Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetic Profile: Iain Haley Pollock

1) How would you describe your poetry?

In general, I’m interested in poetry that acts as a witness and either tells a story that needs to be told or in the lyric mode, captures a feeling or mood that helps me understand what it is to be human in this time and place.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

Most days I have a chance to teach, write or read poetry.  But even on the odd day when that doesn’t happen, I find that poetry often pervades my idle thoughts.  I’ll find myself playing with poetic lines in my head or evaluating experiences to see if I can mine them for poetic purposes.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you? 

My parents gave me a poetry anthology, I Am the Darker Brother,  when I was young and those poets continue to inspire me: Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and especially Robert Hayden.  In graduate school my professors introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop and Hayden Carruth.  And some of the faculty from the Cave Canem workshop remain strong influences on my work: Elizabeth Alexander, Cornelius Eady, and Carl Phillips.

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

Philly is a great poet’s town, and not only because it’s cheaper than it’s East Coast cousins. All the brick & rust could easily be construed as decay, but I find something beautiful, in an almost nostalgic sense, about the Philadelphia landscape and how the people here constantly reinvent different spaces.  But I’m most interested in human stories, and the (often eccentric) sights, sounds and stories of my neighbors move me to write.  My poems are littered with pit bulls, washing machines abandoned in lots, the exclamations of my fellow Philadelphians, cobblestone streets, folks riding the 32 bus, wasps nests, gunfire & sirens in the night.  On some level I want readers, now and in the future, to know the experiences and emotions of living in Philadelphia during the uncertainty of the early 21st century.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.
I recently finished Robinson Jeffers’ Selected Poems.  This summer while on vacation, my wife and I happened to stay around the corner from Jeffer’s old place, Tor House, in Carmel, California.  Some of the language in his poems seems antiquated now – he was writing in the early to mid-20th century but purposefully evokes an earlier time – but when his poems worked for me, their awe at the power and permanence of nature humbled me and gave me a renewed sense of the brevity of human life.

Iain Haley Pollock lives in Philadelphia and teaches English at Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy. His first collection of poems, Spit Back a Boy (University of Georgia, 2011), won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Pollock earned a bachelor's degree in English from Haverford College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University. He is a Cave Canem Fellow.

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