Poet-in-residence Kasischke to explore the habits of poets



Flannery O’Connor once wrote in a letter to a friend that the less self-consciously one goes about what they do, the better.

“You have to get it in the blood, not in the head,” O’Connor wrote in the letter.

Laura Kasischke was inspired by O’Connor, who believed that committed immersion in writing led to success and accomplishment. Kasischke plans to explore this notion with her Brown Bag, “The Habit of Poetry.” She believes poetry doesn’t have to be put on an unattainable pedestal — it’s something that can be a part of the everyday.

Kasischke is the poet-in-residence for Week Seven at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. Her Brown Bag will be at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Kasischke is the author of several poetry collections and novels. She’s won the Pushcart Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and several of her novels, such as White Bird in a Blizzard, have been adapted into films. She has taught at the Writers’ Center numerous times in the past, and said that helped inspire her topic for her lecture.

“I know that, at Chautauqua, a lot of the people who will be coming to the lecture are poets themselves or people who want to write poetry or have in the past,” Kasischke said.

While she hopes her lecture will be helpful for the aspiring poets in the audience, she hopes it can speak broadly to anyone looking for inspiration.

“I hope it can have bearing on whatever interests we have in life — whatever habits and practices we want to cultivate,” Kasischke said.

Kasischke said the idea she wants to emphasize with her lecture is that one should be open all the time to poetry — finding it, rather than just waiting for inspiration to strike “out of the blue.”

“You can spend your whole day being a poet, even when you’re at the grocery store, or when you’re standing in line at the bank,” Kasischke said. “You can open yourself up to the possibilities for poetry in all these different places.”

Kasischke will also look at other poets and their processes, from their approaches to finding inspiration to how they tackle the actual craft of writing poems. She aims to generate some new ideas for her audience by introducing them to other poets.

“I hope that they’ll be inspired to write poetry,” Kasischke said. “And if they haven’t started already, they can see it as a way of approaching the world, rather than just a wrestling with words or a product. It’s actually a process that can be taking place all the time.”

For Kasischke, poetry isn’t just an art form, and being a poet isn’t just a vocation. It’s a lifestyle, one that can be cultivated, and one she thinks can be extraordinarily rewarding.

“It’s a process that can enhance our lives while we’re driving the car or in a meeting,” Kasischke said. “Approaching the world as a poet is something that we can practice doing all the time.”