I think poetry is becoming less hegemonic: An online interview with Alexander Jorgensen
Alexander Jorgensen is a writer, visual artist, educator, and adventurer. His work most recently appears or is forthcoming in Diagram, eratio, Drunken Boat, Red Lightbulbs, Otoliths, and The Last Vispo Anthology. A selection of his visual poems were exhibited at the 2011 Text Festival in Manchester, UK. During the past few years, he has found himself traveling between North America, Europe and the Middle East. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2008.
Dupur Mitra: Do you think poetry play role in your society? If yes how and if not why?
Alexander Jorgensen: To be honest, I am not quite sure what “your society” means. It seems that I have been so transfigured by the glut of my experiences as a traveler that I do not feel any great connection to my homeland or any specific community – and exist with little sense of cultural foothold. To respond to the intent of your question, however, I think it should. To me, art, in all its forms, must be arresting. It should lead one to look at oneself and one’s surroundings with eyes that are not presumptive, and should create a space in which one might simply experience being immersed. I aim, for example, to lead one to feel their lives are less determined by the external and that the commonplace has purpose.
Dupur Mitra: Who are your major influences as a poet?
Alexander Jorgensen: I might mention writers or particular works, but, to be honest, I have most been influenced by an obsessive and, certainly, peculiar need to recognize myself in the greater world. I am fascinated by environmental and cultural textures, and the relationships they inspire.
Dupur Mitra: What is poetry?
Alexander Jorgensen: In my opinion, poetry helps one towards the acknowledgment of frailty. It reminds us our foundational state. Before stubborn thoughtlessness inscribed the complexity of ourselves out of existence, we crawled and groped. We crawl and grope.
Dupur Mitra: what are your observations about trending of world poetry?
Alexander Jorgensen: I think some really exceptional indie work is being produced. At present, Europe and India is where I find myself most drawn. I think poetry is becoming less hegemonic and, therefore, represents an increasingly unpredictable and expansive space. In terms of form, visual poetry is worth a look-see for those unfamiliar with the exciting diversity it offers. Folks I currently follow include writers Anne Brechin and Ira Lightman, Alec Badlwin and The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, and much admired writer and visual poet Samit Roy.
Dupur Mitra: Is poetry movement can improve the poetry? if yes how, if not why?
Alexander Jorgensen: I am not sure just how to answer this question – think it would be presumptuous to do so and am not convinced that I am qualified to answer such a complex proposition. I know that I want there to be space for every individual and should hope that eyes become discerning for the vitality of what’s contrary to dogma and easy bliss attached to the fashionable.
Dupur Mitra: What is your opinion about today’s world poetry movement?
Alexander Jorgensen: It’s become increasingly democratic. I do think, however, that it needs to develop further in this area, that we need more centers of organization and influence. What I find to be disconcerting, though, is that often one form of status quo, in spite of even the best of intentions, tends to be replaced by another and its exclusivity. Institutions tend to favor propitiating and, therefore, forms of tribute – which, I think, is horribly wrong.
Dupur Mitra: Do you get inspiration from your readers?
Alexander Jorgensen: Yes. In fact, I very much appreciate input from my readers. It’s always been useful to hear what aspect of a piece someone finds particular noteworthy. I am about communicating and look to be heard, of course. Although not uncommon for a poet, I have also benefited from critiques offered up by colleagues.
Dupur Mitra: What was the first poem you wrote?
Alexander Jorgensen: The first poem I wrote that made me feel that I was moving in a positive direction is “The Wading Bird: Or, Gideon’s Ephod.” I think it remains one of my best.
Dupur Mitra: What’s your favourite poem that you’ve written? Do you illustrate your own poems?
Alexander Jorgensen: I do illustrate my own work, and some pieces have taken years to complete. It’s mostly a painful process, you know, trying to articulate with deftness the particular voice of a sentiment. Gladly, there’s at least momentary joy in the accomplishment.
Dupur Mitra: Where do your ideas come from?
Alexander Jorgensen: My ideas come by way of being a witness. I operate as a big recycler of conversations, observations made, interactions and relationships, and terrain – both interior and exterior. And then there are my feelings, which act as a great subjective filter.
Dupur Mitra: How do you edit your poems?
Alexander Jorgensen: I cut away carefully and carelessly, attach bits in large blobs and petite dollops, mostly trust in my intuition and continuously keep ear keen to the voice of the work. Most of my work tends to be idiosyncratic and highly individualized. I don’t operate according to a singular formula. To illustrate my point, I remember being at the 2011 Text Festival, an important undertaking by poet Tony Trehy, and someone noted that each one of my pieces included within its “Wonder Walls” exhibition, and there were six, might have been created by a different individual. For whatever reason, my writing and visual work is like that.
Dupur Mitra: What advice was most helpful to you when you first started writing poetry?
Alexander Jorgensen: Persist, one. Two, remember that it most probably won’t be an easy and most surely will be a lonely road. Third, remember that it’s only about the work. Lastly, do without apologies to whomever.