Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: X. J. Kennedy

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

Yes– in language, matter, and upbringing.

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

Not only of Americans, but certainly of Robinson, Dickinson, Roethke, Hart Crane, Cummings.

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?


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

Whitman, Poe.

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


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

Folk ballads- great significance. Media Produce- little.

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)?

Pound and Stein remained Americans; Eliot switched over. Those Europeans remain European (or Caribbean).

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

Only if I am able to understand it in its own language.

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

The former.

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

Sorry, but I don't ever think about my self-identity as a poet. Honest.

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

Not readily, but probably.

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 endure, unpopular as ever.

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