Charlotte Innes is the author of “Reading Ruskin in Los Angeles” to be published by Finishing Line Press in May 2009.
1. What poet(s) should be in Obama’s cabinet, and in what role?
Robert Hass, Environmentalist
Lewis Turco, Infrastructuralist
David St. John, Fashionista
Wendell Berry, Agriculturalist
Dana Gioia, Energy
2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why?
“Time and Materials” by Robert Hass, especially the poems, “Bush’s War” and “State of the Planet,” that tell us everything we need to know about what is spoiled but also joyous about our poor old, messed-up world. Hass shows us what we lose when people commit crimes against humanity and the natural world. In “Bush’s War,” Hass quotes from one of my favorite Schubert lieder, after a poem by Goethe: “Warte nur, bald/Ruhest du auch.” Or in Hass’s words “Just wait/You will be quiet soon enough.” Perhaps “soon” should be underlined?
3. What other poetry-related blog or website should I check out?
Hmmm…. Not sure… But check out
for the scoop on the Southern California Poets’ “Swimsuit Calendar” which has photos of poets frolicking on the beach, with some of the pinups’ immortal verses close by. To my chagrin, I didn’t buy oa copy at the time (2003). But I recall seeing quite a few pix of poets in skimpy attire.
And take a look at Suzanne Lummis’ très noir http://speechlessthemagazine.org/
for more So.Cal. tidbits and fine poetry.
4. Who is the most exciting young/new poet I’ve never heard of, but whose work I ought to find and read?
The utterly admirable Lynne Thompson, winner of the 2007 Perugia Press Award, with “Beg No Pardon,” which contains some moving poems about Lynn’s Caribbean roots.
The absolutely adorable Brendan Constantine, whose first official full-length collection entitled “Letters To Guns” is forthcoming this winter (2009) from Red Hen Press. Brendan’s work can be hysterically funny and more recently quite lyrical. He is the best standup poet I know. See the raves from Mark Irwin, Terrance Hayes and Elena Karina Byrne on Brendan’s website:
5. What’s the funniest poem you’ve read lately? What was the last poem that made you cry?
Funny? Nothing very recent, but the utter craziness of Brendan Constantine’s “Alibi and Goodnight” always has me on the floor. And I LOVE “Thus Spake the Mockingbird” by Barbara Hamby. It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, for joy more than anything.
The most recent poem to make me cry (at a reading!) was “Teresia Sherley” by Dick Davis.
8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights. What poetry book should they make into a movie? Who should direct it, and why? Who should star in it?
“Ludlow” by David Mason, of course. In these cash-strapped times, it could be a real draw. Lots of blood, action, politics, love, as well as fancy historical dress and scenic vistas (Colorado). The absolute must-have director would be Terrence Mallick (“Badlands,” “The Thin Red Line,” etc.) but since he’s busy re-making “Catcher in the Rye” right now, how about Paul Thomas Anderson of “There Will be Blood?” Maybe Daniel Day Lewis could be persuaded to play one of the bad guys in “Ludlow”? Alternatively, he could play a good guy.
9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now?
Every line of “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas (1878-1917). It’s my English heritage.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
13. This is the Best American Poetry blog. What’s the best non-American poetry you’ve read lately?
They’re old but here are some favorites I’ve been reading lately, poems by Anna Akhmatova (Russian); Rainer Maria Rilke (German); John Clare (English); Eugenio Montale (Italian). And of more contemporary work: poems by Adam Zagajewski (Polish); Michael Longley (Irish), especially in connection with reading John Clare. Here’s a favorite:
JOURNEY OUT OF ESSEX
Or, John Clare's Escape
From the Madhouse.
I am lying with my head
Over the edge of the world,
Unpicking my whereabouts
Like the asylum's name
That they stitch on the sheets.
Sick now with bad weather
Or a virus from the fens,
I dissolve in a puddle
My biographies of birds
And the names of flowers.
That they many recuperate
Alongside the stunned mouse,
The hedgehog rolled in leaves,
I am putting to bed
In this rheumatic ditch
The boughs of my harvest-home,
My wives, one on either side,
And keeping my head low as
A lark's nest, my feet toward
Helpston and the pole star.
18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school? Did any of them make you memorize a poem? What poem(s)?
They were: Miss Parker, Mr. Williams, Mr. Grundy, Mr. Nash. But I don’t recall any of them making us memorize a poem! That came later. I think it was Miss Jones who made us memorize “Adlestrop,” when I was about 13.
20. Insert your own question here.
To poets of all stripes: Why can’t we all get along? (Courtesy of Formalists and Free Versers Unite!)