do believe almost everyone has a poem in them. And a song. And a strange
little painting. It's my goal, in teaching, to assist students in the unearthing
of their own treasures..."
Interview by Joan Houlihan
Kathleen Lynch has published poetry, fiction, essays, and B&W photographs. Her "How to Build an Owl" won the Select Poet Series Award from Small Poetry Press. Her poems have been published in many journals, including Poetry East, Poetry Flash, Poetry Northwest, Sycamore Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Quarterly West, and Chariton Review. She has work forthcoming in Poetry, Nimrod, The English Journal, The Laurel Review, Slipstream, and Disquieting Muses. She lives in Loomis, California, where she studies clay sculpture, works as a free lance writer and conducts writing workshops.
Perihelion Verbatim: Do you think there is an identifiable "west coast" style in poetry? Can you use a few words to describe it?
just about every population on earth is represented on the west coast,
I think the poetry from this region is eclectic, wide-ranging and open
When did you start writing poetry? Why?
in high school, I began writing poems secretly. Secretly, because in the
late Ď50s in Sacramento, poetry was not a path to popularityĖ-something
"Why?" Ė because I loved the sounds of poems, the music of them, the strangeness and difficulty.
Who would you say are your poetic influences?
most important poetic influence is probably not a who, but a what. A condition.
We had parents who read aloud to us. The only poetry book we
we had no television in our home until I was well into my teens, so I had
the opportunity to experience some healthy boredom, which helped
teachers: in my mid twenties, I had the great fortune of studying for three
semesters with Dennis Schmitz at California State University
am currently a member of an outstanding writing group. We meet every other
week in Berkeley. The level of writing and criticism is very high. Itís
In looking for a writing group, I suggest poets try to find one in which there are writers whose level of accomplishment is equal to or greater than their own. Itís not very helpful to oneís development to be the Star.
You run a writing workshop--would you say a workshop, or some kind of study of writing, is essential to fostering good writing?
study. Read widely and deeply. And not just contemporary poets. Not just
poets. Study the sciences, music, art. Learn to cook. Travel.
donít think a writing workshop is the only way to learn to write. But for
some writers, it can temporarily provide a focused environment and the
Do you think there is such a thing as a "workshop poem"?
yes. I think thereís a proliferation of them now, even in the best magazines.
Some workshop leaders try to help students find their own voices, explore
language intuitively, intelligently. Others, unfortunately, teach Tricks
of the Trade workshops. Perhaps even unwittingly, they urge students
often push students into the publishing process too soon. When the focus
of the writer turns prematurely to the business of getting
I believe writing poetry is a way of learning how to think. To think deeply
and differently. To discover what is surprising in oneís
Do you think everyone has talent in writing and it's just a matter of the right kind of influences/nurturing to develop their talent?
donít think everyone has talent with a capital T, but I do believe almost
everyone has a poem in them. And a song. And a strange little painting.
You work with other art forms--sculpture, photography. Does your creative process tend to dictate the medium or do you decide ahead of time which form you want to work in?
is my primary medium, but it is fed by, and feeds, the other work. If I
feel stalled verbally, I turn to the mute work. Itís another way to
Do the different mediums impact each other? In what ways?
I do think there is a "dialogue" between the works. In sculpture, as in
a poem, the negative space, the silence, what you donít put there,
Do you think poets need to learn form and technique before they can be considered "real "poets?
donít know what a "real" poet is. I suspect it doesnít necessarily mean
famous, nor widely published. I do think that a real working poet
Do you think there is a central emotion/idea that you return to in your poems and express in different ways? In other words, what is your poetic "obsession"?
and Terror. Survival. Joy Ė because of and in spite of everything.
What, if anything, does living in California have to do with your poetry?
I was born in upstate New York on a Navy base during the war (1943). We
moved to Sacramento when I was a few months old. At age 30 I left California,
lived 6 years in eastern
do think "place" has an impact on any writerĖ any person, for that matter.
And I believe that we each have a "psycic landscape," one that somehow