One, I have a wonderful publisher, Black Sparrow Press; as long as they exist, they will keep me in print. And they claim they sell very respectable numbers of my books, so I guess, and it’s true, every place I go, my books are in libraries and on bookshelves.
Distinctly American poetry is usually written in the context of one’s geographic landscape, sometimes out of one’s cultural myths, and often with reference to gender and race or ethnic origins.
High and low culture come together in all Post Modern art, and American poetry is not excluded from this.
I do not read newspapers. I do not watch television. I am not interested in current events, although I will occasionally discuss them if other people want to discuss them.
I have always wanted what I have now come to call the voice of personal narrative. That has always been the appealing voice in poetry. It started for me lyrically in Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Because, in fact, women, feminists, do read my poetry, and they read it often with the power of their political interpretation. I don’t care; that’s what poetry is supposed to do.
My poems are almost all written as Diane. I don’t have any problems with that, and if other women choose to identify with this, I think that’s terrific.
I think one of the things that language poets are very involved with is getting away from conventional ideas of beauty, because those ideas contain a certain attitude toward women, certain attitudes toward sex, certain attitudes toward race, etc.
American poetry, like American painting, is always personal with an emphasis on the individuality of the poet.
But I am not political in the current events sense, and I have never wanted anyone to read my poetry that way.
I think I’m a very good reader of poetry, but obviously, like everybody, I have a set of criteria for reading poems, and I’m not shy about presenting them, so if people ask for my critical response to a poem, I tell them what works and why, and what doesn’t work and why.
From reading a previous answer, you know that I consider all those aspects to be part of American cultural myth and thus they figure into good American poetry, whether the poet is aware of what he is doing or not.
I think that’s what poetry does. It allows people to come together and identify with a common thing that is outside of themselves, but which they identify with from the interior.
I think that great poetry is the most interesting and complex use of the poet’s language at that point in history, and so it’s even more exciting when you read a poet like Yeats, almost 100 years old now, and you think that perhaps no one can really top that.
PC stuff just lowers the general acceptance of good work and replaces it with bogus poetry that celebrates values that in themselves are probably quite worthy.
Other people have noticed more of an evolution than I have and so I’ll try to tell you where I’m coming from and also relate it to what I think other people perceive.
I’m perfectly happy when I look out at an audience and it’s all women. I always think it’s kind of odd, but then, more women than men, I think, read and write poetry.
So, I’ve never been politically correct, even before that term was available to us, and I have really identified with other people who don’t want to be read as just a black poet, or just a woman poet, or just someone who represents a cause, an anti-Vietnam war poet.
Sometimes the archaism of the language when it’s spoken is why we are all in love with the Irish today.
I don’t like political poetry, and I don’t write it. If this question was pointing towards that, I think it is missing the point of the American tradition, which is always apolitical, even when the poetry comes out of politically active writers.