Poet of the Month: Nicholas Samaras


Nicholas SamarasNicholas Samaras has published poems in the New Yorker, the New York TimesParis Review, Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the New Republic.   He has won the Colorado Book Award (Poetry Division), a prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Taylor Fellowship to Study Abroad, a New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, an NEA fellowship, and the Yale Younger Poets prize for his book Hands of the Saddlemaker (1991).  Survivors of the Moving Earth, his second book, was published in 1998.  Samaras hails from Woburn, Massachusetts, but has lived in New York, Greece, and in other parts of Europe and America. He currently teaches poetry at the University of South Florida.

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Samaras, on Writing

My only-singular-goal in writing is to write wholeness. I write for wholeness. I write to make things more real. Haven't you ever had that experience in which you say to yourself, "What was that? Did that really just happen?" You search for meaning in the event. You feel the resonance, the reverberations, of the event, and plumb the experience for content. This is how I write. I write to make things more real.

As I write for wholeness, my intention is for the poem to be born equally whole, to embody wholeness within itself. From this, I do not believe in the biography of the author. I am no one to the poem. I am only the vehicle of the poem. In my mind, the poem must stand on its own, must live its own life and not be dependent upon mine. From this, I don't normally talk about myself. Let the poem talk about itself. My own biography is not done. I am a process. The poem is its own process.

Calling yourself a writer is like calling yourself a Christian. In reality, what you call yourself is an endless process. It is the verb, never the noun. I am not a poet. I am a writer. I am not a writer. I write.

A part of what I do is theological. God lives in the point of my pen. In writing, I interact with the act of creativity, the act of creation..

Gazing out the window is writing. Waiting to write is writing. Thinking about writing is writing, as is the act of writing.

Education means to dismantle the gods. For example, I remember adulating Sylvia Plath. But there came a day when I reread her poem "You're" and thought, "This poem is really mediocre." My education began only when I recognised that fact.

My greatest impetus and inspiration for writing is travel. I live for travel, as I live for writing. I am made both large and small with travel. In a sense now, travel is the mouth of a cave with the traveler peering into the entrance. For me, poetry is the same as travel. I stand at the mouth of the cave, the blank page of the poem, and gaze in deeply. As with travel, I think of the journey of the poem and where it will take me. To me, the poem is the Cave of the Apocalypse, Saint John the Evangelist's Cave of the Book of Revelations, on the island of Patmos, Greece. I think of the language of travel, the secret, hidden language of the poem, and of what is to be uncovered, revealed. A personal apocalypse of ourselves to ourselves. In travel, we come very briefly to a place, a moment. Essentially, we are on vacation from our lives and the object is to find our lives. The way to travel is to come down and away different. Never to be able to return to your old life. To bring back to yourselves not merely relaxation, but enrichment. We look in the face of the strange and the exotic to find what is familiar. We seek to become what we have traveled and experienced. If we come home the same as how we left, we have failed the journey. The poem is the same for me. The page is creation. Like God, the page is God.

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