Often, as poets, when we do interviews we approach them in a journalistic fashion, even as Ezra Pound reminds us, “poetry is news that stays news.” Over the next few months, I wanted to see what would happen if Minnesota poets were interviewed as poet to poet, through the forms we work in the most. This month we look at the work of Kathryn Kysar from St. Paul.
Kathryn Kysar is the author of two books of poetry, Dark Lake and Pretend the World, and editor of Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers, a collection of essays. She has received fellowships and residencies from Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Her poetry has been heard on Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac, and her poems have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. She recently served on the board of directors for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, teaches at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us as a poet to poet.
Beginnings, are they like shotguns or groaning wheels
That know the scent of prairies, songs, or earth, chewed and swallowed?
Where is the best edge for the closest eye to gaze your pen?
Beginnings, my dear friend, are easy: they start
with the whisper of a kiss, a leaf’s shudder,
the stark scream of a child in pain, the radio’s
echo, the itch of a memory still unforgotten.
When teaching begins, something unfolds, carried
Across generations: Some are seeds with a face,
Others a drum, resonant as an Anoka sunrise.
What replies within, to justify a broken silence with such a smile?
The teacher walks through the threshold into words
and wonder, irony dark and delicious, the idyll
of the novel, the crispness of a well-written sentence.
But yes, something simmers, ignored and waiting, within her.
For stars of the north,
Is a true poem the loon
Or free blueberries?
The northern skies inspire,
the water undulating against the skin
of the earth. “Here now is the sky.”
“Eat quite everything you see.”
Keeping a thinker’s elegance,
Applying keys enriching tomorrows,
Transforming and knowing ephemera,
Evenings talks among kindred:
Who inspires meaningful risks worth a second glance?
The deeply-hued music of literary friendship
weaves individual songs into harmonious symphonies
of libraries and late-night conversations,
blessing our twinned cities with talent and talk.
Knowing, yet seeking always,
Yesterday’s streams are kinetic.
Some also know you.
Any keepsakes you’d share?
St. Paul streets layer memories
like a tall cake soaked in coffee
and liqueur. I drive the curves of
the Mississippi, lamps illuminated
in the red dusk, poems like songs
playing in my head, treasures all.
Keeping, in the time we have, moments of
You, searching for whys or whats breathing while
Some pretend among water bodies and pregnant earth devoured,
A world constant changing, why does masked wolf
Reflect: What remains, what goes?
We all search, stray, purge ourselves of words,
survey our motifs for clues of understanding.
Ultimately, what remains is our urge to create,
the woods we love, the water we swim in,
the children we hold dear. These are the things
that matter: the moon, the streetlights along
the river, the darkness of the lake at night,
friends who tell the truth, and the justice of art.
You can find more of her work at www.kathrynkysar.com . Photo courtesy of Jes Lee.