Black Sparrow Books is thrilled to publish Wishbone, the latest collection from Don Share, senior editor of Poetry magazine in Chicago. Share recently spoke with Chapter 16 ("a community of Tennessee writers, readers & passersby") about his new book, the centennial year of Poetry magazine, and his Memphis roots.
From the interview:
Chapter 16: The title poem, “Wishbone,” begins with a clear, assertive voice: “I have a bone to pick / with whoever runs this joint.” The “joint” is our world, and the god here comes across as an inept manager who has some communication problems with his staff. Many poets find it quite difficult to approach religion in poems. What are some of your strategies for doing so?
Share: Yes, the joint is the whole big world: there are times when we ask, “Hey, who’s running all this?” “Looking Over My Shoulder” talks similarly about the “man upstairs.” It’s not that God is inept, but it’s more about that feeling we have sometimes: “Who do we complain to?” I’m playing around with that desperation—and whininess. As it happens, “Wishbone” is in the voice of a dying cat, and from his perspective, human beings are in charge, making godlike decisions in the face of which he feels powerless, though this is a tough cat and he suffers no loss of nobility or character even at the very end of it all. Needless to say, a cat can’t talk; I wanted to give one language for a short spell so he could speak his piece. A bit of tragicomic relief, you might say.
Chapter 16: In your blog, you quote Jeanette Winterson, who recently rebuked the notion that poetry is a luxury, something to do when one has leisure time: “A tough life needs tough language—and that is what poetry is,” she wrote. “That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place.” Can you talk a bit about how your own poems in Wishbone serve as a finding place?
Share: That quote is in Winterson’s latest book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and it means a lot to me. A writer’s job is to say how it is. Well, I suddenly find myself at the age when real loss sets in. I was used to being so young! So I’m finding out what we all find out, if we stick around long enough. But it’s not easy, and we certainly don’t have much choice. The poems in Wishbone describe what it’s like to have obstacles thrown in your way, but there really is something both funny and sad about it. That’s what we find out, if we stick around long enough: what can be said.
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Chapter 16: Are there any ways in which you see yourself as a specifically Southern writer? Any ways growing up in Memphis particularly has affected your poems or the way you think about the nature of your writing?
Don Share: I do see myself as a Southern writer. My first book, Union, was very explicitly about Memphis and about the South in general. I don’t live there now, but its whole way of life has warmly permeated everything I think and do; it never leaves me. The music, the food, the weather, the way people talk—these things are not clichés; they nourished me every step of the way. You are where you come from.