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Poetry Today: Shara McCallum

Shara McCallum and Claudia Castro Luna are the two poets interviewed this month at the Kenyon Review. In the interview with Ruben Quesada, Shara goes into wonderful detail about poetry, reading and writing.

On the topic of poetry, Shara is generous, saying, 'I prefer the idea that poetry has as many purposes as there are readers and writers than the idea that poetry has any singular role or purpose.' She feels that while poetry 'can be part of the structure of our communal lives', that isn't often the case.

But, she adds, 'I do think it is capable of fostering emotions and arguments that in turn may lead people to act. Personally, I go to poems for intimacy, to hear the voice of an “I” that pierces me with its honesty, whether it’s directed inward or outward, is deeply private or highly public, is speaking for the one or for the many.'

Of her latest collection, No Ruined Stone, Shara adds, 'With No Ruined Stone, how I composed my previous books of poems went out the window.' The book, she says, came to her as 'an idea' and 'a question' that propelled her writing forward in 'intense stretches' over a period of years. 

'That question led me to do an incredible amount of research, to arm myself with the knowledge I felt I needed to have to be able to imagine the world and hear the language of this book. It led me to a good many more questions and to an evolving narrative that expanded to include the voice and story of Isabella,' she says.

Shara speaks of the research required to write the book, and how that was instrumental in creating the novel-in-verse.

'In a two-week period in May 2018 in Edinburgh, I wrote about a third of the book once I started. I wrote on my laptop, keeping all of the poems in a single document, adding to, subtracting from, and revising them across a larger canvas.'

There was a change in herself, she says. 'I think now I must have needed to let go of part of what I thought defined my practice and me as a writer because of the demands of those forms.

'While I’m eager to return to my earlier process of scribbling in notebooks and not knowing where I’m going, No Ruined Stone made clear the necessity of remaining open to writing in whatever fashion is needed to meet what comes next.'

You can read the interview in full at the Kenyon Review website.

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