Thursday, December 3, 2009
Feature: Michael Henson Day 5
A Woman at Kroger’s Explains Her Tattoo
Long story short ---
her grandbaby didn’t live.
A net of veins gone wild
runs to the hospital
Four years old
and he drowned in his own blood.
She turns her leg to show me:
his perfect image
inked into her calf.
© Michael Henson
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Q: Where does your inspiration come from? (Family? Nature? Music? Friends? Famous Poets?)
A: I’m inspired most by people. I will see something or hear something out of that great daily flow of human drama and I will want to capture that bit of drama, I will want to honor that struggle in the words of a poem or a story. I work among people who are not much honored by the world ---ex-cons, addicts, prostitutes, working-class people--- and I want to honor what they bring to the world, even if the world denies them.
Q: Who are your favorite writers/poets? Who are your writing influences and what was it about them that inspired you?
A: James Agee, the authors of the King James Bible, Whitman, Whitman, Whitman, Neruda, Lorca. Gwendolyn Brooks. Robert Bly. Tom McGrath. A.P. Carter and the anonymous songwriters whose work he appropriated. Did I mention Whitman? Anton Chekhov, who sits at the right hand of God and William Blake, who sits on the left. They all have something to say, they all employ precise and resonant language, they all seem to know that what you say in words merely gives us a glimpse of what cannot be captured in words. But also very important are the people I meet every day. If you want to touch the living language, stay away from highly educated people. Whitman –did I mention Whitman?—said, “Go freely with powerful uneducated people & with the young & with the mothers of families.” And so I try to learn equally from the canonical poets and from the people who live close to the ground.