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Just as the novel has an affinity for the political but is not required to encompass the political, the poem has an affinity for philosophy but is not required to appeal to or include the philosophical. The writer has choices.

In fact, you are free to ignore me on the subject of the poetical/philosophical. One of the strongest passages to writing a good — or, as Harold Bloom likes to say, strong — poem is to name objects. Naming is not exactly the same as description: I’m speaking of solid names for solid things. Read Seamus Heaney, especially his famous poem “Digging,” and you will see how this works, how it plugs us into reality and astounds us as we make that connection with wood, water, fire, and air. We believe we are aware of the world but, stand on it though we do, we find ourselves separated from it and wanting to draw closer. This is why explorers head off for far parts, or climb Mount Everest, or search the sea for previously unseen underwater phenomena. It’s not simply curiosity, although curiosity is a mighty mobilizer, urging us to learn as much as possible. There is another component, and it is love. We love our planet (well, Donald Trump doesn’t, but most of us do). We have a planet that offers us a lot of what we need, and most of us know it is urgent that we save our planet from influence that corrodes the careful conservations scientists have sought to keep in place. More… “Poetry’s Affinity for Philosophy”

Kelly Cherry's new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.
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I do not say that the novel must be, or more often than not is, political. But where there are characters, the political may be found. A writer chooses to accent, plunge into, or ignore the political, but characters insist upon liking or disliking something that is happening or has happened or may happen. In short, every character has an opinion, whether he cares about it or not.
More… “Novel Politics”

Kelly Cherry's new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is now available.
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Kelly Cherry is an award-winning poet and novelist, and the former Poet Laureate of Virginia. Her latest book, Twelve Women in a Country Called America, is a collection of short stories. TSS assistant editor Maren Larsen reached Cherry by phone at her home in Virginia.

1.I recently read your collection Twelve Women in a Country Called America, and this collection’s title firmly sets the scene of these stories in the United States, but I would tend to argue that the true setting is the American South. You open the book with a quote from Norman Mailer: “This country is so complicated that when I start to think about it I begin talking in a southern accent.” Why do you (and Norman) think that the South is the “real” America?

Well, I don’t think that Norman thought that the South was the “real” America. He was making a sarcastic comment about how southerners talk: slow, not necessarily making much sense, putting in big words. It was a sarcastic crack, but I thought it was a funny sarcastic crack. It just occurred to me that that would be a good starting point for the stories in which the women do talk about their own states, but they also talk about America in general.

More… “5 Questions with Kelly Cherry”

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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