Poetry Santa Cruz
Poetry Santa Cruz

Jack Foley

An Interview by Dennis Morton with poet, critic, anthologist, editor, radio show host and long-time fixture in the Berkeley literary scene, Jack Foley

Dennis Morton:  Why do you write poetry?

Jack Foley:  Poetry brought me to a place in consciousness which I had arrived at in no other way.  I continue to write to discover that place--again and again.

DM:  What's the biggest mistake a poet can make?

JF:  To believe that poetry can be anything other than poetry, do anything other than what poetry can do.

DM:  What's the worst poetry mistake you've made?

JF:  To envy another poet.

DM:  Give us the names of five contemporary poets we should be reading,but probably aren't?

TE:  Ivan Arguelles, Jake Berry, Mary-Marcia Casoly, Reginald Lockett, Koon Woon.

DM:  What do you say to someone who complains about writer's block?

JF:  I tell the person to steal something--something in prose, preferably. Then work it as if you had written it. Another possibility--something Michael McClure has done successfully: Have the person write something on a piece of paper; then make him write it bigger, then bigger still--until the paper is completely covered. "Now," says McClure, "you'll never be afraid to cover a piece of paper again."

DM:  Comment on the history of poetry and how/if you fit in.

JF:  There have been many pronouncements recently about poetry being 'essentially' speech. Homer was blind, so he could not have practiced the visual art of writing. Yet throughout Western history, poetry has been disseminated primarily through that visual art. Neither the auditory aspects of poetry nor the visual aspects have ever quite achieved the upper hand. Poetry is by its history a multi-media situation; I try to practice all aspects of it.

DM:  What advice what you give a young poet?

JF:  Write about what you don't know; steal.

Jack Foley reads with Nancy Abrams at 7:30 pm on March 26 at Louden Nelson Community Center.

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