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Lisa Marie Basile
NYC
Poet, Editor of Luna Luna Mag, Aradia
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I have come to greatly value the idea of mystery and equanimity when it comes to my own beliefs about the world. But that sense of mystery is what leads me to explore it more and more. In fact, all my books have a moment where my own ideas or sense of reality are questioned, and opened, and stared at like a wound. Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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This is part of my Poetry & Belief Series. Read parts 1 and 2 here, with poets Lisa A. Flowers and Rosebud Ben-Oni, respectively. In part 3, I interview Rachel Eliza Griffiths, an astounding poet and visual artist. --- LISA MARIE BASILE: Your work as a poet draws upon some beautiful ideas of god, and in your language there is a feeling of holiness. But then you write, "For a husband who could not save his entire family/ because he only had two hands. For their house split/ in half by water. For his wife’s last words: you can’t hold on/ and hold me. For the absence of God as she dropped his hands/ and gave herself like a petal to the gulf." Sometimes I think writing is the poet's way of finding God, even if it exists only in our hopes. Are you trying to find or provide answers in your work? RACHEL ELIZA GRIFFITHS: I don't want to write poems that ever attempt to answer anything, especially anything as complex and profound a subject as God. I'd rather leave the space of finding answers to the reader. I'm fine with being unresolved. We can each try to make sense of the world until the next moment arrives to remind us how little we know. As a poet, I'm more concerned about how questions function in my poems and in the ways these questions resonate with tension for the reader and myself. The intimacy between language and readers is already a great power. I would hope that my work would reflect my desire to witness a strong sense of spirit in our common experiences, including our miracles, however ordinary, however sublime. Often, I feel aligned to the role of a witness, a participant of what Lorca articulated in his theory of Duende. When I read another poet's work and I can suddenly hear or experience Duende, I feel both gratitude and hope. The lines you quoted are from a poem. 'Hymn to a Hurricane', which was written about Hurricane Katrina. One of the many things about the poem is about my role (and frustration) as a poet when this was all happening. I watched and listened to so many stories of loss and survival. One day I was watching the news and saw a man who shared how he had been holding both his wife and son as they struggled to get up on their roof. At a pivotal moment the husband and wife realize that they are all not going to survive. Before the husband has to choose the wife lets go of his hand so that their son is saved. I will never forget the man's face or how he held his son against him as he shared this. His name was Hardy Jackson and his wife's name was Tonette Jackson. I believe he died from lung cancer in 2013. The poem was also about trying to make a record for his and his wife's faith, to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
This is part II of the Poetry & Belief Series. In this interview, Rosebud Ben-Oni and I discuss how her work directly interacts with faith and culture. She also offers a new poem. Check out the Poetry & Belief series opener here. --- Lisa Marie Basile: Your work deals largely with God and culture. I loved these poems, and thought there was a lot to unpack here. How do you approach writing about belief? Was this something you always knew you'd examine, or does it fall out naturally? Rosebud Ben-Oni: I’ve been drawn to conflict for as long as I can recall. I struggle with the weight of the various histories I’ve inherited. Perhaps it’s also the nature of being mixed, and the experiences of living in places like Jerusalem and the U.S.-Mexican border, that I must respond to these histories and places in order to be of them. Since I am not of one thing (and really, few of us are), I must create places and memories in verse to give myself origins as a writer. Recently, I guest edited an Imaginary Homelands feature for Winter Tangerine Review, and wrote this introduction to the series in which I proposed that hybridity has its own purity, and the idea that origins evolve and have more than one story. Rarely is anything static, so why should our literary and religious canons be? Around a decade or so ago, I stopped attending Shabbat services regularly; I felt something was stuck. I wanted to move forward, to something greater. I can’t do this with Judaism as it is now. I do still recite prayers like the V'ahavta because otherwise I wonder, what is a Jew without practice? (For me that question mirrors this one: what is a writer who doesn’t write?) Even though I no longer belong to a synagogue, I stay bound to the idea of inherited history by praying. But it is in poetry that I engage with the cosmos, as a living thing beyond being alive, as a force that stretches towards something beyond limits. That is what I mean by moving forward. Lisa Marie Basile: Your new poem All The Wild Beasts I Have Been is an intense examination of religious belief and family acceptance in a time of war. I sense a deep struggle in this poem, and want to know more. After all this darkness and grief - is the writing cathartic? Rosebud Ben-Oni: I have to fight for that kind of catharsis, and it never fully comes because I’m old enough to know better. I don’t just mean peace in the Middle East; I mean admitting all the beliefs that make me a poet. Living in Jerusalem brought out something very brutal and raw that I cannot destroy. That kind of candidness that reveals the division between the soul and the brain, the secular from the spiritual, all the contradictions that make life difficult. Jerusalem, as sacred as it is held, is very provincial at the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I am fascinated with contemporary poetic notions of reincarnation, death, myth and religion and atheism. And so in this series, I will interview poets about how their work intersects with belief. Here's the kickoff post, with Lisa A. Flowers. Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Nov 10, 2014