Name: Lindsay Turner
Hometown: Kingsport, Tennessee
Current Town: Greenville, South Carolina
Occupation: Poet and translator, and I’m finishing my PhD in English at the University of Virginia.
What does poetry mean to you?
I just finished a long project about the work of making poems. For me, poetry is that activity of arranging language, really grappling with forms and words, and the meanings forms and words are charged with before you even get your hands on them. I like to think that there’s something valuable and necessary in that activity, however it gets done.
But that’s “poetry” from the poet side and not the reader side. As a reader—actually I think it’s hard to say what poetry means for people who read it, and that that’s part of what poetry is. In the same way that there’s no one way for people to be activists or to change the world, for example—I mean that it would be wrong to tell people how to do these things—poetry’s a space that has to mean lots of different things for different people. Maybe poetry helps hold spaces like that open, reminds us that they exist.
Favorite poem or poet /Why do you like this poem?
I never pick favorites. For a long time I’d hedge and say that Elizabeth Bishop was a favorite, but I have such trouble saying anything much about her poems. I’ve been on a Bernadette Mayer kick for a year or so now. I love her work because it helps me write about the spaces where I live, which is something I avoided for a long time. I’m trying to read through the collected June Jordan but I keep getting stuck reading her off-rhymes (I really like off-rhymes) over and over.
But here are a couple of stanzas from Edmund Spenser’s long elegy, Daphnaida, written in 1591. I know not everyone has this problem, but sometimes I catch myself thinking that poetry has to have some kind of intellectual interest, or at least interesting emotion. And then there’s this: poetry about stupid, repetitive, non-cathartic, boring, useless anger and grief. It doesn’t offer anything false. It just comes up out of the centuries and is right there:
'Hencefoorth I hate what ever Nature made,
And in her workmanship no pleasure finde:
For they be all but vaine, and quickly fade,
So soone as on them blowes the northern winde;
They tarrie not, but flit and fall away,
Leaving behind them nought but griefe of minde,
And mocking such as thinke they long will stay.
‘I hate the heaven, because it doth withhold
Me from my love, and eke my love from me;
I hate the earth, because it is the mold
Of fleshly slime and fraile mortalitie;
I hate the fire, because to nought it flyes,
I hate the ayre, because sighes of it be,
I hate the sea, because it teares supplyes.
‘I hate the day, because it lendeth light
To see all things, and not my love to see;
I hate the darknesse and the drery night,
Because they breed sad balefulnesse in mee;
I hate all times, because all times doo fly
So fast away, and may not stayed bee,
But as a speedie post that passeth by.
‘I hate to speake, my voyce is spent with crying:
I hate to heare, lowd plaints have duld mine eares:
I hate to tast, for food withholds my dying:
I hate to see, mine eyes are dimd with teares:
I hate to smell, no sweet on earth is left:
I hate to feele, my flesh is numbd with feares:
So all my senses from me are bereft.
‘I hate all men, and shun all womankinde;
The one, because as I they wretched are,
The other, for because I doo not finde
My love with them, that wont to be their starre:
And life I hate, because it will not last,
And death I hate, because it life doth marre,
And all I hate, that is to come or past.
Lindsay Turner’s first collection of poems, Songs & Ballads, is forthcoming from Prelude Books in 2018. Her translations include the Franco-Japanese poet Ryoko Sekiguchi’s book adagio ma non troppo, forthcoming from Les Figues Press, and The Next Loves, by Stéphane Bouquet, forthcoming from Nightboat Books. With Walt Hunter, she is the co-translator of a book of philosophy, Atopias, by Frédéric Neyrat, forthcoming from Fordham University Press. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina.