1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
I think the line lets you emphasize two different aspects of a poem. The line calls the eye’s attention to the final and first words demarcating it. The line calls the ear’s attention to units of meaning in a poem that rhymes or uses alliteration. I try to combine both of these emphases because poetry without music is to depressing to consider and because I never know whether my reader will read my poem aloud. When I write, I follow the sound in the poem, but try to pick line breaks that emphasize important words within the syntax of the poem.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I’m very conscious of rhythm and sound while I write, and I feel those things within my body. I count out rhythm on my fingers but I also read aloud when revising; sometimes I even speak aloud as I write a first draft.
Reading/performing my work is also visceral: I sway while I read, in time to the meter of the poem, drawling and speeding up words in order to syncopate against the downbeat of the poem.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
I dislike the response I get from folks when they find out I’m a poet: “Oh! I don’t understand poetry at all!” So disheartening. No one ever says they don’t understand painting or sculpture.
I also dislike the obligation to read contemporary poetry. I think it’s best for poetry if all potential audiences (including poets) are allowed to enjoy whatever types of poetry move them.
Bio: Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. Her most recent book is The Scientific Method. She can be found online at
Recent poem: http://stonetelling.com/issue6-dec2011/agner-lovelacenocturnes.html
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