Monday, October 25, 2010

6 questions with Joseph Ross

1) I understand that you are originally from California, how has the move east affected your work?

JR: I don't know if the move east affected it specifically. Rather, I think my work is always affected by my place. In Washington, D.C. my world is very diverse and that is reflected in my poetry. My relationship, my love of another man is certainly reflected in my work, not as explicitly as for some gay poets but it's always there. The "outside-ness" of that reality is always there. I think my move to Washington, D.C. was also a move into the unknown and that pilgrimage or search is very present in my poetry.

2) When did you start writing poetry? Who were your original influences?

JR: I began writing poetry in high school and it was awful, of course. I continued in college and it got a little better but not until I was in graduate school at Notre Dame did I begin to feel like I was truly taking it seriously. My strongest influence is probably the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. He's very traditional but his poems have mattered to me all my life. I have to say Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes are both powerful influences and have been since high school. More recently, Martin Espada's poems have affected me a lot.

3) You are associated with what I would call “witness” or “poetry of consciousness”, has your poetry come from your convictions?

JR: I think so, yes. I think some of my poetry comes from my desire to bear witness, to tell the story others cannot tell. My Darfur poems (a series I've written) seeks to do that. I think the poet in the world today needs to speak what he sees. When I look at the world, I don't see "roses and moonlight" as Langston Hughes said. I see a suffering, difficult world and so that is the world I write about.

4) How do you find time to write?

JR: I just make it. I don't have a lot of sympathy for poets who complain that they have no time to write. I might not write everyday, but nearly do. You make time for the things that matter to you and writing matters to me. I can't imagine going without it. I'm grateful that I don't have the deserts of non-writing some poets talk about.

5) What was the first book of poetry you bought for yourself (not for class)?

JR: It was the collected works of William Butler Yeats.

6)Tell me a little about your current projects, I understand you have a mss.

JR: Yes. I have a manuscript called "Meeting Bone Man" which is a reflection on mortality from a variety of perspectives: personal, political, spiritual. I am currently working on a second manuscript which uses lots of religious or spiritual images and themes. It is titled "The Gospel of Dust." I'm very excited about it because it takes me back to religious images whose meanings have changed for me. I deliberately had to go without them for a time but now I am comfortable with them again-- although in a new way.

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