DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Apr 24 2008

Interview with Poet Aaron Zaritzky

by Jimmy L

Aaron Zaritzky was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He graduated from the Creative Writing Workshop at Oberlin College (2000) and completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Arizona (2004). The Pulitzer Prize winning press BOA Editions published his book-length translation of Felipe Benítez Reyes’ Probable Lives as part of the Lannan Series. One of these poems, “Fears,” was chosen to represent a day in National Poetry Month. Nobel Prize finalist Miguel Mendez, the Kennedy Center, and others have commissioned him to translate work. He is currently ghostwriting a book for his father and lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife, Yosálida, their daughter, Sofía, and their cat, Humo.

Aaron, can you tell me how you became a poet? It seems like an odd thing to be!

It does seem like an odd thing to be. And how does someone become a poet? And what is a poet, anyway? Is everyone who writes poems a poet? If so, that means most everyone has been a poet at some time in their lives. Or is a poet someone who has poems published?

There are a whole lot of people out there who spend much more time making a living at something other than writing poems who are still called poets. I would venture to say that almost every poet, at least in this country, finds him or herself having to “write poems on the side.” That’s just the nature of the thing, I guess. So, to answer your question, I first became interested in writing poems when I was in middle school. One day, for no real reason, I decided to try to write a poem about spilling Cheerios all over the kitchen counter. I realized, as I was doing this, that there were so many interesting ways to put words together and that interesting language often has more to do with the words you choose than with the “meaning” or “story” behind the thing you are writing. After that, I just kept writing on my own.

You’ve translated poems before, including the book Probable Lives by Felipe Benítez Reyes. What made you translate this book? Did you pick it, or did it pick you? Did you work closely with the original author?

[read the rest of this post…]


John Olivares Espinoza was raised in southern California where he worked as a landscaper for his father. He is the author of two previous chapbooks and holds an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University. He currently teaches writing, literature, and ethnic studies at the National Hispanic University. His first full-length collection of poetry, The Date Fruit Elegies, will be out this year from the Bilingual Press.

John has a website at john-olivares-espinoza.com

John, what draws you to poetry? Why did you choose it? What can you achieve in poetry that you can’t achieve through other mediums?

After twenty years of being repelled by poetry, I was drawn to it because of the emotional experience I received reading it. Isn’t that why we read books, go to the movies, or concert performances—so we can get blown away by the drama and visceral experience? Poetry does all this in 50, 25, 12, or 2 lines. This is some power. But unlike a movie or rock concert that takes hours to get to that point of experience, or books that take weeks, a poem takes two minutes to read. I chose this medium because it can make the reader gasp, sigh, laugh, and relate in just one short shot.

I noticed that your unique background as a landscaper for your father often factors into your poems. Can you tell me a little bit more about this?

[read the rest of this post…]

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Apr 10 2008

Interview with Poet Sarah Vap

by Jimmy L

Sarah Vap is the author of American Spikenard, which won the 2006 Iowa Poetry Prize, and Dummy Fire, which won the 2006 Saturnalia Poetry Prize. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her love, the poet Todd Fredson, their one year old son, and a 30 year old horse. She teaches at Olympic College.

You can read some of Sarah’s poems online!

Sarah, when did you first become interested in poetry?

I first started to write poems when I was very little. I would leave them on my parents’ pillows at night, before I could fall asleep… to clear my heart or conscience, I think, in order to sleep. They were usually some variety of apology poem for something horrible I’d said or done that day. One particular memory… in the kitchen, my mom was cooking, and she asked me if spaghetti sounded good for dinner. It didn’t sound good, so I said it didn’t sound good. Then I realized, by the very tender look on her face, that she hadn’t actually wanted to hear whether or not I really thought it sounded good, but she’d wanted to say some variety of “I’ve done something for you, sweet child!” and for me to respond with some variety of “I accept!” But I didn’t know that until I saw her face after I said no. I didn’t even know that about questions, until then… that sometimes they were asking something completely different than the words indicated. I was, as you can imagine, tormented by my cruel misinterpretation until I could write her that letter poem that night. My parents never really responded to those agonized letter poems, that I can remember, but they did keep them, and read them. My father still has one hanging up in his darkroom. The instinct of apology is still strong with me.

Did you know you wanted to be a poet then, or was there another moment when you made that decision?

[read the rest of this post…]


Apr 8 2008

A Poem for the Week

by Chris S

For me, Langston Hughes’ writing epitomizes the beauty of the Harlem Renaissance in its passion, its vibrancy, and its fullness.  Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share one of his best-known and well-loved poems.

Dream Variation

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.

Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
            Dark like me –
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! whirl! whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening. . . .
A tall, slim tree. . . .
Night coming tenderly
            Black like me.

– found in The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry


Apr 3 2008

It’s National Poetry Month!

by Jimmy L

				It is difficult

to get the news from poems

		yet men die miserably every day

				for lack

of what is found there.

    – from “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower” by William Carlos Williams

Everyone knows April is the cruellest month, but don’t worry, it is also National Poetry Month! Most of the time we only think of poets as established older writers who have been poets since the beginning of time.  Think of Walt Whitman and you immediately see his long flowing white beard.  We seldom think of people, young people today, actually choosing to become poets. So for this month only, I will post a series of interviews with new up and
coming young poets who have only published their first or second books
of poetry. Check back on DCPLive throughout the month for the interviews.  In the meantime, here are a few good poetry links:

Poetry Daily – a new poem every day from established and emerging writers as well as an archive of all the past featured poems.
Poets.org – biographical information on major poets both old and new, with sample poems.
The Plagiarist – many poems archived here, browsable by poet or title.
PennSound – listen to recordings of poets reading from their own work!  A huge archive of goodies here.

Just a tiny sampling of the good poetry books available at the library:

The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop (read a sample poem)
Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (read a sample poem)

Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (read a sample poem)

The City in Which I Love You by Li Young Lee (read a sample poem)

Human Wishes by Robert Hass (read a sample poem)

77 Dream Songs
by John Berryman (read a sample poem)

by Gregory Corso (read a sample poem)

Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich (read a sample poem)

Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz
(read a sample poem)

Trilogy by H.D. (read a sample poem)

Tristia by Osip Mandelstam (read a sample poem)

Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser (read a sample poem)

Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda (read a sample poem)