Invited Poets to 25 Medellín International Poetry Festival
July 11th to 18th, 2015
Poets from America
Courageous Conversations Whitworth University: Katharine Coles
Katharine Coles was born in USA. She is a poet, storyteller, novelist, editor, essayist and university professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah, where he also directs the Utah Symposium on Science and Literature.
She has published, among other books of poems: The One Right Touch, 1992; The Golden Years of the Fourth Dimension, 2001 (Winner of Utah Book); The Fault, 2008; and The Earth is Not Flat, 2010, which was produced after a trip to Antarctica, thanks to a scholarship from the Antarctic program writers and artists of the National Science Foundation.
According to James McClintock "The Earth Is Not Flat captures the essence of Antarctica through its wonderful depictions of myriad forms of ice, rich diversity of sea life, and the people that carve out a life of science upon its shores. Collectively, the poems paint a poignant and prophetic story—not only of the raw and challenging beauty of this remarkable place—but of the interdependence of ice and life in a rapidly changing environment.”
Her poems, essays and stories have appeared in magazines such as The Paris Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry, North American Review, Southwest Review, DIAGRAM, and Ascent, and have been translated into Italian, Dutch and Chinese. He also published novels Fire Season, 2005 and the Measurable World, 1995.
You are smaller than I remember
And so is the house, set downhill
Afloat in a sea of scrub oak. From up here
It’s an ordinary box with gravel
Spread over its lid, weighting it, but
Inside it’s full of shadows and sky.
Clouds pull themselves over dry
Grass, which, if I’m not mistaken, will erupt
Any minute in flame. Only
A spark, a sunbeam focused. From up
Here, enjoying the view, I can finally
Take you in. Will you wave back? I keep
Slingshotting around. There’s gravity
For you, but all I ever wanted was to fly.
By Katharine Coles
Manifest. An indication. A proclamation. A list, to make visible through language what would otherwise be hidden, say, below board.
Clearly revealed or open to view—or to reveal, to make obvious. To unfold, to prove, to reveal the self as existing. To enumerate, to opinionate.
I have never been a writer of manifestos—only a writer of poems, a close reader and observer of poems, and, I hope, a close reader and observer of the world and its inhabitants, human and other, which I would like my poems to manifest, make manifest, prove. This is the society of poets—or at least of this poet. From my small place of looking, I see that the world and its creatures are frail and stubborn, imbued at once with beauty and cruelty to break my heart, and that everything, from ephemeral flower to mayfly to granite boulder, undergoes, endures, constant change within time. Who am I to imagine I could be as sure and steady as a mountain? I am as provisional as anything, subject to and part of the change occurring around me, all and all to myself but tiny in respect to the whole. It behooves me to be aware of this. If I must erode, I can also build.
For me, then, at the heart of poetry are attention and perception, and how attention and perception alter both perceiver and other—call her the reader—who enters into and participates in perception as it is enacted on the page. Language is the medium and the site of this entering; language directs attention, is where attention is directed, and is where perception and the transformations that arise from it are shared.
Because of the workings of language, connection to the world and to others outside the self of the poet is inherent to the practice of poetry—this empathetic movement, sometimes hot and sometimes cool, is its point, its method, and its ethical heart. Poetic connection occurs through poetry’s conversation, in argument and confirmation, not only with the larger body of poetry—every poem, every poet—but also in its figures and in the empathy it creates between poet and others, now living and yet to come. This connection must occur regardless of the poem’s subject matter or its rhetorical position, whether its technique and the transmission of its messages are direct or indirect, noisy or whispered.
It must occur because without connection and empathy change is impossible. This is true for me, and perhaps for others as well. The poem provides the space in which change performs itself—in which in writing I not only permit the world to effect its change upon me but also come to apprehend the change, and in which the reader, in turn, permits her own change to occur and be accommodated. The poem reaches into the past by listening to, reading, echoing, and repudiating old voices continuing; it reaches into into the present and the future through its own readers, who will perform their particular acts of listening, reading, echoing, and repudiation. Even repudiation forges the chains of connection. This essential connectivity exists whether the poet is aware of it or not, and it is social and political whether or not she deploys it intentionally toward society and politics. However, for connectivity to occur, paradoxically, the poem must live not only within the poet and her moment but also independently. To succeed ultimately, the poem must become its own being, subject like the rest of us to change with each encounter. The change occurs as the poem connects the poet to the world through perception and thought; as the poem connects itself to the world of the poet and the world of poetry in conversation with itself; as the poem connects the reader to all of the above.
To observe, to perceive nearly and accurately and then to recreate that perception so that a reader may participate in it, is, I believe, profoundly ethical, even transformative. My own practice, my ethic, is to look, to think, and to enact looking and thinking in language—to create the experience that will allow a reader to arrive at her own position. I want to move her, certainly into apprehension, perhaps into action. The action she takes is up to her.
Likewise, I would not presume here or elsewhere to tell other poets how to create ethical resonance between their poems, which come from that place where their singular minds meet the world, and the world beyond the poems, or what that resonance should effect in the world. It’s not for me to tell other poets what to look at or how; it is not even for me to say about my own poems. I leave that to readers. It is, rather, for me to be for other poets as open a reader I can be, eager to be shown something, subject to being moved as I wish my own readers to be.
The poetry of the earth is ceasing, I hope, never.
I can’t move unless I am moved, can change nothing unless I change. In any given moment, I may be opinionated, but I find I am not necessarily one to hold onto her opinions. As the world changes before me—as my poems change before the world—I too change.