I’ve been “tagged” in the NEXT BIG THING chain blog post by Ellen Watson, poet and translator extraordinaire. Read her post here http://www.massreview.org/blog/next-big-thing – and read her work! –her own poems most recently in Dogged Heart, and her translations of Adélia Prado, in The Alphabet in the Park, and Ex-Voto–coming out later this year.
What is your working title of your book?
A LEAF’S GRAVITY—the title of one of the central poems—is the working title. I like the paradox, the idea that such a light thing as a leaf has gravity, and the double meaning of gravity—gravitas, or seriousness, and the law of gravity as well. In my poems, lightness and seriousness are often entwined, inseparable.
I like lightness of touch in poetry.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The recurring themes, images and tonalities that unify this manuscript have emerged as the poems have accumulated over time—it’s not a “statement” or “project” book. There are threads running through it however: the eco-scape of Northern New Mexico is prominent, particularly the Pojoaque River, and not only in the numbered “Walk Ad Infinitum” series of poems interspersed throughout the manuscript. The first poems were written soon after my father’s death and soon after that I had the opportunity to travel to North India: poems that explore these two very different influences on me comprise the manuscript’s core. A few poems, such as “Varanasi,” weave them together. The concept of time—one of poetry’s great subjects—is an obsession: the time it takes to write a poem and the specific moments in which it is written invariably influence what the poem becomes.
What genre does your book fall under? Lyric poetry.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
When I was very young I thought my father as debonair and witty as Cary Grant, but these poems are interior, meditative and thought-imbued—not so suited for the Multiplex. (Though I wouldn’t mind being portrayed by Cate Blanchett.)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The best I can do is give you two quotes that I’m considering using as epigraphs:
“The living throb in me; the dead revive” from “Winter Heavens,” George Meredith.
“If you don’t love life you is slightly uncouth” from “ Ain’t It the Truth,” Harold Arlen/E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, as sung by Lena Horne.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Most likely neither! Some of the individual poems have already appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Harvard Review, FIELD, Poet Lore, Green Mountains Review, Hollins Critic, Plume and The New Yorker.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 2/3 of the poems are complete; I finished the manuscript’s first poem in 2008 or 2009.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I admire many contemporary poets, but didn’t have a specific model for this book or any of the individual poems. My work overlaps different schools of poetry and over time has evolved and progressed, so I look at how these poems are congruent or different from those in earlier books: So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems; The Lightning Field; Chalkmarks on Stone and Taken from the River. Here are some links to individual poems, so readers can make their own comparisons:
“Three Fascinations,” Plume #5: http://www.plumepoetry.com/
“A Leaf’s Gravity,” The Chronicle ofHigher Education:http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/mondays-poem-a-leafs-gravity-by-carol-moldaw/41376
“Of An Age” The New Yorker, October 3, 2011: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2011/10/03/111003po_poem_moldaw
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m less crabby when I write, so the desire to be someone I and others can live with inspires me, as does reading, language itself, the desire to translate sensate and inchoate experience into words, to make some kind of sense or shape out of being alive–to plumb experience–and give lyric voice to fleeting individual existence—all of that inspires me.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The erotic poems in A Leaf’s Gravity might pique some readers’ interest or the soundscapes; the elegies; the way as the manuscript progresses you experience mourning and loss become enfolded into life. The way poems are pulsed language. New Mexico as a homestead, India as a revelation, pockets of both described with passionate detachment; the discovery of interior dissonances and resonances.
Now, here are the others I’ve tagged:
Cathy Hankla, posting at http://route64poetry.blogspot.com/?zx=25279229045faf13
Thorpe Moeckel, posting at http://www.thorpemoeckel.wordpress.com
Phil Brady, posting at http://wilkeswritelife.wordpress.com/