Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lorna Dee Cervantes - where the poet dwells

"That's where the poet dwells: in conditions and relations." So says Lorna Dee Cervantes in an interview from 2003. She's talking about the real human element, underneath the niceties your mother taught you, and underneath the highly encoded language of blues and folk music that contains -- once you unlock the history and language -- more than you think you can bear.

If you want to cut through the abstractions and little prides of your life (all our lives), through the often-academic priorities that poetry sometimes gets too lost in, and get right down to the bone, go read the interview. Count on spending quite a bit of time with it, as Lorna Dee Cervantes speaks from the heart, direct, with both feet firmly planted on the ground and with her arms embracing all of humanity and naming it her own, even after calling out its horrid contradictions and meanness and stupidity. She finds, in the end, the true meaning of being a poet, in some advice from mentor Hayden White: Follow your obsession. And she does that, digging into the history of songs by Memphis Minnie. Follow that trail back to me, since the songs uncover history of the 1917 riots in East St. Louis (a stone's throw from Cherry Pie Press, and with no small influence on current life in St. Louis). It is all personal, it is all in the relations between us, and the conditions we experience and must write from.

Where does the trail find you?

This is from the Michigan Quarterly Review, and is an interview with Alex Stein:;cc=mqr;sid=e05280ee21429c514e8a7b2be607a265;q1=Cervantes;rgn=main;view=text;idno=act2080.0042.406

And for some poetry, here is her expansive blog:

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