— a poetry interview series by Christine Klocek-Lim
Oliver de la Paz
1. What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Read?
I always enjoy the poems I’m working on the most. There’s something about the process that I genuinely love far more than a completed poem. Right now, I’m enjoying writing and reading a series of ekphrastic poems about Eadward Muybridge. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll move on to the next thing as I get back to the writing table.
2. Do you think there is a disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry?
When I was coming up through the MFA, there were lots of distinctions that were made between who was in which camp, etc. But nowadays, there’s so much good poetry out there, both online and performed on stage, that the distinctions, as silly as they were, are even more silly now that internet publication has become so commonplace. There was a time when I was hesitant to put my stuff online because I was worried about how it would be perceived, but now the ratio of my published work seems to lean much more towards websites and e-zines. I think any disconnect between academic poets/poetry and online poets/poetry will be rectified with this generation of poets who are more readily experimenting with poems online.
3. Has the rise of the poetry MFA been positive or detrimental to the art?
Anytime there’s more people striving to craft art at the highest level, there can be only a positive outcome. Ultimately, the value of what’s produced cannot be determined by any one person or camp, but can only be governed by an individual’s taste. I don’t believe that the rise in the number of MFA programs or students gaining their MFA’s has diluted the pool of excellent poems, rather, what I’ve been seeing now is a rise in more DIY productions, chapbooks, etc. So I think that’s a wonderful thing.
4. Do you write for yourself or for an audience/reader?
I used to write for an audience. Especially when I was just coming into consciousness as far as my poetic process is concerned. I had envisioned that I was writing for the larger Asian American community and that it was my duty to do so. Nowadays, I’m still writing poems for that audience, but I’m also much more invested in crafting work that pleases my ear, not to say that the Asian American community is not in tune to what I imagine to be pleasing. I’m merely less inclined to force the crafting of my work to meet the expectations of any reader outside of myself.
5. How much of what you write is inspiration vs. perspiration?
I tend to get snatched away by obsession when I’m in a writing mode, so initially the inspiration is the driving force of my work, but as the process continues, perspiration becomes the engine. I fancy working away at a piece as a way of demarcating time.
6. How has the way you write changed (or not changed) over time?
I’ve become more of a deliberate, serial writer. I used to be able to write single poems. Individual lyrics which had no affinities to a broader project, but now out of necessity (a family and work), I’ve found that it’s much easier to stay within a particular obsession and to craft poems centered around a single idea or event. As I mentioned earlier, my latest obsession is the photographer Eadward Muybridge, so his photo plates are something that I’ve been returning to.
Oliver de la Paz is the author of three collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby (SIU Press 2001, 2007), and Requiem for the Orchard (U. of Akron Press 2010), winner of the Akron Prize for poetry chosen by Martìn Espada. He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry. A recipient of a NYFA Fellowship Award and a GAP Grant from Artist Trust, his work has appeared in journals like The Southern Review Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Tin House, Chattahoochee Review, and in anthologies such as Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. He teaches at Western Washington University.
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).