June 26, 2013

I Am Not Your Map

Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession (Infinity Mirrored Room), 1998

* Don't forget: Klipschutz has a new book - This Drawn & Quartered Moon -- out now, buy it.

-- Here's an excerpt from this recent interview of Klipschutz by the Canadian poet Jon Cone:

JC: Roughly midway through your book is the poem “Elvis the First,” which seems central to me, not only physically but thematically, historically: it reaches back to the earlier poems and prepares the way for those that follow. What is it about this poem, apart from chronology, which makes it such an important one, both for you personally and for the entire book?

K: The poem is “about” Elvis Presley, but also about my family, and reaches back to some rough times, when the ’60s were just kicking into high gear, when my siblings and I were starting to do drugs, and my parents didn’t have a clue how to handle us. Then my dad became Elvis’s doctor. Maybe if Elvis had come over for dinner, as I fantasize in the poem, he could have helped. After all, he did have that drug enforcement badge Nixon gave him! Seriously, the poem gave me a way to write about family, and as someone else pointed out, it encompasses four different forms in one poem, hopefully unifying them thematically.

JC: Your poetic practice is complemented by your songwriting. What do you consider the essential differences between writing poems and writing songs? How does the song-practice influence your poetry?

K: I’ve been writing songs since the mid-1980s, and with Chuck Prophet, on and off, since about 1990. I’ve been lucky to have collaborators who insist that a song be a song, rather than some hybrid between poetry and music. Poetry has to carry its own music, and a song has a melody, which is more important than the words. The words only matter at all if the melody is memorable, or at least enticing. And songs benefit from repetition, hooks. “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” Songwriting is usually concise. Maybe it helps keep my poems from “going on,” as the English say.

JC: Such a large collection as “This Drawn & Quartered Moon” suggests many precedents, many traditions. From your perspective, what are the major influences that helped you when writing this book?

K: So many influences, so much thievery. I only wish I had incorporated, like those guys in D.C., Thievery Corporation. A DJ duo who also own a string of high end restaurants. What a life! And we had to be poets instead. My influences are all the usual suspects, from Homer to Dylan, with a lot of painters and comedians and architects and baristas thrown into the mix. Practically everybody except Whitey Bulger. Truthfully, your whole life up to that point goes into every poem, every draft of every poem. And my poems have to endure about fifty drafts, on the average, at my hands. The hard part is erasing the stitches so hopefully the reader feels like the poem just kind of happened, poured out in one sitting.

* Fantastic: Lou Reed on how he stays creative (last 30 seconds of interview). Watch it.

* "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat." -- Lily Tomlin


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