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Talking with Kathleen Radigan

Kathleen Radigan holds degrees from Wesleyan University and Boston University. Her poems have been published in New Ohio Review, PANK Blog, and the Academy of American Poets, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, and teaches high school students.

Kathleen’s poem “Babysitting” will appear in the Summer 2019 issue of Carve. Preorder to reserve your copy or subscribe with a discount by June 30.

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“Babysitting” poem leaves nothing feeling mundane. How do you find the right framework for a poem?

I want to pay attention to the shock and beauty of daily things because once I do, they don’t usually feel mundane. When I look at familiar scenes on a different scale, they turn strange, and this transformation thrills me. I love how poetry makes it possible to chop up chronological time, distill the expansive into a tiny ball, or widen a moment. When an image or line sticks in my head, I write it down. I try not to over-analyze this process because finding my way into a poem and discovering its framework feels mysterious every time, like walking into a cave.

There is so much happening in this piece, despite its sparseness. How do you decide the right shape for a poem?

For me it’s important to brain vomit onto a page first, then close my notebook. I come back a few days later when I’ve had a chance to forget what I wrote and then I take out pieces that I like. From there, I can usually arrange the parts of a new poem into a shape by pulling out similar threads.

What do you want to accomplish in sharing a poem?

That’s a good question! I guess I’d like to be able to translate sensations. Poetry makes me feel less alone and pops into my thoughts at odd moments, so I’d like to offer more in hopes that it will give people a thought or a feeling.

What poem or line is stuck with you right now?

“The sky is only a sort of carbon paper

Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars

Letting in the light, peephole after peephole—

A bone white light, like death, behind all things.”

—From “Insomniac” by Sylvia Plath