Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from the University Press of Kentucky
A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
In this collection, you engage with age-old traditions of funerary art and poetic meditation on life, death, grief, and loss. What advice would you give to a young poet who is interested in writing about these themes?
Having just come from our Spalding MFA residency abroad in Greece, I am struck again by the ancient roots of our craft. When writing about these funerary traditions and meditations on life and death, young poets follow in the footsteps of legendary Homer and other ancient oral poets who were compelled to take on the same subjects thousands of years ago. It is hard to pinpoint one “form” for an elegy, but reading about this tradition can provide a good structure for writing about grief. In his essay, “The Elegy’s Structure,” in the anthology Structure and Surprise, poet DA Powell discusses how successful elegies take on one of three structures: one with a turn from grief to consolation; one with a turn from grief to the refusal of consolation; and one from grief to deeper grief. It has helped me to think about which of these loose structure best fits my subjects and themes and has provided useful boundaries for emotions that threaten to overcome. Perhaps these structures might be helpful to a young poet as well.