3 Questions for Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

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

My relationship to the line is evolving. In most of my poetry up to now, I felt my way through to lineation; what I mean to say is that it was more of an emotional and physical understanding of the line than an intellectual one.  I am now trying to push my poetics into some new areas and so I hope to add the intellectual consideration of the line to my native sense of the line as a breath- and visual- unit.  One of my favorite essays on the line is James Scully’s essay “Line Break,” which is included in the collection Line Break: Poetry as Social Practice (Curbstone Press, 2005).

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

As I alluded to above, I “feel” my way through poetry.  Often, my body swerves at the end of a line I’m writing (or reading)!  I rock my body to the internal rhythms as I write and read, and make curves in the air with my hand which approximate the emotional curve of a poem.  Also, since I love to give readings (that undergraduate double major in drama/theater comes in handy here!), poetry is attached to my body through voice and also through the experience of my body in space as it approaches a poem. I almost feel like I’m telling too much with this answer–that it may feel uncomfortable or too intimate to your readers.

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

Well, nothing that I can think of right now. To dislike being a poet would be to dislike something fundamental to my way of being and that way lies madness.  I like to think of myself as a relatively well-adjusted artist, so even the thought of disliking my calling is strange to me.

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is a native Oklahoman returned home after twenty years to to grow good tomatoes; she also completed her Ph.D. in American Literature at the University of Oklahoma. Her second poetry collection, Work Is Love Made Visible, was published by West End Press (in distribution partnership with the University of New Mexico Press) in March 2009.  Work Is Love Made Visible was awarded both the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry and the 2010 Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. She has been awarded a 2010 residency at the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts and a scholarship for a 2011Vermont Studio Center residency. Jeanetta is currently the Visiting Poet-Scholar at World Literature Today.

For more information, visit http://www.tonguetiedwoman.com.



to the topmost branch of the the cedar tree
that has lost most of its limbs to one storm or another
the mockingbird has returned
he swings with delight on the supple branch
as it bends and sways in the march wind
he chortles his song and everyone else’s
and answers my out-of-tune whistle with glee
does he not notice that each year his favorite tree
stands more bare and scarred, that it
weeps great rivers of fragrant resin and groans
and creaks at the slightest spring breeze or
is this indeed his reason for returning, that
the tree could not survive the winter without
the conviction that the mockingbird would return
to sing of regeneration to newly forming branches
and to bring gladness where once there was only despair

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