"For Me, to write is no longer enough": Ana Božičević Stops in at Rob McLennan's 12 or 20 Blog

By Harriet Staff

Ana Božičević, author of Stars of the Night Commute and two chapbooks, one of which is forthcoming, took part in Rob McLennan's 12 or 20 interview series.

Let's get right to it!

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
When Stars of the Night Commute was picked up by Tarpaulin Sky Press, I felt the meaning of the word “debut.” The book formalized my relationship with poetry in America, I sang out, I was here. Since that channel between me & America opened, I became obsessed with writing a more public poetry. I had been reading lots of funny, brilliant, private, idiosyncratic work that felt like it had sort of given up on the possibility of the political lyric, on poetry that is public by virtue of something more than its arty nature (in that art belongs to everyone). I would read poems and think, this is great, but what does it mean? And even worse: what does this do? I asked it of my own poems all the time. I was told these were unsubtle questions. Démodé. I get meta – I love chaos too, and I do think refusal can be noble – but it just wasn’t doing it for me. I wondered if there was maybe something wrong with me.

I was in this world, my polis, and things are bad in the polis. I don’t want to be prescriptive about others’ poems, but I sure as hell expect the world of mine. The world just flooded in. Poets tell me they’re scared of writing “bad political poems,” by which they mean poems that just tell things, without a slant. So I had to do it well; I set out to write poems that want to change the world, both complex and simple enough, which do not bore, wipe tears with funny query, unafraid of being beautiful or filthy sometimes – in other words, unafraid of defining essences to stand on. I just finished my second manuscript and I am excited. It feels like news. It’s called Rise in the Fall.

And, later, she weighs in on matters beyond the page, like the Poets Occupy Wall Street protests:

– What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

We’re coasting along on this joyful tide of pop culture – shouldn’t we be inventing our own culture? I’m thinking on how to be public without playing a role in Culture INC or hopping on whatever zeitgeisty consumerist rainbow is whizzing by. Everyone is fretting about their Twitter presences or whatever. What? Right now, for example, there are protests on Wall Street that our major media are not covering at all—and poets have began to speak out, attend the demonstration, organize. This is something I’ve been hoping to see for a long time. For me, to write is no longer enough: I have to speak out. Do you?

Originally Published: September 28th, 2011