We’ve been thinking a lot about positions and perspectives - how they define who we are, and how we define the world. We invited a few of our contributors to share their perspectives with us.
In my political work over the years (some of which includes protests about the Vietnam war and draft counseling in my student days) I have always tried to remember the position of privilege from which I speak as a white, cis-gender, upper middle class woman. Some of that awareness impels "Guards and Guardians"-- for example, I was indeed instructed in how to speak to doormen-- though, as I always warn my students, biographical experience is generally reshaped in some ways in poetry. But I have also confronted types of prejudice, though not in the same league as some from which I've been spared. E.g., early in my career, as a woman and a married woman I regularly ran into egregious assumptions that I was not really serious about my career. My favorite story: when I discovered that my salary was lower than it should have been, an affirmative action officer no less, at an institution I won't name, said, "But Heather. we thought you'd be so pleased to be teaching where your husband was that you wouldn't care what we paid you."
Another type of background derives from being an editor of my college newspaper, a position that bred a commitment to speaking truth to power, which
I have retained and attempted to strengthen over the years.
I'm certainly aware that writing poems has been a way of responding to the deaths of people close to me. I have been interested in, though unable so far fully to explicate, the fact that after my mother's death I could not write at all for about six months, while the death of my father, to whom I was much closer, inspired a series of poems. The premature death of my ex-husband also impelled poems-- which were all prose poems.
More specifically, as a young literature professor I was discouraged from writing poetry, told implicitly and sometimes explicitly that as a serious literary critic I should abandon this unfortunate distraction of writing poetry. In response, I attempt to encourage graduate students to see that if they want, they can do both.
The political and social future of our country, and in particular the 2020 elections.
I am deeply committed to challenging the binaries between "traditional" and "experimental" poetry and "convention" and "innovation," and especially their appearance in the misapprehension that all poetry written before the past fifty years or so was that c-word, conventional.