Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Interview with Catherine Kasper

Thank you for reading my poetry. I’m happy to discuss the poems and I’ll try to be as helpful as I can. I’m not fond of explaining poetry as it seems to me that poetry tries to get at what can’t be explained in words, with words. That’s its challenge and its wonder. I do believe there is such a thing as “emotional knowledge” and “intuitive knowledge” and I hope you feel empowered to apply those.

1. Blueprints of the City: It’s many cities, not just one. It’s about the interests, but final consequences of being a “visitor” anywhere, of arriving new places with distorted preconceived notions, and the dangers of that, and of the reality versus the idea.

2. Monoprints has several female “characters” and voices. Some of these are bits of overheard conversations, some of them are fictionalized, etc. In many of my poems, there are several voices. Some are re-constructed. I like to hear women’s voices since they’re still not heard enough in the world. See the Monoprints discussion below for more.

3. Solar, etc.:

Begin with: Solar plexis: 1. The largest of the autonomic plexuses, lying in front of the aorta at the level of the origin of the celiac artery and behind the stomach, formed by the splanchnic and the vagus nerves and by cords from the celiac and superior mesenteric ganglia, and branching to all the abdominal viscera through its connections with the other abdominal plexuses. Also called solar plexus.

Your questions about “Thirty-three Articles” are wonderful. I think poetry, like life, gets us to consider and ask questions, (when it’s good) and focus on the question. I’m not saying this simply to be evasive. As in the last poem of this book, the questions are more important than any pretense of “answers.”

4. Some scholars argue that the term “avant-garde” is date specific, i.e., pertinent to Modernism. I just write, but others have called my work “experimental.” Few people are linear thinkers, and sometimes, I feel that forcing linearity on work is antithetical to what the work is exploring, or thinking through. For me writing is often “thinking through” something, and that’s emotional/intellectual together; I don’t artificially disconnect these two impulses of the brain. In terms of historical vantage, it also seems to me that to force linearity after Modernism and the events of the twentieth century still seems false to me so far. Writers like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce made a great deal of sense to me from the first time I read their work and thought, this is what I’ve been looking for, I understand this.

I don’t “push myself” into any genre. I write, and it seems to me that the nature of the work chooses the genre that suits it. I often do not see what is particularly “experimental” with my own work, whether it is poetry or fiction, other than in comparison to what is published by large publishing houses. There is much “experimental” work being published by small presses, just as there was in the twentieth century.

Being a woman writer is probably as difficult as being a woman in this world: there are many challenges, even down to the words we use, and especially in pay inequity. What is also difficult is growing up as a working class person who chooses to be a writer or artist. Few people understand the choice to be part of something that doesn’t pay a salary and is often berated in the popular media. We seem to fear not only people who think, but people who like to think, and give them all sorts of derogatory names. Learning not to listen to that AND to find a way to make a living where you have time to think is difficult for anyone.

5. The colors in Monoprints come from the monoprinting process. I’m very interested in the visual arts. The way the poems are on the page has as much to do with canvas as paper. I’m highly influenced by the poet Barbara Guest in this respect.

In observing a master monoprinter, I watched her lay in each color separately, and in the end, saw the 4 or 5 color print that was a color layer/image and at the same time individual colors: both of these were true at once. My goal was to see if the same could be done with words: I designated colors, sometimes for mood, sometimes in relationship to certain objects or words. This was about seeing how if a poem could work like this visual art process or not.

The locations are “familiar” to me. I wrote these poems while in the location—is that what you’re asking?

This is probably related to your question about inspiration. A writer draws inspiration from everything, I think, no matter how corny that sounds. I love to read, to draw, to walk, to make things. I’m interested in words and definitions, in the visual arts, in the sciences, in natural history, in graphic novels, in museums, etc.---the list goes on.

6.. I probably do write using first person, and in fact, have written many personal essays. I think especially in my poetry I try not to. After Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger, and other examinations of the overuse of the first person speaker, the “I” exhausts me, even as it does in this short interview. I’d rather hear your voice, other voices, than my own. That’s where my interest in outside texts, words, and voices enters the poem that is always directed outward into the world, rather than only inward into myself, if possible, so we are all hearing a symphony of voices, dead and alive, all at once.

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