Monday, August 30, 2010

The Poetry Chain Gang (Volume 2) | Wendy Wisner

The Black Telephone has five fast questions for poet Wendy Wisner.

BT: How do you feel about found poems? Do you consider found poems cheating?

WENDY: Found poems remind me of when I was in graduate school and we were discussing the integrity of “the line” in poetry. My teacher, Donna Masini, was saying that each line in a poem should be taut as a clothesline without any unnecessary words. Each line should be able to be read on its own and feel complete and interesting. I remember walking around the city noticing the way everything – subway ads, billboards, street signs – was broken up by lines, and I would analyze the lines the way Donna described. I “found” many poems that day. It was a very cool exercise.

BT: Being a new mother, I am loving your pregnancy/motherhood related poems ("Letter at Nine Weeks" and "Benjamin Sleeping"). I especially love them because I haven't been able to tackle the topic of pregnancy or motherhood in my poetry. Are these poems easier or harder for you to write?

WENDY: Thank you. The poems were generally easy for me to write. I always tend to write about relationships, and the intimate moments between them, so the pregnancy/motherhood poems came pretty naturally. I can imagine, though, that the newness of the experience and the emotional and physical drain of pregnancy and new motherhood would make it difficult to write poems! I say give it time, and you’ll see how motherhood creeps into your poems. It seems almost impossible that it won’t eventually.

BT: Some songs are like poetry. Is there a poem (by you or another poet) that you think could work as a song?

WENDY: How about the Emily Dickinson poem that begins “I felt a funeral in my brain”? I love that one and it always gets stuck in my head like a song.

BT: Names can be poetic, too. To me, the name Mahalia is a one-word poem. Is there a name you'd consider a one-word poem?

WENDY: I can’t think of a single word I would consider a one-word poem, but the name Mahalia (which is very beautiful) reminds me of my sister’s name, Dahlia, which has appeared in several of my poems. I don’t usually name people in poems, but that name is just too beautiful to exclude from a poem.

BT: I’m trying to start a chain, a chain of poets, sort of like a chain gang of poets. Can you please suggest a poet I should ask five fast questions to next?

WENDY: Jeannine Hall Gailey

Wendy Wisner's first book of poems, Epicenter, was published by CW Books in 2004. Her poems have appeared in The Spoon River Review, Rhino, Natural Bridge, The Bellevue Literary Review, online at Verse Daily, and elsewhere. In 2007, Wendy left her teaching job at Hunter College to be a full-time mom to her son Benjamin, now three years old. Wendy also volunteers as a breast-feeding counselor for La Leche League. Wendy on the web at

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