1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
The poetic line is a beast that snorts and slobbers. It is a mangy-toothy and biting, musky smelling and perfume-like animal that is beautiful to look at (but only from a distance) and is unwilling to allow me to place a bridle within its mouth.
In other words, it is something slippery, subject to rapid change, and something that I struggle to control. In times of stress, when the frenetic pace of emails, traffic, bills, grocery shopping, yard work, and the small, biting excesses of daily life threaten to overwhelm me, my journals are filled with short and staccato lines, snippets of thoughts, and cursory descriptions of passing sensory experiences. They are words that often feel unsure, or are aggressive, or simply act as life rafts for me to swim towards in the choppy seas of daily living.
In those times when I am relaxed and rested, or have spent time in the mountains, or am sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the weekend stretches before me like a blank field of freshly fallen snow, my lines become long and full-bodied and stretch out like a person in a standing yoga pose. Even the words that I choose are longer, more subtle and suitable, and have a feeling of “rightness” and ease as they go down on paper.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I write quite a bit as I walk. Walking has always been a balm and a way to quiet my pacing mind. While hiking in the Sandia foothills, on the streets of Albuquerque at night, or in the high desert mesas, mountains, and dirt roads of the Taos area, I keep a small notepad in my pocket. As my footfalls find pace with my breathing, images and ideas come through me and I find that some of my more interesting poems have their genesis in the experience of walking.
There is something about walking and the process of slowly moving through the world, active yet relaxed, engaged yet detached, and allowing the synchronicity of breathe, footfall, arms and eye movement that gives rise to thoughts and imagery. I haven’t found this to be the case with all physical activity. Certainly the experience of going to the gym, or riding a mountain bike, or playing soccer doesn’t stimulate within me poetic thoughts. But the process of walking does. It is the way that I find the relationship between poetry and my body to be the most direct and fulfilling.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
From the reading public: The lack of people reading, buying or supporting poetry. Maybe poets are part of the problem. Maybe we identify and present ourselves so much as wild, angry, sad, drunken outsiders that it is hard for people to connect. As well, maybe in our efforts to write “poetically” we aren’t being clear with our ideas, and that lack of clarity may simply be pushing away potential readers.
From the literary world: Because poets work in shorter forms than novelists, biographers, essay writers or short story writers, I’m afraid that we aren’t taken as seriously for our writing efforts. I feel as if our love of the short form helps to make us seem lazy, undisciplined, and much less hard working than other writers.
Economically: As a poet, you can write every day and dedicate your life to your craft and know that, even if you achieve literary success, you will never be able to make a living at it.
Footprints and the Dark God
Rising the rough hills that fall into the Chama River
A rustling arises from nearby scrub and a flank of brown
Reveals the side of a bear awakened by our footfalls.
He snorts and turns away, muscled legs lifting him higher.
Tonight the stars will fill the sky and Ursula Major
Will lift his bulk over the domed hills leaving bear prints
Upon the dark mud of the universe. We are shaking
In our hiking boots. Furry god of the back woods
Cleaving the trail amidst our jaw-dropped wonder.
by Steve Ausherman