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Morani Kornberg-Weiss interviewed in Rob Mclennan's Blog

  

Friday, April 25, 2014

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Morani Kornberg-Weiss

Morani Kornberg-Weiss was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and spent her early childhood in Southern California. After completing her military service, B.A. in Psychology and English, and the beginning of her graduate degree in Israel, she moved to Buffalo, NY to pursue a Ph.D. in English at SUNY Buffalo's Poetics Program. Her scholarship revolves around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lyric tradition. Her poetry has been published in multiple venues including The Last StanzaVoices IsraelGenius FlooredOmnia Vanitas Reviewkadar koli,eccolinguistics, and arc. Her Hebrew translation of Karen Alkalay-Gut’s Miracles & More was published by Keshev in 2012. She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her partner, two cats, dog, and a lentil. 

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My debut poetry book, Dear Darwish, is the outcome of a slow and complex process that lead to a shift in my historical, cultural, and political outlooks. In other words, the “change” occurred and the book was conceived as a result. 

I have spent my life moving back and forth between Israel and the U.S. When I started my Ph.D. in English/Poetics at SUNY Buffalo in 2009, I was exposed to a wide range of poetry that radically altered my writing practices. The book showcases the change in my writing “style.” I experiment with different forms, such as epistolary, prose-poetry, borrowed text, and longer, more sequential poems, since several poems naturally lend themselves to these forms. As Robert Creeley stated: "form is never more than an extension of content.” My poetry now feels “different” because I allow the poems to emerge in whatever form they need to be/come.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
When I look back at my childhood, it seems like I have always been writing poetry: jotting down words on paper, assembling lines along the margins of notebooks, and even hanging up a favorite poem in my bedroom in elementary school (“Warning” by Jenny Joseph). (Okay, I love the color purple too!) I started writing regularly during high school when I moved back to Israel and had to relearn Hebrew. I wrote poems in English while trying to immerse myself in an old-new language and culture. I don’t think I was ever aware that these were poems per se. Rather, I felt compelled to write about my life and my surroundings, and poetry became the outlet for recording those experiences.   

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

A project begins with an idea. Sometimes, I start working on a project right away. Other times it takes months and years for the ideas to evolve and for me to even become aware that there’s a “project” that can emerge out of them. Writing is a craft that seems to have a pace of its own (which can also be a source of great frustration when the projects are slow-going). In the end, every poem is treated as a separate entity: some require heavy revision (or are left out entirely) and others only require subtle changes or none at all. 

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I am often preoccupied with a few major issues and end up writing poems about them. The poems, in retrospect, can then be compartmentalized into book projects revolving around one major theme. But all of my poems begin with a thought, one so overbearing that I am (unknowingly) made aware of my own cognitive thought processes and begin to write – a word, a line, a stanza – that might potentially evolve into a poem. I’ve been practicing the art of being mindful when this occurs. 

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? 
Poetry, for me, is first and foremost a communal endeavor (even when it occurs in isolation between writer-reader-book). I love attending as well as participating in readings. I have met many great friends and writers through these shared spaces. I am open to the possibility of letting other people’s words and languages seep into my own creative thought processes and therefore always have my notebook and pen in hand. Reading my work allows me to share my poems through my voice and my body in ways that do not exist on the page alone. The poems become alive (or I give them a particular “life” depending on my tone and mood at the moment). Plus, it’s nice to get feedback from friends and/or strangers, especially when I have worked on a project for so long. 

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am currently completing my doctorate, which focuses on the lyric tradition, transnationalism, and Israeli and Palestinian relations. Several poems located in Dear Darwish were written as a result of my research. I consider my creative and scholarly endeavors as part of one larger project in which I examine questions of memory, nationalism, and trauma; I aim at understanding how particular memories and cultural practices are shaped and later perpetuated. Poetry becomes an alternative space where I can challenge the values that I “naturally” inherited. I’m not sure if there are specific questions that I ask; rather, the entire book is a collection of several possible answers. 

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
For me, personally, poetry is a form of activism. I think language is charged, multi-layered, and political; the act of writing, therefore, is a dynamic process where writer and world interact in meaningful ways. Poets, as Shelley puts it, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” I would like to think we are acknowledged and that part of the beauty and magic of poetry (and writing in general) is that we never know what seeds we plant in our readers’ minds and when those seeds will emerge as new modes of thinking and experiencing the world. I think the writer should just write, share, read, write more, and share again. Although we do not always have the privilege of defining our own roles as writers, we can, at least, define the type of poems we wish to create and disseminate. 
READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE

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