Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Emily Strauss

Qing Ming: Grave-Sweeping Festival

Second great uncle, grandpa’s
younger brother, we have come,
the fireworks announce, cascading
down the gully, the entire family
panting up the dirt path clutching
a whole roast piglet, assorted
plastic shopping bags, snotty
fat ten-year-old great grandson,
come to sweep your grave of rare
tropical pine needles, lording over
the fully-automated container port below
while high up the hill golf carts
don’t even pause, the players smile
at such loud pops, this is China,
the one from Arizona sweats
in the hot fog while Mr. Mak
wishes he could simply call
these ghosts on his mobile
to report on his wife’s affair.


TSTmpj:  Your poem suggests you may have visited China, and or have some familial connection with it.  What do you admire most about Chinese culture?

Emily Strauss:  Actually after living almost 8 years there, I became quite disenchanted by the culture. Admire? Sadly, not much right now, except maybe their tenacity, their extreme longevity. They were always curious to meet a foreigner, which I was called a hundred times a day on the street. They could be friendly too on occasion, and I received some decent treatment by strangers. They are certainly survivors.

TSTmpj:  How have your preoccupations as a poet changed in your over thirty years of writing poetry?

Emily Strauss:  I used to write only when a strong emotion flooded me and I needed to express it. Later I took some workshops and realized I could respond to prompts. More lately, I consider many things that occur in daily life around me, snippets of scenes, or old events in my life, and realize I can write about all of them. It has become more mundane, less mental, but also easier to find topics to deal with. Now I just try to express a whole scene or story; my poems are much less personal than at first.

TSTmpj:  Do you wish to share any thoughts on your method of composing poetry?

Emily Strauss:  Composing? I sit with a pencil and any slip of paper. I have an idea and begin gathering words and phrases. I imagine emotive words that express a feeling or image. I write them down and then scratch and circle. I sometimes use a thesaurus. I feel for a desired shape. I put it away and come back to it many many times later, sometimes years later. It's not very brilliant but I keep at it; if I were really good, I would have had books published long ago.

Bio Note

Emily Strauss wrote poems for 30 years before admitting it; talk about coming out of the closet late. Now she’s published.

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