Poet-a-Day: Meet Claire Bateman
Like just about everyone else these days, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at home. For some wholesome entertainment, I’ve taken to hanging all manner of bird feeders (hummingbird and non) and suet from my deck. Of course, now I’m obsessed with birds. Enter Claire Bateman and her marvelous avian found poems, which I’m thrilled to include in How to Write a Form Poem.
I’ve known Claire for many years, having run in many of the same poetry circles and presenting on a panel with her at AWP in Seattle. Already a sharp poet, she creates magic when she pairs her imaginative skill with found texts. Here are the first several lines of “Star Head,” a poem she “found” in The Audubon Society Field Guide Series and The Peterson Field Guide Series.
Star Head (an excerpt)
Look directly into the face.
Radiating in a wheel-like fashion,
the absent center
(that small, wind-bearing organ)
may be removed
so that the entire corolla
breaks open …
Here’s what Bateman has to say about the poem.
Tania Runyan (TR): Tell me a little about the origin story of “Star Head.”
Claire Bateman (CB): I found myself wanting to play toward discovery—to write poetry that moved incrementally from the parts to the whole instead of knowing what I wanted to develop and explore thematically from the beginning, and then finding the best words to express it. In the field guides, I found words and phrases that interested me, and then pieced them together like a jigsaw puzzle without the box top picture, learning about the poem that was forming as it took shape.
TR: Why did you choose The Audubon Society Field Guide Series and The Peterson Field Guide Series as your texts?
CB: I was intrigued by the detailed terminology and taxonomy of the series, and enjoyed creating alternate contexts for the words and phrases.
TR: What do you hope poets can learn from a book like How to Write a Form Poem?
CB: I hope they’ll learn the joys of play, which always involves constraints of some kind, and the pleasures of structural challenge.
About Claire Bateman
Claire Bateman is the author of Wonders of the Invisible World, forthcoming from 42 Miles Books, and eight other poetry books: Scape (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2016), Locals (Serving House Books, 2012), Coronology (Etruscan Press, 2010), Leap (New Issues, 2005), Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003), Friction (Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize, 1998), At the Funeral of the Ether (Ninety-Six Press, 1998), and The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan University Press, 1991). She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation, as well as the New Millennium Writing Award (twice) and two Pushcart Prizes, and has taught at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, Clemson University and various workshops and conferences. She is also a visual artist.
Hear Claire Read “Storm Chasing”
go to 17:42 to hear Claire read
Photo by jenny downing, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
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L.L. Barkat says
I love using field guides for found poetry. The rich and surprising language is just so wonderful!
Really liked this poem, Claire. 🙂
Claire J Bateman says
Thank you so much, L.L. Barkat!