At Prick of the Spindle, Cynthia Reeser interviews Mark Cunningham, author of Body Language (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2008).

From the interview:

CR: Your approach in Body was striking to me, in that it calls attention to the human body as, as one of my professors put it, nothing more than an organized system of matter and chemical reactions—though your poems do not take it quite to that extent. It seems that at the opposite spectrum of that way of thinking would be a sort of celebration of the body. Where do you see your poems as falling—somewhere in between?

MC: Not so much in between as outside the question. I think it’s still impossible for an American to write about the body without Whitman making his presence felt. Whitman was celebratory, of course, but some of his images are so physical that if you teach American lit. even in college you’ll find that a student will now and then complain—always amusing. (In the 1970s, Walt was banned in West Virginia public schools: local worthies were angry because he revealed to post-adolescent students that something called pubic hair existed.) My favorite comment on any poem I’ve written was when someone read the one on the appendix and said, “It’s so visceral, and yet it’s not.” It should be impossible to make the distinction between physical and non-physical (spiritual, whatever you want to call it). The poems did, though, start with the physical, with a sort of wondering about what the world might look like to the little finger, how things might be if that were the center point. While not claiming to be a Buddhist, I’ve always felt there’s no such being as a stable self. Different parts of the body want or need different things and relate to the world in different ways. As Deleuze and Guattari point out in Anti-Oedipus, there’s ten, a hundred, a thousand men AND women inside each person.

Read the full interview.

See also: Body Language, and all posts tagged Mark Cunningham