This is the 19th in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? This time we talk with poet Laura M Kaminski.
1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.
LMK: I’m not sure I think of “my work” as mine. Most of the poetry I write is responsive—ekphrasis, conversation poems, nature poetry—poems that try to pay tribute and call attention to whatever inspired them. And frankly, I didn’t recognize that until earlier this year when reading the blurb Jose Angel Araguz wrote for the back of my collection last penny the sun. It would be fair to say I didn’t know what I was doing until another poet put words to it.
But I wouldn’t know that there’s such an amazing thing on this planet as a cuttlefish if Temple Cone hadn’t put one in a poem. And if Ayla Yeargain hadn’t written about the scent of honeysuckle at sundown, I wouldn’t have, literally, “stopped to smell the flowers.” How do I even begin to pay back the people who have brought such wonder into my life? I can’t. I can only try to pay it forward. I’m indebted to The Poetry Storehouse for creating a “scenic route” for poetry—it’s all about pointing and sharing the wonder here.
2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please briefly describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at The Storehouse and your own reactions to them.
LMK: Nic S. and Marie Craven both remixed “Joining the Lotus Eaters,” and both films used Nic’s reading of it since I wasn’t able to provide a recording with my submission. Nic’s film is haunting to me; I’ve spent a good part of my life in isolated areas and high-desert scrubland, and Nic’s remix uses mostly black and white footage of a young woman hiking alone in high desert, interspersed with short, full-color close-ups of nature at its most lush. My reaction to it was tears — how could she possibly know what it was like for a desert-rat like me to smell honeysuckle for the first time? But there it is, on film: it was just like that.
Marie Craven’s remix uses stills, mostly flowers, that seem to vibrate and dilate in time to the percussion in the soundtrack. It’s all lush, mesmerizing, intoxicating—the heady enchantment of those fragrances, and you can’t stop breathing in. Someone I know who doesn’t usually read poetry watched it and said “I could watch stuff like this all day.”
Nic reached into the poem and somehow extracted and showed me myself, like Jose did in the book blurb. And Marie, she’s serving lotus-blossoms, yes? Even people who do not read poetry become entranced and cannot leave.
3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?
LMK: I’ve already gained far more than I’ve given in my relationship with The Poetry Storehouse. I’d certainly encourage others to be a part of this adventure in any way they can.
4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?
LMK: I think the number of participants that have been drawn to The Storehouse in its first year—poets, readers, film-makers—validates the approach. The collaborative atmosphere and opportunities are exciting. It’s working! It’s working!
5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse or any related experience?
LMK: It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to “hate” a remix—I’m simply in awe of the courage it must take to remix a poem and show it to the poet for the first time. Any other poets who’ve borrowed from Homer want to go back with me and show him how we’ve remixed his work? I’m not sure I’m brave enough to go alone.
Editor’s note: Since this interview was conducted, two more filmmakers have released work made with Kaminski’s poetry. We’ll probably post them to Moving Poems eventually, but in the meantime you can watch them on Vimeo: “Facing the Wall” by Swoon and “Ghosts” by Jutta Pryor.