Poetry News

Lisa Wells Interviews Emily Kendal Frey at OmniVerse

By Harriet Staff

OmniVerse posted an interview (a wonderfully conversational interview) between Lisa Wells and Emily Kendal Frey. They talk about the ease of the English major, MFAs, Bill Knott, submitting poems, and freshness. A taste:

LW: Your poems seem pretty innovative, and they’re not really attached to one school or another. I wonder if that’s a product of your not having a lot of ideas about Poetry to begin with… but how do you hold onto that now that you are totally enmeshed in that world?

EKF: You mean, “How do you hold onto your freshness?” … that’s a really good question.

I mean, how do you do it?

EKF: I think it’s that initial impulse that draws me to poetry. I see it as an extension of the world. Poetry is a place to manifest, or slow down, or take a snapshot. I feel that to identify too strongly with one kind of writing or one kind of image or one kind of anything would just, I don’t know, that just feels so limiting, and I mean limiting to me as a person. I’m only a nature poet or I’m only a short line poet or I’m only a surrealist poet, or … That’s not my experience of life. I assume that’s not anyone’s. That seems so much more about creating a persona that feels safe—that people will maybe like or not like—than it does about actually opening oneself up to potential. And that would feel like death. I think my job is to give an authentic range of my experience through poetry, to share it. I would feel really awful if I thought I had to choose.

LW: This is a pet grievance, so I appreciate hearing your perspective. I almost have the sense, when I hear it, that the stakes are much higher than I know. Maybe it’s melodramatic to say that.

EKF: Say more, what do you mean about the stakes?

Okay, well, a lot of times I feel slimed … I walk away from my computer or from a reading or a post reading conversation feeling really gross. Like there’s been some petty, small-minded limitation placed on life in service to insecurity … so, it’s heartening to hear that this is something you’re keeping your head about.

I believe that to write well requires a certain level of fear and vulnerability. I would write bad poems if I decided to stay safe… because then you’ve essentially decided everything there is to decide and the world has a much harder time getting in. Where should I go?? Carefully and curiously. And, how do I direct all of my intellect and capacities toward that next thing, and be there fully? It feels very intentional, but I try to not get in my own way.

I feel very conscious of the insecurity you mention. I’m very intentionally saying I’m going over here to explore now. Not because I’ve closed all those other doors. I trust that I can go back wherever I need to go.

It also feels vaguely spiritual.

Oh absolutely. I am not the biggest thing. I am small. It’s my job to synthesize the biggest things, you know? Rather than trying to be a writer who traps the world inside and then becomes big themselves.

Much more to savor, including Kendal Frey's fully embodied writing practice:

EKF: Let me say that a little better. I don’t write constantly, all day, every day. It’s that I think in terms of poems all the time now. It’s a way of seeing. Something shifted and now, when I’m walking around, I’m looking, feeling the sensations … It’s all going through the language part of my brain. I’m directing. How am I going to describe that? It’s almost like I’m living on behalf of my poems. I’m just a vessel, or a sieve basically, so that all the shit that I’m experiencing has somewhere to go. It’s so fucking freeing actually, to every day synthesize your life that way. Whether or not I actually write the poem down is irrelevant because I get to look at that tree and make language out of it. That’s really calming for me.

Make the jump to read the rest (and a poem!).

Originally Published: August 1st, 2012