Thursday, January 22, 2009

THE POETRY CHAIN GANG (part 2 w/ Paul Siegell)

The Black Telephone has five fast questions for poet Paul Siegell.

BT: I enjoyed (and am still enjoying) your book, "Poemergency Room," because it's, to me, perfect for non-poets as well as poets. It's hard not to be inspired by it. That said: I would describe your book as a "cure for writer's block." How would you describe it?

PAUL: Thanks so much for reading it! So glad you're getting some pleasure and usefulness out of it. And, wow, a "cure for writer's block." That's a pretty funny, and awesome, way of looking at it. I've always loved books that sent me off into a writing flight, so I'm gonna take that as a gigantic compliment.

To pull some phrases from outta the book, I can describe Poemergency Room as a "curiosity dynamo" or a "dictionary playpen" that explores the ways that words – in sight and sound – can themselves be thrilled when placed into a poem.

And in that context, that of putting words and The Poem up on a pedestal, it could also be described as a book about a "realworldolescent" struggling with the relationship between "Fire Work" & "Hire Life," all the while taunting, "A cubical food fight? Rip-roarin' rhapsodic, I'm ready when you are."

I could also describe it by the feelings I get when I read it, to myself and to others, by the changes in their faces as they acknowledge certain lines, if they laugh or if they squint, and by the handshakes and conversations I have afterwards. Reactions and relationships. What the book does. I can describe it in the emails I get from old friends and even total strangers who request the craziness of a signed copy. Where the book goes, and where it takes me.

I can describe it as something that my parents can kvell over. I can describe it as something I worked really hard on, something I was fortunate enough to be able to put into the world. I can describe it as a volume of work that fulfilled yet another of my many dreams.

BT: Bob Marley is to reggae what _________ is to poetry? Please fill in the blank. Feel free to explain your choice.

PAUL: I and I wishes I and I had a real answer for this… Something this big requires a prophet, a messenger, a lion, an uprising, and I just don't know enough about poetry to answer it responsibly. Who knows? At any given moment, maybe any poet could fill the roll. Any time a poet writes about overcoming oppression, of any kind, or about freeing oneself or a people, then maybe there some dreads are growing.

BT: Poets—endangered species or in hibernation?

PAUL: Absolutely neither. Poets are up in the summer AND in the winter. If Ron Silliman's six-year-old blog just recently tallied over 2,000,000 hits, then we have a lot of folks messing about with the way language operates. He estimates that there are "ten thousand publishing poets in the English language." Maybe it's a slow burn, but poets ARE burning right now—My inbox doesn't shut up because of them! And judging from the many, many active poetics-focused blogs and listservs, and goodreads and facebook profiles, there seems to be poetry readings in this country every week, and not just in NYC.

Poems, all kinds of quality poems, are being published and offered to audiences all over the world and it can get pretty overwhelming tryna keep track of even two percent of who everybody is and all the cool and crazy things they're doing with words.

Poets are not hard to find. Poetry readers are.

BT: Sometimes poems are bigger than the page. What poem or line from a poem would you consider having tattooed on your body?

PAUL: "You are the music while the music lasts." T.S. Eliot

BT: I am trying to start a chain, a chain of poets, sort of like a chain gang of poets. Suggest, please, a poet you think I should ask five fast questions to next.

PAUL: Tony Mancus.

Paul Siegell's book Poemergency Room (Otoliths Books, 2008) can be purchased @ Want to learn more about Paul Siegell, check out his blog:

Read a poem by Paul Siegell: