Questions with...Paul Hostovsky
Paul Hostovsky's poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel
Craft Bailey Award from the Comstock Review, and chapbook contests
from Grayson Books, Riverstone Press, and the Frank Cat Press. His
first full-length collection, Bending the Notes, is available from
Main Street Rag. Visit his website at: www.paulhostovsky.com
1. What or who gives you inspiration or
The world gives me inspiration. Trying to get the world into
the poem gives me perspiration. Trying to get the poem back
out into the world also gives me perspiration.
2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret
desire for something else, like spelunking?
Iíve always loved the words the most, the names of things.
Iíve always thought they were the most interesting things in
the Universe, which is the one Verse, the one great
Poem--hence the name. Take spelunking, for example. I would
rather say spelunking than go spelunking, any day.
3. Do awards and accolades make you swoon? Have there been
any that youíre particularly swoon-y about that youíve
One of my poems was recently selected for inclusion in The
Pushcart Prize XXXIII. That blew me away. And it seems to
blow others away. But itís all so subjective. I think the
highest place a poem can aspire to is the refrigerator. If
someone likes your poem well enough to put it up on their
refrigerator, well, thatís the ultimate publication, in my
4. When youíre not leaving your poetic footprint, what else
in the world makes you warm and fuzzy?
I make my living as a sign language interpreter. I started
learning ASL more than 25 years ago, and I still think itís
the most beautiful incredible airborne linguistic phenomenon
Iíve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. When I happen to
spy two deaf people signing in publicóon the train, say, or
in a restaurantóI still get that little catch in my throat,
that sweet little gasp that you sometimes feel in the
presence of gorgeous music, famous people, and angels.
5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your
I donít know nothing from best. I only know what I like, and
what I donít like, and what I like best, and I love certain
poems by Tony Hoagland, Mark Halliday, Stephen Dunn, Marie
Howe, Thomas Lux, Jeffrey Harrison, Jane Hirshfield, Billy
Collins, Dean Young, David Wagoner, Mark Doty, and one or
two hundred others.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?
They both donít matter. They are both beside the point, the
way that beauty is beside the point, even though we canít
7. Then and now. What poem made you start writing and what
poem do you absolutely love right this very moment?
ďHow to Eat a PoemĒ by Eve Merriam is the poem that made me
start writing poems. Mrs. Cunningham put it up in big
letters on the bulletin board in 5th grade. Before that, I
didnít know you could eat a poem. Once I discovered you
could, I never stopped, and I never looked back. The poem I
love at this moment is Cummingsí sonnet ďI like my body when
it is with your/body.Ē I am in the process of memorizing it
so that I can recite it to my lover while kissing this and
that of her.
8. Are online poetry Ďzines a crushing blow to traditional
print Ďzines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the
poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?
I think we who love poetry are like those who love the rain.
Weíre in the minority. I mean most people hate rain. And
sometimes it isnít raining exactly, but kind of spitting, or
misting, or sleeting, or the smell of the rain before the
rain, which isnít the rain itself, exactly. So I donít think
we should concern ourselves about poetryís thin audience,
online and in print. I mean itís not about the meat and
potatoes. Itís about the rain. If more people loved the
rain, those who love the rain wouldnít love it any more,
would they? Itís kind of like that with poetry. Not exactly.
But kind of.
9. Where do you see yourself and your poems in 5 years?
Together. Living together, not married, but still full of
passion and movement and invention, rolling around together
outside in the grass, underneath the big trees, not far from
our discarded shoes.
10. What are the ingredients for a tasty poem?
There are a lot of very smart people out there writing a lot
of very smart poems that donít taste good. A tasty poem, by
definition, tastes good. Like Eve Merriam says, ďDonít be
polite, bite in.Ē Everyoneís tastes are different, of
course. For me, I like humor, though I like a good
tear-jerker too, and if you can do both in the same poem, I
will love you forever. I like access, accessible poemsóI
donít like having to eat the bread with the bag still on. I
smoked a lot of pot and played a lot of Frisbee during my
formative years, you see, so I like poems that are
intoxicatingly interesting and have lift.
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