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'Poetry is how your mind gets you out': Interview with Craig Teicher

Teicher photo credit Sarah Tew An exclusive interview with "author of sad books" Craig Morgan Teicher is featured in this month's issue of The Brooklyn Rail,  with terrific insights into Teicher's perception of "sadness," the art of poetry, and his new collection To Keep Love Blurry. A personal and intimate writer, especially in his new book, Teicher gets personal in the interview about why and how he writes, and specifically why he calls himself the "author of sad books." "I think of humor as an expression of sadness," he says. "Performance is an expression of the need to be acknowledged, and I think of poetry and comedy as very similar kinds of performance, and I enjoy them both when there’s a good deal of deeply felt sadness in the mix ...I’ve never really been able to tease the two apart." Being that we constantly meet "old friends" such as Ovid, Robert Lowell, James Tate, Yeats, Auden, Seamus Heaney, James L. White, Donald Justice and W.G. Sebald in To Keep Love Blurry, interviewer Mandy Keifetz comments on the tendency for Teicher's writing to be inspired by what he is reading. "I don’t think of reading and writing as separate practices," explains Teicher. "I can’t write unless I’m in the midst of reading something that has its hooks in me. Lots of my writing begins very concretely with things I’m reading, not so much with wanting to respond to them, but with the desire to have written them. While writing these poems, I found myself wanting to know what Lowell’s poems would have sounded like if I had written them, what Sebald would have said if he were me. It’s a way of loving writers and reading and of straining to be a bit bigger than just my own mind in poetry ...It’s a conversation in which all the other books are on the other end of it." To Keep Love Blurry is different (and arguably more intimate)  than any of Teicher's other books. His mother, who died when the poet was 14, is at the forefront of the collection, although she was also present in his first book and "hiding in the trees behind the fables" in Cradle Book. But her presence is more direct in To Keep Love Blurry, Teicher says, "because this book also charts the beginning of my experience as a parent, which, at some level, ends my experience as a child (though of course that never ends)." Form is also different in this new collection, with there being more tercets, four villanelles, and a rhyming process which Teicher says he taught himself to do for the book. "The sonnet functions as a little one-room house, and the room is only ever so big, so you have to focus to fit anything in there," he says. "Then, adding the necessity to rhyme forced me to say all kinds of things I wouldn’t have otherwise. If you limit the sounds, and therefore words, you can work with, you’re backing your mind into a corner. Poetry is how your mind gets you out." To read the full interview, click here. To see how Craig Morgan Teicher uses poetry to get himself out, click here.
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