I recently had the pleasure of reading Robert Krut’s poetry for the first time. The experience was both enlightening and inspiring. Krut’s writing conveys feelings that are familiar and yet somehow indiscernible. Images speak, melting into emotions that cannot be articulated, kindling the smolder of latent imagination.
Just one of the many themes present in Krut’s poetry I found particularly fascinating was the supernatural elements, and I found myself spellbound by his use of imagery. There were moments of surprise in Krut’s poetry in which I had to stop and ask myself “Did this seemingly regular imagery really just take that turn?”
Here are five of my favorites:
“Gargoyle” and “You are a Jellyfish, Ghost,” (Packingtown Review)
“Hold Me, the Walls are Falling,” (Vinyl Poetry, with an accompanying video)
“Heart Holds Lake,” (A Dozen Nothing)
“Phantasmagoria at Six AM,” (Night Block)
In preparation for his upcoming visit, I was lucky enough to ask Robert Krut about his writing process and creative life:
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I just try to write whenever a phrase or image jumps out at me—sometimes that happens at a time when I can type it right out, sometimes it is written into a bedside notebook, sometimes it means recording cryptic words into my phone. Then, later I can pull them all together for the actual writing. In terms of routine, that changes up periodically—for a while I will only write at the crack of dawn, which will prove to be very productive. Then, I’ll mix it up and write at the end of the day, when my inhibitions are down a bit. The key, as everyone will say, is to try to write every day whether it is crafting a full-blown draft or even just a few lines.
I will say the most productive I am is when I have a schedule to stick to—and why I don’t manage to always stick to it is a great mystery of either a busy life or laziness—but when I do, I write a lot more. Wake up, write for a while before coffee in the morning. That helps. When I’ve given myself a strict regimen, I always wind up with workable material in the long run.
This year you were A Dozen Nothing’s selected poet for March. One of the poems published in that issue was Bomb the Subtext. What about this poem is special to you or led you to write it?
I had been working on a long, long—ridiculously long—poem, designed to be something of an epic piece (in my mind) of interlocking sections with a driving narrative. But the farther I got into it, even mapping out the trajectory of a plot and setting details, it felt less like poetry to me and more like something else. And not something I thought was heading in a particularly interesting direction—it had started with a burst of excitement, but by the end point, it felt stale. So I scrapped the whole plan, and then just tried writing a few poems that would be moments in what had been my initially exciting world for the piece. About four short poems made it out of that process—“Bomb the Subtext” was one of them. My hope is that those remaining poems evoke the larger “story” or “themes” or whatever else it might be called better than where the longer piece was headed.
In terms of what makes it special, I don’t know if there’s anything special about the poem itself, but I am glad that it appeared in A Dozen Nothing, which is such a great new journal. Pete Miller and Jeff Sirkin—both incredible poets themselves—are really onto something there, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
What was your biggest mistake as a writer?
When I was younger (not to jump the gun on your next question), it was thinking that I had to pick one particular style or approach and stick with it, which can shut you off to trying new things. I write like this, and not like that, or (worse), this is the way it should be done, etc. That lets you get boring very quickly.
These days, if I’m not reading as much as a I want—as much as I should—I feel that mistake in both my daily life and, of course, my writing.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger writer self?
Talk half as much, and listen twice as much.
What is a measure of success for a poet?
I’m not sure how to define success, really, but personally I feel (temporary) satisfaction when I’ve been editing and revising a draft of a poem for a while and then get to the point where I feel safe enough to walk away from it. As I just wrote that sentence, I was reminded of one of your Chico State alumni, in fact—Raymond Carver—who wrote about a similar feeling in his piece “On Writing.” I read that essay religiously when I was younger, and it clearly stuck. There is always a little blink of time after letting the poem set in place that feels rewarding, and then you get back to work.
Robert Krut is the author of This is the Ocean (Bona Fide Books, 2013),which received the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Award, as well as The Spider Sermons (BlazeVox, 2009). His work has appeared widely in print and online, in journals like Cimarron Review, Blackbird, Smartish Pace, and more. In 2007, H_NGM_N released his chapbook Theory of the Walking Big Bang; subsequently, he began serving on the press/journal’s Editorial Board. He teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lives in Los Angeles.
Please join us for an exciting evening with Robert Krut, Tuesday, November 29th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100A. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.
Written by James Howard