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Interview

think, and be wrong, and fall on your face, and have jaded sophisticates laugh at your naivete, and have cool populists laugh at your pompous elitism. Whatever, dude. You have to respect the deep seriousness of the act of writing a poem and be willing to stand behind what you have written before some kind of grand tribunal that might beam down from the Elysian Fields to check up on us. I don't mean biographical truth- poetry is not memoir, not autobiography. Truth to the language, the form, the emotion, the history, the belief-whatever the poem's central concern, it must be handled without hypocrisy, chicanery, or general bullshit. That's all we have in poetry land: the truth. We are not well paid, and we are not respected in our land or time, but we can tell the truth. We don't have to accede to the hypocrises and half-truths that surround us. We are not driven by a market economy whose rewards bend and corrupt us. That's a great gift and worth the economic trade off. SK: You end Road Atlas with a portrait poem-"Campbcll McGrath." You say "I image that ultimate voyage ... taken the long way." Where does the poetic voyage end? Where did it begin? Will you ever stop traveling? More practically, how do you find an end to a poem, a book? CM: "Closure" is a great word , and one of the most important in the craft. Everything ends, but not everything has closure. The unexamined life, the war in Iraq, the sound of a car alarm-these are things that will end without closure. C losure is a musical and thematic idea in poetry, it derives from syntax and from rhetorical structures, from the ideas or emotions of the poem working their way towards their necessary culmination. Barbara H. Smith's book Poetic Closure lays out the various categories-it's a dry but useful guidebook. Closure is usually one of the last things a poet learns, and many poets never really learn it, if you ask me. If you pick up a literary magazine, nearly all the poems start off well, but not that many end that way. SK: What is your response to "the state of poetry in America today." Do you think more people than ever are reading poems avid ly, or has the audience (from what you can tell) remained limited to academics, fellow poets, and a noble handful of friends and relatives? CM: The state of our poetry is not unlike the rest of America today. There's too much of it, nobody agrees on its basic principles, its got factions and partisans destroying its innate sense of community, its got some visionaries and some hacks, some hard-working citizens and some cynical careerists. It's a chaotic, overly-rich grab bag, which is its charm. The continuing Summer路 Fall 2006

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Profile for University of Idaho Library

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho

Fugue 31 - Summer/Fall 2006 (No. 31)  

The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho