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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Four Questions for Jessy Randall

Jessy Randall is the author of Injecting Dreams into Cows and other books. She grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where she helped invent a controversial Frisbee game and famously cried at a Dolph Lundgren movie. She is also the guiding force behind the Huge Underpants of Gloom zine series, and she keeps all her secrets hidden in decades' worth of black-and-white composition notebooks. 

DS: Why do you write poetry?

JR: This question was a lot harder to answer than I expected it to be. So I guess the answer is "I don't know" or "I can't explain it." Kenneth Koch says writing poems lets you have your emotions instead of your emotions having you. When I'm writing a poem I feel a way I wish I could feel all the time.

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

JR: My favorite poems are the ones that make me say "yes, that's exactly IT," usually when "it" is something I didn't realize needed to be captured. Sarah Sloat's poem "Excuse me while I wring this long swim out of my hair" is one such poem. She has a million bookmarks and can't find any of them.

I also like poems that make me go Whuhh-huUUHHH? such as Scott Poole's "New York Women."

I want poems to have sly wit. I want them to be about emotions, for me the most important and least understood things in the universe.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

JR: Lately I've been making poems out of illustrations in old books I find at the library where I work. I find these extremely satisfying. Most editors do not.

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

JR: I love the virtual salons poets are creating online. We can't all live in hotbeds of poetry (New York, San Francisco, etc.) but we can make our own through electronic journals, Facebook, and email collaboration.

Go to Jessy's website here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Four Questions for Isobel O'Hare

Isobel O'Hare is a poet and essayist who was born in Chicago but did most of her growing up in Ireland. She is the author of Wild Materials from Zoo Cake Press. Her writing can be found in The Account, Dirty Chai Magazine, HOUND, FORTH Magazine, Numero Cinq, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, and Cease, Cows, among other publications. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she was recently awarded a Helene Wurlitzer Fellowship. She lives in Oakland, California.

DS: Why do you write poetry? 

IO: I started writing poetry when I was a kid because I didn't have anyone to talk to about a lot of very traumatic things that were happening in my life. I grew up in various abusive environments where I often felt isolated and unheard. I was already writing short stories about fantastical things like a world-traveling young girl and her pet chimpanzee, a couple of time-traveling elementary school students, as well as some retellings of classic horror stories. Poetry came to me specifically as a form of self-care when I needed someone to talk to and nobody was there but paper and pens.

These days I write poetry for a few different reasons. Self-care is still definitely one of them, but I don't tend to share the things that I write for my own therapeutic purposes, as they tend to be unfinished thoughts that are suspended in liquid anger. These are the pieces I have to write in order to get to a truer place.

Poetry can take the form of magic spells when I start to feel that some form of transformation is needed in me but I don't yet know how to achieve it. I usually end up realizing that the poem wasn't the entire spell itself but just one component of it. Maybe the eye of newt.

I also write poetry in order to translate the world as I see it into something that can be communicated to another person. It is often difficult for me to communicate my experiences of the world via spoken language, and sometimes prose seems too direct in an explicit sense. Poetry offers a form of communication that is more intuitive, and thus paradoxically more direct than saying literally what one is thinking or feeling. It creates a conduit for two minds to read one another without speaking.

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

IO: That same conduit. Whenever I connect to a piece in this way, I get so excited. It makes me want to write more myself, to continue communicating in this language that exists in a universe parallel to our own.

DS: Describe your works in progress.

IO: I am (very) slowly putting together a full-length poetry manuscript. Some of the pieces from Wild Materials will be included, as well as some pieces that didn't make it into Wild Materials, but it will mostly be new poems. 

I am also working on a long-form piece on PTSD that connects personal narrative with scientific research out of the desire to further mainstream understanding of the disorder. It is becoming increasingly important that PTSD is understood as a major health concern in the United States.

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

IO: With all of the recent scandals in the poetry world, my hope is that we will continue to communicate openly with one another about race, class, gender, disability, and other social issues in order to increase accessibility for all poets who are part of our community. It is consistently distressing to wake up to news of the latest scandals on a weekly basis, but the fact that we can openly recognize and talk about these events as problematic is promising. Social media has given access to so many people who were previously cut off from such conversations, and I look forward to its continued use as a tool for discussion and increased accessibility.

Isobel's Book:

Wild Materials (SOLD OUT!)

Some of Isobel's Poems Online: