The below is an excerpt of Andy Kuhn’s interview of Katha Pollitt. Full interview text is available in the book How a Poem Can Happen, or upon special request.
Katha Pollitt read for the Katonah Poetry Series on April 28, 2013.
Andy Kuhn: You have written so well and so much in such an array of genres that there’s a temptation to take up your poetry in relation to your work in prose, possibly at the risk of not fully engaging the poems themselves, which are extraordinary. I’m going to try to avoid that mistake, but I do want to ask about how you distribute your energies as a writer. Does writing political commentary or personal essays create a certain amount of static or interference with writing poetry, do the activities complement each other, or do they happen in such different mental silos that there’s not that much conversation between them?
Katha Pollitt: Politics does tend to drive out the poetry, I’m afraid. I joke that every morning I wake up with a song in my heart and by 11 AM I am obsessed and miserable. If you pay attention to what’s going on in the world, from huge things like global warming to smaller things like Disney selling boys’ T-shirts that say “I’m a hero” and girl’s T-shirts that say “I need a hero” (!) it is hard also to concentrate on the inner life, the life of language. At least it is for me. Nonetheless I do think my politics inform my poetry in subtle ways. “Rapture,: for example, is about what happens when Christian fundamentalists are “raptured” up to heaven. Hint: it’s not so much fun to be perfect.