Interview With Diane Raptosh, Noted Author, Poet and Educator from USA
read the answers of questions on her life, poetry, writings and other stuff…
Celebrated poet and author of many books
Diane Raptosh’s fourth book of poetry, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press) was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award. The recipient of three fellowships in literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she served as Boise Poet Laureate (2013) and serves now as the Idaho Writer-in-Residence (2013-2016). An active poetry ambassador, she has given poetry workshops everywhere from riverbanks to maximum-security prisons. She teaches creative writing and runs the program in Criminal Justice/Prison Studies at The College of Idaho. Her new book of poems, Human Directional, will be published by Etruscan Press in Fall 2016. Here you will find her TEDx Talk, “Poetry, Democracy, and the Hope of Sounds”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGAokimTzo0 , and here, her website: www.dianeraptosh.com
Alok Mishra:Let me begin with the recent publication of yours, ma’am. The book American Amnesiac, please discuss in brief. Also, before you start answering, once Wordsworth wrote “what man has made of man,’ and then what T S Eliot did we all know. Is this book by you taking away the same issues?
Diane Raptosh: American Amnesiac is a meditation of what it means to be a self, to have an identity. It is also a critical meditation of 21st –century America. Perhaps, then, yes, the book considers what man has made of man, and then goes on to consider what one man might better make of himself.
Alok Mishra: You have been writing for two and a half decades now, ma’am. How would you like to define your journey as a poet? Be descriptive please so that our visitors know about your writing career a little more.
Diane Raptosh: I started out writing about subjects close at hand: blood lines, place names. And then I needed some new challenges and started writing nothing but prose poetry and very tightly packed, tiny lyric essays. While I was in the middle of doing that, I realized that we were getting into some deep problems as a country and beyond. Strange events had begun to chip away at what we’d always thought to constitute personhood. I fixed my gaze upon these matters and wrote Amnesiac.
Alok Mishra: Your very first book, Just West of Now seems to be inspired by T S Eliot. It talks about the defects (the modern ones) of human kind. How far you concur with this thought?
Diane Raptosh: We humans need help with our defects. We don’t need help with what is going right. I think all art arises from defects of humankind.
Alok Mishra: Your first confrontation with the muse – ma’am? What and when did inspire you to write poetry?
Diane Raptosh: I began writing all kinds of things when my father died suddenly in a car accident in 1979, when I was 17. I realized it was something I could do to pay homage to the fact of death. Writing re-minds us of the obvious and asks us to stay awake to life, keeping the bar of our expectations of all things very high. This is what writing has done for me from the beginning. I’m not sure there is even a muse involved; certainly, the verb muse is.
Alok Mishra: At TEDx, you talked beautifully! The creation of John Doe; your wish to be Whitman; your amazing descriptions of the role of a poet… however, I would like you to reflect on this issue once more, ma’am. Please elaborate the role of a poet in today’s society.
Diane Raptosh: The poet is the person who stays awake; the poet is language’s body guard. The poet watches for beauty and listens toward justice. The poet see/says things others think they don’t need to.
Alok Mishra: I heard to your answer when someone asked you ‘is poetry dead’. However, I have both the questions for you. How can we instigate more active participation in poetry? If at all, why it has been in a constant state of decline?
Diane Raptosh: Poetry is not in a constant state of decline—only the state of the dominant narrative is. The trick to instigating more participation in poetry is to change the dominant narrative, to change the values of the overriding culture.
Alok Mishra: Who are your favourite poets? I would also like to have your view on classics in poetry like Homer, Virgil etc.
Diane Raptosh: Homer knew that the mechanism by which to move the world is story. Inasmuch as that is the case, I admire Homer. Still, I’m looking for a narrative—am myself trying to construct narratives—that suggest there are activities and states of being that are more importantly human than war. I am looking for a narrative that says that the war story in The Iliad is not all of our story or even the most striking chapter of the story of Western history. Homer also knew that female knowledge would be a danger to power, so Odysseus was advised to beware the Sirens’ call. Female knowledge is always a danger to power and so is always so carefully regulated. But I won’t go into that here.
Alok Mishra: You have been teaching since 1990, ma’am. As a student, I can understand why studying literature is important. I would like to know from you – a teacher’s point of view about studying literature.
Diane Raptosh: Literature shows how and why we go on. This is why I study literature and perhaps why everyone should.
Alok Mishra: Do you think the notion of good poetry and bad poetry exists? I mean some poems are good and some are certainly ‘not good’. How do you see it, ma’am?
Diane Raptosh: Hard question. “Not good” poems are, I guess, lazy with language. It’s hard to generalize. I know the good ones when I feel them.
Alok Mishra: Of course, being the first poet laureate of Boise, Idaho is truly an amazing achievement of your career as a poet, ma’am. I heard you talk about the responsibilities as well. I would request you to elaborate the responsibilities of a poet laureate in the modern context.
Diane Raptosh: Boise instituted the Poet Laureate position in their sesquicentennial year, 2013. Awarded through a competitive process, the job involved being poetry’s primary ambassador in the state. I also gave readings and writing workshops in the community, among which were a series of intensive writing workshops at the local women’s prison. And I am the Idaho Writer Residence, 2013 to 2016, the highest literary honor in the state. So that is a $10,000 award. During that period the writer goes around to different rural communities in Idaho giving readings.
The poet laureate’s responsibility in the modern context is to remind people of the glory and limitations of language and to point to the space of the possible.
Alok Mishra: At last, ma’am, I would request you to say something for those who are willing to learn poetry and creative writing. What would be your advice to them?
Diane Raptosh: I would say to read voraciously in a variety of fields, as well as to watch the world around them with outsider eyes.