Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: Gillian Conoley

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

In my music, my language, my images, all come from breathing an American air.

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

Yes, and French.

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

William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein.

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

Popular culture seems primary. As Gertrude Stein said, "We are the oldest country of the twentieth century."

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

Gender, yes, on equal footing as nationality.

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

Bad for poetry.

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

The best thing about American poetry is that there will always be a sense that the best American poetry has yet to be written. We will always benefit by that pure, blank page.

Published 1999.

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