Thursday, April 22, 2010

Intake Interview

ntl-poetry-button_green

Hello, today I would like to interview you for one of the coveted remaining spots in the Society of People who Enjoy Poetry (SPEP). Please sit down. Would you like a cup of tea? All right, here are the questions I'd like you to answer. You can begin whenever you're ready.

(What follows is a poem by Franz Wright entitled "Intake Interview," from his 2009 volume entitled Wheeling Motel)

(Update 4/28/10: since the poet has now limited the direction of this discussion, please refrain from continuing to answer the largely unanswerable questions of the following poem.)

What is today's date?

Who is the President?

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten?

What does "people who live in glass houses" mean?

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false?

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche?

Name five rivers.

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes?

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music?

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him?

What should you do if I fall asleep?

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps?

What is the moral of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"?

What about his Everest shadow?

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations?

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa?

Would you visit a country where nobody talks?

What would you have done differently?

Why are you here?

If you would like to join SPEP, please answer any of these questions in the comments, and I'll let you know. Thank you for coming.

38 comments:

Serena said...

What is today's date? 4/22/10 Earth Day year 40!

Who is the President? Obama

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten? 3

What does "people who live in glass houses" mean? People who have easily bruised egos

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false? false

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche? yes

Name five rivers. Blackstone, Potomac, Charles, Monocacy, Niagara

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes? working

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music? no thanks

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him? be yourself and like it

What should you do if I fall asleep? Watch

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps? no

What is the moral of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"? there's a moral?

What about his Everest shadow? its very cool beneath it.

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations? neither, I would say my education did little except increase my desire to become a pirate

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence? existence of suffering

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa? Either is fine by me

Would you visit a country where nobody talks? no

What would you have done differently? I would have gone to grad school

Why are you here? Because its National Poetry Month and this is a fun interview...thanks for having me.

Karen from Mentor said...

What should you do if I fall asleep?--

I'd cover you with a nice soft blankie--right after I rifled through your pockets.

Marisa Birns said...

Oh, thank you. I take my tea with milk, no sugar.

Why am I here? Well, I followed Karen's pointing finger and she's never led me too astray.

What does "people who live in glass houses" mean?
--They are exhibitionists

Yes, I would visit a country where nobody talks. A lot can be learned from facial expressions and silence.

It was a lovely visit. Thank you.

Betty (Beth) said...

What is today's date? April 22, 2010

Who is the President? President Barak Obama

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten? To Myself: 8. To others: 5

What does "people who live in glass houses" mean? Living in a transparent world makes it harder to pick your nose.

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false? Trueish

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche? I'm leaning towards yes.

Name five rivers. Potomac, Missouri, Mississippi, Meramec, Muddy

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes? Working.

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music? Sure.

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him? We'd probably just tell jokes.

What should you do if I fall asleep? Take a nap too.

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps? I don't think so.

What is the moral of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"? I don't think I made it to the moral part.

What about his Everest shadow? Pretty big, I suppose.

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations? Disease

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence? Its existence.

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa? Odd Sky, Even Underworld.

Would you visit a country where nobody talks? Yes (do they sing?)

What would you have done differently? I would have written more thank you notes.

Why are you here? I like reading Jeanne's blog. :-)

FreshHell said...

1. April 22, 2010
2. Obama
3. 7
4. Don't be an asshole.
5. yes
6. yes
7. James, Nile, Rio Grande, South Anna, Potomac
8. Typing. Might make a potty trip.
9. Sure
10. My dad's alive so we'd be discussing current events.
11. As long as you aren't driving, I'll let you sleep.
12. No, I'm creating those footsteps.
13. We should allow more animals into the schools rather than make silly rules about who can and can't come to school. Lambs are people, too.
14. What about it?
15. The latter.
16. Neither.
17. Sacrifices to non-existent entities is just stupid.
18. Yes! Sign me up.
19. My entire education.
10. That's classified.

Jenny said...

Name five rivers: I'm on to Franz Wright's game. Lethe, Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, and Phlegethon. (I love it when my eight benighted years of studying Latin help me. :P)

John said...

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?

Neither.

The absence of suffering is illusion
Rather, those who suffer,
Carry their pain,
Like Typhoid Mary,
Passing it on
Unless they wash their hands
To the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb

Serena said...

Don't forget to add your link to Mr. Linky on the tour welcome post and send the full link to Susan at Winabook!

Thanks for participating.

Marie said...

Terrific post :-) Love it.

readersguide said...

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps?

No, I am going the other way.

Valerie said...

Would I visit a country where nobody talks? Sure, if they use sign language :-) !

Jeanne said...

Serena, You show a certain facility with this line of difficult questioning that leads me to believe you're not easily intimidated by anything in poetry. Glad to have you in SPEP!

Karen, You show a degree of joy in imagining possible answers that indicates you're always ready to be pleased by poetry. Thanks for joining SPEP!

Marisa, your answers show that you can think outside the box (especially if it's see-through), so you're able to consider the big questions of poetry. Glad to welcome you to SPEP!

Betty, your answers show creativity, like the one about people who don't talk being able to sing (a country of stutterers?) Thanks for your contribution to SPEP!

FreshHell, you never fail to crack me up. Your answer to the "people who live in glass houses" question--that it means "don't be an asshole"--strikes me as just right. And "lambs are people too"--I mean, it sounds silly, and yet there's a mildly serious point underneath, or seems so to me. Animals were banned from schools here a few years back; we heard that it was because a classroom bunny bit a student or some such thing. Thank you for being in SPEP!

Jenny, since I thought these were largely unanswerable questions, I'm impressed that you came up with those five. Thanks for bringing the unearthly to SPEP!

John, how can I not love an answer that takes the form of a poem? I'm reminded of the days when I assigned my kids a song so they'd wash their hands for long enough. So glad you're in SPEP!

Marie, it's a good idea sometimes to just love it, rather than try to say why. Thanks for joining in with SPEP!

ReadersGuide, your contrary attitude is just what we need sometimes in this group. Thanks for taking part in SPEP!

Valerie, like Betty, your answer shows creativity. Can't have too many of you in SPEP; thanks for joining in!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oh, this is too much fun! Thanks for the e-mail. I've posted about this at Win a Book for you.

thelass said...

What would I have done differently?
Absolutely nothing.

Jeanne said...

Lass, glad to hear it. Welcome to SPEP!

Jenners said...

Oh ... hello! I loved this! So much to think about! I shall have to ponder these answers ... in fact, I see a blog post based on them coming up! : )

Cschu said...

OK. This should be interesting. (And yes, I would love some tea. Just waive the tea bag over the hot water. Actual immersion is not necessary.)

What is today's date? 4/25/2010

Who is the President? Do you mean Barack Obama or Georgia Nugent?

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten? Two, I think. My students might disagree with that.

What does "people who live in glass houses" mean? It means "be careful what you wish for because you might get it."

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false? Wow. Is this one of those "most great musicians are crazy depressed persons" stereotype. They say pretty much the same thing about mathematicians.

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche? Only if that snowflake did nothing to try to pile up into a safe mound.

Name five rivers. Kokosing river, Ohio river, Mississippi river, Amazon river, Rio Grande

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes? Taking a bath to avoid making up the test I have to give tomorrow.

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music? Yes, that would be nice. To go with the lovely bath I have planned.

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him? As it happens, I will get a half an hour with my father in a few weeks. We will talk about taking a trip together. But we might also talk about science, or politics, or music---well, that would be mostly one-sided on his side.... There is definitely not going to be any weird Freudian stuff.

What should you do if I fall asleep? Well.... since your falling asleep before you go to bed at night is so rare, maybe I should call the paramedics.

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps? Yup. Still hope to grow up to be just like him some day. Alas, it looks increasingly like that will never happen.

What is the moral of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"? The best way to find love is to love.

What about his Everest shadow? Are we talking Sir Edmund Hilary? No. I have no desire to walk in those footsteps. So I reject the shadow.

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations? Mostly the former, as I increasingly find out.

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence? Definitely the latter. It is amazing to see people who, by all evidence, should be suffering but seem to rise above it.

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa? Wait! I don't want to sacrifice either of them.

Would you visit a country where nobody talks? This would be hard for me. Isn't this approximately what it is like to visit a country where no one speaks your language? That prospect does daunt me a bit. But it would be very good for me.

What would you have done differently? I would have read more widely.

Why are you here? Some people might say it is because God had a sense of humor.

Do I get in? No... I thought not. It's that prosaic mind of mine. But thanks for the tea!

Jeanne said...

Carol, You get to come in and sit by Serena, for even attempting the unanswerable questions. I'm most amused at your answer to the one about the symphony because I, of course, interpreted that to mean that hearing a symphony would make me postpone suicide. It is a beautiful thing to sit inside a symphony and hear it from there.

And it's a good thing to refuse to be intimidated by poetry! Welcome to SPEP.

Karen said...

April 26

The one who has aged a decade in the last 2 years.

Three

Potential hyprocrites

Each symphony has probably postponed or averted at least one suicide; many (most?) may also have actualized one.

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche?

Ohio, Monongahela, Allegheny, Nile, Amazon

Surfing the web, wasting another 10 minutes that I'll never retrieve!

Does Pandora count?

The next time I see my dad I expect will be at my sister's wedding. Perhaps I'll just ask if he wants to dance.

Kick you? Are we in class together?

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps?

If someone's going to follow you around everywhere, at least look for the positives in the situation. I mean, come on....how many sheep do you know that are not dirty and kind of smelly? At least Mary wasn't trailed by one of the usual kind.

(This answer intentionally left blank.)

No.


Both. Perhaps its absence.


How does one sacrifice a number? Do I have to vow never to use it again? I think I'd rather not sacrifice any numbers, if it's all the same to you. I find them useful.


Hmm. It depends. Am I bound (legally, magically, physically) to muteness while I'm there if I go? And if so, do I regain my usual facility with speech immediately when I leave?


Been bolder.


Because I haven't been bold enough.

estrella05azul said...

Let's see :)

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten?
- Probably around 3, but I'll go with 5 and then add to or take from that regarding how much I like a person.

Name five rivers.
- Danube, Olt, Timiş, Someşul Mic, Siret
(from Romania, except the Danube which originates from Germany and flows eastwards passing through four Central and Eastern European capitals, before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine.

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes?
- Still reading blogs :)

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations?
- Oh yes, the Romanian educational system is totally like a rare disease... but at least we did learn a lot (read as a LOT).

Would you visit a country where nobody talks?
- Wish I could sometimes! :)

Enjoyed this little interview, great idea!

estrella05azul said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeanne said...

Estrella, You give our little SPEP group some more international flair. You might like to sit by Jenny, who also livened up the rivers question!

Anonymous said...

Poetry--real poetry--ought to have built into it some hidden mechanism that gives the most outrageously glib, literal minded and cheerful morons a severe electrical shock so that they eventually turn their "attention" to the dumbing down and desecration of other human endeavors. Then they should be given a job that keeps them busy, the intellectually and morally challenged need something to keep them busy, I don't know what--probably a good idea would be perpetual kindergarten attendance.
I read this thing and I simply cannot believe that any of you could actually be this pathetically, almost eerily lacking not only in intelligence but the ability to perceive how embarrassingly creepy you are. Are all of you students at a "special school" or something. FW

Jeanne said...

Anonymous FW, that's the difference between you and me. You're trying to keep standards high. I'm trying to invite people in.

For various reasons, a lot of people in the world today have grown up hating or feeling indifferent to poetry. I don't think being snide about where they start is going to make better readers of poetry out of them, do you?

Jeanne said...

Oh and FW, if you want a select audience for your poems, don't publish them.

Serena said...

Thanks for the invitation to SPEP!

Lass said...

Hmm. I was going to say something about an inflated sense of importance and the lack of guts involved in anonymously posting such defensive vitriol, but I think Jeanne's comment pretty much says it all.

Lass said...

p.s. Is it wrong that I take "Embarrassingly Creepy" as a compliment? Please advise.

Valerie said...

I am just flabbergasted that anonymous FW would actually leave such an insulting comment.

As Jeanne said, she was attempting to invite people into the world of poetry -- whether we are new to it or have been in it for a while.

During this blog tour, I have been making notes of poets to check out further. Guess this poet is one I will NOT be one of them. Too bad!

Don't let this bad apple spoil the experience for us. There are so many good poets out there who are actually eager to have us read and discuss their poetry.

Harriet said...

As a writer, I always assume that once I release it, it's a different thing that it is when it's on my computer. That's neither good nor bad (or perhaps either good or bad), it's just what is. Moreover, if I think everyone is "misreading" one of my poems, I assume it's my fault for not making my intentions clear. That's the job of a writer, not the audience. If you leave it open -- then you take what you get.

FreshHell said...

I might add that I took this post, and this poem, as a fun exercise. I certainly know how to properly "appreciate" ART in all its forms but I can also find the fun in it. I fail to see what is so wrong about enjoying a piece of writing from various angles including the absolute literal one. And, I read a poem I would never otherwise have read. Should I simply not read poetry because I have the brain of a kindergartener (and, frankly, as I own a kindergartener, I have to say that's not such a terrible thing to be)? I actually did go to college. Perhaps I should have instead signed on to mine coal or mop floors where I didn't have to think so much because thinking really hurts my poor brain. OUCH!

What's disturbing is a writer (speaking as one, believe it or not) whose skin is so very thin that his veins are practically bursting through the onion skin wrapped around your muscles. You know, the things attaches to your bones that allow you to pick up that special sparkly pencil and write really deep obscure words on a fresh white piece of paper that regular morons will point and laugh at.

Jeanne said...

Perhaps I should have shaped the discussion more--instead of leaving the poem wide open for any kind of imaginative play, I could have introduced it in terms of how the questions progress in difficulty until the poem reveals itself to be at least partly about the absurdity of expecting an answer to such questions.

Perhaps we should each take a nice, deep internet breath anytime we're tempted to point out what we see as absurdity.

Betty (Beth) said...

I don't think you did anything wrong, Jeanne. A quick google search shows that this guy has a pretty "mean" online presence. Probably anything we would have said would have provoked an equally negative reaction on his part.

Keep up your very fun, interesting and always thought provoking blog posts. I'm still a member SPEP and I'm proud of it!

lemming said...

IMHO, some people want to be offended and seek it out.

Jodie said...

Well that's lovely isn't it and I can't tell you how much it makes someone who didn't take part in this exercise, but does read here often, want to go out and explore more of your poetry.

Jeanne I like your definition of this exercise as a form of imaginative play. And on a sidenote this poem is constructed entirely of questions, does thhe author not think the real answers to some of these things might be popping into people's brains as they read, even if they know not to take it literally as a q and a session? What's the harm in letting people speak back to the poem, rather than keeping the dialogue one sided?

Karen said...

Sod off, Mr Wright. The fact that we can make light of your brilliance doesn't make us morons.

I do buy poetry. I do go to readings. I do recommend to others. I do read, absorb, appreciate.

I also laugh. Deal with it.

You can bet your special snowflake self that I won't be doing any more of that for you. There are plenty of good (better) artists and writers out there whose work I'd rather spend time with.

Jeanne--not your fault that the work you featured turned out to have been turned out by a jackass. I enjoyed playing, regardless. You know I'll be back, regularly.

Jenners said...

I ended up writing a whole post about this ... here is the link:

http://mrsfligs.blogspot.com/2010/04/answering-questions-posed-in-poem.html

Jenners said...

Well, that was interesting to read FW's comment. Lord OH Lord. You get excited about a poem and get inspired by it ... to share it ... to write more about it ... and then the poet has to basically tell you what an idiot you are. A major turn-off, I must say. Does he not have any whimsy?