“I don’t write poetry. It writes me,” says Charles Bane Jr., author of Love Poems his latest from Aldrich Press. This is similar to the feeling expressed by the great master painter Vincent Van Gogh who said that “paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul.”
Bane too is interested in the artist’s soul, likening the writing of a poem to “a mystery embraced in the deepest, quiet corner of the heart…its words finding sense in the Rosetta Stone of the soul.”
Here then is a portrait of love in all its shadows and light–one that sends the reader soaring out into the universe and floating backwards and forward through time. After consuming such a feast, one can not help but have the sense that life is some grand story in which we are all linked and co-conspirators.
This feeling only intensifies when you actually hear the poet reading his own, beautiful words in that deep, rich voice. Several of the poems from the chapbook are available online. Below are two favorites: a Youtube Video of “Listen” followed by an audio recording of the glorious “As Einstein Pedaled”.
Gorgeous! I’m also rather fond of this one:
For My Son
I will not waiver or protest
that the wait is hard to bear;
The parent-to-be is patient
for the child he cannot see, knowing
that eternity is rounding unknown
seas to fishing nets. My
beloved, I wait. I stand upon
the beach, my arms are wide, you
must swim to the sound of me
and lights undreamed. We shall be
coins of sides alike and sleep together
in the shade. You are the growing
length of me that lays
upon a floor of leaves
and says, there is no end to light
or closing of the day. There are only
clarions that pierce the dark
with mirror songs like these.
There are many more such beauties where that came from. Order from the link above, and be sure to follow his (managed) Facebook account to stay up-to-date on new postings.
And now on to the good stuff. Without further ado, I bring you …..
Q&A with the Poet
Q: Your first chapbook was illustrated and with your love for fine art, and in particular, the boisterous colors of Marc Chagall, why then does Love Poems include only the (rather sedate) cover art?
That’s a good question. I felt convinced that the subject matter had to be presented in an understated way; romantic poetry is almost unknown in contemporary poetry, and I wanted a graphic format that underlined that this was a serious entry that happened to be centered on its theme. The image on the cover goes back to the Greeks, and to me, is poignant: the poet is alone singing to the night sky. The role hasn’t much changed, though now poets hope their voices will be distinct amid the noise of technology.
Q: Tell me a bit more about your process. Are you a pen and yellow pad type guy? How much do you revise? Do you keep a writer’s notebook?
It took me a long time to switch to laptop from pad and pencil, but now paper and pen seem cumbersome. I very rarely revise; the poem revises itself as it’s being written.While you write, you edit. In my excitement, I’ll repeat “the” twice, but catch it. You’re peeling the outer layers until you’re left with the seed. If you revise, you take out, not add. Adding never works, ever. The whole process is from the unconscious. You don’t want it to be personal. That may sound strange, but if by writing you keep a distance from Self, then the result speaks to the many.
Q: Love poetry has been called “the great neglected tradition” and many blame the internet and the rise of the “age of information” for its demise. Can please you comment on those sentiments and speak briefly about the form’s long history and your interest?
There is a very old copy of Shakespeare’s works in the library at Oxford, and it’s in excellent condition- except for the pages of Romeo and Juliet which are worn from centuries of students reading the play. We’re drawn to love poetry like moths to light.
The internet aside a moment, contemporary poetry is profoundly changed. Modern poetry is ignored by large publishing houses that are increasingly corporate and consolidated and attached by ownership to the major media outlets that promote their products. Advertising costs are enormous. And the price of books have gone up. Publishing and distribution is becoming a battle of titans. Jeff Bezos is no less ruthless than the founders of Standard Oil.
Into this, literary journals and small presses have stepped to fill the void and many Americans are unaware that we are, in fact, in a golden age. Hundreds of small presses and literary journals exist in the U.S. alone, and they are committed to publishing the finest poets. It’s important to note that many of these are women, part of a new wave of feminism , who are writing work that is ahead of history. They assert their equality, and reward the reader who acknowledges it, with gifted work: Saskia Hamilton, Ariana Nash, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, are the Pulitzer winners of tomorrow. Gay, Lesbian African American and Latino voices are also being heard–many by presses and journals dedicated to them alone.
None of these are writing abstract, indulgent or confessional poetry. They’re producing genius that was long stifled.
Q: In your letters to poet Donald Hall and in your interview with Diana Peck at Calliope Nerve, you speak about your fondness for social media and its role in literary community-building. Does it give you hope for the revival of poetry in the social consciousness?And what are your fears for the rising generation of poets?
I have hope and fear at the same time.Everyone knows Millennials communicate in a new way. They text, they don’t often speak on their cells. They are closer to information they need, but isolated socially by their own apparatus. But you reach critical mass: you need eloquence. You need meaning. Poetry gives them that and they can find it online in journals that operate in the same cultural shadow that millennials find themselves in corporate America.
Q: You grew up in a political city as the son of a civil rights activist and with your own foot in humanitarian doors, yet your work largely avoids both the Chicago landscape and wider political issues. Is this a deliberate choice or an outcrop of your belief that great poetry is to be a the means of transport to a more universal shared soul?
First, I think it’s important to have more than one interest, to be a whole person. I feel an obligation to make the world a better place. I feel an obligation to be intellectually curious. And we live in roiling times, so there’s no shortage of causes. We’ve stepped backward socially and thinking people know it. I have a deep commitment to the Black community, and I’m encouraged that the idea of reparations is on the table. I’ll be there to pound my fist.
But those are deeds. Art has to be durable.. Richard Hass won the Pulitzer for a book that has a long poem titled “Bush’s War”. Perhaps it was right, perhaps not, to include it. But I don’t write that way, though I did write a poem for Troy Davis when he was executed. But unless your work is bearing witness as its mission, I think topical poems are a mistake.
Q: This chapbook has classical roots both in its form and subject matter. Will your next collection “The Ends of the Earth” continue in that vein? And are there any plans to delve into a non-fiction collection now that you’re blogging at Curbside Splendor—perhaps something centered around the S. Florida landscape or your Jewish heritage?
The Ends Of The Earth is centered on the intersection of science and faith. It’s daunting. We have strong evidence that our universe was bruised in collision with another. We know of another 400 planets that have been tallied. What effect does this have on our sense of worth? How will this change us? Poets, I think, have an obligation to pursue the mystery.
Q: I know you’ve mentioned the deep importance of Virgil and the influence of e.e. cummings and Elizabeth Bishop. What living poets are you reading? And who or what would you like to see more of?
I think Elizabeth Bishop was the finest American poet of the 20th century. I deeply regret I didn’t contact her when I read Geography lll. She was still at Harvard. The old guard– Bishop, Wilbur , Hall, were or are more accessible and more secure in themselves. I read them and new poets. There’s no greater pleasure than discovering new talent. I’ve had five or six young people published for the first time. You have to give back.
I called Richard Wilbur to ask him to blurb my book. He’s the Dean of American poetry. Ninety-four or so, but very sharp. He asked me when I was first published. I told him I was twelve. “Latecomer!!”, he laughed. He was published at eight. A wonderful man.
Q: You’ve been nominated for the post of Poet Laureate of Florida. If appointed what would you do to raise the status of poetry in the state? Who are some of your favorite Floridian poets? Small presses?
The post is ceremonial, and there’s no assurance I’ll win the appointment. Obviously, the selection is politicized. I’ll be the same man, whatever the outcome. The post is for four years. I want to highlight to the public the same issues I’ve addressed here. And point to our university literary journals that are very gifted. Our County Library system is putting my books on their shelves in a pilot program of highlighting Florida authors. I want to play a part in that.
Q: There’s something very comforting about your deep, rich voice. I so enjoy the poetry albums you post on Soundcloud and YouTube. Are there any plans to collaborate on readings of other poets? Anyone in particular you’d like to work with?
I’ve recorded some Yeats. I’m not sure it’s still out there on the ether. Curbside did a CD of The Chapbook that I recorded as an mp3. I think readers can listen to it without charge. I’m not self -oriented, and I’m self conscious when I hear my voice.
I’d like to end by noting that Love Poems is going to be made free online in a month or so. My wife will give the details on her Twitter page @AnnBane. I’m not on social media. It’s time consuming, and I want to write. I’m grateful more than I can say to her for her role in promoting my work. I’m in love with her, and she’s interwoven in my writing.
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