I did my first interviews very early in my radio career, but started to gain some skill at preparing and conducting interviews about 1990, when I became News and Community Affairs Director at KKNW-FM in Seattle. One thing this activity has given me, more than anything else, is access to some brilliant people.
Now that my focus is on Cascadia, I am dedicating the next several years to a Sudhana-like quest to better understand the genius loci of this bioregion. The latest effort in this project is the January 11 interview I did with Daphne Marlatt. From my introduction:
Daphne Marlatt is an award-winning poet who lives in Vancouver. Her poetry titles include Steveston, the Given and most recently Liquidities: Vancouver Poems Then and Now. She’s also written three novels, a collection of essays and a contemporary version of a Japanese Noh play. She’s included in Force Field, the first anthology of BC women poets published in 34 years. In addition, in 1977 Marlatt became more involved in feminist concerns, attended and organized several feminist conferences and in 1985, co-founded Tessera, a feminist journal. Around this time, she’s quoted as saying: a time of transition for me as i tried to integrate my feminist reading with a largely male-mentored postmodernist poetic, at the same time coming out as a lesbian in my life as well as in my writing.
In our first segment we talked about the movie The Line Has Shattered and how Vancouver has changed in 50 years. She said there was more experimentation back then and imagination. She talked about her poetics, how Robert Duncan was a huge mentor and through Charles Olson’s use of the notion of proprioception, how to pay attention to her own body and senses and how that led her to Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the notion of phenomenology. She noted how she began writing The Vancouver Poems from “a distance.” She also discussed her early interest in Feminism and Nicole Brossard (Part 1 7:54)
In segment two she elaborated on her perceptions of the poetics of Duncan and Olson, the critique of the cultural status quo at the time and the traces of the heroic she saw in Olson that she thought dated. She also further elaborated on how the concept of proprioception informs her work. She also discussed how Dogen is one of her favorite writers, her experience with Allen Ginsberg at the 1963 conference and how the most important part of the conference was getting a much more vivid sense of language and how that works. (Part 2 8:32)
In the third segment she elaborated on the notion of the field, as applied to poetry composition, as being akin to swimming and using a consciousness similar to how schools of fish bolt from predators or how flocks of birds know how to turn at the same time. She also discussed the 40 year process of re-publishing Liquidities, her suppression in the earlier edition of the word sh’te, how she realized that was “submerged” in the previous poems and how that related to her quest of better understanding the spirit of the city of Vancouver as well as her effort to understand how the non-Anglo spirit of Vancouver had been suppressed. Some of the Kwakwaka’wakw culture is referenced in the new version of her book. (Part 3 8:46)
In part four Daphne discussed the Hamatsa ritual of the Kwakwaka’wakw culture and how the initiate in this ritual gets advice through a woman who is rooted to the ground. She read a segment from the book that concerned this, as well as the subject of cultural appropriation and the process of editing the new version of the book Liquidities. (Part 4 9:56)
In the fifth segment she continued her discussion of editing the new version of the book, discussed the last poem in the opening series, Under, and how it’s about both the fragility of the newborn as well as our own fragility in our ecosphere. She also talked more about the Sh’te of Cascadia and how the notion of water permeates the bioregion. (Part 5 6:19)
In segment six she discussed her early exposure to aboriginal culture, her connection with aboriginal writers and her shift to feminism in her mid-life, as well as the specifics of the feminists who interested and informed her own views. (Part 6 8:59)
In the final segment she responded to a Robert Duncan quote in which he says that the various identity poetics limit us from writing as true human beings, something very difficult to do already. She talked about her Buddhist teachings and how the key issue in our age is to respond to the ecological crisis currently happening. She also commented on the nature of poetry which has a higher degree of difficulty, the differences between recognized Canadian poets and their U.S. counterparts and the influence of Buddhism on her poetry. She finished by reading one last segment from the Liquidities. (Part 7 14:45)