Poet Matthew Olzmann (poetry, ’09; Beebe Fellow, ’12) was recently interviewed by Stacy Parker Le Melle for The Huffington Post.
Every time I’ve heard you read, you make the audience laugh. I mean, really laugh. Have you ever been surprised by audience reactions? How important to your process is audience reaction?
I think the “idea” of an audience is important for any writer. What I mean is that it’s important to remember as artists, we’re not simply trying to tell the audience about an experience, but create an experience in which they are — to varying degrees — participants.
Take for example, something as simple as metaphor. If the poet says, “The moon is a coin,” that expression is completed by the reader connecting the two parts of the expression, and determining how those parts are alike: the moon and the coin are round, they shine, they have some kind of symbolic value, etc. This happens in the mind of the reader, and if you multiply that private moment by a hundred or thousand similar moments, you have the cumulative experience of a piece of writing. For that piece of writing to be “successful,” the writer has have at least some awareness about how readers might respond to each of the pieces placed before them.
Matthew is the author of the poetry collection Mezzanines (2013, Alice James Books).