We’ve long been promising you an interview with perhaps our most faithful Voice in Verse — whose poem below is among the seasonal series with which she’s gifted us. The interview appears just after this week’s Poetry Friday poem, “Just Before Bed.”


Late one night walking across my lawn, I pitched
a large pinecone back at the trees and startled
some sleeping birds. Out of the branches they came
flapping, chirping with fright, then flew away
into the dark disquieted world, deranged as bats
at noon. There’s nothing more to this, only the old
discomfort of wondering how to be acquainted with
the night without disturbing its peace. And where
does one go to nest again, or (perchance) to dream?

Kinsolving’s books include The White Eyelash, Dailies & Rushes (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) and Among Flowers. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications including The New York Times Book Review, Poetry, Yale Review and The Paris Review. She has taught at numerous universities, including Bennington and CalArts. Several of her poems have been set to music and performed in the United States and abroad. WVFC finally caught up with her last week: We can draw nearly as much wisdom and beauty from her answers as from her poems.

What is your favorite season? Or favorite season to write about?

There’s not a favorite; I just enjoy the changes. Living in New England, as I do, the seasonal changes are profound. The natural world presents a great drama of transformation, reminding us that we are part of it, by day, by year, and by decade. So I’ve written poems titled “Summer Storm” and “August Island” as well as “Some Snows” and “Walking After Winter.” I’d like to have more expertise about the weather, to be able to understand better the cloud formations, dew points, pressure systems. I think the Weather Channel is one of the best things on television, though it cannot compete with simply going outdoors. Who isn’t stirred by a tempest?!

What are you working on now?

I am reading Hawthorne in preparation for a class I will teach on American Lit this autumn. I am fascinated all over again by Hester Prynne. Hawthorne created a character who informs so many time periods. She’s an icon, embodying women’s issues, past and present.
My recent poems have concerned glass eyes. I’ve been working on a series regarding the history and other aspects of prosthetic eyes. The subject matter has been rich with science and anecdote. My fourth book will be titled My Glass Eye. I see it as a great metaphor for poetry. Elizabeth Bishop did too.

Like many poets, I write light verse as well as so-called serious poems. Light verse has an impressive literary history, though one that is often misunderstood or forgotten. T.S. Eliot is an example: “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” and “Old Possum” came from the same pen. (Light verse is not doggerel.)

Who are the writers whose work you most admire?

Too many writers to name. In April, 2010, I’ll be honoring the great poet Thomas Hardy with a program at The Mercantile Library in New York. Hardy was a genius in both prose and poetry so his work will lead off a new reading series, Chapter and Verse, celebrating writers who were accomplished in both genres.

What question do you wish people would ask you in interviews?

Valuable questions that are seldom asked are those of specificity, questions that regard a specific poem and wonder about its form, images, metaphors, title, and so on. Those questions can begin a deeper dialog because the work has been read and considered.

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