Individual Voices / Natural Forms
Interviewed by Carmine Giordano
How much of your poetry is conscious message or social critique?
For me, social critique or any form of ethical reasoning is sometimes embedded in the language symbolically, at other times it is forthright. The distinction favors the direction, but it depends on the tone of the particular piece of writing. For example, in the poem "Natural History," which was selected for the Poets Against the War anthology that Sam Hamill put together, I never mention a specific war or country; however, the historical moment of the Bosnian War corresponds to the speaker's compassion and fear for the insect caught in the web to such an extent that helpless fantasies of mass graves appear in the interior monologue of the narrative. It is not a forthright condemnation of the age, as in Yeats' ironic-moral Christian outrage in "The Second Coming". It is about compassion for the victims of sadistic humans and their destructive institutions. From the perspective of class, race, women, etc., it has always been the time of the "rough beast", whose time (WWI-specific time) Yeats believed had come to Western Civilization. Yeats was a great poet, but in the context raised here he is a great "elitist" Christian poet.