Ilyse Kusnetz
November 2014


Ilyse Kusnetz Ilyse Kusnetz is the author of Small Hours, winner of the T.S. Eliot prize for poetry. Her poems, essays and reviews have appeared widely in the United States and Great Britain. Her areas of interest include contemporary American and Scottish poetry, and she is currently guest-editing a Scottish poetry issue of the Atlanta Review. She teaches at Valencia College.

Statement of Poetics

I think each fully realized poem contains its own internal logic, its own set of rules, and as long as the writer trusts the reader, and trusts what the poem has to say – even though that might not be obvious – something interesting and valuable will result. The journey of connectivity can happen many ways in a poem. In a narrative poem, it’s primarily the story that impels the poem forward, but poems can attain momentum just as easily by using imagery or lyricism to get from point A to point B. I started out as somewhat of an experimental poet, and later as I became a mainly narrative poet I remained interested in finding ways of disrupting the story, of crafting something more lyrical.

But no matter how many poets a writer reads, or how well-crafted a poem is, if the writer doesn’t trust that the reader will follow her or his leaps of internal logic, a poem is not going to achieve all that it might otherwise. When we don’t trust the reader, we begin to editorialize, and to second-guess our writing and ourselves, instead of freeing ourselves to explore language and image – and to explore the many possibilities that exist to connect them.

There are so many things one could say in terms of craft – one of the primary reasons we read the work of others is to improve our craft, and to see how other writers have solved rhetorical “problems”; trust of the reader and oneself, however, cannot be taught. It is a gift each writer must give to her or himself.

Ironically, it is when we find ourselves transported – when we forget to read as writers and find ourselves immersed in a transformative metaphysical experience – that we know we have come across writers who trust us, and themselves, enough to let us journey through and beyond the poem, back to an expanded sense of ourselves and the world.


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