“A more open kind of collaboration”: an interview with Steve Klepetar

This is the 12th in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Steve Klepetar is our 12th interviewee; both video remixes made so far with texts of his from the Poetry Storehouse were featured on Moving Poems this week.

1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.

I find the entire concept of the Poetry Storehouse, with its invitation to multiple readings and remixes, thrilling. In the past, I have been fortunate to collaborate with the painter Bill Ellingson, my colleague at Saint Cloud State University, and with composer Richard Lavenda of Rice University, for whom I wrote a libretto and who set several of my poems to music. In those cases I worked closely with the other artists. The Poetry Storehouse allows a different kind of collaboration, one that is more open, and allows for surprises. There is something liberating about writing a poem, controlling all aspects of that process through final revisions, and then releasing it and relinquishing control while waiting to see what others might create with it.

2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at The Storehouse and your own reactions to them.

So far two of my poems have been recorded by someone other than myself, and I love the results. That other voice is female and lightly carries an accent quite different from my own, still rather thick New York City sound, little changed from my many years in Minnesota. Those readings have stirred me with their clarity and loveliness. Two of my poems have been used in remixes, and I’ve enjoyed both a good deal. They are quite different, as are the poems they work with. One sets a short love poem about a woman working in a late fall garden against an image of Marilyn Monroe sashaying through a room, captivating male eyes as she goes. The juxtaposition strikes me as playfully erotic, funny and apt at the same time. The other works with a surreal poem about counting, settling up, paying existential debts, and the remix is wild. My favorite section involves a can of beans being opened, poured out onto a plate and eaten, a visual pun about bean counters perhaps?

3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?

I would participate in this kind of experiment again in a heartbeat, with enthusiasm and pleasure. In fact, I submitted three poems, and did not wait very long before submitting three more. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to record my own readings, and to hear other readings and uses of my work — or work that has become mine and someone else’s. I would certainly advise other poets to participate, provided they could let go of individual ownership and would enjoy taking a risk.

4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?

My experience has been entirely positive, and I cannot think of anything I would change.

5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?

I should add that I have been following the Poetry Storehouse on Facebook, and have enjoyed various readings and remixes of other poets’ work with different readers and video artists. I have also garnered some lovely comments from friends old and new. There is something so democratic about this process, which allows fresh views and voices to mingle with one another.

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