Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: Carolyn Kizer

Are there essential ways in which you consider yourself an American poet?

Yes. Nationality. Scenery. Vocabulary.

When you consider your own "tradition," do you think primarily of American poets?

No. I'm more apt to think of Cavafy, Celan, Clare– the innovators, and revolutionaries.

Which historic poets do you consider most responsible for generating distinctly American poetics?

Whitman, Dickinson, W.C. Williams, Neruda

What import does regional poetry occupy in your sense of American poetry?


What significance does popular culture possess in your sense of American poetry?

If it doesn't limit the lifetime of a poem by being faddy or ephemeral.

Are you interested in poetry written in America but not in English?

Depends on who wrote it.

Are you more likely to read a contemporary non-American poet who writes in English or a contemporary non-American poet translated into English?

Translated, with exceptions like Ondaatje.

Do other aspects of your life (for instance, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity) figure more prominently than nationality in your self-identity as a poet?

Yes. Morality. Feminism. Ecology.

Do you believe you could readily distinguish a poem by an American poet from a poem by other poets writing in English?

I think I could "distinguish" a poem by an Englishman or woman, English educated.

What do you see as the consequences of "political correctness" for American poetry?

No consequences. Poetry isn't consequential in this society. We are too marginal to be hounded by McCarthyites or fundamentalists.

What are your predictions for American poetry in the next century?

I have no idea.

More Q & A: American Poetry