rip the heart out of a wheelbarrow

Adèle Barclay: Whether you’re reading a periodical, a collection, or contest submissions, what kinds of poems catch your attention and stick with you?

Steven Heighton: My answer to that question changes all the time, depending on what's happening in my life or in the world. Right now the poems that most compel me are the ones that choke me up—poems that could rip the heart out of a wheelbarrow. I'm also gravitating toward work that emerges from the nightmind, as I call it—poems born of dreams and hallucinations. Weird, oneiric stuff. By the same token, I'm tired of poems that seem primarily to be auditioning for a collegial constituency, demonstrating the poet's fluent familiarity with the films, songs, shows, apps, etc. that he or she knows colleagues to be co-immersed in. Intertextuality of that kind can be brilliant and effective, for sure, but only in the context of work emerging from some deeper psychic impulse. More and more what Philip Larkin said about poems makes sense to me: "I didn't go looking for them, either." I guess that's it: the poems that compel me are, or at least seem to be, received, not devised.

- Steven Heighton, in interview with Adèle Barclay over at The Malahat Review. You can read the whole thing here.

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