Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Interview with Alan Botsford

Alan Botsford is author of mamaist: learning a new language (Minato No Hito, 2002);  A Book of Shadows (Katydid Books, 2003); and Walt Whitman of Cosmic Folklore (Sage Hill Press, 2010) a hybrid collection which, as the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review wrote, “combines […] poetry, criticism, dialogues, myths and folktales, hip-hop rhymes and postmodern surfaces interwoven with the wit and wisdom of Whitman’s visionary embrace of the reader”. He was educated at Wesleyan University and Columbia University, and has lived the past quarter century in Japan. A featured guest-editor of Japanese Poems in Translation in June 2012 of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Botsford serves as editor of Poetry Kanto, Japan's longest running annual bi-lingual international poetry journal (poetrykanto.com). His poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, River Styx, Yemassee Literary Journal, Mickle Street Review, Confrontation, and American Writing, among other places, and in poetry anthologies in the U.S. and Japan. He teaches English at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama, Japan and lives with his wife, the illustrator Minako Saitoh and their son in Kamakura.

Seven Important Questions for Poetry Editor Alan Botsford

1.Given the ways contemporary authors have been trying to compose all kinds of poetry, how would you define ‘poetry’?

.   What is poetry? Unresponsive dust, or Life: you choose. Or it’s the gift predecessors have given you, and that you would pass on to all those in need of reading it. Or it’s one of those gifts you don’t look for, it finds you.

  Yet why you, you wonder? Prayerfully inside outside, hopefully over under, actually 
  there here, definitely before after, is all you’ll get by way of an answer. (Yes, down the 
  path of its pulverization, the dust sings…but as bad as it gets, it gets better when the best 
  of you, as poet, is at play.)

2. Many people say poetry is dying. Do you agree or disagree with this statement, and why?

  Poetry—it’s true, there’s no future in it. Annihilating the self is dangerous. Poetry knows
  this. But when it’s your destiny, it’s what makes the present worth living. That’s why you 
  keep the perception of the real and the imagined separate. Poetry won’t cerebrate what it
  celebrates.

3. What defining features do you think ‘best’ poetry should possess? In other words, what is your personal or working definition of ‘best’ poetry? 

   Before a real poet, living or dead, I’d bow and say: Your potential is paralyzing to someone like me! Your promise is perpetual and perceptual! And O I’ve never seen how one sees the world like you, let alone imagined feeling how it feels if in your shoes I’ve stepped (I’d be the universe and who could mistake it?). Climbing aboard such trains of associations as yours leaves me dizzied. Unto me I receive the dazzle mercifully unfinished. You’re like a god of the beautiful whose fragrances make me swoon! O beautiful expression! You’re the boon without the mooning! You’re as deep a commerce at a sale that I can set sail for, and as mystical a cellar as a cosmic cell locked by the key that energizes every door one walks through, as ever I’ve known! O thank you for your view, for all the things that you see, that you offer and proffer profiting you not, but for free.

4. What are the most important makings of a ‘great’ poet? – please name 3 greatest poets the world has produced thus far.

  A poet who comes to poetry not to chase fame but to make a purchase of the world’s 
  newest names understands that when we sleep, the earth embeds us in its nocturnal arms
  and rhythms, its underworld music. Here a poet can make a stand in the yawning earth
  where poems originate from utterances ancestral as kin. and where what he dives into,
  divides him like knives flaying the skin from the bones. Here, nobody knows who you
  are save by your true voice, summoning you back into your life where spiritual
  revolution-inducing poetry is poetry taking you back to the source to bathe and be reborn
  in.

  Dante, Dante, Dante.

5. Who are the 3 most important or noteworthy contemporary poets according to your personal/working criteria?

  Among lyric poets I’m familiar with I’d include Michael S. Collins, William Heyen,
  Mari L’Esperance, and Rigoberto Gonzalez.

6. Considering the contemporary poetry writing/publishing reality, what are the most important changes that you think should be made to promote poetry as a worthy cause?

  Poetry as energy work, as spiritual journey, is something that can be better understood
  and promoted in the future.


7. What are the most important or interesting things that you have learned about poetry writing/publishing as a poetry editor?

  Writing poetry is not for the faint of heart. You do it only if you have to. Poem-writing
  offers a way of integrating and balancing those irrational energies of darkness with the
  daytime, rational mind of light. Indeed, poems are as necessary to waking, as dreams are
  to sleep. But the poet beholding the boundaries toes no line, betrothes himself to none
  but the line he’s sentenced to writing To the un-belonged he or she would belong-- the
  poet, the dreamer, the flash artist.. We are all here, the poet would remind us, as native
  speakers of Poetry, our first language.

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