(An International Journal of Poetry)
ISSN 2249 –2178
Volume-2 december -2012 Number-2
An E-Interview with Steve Klepetar
(Interviewed by Pradeep Chaswal)
(Dr. Steve Klepetar is Faculty Director of Advising and Professor of English in Saint Cloud State University. His work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net; Flutter Press has recently published his latest chapbook, "My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word.")
Chief Editor: How poetry got birth in you? Please tell us about the first few poems you composed?
Steve Klepetar : When I was a child, I was awestruck by people who could draw likenesses. I wanted so much to be able to do that, and I tried, drawing away at cardboard sheets my father brought me from his laundered shirts, but I had absolutely no talent. While I never learned to draw (my five year old granddaughter is quickly catching up to me) I found I could make rhymes, so that became my substitute. I began writing seriously in college under the guidance of two wonderful teachers, the Canadian novelist and poet Robert Kroetsch and the American poet Milton Kessler. I recall, with a little shudder of embarrassment, that I composed a cycle of wolf poems, the wolf being a symbol, for me, of a kind of Romantic wildness I hoped I could access.
Chief Editor: What does it mean to you to be a poet?
Steve Klepetar : The word “poet,” when applied to myself by myself, always sounds a little precious to me, as though I were claiming some vatic power without justification. But writing poetry is not only important to me, but a great and constant pleasure. I find the physical feeling of composing similar to meditation. In the act, I feel relaxed and energized at the same time, and the words churn and bubble from me onto the page. Later, the act of selection and revision is also intensely pleasurable, my version of drawing, making images and creating what I hope is beauty from scratches and memory and an emotional state.
Chief Editor: Apart from being a poet you are also a writer and Professor teaching literature and creative writing. What are your views on the role of poetry in curriculum?
Steve Klepetar : I recently read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by a business leader, who argued that business people should read a good deal of poetry. I forget the specifics of his argument, but it made me smile, and I asked my wife, who is a Business professor at the College of Saint Benedict-Saint John’s University, to name me her department’s poetry professor in residence! Joking aside, I find that my students bring very little knowledge about poems and how poetry works to college, but after initial struggles, many of them open up to its wonder and power, but as readers and nascent practitioners. In addition to creative writing classes, which show that young people are hungry for self expression, I also teach several classes in which students read and analyze poetry. I think it is central to the English curriculum, and beyond that, reading poetry makes people better readers, more able to deal with the suggestive ambiguities and symbolic possibilities of language. It also helps them to feel on their pulses the playfulness of language, it’s ability to image forth a feeling or idea.
Chief Editor: According to you what is the role and responsibility of poet in the present day world?
Steve Klepetar : The role of the poet is, as Donald Hall expressed it, to “purify the language of the tribe.” Further, poets must combine a willingness to play and experiment with a strong sense of commitment to excellence, so that the process involves a great deal of freedom at the drafting stage and strict judgment and self-criticism in the revision stage. Poets should tell the truth as it appears to them in their time and place. Above all, poets must communicate, and to do that they must be interesting, have some kind of news to tell, if I may call it that.
Chief Editor: Are you currently working on any new project or book of poetry?
Steve Klepetar : I am currently working on a collaboration with my friend, the American poet Joseph Lisowski, provisionally titled “Blue Season.” It will be out in August 2013, published by French poet, editor and publisher Walter Ruhlmann as part of his “X and Friends” series.
Chief Editor: What are your views on contemporary experimental poetry?
Steve Klepetar : It’s funny, because so many contemporary journals forbid rhyming verse. That’s understandable in a way, because I’m sure they have received many submissions of rhyming poetry that fails to rise above banality and greeting card sentiment, but it also cuts off real possibilities. Since free verse is ascendant in our day, it may be the practitioners (and those who revitalize) traditional forms who are experimental. Having said that, I approve of any poems that are lively and interesting, including what some editors call experimental poetry. I had some poems that I thought were experimental rejected by “elimae,” an experimental journal I like a lot. After that, I made a concerted effort to figure out their principles, and I have had a couple of pieces published there, but I have also failed the last two times I tried. I guess I’m still trying to figure out exactly what is meant by experimental poetry, or what makes it good or bad. I certainly am open to it though.
Chief Editor: What is the social relevance of poetry in the contemporary milieu of globalization and technology?
Steve Klepetar : The Internet has reinvigorated poetry and changed the way poetry is submitted (much easier via email or Submittable) and offered to the public (web zines, Lulu, etc.). I am thrilled to have published poems in Britain, Canada, France and India, and to have received email responses from many other places, such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Technology in that sense – personal computers and tablets and smart phones, along with the Internet – has greatly increased the audience for poetry and the rate of participation, all of which is a good thing from my perspective. I very much enjoy reading books by internationally acclaimed writers from all over the world – Murakami, Ghosh, Pamuk, and many others. Globalization and technology have had a very strong and positive influence on world literature.
Chief Editor: Would you like to share with the readers some important incident or experience in your life?
Steve Klepetar : I was born in Shanghai, China in February, 1949, a fact which is surprising enough if you saw me in person. How this came to be is an interesting and in many ways terrible story. My parents were living in Prague when the Nazis invaded in March 1939. My dad fled to China as part of the growing Jewish refugee community and my mom joined him after the war. She had been incarcerated first at Terezin and later at Auschwitz and a labor camp near Dresden, and finally liberated by the Russians from Terezin (again). They married shortly after my mom got to Shanghai in 1947. I was born about two years later; my parents left for the U.S. in April. I grew up in New York City with this awkward, if fascinating, birth story as part of my legacy.
Chief Editor: How you look at the relation between myth and poetry?
Steve Klepetar : For me the relationship is very close. For years I taught our department’s course on myth and legend, a duty I very much enjoyed, and I have published myth-based work in “Eternal Haunted Summer” and other journals for some time now. Poets make the ordinary mythic, probe the everyday for depth and universal experience. Myth and poetry strike me as inseparable.
Chief Editor: What message you wish to give our readers and poetry lovers?
Steve Klepetar : Celebrate the fact that you are living in a golden age of global poetry. Poetry is all around you in many journals and blogs, so open up and become a reader. And then try your hand, if you haven’t done so, and become a poet in your own right. Tell your story, your truth, and join in a celebration of language and imagery, personal myths and universals.