CAConrad Interview: Rituals for Poetry

The award-winning American poet CAConrad here shares the moving story of how, following the brutal murder of his boyfriend and the subsequent indifference of the police, writing poetry conceived from rituals became healing: “I believed that I could do a ritual for poems, that could drag me out of that depression.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence, the police refused to investigate his boyfriend’s death as a homicide, which sent CAConrad into a downward spiral. The notes from the rituals that he did in order to get through – such as sitting in the autumn wood and watching the leaves fall all at once – became part of the poetry of ‘While Standing in Line for Death’ (2017): “Just honouring the fact that to think, every single day while you’re alive, that you’re going to die, and to do that in order to appreciate the day better.” CAConrad wants to live a life without any regrets, and he feels that the rituals help him “regain his standing on the ground.”

“The language that comes out for such a ritual is ecstatic.” CAConrad writes fast, not thinking about what he’s writing but rather trusting his body’s presence in the space: “If I catch myself following a thread or a full sentence, I write faster because I want to get ahead of that. That internal editor is invaluable later on for shaping the poems, but it gets in the way of the wrong notes.” Only around 1-2 percent of the content of his notes from the ritual is used, and he feels that the language of his poems are essentially “the notes that are beyond thinking, that magical cruising altitude that I get into it with.” In continuation of this, he feels that doing rituals – ranging from blowing “queer bubbles” for kids on a street corner in North Carolina to introducing an incarcerated monkey to a free monkey through crystals – is creating a space that puts him in “the extreme present.”

CAConrad (b. 1966) is an American writer. His work includes ‘Deviant Propulsion’ (2006), ‘Advanced Elvis Course’ (2009), ‘The Book of Frank’ (2010), ‘A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (2012) and ‘While Standing in Line for Death’ (2017). CAConrad has received fellowships from e.g. Banff, Ucross, RADAR and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Apart from writing he also teaches his (Soma)tic Poetics method, which is “a poetry that investigates the seemingly infinite space between body and spirit by using nearly any possible thing around or of the body to channel the body out and/or in toward spirit with deliberate and sustained concentration.”

CAConrad was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2018. In the video, CAConrad reads poetry from ‘While Standing in Line for Death’ (2017).

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden



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