Sunday, June 01, 2008

Poetry in the Ear: Interviews at KCRW

KCRW is a college-based radio station in Santa Monica, California. Its program BOOKWORM reaches out to a range of poets for interviews that include reading their work. I checked the web site today for the interview with shamanist poet and translator Clayton Eshleman, and found a terrific exploration in Clayton's own voice of his recent collection AN ALCHEMIST WITH ONE EYE ON FIRE (Black Widow Press). Eshleman spoke of "the grotesque" as a meetingplace of the unconscious and the conscious; of the profound effects of having spent 48 years engaged with translating the poetry of César Vallejo (see The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo, edited and translated by Eshleman); and of the poet as an initiate. Most astounding is the long, delicious, and outrageous final poem of AN ALCHEMIST, especially as read aloud by Eshleman himself. There's also a nice discussion of the way his wife Caryl collaborates in the work.

Whether it's just my computer or a general effect of the radio station's web site, from the Eshleman interview the machine flowed onward and played the next piece archived, a notable (but too short) interview with "poetry of witness" poets Brian Turner and Bruce Weigl. In addition to the provocative poems of the conflicts in Iraq and Vietnam as spoken by these two men, there are flickers of insight into the net of mentors in the field, specifically Charles Simic and Carolyn Forché for these poets.

It's good to have the books, to carry them, to read them in different places and times and in the voice in one's own mind -- but it's also a revelation to hear them spoken by the voices that first whispered them onto the page:

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