RR: One of challenges in writing about love and loss is avoiding becoming cliche or sentimental. As a poet, how do you ensure your approach to these topics remains fresh?
KC: One of the most beautiful poems I’ve read about love and loss is “Kiss of the Sun” by Mary Ruefle, and my favorite “romantic” film is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love them because they approach love and loss obliquely, and pay homage to the downright messiness and ineffectiveness of people. Ruefle recognizes that it’s entirely possible that she won’t be able to quench her love’s thirst, but she still promises to chuck an orange as high as she can — one last hail-mary attempt at connection. In Spotless Mind, Clementine and Joel know full well that their respective neuroses will make their relationship rife with conflict, but (spoiler alert!) they still choose to be together. I think poems risk cliche and sentimentality most when they ignore the complexity of people and real life, and the fact that it’s often through — not in spite of — hardship and conflict that the deepest love can be nurtured.
On December 16 at 7:00 pm, LangLab in South Bend, Indiana is hosting “Celebrating Emily Dickinson: An Evening of Poetry and Music.” Soprano Karen Dickerson will be singing Aaron Copland’s “Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson,” and I’ll be reading some new poems I wrote just for the event. I’m really excited to be part of this. I hope you’ll come!
If you’d like to read the essay, it can be found in cahoodaloodaling’s “Trigger Warning” issue on page 6. Download the free pdf of the issue by clicking here. TW: the essay contains content potentially triggering to survivors of sexual assault.
cahoodaloodaling has always been an absolute joy to work with, and consistently supportive of my work. I highly recommend sending them your writer things, and reading their written things, as often as practicable.