Sunday, February 25, 2007

Interview with Karri Kokko

Tom Beckett: Where did/does poetry begin for you?

Karri Kokko: Well, I can give you an exact date, for one. I wrote my first poem December 2, 1962, when I was seven years old. I had started school a few months earlier, but I’d been able to both read and write since I was three. The poem, though, is the first piece of my early scribblings to survive, and certainly the first and only poem. I don’t have a clear memory of how the poem came about, or what ignited the will to write it. There was an urgency to do it, I’m sure. I remember asking my mother for a pen and some paper, with a definite intention to write a poem, only a poem, and nothing but a poem. It wasn’t about expressing myself; it was about performing an act. This is, of course, pure speculation, since neither I, nor my mother, have any recollection of that moment. What we have, is the document, a tiny, yellowed piece of paper that my ma ripped off a notebook or something. When I was done writing, my mother signed it with my first name and added the date. At the end, she also wrote my age, seven and a half.

I can tell you this because I still have it, the manuscript of my first poem. What’s remarkable, is that my mother had the wisdom, or the foresight, to save it. Not my early drawings, but the poem. She kept it through the decades and gave it to me a few years ago. I don’t know why she chose to save it, but somehow she knew it was special. Not the result, but the feat. Not my age, but the determination.

The poem speaks for itself. The title reads “A Child.” After that, twelve words (or possible two hay(na)ku!). Here’s the prose translation: “I am a small, helpless child, but when I pray to the Lord, it helps me.” Not great, but not bad for a seven-year-old, either, huh? A few things of note, though. The poem reads more a statement than an invocation, and it’s not even a prayer as such, but a defense of prayer. I’m sure there is a linage for that, straight from St. Augustine and on, so you might say I hit the hard stuff right off the bat. This is even more significant because, although religion was present in my family, it wasn’t something that governed our daily life. And it certainly didn’t equal art or poetry. It was me who made that connection. It wasn’t about expression; it was about having something to say and the willingness to say it. There’s the telling “it” in the last sentence; although my syntax and grammar might’ve been faltering, the evidence says clearly: It’s the praying, not the Lord that helps. What’s more, I’m using only block letters. My spelling is correct and there seems to be no double takes or revisions. There’s a rhyme of sorts, but there’s only a vague sense of breaking the text into lines. I’m also trying for a meter, which is evident because I’m using both inversion and abbreviation. In short, I’m right away dealing with both form and content.

So, where did my intuitive sense of making poetry come from? Short of listening to nursery rhymes and pop songs, a boy of that age had better things to do, and I certainly had not yet read any poetry. There were few books in our house, and my parents weren’t in any way “bookish” -- far from that. But my mother, who had dropped out of high school, loved poetry. She had the Iliad and the Odyssey, in Finnish translation, and she had read them, too. (The books are in my possession now, and I can tell by the things she has written in their margins.) She had a few other books as well. They were collected works by classics from the first half of the 1900’s, the golden era of Finnish poetry and well before modernism. On occasion, but not often, she used to recite poems from memory. She can still remember a few of them. I’m not saying this was out of the ordinary; this was before television, and people, literary or not, were supposed to know the classics. We used to sing a lot, too, the whole family, especially on car trips. There was song in the house.

I’m not sure if the above has any actuality in it. But I’d like to give credit to my mother. She left school when she was fifteen or sixteen, and never had any formal schooling after that. Yet, now that I think of it, she always talked books. She still does. She loves Nabokov. A few years ago, around the time she turned seventy, she picked up Proust and never looked back. That’s all she reads. The other day, she told me she’d just started her fourth round of Lost Time. Then there are the rumours that she has notebook after notebook after notebook full of her own memoirs hidden away somewhere. My sisters should know more about that. There are also a couple of minor writers and an artist from my mothers side, with a new one coming up: my cousin, Lauri, a twenty-something, just published his first collection of short stories. Then, of course, there’s my sister, Meiju, who’s written a series of childrens’ books… What I’m saying is that although it took almost ten years for me to write my second poem, I always knew I was going to become a poet. My mother, or my father, never pushed, nor pulled, me into it or away from it; it was just there, written in whatever.

I didn’t start writing poetry seriously until my early twenties, but I made a few stabs at it in my teens, of course. My main influences came from your country, namely, the Beats. Reading On the Road at the age of fifteen was a major turn; though it wasn’t until a year later I learned it told about actual, living people. All I wanted was to go to America. My wish materialized in 1972, when I became an exchange student, spending a year in Parsippany, New Jersey, some forty miles west from New York City. I wonder if I wrote any lines during that year; I was too busy shooting beer at the reservoir ;) and going to Grateful Dead concerts ;) Saw Zappa, too, and Captain Beefheart. All of whom I had heard about and listened to before I left home. Not your typical exchange student, I can tell ya. The last episode of this phase was played out in the eighties, when I met both Ginsberg and Burroughs, respectively. Ginsberg was here with Peter Orlovsky, and I got to spend a couple of days with them, acting as their guide. It was January, with minus degrees, and Peter walked around town in just his Bermuda shorts and sandals, virtually barefooted. Nothing to it. We even shared the same stage: Allen wanted me to read the Finnish translation of “America,” line by line, after him. This was in early 1983, and I’d just published my first book of poems. I translated one of them into English, and asked Allen to take a look at it. Sitting at the back seat of our ride, he went through the poem and made a few revisions. “Now, you got it,” he said and handed me the piece of paper. You bet I wish I still had it, but I don’t. I wonder what happened to it. Maybe my mother has it stashed somewhere. Burroughs, then, came over a few years later. He was over seventy already, but brilliant as ever. I remember sitting back stage with him, sipping screw drivers out of plastic cups. Accidentally, I tripped mine on the table. What happens: Burroughs -- Old Bull Lee, for Chrissakes -- gets up, finds a rag somewhere and sweeps the table, taking care of the mess, the mess I had made.

Tom, you want me to go on answering the second part of your question?

TB: Please do.

KK: Okay, I’ll do that in a minute. But there’s a round-about way to it. What I’d like to do is drop a few more names. I mean, although one has the natural gift or inclination to become a poet, one’s not going to do it alone. There are the books, the tradition, and then there are the people that come your way and make a difference.

My first mentor was a Finnish conceptual artist and critic, J. O. Mallander. I met him around 1973, when he ran an art gallery in Helsinki, called Cheap Thrills. I was eighteen at the time and I started going to the shows that exhibited both Finnish and international conceptual and avant-garde artists. I hang around the gallery and we started talking. Mallander was into Fluxus and American Abstract Expressionism, especially Jasper Johns. He introduced me to mail art and the work of Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik. He had close connections to the Swedish art scene of the sixties and seventies, artists like Öyvind Fahlström and Carl-Erik Reuterswärd. The Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden, was a haven for all these avant-garde artists and acted as the Internet of the time, so to speak. People all over just gravitated to it, in need of acceptance and influence. I myself got the tail end of it, of course, since I was of a younger generation. But meeting Mallander and reading him and listening to him talk about art was an important part of my early education, none the less.

Fast forward to the early eighties. By that time, I’d finally picked up a pen and started writing poetry. But in spite of my introduction to the avant-gardes of art and poetry, I had little clue as to the means of incorporating the ideas into my own work. At the time, the mainstream of Finnish poetry was concerned with anything but the things I was into. There’d been a time, in the early sixties, when a few people had experimented with concrete poetry and other non-conformist poetries, but by the time I happened on the scene that tradition was all but dead. All Finnish poetry, or at least the poetry that got published, read alike and looked alike. There were a couple of reasons to it. First, at the time, free-verse Finnish modernism was only thirty years old. Second, the only opposition that it got was a leftist, political opposition, not an artistic one. I’m simplifying things here, but what I’m trying to say is that you either complied and fit in or you didn’t exist at all.

As it happens, my first collection of poems, Uno Boy, was published by a major publishing house, in 1982, when I was twenty-seven years old. In hindsight, I wonder why they took it. A lot of the stuff was written the way poetry at the time was supposed to be written. Then again, there were other things: a poem written in the form of a cross-word puzzle, for example, or a verse for verse reversal of the Genesis. The reviews were positive and reassuring, but then, something happened. The custom here is that once you get published you keep sending in manuscripts at a steady clip. To establish yourself as a serious writer you have to publish something at least biannually. My next two or three manuscripts were turned down, however. They didn’t give any specific reasons as to why; they just didn’t buy my stuff. I’m in no position to second guess their judgement, but I take it that our poetics just didn’t meet. A few years passed, and after trying a few other houses, without any avail, I just quit.

Although I never stopped writing completely, I walked away from poetry for almost fifteen years. I wasn’t mad or sore or bitter; I just accepted it. Now that I think of it, I suppose I felt alienated and alone, without any peers and without a supporting network. Then, after a decade of out-of-poetry activities and inspirational connections, Leevi Lehto happened. Leevi, who is four years my senior, published his first work at seventeen and was well off into a career as a poet and translator, when he, too, for various reasons, some other than mine, some exactly the same, left the scene for a long time. His “second coming,” as he calls it, realized in the late nineties, with a collection of “programmed” sonnets, called Lake Onega. I was working as a journalist at the time and just happened to notice a news article of its publication. Something clicked and I called him right away and asked his permission to be interviewed. He complied, and we met. Finally, finally I had somebody with whom I could talk poetry.

After that initial meeting, Leevi and I met and talked occasionally, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I got the notion and courage to write poetry again. In late May 2004, Leevi happened to mention Ron Silliman and his poetry blog. I visited it and within minutes I had started my own first blog, Muistikirja. When starting it, I didn’t have a clear notion as to what to do with it. The name of the blog, “A Notebook,” points to the idea of a poet’s public notebook, though. So, for a few months, my entries were “about” poetry, not poetry as such. I didn’t have the guts to produce my own stuff, yet.

The next few weeks and months proved pivotal. Surfing the sites I found on Silliman’s blog roll, I soon found people and poetries that touched me deeply and whose example, eventually, encouraged me to start writing again. A few of them were from faraway places, people I would never have encountered if not for the Net. People with whom I soon struck a conversation and a friendship: Mark Young, Geof Huth, Anny Ballardini, Eileen Tabios, Jean Vengua, and Tom Beckett, to name a few. Sometime later I was collaborating with harry k stammer! Oh man, I felt lucky and blessed.

One of the household names I soon stumbled into was, of course, the one and only Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, a fellow Finn who everybody was raving about, but of whom nobody knew about in Finland. Turns out, he lived, still does, a few miles down the road from me. Soon enough we met and have been talking ever since. He’s even published my work. Our daughters converse with each other on the Instant Messenger. His genius, and example, proved unmatched. I needed him, I needed somebody to tell me: Just do it!

There would be others. In August that same magical summer, Kenneth Goldsmith was here, invited by Leevi. We met and right away recognized each other as long-estranged brothers, if you may. His Warholian approach to everything affected me like the sweetest of drugs. No rules, no limits. Soon enough, I had three or four blogs going at the same time. I was writing poetry backwards and making text collages. I was making visual stuff, doing things I had dreamt of doing my whole life. A week after Kenny, Charles Bernstein flew over for a few days, again at Leevi’s invitation. We talked poetry and baseball. I was starting to believe in miracles. Miracles as in other people, that is.

This has been a long and winding answer to your question, Tom, but I had to do it. I had to do it, because I think poetry for me starts with two things. There’s the given, and then there’s the thing you do with it. You take heed, and then you do your own thing. You are on your own, but there are also others who are there, if needed, to sweep after you.

TB: You blog, speak, think in Finnish and English. Would you speak to how that affects your practice as a poet?

KK: Again, lots of things there, Tom. First, I’d like to say that, although I write a mean occasional hay(na)ku or pwoermd in English, I don’t think my skills allow me to consider any serious writing in that language. English is a mistress I like to play with, is all. Not that I don’t love her; I really do. But producing a bulk of original work, nah. Anyway, it would require moving over and really committing myself to that, and I’m too old for that now. That said, I will continue being unfaithful to the missus and fool around on the side whenever I feel like it.

Thinking, or working, in two or more languages certainly affects my practice as a poet. We might look at it from an angle. When a poet writes, he’s getting into all kinds of languages, not only the first one he picked up. That’s what poets do; they get into words and try to find out what they mean. Again, poetry is only partly about self-expression; it’s about learning what the words themselves have to say. Every word has a history; in fact, they are laden with baggage.

My English is based on mimicry. I have a good ear for it, and when I think or write in English, I try to imitate the phrases and choices of words I’ve read or heard somewhere. That’s all there is to it, and that is also why I don’t think I’d be able to create anything new with it. From nine to sixteen years of age, I was taught British English. Then I spent a year in the States and switched over to American English. For many years, I listened to Bob Dylan a lot. What I learned from him, really listening to him, was not merely paying attention to the words, imagery or ideas of the songs, but the sound he was putting forth. The meaning or importance of sound. The meaning and importance of expressing something that’s beyond and above the initial surface of language. And not only that. What Dylan taught me is that there are no constants, nothing is fixed. Listening to the endless renditions of his own songs, bending and shaping them time and again into something new, always something new, now that was a revelation. Writing poetry is about something else than what’s right there. It’s about poiesis, making something new. Or like Jasper Johns, the painter, puts it: “Do something, do something to that, and then do something to that.”

Other than Dylan, I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard, the true master of the colloquial American English. I’ve read all of his books a half a dozen times, and I still can’t come up with a spoiler for any of them. That’s me, the poet. I look at language from an angle other than the practical or the conventional one. Now, if that’s because I know or use other languages, then so be it. It sure makes working with words all the more interesting. I think an extra language, any language other than your own, is always an advantage. That is why I envy those who know Classic Greek or Latin and maybe few others to go with them. I have to do with English, Swedish and a little French.

TB: Who do you think of as your poetic forebears?

KK: They are mostly non-writers. Miles Davis, Cy Twombly, Keith Jarrett, Mark Rothko, to name a few. For me, writing poetry is painting with a thin brush, doing water colors, making small print. What I’d love to do, quite literally, is going for the big picture. I know I can’t, but I’d love to. I just love the rich sound of Miles Davis and the endless possibilities that are there in his different combos and stylistic phases. I love his refusal to stay with one thing. I love the absolute beauty of Jarrett’s solo work. Like the Dead, he’s not afraid of letting it all hang out, without a safety net. These guys don’t shy away from the horror and the risks that are there in the business of looking into one’s soul and making something out of it. I love the broad canvas, the big brush. I envy the painter, all painters. They don’t have to stick with the linear, the reason of language. That is also why I love the collage, the mixing of different media, in the works of, say, Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg. I’d love to write poetry that you can just look at, without the need to read it line by line, from left to right, the way you are supposed to read anything that’s written.

Even so, I consider all of them as my poetic forebears, artists that have influenced my aesthetics as a poet. This has much to do with a personal problem. As a writer, I have extremely great difficulties to rid myself of the linearity, the syntax, and the meaning of the written language. Making poetry, that is. My preferences are towards the non-linear, the absolutely free, but it seems it’s very hard for me to shake the authority of the language police deeply imbedded in my system. I guess this is why my work is greatly divided. There’s your traditional short poem, mostly elegiac stuff about love, nature, or the human condition. Then there’s this other stuff. Things produced by shameless appropriation, collages put together from various sources, computer-generated artefacts, and visual poetry where the elements of language are almost completely erased. That’s me, right there. I’d love to be able to compose original, absolutely free poetry straight from within, but I can’t. When I look inside myself, I find either nothing or pathetic conventionalities. At least, that’s how I feel. So, to come up with anything worthy, I have to use all these artificial, or adopted, means of creation.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have any poets that I consider exemplary or meaningful to my development as a poet. Two early reading experiences come to mind, both from the time I was fifteen. The first one was Jarkko Laine, a Finnish poet in the Underground or Beat tradition. I picked up his early work the way I eagerly picked up anything with a Mothers of Invention or a hippie flare to it. With a friend of mine we read his work in front of class and caused a mild sensation. Right away I knew I was onto something serious and fun. The other one was Eliot’s “Waste Land” in Finnish translation, a definitely serious and unfunny work if there ever was one. Now, why Eliot, among all the Fugs and Japhy Ryders? Again, you have to keep in mind the late appearance of our modernist tradition, and bringing the basic modernist work into Finnish had been an essential part of the project. So, “Waste Land” was the thing to read if you wanted to introduce yourself to “new” poetry. Anyway, I was impressed, and in my young heart, I felt I was onto something “great.” There’s the dichotomy again: tradition and the present, convention and non-conformism, square and hip, messing with and shaping my virgin mind.

Later on, others would come by, of course. My Finnish readers know who the Finnish ones are, and I won’t bother you mentioning any of them here. All I will say is that I’m an eclectic: I’ll take anything from any time or any tradition -- as long as it’s both serious and fun.

TB: Do you think that a poet has any unique social responsibilities?

KK: Responsibilities, yes; unique, not so sure. First of all, I don’t think writing political stuff or promoting radical ideas to raise social awareness is an obligation; it’s a matter of personal choice and temperament. We are a heterogeneous bunch, and there are a variety of ways to do it. Think Sheila E. Murphy, Mark Young, or yourself, for example. Intimacy and issues, all rolled into one.

Doing our thing, we are connected in many ways and not only to our readers or the reading public in general. There are all kinds of people we work with: peers, colleagues, editors, publishers, printers, artists, journalists, critics, and what not. Besides writing, many of us teach or work as editors or publishers. That’s a lot of social responsibilities, right there. In fact, it’s hard for us to avoid them. I mean, I think a poet’s responsibilities, if any, are rather towards the people he actually makes contact with, works with, and lives with, not towards an abstract readership. Call me naïve, but I reckon the adage “think globally, act locally” applies to the poet also. (With the advent of the Internet, we have to redefine “local,” of course.) What I’m saying is that a poet’s social responsibilities don’t differ that much from the next guy. Why do people tune up Harleys or make Sushi rolls for a living? Not because they’re supposed to, but because they can and will.

The difference is, of course, that we think poetry is, as writing, “communicative,” and thus “social.” Is what a poet does by default, we say. Well, that’s true, but I can also think of poets and artists whose work is elitist and in no means “communicative,” and yet we deserve them.

For me personally this means two simple things. I take my writing very seriously and I try to do everything in my power to help my peers in every which way I can. The first part covers my responsibilities both as a preservationist of the Finnish language and a tax payer. The other’s the real thing, love in making.

TB: Let me put it a little differently. What, my friend, do you want poetry to do? Why does it matter?

KK: What do I want? You just keep throwing high heat, Tommy dear. To try for an answer, let me recount the story of Giotto, the early Renaissance painter from Florence, of Tuscany. As a young boy Giotto worked as a shepherd, and to pass the long hours out there in the hills he used to spend his time drawing. For lack of proper materials, he drew on rocks or made his pictures right there in the sand with a stick. One day Cimabue, the most famous painter of his time, walks by and sees young Giotto’s drawings. He’s impressed by the boy’s apparent skills and asks him to join him as a student. Giotto accepts (actually his father does) and the rest is history. Even today, seven centuries later, millions of people from all over flock to see the raw beauty of the former shepherd’s images in the cathedrals of Italy.

Now, I think what we have here is analogous to all art, including poetry. We have this talent and the willingness to use it, no matter what happens. We write our poems, no matter if the wind or the rain washes it off before anybody actually sees it. Then one day maybe, just maybe, a Cimabue happens along the way to help us. And if we are talented enough, and persistent enough, maybe we find an audience. And if we’re lucky, really lucky, maybe we get to touch a few people’s hearts.

So, asking what we want poetry to do for us is really asking what we’re willing to do for poetry.

I mean, we do write for a purpose, don’t we? Think of Giotto, here. Very few reach up to his level, of course, but I’m sure we can all share his urgency. His dedication to making art even at a very early age, even before he could have had any ideas about meaning, content, or purpose. That’s how I see it. We really can’t, or shouldn’t, worry too much about the doings of poetry. We just do our bit and keep on doing it.

What happens after that is anybody’s guess. Let’s see. It’s certainly not just one thing. Okay, here goes: If people find it worth their while to learn by heart lines that they don’t quite grip but rather make their heads spin and hearts jump -- do we need any more evidence as to why poetry matters?

TB: What do you find most encouraging/discouraging about the current poetry scene(s)?

KK: I see mostly positives. On a personal level, I have very few complaints, if any. The last few years, the Muses have been good to me, and although I’d love to write poetry full time, at least I get to work, collaborate, and converse with a host of other poets.

In many ways, my position is quite unique. As poetry editor of Parnasso, the leading mainstream literary magazine in Finland, I have access to just about everybody, and what’s even more important, I can help new and up-coming poets have their work published. As a middle-aged poet in his early fifties, I know practically everybody in the Finnish literary scene: poets, writers, editors, publishers, translators, critics -- many of whom I consider personal friends. Some of these wonderful people were born in the 1920’s, some are in their twenties. I feel like a true intermediary, if there ever was one.

As it happens, few of these people live in far-away places like Australia, Italy, New York, Schenectady, Ohio, and California, most of whom I’ve only met through the Internet and none of whom I’d have any connections with if it weren’t for the Internet. For poets of the world, I think, the net is a god-send. I’m not saying everybody should be blogging or having their work published in the net, but after cheap Internet connections became a common-place, you were out of excuses. It didn’t make you write better poetry (or any poetry, for that matter), but you and your work didn’t stand isolated from the rest of the world, either, whether you lived in Akron, Ohio, or in Espoo, Finland. You could read just about everybody; you could find any fact; you could reach any person. Think U. of Buffalo; think Ubu Web. Think Silliman’s Blog, As/Is, Jacket. Think publishers like E. Tabios, J-P Kervinen, or M. Young. Take Poet’s Corner. Take E-Values. Networking hasn’t made any of us rich, but without it we’d certainly feel a lot poorer, a lot less worthy. A lot more lonely.

It’s a new thing and there’s no telling what’s become of it. I’d say there will be a lot of “inter”-everything. I mean, really, what language is poetry? I see a lot of people working in two or more languages. It’s what poets do. I’m not saying we’ll all be writing in this or that language; all I’m saying is that each and every one of us will benefit from this interaction, these multiple possibilities.

That said, I’d like to add a few words about the Finnish poetry scene or Finnish poetry in general. A few facts: I write in a language that is spoken by less than six million. I write in a language that was first written less than five centuries ago. I write in a language that is very different from Indo-European languages, a language that is more suited to describing a seal hunt, or a walk in the woods, than complex ideas or philosophical concepts. The first novel written in Finnish was published in 1870. Finnish as a medium of poetic expression became of age only a hundred years ago. Our modernism is less than sixty years old.

To become a poet and to live as a poet in Finland is a mixed blessing. More often than not poets get their first collections published when still in their twenties. (The idea being, to seed out future novelists; that is, writers who can eventually make a profit for the publishing houses.) After two or three published works (say, in less than five years) you could receive a grant (either by state or privately owned funds) of monthly allowances that lets you concentrate on your writing for a year. Then three years. And, eventually, five years. This is in no means automatic, and only applies to a handful of people, but what I’m saying is that compared to many other countries, writers, poets, and artists are very well taken care of here. As a poet, you won’t be able to buy a house, but most of the problems that we have you would consider a luxury.

Most poetry books will only sell a couple hundred copies, though. That total could rise to a thousand if the majority of our public libraries decide to add it to their collections. A decade or two ago, that was a given, but not anymore since the money allotted to our library system has plummeted these past few years, one of the victims being poetry, of course. Why poetry? I can only cite the obvious. Because the value of poetry cannot really be weighed. Poetry is not collateral.

In other words, I could go on complaining about small sales, uninterested publishers, stupid media, lack of meaningful criticism, closing down of libraries, the struggle to survive of small Finno-Ugric languages, or whatever. But I won’t, because although I think poets work in close connection with all these activities, although poets do have a role in the social fabric that is Finland or anywhere in the world, poetry is still confined to the margin. It is the margin.


Blogger Anny Ballardini said...

But what a wonderful margin. Thank you Karri and Tom, a great interview: your mother reading In Search of Lost Time for the fourth time, taking out historical scraps of paper, your daughter friend of Leevi's daughter, the goodness of your Muses, you the unfaithful lover of English,
so nice to be somehow part of it.

2:31 PM  
Blogger na said...

And let me also GUSH! What a fabulously-lush interview. There's so much that resonates, to return to!

For one, it's nice to see a discussion on the inspiration of non-writers' works as specifically a means "to rid myself of the linearity, the syntax, and the meaning of the written language." It may be a flaw of my reading habits, but I haven't actually seen much discussion re this linkage between visual and literary arts (beyond the one-off or brief ekphrastic moments that nearly all poets experience). Though this approach for me touches on postcolonial issues (coming from a country once colonized by English), I've found the multidisciplinary approach a generous way to free up the imagination -- more useful to me than abiding by literary lineage.

But this is about YOU -- and I adore your bringing in Cimabue the way you do here...and so many other topics -- Mom! -- addressed in this interview.

Thanks -- and you, too, Tom -- for doing this!
p.s. Time collapses and the last line in Anny's comment makes me realize, Karri, that I wrote this in an old poem but obviously had writ them in anticipation of e-meeting you someday: "I think fidelity is an admirable trait. I expect all of my lovers to have it."

2:56 PM  
Blogger Karri Kokko said...

Thanks, guys. I'm so glad you got so much out of it. In fact, before the interview went live, I expressed my concern to Tom, saying I thought the piece might be too chatty (as opposed to hard philosophy of writing poetry). And now you're loving it just for what it is! Poetry needs more talk about our Ma's (and Pa's).

Eileen: It's very interesting what you say about a poet's wish to free oneself of the obvious tasks of writing. I think the dichotomy, or contradiction, is felt by all artists: you both love and hate your medium. You want to shake it and you want to keep it. The reasons vary, they change. Sometimes they come from within, sometimes from without. In fact, what is poetic expression? It is something that we can't, shan't, or won't say in any other way. Git?

3:40 PM  
Blogger Ernesto said...

Wonderful interview.

3:53 PM  

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