Poetry News

'sharp sniffs of snow in complex air': Karen Garthe's 12 or 20

By Harriet Staff


Karen Garthe, author most recently of The Banjo Clock, answered Rob McLennan's 12 or 20 questions over at his blog.

Here's a few of them. Make the jump for the rest:

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

3&4) The poem I’m currently working on is my project. For many years I’ve gotten up early, long before I even have to think about getting ready for work. That morning time which is mine, alone, is everything. On weekends I mostly stay home and work for the duration.

Some poems leap fully formed and some take years to write. Occasionally, there’s a palette of verbiage like a chunk of marble from which the poem’s carved, sometimes it darts forth a precise, finished thing.

I read in many texts at a time, pick up and put down numerous books in a week. If one book refers to another, I often get that one, too. I decide quickly if something is worth my time, but I can miss things that way, so I do try to be careful. Not everything can be assessed in a blink. I’m not a note taker. If something is very boring (like a long, dreary lecture) I may take notes then appropriate them into a poem. “The Studio School” in Frayed escort is an example of this. The art lecture from which that poem emerged was so boring I took notes to keep from falling asleep. I may write things down now and then, but almost never look at them again. I just try to pay attention.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

5) I love to read my work. People have said “oh, now that you’ve read that, I get it” On paper poems may seem to be theoretical statements on materiality, but they’re not. They’re scored for the voice.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

6) No theoretical concerns. As for questions to answer, simply preposterously large ones like “why are we here, etc.?” The Unanswerables.

7 – 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?

7) The writer has a role in culture, but is no longer a rock star. No head shots on the cover of TIME. Writers aren’t diminished or gone, at least not yet. Language is only as good as the thinking it serves to express. If language devolves to OMG LOL, I can only imagine that quality of thought will have devolved, as well. Writers, especially poets, do indeed seem to write for their own constituencies in ever shrinking units of particularity and concern.

Originally Published: December 21st, 2012