Peter Money Interview (Click to Listen)
We were lucky enough to spend a long, rainy lunch hour with Peter Money, a Vermont poet who hails from such diverse places as Napa, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Cape Cod, Ohio, Dublin and currently Brownsville, VT. The conversation was truly delightful (and eating Lisa’s pizza and sipping tea didn’t hurt either).
Peter’s description of himself as a scavenger in life and in reading led our conversation through a diverse array of topics including: reading for the purpose of writing, the power of a gift of a book, the Cape Cod Melody Tent, travel in India and Australia, the difference one person can make in the events of the world – in particular Rachel Corrie to whom Peter’s latest book Che is dedicated – the things we use and keep as bookmarks, empty spaces, the difference email and the internet make in the serendipity of life and reading as a means of developing empathy.
Sprinkled throughout the conversation were quotes by a former teacher of Peter’s – Allen Ginsberg (“ordinary is made extraordinary by your attention to it” or the buddhist reminder “Ground Path Fruition” or thinking of writing as “funky independent thought“). Peter also modeled a superb teaching technique of being able to circle around and tie seemingly unrelated thoughts together.
Speaking of circling back around: we end this episode by playing a little ditty by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler that not only alludes to one of the themes of our discussion (beach combing) but also provides a mellow finish to a lovely talk.
Actual books we dicussed ranged from:
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses – First published in 1885, A Child’s Garden of Verses has served as an introduction to poetry for many generations. Stevenson’s poems celebrate childhood in all its forms.
E.B. White’s works – A writer at The New Yorker and the author of many books of essays, E. B. White also wrote the children’s books Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan.
Gregory Maguire’s Matchless – Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. In 2008, Gregory Maguire reinvented Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl”.
Justine by Lawrence Durrell – Set among the glamour and corruption of 1930s and 1940s Alexandria, the novels of Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet” (Justine is the first) follow the shifts in allegiances and situations among a diverse group of characters. Peter carried a copy with him while traveling 30 years ago and had that copy with him when we spoke (complete with original bookmarks).
Iraqi Writer Saadi Youssef who has translated Leaves of Grass and Little Prince into Arabic and whose own work is carried by University of Minnesota Press.
The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard – from the foreword by John R. Stilgoe – A prism through which all worlds from literary creation to housework to aesthetics to carpentry take on enhanced-and enchanted-significances. Every reader of it will never see ordinary spaces in ordinary ways.
Collected Poems of George Oppen – Oppen, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, has long been acknowledged as one of America’s foremost modernists. He was hailed by Ezra Pound as “a serious craftsman, a sensibility which is not every man’s sensibility and which has not been got out of any other man’s book.”
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel – From tablets to CD-ROM, from book thieves to book burners, bibliophiles and saints, noted essayist Alberto Manguel follows the 4,000-year-old history of the written work whose true hero is the reader.
The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde – The Gift defends creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money. This book is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers.
Hear Peter read some of his work set to original compositions.