I was recently contacted by Saara Myrene Raappana who is working with the motionpoems team on our “Arrivals and Departures” project. Saara asked me if I would answer a few questions about the creation of my poem, “Carousel,” soon to be a motionpoem and projected across the facade of the St. Paul Union Depot. (Friday, October 10 at sundown and you’re all invited.) Here are the questions and answers:
Q:When did you write “Carousel?” Was it inspired by the contest, or did it already exist? What inspired it?
A: Like many of my poems, “Carousel” evolved over time. It began with awareness and experience. While visiting the Santa Monica Pier in California, a friend and I mounted brightly painted steeds on that historic icon. Weeks later I had the opportunity to ride on Cafesjian’s carousel at Como Park in St. Paul. Carousels seemed to haunt me for several months. The dizzying circular movement, the horses ahead, the horses behind, the other animals and the lonely sled. I imagined being one of the horses — part of the herd but an individual as well. The endless ride and ultimate hopelessness of the situation fascinated me. Words started to arrive, unbidden and out of order. Gnashing. Garish. Chase. Singular. This poem wanted to be more formal than much of my other work. My job was to get out of the way and let it happen.
Q: The image of the horse who never departs nor arrives but is perpetually “in the chase still” and “running for my life” is a haunting one. Is there anything in particular that you connect this image to, metaphorically?
A: Uh… perhaps life itself?
Q: There’s a tension between the title, Carousel — its implication of the friendliest of carnival rides — and the poem’s theme of a race for and from life that goes on in perpetuity. Were you aware of that tension while writing the poem? If so, how?
A: I was absolutely aware of the tension. To quote Archibald MacLeish, “A poem should not mean/but be.” My goal in writing this poem was to “be” the essence of the carousel as I envisioned it — its malevolent aura, rather than the outward appearance of a fun ride.
Q: You said on your website that being chosen for “Arrivals and Departures” was like winning the lottery. Since being selected, have you talked to the filmmaker or received updates? What’s it been like to wait to see “Carousel,” the motionpoem? How does it differ from waiting for a paper publication? How is it the same?
A: The filmmakers at Pixel Farm graciously invited me to their studios for a meeting. I was honored that they wanted my opinion on the feel, tone and look of the film. During that meeting it was instantly obvious that we had the same ideas about the poem. Since then I have seen preliminary visuals and heard some of the background music. The filmmakers get full creative license, and I support that process. Waiting for this only builds the excitement for me. Being published is always gratifying and this is so much more — a giant, moving poem, of mine.
I might compare it to this: Some years ago, my book about adoption and reunion was inspiration for the play, “Watermelon Hill,” which ran at the History Theatre in St. Paul. Seeing my experiences portrayed onstage was one of the most profound moments of my life. I’m eagerly anticipating this next one.