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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview: Cat Dixon, poet of Too Heavy to Carry, Part 1: Looking Back

This is the first-part of a two-part interview with poet Cat Dixon [website], graduate from the UN's MFA program and published the book Too Heavy to Carry--reviewed here. The second part of the interview, "Present", appeared here.
When did you start writing?
I began writing stories in grade school around 3rd or 4th grade, I think. Encouraged by my teachers, friends and mother, I kept with it. Once I found Stephen King (in middle school) I wrote horror short stories. I always loved to read and wanted to create my own characters. 

Stories then, not poetry? How old were you when you tried poetry? 
I began reading and writing poetry my first year in high school. I started my BFA at UNO with the fiction track, but changed it to poetry after the first year. I still like to read fiction, and once in a while I will write a story, but I feel more comfortable with poetry. 

What poets initially turned your muse on?
The confessionals especially Plath, Lowell and Sexton. As an angst-filled teenager, I identified with their voices.

So what was the appeal? Real people, real struggles?
I'm nosy. When my husband and I got married, he brought his high school and college journals with him when he moved in and I asked him if I could read them. He said he didn't care, but he also couldn't understand why I would want to waste my time reading them. I read them all in one weekend. I am fascinated by what drives people, what angers them, what makes them tick. Reading the confessionals, I felt like I was getting an inside to their lives. I like memoir because of that reason as well.

What poets trip your trigger now?

What drew you to "Glacier" that you read it everyday? Can you quote a few of your favorite lines?

"The glacier's what's been piling up inside
you, mile-deep thicknesses of snow
and ice, until you're solid glacier, and no
one will come near, and there's nowhere you can go."
-- Alvin Greenberg

Every interaction we either build up or break down barriers.

Which shapes your work more: workshops or mentoring?
I love my mentors and I have found some of them in the most unusual ways. Their feedback and encouragement is invaluable.

What turns has your poetry taken along the way? When did you feel like you'd come into your voice or vision?
Every couple of years I become obsessed with an author. I read everything I can find by the poet and attempt in my own way to channel his/her voice. I'd like to think at this point I have their poems always in the back of my mind helping shape what I write next. I am not sure if I can declare that I have come into my voice. I feel I am always evolving.

You are evolving. When I first read your work a decade ago, it was angry or maybe not angry but confrontational always skirting the edge of controversial, often enough to disturb any political persuasion--first one group then another. You can sense some of that earlier poet still beneath the poems now, but there's more nuance, more acknowledgement of other perspectives even if you don't buy into it. How do you account for the new direction?
Life. When I was younger, I thought I had everything figured out and believed I had all the answers. When my life took a 180-turn, I realized that I knew nothing. 

Video of Cat Dixon reading

Cat will be reading at The Petshop Gallery (2725 N 62nd Street, Omaha) on Wednesday, September 17 at 7pm as part of the poetry movement 100,000 Poets for Change. She will read with Laura Madeline Wiseman, Natasha Kessler-Rains, and Sarah McKinstry-Brown. Their reading focuses on the prevention of gender violence.  Cat says about the movement, "Stories and details are what move people to action so it's imperative that poets and writers create and share work that gives a voice to those without one. Raising awareness is the first step to change."

For more information about this event, see the facebook event here.

-->photos by Greg Higgins

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