Inquiring Minds and Other Clichés — S. Abbas Raza

— a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim

S. Abbas Raza
(Founding Editor of 3 Quarks Daily)

1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?

Learning By Heart” and much as I would like to pretend to be more erudite than I am by choosing something a little more obscure for my favorite of all poems I have read, I’m going to be honest and go with “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens.

2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?

I have no idea.

3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?

I have no idea.

4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?

For an audience, sometimes a specific reader.

5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?

Mostly inspiration for me, which is why I write so seldom. For example, the imagery of the last stanza in the poem I have given above as my favorite of any I have written came to me in a dream (a faceless man dressed in a dark suit was explained to be the evening itself by a friend in the dream, who then went on to suggest we put a bright tie on him). The rest of the poem was worked backwards from there.

6. Bonus question! Answer any one of the following:

a. Do you ever include the works of others in your readings? If not, why not? If so, who and why?

I’ve never done a reading.

b. If you were a Celtic bard, carrying poems from place to place as if they were the last flame, which ones would you sing?

Waiting for the Barbarians by Cavafy.

c. Why do you read or write poetry?

For fun and also sometimes to impress girls.

d. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?

It hasn’t.

e. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

A Coke Zero, which is my breakfast everyday.

f. Anything else you’d like to say?

Christine, I’ll add this: I have written MANY, MANY poems over the years for friends and family to commemorate special occasions like weddings (at one point I was in some demand as a wedding poet!), birthdays, graduations, etc. These are, obviously, not literary efforts. They talk about the specific people present and tend to be funny and are usually quite crowd-pleasing! I wish more people would put poetry to such less-serious uses and stop trying to be so damn profound!

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, Abbas has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering & computer science from Johns Hopkins University, and a graduate degree in philosophy from Columbia University. He lives with his wife, Margit Oberrauch, and their feline friend, Frederica Krueger, in the small, very beautiful city of Brixen in the Italian Alps. 
Upper Rubber Boot Books is coordinating a book blog tour for April, to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month. Check back here for updates throughout the month of April (we’ll also post updates to our blog, and so will many of the participating poets).
Follow this event on Facebook or Goodreads.



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