Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weaving Words, an interview with Ned Haggard

My last spring blossom as part of Couplets: to read other interview and guest blogs during National Poetry Month go to

I met Ned Haggard at an amazing event held to celebrate National Poetry Month in Chicago where 150 poets read in two and a half hours at the Harold Washington Library. Our friendship has enabled us to tap into the inspiration of our poetry communities  (Chicago for me and Minneapolis for him), proving that poets are a tribe, one to which we belong no matter our location, philosophy or style.


Ned Haggard is a prizewinning poet whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals; among them, Potomac Review, Santa Barbara Review, Piedmont Literary Review, Bohemian Chronicle, Kaleidoscope, Maryland Review, Ebbing Tide, Small Pond, and Grasslands Review. His most recent published work, an excerpt from a mystery-in-progress, The Slaughterhouse of Lambs, appeared in a publication. His work has been included in the anthologies: Off the Cuffs! (Soft Skull Press: New York City) and The Best of Chicago Poetry 2006 (  He has a collection of poems in print The Weave of the Sea (EbonyEnergy Publishing: Chicago) with another forthcoming, Soft-Shoe Shuffle and a novel The Companion in Dreams. He is developing a memoir that celebrates the people and events that have informed his life rather than emphasizing personal autobiography. He makes his home in the metropolitan Chicago area and has previously been a resident of New York City.

Q: Do you have a warm-up writing practice?
Not formally, I sometimes write off of paintings at galleries and art museums having initially considered that my practice exercise. However, I liked some of the work realized that way so much that I no longer consider the exercise a practice so much as simply another vehicle for inspiration.

Q: What feeds you as a poet?
It sounds trite and glib but, "Life," in a "L'Chaim" sort of way. Being interested in politics, I am drawn toward political poetry, which is often time dated but done well, can have a transcendent quality. Politics or more precisely political sensitivity, awareness and currently, deep concern, feeds my poetry often.

Q: What other arts do you enjoy?
Music and the visual arts, painting and photography. Music is an extension of literature for me in that I generally gain images from the listening to pure music although I have never tried writing from it the way I sometimes do paintings.

Q: What is the importance of poetry for you personally, and for the world?
Personally, pleasure and release, emotionally but also as a way of sorting matters, whatever those matters happen to be. I find dimension and breath in letters and words and the life within, behind, in front of and around them. Writing is a joy even when the subject at hand is heartbreaking. For the world, different strokes for different cultures, I suspect. I consider poetry the music of the soul, in particular and generally. I believe that is a universally viable statement. If so, that certainly says volumes for the essential place of poetry whether recognized or not.

Q: Have you always written poetry and what inspired you to begin?
Always? No. What inspired me to begin? I don't know, I just liked the intrigue of poetry and wanted to try my hand at it. I surely was not inspired by the classroom experience of poetry. Poetry in the classroom always seemed like a butcher attempting delicate brain surgery; the teacher being the butcher and the students encouraged to mime the practice making a bloody, fatal mess. Although, I completed the then only program in the writing of poetry at Harvard some years back and that was a worthwhile exception but then, it was a writing program, not a poetry survey course. By the way, I understand that program has since been expanded. But returning to your question of inspiration to begin, I think the Beats, especially Allen Ginsberg opened the door more for me than anything else; there was a young person's sense of curiosity; an "oh wow, nitty gritty more 'real' than what I've experienced" attraction that was inspired by, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...." and it took off from there and ultimately, it drew me back into earlier modern poets. I was ultimately most inspired by Charles Reznikoff. Before poetry, I wrote fiction and Reznikoff showed me ways of combining poetry and narrative. I am not a lyric poet and I am not a formalist poet. I am an objectivist-imagist poet. I actually consider myself a painter with words.

Q: How do you envision the role of e-books?
I believe there will always be both physical and electronic books but I think electronic books will become more prevalent and cheaper. There is a legal case coming up about publishers rigging the prices of electronic books. I just read an article, as I recall it said the ramification will likely be far less cost for e-books. In fact, I believe the case revolves around publishers insisting on, i.e., fixing higher prices for e-books so the market for physical books would not be dynamically eroded. It may well be that eventually physical books will be a novelty. In short, I think physical books will continue but e-books will gain far greater prevalence.

After, "Woman before an aquarium, 1921-23" Henri Matisse

Contemplating, eyes wide,
settled on the water globe
world of gold fish, the
woman's arms folded
her propped chin
sees? Sees what? The swim
of foreign life, the
soothing of fin
fanned water gently
swirling, all but
motionless? Wondering;
their lives and hers?
Mystery swims in her
face, quietly
                       -----Ned Haggard © 2012

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