Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview with Anne Higgins, Author of Reconnaissance (Texture Press, 2014)

Poetry connects to readers in many ways, and the sources of inspiration can come from experiences, ideas, relationships, and emotions. Welcome to an interview with Anne Higgins, whose latest book, Reconnaissance, has just been published by Texture Press. As sample of her work can be found here.

What is your name, and your primary occupation / avocation(s)?

Anne Higgins. My primary occupation is teaching.  I’ve been teaching English for roughly 40 years, from middle school level through college. My avocation is writing poetry and watching birds.  I also have a religious vocation; at the age of 30 I joined a religious community, the Daughters of Charity.

Anne Higgins 
Anne Higgins in 1970 - Ireland

Anne Higgins in 1978 as a novitiate
 What are some of your thoughts about the role of poetry in today's society?

It’s ever ancient, ever new. Today’s society needs it for the inner life. I agree with William Carlos Williams when he said “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

How do you see poetry in relation to other discourses?

It has equal importance, though not many think so.

What do you consider to be the difference between poetry and poetics?

Poetics is the study of the way poetry is written; poetry is the work itself.

How would you describe your own sense of poetics?

I would describe it the way literary theorist Jonathan Culler does: Poetics is the study of linguistic techniques in poetry; it’s concerned with the understanding of how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the reader.

I have never studied literary theory per se: my study of poetry (back in the sixties) focused on form criticism, and I am still mostly interested in the words and how they are put together in the poem.

Your recent book is Reconnaissance.  What would you like a reader to know about it?  How would you like readers to read the text(s)?  What kinds of interpretive strategies / meaning-making processes would you recommend?  How can the work make connections with readers?

I titled the book Reconnaissance, because to me the word means “to know again.”  One of the dictionary definitions is:  preliminary survey to gain information; especially : an exploratory military survey of enemy territory. From the  French, literally, recognition.

So the poems are about knowing things again; especially, seeing things with new eyes.

I am a lover of spy novels, especially the work of John Le Carre. Because of the underlying motif of surveillance that the word reconnaissance implies, I used words associated with spies and spying for the divider pages: Binoculars, Debriefing Magritte, Interrogations, and Safe House.

Magritte - Girl Eating Bird
The title of the book also comes from a painting from Rene Magritte: Le Reconnaissance Infinie.  The wonderful and ingenious cover was created by Arlene Ang, incorporating the sky from the Magritte painting, framed by a camera lens, and visited by a “hated housefly” from my poem “Like the Eyes of Insects.”
Le Reconnaissance Infinie
I try to write accessible poems, though I know some of the ones in this book are more riddle-like.  I love to play with words, and would encourage readers to just play along with me. Readers should also be able to connect with many of the subjects of the poems: traffic, aging, illness, families, etc.
Magritte - Companions of Fear
 Most of the poems are open form, but I did include one sestina – the one about the terrible fire in Our Lady of the Angels elementary school in Chicago in the 1950’s.

Fire at Our Lady of the Angels elementary school - 1950s
Please describe what you would consider to be your prevailing philosophy of life.

To me, life is full of mystery , synchronicity, and irony. 

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