These are the questions I discuss with each poet. Our conversation always veers into uncharted territory, but this is the starting point.
Why did you choose the place you chose?
What is your approach to understanding a place? Poet Alice Oswald talks about her process of getting to know a place as trying to assume the “eye of a landscape,” trying to understand “water in the eyes of water.” What points of view do you try to assume when you write in response to a place? What actions do you take or not take?
We never actually arrive in a place since every place is constantly changing. How does this flux influence your process?
I asked that you choose a public space in or near the urban environment of Portland. It has been argued that public space in our culture is becoming scarcer and less vital. This is a process attributable both to physical forces such as suburbanization and highways, technologies of surveillance, and gated communities, as well as to psychological forces, particularly the erosion of a participatory public through the widespread and ubiquitous use of handheld digital devices. Since 9/11, there has also been a growing sense that public spaces are unsafe. This tension has been heightened by the horrific public shootings in recent years.
In light of these psychological and physical pressures on public space, what does public space mean to you? What makes public space creative space?
Paulo Freire said “There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world.” What is a true word? Do you see your writing as a form of praxis? (Praxis refers to the union of theory and practice, typically with an activist bent.)
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum, 2000.
Low, Setha M., and Neil Smith. 2006. The politics of public space. New York: Routledge.
Panetta, Francesca, and Madeleine Bunting. “Landscape and literature podcast: Alice Oswald on the Dart river.” theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 13 July 2012. Web. 9 Mar. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2012/jul/13/1>
Turkle, Sherry. Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.