Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Part

This is my painter friend Aleksei in Kostroma, Russia, in winter. 


Our heat wave left us today, as rain came in, blessing us with coolness.  I've been thinking about how people turn up in our lives and change us.  Even our children can do this, and certainly our old friends.  I tell myself not to worry about things going wrong, because along with the unpleasant surprises, there are often good ones we also couldn't have predicted.  I didn't get to this blog until fairly late Sunday night, so I'm giving you a poem written last summer when we also had weather much too hot. 

Two very nice things happened yesterday that I couldn't have predicted:  Kaye Barley posted a blog I wrote for her MeanderingsandMuses blog on Why I Write Mysteries, and she gave me a very nice intro, which perked me up.  check it out--for July 31:

Then my daughter and her two children went with me to see a children's play, "Little Red and the Riding Hoods" at our Snow Camp Outdoor Theater, about 45 minutes from where I live.  It was a good outing.  The children enjoyed the play and showing their mother around the historic site of early Quaker settlements in the Haw River Valley.  Their mother shared some early memories of my mothering that I'd forgotten, like how I made her cinnamon toast to get her out of bed in the morning.

Now here's the poem.  Enjoy.  Look for those unexpected surprises that are good!  Judy

 Without water the daylilies bloom, but
the pear tree begins to die. This relentless
heat tests all living things. I feed the
chickens weeds, put electrolytes in their
water, keep the dog inside more, spend
minimal time outside to water and pick
what few fruits the plants produce.
The chickens keep laying, the cucumbers
and blueberries ripen, the first figs.
I make leek and potato soup, gather
the ingredients for bread and butter
pickles, and water morning and evening.
I see gold finches perched swaying on
the orange and gold cosmos, eating seeds,
while bumblebees pollinate fervently.
We have too little or too much rain.
These violent weather shifts teach us
humility. I wake with words in my mind,
words I never say aloud: "Who will
take care of me?" I know the answer:
I will, and these helpers who appear
out of nowhere before I need them,
these emissaries, these divine messengers.
Something about me that I don’t fathom
makes them help before I ask. All I
have to do is my part. The Universe
will see to the rest.

Judy Hogan

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My dear friend Nadya at her dacha near the Volga, picking flowers.

THIS SACRED WAY 1. September 21,2008

Walden, Henry David Thoreau, p. 25-26

The equinox air cools the fruit,
slows both ripening and decay.
Summer breathes out her relief,
hitches her skirt above the knee-high
grasses and retreats to a forest glade
to doze. She’ll rouse later, when the
leaves shimmer gold and red, to warm
the late figs and raspberries. I let her go
and welcome chilly mornings, early dark.
The turning earth, revolving sun are
friends to my old age. Not everyone
who adds years adds wisdom, but the
earth does if we know how to read her.
What does it mean to align oneself with
the Universe’s rhythms, to serve God,
to know oneself, to love wisdom, to be
like water? The answer resides in the
daily rituals of listening, serving, giving,
adapting to change–some barely
perceptible, some sudden, catastrophic.
I feel my frailty more these years, but
my limbs are sound and whole. My work
in garden, orchard feeds all my hungers
and keeps me universe-aligned. This
yellow blaze of September suns along
the roadside companions my daily walk
to keep all my moving parts working
smoothly. They make any way sacred
with their artless beauty, their earth-rooted
light. Our future is unknowable because
we shape our fate. Even catastrophe can
be molded into a way of loving and learning.
May everyone and everything teach me.
Then my every thought and act will count
in the long history of the Universe. I’ll be
an indisputably important grain of sand.

Judy Hogan
The cost of a thing is how much life is exchanged for it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Joanie Mclean: Questions for an American Poet

Poet Joanie McLean, Silk Hope, Chatham County, N.C.

Joanie McLean’s response to Questions for American Poets--see below for new book info: Place, July '11

1) When did you start writing and what motivated you?

I never had a conscious intention to write poems. In my 40’s I found myself in a pretty dysfunctional work environment but couldn’t see a way out. My desperation built to quite a pitch. I’d been encouraged to journal as a problem solving technique, to clarify my priorities. One day a poem came; it was about how tiny and inconspicuous are the keys to our "handcuffs." It was a powerful revelation, literally changed my life. I left my corporate job within a few months to work with my partner in her native plant nursery. And I’ve been receiving poems ever since.

2) Who are the writers who first inspired you to write and who are the writers you read now? What’s changed?

I’ve always been an insatiable reader, but for most of my life I had read poetry only occasionally and was not conscious of being "inspired to write." I believe I’ve read everything ever published by William Faulkner, some of it two and three times, and I’m working towards the same with Virginia Woolf. I find many novelists’ writing immensely poetic: Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, Margaret Elphinstone, James Galvin, Haldor Laxness. Once I became interested in writing poems, I read any poetry I could get my hands on – a pretty eclectic mish mash. The poets I enjoyed immediately and kept going back to include Gerard Manley Hopkins and Robert Frost (for their rhythm and music), W. S. Merwin and Derek Walcott (for their images and clarity), Dickinson (for her wisdom), Mary Oliver and Gunilla Norris (for the familiarity/resonance of their subject matter).

3) How important is 'everyday life' to your work?

Essential. For me, being present and focused on the nuances of ‘every day life’ is what brings poems. In my experience, the sacredness in our existence is found in the garden or the kitchen or hanging out the laundry.

4) What is the role or place of subjectivity in your poetry?

Subjectivity provides the edge, the challenge to my writing. In my experience, poems come to me rather than from me, but they are still reflections of my (subjective) experience. So all of the so called craft –editing, rewriting, reworking—is to couch the poem in words and lines that will move it beyond the subjective, out into the world -- ideally to the universal.

5) Do you see your work in terms of literary traditions and/or broader cultural or political movements?

Yes, I think my poems fit pretty easily into the lyric tradition. I’ve also read references to and analyses of Nature poets and Spiritualist poets and feel something of a kinship with them (e.g., Jane Hirshfield). Doreen Gildroy has a wonderful column in American Poetry Review called "Poetry and Mysticism" where she discusses the writer’s life, the contemplative life, and poetry as the voice of the mystic. I’m not claiming membership in such an exalted group! But I do see in my poems as an attempt to understand our "relationship with the eternal," as Tony Hoagland puts it.

6) What aspect of writing poetry and working as a poet is the most challenging?

The "publishing thing." I can get really caught up in needing that external validation. Many great poets have acknowledged and written about the danger of writing to get published, how this can be deadly. I find that to submit my work effectively can be extremely time consuming and can just suck up all my available focus and energy. So I keep little scraps of paper around reminding me that the poems are what matter, publishing is just a game of chance. Getting those rare acceptances is still pretty euphoric for me, though.

7) What reading, other than poetry, is important to your work as a poet and why?

I read criticism because it helps me understand the thinking and perceptions of other people who love poetry. I have a book called Close calls With Nonsense in which the literary critic Stephen Burt helps us understand and appreciate inscrutable modern poetry. I want to know what anyone can possibly see in those poems that leave me out in the cold! And I’m reading Proust with Judy Hogan’s class. I feel like Proust has given me courage: he writes about the ineffable – with no apology!

8) What is ‘American poetry’? Do you see yourself as an ‘American’ poet?

Despite all the hoo haw about globalization, I think that American culture is still unique. And our culture is inescapable, indelibly imprinted on us. So I would say that any poet who has grown up or lived extensively in our culture necessarily reflects America – good, bad, or shameful as it might be. Yes, I am definitely an American poet.

9) What is the current state of American poetry, as you see it?

My formal education and work experience are in the sciences, and my education in American literature is woefully lacking. So I hesitate to offer an opinion, but I sense that the poetry that gets published and noticed in America today is deeply cynical and reflects the loss of a sense of wonder; there’s no dialog about solution or hope, no sense of the ideal. Being "meaningful" is corny. But—out here in the hinterlands among all of us poet nobodies, poems are still being written in hope of saving the world.

How do you think American poetry might best develop in the next ten years?

Poetry needs to take up responsibility for changing the course of human history. It’s well suited for this task, and there’s nothing else available that is. If we think political leaders or technology can save us – we are real suckers.

10) How is poetry relevant or valuable to contemporary society and culture in the U.S. and/or at an international level?

(See previous answer) Great writers and artists throughout history have said that Art can change the world. And in fact, I see Art as the only force or leverage that humans have against moral and spiritual decay. Who knows what constitutes "rock bottom" for any particular society, but I often imagine that I’m walking in the footsteps of some Roman woman around the year 450. We might somehow keep our cars on the road, our thermostats set at 75, and our sushi restaurants in business for another few decades. But those are pretty low rent goals for a society. I believe poetry’s relevance is its potential to turn the tide and bring us back into sync with our world and our universe.

Here’s a quote I like from Lewis Thomas, physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, author of Lives of the Cells: "We have a wilderness of mystery to make our way through in the centuries to come, and we shall need not just science alone. For perceiving significance where significance is at hand, we shall need minds at work from all sorts of brains–mostly the brains of poets, of course. The poets, on whose shoulders the future rests, might, late nights, begin to see some meanings that elude the rest of us."


I met Joanie McLean several years ago. She’d begun writing poetry and wanted my feedback. I’ve been amazed at how good she has become in a fairly short time. I asked her to answer these questions for American poets, and I give her answers above. When she asked me to give her a comment on her second book, I wrote the following:

"Joanie McLean’s Place poems hover close to that inchoate mystery which is the natural world, both inside and outside of us. She so articulates the interconnections between herself and the wild animals, woods, and skies that she helps us see our own earthly experience freshly."

Here’s a little about her book and the events that follow its publication this month.

Joanie McLean lives in Silk Hope, a small farming community in the North Carolina Piedmont. Her poems have received several awards, including a McDill Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society, Poetry Council of North Carolina awards, and two first prizes in the Fields of Earth poetry competition. She has published two chapbooks, both with Finishing Line Press


PLACE (2011)
Available for @ $14.00 through the author:
 the publisher:  
Upcoming readings:

August 1, 2011 - Interview on WCOM Radio’s "Carolina Book Beat," 10:00 a.m.
August 28, 2011 - Reading at McIntyre’s Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC, 2:00 p.m. [click "listen on line"] December 15, 2011 - Reading at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 7:00 p.m. ***

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Interview with Mystery Author Marilyn Levinson

Mystery Author Marilyn Levinson


Because I joined Sisters in Crime back in 2007, and then the Guppies subgroup (the Great Unpublished), I came to know Marilyn Levinson on the GuppyPressQuest list, those of us looking to publish our mysteries through small presses. I learned that Marilyn had also been a Malice Domestic finalist, and she, too, had failed to get a publishing contract with a big house, even though she, unlike I, had an agent. We had both turned to the small presses, and she found success with a couple of small e-presses, doing electronic books. I asked her to give us more information about her books and her publishing experience. Here’s what she has to say. Her new e-book is called A Murderer Among Us, and is available on Kindle (at, Nook (at Hard copies may be found at Her website is:

 When did you begin writing? Why?

I was an avid reader from the moment I learned to read, which is probably why I started writing stories in the third grade. I still have that notebook filled with stories. I began a novel -- a mystery, I believe -- but since I hadn’t plotted it very well, never got beyond Chapter One.
When and why did you begin writing mysteries?

I’d published several books for children when I started writing mysteries for adults. Actually, I first wrote two romantic suspense novels, then switched to mysteries. Why? I can’t say. I love mysteries because there’s a puzzle and an element of suspense. Why is someone so determined to get rid of someone else, he/she’s willing to do away with that person? And, of course, there’s the satisfying resolution at the end. Justice is served, in most cases.
Is A Murderer Among Us your first mystery? When did you write it? Is it part of a series?

A Murderer Among Us is actually the second mystery I wrote. The first will be published in the spring. I wrote A Murderer Among Us a few years ago. My sleuth is older, kind of like me.<g> Lydia is a widow, which I’m not, and was CEO of her own company, not me, again. She has two grown daughters who always seem to need her mothering. (I have two sons.<g>) I think we write more autobiographically in our first novels. And yes, I’ve written a sequel, called MURDER IN THE AIR.
Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.

I’d sent this book out to traditional publishers and agents. No one seemed interested, so I set it aside and wrote more novels. Then I decided to try epresses. I sent this ms to Wings ePress, and heard back a few weeks later, on April 9th, that they wanted to publish it June first. Wow! A wonderful editor went over the ms, which she felt was very clean. No changes were necessary.
Why did you choose to write about retirees in a gated community?

Good question. I live in a gated community with people of all ages, though many are senior citizens. I chose a retirement community because I feel these days we older folk are vital and full of life. Also, older people have more secrets in their past, which make for interesting characters.

How have you found it to be published by an e-book publisher? Share that experience.

I was pleased that my book came out so quickly, and that it had a great editor and that I had input into the cover -- something I never had with my children’s books. I discovered I had to contact reviewers, do guest blogs, get my name out there. But that’s pretty much what my friends who are published with traditional houses have to do. I was disappointed that the eversion of my book didn’t go immediately to Kindle, as that’s where esales are.
Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you‚d like to share?

Two Wings ePress authors who offered to read and review my book gave me wonderful reviews. Both mentioned not being able to put it down. Fran Lewis has reviewed my book, loved it and has instructed me to send her all future books to read and review. I’ve just sent a PDF copy to a reviewer in Australia, so the book is getting around. And a fellow children’s book writer called today to tell me how much she loved my book, and that she’d mailed it to a mutual friend.
What other books have you published and where, when?

My other books are: AND DON’T BRING JEREMY (Holt) out of print; A PLACE TO START (Atheneum) out of print; THE FOURTH-GRADE FOUR (Holt) out of print; RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK (Marshall Cavendish) was selected by the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council for "Children’s Choices for 2002 out of print; and NO BOYS ALLOWED! (Scholastic) -- in print since 1993.
Do you have a work in progress now? Is it part of a series?

I’ve just completed MURDER THE TEY WAY, which is part of a series. The first book in the series, MURDER A LA CHRISTIE, was a 2010 Malice Domestic finalist. My sleuth, Lexie Driscoll, leads a Golden Age of Mystery book club, and gets many of her clues from mysteries she reads with the members of her book club.
Tell us your experience as a member of Sisters in Crime, and GuppyPressQuest, in particular. Has that been helpful? How?

I must have joined Sisters in Crime over ten years ago, because I remember being part of a critique group with fellow Guppies then. Did I mention I LOVE the Guppies and have wonderful Guppy friendships? In 2010 I attended Malice for the first time, and came away knowing I wanted to form a Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. Months later I co-founded the group with my friend and fellow author, Bernardine Fagan. Currently, I’m the Prez of LI SinC. As for GuppyPressQuest -- I’ll be sending out MURDER A LA CHRISTIE to small presses, so I look to GuppyPressQuest as the very source I’ll be needing.<g>

What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?

For me, the biggest plus was getting to meet fellow Guppies. Next year I’ll have two mysteries to promote.
What else would like to say about A Murderer Among Us?

I think it’s a quick but provocative read. It’s about new beginnings, murder and mayhem, secrets, and relationships. I love writing relationships, be they romantic, friendship, familiar.

Living to Work instead of Working to Live

Nadya's fruits and vegetables, village on the Volga in the summer.


Quotation from Dorothy Sayers's essay:  "Why Work?"  1947.

... Work is the natural exercise and function of man–the creature who is made in the image of his is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God....his work is the measure of his life, and his satisfaction is found in the fulfilment of his own nature, and in contemplation of the perfection of his work...every man should do the work for which he is fitted by nature...we should no longer think of work as something that we hasten to get through in order to enjoy our leisure; we should look on our leisure as the period of changed rhythm that refreshes us for the delightful purpose of getting on with our work... We should all find ourselves fighting, as now only artists and the members of certain professions fight, for precious time in which to get on with the job–instead of fighting for precious hours saved from the job....

For Sam and Marie

A sunflower volunteered among the pea vines,
and by the time I was feeding spent vines
to the hens, it began to open its gold disk,
facing East, not toward the greatest sun
source, which is west in the hot afternoon.
Like me, it stands alone. I have friends,
but who else makes obeisance to my deeply
planted Inner Sun? She said, "I know no one
who lives closer to Sayers’s idea of doing
one’s true work, and that’s a compliment."
I was startled that she understood, when I’ve
wanted new words to tell the old tale of
"serving God." What else is it but that,
and yet the God word often builds fences,
and I like to take down barriers that hold
people apart. Doubts circle, too, like
the mosquitoes that find my bare arms
and legs when I water vegetables in the
evening air. I return to my vocation,
rather, three of them: writing, teaching,
farming. I write as I breathe. Words rise.
I can turn a field of sunflowers in my
direction with "news that stays news"*
and is more needed than ever: "Be who
you are. Live the life you are meant to live.
Let Truth dwell in your inmost being."
When I teach, I stir fire in those who also
write and wish to live more dedicated
to their work, make time for their infant
vocations. Do we recognize a call to do
our own work well in our time? If we
listen, we can hear it. So much din
in our world, but we know how to quiet
din. Humankind is good at shutting out
the querulous, demanding voices when
we choose to. The hens rush toward me,
raucous, when I appear on the back porch,
but they can wait while I pull the weeds
to be their afternoon tea break. Everything
can wait while we still our souls to listen.
"Growing one’s own food is more noble
than to be religious," asserts the Talmud.
A deeper truth lies hidden there: to dig
and weed, to assure the plants have
food and water they need, to observe
weather shifts and note insect pests,
to harvest at the right time, to feed
ourselves "power vegetables," as
Melissa convinced her children she
was growing, is to be handmaiden
to the great earth cycle of death and
resurrection, of the awe-inspiring
transformation of seeds to plants
many feet high, carrying, for our benefit,
their life-sustaining fruits. I live to write
and teach. I have enjoyed many kinds
of work, but only I can write my books
and find my words. Only I can establish
and protect a life that nourishes me
and my work. Only I can have this inner
certainty that, sooner or later, my words
and my life, as lived, will matter, will
feed that field of sunflowers turning in
my direction, while I, quietly, persistently,
face East, toward the Rising Sun, or some
would say, toward God, that Inner Sun
I call my Deep Self.

* Ezra Pound’s definition of literature in The ABC of Reading.
I've had some trouble posting Marilyn Levinson's interview, so I'm trying this one first.  Hopefully this one will "publish" and then Marilyn's.  JH

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What It's Like to Be an American Poet

A sustainable Chatham County Farm.  Look Delicious?  It is.


A local poet, Chris Bouton, emailed me some questions she’d found and thought interesting. Thanks, Chris. It gave me a jumping off point for today’s blog.  If you are also a writer, try answering these questions, substituting writer for poet, if need be. 


1) When did you start writing and what motivated you?

I began writing at age 7, when put to bed with rheumatic fever for a year–stories and their illustrations. I had a lot of time on my hands. I began writing poetry at age 13, when my feelings became much stronger and bewildered me. I wrote to understand myself better. I still do.

2) Who are the writers who first inspired you to write and who are the
writers you read now? What’s changed?

I remember, in choosing my own books from the library, age 10 on, that I felt like there was something missing in all the books I read. I decided I’d have to write my own books to put that missing quality into books. What was it? My best guess is that it was my own way of seeing the world. I’ve always been interested in subtle and unusual perceptions about the natural world and human beings.

In childhood I read Louise May Alcott (I identified with Jo in Little Women, Nancy Drew mysteries, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden). In high school my English teacher, Mrs. Francis Dunham, gave me a long reading list to do and also read everything I wrote and critiqued it. On the list were classics, like Lorna Doone, Jane Austen, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. I also read The Odyssey in a simplified version, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, T.S. Eliot. She made us write short in-class essays every Monday. She suggested I write in blank verse, like Shakespeare, and soon I was doing that easily and without working at it. I also read Thoreau and Emerson under her. I loved Walden. I still do. I try to simplify my life as much as possible. My early poetry was in response to the natural world and to my feelings. It still is.

T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were important for my poetry, as Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust for my prose writing. Curiously, I think Homer was a huge influence–he’s the Western literary beginning for both songs (poetry) and stories (fiction).. He always made me feel like writing, and my present normal narrative poetry writing mode is loosely based on Robert Fitzgerald’s meter in his translation of The Odyssey.

I was able to read Homer in Greek in college, and eventually read all of The Iliad in Greek the year before I began graduate school in Classics at U.C.-Berkeley. Pound’s ABC of Reading gave me a reading list, which I later used to frame the writing courses I taught (Roadmap to Great Literature for New Writers) in the Durham and Burlington public libraries. I still get my students reading classics in writing courses I teach.

I’ve read widely in the classic poetry, early 20th century, and internationally, modern Greek poets, Ancient Chinese, Neruda, Lorca, Russian like Akhmatova, Esenin, Pushkin, and Mandelstam. Mostly now I read poetry in connection with classes I teach. Proust and Woolf have also influenced my poetry, Sappho, Catullus, Chaucer, many more.

Apart from classes, I read mysteries and since 1991 I’ve written them, seven to date. I write a poem normally every Sunday morning, books of 30 poems, each poem having a number. The current book, excerpts being on this blog from time to time, is That Inner Circling Sun. I’ve written probably forty books of poetry now, only five of which are in print. I give poems away at the weekly Pittsboro Farmers’ Market and also email them to friends.

3) How important is 'everyday life' to your work?

Everyday life is very important to my poetry. I have often sat outside, by a creek, river, or sea, to write, and everything going on in my life and mind and the world around me can come into the poems. If there’s a drought, it gets into the poem. If I have a new grandchild, that’s goes into the poem. I quote what people have said to me, positive and negative. In recent years imagery from my farming comes into the poems. I used to write a lot about love. Now I write more about what I think. But years ago Charles Eaton praised my poetry for containing "thought felt things."

4) What is the role or place of subjectivity in your poetry?

Like Proust, I believe in trusting the deep places, or what he would call subjectivity. I call it the Muse, and trust that the Muse will send up what I need to write about.

5) Do you see your work in terms of literary traditions and/or broader
cultural or political movements?

I do feel that I’m part of the literary tradition, but I also tune into cultural and political realities. I like what Eliot said about how a fine new writer’s work becomes part of the tradition and subtly rearranges all the other writers in that tradition. I hope my work will do that one day.

6) What aspect of writing poetry and working as a poet is the most challenging?

For American poets, the hardest part, for me, too, is being generally unacknowledged. It’s possible to publish one’s poetry through small presses, but it’s still uphill work, especially if you’re not writing like most people around you are. Americans generally aren’t reading poetry, but I have found that some people read mine who don’t normally read poetry, including farmers and customers at the farmers’ market.

George Seferis, who won the Nobel Prize, said he was content if he had three readers. I have more than that, and I am content, but I would like to get more books in print, and I need to work on that.

7) What reading, other than poetry, is important to your work as a poet and why?

All reading is important, but maybe especially rereading Proust with a small group of people, as I am in 2010-11, is important now. We finish the whole book by Thanksgiving this year. It reminds me of my vocation as a writer as well as stimulating images and perceptions. There’s nothing like Proust for a serious writer, in my opinion. This is my third time through the whole book, and each time I see new things, learn new things, benefit immensely.

8) What is ‘American poetry’? Do you see yourself as an ‘American’ poet?

American poetry is what American poets write. I am very much an American poet. I’m not always proud of my country’s behavior to its own citizens or to those in other countries, but in the very best sense of the word, I am American in style, ideas, spirit, commitment to truth and justice, outspokenness, plain speaking, no nonsense, and I have friends in all "classes" in this country, from the rich to the poor, educated to self-educated, and in all the various ethnic groups. I love our diversity.

When abroad, I’m aware that everywhere there are hurtful prejudices based on origins, education, background, language, religion. Here we are in the midst (still) of a great experiment. Can we live together in a peaceful society? Can we all live together on the planet, without destroying it or each other? I hope my writing helps break down stereotypes, emphasizes the love that should tie people together, and brings to light real truths, important truths about human life here and now. That to me is being an American.

9) What is the current state of American poetry, as you see it?

Generally speaking, in Pound’s thoughts, we are in an age where the language of poetry is in good condition, and a lot of people are writing poetry. Perhaps we are entering now the age of poetry he called "watered down." But few now are writing outstanding, memorable poetry that speak to the hearts of everyday experience, to those who don’t write poetry but would like to have fresh insights and understanding for their own lives.

Once someone told me she couldn’t put my book down. That was Light Food. Recently, at the Farmers’ Market, a customer told me his wife cried when he read her my poem. Those are the rewards I’m looking for. I think that’s what poetry is supposed to do: speak to the heart and mind, help us see freshly our own experience.

How do you think American poetry might best develop in the next ten years?

Those who are serious about their poetry writing would be advised to read in the classics of all cultures, to travel, to learn about other people’s lives, to realize that the poet, potentially, is at the peak of the arts, since her work involves music, words and meaning, and imagery. And, if she’s wise, she can speak to the minds and hearts of all. I’d love to see American poetry develop in that direction. Some very good poets are writing, but most of those aren’t getting much attention. Maybe gradually they will. I hope so.

10) How is poetry relevant or valuable to contemporary society and
culture in the U.S. and/or at an international level?

Poetry, though difficult to translate, can reach across all the barriers people put up to keep others out, because it is essentially about feelings and about what it’s like to live in this world with other people. So of course it’s important to our society and culture, and to cultures and societies everywhere. Poets are sometimes loved and given adulation, sometimes hated and killed, and sometimes ignored. But if they get their words on paper and preserved in books and libraries, maybe it’s not so bad to be ignored in the short run. Better than getting confused by adulation or killed for speaking the truth.