Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: Grace Schulman

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

Yes. For one thing, I walk the same lower Broadway as did Whitman--and my grandfather, an immigrant.

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

No. Hopkins, Donne, Shakespeare, Dante, are my models, along with Whitman, Moore.

Do you believe there is anything specifically American about past and contemporary American poetry? Is there American poetry in the sense that there is said to be American painting or American film? Do you wish to distinguish American poetry from British or other English language poetry?

Again, the line extending from Whitman and Dickinson to Pound, Stevens, Moore, and Swenson.

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

I love all regions of America, but I do think place is important.

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

Hard to define "popular culture." Folk songs? Church hymns? Of course.

What about the American poets who lived primarily in Europe (Eliot, Pound, Stein)? What about the European poets who have recently lived or worked in America (Heaney, Walcott, Milosz)?

Eliot and Pound were working in American tradition overlayered with foreign influences. The later three: individual genius.

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

Everything matters.

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

Again, it depends on the poet. If I like her enough, I'll know.

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

Continued health.

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