Jane Ransom's writing provokes both horror and laughter.
She captures the human experience of discomfort, and renders
her characters and lyric speakers with such honesty and
wit that we are compelled to withhold judgement of them,
and humbly acknowledge both the violence and the beauty
of violence in her writing and in our own lives. Jane
Ransom is the author of two books of poetry, Without Asking
(Story Line Press, 1989), which won the Nicholas Roerich
Prize, and Scene of the Crime (Story Line Press, 1997).
Her first novel, Bye-Bye (New York University Press, 1997)
won the New York University Press Prize for Fiction and
the Mamdouha S. Bobst Award. She has also been awarded
residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell, and poetry fellowships
from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Massachusetts
Council for the Arts. She has worked as an editor for
the New York Daily News and the San Juan Star. She has
lived in Madrid, Paris, Puerto Rico, New York, and currently
resides in San Francisco, California. She is the granddaughter
of John Crowe Ransom, and is currently the Distinguished
Poet in Residence at St. Mary’s College of California.
Justin Kibbe was born in New Hampshire, graduated from
Colorado State University with a BA and obtained an MFA
at Saint Mary's College of California in 2004. He teaches
at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado
and is associated with Pirate Pig Press (www.piratepigpress.org).
Kibbe: How did you get started writing?
Were you encouraged by your family?
Ransom: My parents were pretty self-involved.
They didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what
I was doing, but I do think having my grandfather [John
Crowe Ransom] in the family made being a writer something
that I knew real people could do.
Kibbe: Were you writing at that age?
Ransom: The first poem I remember having
written, I wrote around eleven or twelve when my parents
told me they were getting divorced. I’m not going
to recite it to you, but I can still remember it.
Kibbe: Was it always poetry that you
would write then?
Ransom: No. That was written out of emotion,
and even though the emotion was very sad I did get this
thrill from how the words fell together and how it rhymed,
and it was sort of fun to write so it gave me this double
experience that I think most poets have when writing out
of pain. There’s this joy in the thing that we make.
I remember also in high school I won some short story
contest for a story that was also written out of personal
angst. It wasn’t that I was writing regularly as
a kid or as a teenager. I was very excited about the idealistic
muckraking journalist. I’d been the editor of the
student newspaper. Then in my junior year of college I
went off to Spain for a year, and when I got away from
my identity relating to my family and got some distance
for myself I realized that I just wasn’t as interested
in journalism as I’d thought. That’s when
I really started writing poetry seriously. I took a poetry
class with Carlos BousoZo, who was a theorist, a poet,
and a big name in Spain. I got really excited about poetry,
and started writing a lot. So by the time I came back
from my junior year I knew that, although I’d pursue
journalism as a career, I wanted to write, but it wasn’t
clear whether it was going to be poetry or fiction because
I was doing both.
Kibbe: What are you reading now?
Ransom: Lately, I’ve been rereading
my Shakespeare. I’m having a great time with all
the rhythm, blank verse, and wittiness. One doubt I had
about the shift when I went from the somewhat more lyrical,
metaphorical, narrative voice of my first book to the
so-called experimental or non-narrative “avant-garde”
or any other somewhat inaccurate term you want to apply
to the style of my second book was that the second one
relied so much on punning. I began to wonder whether that
was somehow cheap. It occurred to me that it wouldn’t
translate well. One wonderful thing about Shakespeare
is that the man never stops punning and that’s part
of what makes him great. It’s given me a new permission
to pun like crazy and just enjoy the magic of what happens
when you pun and not to feel that it’s somehow light
or. . .
Kibbe: Do you still feel it’s
a risk to use in writing or have you justified it now
after reading Shakespeare?
Ransom: What I see in Shakespeare, and
what I experienced before, but didn’t quite trust
myself with, is that puns can lead you places unexpectedly.
In the most obvious sense, they create many meanings at
the same time. It’s very exciting if you can get
the same line to work in, say, three ways. Especially
if all those ways are actually valid; you really can capture
something true about life because life is always more
complex than we’re ever going to write in language,
in a poem, in anything, and its one of the things that
makes Shakespeare so rich. Also, adding to that is Freud’s
idea that punning is a way of the subconscious talking
to us. We pun in our dreams, for example. I find that
when I’m writing, if I let myself think of puns,
they often lead me to something meaningful, someplace
the poem wanted to go that I might not have stumbled on
if I were just pressing the poem in some linear, logical
way. So it may be a gimmick in the way that any sort of
inspirational exercise is a gimmick, but when a pun works
well it can be the muscle of the poem, and then it’s
not a gimmick.
Kibbe: In choosing what contemporaries
you read what do you look for that makes it worthwhile
to read the entire book? Do you have list of things that
you look for, or is it more of an off the cuff general
Ransom: I‘m more drawn to poems
that show virtuoso skill in manipulating language and
of playing fast and loose in a lot of different ways.
It’s very difficult because a poem can appear gimmicky
if it uses puns, breaks syntax, or scatters things across
the page. When a poem breaks a number of rules and uses
puns and so on and works, that is more impressive to me
than a more straight forward lyrical poem. But I’m
infrequently interested in so called LANGUAGE poetry or
poetry that just focuses on language. Even If I can admire
the person’s manipulation of language, I find it
dull, dry, and pretty boring. For me, the gut and the
heart are missing. I like some sort of hybrid of passion
and verbal wit.
Kibbe: Do you have any poets as examples?
Ransom: Well, I like so many, (and I
go through so many phases). Lately, I like Stephanie Brown
a lot. James Tate. Rosemarie Waldrop. Jeffery McDaniels
is great. I heard Sam Witt, a young poet, read recently
at Adobe Books, and I thought he was terrific. There are
all kinds of great writers, and I tend to like a lot of
Kibbe: Are there any writers that you
go back to over and over again?
Ransom: I think many female writers have
their Plath period. That was long ago for me, but certainly
I read and re-read everything by Plath. After that I had
a Louise Glück phase. Then for a while I was in love
with anything published in that journal, o?blék.
People have their Ashbery infatuations too, but I’m
in this Shakespeare thing now.
Kibbe: Are there any you read to generate
your own writing?
Ransom: Everything I read generates my
own writing, not just poetry, but newspapers, and fiction,
even advertisements. Sometimes when I’m writing
fiction, I want to get into the voice or thoughts of a
character, and I may go read something by another writer,
but I don’t do that when I’m writing poetry.
Being in this Shakespeare mode has affected my poetry
writing. I find myself almost wanting to use “thous”
and so on. You can’t help but be affected.
Kibbe: Is writing primary to your life
or more of a byproduct that happens no matter what else
Ransom: I used to imagine that writing
would be all I needed as intellectual emotional sustenance,
and I think there are some writers who are madly prolific
and for whom that works. What I’ve found out is
that if I only focus on the writing, it tends to dry up.
I don’t know why. Now, for example, I’m studying
graphic design and I’m finding that very productive
to my writing. It lets me out of this little rut that
I get into when I focus too much on the writing. In that
sense, writing is not primary, and I don’t think
it ever will be because I’ll always need other avenues
of creative expression, and other areas of interest. If
I were only teaching, writing and hanging out with other
writers, that would be very sterile.
I don’t want the writing to identify me. After I
write something good I never have any idea how I did it.
So I really envy people who are defined by what they’ve
written, but it would never work for me because as soon
as I write something, especially if it’s good, it
just slips away and it’s like this stranger, this
unrecognizable thing. It would be fine with me to get
a regular job that would define me as a sort of humble
every day person, and not as an Artist with a capital
A. That would be really comfortable for me as far as my
writing goes because then I can just write and not give
a damn whether it’s successful or not.
Kibbe: I’m interested in how you
relate to your work both in process and as a finished
object. I’ve heard Carol Snow, a poet who works
as an accountant, say that she’s never had a poetic
thought while working. Do you experience that sort of
separateness, or do the two blend a little bit more?
Ransom: I’m not the sort of person
who can write in a café for example. I need this
contemplative feeling of wide-open space and leisure.
In that sense I guess I agree with her, but at the same
time. I need the stimulation of being out in the world
doing other things in order to energize that contemplative
time I have. It’s not that I write about that outer
world so much as it gives me this other ground to spring
Kibbe: In the writing process, are you
looking for what Denise Levertov called the organic form
of a poem? Do you see yourself as a transmitter of the
poem or are you very much involved in the poem as it’s
created? Do you try to stay out of the poem’s way,
in a sense, or are you more interested in engaging the
author, reader, and poem into an interactive group-like
Ransom: Those are interesting questions.
I do think that something ineffable and strange that we
can never scientifically explain happens when we write
a good poem. Writing a bad poem. . . , I could scientifically
explain that. But I will say that there’s this:
In a sense, of course, I’m always other than the
poem and don’t control it. I have to follow it.
But in another sense, I have to have some emotional investment
in the poem even if it’s a seemingly intellectual
poem about some abstract idea. The poem has to mean something
to me personally, and the exploration of the poem, the
discovery process, has to be very personal to me. There
are many reasons why I could not write the Odyssey, but
I particularly couldn’t write a long narrative poem
that didn’t mean something personal to me.
Kibbe: Do you relate differently when
you’re writing fiction? Do you have to have the
same level of emotional involvement while writing fiction
as you do while writing poems?
Ransom: Maybe that’s how I’ve
split my writing skills, that if I were to write a narrative
not about me, I would probably choose fiction. Poetry
is more about wrenching out my own gut, and sorting through
it for my own pleasure. One of the exciting things about
punning is how the poem will run away with itself and
you have to try to stay on and ride the horse. The poem
becomes other, while at the same time you can’t
totally lose control or the horse just runs off without
you. I haven’t done fiction in a while, but I did
just finish revising a screenplay so I’ll throw
that in with the fiction.
Kibbe: What’s the name of it?
Ransom: It's called Kitty Bang. One of
the interesting things about writing a screenplay was
learning about plot. I had no idea what plot was when
I wrote my first novel. I really didn’t. I had no
idea what it consisted of, how it worked. I’d never
studied it. I never even learned about it in high school.
People said, well your first novel is episodic, and I
had no idea what they were talking about because I had
no idea what plot was. When I decided to write this screenplay,
I had to learn what plot was, so I went back and read
my Aristotle and all that stuff, and found it all very
interesting. In approaching the screenplay, I was certainly
conscious that each of these tools would be necessary
to the success of the screenplay. I couldn’t just
throw out character or throw out rising action. When I
go back to writing another screenplay, or my next novel,
I will remain very conscious of those things, and it won’t
be a hindrance, but kind of a fun thing to adhere to.
When I’m writing a poem I don’t feel that
it has to stick to any particular form. I’m a formalist
but not that sort of formalist. I’m not attracted
to writing sonnets although I admire people who write
them. A poem sort of dictates its own form, and it’s
exciting for me to see how it’s going to turn out.
Is it going to have little tiny short lines all the way
down the page? Is it going to be a prose poem? What’s
it going to be? I have no idea, and there are so many
different forms that can work. I sort of let the emotion
and the structure of the poem determine itself as it’s
coming into being.
Kibbe: Have you developed any unusual
habits that relate to your writing projects?. . .
Ransom: That’s funny. . .
Kibbe: In the way that William Faulkner
wrote plots on his walls. Do you have any tics or habits
that have become a part of a ritual that helps you in
Ransom: I’ve had a compulsive habit
now for many years of cutting my hair. I find that it
particularly happens when I’m writing, that after
a couple of hours of writing, and if I’m still going
to keep on writing, I will often, as sort of a meditative
break, wander into the bathroom, pick up the scissors
and start trimming my hair. I would always like my hair
to be a little bit longer than it is, but I start writing
Kibbe: You said the kind of poetry you
were drawn to changed from when you were writing your
first book to your second. Did your creative process change
at all in the types of writing you were doing?
Ransom: It’s changing all the
time. I don’t feel like I’m settled, in a
sense, and I really envy those writers who are, and I’ll
tell you why I say this. I spent many years trying to
write a second novel. I wrote many hundreds of pages of
one manuscript, threw it out, wrote many hundreds of pages
of another, and threw it out. During that time I was very
disciplined about putting in so many hours a day because
I thought that’s the way writers should live. Once
I’d confronted the fact that this was not working,
it put everything into question for me as to how I, as
a writer, should live. That’s one reason I’ve
decided there’s too much pressure on my writing,
coming from me obviously, but given that I am me, and
can’t seem to change that overnight, I’ve
been looking for other ways to take off that pressure.
I’m writing some poetry now, but I find that the
poetry is easier to do in a scattered way. Poetry is something
I can come to and go away from. The fiction demands a
little bit more of a routine. Right now I don’t
have that routine. I don’t know what it’ll
Kibbe: Do you know immediately whether
or not something is good?
Ransom: No, but I often have a feeling
of excitement about a piece of writing, and that’s
something that I’m learning to trust. One of the
hard things after writing a novel that I really like,
and it’s traumatic to be published in some ways,
is that I wanted to write something else I really liked.
The problem is I forget how awful the novel was at the
beginning because for me it felt good all the way through.
Its only when I go back through and look at the rough
drafts that I think, O my god, how could I have thought
that was going to go anywhere, and yet it did. If I have
an initial excitement about something. It’s fine
if it’s bad as long as that excitement is there.
Maybe that’s sort of the organic thing, trusting
the life of the work itself to take me there.
There’s one poem I’ve been working on for
a couple of years. It was just horrible initially. I remember
I read it, and I was very excited about it all along,
and I think that’s correct, just hope you live long
enough to get it right. Anyway, I read this poem in New
York and I made some joke before the reading the way everybody
does and afterwards, Chris Stroffolino said to me “I
really liked your banter.” I said, “That’s
great. Did you like the poem?” And he kind of thought
about it and he said, “I really liked your banter.”
And later I realized that he was right. The poem wasn’t
there yet at all. But I continued to love the poem, and
I still don’t know if it’s almost done or
if it’s going to be a few more years yet.
If you feel excited about something, go with that and
don’t worry about how bad it is for the time being.
It’s not humiliating to write something that’s
not working yet, and the wrong mistake to make is to feel
that it has to be good from the beginning and that you
have to be in control of it. Certainly that’s the
mistake I’ve made in the attempts to write second
novels. I stayed so anxiously on top of the work, and
was rewriting paragraphs and sentences from page one so
that there might be great sentences and beautiful paragraphs
but no real life in it, no real process of discovery for
me so why should there be for the reader?
Kibbe: You said it’s a traumatic
experience to be published? Have you had the desire or
need to be published? Is that where the trauma comes from?
Ransom: Early on everyone wants to be
published, and certainly I wanted to, but publishing my
first book of poetry was traumatic. It made certain relationships
with certain friends awkward in small ways, but I can
be oversensitive to that. Naturally, if you’re all
at the same level and then somebody moves a little bit
ahead, everybody’s going to catch up or most people
will, but meanwhile you’ve formed this comradery
around the fact that you’re all at one level and
struggling and the world’s unfair and suddenly you’re
one of the lucky ones. I found that very awkward in terms
of friendships. When my novel was published, I had this
naive expectation. I really loved the book, so I thought:
Everybody will love the book. It didn’t turn out
that way. I got some really hostile reviews. Not all,
but one said, “. . . Well the granddaughter of John
Crowe Ransom thinks she has to act out in New York and
then tell us all about it,”. . . which was utterly
unfair because it actually is a novel. I didn’t
do the things in the novel. People would give me a hard
time about creating this mother character, but they would
always all assume that the novel was purely autobiographical.
So I would have people say to me, “Was your mother
really so terrible?” in this way that was very accusatory,
and “How could you be so awful?” In a way
it’s flattering because I guess I created this character
that’s very real. Ultimately the thrill of giving
readings and being published just became replaced by this
weird sort of invasion of my privacy that wasn’t
even based on understanding my actual privacy. People
felt they had the goods on me, and they felt entitled
to personally attack me.
Kibbe: While all three of the books
vary in tone a great deal, they all seem to embody a mental
state that I think most people would attribute, at least
in part, to discomfort. Are you purposefully placing your
characters and/or lyric speakers, and arguably your readers
as well, into the uncomfortable realm of being both criminal
Ransom: It’s intentional in that
I’ve honestly spoken from, if not my literal experience,
at least my emotional and intellectual experience. It’s
funny because you talk about the reader’s reaction.
I’m one of those people who find it comforting and
validating to read something that conveys someone else’s
conflict and suffering. It’s not that I’m
trying to make the reader suffer. I’m trying to
convey a certain experience honestly, and hopefully some
readers will enjoy it. Perhaps because it expresses something
that they’ve experienced, but have not been able
to articulate it, or perhaps because it gives them some
insight into someone unlike themselves. I don’t
feel I can control the reader, and I wouldn’t try.
One of my favorite writers is Thomas Bernhard, a fiction
writer and playwright from Austria who died in 1989. He’s
relentlessly pessimistic. Almost every book is about Shall
this character kill himself.... or not, and I just love
reading him. It cheers me up so much. It’s all about
this inner angst and dialogue. People have accused him
of having no plot because it’s mostly internal conflict.
I think there’s plenty of plot because you can have
an internal plot, and to read about that internal conflict
is always a joyful validating experience. All I can do
is try to create something out of the material I have,
to create something that gives me joy. I know that whenever
I write something that I feel is good, it is always a
transformative experience because the discomfort, that
I have experienced personally, whether or not the details
are specific, that discomfort is turned into something
beautiful, and that is a total thrill.
Kibbe: So that writing becomes a validation similar to
reading Thomas Bernhard?
Ransom: It’s like alchemy. Here I seem to be this
strange person that suffers, needlessly sometimes; a stupid
cocktail party, which somebody else might feel is just
fun, could be quite anxiety provoking for me, and I might
spend the whole time thinking strange thoughts to myself,
being oversensitive to this or being claustrophobic about
that or paranoid about the other. I’m not always,
but I might have the experience, and it seems so needless,
but if I can take that and turn it into something entertaining,
because I do think most, if not all, art should be entertaining,
that’s great. It is the same sort of transformation
as reading someone else who does that. It means, okay,
all this wasn’t just a waste.
Kibbe: And in that way does it become both entertaining
as well as educational for the reader, or is it not important
that your reader learn something?
Ransom: I’m not religious in any sort of institutionalized
way, but since I’ve been reading Shakespeare, I’ve
had the thought that many others have had I’m sure.
I’ve thought: I can learn a lot more form reading
and studying Shakespeare than I personally could learn
from reading and studying the Bible. Well, does that mean
I’m making literature into a religion, and is that
the role I think it should have? I’m very wary of
that. After 9/11 there was some article interviewing writers
asking them how they saw the role of their writing. Some
of the people had very high idealist roles. I don’t
remember exactly who, but some of them deserved them.
But I have great respect for Stephen King, who said his
writing played no serious social role whatsoever. “I
write what I write. People are entertained. I’m
not doing anything besides that.” I really admired
his humility. And I think in a sense it’s up to
the reader. I don’t set out to educate exactly,
but if it happens that someone feels wiser after reading
my work, that’s great. I would be afraid to set
out to make someone wiser because that’s fraught
with all kinds of dangers, of being bigger than yourself.
For that to happen you can’t feel that you have
something to teach the world. It’s more that you
have something to learn from the work. If you set out
to prove something, well you’re going to kill it.
Kibbe: Going back to the topic of discomfort. In Scene
of the Crime your use of rhythm, nursery rhymes, and puns
seems to render a serious analysis of social and sexual
taboos through so-called dark humor. I’m curious
how you find both humor and cruelty of the human experience
to be beneficial in a piece of writing.
Ransom: I think violence and cruelty are a part of human
nature. I think it’s obvious. We have never stopped
waging war on one another. We have never stopped torturing
Kibbe: On both a global level and an individual level?
Ransom: I meant on a global level. I do think individuals
can make choices to try to avoid that, although at the
same time the best intentioned people can often hurt each
other terribly. I try to be conscious of my own darkness
because I feel that we all have it and I feel it does
more danger personally and in the world when it’s
not recognized, when it’s just denied. That is why
I like literature that contains some of that darkness,
literature that doesn’t sugar coat the human condition.
I also think humor, as any comedian can tell you, springs
from darkness. Most humor is driven by rage, but it can
also be driven by melancholy. I don’t think it’s
driven by hatred but I do think it’s driven by what
we call negative emotions. The best humor, meaning not
cheap racist humor, does perform a kind of alchemy; it
turns the tragedy of the human condition into something
laughable. I also find it exciting in an intellectual
way. I like reading a poem that’s witty. I like
it for no particularly ideological or moral reason but
simply because it gives me this experience of emotional,
intellectual, and aesthetic excitement.
Kibbe: Do you think that part of the excitement that comes
from humor, wit, and puns is also an element of learning
something new about a word, a world, maybe a fault in
the makeup of our language?
Ransom: Yeah, a fault as in an opening, you mean, not
as in something wrong with it.
Kibbe: Yeah, . . .
Ransom: And also a fault within the makeup of ourselves.
We all want to know ourselves, but we’re also in
this constant process of masking ourselves from ourselves,
and the more contemplative and introspective we are, the
better we get at masking. So we have to bring out stronger
machinery in order to see beyond ourselves, see around
ourselves, get to something new. I think humor and wit
often go there and are effective tools in self discovery.
Kibbe: Do you feel that the current
literary cannon excludes humor from its selection?
Ransom: I’ve talked before in an overly reductive
and simplified way about the divide in the poetry world
between narrative and non-narrative. In fact, there are
a zillion more factions than that, but if we stick to
that divide: a sort of narrative mainstream and non-narrative
avant-garde- although that term is questionable since
it’s been going on for more than a century-, I do
think that in the mainstream there is less humor and often
a feeling that too much humor is somehow not as profound
as a more serious tone. On the other hand, in the so-called
non-narrative realm, sometimes humor is almost obligatory,
and poetry readings can often be a series of one-liners.
Jeffery McDaniels is a great poet who is also great at
one-liners. He’s not cheap. His one-liners are really
good but that style, that one-liner, one-liner, one-liner
sort of epitomizes the non-narrative poetry world. In
that world there is this embracing of humor, maybe too
much if it leads to the exclusion of other stuff. In the
mainstream, there’s a of fear of humor being too
silly, that comedy is not as profound as tragedy, which
is absurd and just a fear of play and chaos.
Kibbe: Do you see your writing as
a response or as a progression from any feminist movements
Ransom: My second book was obviously
concerned with certain feminist issues, but also contains
a lot of hostility towards feminism, as you might have
picked up. That comes more out of a personal experience.
My mother, in the last ten years of her life, was a
feminist lesbian and this created many issues for me,
her particular brand of feminism. I’ve long been
in the position of calling myself a feminist but being
very leery of dogmatism, a certain kind of self-serving,
self-righteous, and valorizing of the female just because
it’s female. While I was writing that book I was
reading a lot of literary theory and trying out how
all these theories were working. I find myself still
in touch with the fact that I’m female and that
I have a certain experience as well as certain issues
of authority; it’s harder for me to claim poetic
authority, I think, as a female. But I don’t find
myself struggling with feminisms at this point.
Kibbe Have you ever had an encounter
with someone who was displeased with Scene of the Crime
because of its antagonistic approach to elements of
Ransom: No. I can imagine that there would be people who
had problems with it in the same way that in Bye Bye,
people objected to my being hard on the mother as if that
were some kind of betrayal. . .
Kibbe: and not a fiction?
Ransom: Yeah, and not a fiction, but
perhaps also a wrong to create an evil mother figure.
So I haven’t, but it’s possible that somebody
wouldn’t tell me. It’s also not a big famous
book that’s gotten lots of critical attention.
Kibbe: Do you have any new books that
are coming out?
Ransom: I don’t. I have these
failed books I’ve thrown away. I have a poetry
manuscript, which is not complete. It’s going
very slowly, but I have a handful of poems that I like
and I’m excited about because frankly for a while
I really didn’t know if I was going to be able
to write anything again that I liked. I got so fed up
with my own writing. I like that when I’m writing
now, I’ve recovered the old excitement about it,
and I am looking forward to the manuscript gelling into
an entire manuscript. I also have these fantasies of
designing the book myself. Here’s the strange
thing about Scene of the Crime. The publisher used that
awful font that’s totally unreadable. I was so
upset by that.
Kibbe: You didn’t have control
over the font that was used?
Ransom: No, and I didn’t see
it until it was printed. I burst into tears when I saw
the book because that font is a terrible choice. Now
that I know more about typography, I know that it’s
really inexcusable. To use a display typeface for text
is just wrong. Even at the time, it signaled a kind
of disassociation of the publisher with the book. The
publisher had liked the book, but some of the people
on the staff had said: Is this poetry? They really had
their doubts so putting it in this silly font was sort
of a way of saying: This isn’t one of our serious
books. That was also traumatic for me. So I have this
fantasy of designing my next poetry book, and I know
this sounds strange, especially to someone young like
yourself who’s looking forward to being published
as you should, but really I just have this fantasy of
designing this beautiful book and I hardly even care
how it would sell. In my fantasy, I could even self-publish
it, if it were good. In my fantasy I like the work,
which would be the biggest thrill especially after having
a couple of years of writing stuff that I really didn’t
like. I hope that never happens to you. I want to like
the book as an object and then however many get out
there, fine. But I would feel that I made this beautiful
thing, and that would be enough.
Kibbe: What advice would you give
to writers attempting to utilize humor as a way of reinventing/revitalizing
the literary community?
Ransom: First, I’d tell them
never to use the word utilize.
Ransom: Because it doesn’t mean
anything more than use, and I find it stuffy and bureaucratic.
Kibbe: Which isn’t funny at
Ransom: I do think it’s time
for a re-invention. We’re post-post modern now,
but I don’t see anything going on that can be
defined that way. We’re still heavily into a lot
of what’s called post-modern. There’s nothing
wrong with post modernism. But generally, each century,
at the turn of the century, something new starts to
happen. We’ve had several decades of post modernism
and I think it is time for something new. Maybe it’ll
be some sort of hybrid. That sounds post modern, but
what I mean is a hybrid that re-embraces narrative.
There is nothing wrong with narrative. Go read Shakespeare
for God’s sake. But maybe at the same time takes
humor more seriously. I’m a little hesitant to
say that because there are a lot of people out there
who use humor really well, but I would say that humor
could be a profound tool to excavate some really serious
stuff, and I would be very excited to read poets using
it that way.