— a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim
Karen J. Weyant
1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?
My favorite poem that I have every written is called “The Inevitable” – which took about three years to write and revise. It was originally published in The Fourth River, but also appears in Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt. However, I have to add, that when I do readings, audience members seem to really like “Roadkill Girls” originally published in The Fiddleback.
It’s funny, but if you were to ask me my favorite of anything else, such as my favorite song or my favorite movie, I would stumble, but I know my favorite poem of all time is “Feared Drowned” by Sharon Olds. This work displays stark and beautiful imagery, with an overall theme that we can never find what has once been lost. It’s a beautiful poem.
2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?
I’m afraid that I don’t know what really defines an “academic poet.” I know that some poets who teach at publish-or-perish institutions have to publish in the “right places” and those right places often do not include online journals. Unfortunately, I believe there is still a mistrust in poetry that is published online, and I’m not sure why. Poetry, like all art, must evolve and we cannot escape the Internet. From a more practical standpoint, I find online journals wonderful teaching tools in the classroom. I teach at a rural community college, and it’s wonderful to take my students to the computer lab and show them beautiful online journals such as diode.
But maybe that disconnect is fading. Some of my favorite poets writing today, including Mary Biddinger, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Dorianne Laux, and Traci Brimhall, publish online and in print journals.
3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?
I guess I have to preface this answer by explaining that I don’t have an MFA, but I have many friends who are great poets and do have MFAs. So, I guess in some aspects, I know both sides. I do not believe that there are too many MFA programs, nor do I believe these programs are detrimental to the arts. In fact, there is a big part of me that finds all the arguments a bit tiresome. Why not use all this time (and words) to discuss poetry as an art form? Or how to get more people to read poetry? In general, I just don’t understand how programs that encourage a love of any art can be detrimental.
4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?
I teach rhetoric and composition and I always tell my students that audience is a very important part of any type of writing. Perhaps, that is why I write narrative poetry – I want my readers to know the people and places found in my poems. So yes, I write for an audience who wants to hear stories, but because of the subjects of my poems, I also write for audiences who knows the blue collar/working-class world or who want to know this world.
However, I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say that there is a small part of me that feels a huge desire to capture the stories of working-class/blue collar/rural women. Even if no one in the world wanted to hear these narratives, I would still write them!
5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?
Writing, for me, is mostly perspiration. There are many days that I struggle with even getting one line right in a poem. In general, I am a slow writer and a slower reviser, and I admire my peers who seemingly write a whole chapbook in a month, a great collection in less than a year. I wish that I had ideas in the same way that cartoon characters are inspired with magical light bulbs over their head, but that rarely happens with me. Instead, I have to force myself to sit down and face an empty notebook or a blank computer screen, write, and then not be too hard on myself when the immediate work that comes out is not inspired or polished.
6. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?
Physically, I find myself approaching writing differently. I used to draft everything on paper. Now, while I still draft in small, cheap (I love Dollar Stores) journals, I find myself heading to the computer screen faster. I also take more chances with my writing, with both language and subject matter. I attribute this change to the fact that I write more now than I did ten years ago, but I also read everything I can get my hands on. It’s the number one piece of advice I give to my students who want to write – read!
Karen J. Weyant’s most recent work can be seen in Cave Wall, Conte, Copper Nickel, The Tusculum Review, and River Styx. Her poem, “The Summer I Stopped Catching Bees” recently appeared in Sundress Publications’ 2011 Best of the Net. She is the author of two chapbooks, Stealing Dust (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt (Winner of Main Street Rag’s 2011 Chapbook Contest). She lives in Western Pennsylvania, but crosses the border to teach at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York. She blogs at www.thescrapperpoet.wordpress.com.
Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour – click for a list of participating blogs and daily entries
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).
Wonderful! Thanks for this interview!
Kathleen, thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the interview.