EVENT: Van Riper reads from Convenient Danger (Pecan Grove Press) at Elliott Bay Book Company on Mon Nov 27, 7:30 pm.
How long have you been writing poetry? "Twenty-five years or so."
What first attracted you to it? "I find total freedom as an artist working in poetry as compared to, say, music or visual art. Since there's no real market for poetry in the mainstream sense of the wider culture, there can be no commercial tainting or influence on one's work."
Is there a thread that runs through the poems of Convenient Danger? "The poems tend toward a blending of lyric and postmodern disjunction, I believe mirroring the fragmentation and disjointed nature of our time. Most of them aren't 'about' anything in a normative sense. I often try for juxtaposition of contexts, double or multiple meanings, to highlight various ways of perceiving. In this way, a poem can be an open-ended thing, where the final experience is often left to the reader to complete.
Who are your favorite poets? "Early on I admired the so-called deep image poets, poets like James Wright and early Robert Bly, also Rilke, Neruda, Machado, and Lorca's sense of the duende. I also was heavily influenced by Creeley's first several collections. I later came to enjoy much of the New York School, as well as the more innovative language-centered poetry of, say, Michael Palmer, Bob Perelman, and others. Where I once strove for a clarity of image, I now employ contradiction and paradox, believing all things to be their opposites; so there's been an evolution for me with respect to influences."
Is there a particular poem you have a strong connection to? "I remember as an adolescent reading Whitman's Leaves of Grass to get me through the sleepless, muggy nights of summer in New Jersey. Then there's Creeley's For Love, Merwin's The Lice, Simic's Dismantling the Silence, James Tate's Absences, Oppen's Primitive, Perelman's 7 Works, McHugh's Hinge & Sign.... I guess I could go on and on."