I recently Skyped-in to chat with some students at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), for a course called “Nature & Society in the Anthropocene,” co-taught by Kate Derickson and Kiley Kost. The class had read Wysihicken [sic] and posed some questions for me. I recorded the audio, and am posting it here [listen carefully around the 2:40 mark and you might catch this first instance of Carl sniffing and smacking his chops near the microphone][pardon issues with the connection around 8 minutes––the issue persists for a few minutes but it corrects]:
These are some of the questions they asked:
1. How do you pronounce Wysihicken?
2. How do you see the role of poetry today, especially in terms of environmental change? How has this role changed over time?
3. What is the significance of the author’s note/why did you include the author’s note? How does that impact the reader’s impression of your poem?
4. Why did you choose to create neologisms to express yourself and what effect do you think they have on the reader?
5. What is implied by the “new soil” at the end of the poem?
6. Why did you choose to arrange the poems on the page as you did and what does that convey to the readers?
7. Why did you select to write in free verse in order to illustrate your theme of changing historical human development?
8. Why/how did you choose to include the erasure poem? Could you elaborate on the butchers and their wives part?
9. In this class we’ve been talking a lot about slow violence. How would you characterize the type of violence portrayed throughout the poem?
10. What did you want your reader to think about while reading the poem? What have been some reactions from your readers?
11. What did you hope to accomplish by making this a long poem instead of many shorter poems?
12. The lines with the descriptions of moss and lichen/this certain Ecosystem seem to come late in the poem instead of in the beginning where the land is the focus. Why did you include it so late in the poem?
13. What was your research process before writing the poem?
14. Have you written any poetry that is placed outside of the US? How has American colonial history influenced your poetry in general?
15. How does your poem speak for/speak on behalf of nature?