Interview with Katia Kapovich

On the occasion of the 41st Poetry International Festival


The theme of this year's festival is 'prose'. Do you feel there are (many) similarities between poetry and prose?

I find that certain types of poetry have many overlapping elements with prose, such as use of metonymy, not of metaphor, a storyline, and dialog, to mention just a few of them.

You told us your favourite novel was
Ulysses by James Joyce. Can you explain why you chose this novel?

When I was learning to write I opened the book and the polyphony of its voices, its humor and enigma captured me. Joyce recommends reading it for twelve years, which was how long it took him to write it. I have spent more than twelve years reading it and continue finding new things in it. Its narrative can produce a telescopic or a microscopic effect, depending on the reader, on his readiness and age. The telescopic reveals itself in political and religious discourses, in Joyce’s representation of history (“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” says Stephen); the microscopic is manifests itself in the parallel cardiograms of heart activity of the two central characters, as well as through their inner monologues. I find the alternation of these two foci extremely important to poetry, where such techniques as montage and reversal help keep a reader awake.

Do you write fictional prose as well? If so, do you often use the same themes in your prose and in your poetry?

I write prose a lot lately and hope to publish a book of short stories. The themes are more or less the same but I take a different angle when telling the story.

Who are your favorite poets?
Mandelshtam, Auden, Brodsky, Armitage, Maxwell, Gandlevsky.

Do you remember how the poem
‘At the Kishinev School for Deaf and Mute Children’ came about?

I saw and then heard the poem in my head, and tried to lay it out as close to the original as possible. And that’s how I usually write. The rest is a mystery to me.

• Poetry Resources Online (USA)

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