The poetry editors, Rappahannock Review: How have your studies as a PhD candidate influenced your writing?
Patrick Kindig: The easiest way to kill a poem is to wax pretentious or overly intellectual in it, so I try to keep my creative and critical work as separate as possible. I do, however, spend a lot of my time reading and writing about theory, so I think it’s inevitable that it sometimes pops up in my poetry. My whole series of Enya poems, for example (of which “Portrait of Enya as Homeless Man Singing” is a part) started out as a joke, then became much more serious once I started tossing Enya together with different mythical and philosophical figures—Odysseus, Heidegger, etc.
RR: When it comes to writing, what sort of routine, if any, do you have as you approach a new piece?
PK: I tend to follow one of two trajectories when I start a new poem. One starts with wine and ends with a quickly written talky poem; this kind of piece then gets heavily revised over the next week or two. The other starts with coffee and ends with a short, tight, craft-oriented poem that takes much longer to finish but that ends up needing only smaller edits.
RR: Have you had any sort of encounter with bees similar to the narrator’s experience in “The Bees?” If not, what prompted you to write that piece?
PK: I have! A colony of carpenter bees took over my porch last summer, and although we got along fine (the bees and I), I woke up one morning to a dead bird on my welcome mat. I’d been spending a lot of time just hanging out with the bees, so seeing what they were capable of was a visceral shock for me.
RR: “Introduction” creates a very intriguing and violent beginning to a relationship with the narrator being sent off to discover a wasp’s nest. What was the inspiration to this piece? Do you have more pieces that expand on this relationship between the map’s creator and the narrator?
PK: This is a difficult poem to be candid about, so I’ll just say this: even though it’s obviously not a realist piece, it is autobiographical. Over the course of one particular night, I met a new person, got to know this person a bit, and then, without warning, the night took a (metaphorical) turn from covered bridges to wasps’ nests. A lot of unexpected pain was involved.
RR: In “Introduction,” “Portrait of Enya as a Homeless Man Singing” and “The Bees,” you take something that is usually considered gentle or beautiful and then change the reader’s perspective by giving it a harsher existence by the end of the poem. Do you do this in your other poems? Why do you use people like Enya and make her into a homeless man or have the violent image of the bee that had escaped the finch’s throat? Do you use these elements for the shock or is it a warning to your reader?
PK: I don’t believe in unmixed things: there’s always something dangerous in the beautiful, something beautiful in the dangerous. As a reader, I like it when a poet acknowledges this fact and manages to achieve in her work a suspension between two extremes. I guess that my blending of the violent and the beautiful is one way in which I try to produce this effect in my own poems.