For my August edition of Seven Questions I welcome poet Charles Bane, Jr., the author of The Chapbook (Curbside Splendor), Love Poems (Aldrich Press), and Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall (Collection of Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project, and is a current nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida.
His latest book, The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems, will be released by Transcendent Zero Press in early August, and it will be available on Amazon and at select Barnes And Noble bookshops.
And now Charles answers my seven questions!
1) Can you tell us a little about your book, The Ends of the Earth?
It’s a book of risk, which as I write more and more, I realize is the requisite of serious poetry. A poet is more downhill skier than artist, risking catastrophe at the end of every line break as he/she races to an end that explodes into meaning. I wrote a poem–“Thunder, Lightning”–in the voice of Sappho, a long- held ambition. I sent it to a journal editor whose bio reads: “she’d love to talk to you about fourth – wave feminism or the tattoo of the vagina on her finger.” She accepted the poem, and it went into my new manuscript.
2) Is your book indie-published or traditionally published?
I don’t believe in self-publishing. I think the reading public deserves to buy a book that’s been peer reviewed. There’s more than 400 small presses in the United States alone. Many are geared to give voice to feminists, gay and transgender writers. The opportunity has never been greater to find a publisher who will recognize and champion your voice.
3) Why poetry?
I wrote my first mature poem at eight; I was too shy to show it to my parents directly, so I left it on the kitchen table where they took their morning coffee. There were no journals for children – It’s wonderful they exist now– and my father sent it to an adult journal which published it. Serious poets, I think, begin early. I’m not comparing myself to any of the following but E.E. Cummings wrote a gifted poem to his father at six, Richard Wilbur at eight. We are besotted by language. Dylan Thomas said to his sister when he was small, ” ‘ Dragoon’ , isn’t that a wonderful word?”
At the same time, it takes years to convince yourself that you have the “right” to follow in the tradition of the great poets you read, from the Greeks forward, who help lay the foundation of your craft.
4) When and how did you first begin to think of yourself as a poet?
Book publication is exciting and satisfying. But as new books follow, you should be embarrassed by your earlier work. It’s like looking at tree rings: it’s the only way to measure your growth.
5) What makes a great poem?
A great poem is a masterwork. The voice is obvious: you wouldn’t mistake a Chagall for a work by any other artist. A great poem has an unmistakable tenderness as though it were salving a wound, and above all. it can be read and understood by everyone of every age and walk of life. Every reader feels the mood of “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”, and “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
6) Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?
It’s important as your poetry matures that you don’t go through an imitative phase. I think Elizabeth Bishop was the finest poet our country produced in the 20th century. “Crusoe In England” is sublime. My polar opposite is Anthony Hecht. I edit, edit: I never add. Hecht adds layer on layer to his work, but his craftsmanship is astonishing. As a boy, he went to the movies and when a silent comedy was over, the projectionist let the children stay in the theatre as the tell was rewound on the screen. He describes it perfectly in poetry in his book, Venetian Vespers. At the end of a rewound Keystone Cops comedy, ” they fall backward into silent patrol.”
I wrote Hecht at the University of Rochester. He was generous and paternal. So was Karl Shapiro who I met at a reading in Chicago. I deeply regret not contacting Elizabeth Bishop in the 1970’s when she was at Harvard for a spell.
Today, my heroes are the feminist writers who are creating the web of a new world, and who are ignored by institutional sexism: http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/features/lack-of-vision
7) How does poetry fit into our twenty-first century lives?
Modern poets have to make–and many still don’t–every use of the web, social media, and emerging ways to distribute their work to a global audience, online. I’m grateful beyond words to my wife, for promoting my work on Twitter.
And American poets need to accept that that the general reading public in our country does not read contemporary poetry. 7 % of Americans have read a single poem in the last year.
But for the enterprising, Oyster –which has formed a new model of renting, not selling e- books, should excite them. China Mobile. com brings English language e-books to millions of Chinese English- fluent readers.
Many thanks to Charles for sharing his thoughts and answers here on my blog!
Dear friends and followers–don’t be in the 93% who have not read a poem this year! Search the Facebook hashtag #sundaypoetrysunday for new poems to read every weekend, and below, Charles has graciously allowed me to share one of his poems in its entirety:
Undying light, undying
words that carry into
times to come the
power of undying such as
we, who loved and
fell. Spilling like
wine from the largest
skins, or clouds holding
seas. Beloved, all the
surface wears away. The
stones of fear stand
in the way of running
streams and the cupped
hands of explorers drink
cold and thirsty when
they kneel. Only mystics
see, but the air is charged
and forked and I have always
known what is written in
me is you, again and