Poetry News

A Great Conversation with Jack Collom at OmniVerse

By Harriet Staff


OmniVerse has published an interview with Jack Collom and Elizabeth Robinson as the second installment of a three-part issue in celebration of Collom, author of (wow!) 24 books of poetry. "I mean, we wouldn’t, I think, change 'I love you' to 'I experience interpersonal gravitation in regard to you,' although 'love' has been debased and corrupted," he says. They also talk about Collom's new book, Second Nature: "For those who don’t know about the project," says Robinson, "a group of us conceived it as a necessity that your [Jack’s] essays and poetry about nature and ecopoetics come into the world in a book form. Marcella Durand, Andrew Schelling, Jonathan Skinner and I organized the project and helped with the editing, which nonetheless fell principally to your hands":

ER: I’ve heard you say many times that nature is comprehensive, that nature is EVERYTHING. That sense of inclusiveness manifests in this book in a way that really reflects your attitudes. Could you cite an example from the book that shows how you perceive such expansiveness?

JC: I’ve been playing a lot with this little string of definitions. Jonathan Skinner was talking with me about how Timothy Morton and some other ecologists want to abolish the word “nature” because it’s become debased, abused, sentimentalized, perverted even. But what I would like is to let the meanings proliferate, even the pile-up of contradictions that come with different definitions. Contradictions are important, by the way, because nature is full of contradictions when you look close.


In the preface at some point I have a few nature definitions listed, and I’ll just read them to you:

Nature is everything and something.

It’s the ocean in which culture swims.

It’s that which is not manufactured.

It’s a stick, a ladybug.


It’s its logic.

It’s causal essence.

It’s a lost purity.

It’s a rose and it’s a photographed rose.

It’s the desire to smash something. Therefore it’s an entity of great simultaneous scale. We need to be in touch with these to some degree all at once.

Incidentally, what I’ve been doing in my current writing in the last couple of weeks—I’ve been trying to make an expanded list of “Nature is,” of really expanded scale. It’s difficult to be selective and still convey infinity.

ER: Along with being encompassing—nature and its great simultaneous scale—what comes through so strongly here is this sense of play. Nature plays amid us, among us, with us. I can’t think of your writing without thinking of the play, whimsy and humor of it. How do humor and nature interrelate or interact?

JC: Yeah. I think play represents freedom from one’s own preconceptions. I think humor is just accuracy. Humor’s mechanical basis is incongruity, and when you look close anywhere, in nature and anywhere else, if there is anywhere else, there is a lot of incongruity. I think the universe is very funny. It’s just seeing that first you have one thing and then another thing too, and there are many ways in which they are mismatched. We tend to slur over these processes and get overviews too quickly, too simply for an overall idea of what we are looking at.

Read the full interview. They also talk defiance in form, how "things become urgent on a weekly basis, second by second, in chunks of a hundred, thousand years," and yodeling....

Image above: Anselm Hollo, Anne Waldman, Bobbie Lousie Hawkins, and Jack Collom.

Originally Published: March 6th, 2013