Rick Campbell
November 2010


Rick CampbellRick Campbell’s newest book of poems is Dixmont, from Autumn House Press. His other books are The Traveler’s Companion (Black Bay Books, 2004); and Setting The World In Order (Texas Tech 2001) which won the Walt McDonald Prize; and A Day’s Work (State Street Press 2000);. He’s won a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and two poetry fellowships from the Florida Arts Council. He’s published poems and essays in many journals including The Georgia Review, The Florida Review, Prairie Schooner and many others. He is the director of Anhinga Press and the Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and he teaches English at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.  He now lives in Gadsden County, Florida, with his wife and daughter, but was born on the Ohio River 20 miles downriver from Pittsburgh.


Statement of Poetics

I think my poetic philosophy is pretty simple—I think that a poem should show us the world, the human condition, either in a way that we have not seen it before, or at least make us see again what we already know. I’m not one for experiments, though I’m not opposed to them either. My poems are primarily narrative, maybe even condensed essays. I believe that the most important element of a poem is the line and that a good line is born from understanding and hearing the music of a poem. A poem without music might really be an example of Frost’s “playing tennis with the net down.”  When Richard Hugo writes that Truth should conform to Music (or whatever he really said) I take it to mean, in my poems, that the good line is the essential element of the good poem. I also favor the declaratory statement over all else. Tell me something. Make a claim about the world we live in and the lives we live.  I believe in the image, yes , but I think it serves the declaratory statement.   I believe the good poem is personal, but not private. The poem is my house, but as Billy Collins said (more or less) I need to have lots of doors and windows to let people in.  I hold no schools and philosophies in abeyance and I hope people look for me somewhere—in the grass, the trees, the streets, the rivers of this world. I believe in using everything I know and trying to know everything.  I believe, in many ways, that poetry should be rather heroic, but poets should certainly remain humble.   And, finally, I believe that when Bukowski has God say “I see where I have made plenty of poets/ but not so very much/ poetry” that he might have been right, and I hope I am among those who make poetry.

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