Saturday, October 24, 2009

Background on "Journey withMan and Crows" by Raphael Kosek

1. How did your poem come into being?

In a very ecstatic moment—contrary to many others which are generated in a dark moment; my interest here was with sound and emotion. This was one of those poems that telescopes outward first, then inward—kind of an “aerial view” so to speak. And those crows seem to be at the periphery of everything . . .

2. Do you have a favorite line or phrase or word in your poem?

“their noteless unwritten music/piercing old timber, deepening distance”

3 Do you have a line that gave you particular difficulties?

Yes: getting from “cutting color like stained glass” to “riotous rising of the pheasant”; I cast about shamelessly until I came up with “until”! The problem was how to smoothly connect the two images. The poem is all one sentence, so you have to be careful that everything fits, rolls along smoothly.

4. How long have you been working on poetry?

Since age 12 and continuing up through college, then a long hiatus in between until my forties when I realized I’d die a very bitter old woman if I didn’t write. I still remember my first line of poetry: “With great relief and lightness comes the rain.” And I suppose I have always looked to poetry for “relief” and as a way to deal with this life.

5. To read the poem out loud to an audience, how would you introduce it?

This is one of those VERY FEW poems that nearly wrote itself; I didn’t know where it was going, but I liked the feel of this “ride” and just gave the horses the reins as they say . . . and of course, it is the journey. And crows, they are always around, at the periphery of everything. Also, I have recently taken up canoeing and am quite in love with it—so that certainly explains that part of the ride.

6. What poets' work has taught you the most.

I would have to say that the late Jane Kenyon’s work taught me the most: that the best poetry makes the ordinary extraordinary; that you can successfully combine dangerous abstracts (like “heart” and “joy” and “grief” ) if you use very concrete imagery to get you there. Her sometimes seemingly simple poems are anything but. Also, Jane Hirshfield has taught me to be spare when it’s important; the right word or image takes the place of many sentences. Again, she is another poet who mixes the concrete with the abstract judiciously and effectively. Billy Collins has shown me that poetry is really serious play, and that you can disarm the reader with humor, and that you must orient the reader in the beginning of a poem before you carry her “off.” The Eastern European poets, Czeslaw Milosc, Wislawa Szymborska, and Adam Zagajewski have also taught me to “telescope” outward in order to arrive inward. And vice versa.

7. Do you have a favorite Frost poem? If so, what is it.

“Desert Places” because it rings so true for me; also “Out, Out” because it’s a tour de force.

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