,
Contains it all—spun sugar and gossamer,
But also deepest grief and even horror.

But we have skewed life into only grief and horror in our publishing, but in pursuing literary careerism in our writing, we’re often tempted to overlook the deeper other aspects of life.
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