Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Poetry Chain Gang (Volume 2) | Sally Ashton

The Black Telephone has five fast questions for poet Sally Ashton.

BT: When I asked poet Kelsea Habecker what book of poetry she was currently reading, she mentioned your book Some Odd Afternoon. How does it feel to know someone is reading your work, your words?

SALLY: It makes me smile. Then it makes me anxious. Then hopeful. In other words, like watching someone open a present you’ve just given them. Will they like it? What if they don’t? And hoping they don’t feel they have to act like they like it. But really wanting them to LOVE it.

BT: There are some poems I wish I had written or I feel I could've written. For instance, I wish I had written the poem "Mood Indigo" by William Matthews. Is there are poem you wish you had written or feel you could've written?

As I consider this rather profound question, four bookshelves of poetry are leaning in to listen. I guess I’d say that the poems found there are what keep me writing. And thanks for mentioning “Mood Indigo.” Wonderful language.

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

SALLY: I love any poem that comes together in an effective manner, and really, what poem isn’t found? The only way we have language is by borrowing sounds from the people around us, right, and what hasn’t been said before? Of course, the goal is to write something that has never been said in just that way. If you mean by “found” that the poem is chiefly comprised of found material, but the writer doesn’t acknowledge it or suggests otherwise, I would call that cheating, but then it’s the poet not the poem cheating.

BT: Did you read a poem today?

SALLY: Actually I did. I was going to an anniversary party and thought I’d bring a couple of poems along just in case. Just in case because quite often at “event” parties, someone will unexpectedly ask me if I have a poem I can read. Since I’m a bit of a failure at memorization, and the only thing worse than a poet who is always trying to foist a poem on someone is a poet without poetry, I try to be prepared. All that to say, I re-read and printed out Matthew Lipman’s raw but relevant “Marriage Pants.” I was going to soften it with a bit of Hafez, but it turned out the party was more about tequila than poetry.

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

SALLY: Question #2 brought Indigo to mind. Indigo Moor.*

Sally Ashton is Editor in Chief of the DMQ Review. She is the author of These Metallic Days, and two recent collections: Her Name Is Juanita, Kore Press, and Some Odd Afternoon, BlazeVOX. Poems also appear in An Introduction to the Prose Poem and Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes. She teaches creative writing at San José State University and blogs at What? (

*Since Indigo Moor never got back to me, this concludes volume 2 of the Poetry Chain Gang. Stay tuned for volume 3. Thanks!

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