Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Matthew Dickman, and Cate Marvin participated on a panel titled "Regional Aesthetics and Sensibility in American Poems" at the fifth annual Poets Forum in New York City, October 20-22, 2011. Find out more information about the Poets Forum>
Poets.org: How do you begin a poem?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi: Often, I begin a poem with a walk, or a song I hear that begins a movie
of the poem getting made in my head. That's funny to write "out loud"
but it's true. I'm a daydreamer and a wanderer so a lot of my day is
spent imagining the world of the poem before the words even come.
Particularly for this new book that I'm working on—the poems are a
real story so I spend a lot of time just imagining what the characters
might do and how the light looks and the car radio sounds when they do
Poets.org: What poets do you continually go back to?
Calvocoressi: Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost with a good dose of Randall Jarrell dreaming beside me. There are so many others but those three have been
a real foundation for me, particularly Frost who I thought I hated for
so much of my life until Marie Howe told me to go read him book by
book. The realization that I hadn't understood him at all, and how that
actually changed my view of looking in general, changed my life. I love
Bishop's wonder at her own doubt when it comes to perception, "I liked
the place; I liked the idea of the place." Perhaps that has to do with
my own bad eyes and my mother's mental illness (which mirrors Bishop's
experience with her mother in some ways). I love Jarrell for being
Jarrell and no one else. I love that he wrote a poem in which he
remembers being a child playing with the MGM lion. That's a gift.
And Joan Didion. I love Joan Didion beyond reason.
Poets.org: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
Calvocoressi: My idea of who I am as a poet has changed. I think I used to believe I
needed to be unhappy and distraught all the time. I may have thought
things like having a happy marriage and not drinking a bunch would keep me
out of the game. These were things I thought when I was much younger.
Now I feel so happy to know that any life has enough unhappiness to
serve a poem but that I also have to work to be happy and healthy and
a good enough person to those around me to make the writing of poems
sustainable as a practice and a vocation. I have to be a decent
steward of my poems and that means making a world that respects how
much energy it takes to write them.
Poets.org: Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Does that fit into your writing life, and
if so, how?
Calvocoressi: I am on Facebook and Twitter. Avidly. Though right now I have told
myself that I will not go on until I've finished all the things I need
to finish. I really love the community Facebook affords and I like
watching people perch on their virtual branch and tweet. I do worry
about becoming hooked on it so I have various rules for myself. I used
to try and write poems up there and now I don't because it takes
something from me in terms of the privacy required for a poem. I do
have a Twitter feed where sometimes I think about the third book but
that's only got 28 followers and that's just fine.
Poets.org: Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work
with? Who are they?
Calvocoressi: I am so blessed by all of my friends and teachers. There are too many
to name but I would say that on a day-to-day basis Jen Chang, Robin
Ekiss, Alicia Jo Rabins, David Adjmi, Adrian Matjeka, and Tom Healy are
writers I ask for advice and support. My editor and friend, poet
Gabriel Fried, is immensely important to me, beyond words. They all
keep me honest. And they are very good friends. But truly, my cup
overfloweth and I could crash your server with gratitude and names.
Poets.org: What are you reading right now?
Calvocoressi: Oh boy! I am reading so many good things. I'm a co-editor of the
poetry section of The Los Angeles Review of Books so I get so much
good poetry. Pat Rosal's, Boneshepherds is ridiculously good. Roger
Bonair-Agard's Gully is just fantastic and makes cricket and poems go
together seamlessly. I'm about to recommend Meghan O'Rourke's new book of poems for The Rumpus Poetry Book Club. I'm reading Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin. And I'm reading all about rock bands in
Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Oh, I'm also reading This Is Real and You Are
Completely Unprepared throughout the month of September as I prepare
for the Days of Awe.