Poetry News

Cedar Sigo on Form and Values at Literary Hub

By Harriet Staff
Cedar Sigo

Peter Mishler interviews poet (and editor) Cedar Sigo in the pages of Literary Hub. Their conversation starts with questions about Sigo's early life and includes discussion around his influences and the forms that he values most. Mishler leads with the question, "can you think of an image, a memory, an experience from childhood that in some way seems to presage a life in poetry?" Picking up with Sigo's answer: 

Cedar Sigo: I do remember a junior typewriter I must have received for Christmas around the first grade. Brown with cream-colored keys. I eventually decided I would write a novel on this typewriter titled Vines of Blood. But then I would try and type a clean perfect title page and fail at that repeatedly before even beginning to figure out the literal story. The title itself was the work, I see that now.  I guess I was realizing the power of speaking metaphorically, containing drama and dread. Later my books Stranger in Town (2010) and Language Arts (2014) were both written largely by typewriter so maybe it really did indicate something. A friend recently promised me one his many extra typewriters so I’m now getting involved all over again.

PM: As a young poet who did you feel you were most intentionally responding to?

CS: My best early poems were all dedicated to other writers like John Wieners and Joe Brainard. This period would be around 2000 to 2002. Jack Spicer was a huge influence then too. I think I was really responding to the local poetry history of San Francisco. In terms of a style I wanted both the ease and ingrained phrasing of John Wieners and Joe. The thing is that I had a lot of the same friends as these writers I admired so I did feel somewhat “in the tradition.” Bill Berkson, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, were all very interested and generous with their time. I still thought of them as “Bolinas Poets” even if most of them had moved back to the city. I liked to imagine the several groupings of poets and where they overlapped and where they differed. I always loved John Wieners’ great quote in his essay The Lanterns Along the Wall, “I cannot imagine a single day when I have not spent dreaming or conjuring certain habits of the poet. Fortunate the few who are forced into making things surrounding the poets come true.” It’s clear that the stakes for him go beyond rhetoric into the realm of belief and fate.

Some poets write so vividly about their early life it’s hard not to daydream about them. Eileen Myles comes to mind, Audre Lorde, Diane Di Prima… I also put out my own small stapled editions on my own press or on the equally tiny presses of my friends. Even after my first book on Ugly Duckling Presse I continued to organize and publish my work in this way. I think some of the older poets I first met in San Francisco were charmed by this and that makes sense as the poets I fell in with were essential catalysts of the 1960s mimeo revolution.

Read on at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: January 14th, 2019