The Millions

Think What a Poem Might Do: A Conversation with Jill Bialosky and Matthew Zapruder

Jill Bialosky author of Poetry Will Save Your Life, and Matthew Zapruder, author of Why Poetry, discuss the state of poetry, their own connection to the art, and their shared experiences as poets and editors.

Matthew Zapruder: What prompted you to write Poetry Will Save Your Life?

I didn’t start out to write a book about poetry.  My original conception was a short anthology of poems to live by.  I saw a special on PBS introducing poems for children and it struck me that there may be a correlative for adults.  Not to dumb down poetry, but to open the door to it for readers who haven’t yet been interested or aware of the possibilities in a poem.  As a poet and a poetry editor, I am frustrated by the marginalization of poetry and believe that there’s a larger audience for poetry that it hasn’t reached as of yet, particularly in this country.  So I suggested to my editor that perhaps I might curate a short anthology of poems that does just that—speak to a larger constituency and attempt to show how certain poems are made up of and are about everyday living.  My focus was not on the theory or making of the art itself, or the writing of the art, but more an appreciation through my own subjective lens. I collected the poems and wrote short headnotes and an introduction and turned it in to my editor. And his response in essence shaped the idea for this book.  He said that I hadn’t yet made the book my own.  I knew exactly what he meant.  Why are these poems important to you?  I stepped back and began to think about when I encountered a particular poem and what it

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