Based on a three-year series of interviews conducted by Steven Ratiner for the Christian Science Monitor, this book offers extended conversations with twelve of the most influential poets writing today. Their comments are wonderfully detailed, refreshingly honest, and provide the sort of intimate introduction to both poet and text that readers are rarely privileged to enjoy. Included are conversations with William Stafford, Mary Oliver, John Montague, Charles Simic, Seamus Heaney, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, Carolyn Forché, Martín Espada, Marge Piercy, Rita Dove, and Bei Dao. In the book's closing interview, Steven Ratiner makes a return visit to Donald Hall's New Hampshire farm shortly before the publication of Hall's collection Without, which focused on the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon.
Giving their word is what poets do; it is their stock-in-trade, their daily bread. In the hands of the most accomplished, a poet's words are transformed into a kind of window: looking inward toward the territory of memory, dream, personal mythology and opening out onto the landscape of the shared world where life and work are rooted. For each poet there is an intricate relationship between these two realms and poetry's third domain, the language that bridges both experiences and becomes the body of the poem. Giving Their Word shows us that the poet's fidelity to that relationship sustains his or her development over time, urges the writing toward new levels of discovery, and bestows on readers that most prized of commodities: a feeling of the authentic.
For poets, students of poetry, and that far-flung community of readers for whom the contemporary poem still provides a journey worth taking, this book will present a host of pleasures. Giving Their Word enlarges the frame through which we view the poet's text and yields significant insights into the craft and character of each of these writers.