Interview with Poet Tricia Knoll

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Poet Tricia Knoll

As we celebrate older women poets with our special Crone Issue that was released on October first, we thought it important to ask one of our contributing poets to share her wisdom in an interview. We chose to interview Tricia Knoll because she has appeared in our pages in past issues and contributed three pieces for the current issue. We were delighted that she readily agreed and are proud to present her insights here. 

GR: Tricia, you’ve been published a few times in Gyroscope Review. What made you decide to submit to our call for work by women poets over 50 that celebrated the idea of wise women?

TK: I’m 70. I’ve been very lucky to feel that I know many women my age who are wise, loving, kind – whose political fervor is balanced with a sense of how we are one with all parts of the universe. I’ve written many poems on this theme. I have an unpublished manuscript, “Gathering Marbles,” which I have recently revised heavily and am submitting once again. It highlights collecting marbles rather than losing them. And, I have a collection of marbles including some very old handmade German marbles.  We can find treasures in our life at any age. I feel blessed to know other feminists who live in resiliency and love in the face of today’s sometimes overwhelming challenges.

GR: We love the idea of collecting marbles rather than losing them! Do you feel that older women poets are well-represented in poetry journals today? Do younger women poets have it any easier?

TK: I have a library of poetry books, probably 90 percent are written by women. In online journals I’m drawn to the work of women poets to read first. I sense that a great number of the poets I read are younger than I am. Some have MFA’s. From my perspective the only reason younger poets may “have it easier” is that they have longer than I do to practice this craft. Possibly they have a more contemporary voice for whatever that might mean. I love to do whatever I can to encourage young women I meet at workshops and events to stick with it. To keep writing!

GR: What are some of your favorite women poets and why?

TK: I enjoy the work of Ursula LeGuin, who I started reading as a fantasy/science fiction fan decades ago. I lived in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, for decades and heard her read frequently.  I have her poetry books that have come out in the last couple of years and look forward to her collection coming out in Fall of 2018 from Copper Canyon. Grace Paley. Jane Hirshfield. Maxine Kumin. Lucille Clifton. Louise Gluck.

I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s work over and over again because it touches me deeply –I have had the privilege of studying with her. Just as I go back to Wislawa Szymborska over and over again.

The work of women poets in my community also matters to me. I wonder what are women writing who live where I do, those who are experiencing this changing world in the same timeframe and environment that I am. The upside of this is being able to hear their voices at poetry readings.

That said, I also have favorite male poets: W. S. Merwin and many others. I spent my high school years reading poems from anthologies, hearing predominantly the voices of male poets.

GR: As did all of us who studied literature. Male poets, male writers are the examples we were most often exposed to. It delights us to hear more women’s voices in poetry readings today, see more women being published in all kinds of places. Where is the most interesting poetry being shared today? Can you talk about that a little bit?

TK: What interests me is the popularity of hip hop. What I’m searching for bends toward the political and acknowledges the changes and impermanence we are experiencing due to climate crisis from the point of view of personal history and emotions. I love poetry that blends the traditional lyricism and emotional resonance of poetry with science. A poem that comes to my mind frequently as an example is Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power.” We all can welcome the news of poetry’s increasingly popularity among young readers and voices. I also admire the words of those who are aging.

GR: What advice would you give to a poet who is just starting out?

TK: That’s easy. Keep at it. Don’t stop. I did stop as I was enmeshed in a career writing press releases, scientific reports, newsletters, and annual reports, etc.  Find time to write even if it pinches other parts of your life. Carry a tiny notebook with you always to write down stray impressions, dreams or words that spark your imagination. Write about those when you find time. Find other poets in your community that you can share with, who can provide feedback on your work. Send poems out. Don’t stop because of rejections. I’ve written a poem about rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back to you for more petting and feeding, ringing a little bell as they enter their loft. Read poetry every day…it is so easy with the large number of online journals available now.

GR: Rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back for more petting and feeding is one of the best ways to look at rejections we’ve ever heard of. That gets right to the need for revision to make the poem something better rather than giving in to rejection dejection. What are you working on right now?

TK: I finished a collection of poems I’m calling One Bent Twig during a two-week April residency at Playa. These poems focus on my vision of trees as sentient lifeforms with whom I share a world and who are experiencing climate crisis along with other creatures. It is perhaps more lyric and narrative than that may sound. It is out looking for a publisher.

Two months ago I moved 3,003 miles from Portland, Oregon, to rural Vermont. The poems I’m writing now are about my experience in moving to be nearer my daughter, to “renuclearize” a nuclear family, to respond to a new (to me) eco-system with love, curiosity (why ARE all those barns red?) and respect. I don’t have a title for this collection yet. It acknowledges that I continue to age. :>) That I am a crone or walking down that road.

GR: That’s a huge move to make and we look forward to the poetry that comes from that. Any links to your work you would like to share?

My website (triciaknoll.com) offers links to all of my poems that have been published in online journals and lists others in print journals and anthologies.

Find details about my four collections of poetry:

  • How I Learned To Be White (Antrim House) explores meditations and narratives to discover how I experience white privilege through ancestry, education, work experience and more. How I Learned To Be Whitereceived the Gold Prize for Motivational Poetry in the Human Relations Indie Book Prize for 2018. Available on Amazon;
  • Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press) focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat;
  • Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) describes changes (environmental, social and personal) in Manzanita, Oregon, a small town on Oregon’s north coast, over the 25-year span of time when I owned a vacation rental there; and
  • Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box) collects my love songs about the people and creatures on a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington on the slopes of Mt. Adams where I was a regular farmsitter.

GR: Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom, Tricia!

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