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An Enlightening Conversation With Nate Klug at the Kenyon Review

By Harriet Staff


At the Kenyon Review, an interview with poet Nate Klug, whose Rude Woods, a translation of Virgil’s Eclogues, came out in 2013 from The Song Cave. Klug talks about his poem “Aporia,” published in a recent issue of KR; his work in the ministry’ how his writing has changed over time; and more. A snippet:

Which non-writing-related aspect of your life most influences your writing?

It’s not quite non-writing-related, but my work as a minister has been, overall, a fine complement to poetry. First of all, it’s allowed me to experience different cultures up-close in very different parts of the country: suburban and inner-city Connecticut, rural Iowa, and now the Bay Area of California. Second, people everywhere are fascinating, and ministry often feels like a privilege because of the window it affords into others’ lives. Third, the Reformed Protestant tradition that I get to work in and think in has provided a helpful psychic lifeboat to writing, the emphasis on grace alone and God’s otherness most welcome when I feel most impatient or ambitious. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

What is either the best or the worst piece of writing advice you’ve received or given?

I don’t know that I have received or given much general writing advice, good or bad. (Though I guess the Milton line above could count!) I read biographies of writers and ask poets about their lives, the decisions they make, what they prioritize. But that’s more about not feeling alone, as opposed to gleaning any particular nugget of wisdom. In the face of the arbitrary luck of a poem, the concept of advice seems funny; as Elizabeth Bishop wrote somewhere, the hundred random elements that must collide in order for a poem to come together can’t owe much to planning. Plus, to me, people seem very different from each other, and often cursed by what we wish for—how dare impose an ambition on someone else? I do like the Joy Williams essay where she says, “The writer writes to serve—hopelessly he writes in the hope that he might serve—not himself and not others, but that great cold elemental grace which knows us.”

Read it all at the Kenyon Review.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 by Harriet Staff.