Interview with P. Scott Cunningham
Hinchas: With the advent of e-books and readers, what might happen to Poetry? Does the current technology present opportunities for burgeoning poets? What are you doing to ensure that poetry is not just read by other poets? Is ephemeral poetry somehow more natural and appropriate than poems printed on paper?
P. Scott Cunningham: Holy shit! That’s four mammoth-sized questions, and all of them are difficult. I’ll answer them in order.
Poetry will be fine. I think there’s going to more and more of a stress on the live reading, not only in a financial sense but also in a “you haven’t lived until you’ve seen this band live” sense. I think we’re moving into a period when there’s going to be a lot more Matin Espadas and Tony Hoaglands, poets who own the stage, without delving into spoken word. But poetry itself is going to be bigger and more popular too, which means mores of everything—avant-garde, concrete, flarf, conceptual, formalism, etc.
Technology: Well, what technology are you referring to? It’s cheaper to print a book than ever, which I think means more opportunity because there will be more small presses like yours. But let’s face it: most online poetry journals are fairly navel-gazing. There’s only going to ever be a few journals that matter, and what’s wrong with that? My philosophy is if you can’t get your work into one (and I include myself here because I guarentee you I have more rejections per minute writing poetry than anyone reading this), write better poetry. Until then, why not publish it yourself? Or print it out and give it to your friends? It’s better than stuffing it into a drawer.
Hinchas: Do you feel that Miami poets write more about nature because it is so prevalent in the landscape of the city, or do Miami poets write just as much about materialism and the extravagances of consumption, i.e. silicone breast implants, expensively-detailed automobiles, and designer bronzing lotions?
P. Scott Cunningham: I truly can’t speak of Miami poets, partly because I don’t think there is such a thing yet. And now we’re back to the make-believe of academia. Once some young lit professor takes it upon his- or herself to codify whatever poetry has been written here, then we’ll know what traits it possesses. But even then it will be an invention. My suspicion is that Miami poets are no more nature-oriented than any other group of poets. The fact is all of us we’ve all internalized a lot of nature writing because we were taught the Western canon. It’s kind of inescapable. If we aren’t writing about the extravangances of consumption—and some of us, led by Campbell—definitely are, we should be. A Lamborgini is no less a poetic subject than a tree, but one of those two has received more than its share of air-time and one hasn’t. I think this is why people love Frederick Siedel right now. He speaks for that dark place of incredible wealth and priviledge that dominates our culture.
P. Scott Cunningham: No, I don’t think Miami has its own sound yet, but it will. Miami poets—in English—making the most racket are Campbell McGrath and Tom Healy. (I’m purposely not including “South Florida poets”, which would expand my list to Broward County folks like Denise Duhamel and Michael Hettich.) After eight books, Campbell’s still testing the limits of what’s possible in lyric poetry. And Tom has one very good book out, and I think it’s just the beginning of a Gerald Stern-like career. I’ve also always admired Caridad McCormick’s work. And Jessia Machado’s. And your boy Abel Folgar is a sleeping giant.
Hinchas de Poesia, Winter, 2010
Edited by Yago Cura & J. David Gonzalez
Invincible Court, NYC, NY 10030