3 Questions for Rebecca Seiferle

1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That
is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

I feel the poetic line should have an integrity of its own, so that
each line in a poem has a kind of tension and fullness that allows the
line to both extend forward with the syntax of the sentence and to echo
backwards into what has been said before. I often read my poems aloud
when writing and editing them in order to hear the breath of thought
and the rhythm of feeling; what the poem itself wants to say. The music
of free verse is partly the result of the complicated interweaving
between the sentence, with its linear order, and the interruptions of
line break which is connected to breath and the body. I say
“interruptions” but the line break is also a place upon which the line
that follows can hinge, pivot, turn, leap, or where silence can enter
the poem.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human
body? Or between your writing and your body?

“The body, the body, the body, the body” is the last line of one of my
earlier poems, and, so, yes, I’ve always felt there’s a fundamental
relationship between words and the body, that the injuries that
language can afflict or oppress with are borne by the body, that the
responsibility of the poet is to take on that weight of language on
behalf of the body/bodies that have been injured by it. Many great
poets have, I think, a characteristic bodily gesture in their poetry,
for instance Celan and the glottal stop, Vallejo and a kind of choking
stutter that doesn’t know whether to swallow the crumb that sticks in
the throat or to spit it out. I think writing poetry for me became
necessary when I realized that most of my own experience, my
sensibility, my perceptions, were inarticulate, a kind of mute
materiality, and geological layers of silence of life in my own child’s
body. Poetry is the language of the body.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet? I’ve always had a
sort of antipathy to ‘being’ a poet, by which I mean, to carrying
around the identity. I’d rather emphasize the activity of writing
poetry and the engagement and encounter that that implies. As a result,
I dislike much of the ‘po-biz’, the aspects of name cultivation and
brand marketing, the friendships cultivated for the sake of the book,
etc, the whole capitalistic enterprise of going around marketing the
poet, ha, and the way in which vital work is often ignored because it
doesn’t come from a recognizable identity, and I mean by recognizable
identity not only a known poet but a kind of work that can’t be
‘recognized’ for not fitting in some niche. And book reviewing, which
in relationship to poetry is often either non-existent or simply
bad–many book reviews are written by friends, colleagues with the
resultant inflation. Book reviews that are critical are often critical
for reasons that have more to do with the myopia of the reviewer,
grinding his or her own poetic axe. To read the book itself is to often
wonder what invisible text the reviewer imagined in its place. I
suppose, though, these small complaints are connected in that they all
the consequence of poetry being caught in a bubble, isolated, by
identity and self-promotion, as if it were useless or a rare disease,
and not a profound engagement and encounter with existence. I’d rather
it was not ‘about being a poet,’ but about writing poetry as a vital
human activity that extends into all aspects of existence.

***

If language is that forest,

we arrive silent–

no alphabets struggling in our wrists or our fingers;

if that word
is a leaf, its edges are needles
which pierce the air,
and, together, our green sheaths
bruise into nothing
but fragrance.

Even the pine cone
is fashioned
in the manner of honey
combed from the dendritic rain.

What you give me
is that light
that gives itself freely,

as we watch the flame burning
out of the mouths and the bellies
of innumerable
bees.

What my hands are saying to your lips is beyond saying
that root word
so seeded
in the marrow of

fire, I can say it only
in the way my face breaks

over and over,
in calling your name.

If the forest was guttural
with animals
and gods,

this is that
most human homing . . .

you, in the kitchen, singing:
my flesh, my house.

Rebecca Seiferle was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship in 2004. Her
fourth poetry collection, Wild Tongue, (Copper Canyon, 2007) won the
Grub Street Poetry Prize for Best Poetry Collection of 2007. Her
previous poetry collections have won the Western States Book Award, a
Pushcart prize, the Hemley and Bogin Awards, the Writer’s Exchange
Award, and the National Writers’ Union Prize. She has translated two
booklength collections of the Spanish of Cesar Vallejo, most recently
The Black Heralds (Copper Canyon, 2003). Seiferle is the Founding
Editor/ Publisher of the online international poetry journal, The
Drunken Boat, http://www.thedrunkenboat.com. Her text/image “Other”
poems have been published in Pirene’s Fountain, fieralingue (Italy),
and shown at Raices Taller and Dinnerware galleries. She lives in
Tucson, Arizona, and teaches at The Art Center Design College.

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