The Sigh Press Interview with poet Alicia Ostricker.

The Sigh Press is a literary journal based in Florence that aims to shine a light on the writing talent in and passing through Tuscany. It publishes a quarterly online journal and in between those issues, the Ampersand series of interviews with writers and artists. The Sigh Press has collaborated with St Mark’s’ Florence Writers on numerous events, such as readings, workshops and more.

Check out their latest interview with award-winning poet Alicia Ostricker.

Author of numerous poetry collections as well as a critical writer, Alicia Suskin Ostriker received the William Carlos Williams Award for The Imaginary Lover (1986), the Paterson Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award for The Crack in Everything (1996), the Jewish National Book Award for The Book of Seventy (2009), and she was twice a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent collection is Waiting for the Light (2017). She has received fellowships and awards from, among others, the NEA, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, and the Poetry Society of America. Ostriker is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University.

“When I give poetry readings, my hope is to make people in my audience laugh and cry … As an American poet I see myself in the line of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg, those great enablers of the inclusive democratic impulse, the corollary of which is formal openness.” (Poetry Foundation)

What book (not written by you) comes closest to capturing something about you? What is this aspect?

Two books, one old, one new: Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” read in adolescence, seemed to me to speak my own thoughts, my own concealed energy, my own Spirit enclosed in a Body of flesh I cherished—just as Whitman intended. Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, read when I was a young mother, captured my interior rage, self-hate, suicidal fantasies. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then…

What is the biggest personal obstacle you must overcome in order to write?

Right now, the biggest personal obstacle is the absence of something significant to say. See the poems in the next issue of The Sigh Press (Issue 16).

With the world the way it is and the innumerable distractions in daily life, how do you find the time and dedication to pursue something as ephemeral as an idea?

When I do have an idea, I am obsessed with it, and then it is easy to push other things aside, and attempt to put that idea into the right words, in the right order.

“The everyday” is clearly a protagonist (or catalyst) in your work. Is this a way into writing for you? Can you tell us a little bit about the process that takes you from the mundane towards the transcendent?

Transcendence doesn’t interest me. It is immanence that I seek—the deep spirit within ourselves, and within the material world. Though the spirit perhaps “cometh from afar,” as Wordsworth says, I find it within. “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,” as Lawrence says. Or to descend into the self as into a well.

Continue reading the interview at The Sigh Press.


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