Ralph Angel

in Los Angeles, CA

recorded in Washington, D.C.

 

Ralph Angel

I’m Ralph Angel and I live in Los Angeles, California.


The Knox Writers’ House

How did you get there?


Angel

What do you mean, how did I get there?


KWH

How did you end up there?


Angel

I don’t remember.


KWH

Where are you from originally?


Angel

Seattle, Washington.


KWH

Do you think the geography of the West is significant to your writing?


Angel

I don’t understand the question exactly, but I’ll tell you this: a poet only has two tools with which to work. The language in which she or he composes and the fact of her or his reality. And that’s all. What else can I say?


KWH

Your reality is the West?


Angel

My reality is the fact of my reality. Yes, of course, I live in the west, if that’s what you’re asking, but if you think my poems are about the West or about the landscape of the West as opposed to the East…no one poem about any one place. They’re composites of the fact of my reality. So in any one poem, I might be in Los Angeles, California or I might be giving a reading in Galesburg Illinois, or I might be in Alexandria or Barcelona and they’re all in one poem. And the same with characters. Everything in my reality is at my disposal. The fact of my life is at my disposal at any time I’m not a narrative poet, I’m not telling stories, and I’m not writing a memoir. I’m making poems, lyrical poems.


KWH

Do you have a similar approach every time you write a poem?


Angel

I have, as I said to you before, I’m a creature of habit. I wake up in the morning, I have a cup of tea, I have a glass of water, I shave, I work out, I shower, I meditate, and then my day begins. That’s my similar approach.


KWH

So, we have these two tools. How did translating Lorca and Spanish language writers expand your tool of language?


Angel

It’s just another part of my life.


KWH

It’s separate, you think?


Angel

No, nothing’s separate.


KWH

Did it change your understanding of how language works in English?


Angel

No. It probably did change my understanding, but I wasn’t paying attention to it. I was just working. In other words, if you’re asking me if you can explain my work by my answering that question in an academic way, I wouldn’t know how to answer you. It’s just what I did. Everything I do is part of a way of life, for me. And that project began like any other project—I found myself doing it, and I wouldn’t have pursued it if it weren’t an act of love.


KWH

Do you participate in a writing community?


Angel

[Laughs.] Well, yeah, about a 6,000 year writing community, if that’s what you mean.


KWH

How do you participate?


Angel

I’m alive and I write, and six to eight thousand years of Western civilization in poetry exist before me.


KWH

Do you think you’re in communication with that history, or does it weigh on you in some way?


Angel

It doesn’t weigh on me. I am in touch with it. I wouldn’t say I’m in communication with it. I’m not channeling anything that I know of. I’m in touch with it. Which means I don’t think that I’m very special.

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