Cleveland Wall shares her poetic influences and upcoming plans. Enjoy!
LF: Do you remember writing your first poem? CW: Yes. Second grade. That was when I wanted to be a nun, so it was about God. Six couplets in trochaic octameter. My siblings insisted I must have copied it out of a book. Jerks.
LF: Who are some of your favorite poetic influences? CW: Poe for prosody; Plath for verve; Lewis Carroll, Stevie Smith, and Mervyn Peake for whimsy and panache; Rilke for interiority; Pamela Perkins-Frederick for curiosity and loving attention to detail.
LF: Could you describe your creative writing process? CW:There's a pre-poem period of material-gathering, then the writing is a subtractive process. There's a kind of erasure poem I do sometimes where I look for a thread of contiguous words in a block of prose that are a poem, then I cut away all the words that are not the poem.This process mimics the way I write poems. I follow a line or an idea to see if it becomes a poem, then if it does, I cut away whatever is not poem.
LF: What are you working on now? Any upcoming plans? CW: Big plans! Short term: I'm working on the Perspectives on the Environment project at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton. Every year they invite artists in the community to respond to some aspect of environmental science, and we get to consult with actual scientists to get the facts straight. This year I'm collaborating with my husband Michael, who is a classical guitarist, and we're looking at migrations. Long term; I'm starting a project that will probably take 3-4 years to complete, which will examine a selection of dates throughout the year as recorded through 30-odd years of journals, and will culminate in a movable immersive theater experience.
LF: Why is poetry important in the world? CW: Because it leads to a kind of understanding that cannot be arrived at any other way. When you only understand a thing rationally, you don't have much grasp on it, because it has nothing to do with you. But when emotion is engaged, it becomes imprinted on the amygdala. Then you have deep knowledge. People need to know about things like climate change in that way.
LF: What do you hope readers take away from your poems? CW: I hope they come away with some useful understanding--maybe of something they already know.