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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Four Questions for C. Kubasta

C. Kubasta experiments with hybrid forms, excerpted text, and shifting voices – her work has been called claustrophobic and unflinching. Her favorite rejection (so far) noted that one editor loved her work, and the other hated it. A 6-year-old once mistook her for Velma, from Scooby Doo, and was unduly excited. She feels a strong affinity for Skipper, Barbie’s flat-footed cousin. For each major publication, she celebrates with a new tattoo; someday she hopes to be completely sleeved – her skin a labyrinth of signifiers, utterly opaque. She is the author of two chapbooks: A Lovely Box, which won the 2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook Prize, and &s (both from Finishing Line); and a full-length collection, All Beautiful & Useless (BlazeVOX). She teaches English and Gender Studies at Marian University, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She lives with her beloved John, cat Cliff, and dog Ursula. Find her at

DS: Why do you write poetry?

CK: When I was in 6th grade, my Language Arts teacher challenged us each to write a poem – I think it was for Read magazine. That was probably the first time I really thought about poetry, but somehow it stuck. I turn to poetry often when I want to express the fragmentary and evocative: much about our lives seems fragmentary; bits and pieces of language that evoke something about our human experience, without attempting to fully explain or narrativize that experience is what draws me to poetry. Although lately I’ve been writing fiction, and fully planning to immerse myself in that, setting aside poetry for a while, I’ve been unable to do so. Poems call to me to be written. Sharp fragments (the roadkill clustered with crows; the half-toppled Martin house; the formula for a chemical reaction; how denim is riveted) become embedded in my consciousness and want to become poems, and nothing else. Since the election I’ve been thinking of bees and colony collapse. What could that be but a poem?

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

CK: I want poems that occasion a physical reaction. I’m drawn to poems with sharp lines, with intricate & surprising forms. Poems and poets that move me cause excited utterances, usually an expletive, the sort of thing that could be admissible in court even after I’m gone. Recently I was trying to explain to a student what I liked about a poem and I wanted to draw a picture of a screw with a t-handle for extra torque. The good poem affects me like the screw is in my belly, and there are various “turns” throughout the poem, a good quarter turn, that sinks it deeper in. I want poems that are visceral, that cannot be ignored, that demand our emotional, psychological, and mental energy. We are forced to engage with them – poetry, like humor, porn, & horror, should also be a body genre.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

CK: &s, a new chapbook, is just out; the poems in it use the ampersand to construct and deconstruct the poems. My second book of poetry will be out next year from Whitepoint Press. Of Covenants explores linguistic, religious, and legal covenants – these tacit agreements define & articulate our experience. Lately I’ve been thinking about the last idea a bit more, especially in terms of language. There are a number of poems in the book that explore pronouns and their supposed antecedents. Certain pronouns seem to have lost their moorings, a happenstance both troubling and liberating. Additionally, the sentence diagrams that map these relationships seem to need an additional dimension that accounts for who interprets meaning, for who overhears the transactional nature of the naming. Perhaps what I’ve been reconsidering since the election, when we’re arguing whether words mean what they purport to mean, or whether they mean anything at all, is whether the notion of language as a covenant has begun to fray in a very visible way. The poems I’m writing just now are a longer series; I seem to be thinking in moving parts of longer pieces, rather than in individual poems. One series, Percolations, engages (obliquely) with the questions/concerns/issues raised this last summer through the public responses around shootings & protests. Another series, Corpus, utilizes the body and its products as a sort of autobiography: the stapes, the eye, ambergris. I also recently wrote a poem I love about a dear friend who died – it’s a poem about his dying, the days of it, the waiting for it. Each section of the poem is titled “The Present.” His dying was always in the present. 

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

CK: I want more poetry that challenges us, as readers and human beings. I want less “nice” poetry, fewer “pretty” things. I want poetry that is difficult – and I don’t mean less accessible – I mean poetry that deals with difficult topics, that forces us to picture things we’ve never imagined, that asks us to empathize in ways we haven’t, that asks us to inhabit uncomfortable spaces, that asks us to sit with discomfort and doesn’t let us off the hook. And I want people to not only be willing to read this kind of work, but to seek this out, to seek ways to stretch our humanity. Our humanity is a muscle like any other.


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  2. The poem I talk about above, "The Present" --just came out. Read it here:

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