Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: Josephine Jacobsen

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


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


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?

Not really.

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

Williams and Whitman

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


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

Inevitable but not basic.

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)?

I don't consider this question major; Auden, for example, is both English and American.

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

It isn't an arbitrary distinction I tend to make.

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

I am suspicious of all translations of poetry.

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


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

Not necessarily.

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


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

It will be more difficult to distinguish as American.

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