Below you'll find a new edition of my occasional series Poets on Poetry, which highlights interviews or feature articles in which poets speak about poetry as vocation, ways that poetry differs from other kinds of writing or from recitation and performance, poetry in translation, and the meaning of poetry in their own and others' lives.
✦ "Poetry is one of the largest, most beautiful, most intimate and most effective ways of participating [in public life]." ~ Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2015-2016
Quoted from Michelle Dean, "U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera: 'Poetry is one of the most beautiful way of participating' | The newly appointed poet laureate of the US talks about his upbringing as a campesino in California, the role of poetry in political life, and Allen Ginsberg", The Guardian, June 16, 2015.
Juan Felipe Herrera's has written more than two dozen poetry collections, including, most recently, Senegal Taxi (University of Arizona Press, 2nd Ed., 2013).
Juan Felipe Herrera on FaceBook
✦ "I think poems are urgent. . . are necessary. . . Poems can save lives, they can change the way we see the world and the way we define ourselves. . . ." ~ Fatimah Asghar
Quoted from "Interview with Fatimah Asghar", The Blueshift Journal, June 13, 2015.
✦ ". . . Any story told for it own sake is not poetry it seems to me. We all have stories to tell. It's the complexity of the human heart that I think is poetry's subject—the complexity of the human experience. I think the best poets writing today represent that complexity in the broadest, deepest sense. . . ." ~ Marie Howe
Quoted from David Elliott, "The Complexity of the Human Heart: A Conversation with Marie Howe", AGNI Online. (This interview is from 2004.)
Marie Howe's poetry collections include The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988), What the Living Do (W.W. Norton, 1999), and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton, 2008). She is co-editor of In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (Persea Books, 1995).
Marie Howe on FaceBook
✦ ". . . The fatal problem with poetry: poems. . . ." ~ Ben Lerner
Quoted from Ben Lerner, "Diary: On Disliking Poetry", London Review of Books, Vol. 37, No. 12, June 18, 2015.
Ben Lerner's most recent poetry collections are Mean Free Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2010) and Angel of Yaw (Copper Canyon Press, 2006). His most recent novel is 10:04 (Faber & Faber, 2014).
✦ ". . . I believe poetry is also a bridge between solitudes. At its best, it transports us — through the nonlinear and irresistible persuasion of music and metaphor — into a state of receptive empathy, the closest thing we can get to truly understanding what it's like to see the world as someone else does, to live inside another's skin. . . ." ~ Elizabeth Austen
Quoted from Elizabeth Austen, "How Poetry Can Help Us Say the Unsayable", Opinion, The Seattle Times, May 9, 2015
Elizabeth Austen, Washington State Poet Laureate, 2014-2016, is the author most recently of Full Circle: My Journey Through Infertility and Miscarriage (Westbow Press, April 2015) and Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011).
✦ "Once in a while I get an uncontrollable urge to shatter the myth about the idea of fluency in translation. In my world of translation, fluency doesn't exist. My history is a misfit. . . ." and "I write my poems with the same tongue that I translate with, so my creative work and translation are closely intertwined. Translation often sticks its tongue out when I write my own poems. It's one of those unavoidable tics." ~ Don Mee Choi
Quoted from Emily Yoon, "An Expelled Tongue: Translating Kim Hyesoon" (Interview), Asian American Writers' Workshop, June 16, 2015
Whiting Foundation Award winner Don Mee Choi is the author of the debut collection The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) and the chapbook Petite Manifesto (Vagabond Press, 2014), as well as Freely Frayed,==q, & Race=Nation, part of Wave Books' Wave Pamphlets. Her second collection is the forthcoming Hardly War (Wave Books, April 2016).
Also see the interview "The PEN Ten with Don Mee Choi", PEN America, November 25, 2014.