S.E. Smith, winner of the 2011 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize, trotted out some beautiful, insightful answers to Nick Sturm’s questions over at Coldfront Magazine. She talks about being a reader, long poems, and the new project Line Assembly, amongst other WOW things.
I like how you’ve added implication to this question, because implying an audience is one great power of rhetoric. I mean, if you’re trying to convince somebody, you really have to consider them as you write and hear your words landing on their ears. I love when poets do this. Often, it’s the difference between a competent poem and an incendiary one. Rhetoric insists that words are more than the silly little nuggets we use to order a pizza. Reading a poem, I want to be addressed. I want to sense that the poet foresaw the occasion of my reading his or her work. I love the implied generosity of it, the care taken. That the formative impulse of the poem is to explain something and get somewhere rather than to merely share some vague impressions. Don’t make the poem this tricky little box that I may or may not figure out how to open. It’s always irked me in workshops when somebody defensively says “You got it right” or “You got it wrong” after hearing the class read their poem in a way they didn’t anticipate. Guess what? It ain’t a game show. That’s what happens when you put the words on the paper: They leave you. They make friends with people you don’t like. They say things you didn’t intend them to. This is true whether you’re writing narrative or formalist or exploratory work. Putting the words on paper gives you, always, a measure of loss, and you have to deal with it.
Check out the whole thing here. It truly is awesome!