Justin Bigos: First, thank you for visiting UNT this January to read your poetry. As I was listening to you read, I had the sense that your poems might be typographically playful. And indeed, when I had your books in my hand, I saw that they are. Are you more attentive to the poem as human voice, or as aesthetic object on the page – or something in between or other?
Kristina Marie Darling: That’s a great question. When I first started writing, I saw myself as a lyric poet. I definitely believed that there should be a connection between poetry and an authentic spoken voice. After reading the work of poets like C.D. Wright, Myung Mi Kim, and Kristy Bowen, I became interested in writing poems that allow multiple voices to coexist within the same narrative space. For me, the use of typography is useful for differentiating between the various speakers, found texts, and types of rhetoric that inhabit my poems. I do believe that poems should be musical. But I’m skepticalof the belief that poetry is synonymous with a spoken voice. For me, poetry’s great appeal is in the potential for dialogue between found texts, and between different types of appropriated language. I’ve found that typography in my own poetry helps to facilitate this dialogue.
JB: Some of your poems “take liberties with” the letters of H.D., those written to Richard Aldington and to Freud during H.D.’s psychoanalysis. I don’t get the sense many people read H.D. these days. Why should they – not just her letters but her poetry?
KMD: I definitely agree that H.D. isn’t as widely read as some of her contemporaries. This is a mystery to me, since H.D.’s work reflects many of the aesthetic concerns that define contemporary poetry. I see her as the first truly modern poet. Works like Sea Garden, Helen in Egypt, and Trilogy privilege tangible details over abstraction, yet they allow these concrete images to serve as a point of entry to discussions of love, death, and history. This is definitely something that contemporary poets like Srikanth Reddy, Eric Baus, and Lisa Robertson strive for. H.D.’s work is also wonderful in its matching of form and content. Tribute to Freud, for instance, offers a lyric account of H.D.’s sessions with Freud. The work itself is driven by the same associative logic that one would observe in psychoanalysis. With that in mind, I think there’s much to be learned from H.D.’s work in terms of craft. Her aesthetic concerns align beautifully with those of contemporary poets, myself included.
JB: I’m interested in your claim that H.D. is the “first truly modernist poet.” Aside from her use of concrete imagery to enter larger human and historical discussions, what would make her modernist – and the “first” modernist? (Ezra Pound is tapping his fingers, waiting for your answer . . .)
KMD: It’s definitely a controversial claim, but one that I stand behind. I say this in part because many of H.D.’s contemporaries – especially Pound and Eliot – relied heavily on irony as a means to critique tradition. For me, this represents a very destructive approach to other people’s work. H.D.’s poetry seems to reflect a more constructive relationship with the writers who came before her. The use of montage in her work places literary tradition in tension with contemporary social and artistic concerns. This seems more compatible with