Greg Santos: You are the poetry editor of Nthposition, an award-winning online magazine. How has the internet affected your writing?
Todd Swift: The Internet – which can be very instrumental – is over-rated. It’s good for exposing poets to each other, and building links and communities. But, for every warm and fuzzy thing about it, there are the jerks who snipe and gripe, and just try and bring things down. This is a wider problem with this generation. There are few people willing to build platforms of celebration and community. It’s almost always about an atomized negation.
I feel that until the “inner circle” of poet-critics pays proper attention to the Internet, it will continue to be something of a ghetto. I do think that when this decade is studied, academics will read and reconsider sites like Nthposition (which is already archived in the British Library) but from my experience of academia, research tends to focus on a narrow few.
GS: You are an avid supporter and promoter of poetry, both online and in print. What is your hope for the future of the art?
TS: I hope poetry moves away from the commercial model, and that it becomes less celebrity-obsessed. Selfishly, I hope that I begin to get more recognition, even a prize – paradoxically, of course. I need some “cultural capital” to energize my batteries from continuing to support and encourage others. I have been down lately, seeing my New and Selected come out to very few reviews.
GS: How do you see the state of poetry today?
TS: I feel poetry is more or less dominated by a few larger presses, a few larger prizes, and is less and less robust. There is a lot of poetry, but I feel that 98% of poets and poetry will never get a fair shake, or a chance to reach beyond their small moment. What’s lacking is a disinterested circle of critics, as for instance films have, who can discover indie projects and champion new visions, and cut through the hype. I feel that most of what is received as canonical now is made so simply from the prestige of publication by a large press. I feel that poets spend a lot of time debating about poetics, when they should be asking more questions about the means of production.
GS: What part does spirituality play in your poetry?
TS: I converted to Anglicanism at the age of 18. 25 years later, I was at church on Good Friday in England the other day. But in between, there has been a lot of doubt and struggle with faith. I resist atheism as too simple. I have enjoyed reading about other religions. However, Christian theology is very fascinating to me. Christ was an exemplary figure; then again, so is Obama. Many of my poems explore the tension between the secular and divine perspectives. I try to play faith off of sexuality. The body is not entirely explained by religion, and desire seems to exceed the needs of love. I believe in yearning towards a utopian horizon, where asking about the existence of God potentially brings her into being.