.:| ISSUE 9 & Conversation with POET H.L. Hix |:.
EDITORS Letisia Cruz and Heather Lang: Congratulations on your collection, I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language (Wilkes-Barre, PA: Etruscan Press, 2015), which we adore. If we may, let’s begin with the poem featured in ISSUE 9. How do you feel this excerpt is representative of the collection as a whole? And how is it different?
POET H.L. Hix: Thank you! I’m always honored to be publishing with Etruscan, and in this case I’m especially thrilled by the beautiful design of the book, which projects something of the mystery the poems aim for.
This poem is representative of the collection in that the whole book is interested in the relationship between dreams and language: both are part of me (humans dream, and humans use language; I wouldn’t “be myself” if I did neither), and yet both are able (if I may put it this way) to present me to myself as if I were someone else.
This poem is different from the rest of the collection in that — for me — the sense of injustice in it is strong. I was thinking a lot about Antigone during the time I was writing this poem. In the whole collection there is a sense of how much bigger the world is than I am, how “out of my hands” my own life is, but usually that comes out as a sense of wonder and awe. In this poem a sense of injustice asserts itself as part of the mix.
Cruz & Lang: Harvey, you’ve published over twenty books! For you, what sets this collection apart? Or, perhaps more precisely, what will you remember most about writing I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language?
Hix: I’m sure there are ways I’m not aware of, in which my books resemble one another, but the experience of writing each one feels different. One example of a memorable experience in writing I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language has to do with the three poems in the book’s first section, “Dream Legend.” There’s a marvelous online journal called >> Likestarlings << that features poets paired in poetic dialogues, and they paired me with a brilliant poet, Jane Yeh. It was energizing to write and think in/as a conversation with her. Another example would be the section “Dream Lexicon,” which for me is the strangest section of the book. I’ve been obsessed with Moby Dick for a few years now, and one feature that intrigues me is its vocabulary: archaic words, colloquialisms, nautical terms, and so on.
San Francisco-infused whimsical fairytale illustrations and lush brightly colored, flowering, doe-eyed butterfly women are the trademark of ARTIST Ursula Xanthe Young's work, which has made its way on to everything from apparel, food trucks, wall murals and restaurant signs, to club flyers, magazine covers, art books, iphone covers and 12" vinyl record sleeves. Graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York and avid world traveler, Ursula - who originates from the Yorkshire Dales of Northern England - exhibits internationally and all across the US. She recently had a piece commissioned by the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco as a part of a new collection, and paints large murals around the US with Few and Far: an international collective of women street artists. She now lives in the foothills of the California Sierras with her husband and young daughter, busy exploring a host of new inspirations in the pine forests around her.
POET H. L. Hix teaches in the Philosophy Department and the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Wyoming. His recent books include a poetry collection, I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language (Etruscan Press, 2015), and an art/poetry anthology, Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2014). His website is >> www.hlhix.com <<
At some point I just made a long list of unfamiliar or intriguing words, and looked them all up in the OED to see their histories. “Dream Lexicon” chooses one word from each chapter of Moby Dick and makes up another “definition” for it in response to its use in Moby Dick and its prior uses as recorded in the OED.
Cruz & Lang: When we first chose “From question to vision to lie, from curse to riddle and back” – or, rather, when it chose us! – we didn’t yet realize that this poem is in immediate dialogue with another poem, one in translation. What might you be able to tell us about that piece and/or the conversation in general?
Hix: Each poem in “Dream Longing” responds to a poem I “discovered” in a book in translation, or in an anthology of work from elsewhere than the U.S. This poem responds to a (marvelous) poem called “The First Thing,” by Mohja Kahf, a poet who was born in Syria and currently teaches comparative literature at the University of Arkansas. The poem appears in an anthology, The Poetry of Arab Women, edited by Nathalie Handal and published by Interlink Books. It’s exceptional among the poems that provoked my “Dream Longing” poems, in that I believe Mohja Kahf’s poem was written in English, though many of the poems in the anthology were translated from Arabic or French. Kahf’s poem is spoken by Hajar the immigrant, who is “mother / of a people” and who lives “where the only water is buried deep / under hard ground and I must find it / or my unborn people die within me.” I heartily recommend the poem, and the whole anthology!
Cruz & Lang: In the vein of dialogues, what was your initial reaction to the Petite Hound Press pairing, to seeing your work with Ursula Young’s 'Water: Ocean to Bay’ 2010?
Hix: From the initial conversation with the press, I had some introduction to Ms. Young’s work, and I think of it as already engaged in other dialogues already, which (I think) it brings to the conversation with my poem. I don’t assume that she sees her work in conversation with, for instance, Klimt and Lucas Cranach, but I see it in that way. In Klimt it is often garments that wrap the skin, and in “Water: Ocean to Bay” it is the skin itself, that is what the Greeks would have called “poikilos”: multi-colored, made of spots. In Cranach, the figures feel to me barely of this world, slightly distorted, as if seen through wavy glass, and I see the figure in this piece similarly.
So for me one exciting aspect of the pairing is that Ms. Young’s work not only enters into dialogue with my poem, but also enters my poem into another large dialogue that she is already engaged in.
Cruz & Lang: Thank you, Harvey, for allowing us to include your poem "From Question to vision to lie, from curse to riddle and back" in ISSUE 9 of Petite Hound Press. We are thrilled to be featuring your poetry and the work of Artist Ursula Young, 'Water: Ocean to Bay’ 2010.