NTERVIEW Questions for Jean Valentine
1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
Answers from Jean Valentine
1. The line for me isn’t a visual thing, but it’s very important for musical and emotional judgments. I can give an example of a line I’m wondering about right now:
His two sons had been your students.
I’m always, my young fathers, out in the air,
or: I’m always, my young fathers, out in the air. Loving you.
It’s probably hard to see the whole question without my writing out the whole poem. But there is a decision of timing, which is both musical and emotional– it includes always, punctuation as well, of course.
2.. Yes, I think it varies from poet to poet, at least in my experience. When I hear some poets read, I understand and love their poetry more than I might just on the page. In fact I think this is true of any poet; but more so with some than others. For instance: Ilya Kaminsky and Yusef Komanyakaa and Harryette Mullen, and when you can get hold of their recordings, Neruda and Yeats.
For myself, I find it’s hard to know where the mind leaves off and the body begins; I’m feeling that right now, even writing these answers!
3. I can’t think of anything I don’t like, except the parts that aren’t to do with poetry. Money, etc.
Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, earned her B.A. from Radcliffe College, and has lived most of her life in New York City. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her eleventh book of poetry is Break the Glass, just out from Copper Canyon Press. Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965 – 2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry.