Uche Ogbuji: I'll start with one of the things we have in common. How do you think living in Colorado has affected your work? What does Colorado mean to you as a poet?
Wendy Videlock: It both inspires and afflicts me. Mountains are pretty daunting things, both literally and figuratively.
Do you have a favorite mountain in Colorado? Whether for poetic reasons or not? Perhaps one of our iconic 14ers?
I'm partial to Parnassus. Is that in Colorado?
I'm sure Phoibos and the Muses would love nothing better than to live in Colorado. In general, how important do you think place is to poetry?
Well, if words really are the daughters of earth, it would be very important. Aspiring poets seem to know they ought to read widely and deeply, but often forget to observe the very world around them. Observation is at the heart of all good metaphor, and metaphor at the heart of all good poetry. Shallow observation announces itself pretty loudly. We can't expect a poet to fly without some grounding.
You were born in a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. How long did it take you to get to shore? And did you pick up a few good fish tales by that time?
So long even the winds have forgotten, my friend. And yes, I've met a few unassailable fish tales.
Some of your most memorable poetry works in short, largely regular lines, an extreme example being "Of Coverings" in your volume Nevertheless where each line is but a one or two syllable word, and yet the result coheres and communicates beautifully. How did that style evolve for you?
If I said I'm not sure, would that suffice? If you wouldn't mind, I'll let the poem answer for me. It goes like this:
I wasn't naked; I was completely covered in a blue spotlight.
- Gypsy Rose Lee
I attended one of your workshops in which you had us narrow in on totemic symbols in order to inspire poems. Has such a process inspired you as a poet, either in the overall arc of your career, or within the process of writing each poem?
I do like to remind students of our relationship to symbol, which is just another way of reminding them that poetry has deeply tangled, ancient roots. And that letters are symbols, too. And that symbol is everywhere. And whenever I find myself reminding anyone of anything, I'm likely also reminding myself. Whatever I know about process, or whatever I think I know, only comes through in waves, and only in retrospect. I don't think I've ever adopted a system or process in any conscientious way.
In that same workshop you had us write to a picked tarot card. Your book is organized according to the major arcana of the tarot. How do you think mystery works its way into poetry?
I'm not sure that without mystery there would be much need for poetry. I sometimes have students choose from a pile of symbols, or a list of critters, or from a deck of cards. The very act of choosing blindly and at random places us right in the center of the mystery, puts us right in the middle of the bigger questions about destiny and free will, chance and providence, chaos and design, etc.
Does M. Blavatsky still hold a spell over poets as she did in the early 20th century?
There are exceptions, of course, but in general the post-moderns have little interest in the metaphysical or the esoteric, except perhaps as passing allusions in their work. A shame. But you knew I'd say that!
Could you suggest any obscure poets our readers probably don't know, but should?
I'll stick with one and one only today: Rose Kelleher. I think she's got a probing intellectual honesty.
I'd like to reference Kelleher's superb poem "The Lost Continent" in issue 1 of our Kith & Kin, Angle.
In what other artistic media do you work?
I doodle a lot. I paint quite a bit, and I show in local galleries. I do mosaic and collage. I take photographs, sometimes obsessively. But primarily, I write. Poetry is the calling. The rest is pleasant distraction.
Being a poet with artistic sidelines, do you ever find yourself writing ekphrasis of your own work in other media?
I do, but they're really only loosely ekphrasiastic. I'm actually working on a book of poems now which will have scattered images throughout its pages.
The images woven into this interview are by Wendy Videlock.