Margaret Randall will be reading from her new collection of poetry, Ruins, (with foreward by V.B. Price) University of New Mexico Press) on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2-3 pm, at Alamosa Books.
1. Who were your early influences?
I assume you are asking about poets, because many things influenced and continue to influence me: visual art, music, ancient ruins, political ideas--almost anything, really. But the earliest poetic influences I can remember were Whitman and then William Carlos Williams. When I started writing seriously myself, the Black Mountain poets were important, especially Creeley. Ginsberg's "Howl" made a powerful impression. When I went to live in Latin America and began to become familiar with Spanish language poets, Cesar Vallejo spoke to me on many different levels; he may have been the first poet whose ideas about language as well as what he wrote about changed the way I wrote. More recently, as the work of more women poets became available, I have found that a number of them speak to me particularly: Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, June Jordan among many others.
2. There are those who say art and politics should be separate. Do you think it's possible to keep them apart?
No, I don't. In the U.S., the idea that art and politics should be separate comes directly out of McCarthyism in the 1950s, an era known as well for other constricting social limitations. Everything is political, after all, whether it admits to it or not. I am not talking about narrow partisan politics, but politics as an ideology of life, a way of being in the world. Poets and writers in all other genres as well can write about anything and everything. The challenge is to craft a good piece of writing, one that grips and moves the reader or listener.
3. What constitutes good politcial poetry versus bad political poetry?
Again, I don't make a distinction between political poetry and any other sort of poetry. A good poem is one that provides an experience rather than describe it. A bad poem, on whatever subject, fails at that.
4. What is one positive and one negative thing about the current state of poetry in the U.S. today?
A negative thing about the current state of U.S. poetry is that it continues to be the "poor country cousin" among the various literary genres. Poetry is not really supported here in any very real way. Consequently, the vast majority of poets cannot live from our work. A positive thing is that there are so many really great poets, more than ever before. And, despite the lack of official support, we read, publish, and keep on writing, putting our voices out there as powerful signals in an increasingly bleak landscape.
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