The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see--it is, rather, a light by which we may see--and what we see is life.

Robert Penn Warren

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Four Questions for Michael Albright

Michael Albright has published poems in various journals, including Stirring, Rust + Moth, Tar River Poetry, Pembroke Magazine, Cider Press Review, Revolver, Moon City Review, Pretty Owl, Uppagus, and the chapbook In the Hall of Dead Birds and Viking Tools. He also curates the "Under the Sign of the Bear" reading series in Pittsburgh, and is managing editor of the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. He lives on a windy hilltop near Greensburg, PA, with his wife, Lori, and an ever-changing array of children and other animals.

DS: Why do you write poetry?



MA: Well, not to get too cute about it, because I can't paint. Everyone has some kind of creative urge, and if we're lucky, we find out what we have an affinity for, how we can express it. Writing has always been my primary means of expression, even before it was something I took seriously. But why poetry? Because I am not a novelist. Or a song-writer. For me, the concision and heightening of language, the interplay between words written on the page, as they are read, evoke a sort of altered state of consciousness, like listening to King Crimson through headphones on acid. I've always considered poetry the highest form or art, which is why I would never be so hubristic to describe myself as "poet." I try to write poetry; it's for other people to say whether I am a poet, or not.

DS: What do you hope to find in poems written by other people?

MA: Simply stated, words I can't stop reading, or listening to. I'm less concerned (but not unconcerned) about meaning than I am with the lyric in the poem. In my favorite poems, the words make the music, and in turn, music makes meaning. I don't care if a poem is linear, as long as the words are arranged in the way that makes me want to read it over and over again, just for the pleasure of it, the way I listen to music. The best make me feel something physical; goose bumps, chills, a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Without the lyric, poems are just newspaper articles.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

MA: I have three projects in progress. The first is a chapbook length collection of usually short, somewhat surrealistic, sometimes absurdist, and always dark hybrid-y prose poems. I am also deep into a manuscript of a combination of original and hybrid work dealing with my balance disorder, and the other conditions that contribute to my disability. Then there is my ever-present "gothic novel in verse of forbidden love, murder, and global warming." I am nothing if not ambitious.

DS: What are your hopes for the future of poetry?

MA: My hope is that poetry continues to become more and more relevant. Despite charges that it isn't relevant (and when did the non-poetry community ever think it was?), it has emerged as one of the best vehicles for people writing from outside of privilege to find an audience. Despite seeing statistics that fewer people are reading poetry than ever, we have this absolute explosion of independent journals and publishers. I'd be surprised if enrollment in poetry MFA programs isn't at an all-time high, a circumstance often maligned, but you'll never hear that from me; you have to be crazy serious about poetry to choose that as your life's work, and all those people have a vested interest in getting more people to read and write poetry. These people are my heroes. They are the future of our art. Every poet who has published a book, or even published a poem in a journal, has friends and family that will read at least one of their poems if they ask them. Ask them.




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