Poetry Forum: Interview with Lynn Emanuel and Terrance Hayes

by    /  May 25, 2010  / No comments

Photo by Renee Rosensteel

When I learned that both Terrance Hayes and Lynn Emanuel published new collections of poetry in the same month, I thought it would be fun to interview each author for Sampsonia Way. However, editor Silvia Duarte had a better idea: Why not bring Lynn and Terrance together for a conversation?

Spending a couple hours discussing literature with these two poets was a dream come true, and I am excited to share the resulting interview with you.

The conversation covered topics such as Southern culture, poetic form, and humor. One issue that we kept returning to was the issue of voice. Lynn said of writing in the voice of a dog, “If I had a voice I had everything else.” Terrance spoke about “bearing witness” to the speakers in his poems and being “privy to their minds.”

Another issue that arose was politics in literature. This reminded me of the conversations I had with Haitian writers on the relationship between the writers and their community. Terrance and Lynn raised an intriguing possibility by distinguishing between “political” and “socially engaged” poetry.

In this interview the idea of the responsibility of the artist is looked at from a new angle with the concept of good art being “virtuous.” Is or should art be virtuous? And what would it mean to call a poem “virtuous”? Is literature a moral activity?

Click here to read Elizabeth’s bio.

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