This is the first part of Amy and Kathleen’s conversation: you can read the second part here.
Following the success of our inaugural Poem to Poem, for our second feature in the series we invited Amy Key and Kathleen Ossip to hold a transatlantic conversation.
The first step in putting together a Poem to Poem is to find two pieces of writing that seem to speak to one another, whether through congruencies of subject matter, sensibility or ambition. Kathleen Ossip’s ‘To the Poet Who After My Reading Said “Your Poems Are Good. Eccentric, But Good.”’ begins with the speaker recalling her eighteen-year-old self’s ‘loving ideals about penises’, soon shaken by having a Parisian flasher’s thrust into her hand. Ossip comes back repeatedly to the poet’s ongoing search for the ‘ideal word’ – a phrase that seems also to contain, by way of ghosted pun, the utopian search for an ‘ideal world’. Amy Key’s ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’ takes the form of a series of visceral, glittering fragments. We overhear the tussle of a consciousness trying, at first, to impose order on this leaky inner discourse, before (apparently) giving in to its flow. ‘“Prone to” but not “prone”’, the poem wittily and movingly explores the ways our emotional lives relate to the body and to gender.
Kathleen and Amy exchanged messages over the summer of 2016. Their dialogue considers, from many angles, ‘the effect’, as Key puts it, ‘of society’s demands on girls and women and the bewilderment and damage that can cause.’ We begin to see how each of their poems reflects, variously, on sexism in the poetry world and beyond, ideas of consent, shame and rage as gendered experiences, and the forbiddeness of female anger. Insights emerge about their writing processes: how the ‘ghost’ of form often leads the way, how to negotiate artifice and phoniness, and how the relationship between poem and reader is often a sort of compromise. Always in sight is the biggest question: why write poems anyway?
Amy Key’s first collection, Luxe, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two pamphlets: Instead of Stars (tall-lighthouse, 2009) and History (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The Poetry Review, New Statesman, Rough Trade Magazine, Best British Poetry 2015 and anthologies from Faber & Faber and Penguin. She co-edits online journal Poems in Which.
Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Do-Over, a New York Times Editors’ Choice; The Cold War, which was one of Publishers Weekly’s best books of 2011; The Search Engine, which was selected by Derek Walcott for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Magazine Writing, the Washington Post, Paris Review, Poetry, The Believer, The New Republic, and Poetry Review. She is a 2016-2017 Radcliffe Fellow and the editor of the poetry review website SCOUT.