Dodge Poet Spotlight: Laura Boss

Welcome to our continuing blog series here on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.

Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.

We are first featuring leaders of our Spring & Fountain sessions.

Without further ado, today’s Dodge Poet is Laura Boss.

Photo Credit: Lauren Rutten

What are you reading?
I am rereading Ruth Stone’s Second Hand Coat–a book that I not only love but also one that resonates  more deeply for me with each reading.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write poetry?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of poetry.  My first poems were read to me by my mother and were in children’s books and often combined nursery rhymes with ”appropriate ” poems by Kipling and Frost.  In high school, I fell in love with Wordsworth and could be called a Wordsworth groupie.

I heard Robert Frost read when I was a freshman at Douglass College my freshman year.   It was a life changing experience.  My roommate and I ran to see  him because he was so old, we thought it would be our last chance to hear  him. But that reading deeply affected my deep connection to poetry in a way that surprised me.  I was hooked. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.  I remember I wrote my first poem when I was six and my friend Phyllis’ mother died.  Loss (whether through  death or love) always seemed to be a catalyst for my writing–and I think that was true as a child , student, and at all stages of my life –and still remains true for me, even today.   The poets  when I was in  college and graduate school who  made me want to write poetry are too many to name.  But I especially  loved the work of  Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg , Stanley Kunitz.

What is your favorite place to read?
I like to get into bed and read.  This may be because I have a tiny  apartment with  only two rooms which doesn’t leave me much choice  though I like to glance  up from my book sometimes and see what seems like the unending view of the New York skyline above the Hudson River that I find a source of serenity and inspiration.

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies and superstitions that are part of your writing.
I am not a superstitious person and don’t have any rituals that are part of my writing.  I don’t like to admit it but I have written some of  my favorite poems during poetry readings when I felt inspired or sometimes bored by the words of the reader and just started to then lose myself in my own writing.  I can’t do that anymore because I  mentioned it and now if I’m writing at a reading, those near me in the audience don’t think I’m taking notes but instead being rude by writing poetry during a reading.  Of course, there’s always the back row in a large auditorium.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
More than twenty years ago  I was lucky enough to be the sole representative of the United States at the XXVI Annual International Struga Poetry Readings in Europe.  I remember getting up to read and seeing almost 4,000 people in the audience:  But what I especially liked (once the butterflies in my stomach had fluttered away) was that the audience was not just poets as so often happens in our country but couples out on  dates, husbands and wives with children in tow, professors, and blue collar workers all expressing a love of going out for an evening of poetry.  I saw that again on a smaller scale when I read in Dublin and also  in 2011  in Wales where even the taxi driver recited poetry to me   For me when reading ,it’s exhilarating to have poetry such an integral part of a country.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
I was working under a NEA grant that the Poetry Center in Paterson had received for me along with Joe Weil to be part of a special poetry project in School 24.  When I first entered a classroom and was introduced as a  poet, one of the students asked me if I had come in a limousine.

Last Time
……………for M.B.

Walking down the long hallway
of my now dead lover’s apartment
as I have for twenty-three years
I realize this is the last time
I will probably ever be here again
I want to memorize all that I have lived
with for so many years but somehow
things blur like a Matisse tapestry of
patterns and layers
And I walk past the mug filled with yellow pencils
that have been resharpened and resharpened
past the empty box a VCR or an electric fan came in–
past the Paris Review posters
and the poster of Jane Fonda from her sex symbol stage
past the painted book case with glass doors
past the files filled with French translations
past the portable oxygen tank
And I smell the mixture of cigarette smoke, your sweat
on your ancient Harris tweed jacket hanging on a hook
I try to pack all the years I took for granted in my mind
knowing there’s nothing more to do for you
knowing there’s nothing more to say

-Laura Boss
from Flashlight (Guernica Editions)

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