Giving Their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Steven Ratiner | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Beginning in 1979 and continuing for over two decades, I was a monthly contributor to the Christian Science Monitor newspaper and their syndicated radio programs. I wrote reviews on contemporary poetry for their “Books” page and essays and poems for an eclectic two-page section called “Home Forum. ” My editors at the Forum usually allowed me great latitude in the subjects I could tackle and this included Alice Hummer, my editor at the close of 1990. I had just completed a year-long series centering on my work as a poet-in-residence in Massachusetts schools. The stories had been quite well received and perhaps that emboldened my thinking. So one morning I visited her office with a new proposal.

I envisioned an open-ended series of poetry interviews featuring both the prominent names in contemporary writing and emerging talents. I said I intended to explore some of the enduring themes within each poet's work and to make the connection between a poet's creation and the daily lives of all readers, not just the small percentage who were brave enough to visit the poetry section of their local bookshop. I listed a host of such essential experiences: the family and the importance of relationship; the natural world and our sense of place; the province of memory and the recording of living history; the imagination and the power to name. These poetic concerns were in fact human concerns and played a significant role in shaping our daily lives. I argued the position—easily refuted at the time by book sales and

-ix-

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Giving Their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface ix
  • Giving Their Word *
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 9
  • 1 - —Opening the Moment 11
  • 2 - —A Solitary Walk 39
  • 3 - —Poetry and the Common Work 65
  • 4 - —The Toy of Language 75
  • 5 - —The Words Worth Saying 95
  • 6 - —The Work That Makes a Home 109
  • 7 - —New Life in the Barn 129
  • 8 - —The Poetry of Witness 147
  • 9 - —Poetry and the Burden of History 169
  • 10 - —The Communal Voice 183
  • 11 - —A Chorus of Voices 199
  • 12 - —Reclaiming the Word 221
  • 13 - —Without and Within 237
  • Selected Sources 267
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