Friday, February 01, 2008

Meme is one of my least favorite words--

This is from Susan's blog. And while "meme" is one of my least favorite words (along with panties and filibuster), I like to do these.

Reading & Writing

1. What are you currently reading and what’s on your to-be-read pile?

Currently reading,
Just Breathe Normally, by Peggy Shumaker
Dorianne Laux's Questions about the Moon
What the Postcard Didn't Say by Shoshauna Shy
Hip Logic by Terrance Hayes

To be read:
The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams
A Conversation with Elizabeth Bishop
Li-Young Lee's, Behind My Eyes

2. What type of writing influences your work most: fiction, poetry, or non-fiction?
Poetry inspires my poetry, but reading or listening to interviews with authors inspires my entire writing life. I write more when I hear the voices of others battling the same issues I am. I'm inspired by their creativity.

One of the best place to find great interviews with writers is here:

New Letters on the Air. Author interviews by Angela Elam who I appreciate for her desire to understand what makes these author tick.

I listened to a fantastic interview with Eleanor Wilner, while trimming my hedge. She is a marvelous poet and interviewee.

3. What 3 characteristics, elements or themes are prevalent in your work?


4. As a writer and reader, does gender matter?

It depends. I do not choose poets by what sex they are, but by their words. I want a connection. My favorite poets writing right now are a mix of men and women--

Li-Young Lee
Dorianne Laux
Tracy K. Smith
Tony Hoagland
Bob Hicok
Peggy Shumaker
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Peter Pereira
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Susan Rich
Martha Silano
Kathleen Flenniken
Molly Tenenbaum
Beth Ann Fennelly
Franz Wright
Terrance Hayes
Heather McHugh
Dorothy Barresi
Nin Andrews
Ilya Kaminsky

However, that said I tend to connect more (or prefer) the poems by women. For example, for awhile there was this huge gushing over Ben Lerner's poems. I have a copy of his book THE LICHTENBERG FIGURES and while on paper I can appreciate his craft, it's not a book I'd take to bed with me, it's not the book I'd carry around with me to read in those in-between moments.

Of course, there are women who write this way too. There's a wall between the reader and writer, a standoffishness. I don't want that in the poems I read. If the poet gives me cleverness (with word, form, or speech) there needs to be more for the poem to be satisfying me. I admire Heather McHugh and Peter Pereira because they can be clever with words and still satisfy me emotionally as a reader.

I'm noticing the "relationship language" in my response--I want to take a poet to bed, I want to be satisfied emotionally--and maybe that's what poetry is to me, a paper love affair where I don't want to date the cool kid with all the great comebacks or the boy who needs to convince me he knows more than I do, I want the man or woman who offers craft and compassion, who is considerate to my needs as well as theirs.

Maybe for me, the question shouldn't be "Does gender matter?" but "Does connection matter?" That space in a poem that you can't name, but it's there, the gut reaction, the emotional grasp a poem can have on me. To me, that's what matters, the ability of the poet to reach out and offer me a hand without pulling it away right before we connect.


  1. Hi Kelli,

    Thanks for answering the meme. I find it very interesting that when I ask if gender matters, many respond as if I am asking if gender is the most important factor or if women are better in some way than men. I'm not asking either. To ask specifically about women, I am asking if it matters to you as writer/reader that you connect with your peers. Do you celebrate and support other women.

    We share some common likes. I love Tracy K. Smith's work and becoming a fan of Terrance Hayes.

  2. Hi Susan,

    RE: I am asking if it matters to you as writer/reader that you connect with your peers. Do you celebrate and support other women.

    You know, it's funny. When I write a poem, I sort of assume I'm writing for another women. Sometimes I'm surprised (and happy) when a man likes my work because I never really know if I'm connecting with men.

    As for celebrating and supporting other women, my answer is a definite yes. I think it's so important to highlight other women artists as for so long all the fine arts are have been dominated by men (and many still are).

    January had a quote on her blog that said, "There's a special place in hell for women that don't support other women" (or something similar), and I think it's a good reminder to use as women writers.

    Thanks for your note and clarification, I'm going to add it to my blog.


Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.

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