Poetry News

Jason Dodge in Conversation With Caroline Knox at BOMBLOG

By Harriet Staff


At BOMBLOG: Artist Jason Dodge talked with poet Caroline Knox, whose eighth book, Flemish, came out from Wave Books in 2013. Their conversation circles the visual mind, Knox's reading life, art as can opener, and more. An excerpt:

JD Well, one of the things that drew me to your work is something that I don’t know if I necessarily have the words to describe; it’s the relation to poetry or to literature in a good solid way. One of the things that really drew me to your writing was a kind of a detail and a distance, a placement, an atmosphere, a distraction, ways in which you use language to somehow locate or to dislocate me as I was reading it.

CK Thank you!

JD Just that idea of the incredible detail of the title. Just taking the title and looking at it in a different way, and then talking about your daughter knowing how to make the strawberries levitate. And then all of a sudden you’re back in Flanders, the lowlands, and just the way in which there’s a kind of…it’s not a distance in the same vision, and a closeness in the same vision. It’s a distance with a certain flatness at times and at other times a kind of connectedness, and a detail with a kind of intimacy or also a kind of flatness. And I love that those are the sort of moments in which I’m trying to find out, in a sense, where I am. Like if there are poems of yours where I feel like I’m having a conversation, and poems of yours where I feel like I’m playing a game. And I love that feeling.

CK I would hope that people would feel that way inside of each poem, in slightly different ways. I definitely wanted all those objects and elements to be in “Flemish” together. Because some of them are just sort of throwaway, and these painters from Flanders are really quite wonderful, but they have such screwball compositions!

And my daughter and my sister, those are all real quotes. “Hey, listen to me.” “No, listen to me.” I think it’s quite, well, human comedy, you know. And I like to include together in a poem, as much as I possibly can, things that don’t belong there, and make a kind of context for them. And you know, have fanciness right next to imbecility. And have prosaic next to something sublime. And I also like to have a lot of objects in my poems. So, I’m very interested in the process of making a poem, and not interested at all in making an idea clear to the reader.

JD I think that is another point in which I identify with you very much. It is the age-old question of what somebody’s objective is, and how that always seems to me as if one doesn’t get to decide that.

CK Why would you want to? But people do, sometimes.

JD They do! My grandfather, who I love very much, said to me when I was quite young something that stays with me, and just often repeats itself in my mind, which is that it’s not what something means, it’s the way something means.

CK What a wonderful thing to leave with your grandchild.

JD It has guided me in so many different ways

CK It’s permission, and generous permission, to find things out.

Read the full conversation here. Image at top is Jason Dodge's What We Keep Doing to Ourselves.

Originally Published: January 21st, 2014