An Interview with Glen Sorestad

This week we’re talking to Glen Sorestad, another of our favorite contributors here at Unbroken. We first introduced our readers to Glen’s work in our Issue 4 (July/August 2015) with his vivid piece, Don’t Talk to Strangers. In our Issue 6 (November/December 2015), Glen took us to a rice-farming town in Gueydan, Louisiana, and in our current issue (Issue 7), I promise your mouth will water when you read Glen’s prose poem, Sastuma Oranges. All that being said, Glen is no stranger to poetry. First poet laureate of Saskatchewan, he has published more than twenty books of poems, and he’s been published all over the world. And now Glen’s going to give us his own special peek into the prose poem.

RLB: Glen, thanks so much for stopping by to talk to us. We want to know, what attracts you to prose poetry? What does it do for you?

GS: I don’t write a lot of prose poems, so it’s not so much that I’m attracted to the form, as it is the form choosing me at some point in the creative process, usually with the first line and how it shapes itself on the page for me. I seldom set out with the notion that I am going to write a prose poem, but when I sense that this is the way the language wants to express itself, then I am happy to let it find its course to wherever it leads me.

RLB:  Again, the prose poem seems to be self-aware, doesn’t it? Could you share your process with us for writing a prose poem?

GS: Prose poems take on their own shape at the outset, in that first draft, at least for me. It has something to do with that first line as it comes forth. Is there a natural breaking point, or does it want to keep going? Clearly the prose poem form lends itself readily to the narrative impulse, so for me, it can be a narrative that is compressed with heightened language. How does it start for me? It could be anything from an overheard remark to a sudden memory to a wishful desire. Even a photo, or something in the daily news.

RLB: Is there anything else that makes you decide a piece needs to be in prose poem form, rather than a lined piece of poetry?

GS: For me, it’s all about how and where that opening line and its germinating idea takes me. I have a sense, in the process of writing a first draft, that the impulse and the language flow itself will determine how that poem will be manifested on the page, the shape it will take – most often this seems to be the case anyway. Sometimes though, I confess that I have entirely restructured a poem because I realize that the form on the page is not working with the language but against it. Occasionally a poem structured in short lines and stanzas, on rethinking and revising, has ended up being a prose poem. But I don’t recall an original draft prose poem ending up being restructured to lyric form.

RLB: I love the way you put it, the poem manifesting on the page, the ideas and the language giving birth to the shape–it really does seem magical. Any tips for someone new to the form who would like to experience the magic?

GS: It seems to me that the prose poem lends itself especially well to certain forms of expression and one of those is any kind of stream-of-consciousness writing where the language flow can simply run unimpeded and uninhibited wherever the creative impulse takes it.
On the other hand, the prose poem could also encompass a very intense, language-rich, descriptive writing. It could easily lend itself to highly emotional and passionate language as well.

RLB: Yes, part of the allure of the prose poem is that it can be tight and compressed, or it can be free and meandering and stretch as far as it needs to go. Glen, what are you working on now? What will we be seeing from you in the near future?

GS: I’m currently working on two poetry manuscripts and one memoir/essay manuscript that have been ongoing for a while. I’m not sure which will reach the finishing line first. (By the way, it’s not unusual for me to work on several manuscripts concurrently; it’s just how I work.) Since I had a new poetry volume this past year, maybe 2017 is a goal I should have for the next volume, whichever one it is.

RLB: Sounds awesome! We wish you all the best with your poetry and your projects. And again, thanks so much for taking time to answer our questions about the prose poem. You’re awesome! Guys, if you haven’t read Glen’s work yet, be sure you check him out in Unbroken, and go pick up his latest book, Hazards of Eden: Poems from the Southwest, published by Lamar University Press.

GLEN SORESTAD is a much published poet who lives in Saskatoon. His poems have appeared in literary magazines and journals, anthologies and textbooks, all over North America and in many other countries. His poems have been translated into seven languages. His latest book of poems is Hazards of Eden published by Lamar University Press.