Interview With Poet Andrew Kozma

Poet Andrew Kozma

This month at the Poetry Blog of 32 Poems Magazine my interview with poet Andrew Kozma was posted. He’s a contributor to the magazine and was a delight to interview, especially since he seems to enjoy the distractions of cafes as much as I do, though I more people watch than anything.

First, let me tantalize you with a bit from the interview, and then you can go on over and check the rest out for yourself.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

General obsessions or writerly ones?

Generally, I’m obsessed with bad films (and generally interested in bad art of all kinds). I co-founded a bad movie club at my undergraduate school and have roped people into watching horrible films with me wherever I’ve moved. It’s sad, I suppose, that I’m always more interested in watching a bad movie than a good one (or, at least, one that is seen as “good” by the general populace). But people always want to watch what’s good. Where’s the love for the bad?

In writing, I find myself obsessed with extreme situations. An early poem of mine was inspired by nuns who “cut off their noses and lips to avoid violation.” More recently I’ve written about the Japanese Giant Hornet: a swarm of thirty can kill thirty thousand bees in a matter of hours.

More generally, I’m obsessed with form regardless of what genre I’m writing in. I try to treat everything I write as an experiment, pushing myself in a direction that I have yet to fully explore. In poetry, this means often writing in traditional forms, but also, more truthfully, that every poem I write inhabits a form even if it’s not immediately recognizable.

Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I belong to a writing group now for working on novels, but this is relatively new to me. My default learning vehicle for writing has been the academic workshop from freshman year of high school to my last years of my Ph.D. It’s true that, now, I would have to say that I find my writing group more helpful than workshops, but the reason for that is because all the people involved are experienced writers, have workshop experience, and like each other’s work. The writing group is really only an evolution of the workshop for me. The first thing I learned about workshops is that you quickly have to determine whose comments are useful to you and to filter out the rest, essentially creating your own private writing group within the larger workshop context.

The writing books that I enjoyed most are Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter and Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t really like reading straight how-to books on writing. Both of those books are more a symptom of the way I do like to approach learning about writing book-wise: criticism. King’s Danse Macabre. Samuel R. Delany’s The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. James Blish’s Issues at Hand, and a Collections of essays by William Logan and Randall Jarrell.

Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

Coffee. And I don’t mean coffee in the sense that I need the caffeine to kickstart my heart or to keep me going – I drown my coffee in cream and sugar – it’s more that I like to have something hot at hand while writing. Drinking it (slowly) gives me something to do, and the heat from what I’m drinking makes me feel active. I think it has something to do with the fact that a hot beverage is a sort of clock. It only stays hot for so long.

Similar to the countdown inherent in a cooling cup of coffee, I use time to overcome writer’s block. When working, I’ll say that I have to write for a certain amount of time – when working on my novel it was two hours a day – and for that time I actually have to be writing. Yes, in theory, I could be staring at a blank screen for those two hours. In practice, if you set me in front of a computer and I have no other way to distract myself, I’ll begin stringing words together. Of course, whether those words will be coherent is anybody’s guess.

Here’s a sample poem from Andrew as well:

A Firm Belief in Unfettered Joy

Here is what I was going to tell you:
+++The Dalstroi orchestra played for them
+++as they approached over the ice
+++that had caught fast the ship
+++transporting the prisoners
+++through winter
+++to Magadan.

Here is what it was going to mean:
+++Even so, even here, even without knowledge.
+++There is joy in an attempt at joy by the Dalstroi
+++orchestra forced by the camp supervisors
+++to welcome with music those survivors
+++who saw the sun shining beneath the ice.

Here is the space between:
+++A siren carries itself across the city.
+++Against the pale grey sky, the dark branch.
+++The litter of dead petals on the church floor.
+++After the explosion, the absolute silence.
+++Snow becomes the icing on the earth.
+++Where the footprints stop, beauty lies untouched.

Please check out the rest of the interview on 32 Poems Blog.


  1. Great interview!

    I people watch all the time at the train station and get ideas for characters.

  2. Thanks so much for doing the interview, Serena.

    I’m in a cafe now, distracting myself from writing through people watching. Strangely, I still get more work done than I would at home.