Giving Their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

Front Cover
Steven Ratiner
Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 268 pages
0 Reviews

Based on a three-year series of interviews conducted by Steven Ratiner for the Christian Science Monitor, this book offers extended conversations with twelve of the most influential poets writing today. Their comments are wonderfully detailed, refreshingly honest, and provide the sort of intimate introduction to both poet and text that readers are rarely privileged to enjoy. Included are conversations with William Stafford, Mary Oliver, John Montague, Charles Simic, Seamus Heaney, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, Carolyn Forché, Martín Espada, Marge Piercy, Rita Dove, and Bei Dao. In the book's closing interview, Steven Ratiner makes a return visit to Donald Hall's New Hampshire farm shortly before the publication of Hall's collection Without, which focused on the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon.

Giving their word is what poets do; it is their stock-in-trade, their daily bread. In the hands of the most accomplished, a poet's words are transformed into a kind of window: looking inward toward the territory of memory, dream, personal mythology and opening out onto the landscape of the shared world where life and work are rooted. For each poet there is an intricate relationship between these two realms and poetry's third domain, the language that bridges both experiences and becomes the body of the poem. Giving Their Word shows us that the poet's fidelity to that relationship sustains his or her development over time, urges the writing toward new levels of discovery, and bestows on readers that most prized of commodities: a feeling of the authentic.

For poets, students of poetry, and that far-flung community of readers for whom the contemporary poem still provides a journey worth taking, this book will present a host of pleasures. Giving Their Word enlarges the frame through which we view the poet's text and yields significant insights into the craft and character of each of these writers.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

Giving Their Word: Conversations With Contemporary Poets

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This compilation of conversations serves as a source of biographical information about the writing lives of 13 leading contemporary poets while offering instruction and inspiration to writers of ... Read full review

Contents

William Stafford OPENING THE MOMENT
11
Mary Oliver A SOLITARY WALK
39
John Montague POETRY AND THE COMMON WORK
65
Charles Simic THE TOY OF LANGUAGE
75
Seamus Heaney THE WORDS WORTH SAYING
95
Donald Hall THE WORK THAT MAKES A HOME
109
Maxine Kumin NEW LIFE IN THE BARN
129
Carolyn Forche THE POETRY OF WITNESS
147
Martin Espada POETRY AND THE BURDEN OF HISTORY
169
Marge Piercy THE COMMUNAL VOICE
183
Rita Dove A CHORUS OF VOICES
199
Bei Dao RECLAIMING THE WORD
221
Donald Hall WITHOUT AND WITHIN
237
SELECTED SOURCES
267
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 1 - I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Page 1 - Thoughts can wash over him like a flood, making his breath come in gasps, and his heart throb. Something, like an abatement in the weather, will keep him thawed up. And then it will happen that we, who always think we are small, will feel still smaller. And we will fear to use words. But it will happen that the words we need will come of themselves. When the words we want to use shoot up of themselves — we get a new song.
Page 1 - Man is moved just like the ice floe sailing here and there in the current. His thoughts are driven by a flowing force when he feels joy, when he feels fear, when he feels sorrow. Thoughts can wash over him like a flood, making his breath come in gasps and his heart throb.
Page 6 - Poetry must sing or speak from authentic experience. Of all the streams of civilized tradition with roots in the paleolithic, poetry is one of the few that can realistically claim an unchanged function and a relevance which will outlast most of the activities that surround us today. Poets, as few others, must live close to the world that primitive men are in: the world, in its nakedness, which is fundamental for all of us — birth, love, death; the sheer fact of being alive.
Page x - Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

References to this book

The 1970s
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Limited preview - 2007
The 1970s
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Limited preview - 2007

About the author (2004)

Poet and educator Steven Ratiner has contributed poetry and prose to numerous magazines in America and abroad. Two of his chapbooks were published in 2002: a retrospective collection from Pudding House Press's Greatest Hits series and Button, Button, an artist's book in collaboration with Marty Cain.

Bibliographic information