1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
It’s mostly intuitive for me, where to break a line. It depends a lot on the poem, what that particular piece seems to want. I’ve become more interested in long lines than I used to be, partly thanks to a poet friend who put me to the challenge of writing something with long lines (which turned into my poem “The Great War,” readable here. I also discovered the work of Richard Jackson, who writes these incredible long lines that stretch across the page, filled with amazing images, one tumbling into the next. His work just astounds me, and he’s become one of my very favorite poets.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
Absolutely. When the words are flowing, they seem to come directly through my fingers onto the page. It’s like my conscious mind is cut out of the process entirely, at least until the editing phase. When I’m not in a flow state, sometimes I’ll try switching writing methods to get things going. Depending on the day, I might use a computer keyboard, handwriting recognition software, a typewriter, or a pen and paper. Especially when I’m just starting a piece, my fingers need to physically form the letters rather than just pressing keys in order to gain momentum.
The body is also important subject matter for me. I had to deal with some serious health issues from a young age, and those experiences shaped my perception of the world. One of my biggest artistic questions is what it means to move through a physical world in a physical body. That question seems to find its way into much of my work in one way or another.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
I have mixed feelings about applying the term “poet” to myself; it can feel limiting since I also write fiction and hybrid forms. Plus, my degree is in fiction, so calling myself a poet seems a strange fit sometimes.
One of the tough things about writing poetry is encountering people who say they don’t read poetry. I don’t think you see that so much with fiction or non-fiction. Unfortunately, many of us were taught early on in school that there was a “right” meaning and a “wrong” meaning for a poem — that we had to correctly determine the poet’s intention or else we weren’t getting it. I think enjoying poetry is in large part about opening yourself up to the unknown. To do that, you have to be comfortable with ambiguity and to allow yourself to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and that can be tough. It took me a long time to be able to do it. But that kind of vulnerability allows you to become more open to the world and live a richer life, and that’s the beauty of poetry.
The Supernatural Subjunctive
I could have become a ghost in the hallways of your nights.
I might have been a photo of an alternate universe.
You might have heard the jangled bells of my laugh in the echo of a crowd.
We could have met in dreams of places that will never exist.
I would have been the room you forbade visitors from entering.
I would have made your windows open by themselves.
You would have tried to call me the wind.
You would have called my name, and then remembered.
Every sound could have been me, the amplified floating, the irretrievable creaking.
I might have been the shadow of history’s questions.
No deadbolt could have kept me out.
No hallowed ground could have contained me.
Heather Kamins is the author of a poetry chapbook, Blueshifting (Upper Rubber Boot Books, 2011, http://www.upperrubberboot.com/blueshifting/). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Pear Noir!, 580 Split, Alehouse, Neon, and elsewhere. Visit her online at heatherkamins.com.