Poet, translator, and editor Rosmarie Waldrop has been a forceful presence in American and international poetry for over forty years. Born in Germany in 1935, Waldrop studied literature and musicology at the University of Würzburg and the University of Freiburg before immigrating to the United States in the late 1950s. She received a PhD from the University of Michigan in 1966. While at the University of Michigan, Waldrop married poet and translator Keith Waldrop. In 1961 the Waldrop’s began Burning Deck Magazine. The magazine evolved into Burning Deck Press, one of the most influential publishers for innovative poetry in the United States. She has lived in Providence, Rhode Island since 1968 and she has taught at Wesleyan University, Tufts, and Brown. Waldrop has authored over twenty books of her own writing, including poetry, fiction, and essays. In 2006 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her other awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, and a Wila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, among others.

Interview by: John Wisniewski

JW:  When did you write your first poem, Rosmarie?

RW: I must have been pretty young. I only remember that I was imitating one of my sisters (who was 9 years older and wrote). I also remember that I once showed a poem to a teacher, who said: why don’t you learn something first. That stopped me for a while.

JW:  Who are a few poets who were influential to you?

RW: Your “a few” makes me smile: there are so many. I’m tempted to say I’ve been influenced by everyone I’ve read, but that is of course an exaggeration. Let’s say by everyone I read who touched me deeply. This is why I’ve never had any “anxiety of influence.” If there are enough different manners, methods, tones floating around in your mind you are not in danger of imitating any one, but are forced to forge the different elements into something new.
But you want names. In my early days, Rilke. Then Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein. Kafka. Mallarmé and Edmond Jabès.

JW: Do you still feel inspired to write?

RW: I don’t usually call it “inspired,” but I certainly have the urge.

JW: Of all of the poets and authors that you met,  are there any that really made an impression on you?

JW: Among Americans, Lyn Hejinian, Michael Palmer, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Among the French, Edmond Jabès, Anne-Marie Albiach, Jacques Roubaud, Claude Royet-Journoud, Emmanuel Hocquard. Among the Germans, Friederike Mayröcker, Ulf Stolterfoht, Monika RInck, Peter Waterhouse.

JW: What are you doing when not creating, Rosmarie?

RW: Let’s rephrase that as, what am I doing when not writing poetry. I say that because I translate poetry, which is also “creating,” though in a very specific way, different from writing my own work. I also (with Keith Waldrop) run Burning Deck Press. From reading the poetry manuscripts, editing, designing and typesetting the books, seeing them into print, distributing them etc.
However, recently my main occupation has become caregiver for my ill husband.

JW:  Do you give advice to young poets?

RW: Not if I can help it!

JW: Do you find it difficult to write?

RW: Yes. It is a slow, difficult process of endless revisions.

JW: What lies in the future?

JW: Death. Till then, who knows?


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