Hide the fine china: PNW-based poet Ed Skoog has a new book of poetry out this week. This Wednesday, November 16 at 7pm, Skoog will read from Run The Red Lights at Hugo House in First Hill. Hugo House offers this description of the collection published by Copper Canyon Press.
““Run the red lights” were the last words the musician Alex Chilton spoke to his wife on the way to the hospital. In Skoog’s new book the poems are running all the lights, the way that talking casually runs and flows over itself and intertwines with what others are saying. These plainspoken poems rediscover the relationship between talking and thinking, as they weave among enthusiastic jags about sex and love, theater, music, New Orleans, numbness, ghosts, wolves, history, violence, rescue, art marriage, mothers, fathers, and children.”
I spoke with the poet briefly over email about the party, politics and reincarnation. I asked that he answer the questions “briefly, artfully and without too much effort,” and the author obliged.
Molly Laich: Your poem “Grateful Dead Tapes” begins with the line, “Even though we’ve already been dead…” There’s a lot of ways to take that line, naturally, because of the subject matter and because it’s a line in a poem. most writers can at least intellectually entertain the idea, if only because we believe that we intimately understand all kinds of other lives just by having heard of them. But sincerely, is there any room in your heart for a literal belief in reincarnation? Explain.
Ed Skoog: I don’t know about reincarnation, but certainly there was a time before I was alive, and there will be time after it. I, like you, have already been dead for as long as we will be dead. I mean, I guess so.
ML: For a prose writer like myself, the poems in Run the Red Lights are comfortably linear, narrative and plainly autobiographical. Is this your usual? If it’s not, what’s gotten into you?
ES: I just wrote the poems the way that I felt like writing them at the time. Most of them were written at the coffee shop on Higgins Ave in Missoula while my son was at daycare a few mornings a week; I didn’t have infinite time to mess them up.
ML: Of course you are grieving; I know you’re a kind and sane man. What do you think a Trump presidency means for writing and poetry?
ES: About writing in the Trump era I have been returning to this passage from Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”
The present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language—and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists—is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits…
ML: Why should people in Seattle come to your book launch party at Hugo House in First Hill this Wednesday, November 16 at 7pm?
ES: There will be cold cuts and the bar will be open.
Run the Red Lights Book Launch
When: Wednesday, November 16, 7-8:30pm
Where: Hugo House (1021 Columbia St)
Free and open to the public.