Interview with Elsbeth Pancrazi

[Shines bright light on Elsbeth]

Q: One of your strengths as a poet is the ability to poetically engage with nearly any subject, which I find is a distinct trait from merely writing a poem about something. Many poets, including professors, insist we not date ourselves with contemporary language or references, but you are able to find the universal in the specific about many interesting subjects and their particular vocabularies. Is this something you find yourself actively wrestling with, or do you see the world as your limitless inspirational oyster?

EP: Shucks. Nearly any subject? It’s true that I am interested in seeing what can become a poem. It’s a fun puzzle to me: if Frank O’Hara can make a poem out of, basically, gossip, what can I put in a poem that will make it interesting to people who think they are not interested in poems?

Basically my goal is to trick people into forgetting what they think a poem is. So, the most recent example is that I noticed that when my family hangs out, we take a lot of pleasure in discussing tv shows—like, “Oh, man. Have you seen the episode where…” and then relating the whole plot. I asked myself whether I could do this in a poem—and that’s where these tv poems got their start.

Q: Have you participated in any cross-medium collaborations lately? How do you feel about the confluence between poetry and other art forms?

EP: Poet seeks artist for cross-medium collaboration…. message me privately.

I’m so interested in the generative possibilities of collaboration. The energy is so exciting and the loss of control is so unnerving—as in any relationship, I guess.

Q: Paperbag works to establishing a more substantive footprint for individual writers and artists by asking for more work rather than their best singular poem or piece. Do you feel that the magazine accomplished this for you? Why/not?

EP: I can only say that in the case of discovering other poets’ work, I adore moving through a sequence of poems, and so I hope others felt this way about mine. The poems in Paperbag do take place in a futuristic zone, and I know that takes a minute to get acclimated to, so I was excited that Paperbag gave me the chance to present a bunch of poems together!

Q: What are some of your most recent influences, direct or otherwise?

EP: I’ve been adoring Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey for the past year.

Q: What is your relationship to your readers? Do you believe in conveying a particular message, or do you regard reader response as relatively open?

EP: Well, after admitting that I’m trying to trick people into reading more poetry… I guess my message to readers should be a combination of “thanks” and “sorry”? But as your questions suspect, I don’t think in terms of message. I just keep trying to construct something interesting and even beautiful. [wipes brow]

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