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The Purdue Exponent’s Q+A With ‘Author of the Year’ Marianne Boruch

By Harriet Staff


In addition to receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, Professor Marianne Boruch (a Chicago native) is also a recent recipient of the distinction “Indiana Author of the Year,” which comes with a $10,000 prize! Here she is in conversation with Eliana Yu of The Purdue Exponent:

Former deputy mayor John Krauss was recently quoted in an IndyStar column saying Indiana too often wants to be the “remember when” state. Where can poetry (etc.) offer commentary on what it means to live in this day and age, given the social contexts we live in?

Poetry offers us a place of quiet and intensity that’s very hard to find in this crazy e-world. It isn’t just a lot of navel-gazing and self-absorbed nonsense – at least the best stuff isn’t. It honors personal invention and realization against the cheap, dismal “branding” of thought that our mass-produced culture usually hands down to us. You have to figure out things out in new and ancient ways, a lot of them unnerving. Plus, you time-travel, and forget the self.

I remember cellist Gary Hoffman once saying at a master class that whenever you begin playing a piece of music, that first note tunes you into something rather eternal. “You’re coming into the middle of the thing,” he told the young woman playing Bach. “That music’s been going on all the time. You’re just now hearing it, letting it come through you.”

Working on poems as a writer or reader is like that. You’re in a timeless space where suddenly even the smallest thing matters again.

Which techniques might you use that tend to best elicit your meaning or illuminate your thoughts best?

Well, I’m addicted to what I call my “begging bowl theory” of writing poems – and essays, for that matter, though those require a little more willful engineering. With poems, intention doesn’t mean much. I try to empty my mind completely, and see what turns up – an image seen or imagined, a phrase, something that I feel stirring and I have no idea at all where it might go. Then I let it lead me; I follow it. The whole business can get scary; then I know I’m on the right track. And for months, I go over and over my drafts very early each morning, tweaking and redreaming, slashing and burning. It gets pretty wild, the revision process. I call that my “hospital rounds” and in a way, that’s where the real writing takes place.

Continue at The Purdue Exponent.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, July 30th, 2015 by Harriet Staff.