Elaine Kahn on Living a Life Committed to Poetry
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Elaine Kahn is this week’s guest. Her latest poetry collection, Romance or the End, is available from Soft Skull Press.
From the episode:
Brad Listi: The main thing point for me is that the people who go into poetry in a serious way and do the work for a lifetime are committed to living their lives deeply and have a set of priorities that are generally at odds with the culture is telling us our priorities should be. We need these subversive agents and these deep thinkers and people who are thinking deeply. We’ve always needed them. There is something similar between living a life poetically and living a life of the cloth actually. There is something monastic about it.
Elaine Kahn: I actually agree with that. I don’t ever feel like I chose to be a poet. It more feels like something that I couldn’t stop doing, and I think is something similar who feels called to the cloth and serve God for their lives. For me, I would love to all of a sudden feel as satisfied by practicing law as I do writing a poem, but I just keep writing poems. … I’ve always written. Really badly, at first. I don’t know why. It’s always been a way to engage with the world, to understand things and come to terms with things that I was struggling with. It’s not like something that I chose; I just kept doing it. People ask me all the time about when you decided to become a poet, and I have no idea. I can’t even really believe that, at this point. Through teaching and writing, that is literally what I do and how I live and how I support myself. It was never a plan or something that I aimed for. I just kept doing it, and things kept happening, and I kept saying yes to the opportunities in front of me.
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Elaine Kahn is the author of Women in Public (City Lights Publishers, 2015), as well as several chapbooks, including I Told You I Was Sick: A Romance (After Hours Ltd, 2017), A Voluptuous Dream During an Eclipse (Poor Claudia, 2012), and Customer (Ecstatic Peace Library, 2010). Her writing has appeared in Frieze, The Brooklyn Rail, jubilat, Poetry Foundation, Art Papers, and elsewhere. She received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Pomona College and the Poetry Field School. She lives in Los Angeles, California.