Left to right: Sharon Olds, Linda Pastan, Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty.
Much of this conversation touched on how poets use their lives as material for their work. Here's a quick sample of what was said at this session.
1. Linda Pastan uses her life as the object of poetry. She wishes she could write in persona or about topics that let her gain distance. But ultimately finding the truth in her life can be uplifting and reaffirming.
2. Lucille Clifton: "The things that have happened to me have happened to everyone. If we can talk about the complexities of our lives, we can talk about the good things, too."
Also, she said, " As we are complexities, we make the mistake that the shameful things that happen to us belong to us alone. I write about these things as a way of getting to the human."
3. Sharon Olds: At one point, Sharon said that she spoke a vow to never discuss her personal life. And then recently she decided it would be more helpful to reveal these things. In fact, she couldn't remember why she took the vow in the first place. She thought for a moment and then said, "Are we in public or are we in some great big personal?"
4. Mark Doty: "What we think is too painful to put into the light looks different or looks less awful than we think." (I have more from Mark Doty that I'll post later.)