am a bit daunted by the task of writing about a poet, an artist
who elaborately and meticulously crafts words, as I may choose
colors for a visual composition. Admittedly, I am out of my
depth. I am, however, eager to share my interview with Craig
Deininger, local resident and poet, as he shared with me valuable
insights about his poetry and his creative process.
has been writing poetry seriously for 18 years, meaning he
has made poetry a serious pursuit for the last 18 years. He
has studied at U-Mass and Oxford, and has a life of travels
and adventures, which seem to fuel his insights. Deininger
is currently putting together a comprehensive manuscript of
his work, including 40 out of 800 or 900 poems. In the past,
he has discerningly submitted poems only to The New Yorker
and to Poetry, a distinguished journal of poetry. He plans,
however, to submit some poems to the upcoming publication
of Glyphs, produced by the Moab Poets and Writers.
name Deininger means "dweller of the dunes", which
is apropos for his current residence here in the arid desert
of South-eastern Utah. He has been writing what he calls his
"desert poems", which I mistakenly thought were
poems about the desert. But rather, he uses desert imagery
or impressions to liberate fundamental human conditions or
experiences through metaphor. Or more specifically, he writes
real experiences, which express greater truths as if they
trying to relate to Deininger's process, I asked him if he
thought in words and tones, like I, as a painter, think in
color and images. He replied, "no", but he also
thought in images: images laden with content. He clarified
to me that rather than writing about an experience, he writes
through an experience. He says that in his poems he "delivers
the experience without explanation." He wishes to move
the reader beyond rational explanation, allowing him/her to
fall into "the mystery" which is expressed in the
poetry. He successfully achieves the poetic effect through
an arduous creative process.
the beginning of this process, Deininger has the inspiration,
the image in his mind laden with content, which in words he
pours onto paper, like a furious stream of consciousness.
Then he spends a great deal of time meticulously editing and
revising this writing. He says he must get into a critical
and detached mindset, as he must be "ruthless" in
how he cuts and rearranges his words. There is a strict discipline
to this process, because his poetry must maintain the magic
of the inspiration, while being well written. The poem necessarily
needs flow, while not feel overworked. He said it can sometimes
take a year to write twelve lines.
reading over the poems included in this article, I tried to
gather my conclusions about his poetry. And I came up with
questions, rather than conclusions. The above article is a
restatement of what Deininger told me at the interview, whereas
I have endeavored to be able to comprehend what he told me.
So I have read and re-read his poems. I especially liked Request,
because I felt it really resonated with me. But is it possible
to identify with the sentiment or feeling of a poem without
being able to put it into your own words? I cannot restate
or make conclusions about Request, yet it speaks to me of
a profound truth to being human. The way I conceive of this
power in his poetry, is to see it like a dream image, which
while you are in the dream-state is saturated with truth,
emotion, and content. But if you awoke suddenly and tried
to put the power and truth of the dream image into words,
the integrity of the experience is almost always lost; the
words do not express the dimensions somehow felt in the dream-state.
Is the art of poetry then, in Deininger's case, the ability
to verbally express the content of these images in words,
and to create a state or a space in which the reader enters
so that the imagery and words have the intended sense of saturated
meaning? From this point of view, poetry by nature appears
to unlock or un-inhibit a presence that is greater than the
mechanism, in this case the words, which express it. And therefore,
I would conclude that the power of this word art phenomenon
is owed to the capacity of the poet.
indicated to me that he writes poetry aiming for freedom,
but I really cannot convey what that means; even though, it
is an essential ingredient of his work. I think the authenticity
this pursuit of freedom is most clearly revealed by the poems,
themselves. It is better for you, dear reader, to draw your
own conclusions by reading his work.
the end of the interview, Deininger noted that I used black-ink
to write my notes, to which he said, " I write only in
blue ink," and with a moments pause for reflection, "because
it is blue like the wide open sky."
will be teaching a class in Modern Poetry at the College of
Eastern Utah at the Moab Center this fall season. Contact
CEU at 259-7257 for additional information and class schedule.
Deininger will also be a part of an on-going poetry workshop
offered by the Moab Poets and Writer, beginning mid-October;
contact Julie Fox at 259-6896 for more details.