Pew Fellow of the Week: An Interview with Poet Kirsten Kaschock

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Kirsten Kaschock, 2019 Pew Fellow. Photo by Katie Zeller.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

Poet Kirsten Kaschock (2019) spoke to us about her daily writing routine, how her dance background informs her poetry work, and why she doesn’t believe in procrastination.

Kaschock, who holds a PhD in both English literature and dance, writes poetry that addresses the intersections between language and the body. Her newest book of poems, Explain This Corpse, was published by Lynx House Press and is available for purchase online.

Kirsten Kaschock Q&A block 1

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For whom do you make your work?

I once interviewed the movement artist and legend Eiko Otake. She said that she felt an affinity for those people who came upon her durational performances in public spaces (sometimes minimal movements over hours with no playbill, no explanation) and stayed to watch. She called these audience members “strange people liking strange things.” I think I make work for anyone who is drawn to wonder about the interactions between language, perception, and the absurdly strange and often dark world we inhabit. I write for anyone who, like me, is searching for joy in this morass.

 

In reflecting back to the beginning of your career, what is the most useful advice you ever received?

I’m a contrarian. The most useful advice I’ve received is the advice that pissed me off and that I’ve swerved away from. “Don’t write about motherhood.” “Don’t use a fancy word when a simple word will do.” “No fragments.” “Use transitions.” I think, though, the most powerful thing I’ve witnessed as an artist is old artists. The people who’ve lived long lives trying to excavate that self-sized hole in the planet—they inspire me. In a world where the market demands that you are of monetary use, that you become a PR machine for your work in order to survive, a world that treats artists as either selfish children or suicides waiting to happen—to see the face of an artist who’s made it into old age is to understand all that is noise. If you are a maker, it is good that you make. It is—in fact—essential. I try to hold that knowledge close.

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