From Oloris Publishing: An Interview With Poet, Robyn Stone-Kraft by Julie S. Dobbins
Robyn Stone-Kraft is a natural educator as well as poet. Catching up with this busy woman to elicit her thoughts on poetry was enjoyable and enlightening. Here are her candid responses to a few questions on her favorite subject. ~Julie S. Dobbins
When did you fall in love with poetry?
RSK: I’m not sure I could pinpoint a moment. In a lot of ways, I’m still in the process. I was in sixth grade or so when I first read Poe and fell hard for ‘The Raven.’ I loved reading it aloud, and the purple prose of the thing. I started writing my own emotionally overwrought poems around the same time. I was never told it was dreck, so I kept doing it, submitted to a few contests. Had the bad/good luck to win a contest in 10th grade that I entered just for the extra credit, which sealed the deal on my ego. However, poetry wasn’t my first love at the time. I wanted to write novels and be a famous author. I went to college at the place I’d won the contest. I was remembered there and I was so frustrated that my advisor kept pushing poetry on me and praising my work. I was still writing poems, and a lot of ‘Uncertain Rustling’ is made up of what I was churning out at the time, and feeling very profound and adult, as well. At some point, I started reading more poems, and when I got my first few published, I turned more of my attention to my poetry. Now I’m a poet first, and maybe someday I’ll write novels as well. All I know is I love sitting down with a collection of poetry, reading it through, pausing, and then starting it over again.
Who is your favorite poet and why?
RSK: That’s both hard and easy at the same time. The poet who most inspires me is currently living and I’ve had the good fortune to meet him- George Looney. I can’t read one of his collections without sitting down almost immediately to write some new poems of my own, and the poems I’ve written under his influence have been some of my favorites. He’s got a melancholy sensibility and imagination that I adore. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe.
Do you feel your favorite poet influences your appreciation of poetry? Why?
RSK: Spending much time with any skilled poet makes me want to achieve more in my own writing, and it also expands my ideas of what can be done with language. I love a poem that seems like it was written effortlessly, but says so much, just in layers. It’s inspiring.
Where do you most often find inspiration?
RSK: That depends on the collection I’m working on. For ‘Uncertain Rustling,’ I was mostly looking at nature. For ‘Emperor,’ I was mostly looking at fairy tales. For a sure fire inspiration boost, I read George Looney. I’m working on about three collections right now, all with something different as a focus, so mainly, it’s about turning my attention to what I want to work on!
What is your criteria for good poetry?
RSK: Poetry is an old art form. So to be good, a poem needs to say something in a new way. Not necessarily say a new thing- there are only so many topics. But it should say an old thing in a new way that makes a reader say “Oh!” It’s too easy for poems to be trite, falling back on the same sentiments, saying nothing new. Also, it shouldn’t be completely self involved. At least, the self should be able to be seen in the greater scheme of things.
Some say song lyrics are poetry put to music. What’s your opinion?
RSK: A good song, absolutely. My husband and I don’t always agree on music. He likes music for the artistic talent of the musicians. I like some music based more on clever lyrics. If there’s a clever line, I’m on board. A good song, that isn’t made up of five words, can absolutely be poetry.
All things preventing it aside, what would be your ideal life?
RSK: Sitting at home with my cats and my wine. Probably in a cottage in the English countryside. Writing poems and reading poems, and possibly having a literary salon out of my house, like the late and greats. Also, no real pressure to publish unless I wanted to! Mostly though, the cats and wine and reading.
What do you find most challenging as a poet?
RSK: The total and utter disrespect that poetry gets. I teach classes and when I mention we’re reading a poem, the students all get a horrified look. Poetry used to BE literature, and now it’s only really of interest to those who write it and so read it for fun. I don’t know many people who enjoy reading poetry who don’t also write it. There’s clearly something about how it’s taught in schools that turns kids off. I have had my family pick up a poem I wrote, read it, then cast it aside saying, “I don’t understand poetry.” These are people who are supposed to support me and take an interest, but the way poetry is looked at by our society right now makes that response, apparently, seem reasonable. Also, there’s no money in poetry and all the teaching positions are being held onto with iron grips by other poets- if we get a chance to talk about how much we love poetry for a (paltry) living, we don’t let go of it! Makes it hard for the rest of us to find work doing what we love though!
What do you hope to achieve with your poetry?
RSK: A few books, a few sales, perhaps one or two people who really connect with my work. It’s so hard to get a book of poetry published, that’s really an end game in a lot of ways. I’m just happy to see my name on a cover! And if I can convince a few people that poetry is, in fact, awesome- well, that’s great. I do admit, I have convinced my father in law, at least!
Robyn Stone-Kraft is a life long reader, writer, and cat devotee. She lives with her husband and a large furry family of rescued animals. While procrastinating, she enjoys playing video games, hiking, knitting, drinking wine, and not cleaning the kitchen. She does believe strongly and passionately in literature, education, and the value of the arts, but she only really gets into a sermon when bribed with a good Pinot Noir … or an attentive and captive audience. Her book “The Emperor & His Rose Garden” is available through Oloris Publishing www.olorisbookshop.com