Poetry News

Susan Gevirtz Talks to SF Weekly About Ancestors, Prisons, Writing, More

By Harriet Staff


Susan Gevirtz is interviewed for the Culture section of SF Weekly: " I’ve always lived a little in the turn-of-the-century or had a fascination for that time. And the pogrom trauma and the immigration and much else is alive in my cells — I contend with it. We all are contending in this way I think." She and Evan Karp also talk about admiring Madeline L’Engle, how girls always think they’re the ones who have done something wrong, working in prisons, falling in love--what else, what else:

What's wrong with society today?

Not enough ancestor worship. The U.S. Prison industrial complex… just to start a too long list… Abraham & Torok explain what I mean by ancestor worship in their book The Shell and the Kernel — they devote a chapter to “A Remembrance of Things Deleted…” and later in another great chapter titled “Theoretra: An Alternative to Theory,” Torok says,

He or she is dead. Yet a tiny something survives, emerges from its hiding place. From under the veil, he or she lets me catch a glimpse, hear a whisper of some continuing faint movement or noise. There is a murmur, a ventriloquy, rising from the tomb in which he or she or someone else, either a contemporary or ancestor, was buried alive, sequestered, with their desires cut out, deprived of both life and death; and above all, something has been left unsettled.

So, not worship in the sense of obeisance (maybe sometimes that) but in the sense of introjection, a being in relation with the past, present and the unborn, in order to consider the murmur — how what is left unsettled is in always our midst, in need of further address — not in order to settle the unsettled, although that may by a side effect. Without this kind of talking with the buried alive, our writing and sense of the present, politics and history is skewed and doomed to miss something critical — not that we won’t always miss something anyway…

What are you working on right now?

I’m thinking about how girls always think they’re the ones who have done something wrong and where/when that starts. I’m thinking about the figure of the caesura (a complete pause in a line of poetry or in a musical composition) in a long conversation between my great late poet friend Stacy Doris and myself. Revisiting Derrida. Reading Inside This Place, Not of It, Narratives From Women’s Prisons, … among other things.

Originally Published: August 29th, 2014