I got a little carried away with my response to your recentposts on BAP. I even added a little comic . . . .
I fear I might be misreading Trilling. It has been so long since I actually read his book, I can't even find it now. All that remains is the quote below, which obviously stuck in my head a bit, almost as a judgment.
Hope you are well!
Above my desk I used to have a quote from the final lines of Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity:
The falsities of an alienated social reality are rejected in favor of an upward psychopathic mobility to the point of divinity, each one of us a Christ—but with none of the inconveniences of undertaking to intercede, of being a sacrifice, of reasoning with rabbis, or making sermons, of having disciples, of going to weddings and funerals, of being something and at a certain point remarking that it is finished.
He sounds so noble. As if with a flourish of his pen, he could discredit the halo-seeking poet of alienation—the postmodern artist who sees himself or herself as apart from the culture, perhaps helplessly at odds with it.
But lately I’ve been wondering, what if it is only natural to feel alienated, disillusioned, abstracted? Is it possible not to feel like a cultural anomaly as a poet in this country? Especially if you are a poet in Poland, Ohio, or a living oxymoron? Especially when you meet your yoga teacher at the local vegetarian deli, only to have her ask you if you have any poems she could read for sivasana ( the relaxation meditation at the end of class), poems like Rod McKuen’s or maybe Mary Oliver’s?
I don’t think of myself as a snob, but I do feel disgruntled at times like that.
Of course, my poet friends have argued that James Wright did okay in Martins Ferry, Ohio. To which I respond: Is there a place for a contemporary James Wright?
Don’t get me wrong. I used to love James Wright. I’m just not such a huge fan these days. Maybe I am just too grumpy. Maybe I’ve grown too cynical to think I could break into blossom. I’ve started to doubt the poets of transformation, poets who can see a chicken hawk and conclude they have wasted their life. Poets who see a torso of Apollo and conclude you must change your life. Poets who hear wild geese and preach that “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Really? Is that all?
These days when I see a hawk flying overhead, or geese, or when I see a torso of Apollo, I can conclude only that I have become a bitchy poet. I find myself making up alternative pronouncements to replace the famous: You must change your life. After all, changing one’s life seems a bit daunting. How about: You must wash the sheets. You must brew the coffee. You must cut the dog’s toenails. Or how about the via negative: You must not floss your teeth in public. You must not mistake the word, clock, for cock or vice versa. You must not overuse syllepis. Or mistake them for zeugmas.
NA. My first question is about the name, CavanKerry. A nice Irish name. Can you tell me how you came up with this name? What it means to you? Is there anything Irish about the press besides the name?
JCH People often ask about the origin of the CavanKerry Press name. It originated with my mother. Her cancer erupted during my earliest days planning for the press, and she seemed energized discussing our progress. Her interest in my writing, which had until then been lukewarm at best, also increased; until then, her pride had focused on my education and my long time career as a psychologist in clinical practice. But when she got sick, she wanted to know about my writing and wanted me to read to her, so during our daily visits, I often read to her from my memoir about the early days of our family. That was a great joy for both of us.
In a conversation about possible names for the press, a friend suggested I name the press for her—Mary’s Press or O’Connor Press or some variation. I liked the idea of honoring her, but I didn’t want to exclude m father, nor did I want to name the press after any one person. Our goals included creating a community, so I wanted a more inclusive name. The combination of Cavan and Kerry, the two counties in Ireland where my parents were born and raised, seemed the most natural way to honor both of them and the two lands that spawned my own writing. Though the name came quickly. I researched the logo endlessly. I wanted a Celtic symbol that would define CavanKerry, so I studied the Book of Kells and settled on the linked circles which represent our core value, equality—separate identities and relatedness, equality of voices—diverse and distinct, equality of artist and audience—speaker and listener.
So, though I never conceived of CavanKerry as an ‘Irish’ press, its name. logo, and sensibilities are: fine writing, individuality, community, and generosity.
NA. You started CKP eleven years ago. What inspired you to start a press? What are the best and worst aspects of being a publisher?
JCH The story of CavanKerry Press begins with my own writing story and is grounded in my study of human behavior and my life as a clinical psychologist. People fascinate me. As do their stories. Each and every one—diverse and unique, public and private. But that doesn’t really explain my need to publish books.
Ever since I started writing, which was in my early 40s, I was acutely aware of the lack of opportunities for new writers, for older writers (youth is venerated in all of the arts—particularly in our culture), for a preference for more intellectual over emotional/psychological poetry which I preferred, wrote and considered most vital. The fact that I am a psychologist as well as a writer and publisher clearly informed this preference--I believe we write to communicate and that the deepest connection between people is emotional. It follows then that it is the work that speaks to/from that intimacy/vulnerability that I would find most gratifying and nourishing. It would certainly be the work I’d most likely turn to if awake in the middle of the night. It was the poetry that I read, loved and wrote. It’s what I longed to publish.