Ann Fisher-Wirth's new book of poems Carta Marina is forthcoming from Wings Press in April 2009. She teaches at the University of Mississippi.
1. What poet should be in Obama’s cabinet, and in what role?
Lucille Clifton. She is a wonderful poet and a remarkable, staunch woman. She could be Secretary of Moral Truthfulness and Authority.
2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why?
Leaves of Grass, though I imagine he already knows it well.
4. Who is the most exciting young/new poet I’ve never heard of, but whose work I ought to find and read?
Some of our MFA poets are pretty wonderful, though they do not yet have books. Look for individual poems by Greg Brownderville, Jen Malesich, Chris Hayes, Alicia Casey, Danielle Sellers. Also I’d name Jessica Fisher, whose first book Frail-Craft won the 2006 Yale Younger Poets Prize. Her work is so beautiful, so haunting and full of intelligence and longing.
5. What’s the funniest poem you’ve read lately? What was the last poem that made you cry?
The only poem I’ve read recently that made me laugh was Jessica Fisher’s translation of Hans Arp’s “The Swallow’s Testicle,” published in a recent Paris Review. No poem has made me cry, but the Luther B. poems in Blood Dazzler really got me.
6. William or Dorothy? Robert or Elizabeth Barrett? Moore or Bishop? Dunbar or Cullen? “Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully” or “No ideas but in things”? Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Tender Buttons?
Oh goodness. I am one of the few people who loves, for instance, T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams equally.
7. Robert Lowell wrote a poem called “Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid.” What supposedly immortal poem puts you to sleep?
8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights. What poetry book should they make into a movie? Who should direct it, and why? Who should star in it?
Patricia Smith’s new book Blood Dazzler, about Katrina, would be a wonderful movie. Sean Penn should direct it, because he’s brilliant, he has guts, and he was one of the first to come from afar to help out after the hurricane. Whoever stars in it should NOT look like a star. My forthcoming book Carta Marina would also make an amazing movie. Ang Lee should direct it because he is so great at depicting the depth and difficulty of human relationships. No idea who should star in it—except, a younger Julie Christie.
9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now?
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
10. What poem do you love, love, love, but don’t understand?
Hard to say. Probably something by Hopkins, Stevens, or Rilke.
14. We read poems in journals and books, we hear them in readings and on audio files. Sometimes we get them in unusual ways: on buses or in subway cars. How would you like to encounter your next poem?
My husband would recite it to me, as he has done for many years—by heart, in our house alone, or in the woods.
17. Tell the truth: is it a poetry book you keep in the john, or some other genre (john-re)?
At the moment I have the Chronicle, and old Missouri Review, lots of Yoga Journals, a crossword puzzle boook, and my latest mystery.
18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school? Did any of them make you memorize a poem? What poem(s)?
I can pretty much name them, but none of them made me memorize poetry. Mr. Blubaugh, my fifth-grade teacher and heartthrob, did read us cool prose: Tom Sawyer, Kon-Tiki.
19. If you got to choose the next U.S. Poet Laureate, who (excluding of course the obvious candidates, you and me) would it be? Of former U.S. Poet Laureates, who did such a great job that he/she should get a second term? Next election cycle, what poet should run for President? Why her or him?
I would choose Lucille Clifton or Carolyn Forche (insert accent) to be the next Poet Laureate. Bob Hass did a great job but I would not wish it on him again. No poet should be President; we need them to be writing poetry.
20. Insert your own question here.
When will I ever finish grading my final exams???