One Question Interview: Chris Banks

07Jan12

Chris Banks is the author of three books of poetry: Bonfires (2004) won the Jack Chalmers Award for poetry and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, The Cold Panes of Surfaces (2006) and most recently Winter Cranes.

These are carefully crafted, meditative poems and while they’re very rewarding they do much more than simply lead to reassuring places or record beauty. There’s the suggestion “even patience can be a kind of violence,” even as old people wage a battle with their bodies “so full as they are of old griefs and consolations.” If anything, the book strikes me as cataloging some of the dangers and pitfalls of having a complex inner life. Could you elaborate on that?

There is a poem by the American poet Stanley Plumly called “Lazarus at Dawn” which has a beautiful first line,“Your whole life you are two with one taken away.” That idea or feeling is why I need imagination and poetry in my life. Most often I want to attach myself to the world, to wholly belong in it and to be part of it, in a way that is quite simply not possible.

I say this because it is our separateness that makes every person unique, the world both surprising and extraordinary; and, in fact, what creates that powerful sense of attraction we feel towards people and things in the first place (because they are so different from us), but it is also a constant source of unfulfillment.

When I first conceived of doing Winter Cranes, I wanted to write a collection that dealt with the whole litany of experience—despair, loss, and insatiable longing, especially that particular emotion—which comes with living. But I didn’t want it to come out as some sort of manifesto either where these ideas took precedence over the images. Rather, I wanted these ideas to inhabit or to haunt the interiority of any new poems.

As people, we make from that cataloguing as you called it a kind of myth or mask that says this is our identity. This is who we are.

However, a problem arises when we pay too much attention to the inner chatter of the mind, it can lead to self-seeking and isolation from other people. Thankfully poetry has taught me to mind the gap. My imagination looks for resemblances and correspondences and suddenly a connection between what is happening in my mind and what is on the outside is satisfied for a moment, and there is a feeling of transcendence.

It is the same reason some people offer up daily prayers. People never pray just once. They pray often, sometimes multiple times a day, for it is prayer which creates a connection to something larger than themselves, restoring a sense of calm and inner equilibrium, and thus helps them to live their lives.

Writing poetry and reading poetry does something similar for me. Each helps me to live by breaking down the barriers that exist between myself and the world at large, and in the process, real or imagined, my life is made whole.

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One Response to “One Question Interview: Chris Banks”

  1. 1 Salvatore Ala

    Since the first time I heard Chris Banks read his poetry, I knew he was one of our best poets. His poems are rich with inner life and light. Thanks for this interesting response to a question which concerns all poets. That we should all have Chris’s poetic equilibrium.


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