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From Bob Holman’s The United States of Poetry

Tracie Morris is a multidisciplinary poet and performing artist. She is a writer, educator, scholar and actor who has worked in theater, dance, music, sculpture and film. She has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia as a writer and bandleader. Her poetry and essays have been extensively anthologized. Tracie has participated in over a dozen recording projects to date. Her sound poetry is at the Whitney Museum and the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.

1. What is the first poem you ever loved? Why?

After the poems that socialized me as a child (Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose and other classical European children’s poem and the 23rd psalm and other biblical poems as well as African American song lyrics — an important racially socializing phenomenon) I think it was “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. It taught me to feel satisfied with poems that *don’t* have “happy endings.” This was a very important element in teaching me to love all types of poetry.

2. What is something/someone non-“literary” you read which may surprise your peers/colleagues? Why do you read it/them?

I’ve read a lot of classic sci/fi fantasy and still read the bible, especially Psalms and Numbers. I like literature that complements/compels the imagination. Unfortunately as a prepubescent teen this also meant *lots* of Harlequin romances. I’ve moved on from those, mercifully. I don’t like overly transparent plots in any genre.

3. How important is philosophy to your writing? Why?

Crucial. Conceptual frameworks always determine the scope and form of my poems. Particularly the improvised ones.

4. Who are some of your favorite non-Anglo-American writers? Why?

Most of my favorite poems are non-Anglo-Americans, so it’s hard to narrow it down. The list is too long. Why? They/we tend to be more comprehensive in terms of my varied tastes. In other words, I can find more poetry among poets of color that touch on most or all of my interests, whereas it is harder for me to find that type of variety of subject, theme and form in Anglo or Anglo-American based work. While this is not always the case, as my references in the previous questions show, I see this more as the case for myself probably because of the more panoramic vision often required to manage oneself in Anglo-American controlled environments.

5. Do you read a lot of poetry? If so, how important is it to your writing?

I read lots of poetry — but in spurts. I’ll read a bunch of poetry books, then a ton of prose, usually multi-genre prose simultaneously (i.e.: a biography and a philosophy book and a science fiction book). Reading and hearing poetry is essential to my writing. I always write extensively as/after I read a poetry book.

6. What is something which your peers/colleagues may assume you’ve read but haven’t? Why haven’t you?

All of my friend Charles Bernstein’s work. I tend to be a fast reader and I try not to do that with his books. He’s also a little intimidating and, it’s weird, I feel uncomfortable reading my friend’s books. If they become my friends *after* I’ve read their books, it’s better! Of course that would presume that my friends would never write again after I’ve met them…I didn’t say my system made sense!

7. How would you explain what a poem is to my seven year old?

The first form of communicating. It’s fun but it’s also so deep that there are many ways to understand one thing. It usually has a great sound in it somewhere.

8. Do you believe in a Role for the Poet? If so, how does it differ from the Role of the Citizen?

I think the United States is the only country where one can even ask these questions. *That* is sad. We are very much out of the cosmic poetry loop here. The role of the poet is to utter. The role of the citizen is to participate. That participation can be passive or active.

9. Word associations (the first word which comes to mind; be honest):






10. What is the relationship between the text and the body in your writing?

The text is the body. The body tests text.

*here’s another video:

April 2011