3 Questions for Erika T. Wurth
What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
I feel really strongly about this subject, because I think that aesthetics are getting ignored & are misunderstood in poetry, and they’re so important. For example, though I have elements of narrative in my work, I tend to favor prose poems because they have narrative qualities, but are led by the language of the piece and more importantly to me, by the sound of the piece. And narrative poems, which are done so beautifully, if done well, are being often represented as simplistic or easy. It seems as if something is easily understood, people label it as narrative and if hard, experimental. But what I find is that often narrative poems appear simple on the surface, but are complex underneath (look at Kim Addonizio for example) – and the opposite can be true of experimental. Either way, I’m a poet who is led by sound – once I understand the ryhthm of the piece, the images come. And I believe in the basics of sound, image and metaphor – and I love the fact that there are new aesthetics: Native American poets like Santee Frazier who use stomp dance to influence their work, which to me is a new form of lyric poetry. Narrative poems. Language poems. So many new American forms. I also feel strongly about enjambment; I think that people need to read their work out loud because deciding to enjamb a line where it looks like it might create a sort of psuedo-profound topical complexity can ruin the overall meaning of a piece.
Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
Hmmm. Well, I’m also a fiction writer, so, honestly, I spend ridiculous amounts of time smoking and clacking away angrily at the computer. So, none of that is probably very healthy for me. But then again, sometimes I do feel like my body isn’t there, when the writing is really going good, and I’m listening to some kind of music and I feel genuinely transformed. Between the cigarettes.
Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
Less than 1% of Americans read poetry and although I know poets love to blame American culture as a whole, I’ve been teaching for almost a decade and a half now, and I’ve found that my students like to read; IF you give them work that isn’t meant to speak exclusively to a small, perhaps academic audience. And the poetry world seems to be filled with folks who only write for each other. I like poetry too much to see that happen. And I’m so glad academia has positions for writers – but I see the same thing happening with fiction now – this retreat into academia – and it worries me that the poetry & fiction I love is being launched into space, and perhaps destined to live on planet academia – because it will die there.
Erika T. Wurth is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee. Her collection of poetry, Indian Trains was published by the University of New Mexico’s West End Press. Erika T. Wurth’s publications include two novels, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and You Who Enter Here, and a collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine. A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts.