Wayne Miller, author of two collections of poetry—“The Book of Props” (2009) and “Only the Senses Sleep” (2006)—will come to campus on Tuesday, Nov. 16. This poet is also a professor at the University of Central Missouri and an editor of “Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing.” Miller was incredibly welcoming to my earnest questions:
H: What do you enjoy most about doing live readings?
Miller: I love doing readings. It’s a different relationship to the work not only for the audience members (who hear the poems rather than read them), but also for me. The audience is, in some ways, getting less; they can’t see the shape of the poem, they can’t go back and revisit moments earlier in a poem that might affect their understanding. But they can hear the rhythms and sounds of the language, which gives each poem a shared, communal, “real-time” experience that just isn’t possible otherwise.
H: How would you describe your style of poetry?
M: Oh, that’s always a hard question. I’m interested in examining how our environments (physical and historical) affect how we experience our realities in the context of time. Poets I come back to most consistently are Rainer Maria Rilke and Wallace Stevens.
H: Are there any things that inspire your writing?
M: I like cities a lot. Each time I look at an art deco skyscraper – say I notice a tiny detail I hadn’t noticed before – I think that detail right there was the product of a human choice. Someone imagined that little bit of carving or the slope of the roof in that hallway and then brought it into reality. I find that both fascinating and moving.
H: We have several aspiring poets on campus. Can you give them any advice?
M: It’s a hard road. The best advice I can give is this: read everything you can get your hands on and always with an eye towards sly thievery. And find something else you’re passionate about too. Whatever that thing might be, it will give you a backup plan and, more importantly, it will end up informing your poetry in ways you can’t predict right now.
Miller will be reading from “The Book of Props,” as well as from his upcoming book, “The City, Our City” (2011), at 7 p.m. in the Te Paske Art Gallery.