Happy Monday, Poetry Lovers! Today we have a fantastic conversation for you between Allison Hedge Coke, author of Dog Road Woman and Off-Season City Pipe, Kirsten Kaschock, author of Sleight, and Sarah Fox, author of Because Why. All of their books are on sale (20% off) through 4/22 by using the code POETS20 at checkout!
Culminating Work: Cultivating Collective Influence and Creative Continuance in Poetry & Prose: A Conversation with Allison Hedge Coke, Kirsten Kaschock, and Sarah Fox
Allison Hedge Coke: In my own work, I have been heavily influenced by musical, literary, and artistic conversations that saturate my muse and condition me to respond in certain significant ways to everything witnessed turned to words. Everything I create has the essence of this and everything I work has the essence of work that I have done in life and those that came before me detailed to me in my youth. From picking fields to building environments, from fishing to gathering people together, from factory lines to producing the most unique mass I can muster, I have, as many of us have, been conditioned by life and by influences throughout life that culminate within the work at hand. Both Dog Road Woman and Off-Season City Pipe are peppered with such influence. Dog Road Woman offered a cultural view into the life and Off-Season picks up the labor effort Dog Road began, presents a full volume of work, as work, and work life. These two volumes and a new one I am working on, Streaming, seek to define the poetic of place, motion, moving, gathering, witnessing, being present, being open, considering, experience, and influence, while offering a taste of each along the way. Influence being a big bang of the combination.
As I was launching into the annual gathering of writers in the epicenter of the flyway migration I’ve hosted for several years, bringing Indigenous, Asian, African-American and other poets and writers and artists to experience a retreat and performance festival in the heart of the largest migration in the world, one that has deep connections to language and literatures of American Indian, First Nation, and other Indigenous peoples, the Poetry Foundation invited me to moderate a conversation with two other writers speaking to influences of poetry representing Native Poetics in the twentieth century and their ongoing influences through us. We recorded the interview for podcast (at Poetry Foundation) in between sessions the three of us were presenting at AWP. The shared dialogue with Sherwin Bitsui and Linda Hogan is as inspiring to me as the five poems I brought along to discuss from that time.
When we held the conversation, I had just finished about seven hours of interview sessions with Quincy Troupe, particularly focused on his incredible recent release, Errançities, and also including a dialogue of influences and concerns in his body of work and life as a writer. A feature film is currently in the works based on his memoir Miles and Me, wherein he will be played by Laurence Fishburne and Miles is schedule to be played by Eddie Murphy, a phenomena experienced in few poets’ lives, at least while still living them. An amazing life at hand, here, and I cannot wait to see it play. Troupe has been a tremendous influence on me, and I admire his work in the world with other writers, artists, musicians, with anyone and everyone who has something to say and is willing to share it. He and his wife, Margaret Porter Troupe, are an incredibly amazing host couple of all things artistic in their own home and studio space with the frequent (and amazing) offerings of Harlem Arts Salon.
Errançities is a significant journey we escape within. Wandering through cities (New York, Harlem, St. Louis, The Canton of Goyave, Paris, Medellin), with the lead wanderer, the poet and witness, Troupe, whose own name gives us a sense of touring, of motion, and brings us a keen perspective of his genealogical identity, in his Running Style of writing, in his artistic movement through the world, is more than adventure, it is familiarizing us with each entry, giving us an emic belongingness in the saturation of beingness Troupe delivers. This is a phenomenal collection of poems, assembled to qualify a sense of reading that entertains in the strongest sense of the word, that miraculous attention, consideration, provision of nourishment we need to sustain and employ our own senses, to experience alongside the poet and wanderer. This is a purposeful offering, with intentionality streaming us from place to place and securing each foothold. It is a dreamscape of reality a reader can dance within and perform alongside. We become the troupe. Think about it. Here, we become the troupe and we move within the motion, taking in every single pondering, replacing the I with eye, collectively engaging the vision, and bringing in that school that continues to produce exemplary artistic works that endure time. And time comes into question, amnesia explored alongside vision, earthquakes, hurricanes, “View from the 48th Floor of the New World Trade Center Building #7,” “A Veil of Transparent Rain,” “Miles Last Tune Live,” “Michael Jackson & the Arc of Love.” This is an album of poetry we sing with and witness the Caribbean Sea and the “Last Stormy Breaths of Irene.” These are “Connections” we live within the “Sentences” of traveling back into memory (emic). And, for me, the beautiful love poems for Margaret, “Lusting after Mangoes” and “Searching for a Word” culminate a belongingness few find in this world, the real deal.
This is the type of influence I truly hope to achieve within my own poetry. One of the many influences who have given me grip on poetry, I am truly grateful for.
From one volume to the next, if we are able to look back and identify a continual conversation, or thread, that permeates your work while speaking to, or from, a larger collective of influences or inspirations you consider community, or field worthy, what presences might we determine as significant to the culminating body of work you are producing?
Kirsten Kaschock: Influence is a strange phenomenon. The writing concerns and relationships I’ve cultivated by spending time with work I’m drawn to intellectually aren’t always what is most prominent or recognizable in my poetry or fiction. Instead, things surge from the bottom (by which I mean ground not low). I talk about identity a great deal, mostly as a palimpsest, a constant rewriting of contradictory elements one over the other. Many of my pieces could be called revisionist since they deal with old tropes, but I’m also interested in speculation and science fiction. What identities are imaginable? How might humans perceive of themselves and their world radically differently—not simply as a re-organization of what we know? These optimistic questions haunt me and tend to be paired with pessimistic imaginings of committing the same crimes again and again. Alice Notley’s work is important to me. So is Patrick Lawler’s and Edmond Jabes’s. I write about tight spaces because so many people live in them and because I do. Given a field, I divide it into stanzas, cupboards, selves. My most recent group of poems has much longer lines than I am used to working with, but to compensate, the poems are settling into a didactic kind of syntax. Lots of fragments.
As far as a continuing conversation—mine is with the ineffable. I don’t write to communicate something that I know, but to explore what I don’t and can’t. I have a bit of a scientist in me, so I try several variations on the same failed experiments. I often think of Marie Curie, who died from seeing what no one before her had seen. If you want to do that, you take some risks, some you don’t even know you are taking. One of those risks is repetition, a trust that the source you are circling is not empty. Some artists whose works make me feel risk and urgency are: Louise Bourgeois, Pina Bausch, Komitas Vardapet. I also like to laugh, I just don’t usually write when I am. I laugh after, when I see all my crimes–recommitted to.
Sarah Fox: Maybe it’s something like soul, or duende, that sutures one poem to another over time, one volume or project, all of them shot through with bits of ghost-debris. Flakes of gold. “Death that is alive,” writes South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon. Poems decaying like felled wet trees, proliferating and buggy, still speaking, leaking, transforming—the death drive in retrograde. The objective, always, is to expand, to communicate expansion, invite and encode expansion. Which might mean to fail, it might mean failure: in failure lies new space for consciousness to fill and grow. When I fail to obey, I make a fissure, an eruption, a change in that dead shape where movement reanimates.
The influences are: occult systems, entheogenic plant medicines, the feminine body, childbirth, psychoanalysis, witchcraft, astrology, and interactions with nonhuman beings. That conversation that derives from deep attention to the symbolic syntax of the wild. Re-enchantment. I love the painted caves, and the Venus of Hohle Fels. I love the placenta, and desire placental economy. I desire the end of patriarchy. I desire and want to provide intimacy, intensity, transparency. I’m a doula, I witness the birth of babies. I’m a DES Daughter.
Alice Notley teaches me how to persist and proclaim and disobey. I revere her. I revere Kim Hyesoon, really I’m just so grateful they live and write. “This is why women poets take the readers and stand them in front of the gap of the world, the crevice of death,” Hyesoon writes. I’m influenced by ghosts especially baby ones. I sat with Marina Abramovic and was greatly influenced and transformed.
Marina said the difference between what she does and what a psychoanalyst does is all about context. Whatever the context, it could be shamanic, which would influence me for sure. Some of my shamanic role models are Hannah Weiner, Mariía Sabina, Maya Deren and Ida Mae Gaskins.
I’m Gemini sun, Pisces moon, Virgo rising. I was born during a disseminating moon when Pluto and Uranus were nearly conjunct in Virgo, at my ascendant. The word “influence” comes from old French: “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men… emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny.” E.g. astrology: which DEFINITELY influences me. I mean for instance have you noticed, all winter, the magnificence of Venus in the western sky? As above, so below.
I cannot write poetry unless I’m in conversation with other people also writing poetry, we write it together. We help show each other the shadow parts, and we don’t fuck around in conversation. I truly do write most poems when I’m participating in a collaborative creative conversation. Steve Healey, Kevin Carollo, Randall Heath and I have intensely co-created. Lucas de Lima and A.T. Grant and I have also, in recent times, figured things out together. I have comrades. I love many poets that I have met and that sometimes I encounter. I am married to a beautiful and gifted poet named John Colburn and we live as much as we can as if the whole thing is poetic. Norman O. Brown ends Love’s Body with “there is only poetry.” I want to be porous, and to transform, and believe.
Allison Hedge Coke: Thank you, Kirsten & Sarah. A big thank you to all of our influences. More to come with that and more to come with Errançities. Quincy is reading at Macalester tonight, so everyone get over and see him and pick up some work from Kirsten & Sarah today. Celebrate National Poetry Month with our host, Coffee House Press and take some time to write, right now.
Allison Hedge Coke
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Suggested Links and Resources:
Allison Hedge Coke, some online conversations and appearances
Three Native American Poets: The Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute hosts a conversation between Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Linda Hogan, and Sherwin Bitsui. (Poetry Foundation) http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/audioitem/3352
Allison Hedge Coke Interview with Quincy Troupe in the Harlem Arts Salon – Part 1 (Harlem Arts Salon)
Writers in the Migration Epicenter (NPR)
Placeholder: Carolina Poems of Labor and Love (Southern Spaces, Poets in Place)
Q & A American Poetry (Poetry Society of America)
Writers Giving Back: Pass the Torch (Poets & Writers)
Allison Hedge Coke at Wordfest (Asheville Wordfest)
Kirsten Kaschock, some online conversations and appearances
Kirsten Kaschock on Naming (Inquire)
An Interview with Kirsten Kaschock (Otolith)
The Rumpus Poetry Club Interviews Kirsten Kaschock (The Rumpus)
To Endlessly Scratch at Those Surfaces: A Interview with Kirsten Kaschock (The Collagist)
Sleight by Kristen Kaschock (Book Trailer)
Sarah Fox, some online conversations and appearances
Sarah Fox Recorded in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN with John Coleburn (Know Writers House)
Thinking Souls: An Interview with Sarah Fox (MN Artists)
Two Montevidayans Interview D.A. Powell (Montevidayo)
Talking Plants and Dale Pendell (Conduit)
Fred Johnston review Because Why: Poems by Sarah Fox (Jacket)
Talking Image Connection: All Our Be-Longings (Soap Factory)
Sarah Fox, Daniel Borzutzky and Brian Oliu videos (Nicki-Poo)
Sarah Fox, Gail Lukasik (Altered Scale)
Quincy and Margaret Troupe, some online resources:
April 16th Kinship of Rivers Reading from Errançities and other poems (The Altered Scale)
A Badjohn in Harlem: Afternoon with Earl Lovelace (The Paris Review)
Quincy Troupe (homepage)
Quincy Troupe (Moral Ground)
On Miles and Me (Examiner)
Black Renaissance Noire
Troupe Photos (Zimbio)