Lending a Mineral Cast to the Words: An Interview with Elizabeth Arnold

Interview Conducted by Karl Zuehlke

Elizabeth Arnold has received numerous awards including the Amy Lowell scholarship, a Whiting award, and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fine Arts Work Center, Yaddo, and MacDowell.  Her poems regularly appear in major poetry publications such as Poetry magazine and The Kenyon Review.  In addition to Life, Arnold has published three books of poems, The Reef, Civilization, and Effacement. She is on the MFA faculty at the University of Maryland.

Her poem, “Iraqi Boy” which appeared in the September 2008 issue of Poetry, is an important landmark in mapping the development of her aesthetic. Although it does not feature quite the same strong enjambments as her newest poems, “Iraqi Boy” creates a similar effect to poems in Life through the delay and discovery of unfolding syntax. It also has motifs central to Arnold’s work: motion and stillness, amputation and recovery, and revealing the forces that move us. Effacement, her third book, explores these themes through accounts of World War I soldiers who were wounded in the face and who then went through some of the earliest forms of plastic surgery. Her