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10 Questions with Cary Waterman by Nana Aforo

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  • By Nana Aforo
    Staff Writer

    Cary Waterman is a poet and communicator. She is an assistant professor at Augsburg College and a published author. She has had her work published for over 40 years. She paints very dynamic pictures and gives atmosphere in her poetry. She does this in combination with very adept use of form. In her poetry she has a sense of being very visceral in communicating a particular emotion, personal or not, and topics that comment on society. When she says something you will feel it suddenly in your gut. Her most recent work is called “Book of Fire.”

    Cary Waterman came to Anoka-Ramsey on November 7th to take part in the Two Rivers Reading where She spoke to 211 students, faculty and staff.

    In this book she uses nature, the world at large, current and historical events, and mythology to communicate larger points ranging from being a women and daughter, to war, to family relationships. However she also has places where she becomes very personal and dark. Other places lush and abstract yet impactful. It is both beautiful and absorbing. She spoke to The Rampage about herself and her poetry. Also how she sees the world from day to day.

    1) If you were to narrow in on the thing that first made you want to write poetry, what would that be?

    I began writing poetry in school. One thing that attracted me to writing poems were the wonderful poems I read in school and at home. I wanted to be able to do that, too! I also was inspired by nature and by the changing of the seasons. And, it seemed important to me, although this realization came when I was older, to record my thoughts and perceptions.

    2) What do you find so inspiring about mythology?

    I am rather surprised to find the myths, especially the Greek myths, showing up in my work lately. As an English major and reader of literature, I was familiar with the Greek myths but I never really thought of them in a personal way. However, now they seem to be quite apparent in my life as a way of understanding my own experiences and those of others. And they are just darn good stories!

    3) How has war impacted your life?

    The Vietnam War took place during my late twenties and early thirties, so I was in the generation most affected by that war. The demonstrations of civil disobedience in opposition to the war provided a defining moment for someone such as myself who had already defined herself as a ‘rebel.’ When I use the term ‘rebel,’ I am speaking of someone who had a natural inclination for questioning the status quo. I was never very good about accepting ideas or beliefs without analyzing them and coming up with my own take.

    4) How important is form to your poetry?

    Form is very important in my poetry. I spend a lot of revision time experimenting with line breaks and stanza formation. I am always thinking about the structure of poem. I like to use the term “organic structure” which was first talked about by the poet, Denise Levertov. Organic structure means that the form and the content are not separate but develop and inform each other through the process of writing.

    5) What are some of your thoughts on feminism and how it manifests its self in 2013?

    I am a feminist in as much as I believe in equality and equal opportunity for everyone.

    6) There seems to be many themes in "Book of Fire." What made you want to name it that?

    I had a very difficult time choosing a title for this book. I talked with several poet friends and eventually I came up with BOOK OF FIRE. I like this title because it seems to apply to all the sections of the book. I was surprised to find out I was writing so frequently about the phenomenon of fire.

    7) What has inspired you recently?

    I am inspired often by nature and by the work of other poets. I am also inspired by what I hear. The snow last night was marvelous. I might begin a poem by writing about that and then it would lead to other things. I believe very much In the process and power of association. I recently camped and hiked in northern Minnesota and I have a poem in process that begins with that experience. I recently saw a play in which vets were telling their stories of service. I am working on a poem that has to do with that experience.

    8) How has music played a role in your life?

    I love many different kinds of music from classical to jazz to blues. I do not play an instrument but I studied dance as a kid and I think that made me very sensitive to rhythm and rhythmic structure that I now transpose into my poems.

    9) What do you find funny?

    My grandkids are very funny! And I love that TV show where they show the home videos! Sometimes a student will write something that makes me laugh out loud. That is a real accomplishment!

    10) What would be your best advice for someone trying to express themselves with poetry?

    My advice to someone who wants to write poems (or write anything for that matter) is to read widely and write almost every day. Keep a journal. That’s really the key.

    Rampage photo by Lauren Kastner. Cary Waterman signed copies of "Book of Fire" on Nov. 7 on Coon Rapids campus. She read selections from the book to ARCC students and staff as part of the English Department's Two Rivers Reading Series.
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