Tom Beckett: We’re on the cusp of a new century, a new millennium. What are your hopes for the future of poetry?
Rae Armantrout: Trying to answer this question makes me feel a bit like a politician. “Building a bridge to…” etc. My poetry isn’t built on hope. I don’t know what it is built on, but it isn’t hope. I guess I could say this: Right now the audience for serious poetry (of any kind) is small. It seems as if what most people expect from poetry is a kind of ego-tonic. They want to identify with the speaker of the poem as one might identify with an action-figure. (That may show just how powerless people are feeling). I don’t think this was always what people wanted from poetry “Ode On A Grecian Urn,” for instance, doesn’t make you feel particularly empowered. You don’t say to yourself, “I’m just like that. I appreciate antiquities!” So here’s my wish–I wish people would stop looking to poetry for confirmation of what they already feel (or wish they felt) and that they would instead rediscover “negative capability.” Or, to put it another way, I wish that, in art and politics, people would seek a power other than that of voyeuristic identification. (133)
From Collected Prose by Rae Armantrout. Singing Horse Press, 2007.