Poetry News

Denise Riley Interviewed at Shearsman Books

By Harriet Staff

Denise Riley

Over the weekend, the Shearsman Review published a conversation between Kelvin Corcoran and Denise Riley, who we've featured here and here relatively recently (full index of DR posts is here). The conversation centers on the sense of what constitutes song vis-à-vis poetry, and how that sense might change over time. They also get into the nuts and bolts about how Riley approaches writing poetry. A snippet from their convo:

Kelvin Corcoran Is there a typical way you set about writing a poem, or how does it happen? Is it a quick process or not? Do you revise, abandon, often or rarely? Is there a back and forth in the act of writing between the given and what’s crafted? Are these even the right terms for how you might consider these matters?

DR To answer in turn: No, and I don’t know. No, not usually. Yes, quite often. Yes. I’m unsure but they’ll do for now.

Otherwise, after finishing each bit of writing, I don’t know if I’ll ever manage another poem in my life. Probably many people feel exactly this, about their own work. At the same time, producing poems can feel like a hobby that’s better kept private, like making model lighthouses out of matchsticks. Such a long lonely effort and for what?

Then sometimes a set of preoccupations might, in the end, appear not as poems, but laid out as analytic prose. Recently I wrote a note about my history of lurching between verse and prose:

‘Readied to slink back into silence
One mode fights it out with another
Tethered together, both faltering
Expecting never to be believed
First in this form, then in that.’

Head over to Shearsman to read the rest of the piece.

Originally Published: March 18th, 2014