Sarah Manguso

In what ways might you consider yourself an American poet?

Geographically, unless you mean not American but of the United States, in which case legally.

Do you believe there is anything specifically American about American poetry past and present?

Defining an abstraction (such as American) in order to argue that it exists as such is just a semantic exercise.

Is there American poetry in the sense that there is said to be American painting or American film?

Same answer as previous.

What role do historical and geographical factors play in American poetry and in your work specifically?

A role unknowable to the one who makes the work.

What other aspects of your life relate to your sense of being a poet in America?

All of them.

Is there something formally distinctive about American poetry?

Distinctive from what?

What significance does popular culture possess in your sense of American poetry?

That Abstraction X possesses a significance in my sense of Abstraction Y is true of virtually any two abstractions.

When you consider your own "tradition," do you think of American poets? of non-American poets?

I don't find it useful to gather writers into Us and Them.

Which historic poets do you consider most responsible for generating distinctly American poets?

Assuming historic means deceased, all of them, everyone anyone has ever seen or heard or read or otherwise known, unless we're talking about what the official literary business recognizes as American poetry, in which case the correct answer is Dickinson and Whitman, then everyone else in descending order according to the following award system: five points for every book in print, three points for every poem in an anthology, two points for every appearance on a university syllabus, and so on…

What are your predictions for American poetry in the next century?

I predict that great and terrible poetry will continue to be written by people from every environment in this political state and this geographical area and that the official literary business will continue to fear and ignore all but the tiniest, most conformist fraction of it.

A superior response to these questions, to which I respectfully direct the reader, was submitted by Anne Stevenson in 1999.




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