Claudia Burbank: An Interview With Serena Agusto-Cox

October 29, 2009

Poet Claudia Burbank, published in 32 Poems

Poet Claudia Burbank, published in 32 Poems

1. How would you introduce yourself to a crowded room eager to hang on your every word? Are you just a poet, what else should people know about you?

I’ve come to writing after retiring from the corporate world (telecommunications). I was one of those road warriors you see running through the airport. I knew I was traveling too much when the airline crew celebrated my birthday. Lacking a background in English or writing I had to start from scratch. Reading has been a lifelong delight though.

I’m a graduate of Vassar College and a 30 year subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Few people know I’m proficient at wallpapering and installed a tub surround with sliding glass doors by myself.

I received a Fellowship in poetry from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, won the Inkwell Award (Alice Quinn, judge), and had my work featured on Verse Daily. I’ve published about 90 poems so far, most recently in Subtropics, Hotel Amerika, and Passages North.

2. Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

Most writers are better at writing than reading their work aloud which often tends to be dull, interminable, largely indistinguishable and unmemorable.

The written word tends to be more powerful and lasting and easier to grasp. Studies show that the brain is actively engaged in creating the experience when you read as opposed to being a passive listener. If your mind wanders you can simply start over.

On the second question: if only.

3. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I tend to be obsessive about most things I do. This month that includes Ken Ken puzzles, keeping my teeth extra clean, and the adagio from Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto.”

4. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

Helen Vendler’s books were the most insightful and helpful. Workshops all depend on who’s giving them and how well matched you skill level is.

Living close to NYC I was fortunate to attend workshops at Poet’s House, the 92nd ST. Y, and the New School. Three were truly worth it and those teachers I stayed with; the others were enjoyable but I can’t truly say I learned anything. I was in two writing groups which were good for support and critique (both giving and receiving).

Again it depends on how well-matched you are to the skill level of the group.

5. Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

Lord no.

6. When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

Silence. No distractions. No phone.

7. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

Definitely more writers.

8. How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I walk an hour most days. Also I do arm curls with the laptop in its carrying case.

9. Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

Good coffee. Dark chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

10. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

I work at the dining room table which looks out on my small town street. I’m often futzing around the kitchen or letting the cats in and out. My ideal writing space would be a soundproof windowless cell with a pipeline for coffee and chocolate.

11. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

Currently I’m exploring short fiction, both short shorts and longer stories, playing with voice, diction and POV.

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