VIDA Voices & Views – Rita Dove Interview

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m hosting a new video interview series for VIDA– VIDA Voices & Views. The program is an interview podcast designed to call attention to a plurality of voices by interviewing writers, editors, publishers, series curators, anthologists, awards committee members, and other dedicated members of the literary community about their own work, vision, and concerns, as well as topics at the forefront of literary activism. The program seeks to foster a better understanding of the literary landscape and the issues facing artists of both genders, as well as to provide nuanced conversation about gender parity, race, disability, LGBTQ, economic, and other crucial issues impacting writers today.

The executive producer of digital media for the program is the very talented RJ Jeffreys, who created a beautiful look for the series. You can read more about Jeffreys and the program here: http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida-voices-views/.

My first conversation is with the wonderful human and poet Rita Dove. She gives a marvelous reading of her poems “Parsley” and “Claudette Colvin Goes to Work” and discusses topics ranging from literary bias masquerading as objectivity to sharing poetry with preschoolers. You can read more about Rita Dove and the episode here: http://www.vidaweb.org/rita-dove-vida-voices-views/.

As well, these are some of my favorite Rita Dove quotes from the episode: 

“My most radical pronouncement, if I were queen or something, would be that anywhere where there is more than one child together—any kind of group, if they have a schedule for the day—to end the day with a poem… sort of like pledging allegiance to the flag.”

“There is not going to be any change unless we can begin to talk about any little fear, any little hatred, any little bias that we might have and to admit that all human beings have them.”

“I wasn’t looking to lard [The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry] with rainbow colors. This is just the way it happened. These were the poems that were being published, and it made me feel hopeful. I said, ‘Look, look! Things are changing here.’”

“I remember what it was like as a child when I was reading poetry and couldn’t find anyone who had my life, who looked like me, who had the same kind of experiences, and how lonely that was …”

“Pulling someone into the spotlight, out of the shadows … I don’t feel that it casts aspersions on those who are already in the sunlight. It’s more like there can never be enough poetry, and there can never be enough heroes.”

“As a writer I couldn’t exist not being honest, totally honest, with the world, and with myself.”

Three Poems & A Micro-Interview Conducted by Okla Elliott

With gratitude to Okla Elliott for his wonderful questions–

The As It Ought to Be Archive

cosmos

Melissa Studdard’s debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, was recently released by Saint Julian Press. She is also the author of the best­selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah; its companion journal, My Yehidah(both on All Things That Matter Press); and The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, the Readers’ Favorite Award, and two Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards.

Melissa’s poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Boulevard, Connecticut Review, Pleiades, and Poets & Writers. In addition to writing, Melissa serves as editorial advisor for The Criterion and a host for Tiferet Talkradio. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence college and is a professor for the Lone Star College System and a teaching artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative.

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Okla Elliott: Your work…

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An Interview Conducted by Sarah Marcus

An Interview Conducted by Sarah Marcus

from Gazing Grain Press

Sarah MarcusCate Marvin wrote of your stunning debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast (Saint Julian Press), “In so many ways the poems in this book read like paintings, touching and absorbing the light of the known world while fingering the soul until it lifts, trembling.” Which is exactly how these poems made me feel, but I also had the sense that the “known world” was also somehow secret. The poem “In Another Dimension, We Are Making Love” ends with: “Everything we need to remember/ can fit on a scrap of paper/ smaller than your hand.” Which feels so impossible and so true! Can you tell us about this collection and your process of poem-painting?

Melissa Studdard: Of course you’re right—it’s impossible but true. What’s known touches the boundaries of secrecy, and what’s secret is also subconsciously known. That paradox, that interplay, is part of what thrills me about poetry. We can get right up to the edge of something and feel it deeply and still not fully figure it out, and that ambiguity is not only okay; it’s pleasurable. I like your phrase “poem-painting” in this context too, because in the dream-logic of poetic composition, ideas and concepts are often nestled inside images and metaphors. Therefore, we must paint poems in order to unpack the images.

In my process, a poem usually starts with a phrase or image rather than an idea. The process of writing the poem instructs me as to what it’s about. I rarely know before I begin. I’m usually just struck by something—a fist of leaves unfolding, a plastic Jesus hanging from a rearview mirror, the instant between a smile and when the smile fades—and I write until I know why the image ignited me. I often do that part of the writing with pen and paper, and then, when I figure out why I’m writing, I move to the computer so I can edit more easily as I go along.

Read the rest at Gazing Grain Press