Ruth Zachary asks: In your
poem titled "Motion (Zeno) Puzzles through Spring(Carson)," the parenthetical
brackets throughout this poem are different than your usual form
in other poems. Did you use the brackets to represent the disruptive
human element in nature, or did you use them for some other purpose?
poem went through a number of revisions. Zeno is used because
of his puzzles that propose that motion is an illusion. I love
and his intellect. On the other hand, we have Rachel Carson
who recognizes process and movement as essential characteristics
of life. The parentheses
both separate and connect these two approaches—one abstract and
fragmented and the other interconnected and vibrant.
me the parentheses certainly set off—but they also contain, like cups.
Julie Snoeck asks 4 questions: What
is the particular significance (if any) of the cover art, the "Dora
and Lucy" sculpture?
love the sculpture on the cover. It is done by Gail Scott White,
first saw it displayed in an art park in central New York.
The full title of the piece is "Lucy and Dora Discuss Freud." You
can see that even the name fits into the collection. (Lucy
and Dora were two of Freud's case studies—and many of his misperceptions
about gender and particularly female sexuality are presented
case studies. So here we have these powerful 7-8 foot metal
female figures finally empowered as they have an opportunity
themselves.) Since many of the poems in the book deal with
the interconnectedness of gender, race, and environmental issues,
it seemed appropriate
to have Lucy and Dora on the cover.
Have you found a publisher for the final QUINTESSENCE book? When
we expect it to be available as one collective piece?
Patrick: I do
not have a publisher yet. I am concentrating on getting the fourth
comes first, the poem or the title?
Patrick: It varies.
Sometimes the title and then other times the poem. I wrote
a lot of these poems with similar titles, and actually the book
twice its current length. Some of the titles were better than
the poems, and some of the poems were better than the titles.
that special occasion, they seemed just right—and I tried
to include these poems in the final version of the book.
poems show connections between fear and love, what saves us and
what kills us, reality and fantasy. What about the connection
between the father theme and the environmental theme?
In our discussion, we noted a recurrence of substitution and/or
those things apply to both father AND the earth/environment?
an incredibly thought-provoking question. Seeking a cure
and finding healing are essential themes in the book which considers
historical, and psychological damage. The earth is always
seen as female and mother. The father on one level is the authoritarian
patriarchal figure—the one in many ways responsible
for much of the damage in the book—but on another level,
the father is also a damaged figure. And maybe the only way
to achieve any sort of
reconciliation is to heal the father.
6. Leah Koliha asks: Using
very well recognizable figures in your titles as well as throughout
your poems is a very interesting theme, and I am interested
as to how you came about using these figures as well as why you chose
to use the
ones you did. Are they an attempt to allow your audience
to understand better the meaning of your poems or is it simply a form
of writing that
you developed over time?
Patrick: The names in the titles function in a number of different ways. Sometimes
they announce a theme, sometimes they prepare for a conflict that is
central to the poem, and sometimes they seem only tangential to the poem
but function like background music. Sometimes they suggest a monologue
and at other times a dialogue.
Ultimately the names suggest the ecological theme of interconnectedness
through disciplines, time periods, and cultures.
Jodie Wagener asks: My
question is about the book itself. I was wondering why the poems
appear to be written with such different texts. For example Ptolemy
follows his map to Sojourner Truth on page 14 is very spaced out.
Is it supposed
to be read spaced out?
think ideally the poem is meant to be read with the spacing.
I only did it
at a reading
once—and I felt I had tapped into the energy of
or how some of the poems seem to be randomly written on the page with
no justification at all. Then there is the poem Margaret Mead Discovers
William Burroughs where the entire poem is justified to the left except
for one line: a different story...what makes that one line so special
to stand out like that? What is the justification behind arranging the
text the way it is?
Structurally, most of the poems emerge organically. I rely mostly on
instinct. But then during revision, I ask myself why I did something
a certain way. Sometimes I'll have good answers—and sometimes not.
In the Margaret
Mead poem I think I can offer an explanation for the two lines that
are different. The first ("a different story")
is important because I think the poem is trying to arrive at a "different" way
of saying things. The second ("one world") suggests the importance
of moving from one world to another in order to survive. I think the
indented line and the extended line are there for emphasis. And this
may take things too far, but the shape of the poem is similar to the
rope the grandmother hands the speaker. If so, then these lines are like
I am aware of a lot of different movements in these poems—very much
like a lot of different dance steps with a lot of different rhythms.
Some freestyle and some more formal, some occurring in a mash pit and
some on a ballroom dance floor.
Dana Littleford asks: How
do you decide what subjects you use in your poetry? Do you first
find a person with a unique or important life, and design your
poem and theme around that person, or do you have a theme in
and then find subjects whose life mirrors that theme? Thanks
Patrick: Ultimately I begin with language, but the process always seems to be
recursive. The poems tell me what they are about. I only rarely start
a poem with an idea of a purpose or a theme or a direction in mind. The
words have to find out where they need to take me.
Lea Littleford asks: From
your collection of poems in Feeding the Fear of the Earth which
is your favorite poem and why?
Patrick: This is a very tough question because so many of the poems
personal links. The dedication page lists dozens and dozens of
my former students. I teach on an environmental campus, and I have
learned so much
from them. This, of course, makes this book very special to me.
Also, one of the poems is dedicated to my daughter—and though
she has been the inspiration behind much of my work, this is the
first one I actually
dedicated to her. I also look at the book as one interconnected
the ultimate shape of the book was the result of the suggestions
of two very important people—George Kalamaras and your professor.
Again there is a personal link.
However, if I were
asked to write a one poem book, I think it would have to be "Whole Poems." It
represents where much of the book had been heading, and combines the
political and the personal, the historical
and the poetic. And again there is that personal link—and this time
it is with my parents.
Katie Hudson asks: What is Marcel Duchamp doing in
the Ed McMahon poem? Thank you!
Patrick: Ed MacMahon asked me exactly the same thing.
But listen, I absolutely love Marcel Duchamp. I love his craziness,
and how he makes fun of the pretentiousness in art, and how he has this
incredible vision that is erotic and philosophical and bizarre and witty—and
written a number of pieces where Marcel Duchamp has popped up—I
think he is there to make me laugh.
I would like to thank the class for these inspiring and challenging
questions. I hope some of these answers wiil assist you when you read
the book. Thank you for this opportunity. You've been great. And thank