“A Glimpse of Something Real”: An exclusive Q&A with poet Ed Skoog

Ed Skoog is an award-winning poet and author of four books of poetry. His latest collection Travelers Leaving For the City will be released by Copper Canyon Press on May 26. Listen to Ed’s reading of the titular piece here. Ed is teaching CONCATENATION and doing a reading with Susan Leslie Moore on May 26.

Your upcoming class is centered on the “dance of sound between lines”; what do you listen for in a poem? 

Music, patterns, variation, alertness. 

What is the significance of CONCATENATION as the name of your class?

The relationship from one line to another is the life of the poem. What is carried forward, and abandoned, is the pulse of immediacy. “Concatenation” is the interconnection of things in a sequence, like mirrors mirroring each other. It suggests endlessness. In remarkable poems, the interplay between lines reaches out to connect with the world outside the poem. It’s partly a matter of craft, form, prosody, and syntax, but also a larger matter of connection and growth.

What drove the creation of your new book, Travelers Leaving For the City

Partly I felt “guided by voices,” and partly it was a fulfillment of many years of trying to write about the central event, the murder of my grandfather, although I was an interested in the world that opened to me from that. 

In a Ploughshares interview, you said you started writing poetry at age 12 to see clearly. To what extent do you feel you’ve succeeded and what does seeing clearly mean to you today? 

Everything is still dim, but I occasionally feel a glimpse of something real when writing or reading a poem. 

In previous interviews, you’ve touched on the fact that when times are great economically, art seems like a luxury. COVID-19 is exposing the stark fragility of our socio-economic infrastructures, decimating industries, and bringing about a global recession. What are your thoughts on the roles of the artist and art during this time of great uncertainty, upheaval, and transformation? 

We can make a record of it, to measure what history has to say.

What works of literature, poetry, art, film, and/or music have you been enjoying lately?

I’ve spent a lot of the last year reading and thinking about the poets Les Murray and Thom Gunn. And the non-fiction book Where The Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye by Marie Mutsuki Mockett. And the album The Imperial by The Delines. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Be more vulnerable.

Join us on May 26 to celebrate the release of Ed’s latest collection, Travelers Leaving For the City. He will be reading alongside fellow poet Susan Leslie Moore. Learn more »