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Interview by Joni Wallace
Mary Jo Bang's books of poetry include Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was listed as a New York Times 2008 Notable Book, and The Bride of E (Graywolf Press, 2009). She was the poetry co-editor at Boston Review from 1995-2005, and has been the recipient of the Alice Fay Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She is a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. Her translation of Dante's Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, will be published by Graywolf Press in July, 2012.
Joni Wallace's poetry collection, Blinking Ephemeral Valentine (Four Way Books, 2011), was selected by Mary Jo Bang for the 2009 Levis Prize.
JW: The character driven poems of Louise in Love, the ekphrastic poems of The Eye Like a Strange Balloon and the abcedarian poems of Bride of E strike me similarly as enactments of a disembodied consciousness: the workings of the mind set out for view on a series of revolving stages. Multiple interruptions take place - ticks and tocks, ringing phones (an effect I love), nursery rhyme chatter, trains, literary texts. Mickey, Minnie, Alice, Freud, Cher and others make appearances, influence poetic outcomes. For me your poems function both as glittering spectacles and intimate conversations, all ultimately engaging the experience of what it means to be human now. How do you see yourself, the poet, in relation to your work? Conductor, actor, set designer, alchemist, beautiful fly on the velvet backdrop?