The Post-Apollo Press: What instigated the writing of this new collection of poems?
Kathleen Weaver: After completing a long-term project of biographical research, I wanted a very different kind of writing. If I was ever going to get back to my own poetry, I knew I had to seize this time.
PAP: How would you describe the emotional or affective terrain of this book?
KW: There’s an elegiac tendency for sure, and the outbreak of war elicited anger, and a lot of sadness. War—not only unjust but the last thing that should be happening. As I became aware of the serious climate trouble, I found myself writing out of alarm, a fear for the animals, the biosphere. Fortunately, the very things we want to protect offer a counterweight to the dire outlook. There’s so much to experience and be sustained by, “a planet’s encouragement” as Stevens wrote, the beauty of earth, the skies, the clouds, the stars. And love, the essential relation, and the riches bequeathed to us—a global heritage of art, and of everything that can be known, including a legacy of resistance. These are points of repair.
A number of my poems arise from a sense that certain moments in the past are still under construction, still needing attention, or more to the point, open to the revision of poetry. It’s a matter of unfinished business, of indeterminate mood.
PAP: From which writers and artists did you draw inspiration during the writing of this book?
KW: Walter Benjamin’s iconic angel of history presides over my sense that we are living an important historical moment. Benjamin’s angel is earthbound, with wings unfurled but not aloft, as is also the case with Simone Fattal’s sculpted angel, the image on the book’s cover. In terms of specific writers, artists, the debt is beyond me to mention. Stevens is bedrock, and Dickinson, Williams, and so many contemporaries, including E.O. Wilson, and the filmmakers, the painters. I found myself writing about a book of hours, fifteenth century French miniatures, and Dutch winter scenes, calming, ideal representations. These too are our world, the ideal being part of the experience. I want to mention that Plath as I was writing these poems became notable for me, apart from her poetic achievement. I’m talking about her unabashed dedication to being a worker at poetry. Ted Hughes also mentioned that she insisted on finishing all of her poems, even if they did not meet her standards. That helped.
PAP: Tell us about the title, Too Much Happens.
KW: The title Too Much Happens suggests to me a tentatively denunciatory and overwhelmed state of being—certain things should not be happening—specifically the wars. It also has to do with what’s been at issue since the industrial revolution; the surfeit of stimuli, the crowds, the din, the information onslaught, all experienced as a kind of bombardment, incommensurate with one person’s ability to come into balance with it. In the title poem, which treats the U.S. war against Iraq, a toppled statue is relegated to the trash heap; for me that image is emblematic of an out-of-control throwaway society, an image of vengeful upheaval.
PAP: If this book could make something happen what do you most hope that would be? I think of your line—“we want to be a porch of light, a salutation.” (“Shore”)
KW: Emerson warned writers not to leave out what they most want to say. In my case it is the good, dear, essential things that are in motion in the world and that I don’t easily manage to include in my poetry. I’m talking about the ongoing local and global resistances and acts of reparation that go up against the destructive trends. It’s those things that I trust will keep happening.