Today we wrap up highlighting our “local” poets (faculty and alumni). We sent a short set of questions to each, and are posting their responses. Here’s what Aby Kaupang had to say.
Why does poetry matter?
I have never been able to answer that question. Every few years, a deep-hearted and well-intentioned student sits at our back table, summer starry night, and asks my husband (poet, Matthew Cooperman) and I if poetry matters and can poetry change the world? We argue. I say no, Matthew says yes. The discourse goes on for hours as the moon passes over and eventually the young student goes home (wiser?) but no clearer eyed.
I think what people mean when they ask if poetry matters is “does it have agency?” Yes! Look at Ernesto Cardinal’s engagement in revolution, in the the proliferation of poetry at weddings and births and funerals, look at the poetry of witness, the poetry of cautions, the poetry of jubilations… they move us frenetically and engage us to action.
Why do you write poetry and not some other genre?
I don’t strictly write poetry. More and more I have moved into mixed and hybrid forms. However, here is what draws me to the poem:
A poem is a surprise. We are expected to inhabit simultaneously multiple worlds (physical, cyber, domestic, sexual, ecological, spiritual, multicultural, racial) and as we walk about their features juxtapose. They can’t help but socialize. It certainly isn’t just juxtaposition, the nearness of things, but the smothering, colliding, underlying, internalizing faking and making and praying of it all—they are in one body! Who must work at surprise that is awake? What better home for this mongrel of instancy than a poem?
How did you find poetry?
Through music. My mom gave me a record player when I was young and I played Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Carol King, Leonard Cohen… I came across a book of Cohen’s poems (Selected, 1956-1958) and the genres collapsed into each other. It was as though I heard poetry everywhere after that. Genre-lessness marked me early.
My sister and I turned poems into play. One of us would memorize a verse and, while hiking, recite it sans context. Eventually, the other would find the poem and recite the next verse. This was pre-google… we had to pour through anthologies just to keep up with one another.
And then came years of studying Latin. It was an addiction to the early roots and meanings of words—of the impossible infinity of their combinations.
What are you working on now?
Matthew and I are deep in the galley’s of our collaborative project, NOS, (disorder, not otherwise specified) which will come out in the next few months with Futurepoem. The book documents our early struggles with our daughters’s diagnostic journey (autism, failure to thrive, g-tube placement, sensory processing disorder, etc…) in which we found few clear answers… there were years of of on-and-off again hospitalizations, invasive testing, stays in a children’s psych ward… it was brutal. Writing was the only was of processing. This book is the most important thing I have ever written, may ever write. If you desire, you can access the chapbook version of it at Essay Press.
What poem, poet, or poetry collection is your favorite?
I have no single favorite. I forever return to e.e. cummings, Virgil, Catullus, Frank Bidart, Anne Carson, John Berryman, Neruda and Ernesto Cardinal… I love little anthologies I can put in my back pocket to take on trains and hikes. I’m also incredibly blessed to say that some of my favorite poets I can also call friends… they are the poets here at CSU. Who gets to be so fortunate in a life?
Aby Kaupang is the author of, most recently NOS, disorder not otherwise specified (w. Matthew Cooperman, Futurepoem, 2018), Disorder 299.00 (w. Matthew Cooperman, Essay Press, 2016), Little “g” God Grows Tired of Me (SpringGun, 2013), Absence is Such a Transparent House (Tebot Bach, 2011) and Scenic Fences | Houses Innumerable (Scantily Clad Press, 2008). She has had poems appear in The Seattle Review, FENCE, La Petite Zine, Dusie, Verse, Denver Quarterly, & others. She holds master’s degrees in both Creative Writing and Occupational Therapy and lives in Fort Collins where she served as the Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. More information can be found at Aby Kaupang.