Corrinne Clegg Hales
August 2004

 

Corrinne Clegg Hales grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, earned her BA and MA at the University of Utah and her PhD at SUNY-Binghamton in New York State. Among other jobs, she has worked as a motel clerk and housekeeper, a political pollster, a Polaroid camera demonstrator, and has taught at various colleges and universities including the University of Utah, SUNY-Binghamton, Ithaca College, and the University of Oregon. She is the author of two books, Separate Escapes, winner of the Richard Snyder Poetry Prize, Ashland Poetry Press, 2002, and Underground, Ahsahta Press, 1986; and two chapbooks, Out of This Place, March Street Press, 2001, and January Fire, Devil’s Millhopper Press. Awards include two NEA Fellowship Grants and the River Styx International Poetry Prize for 2000. Her poems have appeared in Nimrod, The North American Review, The Southern Review, Mississippi Review, Ploughshares, Notre Dame Review, River Styx, The Hudson Review, and elsewhere, and she currently lives in Fresno, CA, where she teaches creative writing and American literature and coordinates the MFA program at California State University, Fresno.

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I think of a poem as a light in the hand, a full spectrum light that pokes into corners and ceilings, and noses into tight cracks and under the furniture, even under the boards of the floor, and the best poems are the most relentless lamps, both wide angle and focused, unlimited in their ability to foster examination, to help us see.

It also seems to me that poetry is one of the ways—perhaps even the most effective way—that humans can talk deeply and honestly with each other. It’s a way of seeking knowledge, meaning, truth; a way of discovering what it might mean to live in the world together as human creatures, and maybe even a way of discovering how to do it a little better. So, at risk of sounding unfashionable, I will say that I believe a poem’s first errand is communication. I don’t mean simple verbal clarity or accessibility, though I value those qualities highly; I mean an attempt to connect with others in a complex and significant way. The reader must be respected, and the reader must be invited in—though not necessarily through the most obvious doorway.

Certainly one of the most difficult and urgent things about being human is the need to communicate accurately and profoundly with one another, and poetry is where we often come closest to accomplishing that. The poems I find most powerful are those that push language and imagination to the point where they simultaneously access the trinity of intellect, emotion and sensuality, creating something like an intersection of revelation.



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