Interviews

Inhabiting both sides

Aaron Shurin's correspondences

Note: The first time I read an Aaron Shurin poem, I entered another poetic country where the sound of language, its gorgeous rhythms and contours, coalesced with image. I didn’t fully understand intellectually what the poem was “about,” but I did get the feeling it gave off. I interviewed Shurin recently, hoping to answer some of my questions about his writing process. On the surface, Shurin’s verse can appear confessional since many of his poems look autobiographical. In “The Wheel” from Into Distances, the speaker says, “I’m sitting here — the failure of things — as one is — all this complicated material must be beautiful. To speak about the white heat of iron — it seems cold — wrapped in a firm hand of nature — words are also white-hot. I was finding more that isn’t perfect, and feel older in order to ripen.” Much of his language and imagery emerges from associative thought, a skillful rendering of self as processed through language. In his prose poems in particular, Shurin borrows words and phrases from others, making them his own lens on the inner and outer worlds, allowing him to manifest many selves; they are all both him and not him.

Unrehearsed chemicals

A conversation between Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Rosa Alcalá

Joshua Marie Wilkinson: I know that there are a number of manuscripts — half-finished? completed and shelved? — which predate your first book Undocumentaries. What was the evolution of your first book? How many years went into it and how did it develop?

Rosa Alcalá: My first manuscript was my MFA thesis. When I was at Brown, my work started changing, so the thesis poems range from very traditional lyric poems to more experimental ones. Because I learned English shortly after Spanish, and because I’ve always moved between the two, I’ve always been struck by the materiality and aural qualities of language.

Parsing arias

A dialogue through 'abu ghraib arias'

Note: This email correspondence/dialogue elicited by the abu ghraib arias between Iraq War veteran and poet Micah Cavaleri and poet and peace activist Philip Metres took place between June and September 2011. The conversation ranges from poetic analysis of particular poems of the arias to asking larger questions regarding ethics in wartime, in light of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004.

Disciplinary pertinence; required expertise

Inside the tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider (image courtesy of CERN PhotoLab).

Which scientific discipline(s) do you find particularly helpful or urgent at the present time & why? How versed in the relevant expertise do you have to be to earn the right to use it (them) in a poem?

Zukofsky

Louis Zukofsky, photo © 1997 Elsa Dorfman at the Electronic Poetry Center.

Is there anything you want to say about poem 12 from Anew?