Friday, 16 March 2012

AA Norton

The Ecstasy of Ground

The smell of sun-warmed dirt
is so rich, it snaps my skin
into a stinging mingle
of alive.  

With each new step,
arrows shoot
from sod stone earth –
piercing first one foot

with a fierce joy,
then the other with a sadness
steeped so long on this hillside,
I'm forced to stop

while the breath of the world
sucks through me.


TSTmpj:  What was your earliest inspiration and influence; and who was the first poet you admired?

AA Norton:  As a kid, I mostly remember song lyrics on the back of the albums (disco, Dylan, etc) and the cool language found in the Bible. My father is a minister so I heard many a sermon, hymn, and Bible verse.  Powerful language definitely grabbed me.  However, it took a human 'in the flesh' to really inspire me.  The first poet I truly admired was Ricardo Sanchez who ended up being a friend and mentor.  We were both living in Washington State in the early 1990s.  We met through a local poetry class he taught at night on the high school grounds.  We were both from Texas.  His persistent loyalty to his own experiences and his expression of those experiences through poems was mind-blowing for me.  He's described as a "high-school drop-out, ex-convict who gave poetic voice to the Chicano protest movement of the 1970s with his first book Canto y Grito mi Liberacion". For me, Ricardo Sanchez was brazen talent, vibrancy, raw courage and a desire to speak, listen and live authentically.

TSTmpj:  When did you realise you wished to write poetry into adulthood, and why?

AA Norton:  There wasn't a single 'moment' for me.  Rather, there were persistent, intermittent reminders to write.  I often get titles or phrases delivered to me in dreams.  I'll wake up with a title, for example, "The Importance of Counting to Two", in my head.  I can't get rid of it until I write it down. Sometimes writing has a physical urgency to it, not unlike being thirsty and needing to address that.  My desire to write sky-rocketed after my second child was born. I had this great sense of becoming, of having become who I wanted to be, and having not only new freedom and energy to write, but also of finally being the person whose viewpoint I wanted to write from.  I'm not saying I wanted to be a mother before I could write or take myself seriously, I just had a very clear sense at about 35, after my kids were born, after I had done research science for nearly a decade, that I could trust my own writing.   I have a vivid memory of that time, I was in a book store and randomly pulled Tony Hoagland's poetry What Narcissism Means to Me from the shelf.  That book is amazing.  I spent a lot of time with the Many Mountains Moving group in Colorado, who were/are impressive in a very honest, warts-and-all human way.  I worked with John Latham, an English poet and scientist, on a dual-voiced poem that felt divine.   Then I moved to Arizona and met a whole new crew of talented poets, including Rebecca Seirferle, the Casa Libre en la Solana group and so many others.

TSTmpj:  If you could take three poetry books to a desert island, which three would you choose, and why?

AA Norton:  The complete works of Tony Hoagland, the complete works of Anne Sexton and my own unpublished book of poems with plenty of blank pages in it.  I'd make sure Hoagland's and Sexton's books had those awkward author photographs on the back cover, too, so I could cut them out, make paper dolls with them and role-play in the brackish tide-pools of my desert island.

Bio Note

AA Norton is a research astronomer who loves magnetic fields and poetry.

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