Kate Hanson Foster is a poet.
But I don’t like poetry.
She agreed to an interview anyway.
Because Kate Hanson Foster is more than a poet. She could be a stand up comedian if she wanted to be.
We spoke via emails between Texas and Massachusetts for National Poetry Month. I tried to get a sense of who she was behind the woman published in Comstock Review, Harper Palate, Poet Lore and Tupelo Quarterly. Her first book of poems titled ‘Mid Drift’ by Loom Press finaled at the Massachusetts Center for Book Awards but I wouldn’t read it because it’s poetry. Instead I asked if we could talk on the phone about other stuff, not related to poetry or poems. Her response is why I enjoyed every second of our interview.
“I’m a lot less clever on the phone and it will probably give me diarrhea but if you insist.”
Like so many artists, Kate is also maybe a bit shy. Anxiety prone. I’ve often wondered if anxiety and creativity work in tandem to continue our species onto greater intelligence but with some careful planning along the way. Kate reminds me of a meerkat. She pops out for hilarious moments, insightful moments and then runs back into her comfortable haven. Like this when she describes how she never apologizes for being herself.
“My Mom says my biggest fault is that I shoot from the hip. I have a sharp tongue and I’ve been quick with it. It’s gotten me in trouble over any inkling of success. But I just can’t change. I’m going to go mop my floor now.”
I start off our interview by getting right to the meat of the matter. I find poets smug. I’m generalizing and Kate’s smart enough to know what I mean.
“I don’t think all poets are, for one. But I think the poetry genre has become a little overly intellectualized. Poetry these days is more “taught” in an academic atmosphere rather than discovered organically. For instance, many people turn to poetry for big occasions (birth, death, marriage, anniversaries, etc.) But when they are searching for poetry, they are sort of forced into this antiquated cannon. Modern poets are writing some amazing things, but since it’s so closely tied with academics, it is less accessible to the non-poet. Poems are meant to provoke thought but they shouldn’t expect you to be a genius. I don’t consider it an elitist art – but you are going to find snobs in every genre.”
I ask her when she first recognized poetry as something special. She goes off about a book titled “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” A book she found at her grandparents house. An old copy from the fifties.
“I didn’t know what I was reading. I was too young to understand the book was mostly bullshit. But I was old enough to know what worry was. According to the author, worry could be devastating for my health, worry could cause my body to break out into boils. Worry alone could cause tooth decay.”
Then she writes me this…”I wanted to revisit my strange confession of being drawn to poetry because of a self help book. I realize this completely discredits me right off the bat, and will likely halt most people from reading an interview. But it sort of ties into poetry being discovered instead of taught. You see, there were poetry excerpts and certain turns of phrases that excited me. Like this one by Carnegie….’You and I are standing this very second at a meeting place of two entities: the vast past that has endured forever, and the future that is plunging onto the last syllable of recorded time. We can’t possibly live in either of those eternities – no, not even for one second. By trying to do so, we can wreck our bodies and our minds.”
“His words were cool, calm, and he had keen insights of the world and all its madness. I was terrified of the book but wondered how I’d survived without it for all these twelve years.”
Kate decides to take it upon herself to get me interested in poetry. Her own way. I complain of poetry with metaphors such as pale pink petals and lumbering cedars. She speaks of plain spoken asides. She peaks my interest and I take the bait.
“What is a plain-spoken aside?”
“I have a tendency to write lyrical poetry – the kind that has all the techniques you hate (metaphors, smilies, densely packed language) but I like taking a turn here and there where I just speak plainly. I call them “plain-spoken asides.” Just a simple easy to digest line.
She then shares a James Wright poem with me called “Lying in a Hammock” filled with the colorful descriptions I loathe in poetry. Of a rural Minnesota ranch with cows and shit and there in the end is the plain-spoken aside she taught me….a sucker punch of confusion after so much flower an sky lines. It ends with just a simple…”I’ve wasted my life.” It leaves you wondering if you’d read the poem correctly to begin with. It left me wondering if I’d read the poem correctly.
And that’s the thing with Kate Hanson Foster. She’s like a plain spoken aside herself. When you think poets are smug intellectuals and instead find a funny opinionated woman that started her poetry career by reading a self help book instead. And she ends the conversation with that which she taught me…a simple head scratching line.
“I had a doctors hand up my vagina and ass today. I’m not in the mood to fight with wordy boys.”
Kate is currently working on her next book “Crow’s Funeral.” It’ll be done sometime after she’s done mopping the floor.
Go ahead, I fucking dare you, he says.
Mouth of my laptop wide
open, resting in my right palm, held
over my head like a dinner tray.
We are all teeth and spit and wild
corneas beaming, brimming. Will you?
You won’t, he says. But of course,
I smashed it down with everything I had—
hard drive dislodged and tossed
in another direction, screen cracked
in the mosaic pattern of a punched
mirror, a decade of files perfectly
detonated. In a broken second,
sweetness closed in with all
its needles, the warm and soothing
silence of a bedspread. You can really
surprise yourself with that sudden
ecstasy— lost pictures, poems,
and to-do lists—The truth is,
afterwards I sobbed like a child
begging to be punished, and all night
I prayed for forgiveness without knowing
from what or whom. The truth is,
afterwards he held me like a baby,
and the next day he bought me a brand new
computer and I accepted it like a gutless
rat, knowing that given the chance
I would wreck the thing all over again
If I was fucking dared to.
Diana Kirk is the author of Licking Flames: Tales of a Half-Assed Hussy. She’s been published in Hipfish, Nailed, Thought Catalog and who cares magazine. She enjoys Kozy Shack chocolate pudding and movies with Matthias Schoenaerts. Please follow her on Twitter as her publicist is disappointed in her Twitter platform.