Poetry News

Mailing a Letter to the Void: Carol Muske-Dukes Interview at The Paris Review Daily

By Harriet Staff


At The Paris Review Daily, an interview with Carol Muske-Dukes! Alex Dueben considers the public face of poetry, Muske-Dukes's mother's sense of poetry, "unoriginal genius," writing novels and nonfiction as a poet, and more. "If the inmates’ poetry struggled to breathe, so does the poetry of academia, so does the imprisoned spirit of misogynist rap." And:

There is the idea that poetry is essential but that it’s divorced from ordinary life and ordinary experience.

If you took a survey of the U.S. population, it would seem that poetry is irrelevant. I’ve found that students and citizens of other countries have a stronger connection to poetry. If American poets still seek to reach a public or community—apart from poem excerpts on the subway—they have to return to what makes poetry both powerfully solo and yet connected to all living things.

In recent years, you’ve written novels and nonfiction, and those forms get more attention than poetry does.

Poetry is like mailing a letter to the void. But maybe this is as it should be. “I’m nobody / who are you?” But “the soul selects her own society” all the same. I write about this in a collection of essays of mine, Married to the Icepick Killer: A Poet in Hollywood, which was just republished as an e-book. I haven’t given up on technology.

Why did you recently do a book signing at a Hudson News in the Los Angeles International Airport?

A USC colleague of mine, the splendid David Roman, was in the United Terminal at LAX, and as he was walking by Hudson News, he saw my name emblazoned on the bookstore marquee. He saw Melville and then this nobody, Carol Muske-Dukes, so he took a picture and sent it to me. Then I heard from somebody at that bookstore asking if I would come out and sign books. I signed both novels and poetry, but the novels were the ones people were most interested in.

Was there a good crowd?

Actually, it was pretty good. I mean talk about a captive audience! They’ve never heard of me but they’d buy a book because I was there. I had this idea—what if we had something called Air Poets? Give readings and sign books at various terminals all over the world. Now there’s a terrible idea!

But we love airports! Air poets! Read it all at The Paris Review Daily.

Originally Published: July 9th, 2014