So it’s kind of hard to categorize today’s spotlight. Katherine Factor is neither a musician nor a visual artist. She is a poetess, a working poetess which is no mean feat in this day and age of t.v. video games and internet. Katherine will be joining BICYCLE on the main stage to share some of her most recent works before Citizen Ten kicks off the music. And so we decided she deserves a spotlight. Katherine in her own words….
At what age did you know you wanted to be a professional poet?
A love of language has been present in my whole life ~ I sang jingles from commercials, I absorbed and re-produced puns, I read voraciously with particular interests in the unknown and fantasy. I was very sensitive to how language is used – and was raised with an emphasis on education, having enormous access to the all for the visual and performing arts. As a result, I encountered wonderful mentors the whole way. This created a feeling of direct transmission of knowledge. And since the dominant culture annihilates poetry and all that shimmers with illogic, (hence there is no profession as Poet), the teaching I do is monumentally important to me.
When I was 12 I wrote many good poems that were published, and while that could have been an early start, I only struggled to shape a poet’s life because, in part, it is so ill-defined in society. I also wasn’t aware for a very long time that there was indeed a place for me/ my odd poetics that stem from an intricate musical score in my head. Movements that produce a visionary aesthetics – surrealism, experimental poetics, and social justice – these help permeate the machine of logic, thus creating space for poetry.
Did you ever consider any other career?
I have had hands in other fields, as any poet must. And while I earnestly tried otherwise, poetry continues to choose me. I do not have a choice.
Who is/are you favorite artist/s? Why?
My favorite poets are the British and American Romantics like Blake, the Wordsworths, Thoreau and Whitman. Due to that lineage, I draw generously from poets like Hilda Doolittle, the Black Mountain School (Denise Levertov) and the San Francisco Renaissance (Robin Blasér and Robert Duncan). Those are two lesser-known movements that circulated around the better-known Beat Movement of that very healthy era in poetry. Of course, contemporary poets continue to strengthen these lineages through ethno and eco-poetics, ( Snyder, Rothenberg, Hillman) and west coast experimentalists.
What moves you to create?
The great necessity for poetry and its duties: to create restoration and increase our mutability – to slow us down, to attend to connections; to reify silence, create music, ritual, time travel, to create worlds that move! and insist on imagination against hegemony and our suffocating prejudice toward time-space-military economy paradigm over love and dreamwork.
For me, this translates (as it did for the Romantics) as a need to fight for the irrational, experiential knowing, an interest in the occult and apocalyptic as well as Utopian thinking; and thus idiosyncrasy, Gaian thinking, and folk or common speech patterns/syntax and other ways of waking up words/worlds must be employed.
Ultimately, this is an eco-feminism, a deep want for a Sybil society, one that allows for uncertainty, Keats’s “negative capability”, ambiguity, alongside a gnosis and wisdom that is intuitive and of natural law – those dark and wet unknown zones of our inner and outer lives, they are extremely fertile ways of proceeding through this current bottleneck.
What is your favorite piece you’ve created? Why?
Right now, I am really into this poem Mycophilia. After Ifinished I worked with my friend, Christopher Jett, whose a sound engineer to put beats behind my reading of it.
I had so much fun researching and writing this potent retelling the story of two mid-20th century figures seminal to our understanding of cultural influences on human relationships to “plant” life.
It really took on another life when Chris put beats to it. Thank you! My poetics necessitate collaboration, and I invite more cross-disciplinary work.
What is your process for creating a piece?
There are several ways of making a poem, of casting a world through organic or more traditional forms. Inspiration, the arrival of the muse, is the most common way we assume art happens, yet that is the way my poems happen the least – in a flash or with ease. Perspiration, an intense and delicate crafting of a poem is a more common way to work. And it is such tremendously difficult work – to tap poetic sources sustainably, to play with words productively, to understand nuance in language, to keep some etymologies alive, to read and listen widely across the world, to insist on diversity and multi-dimensional literacy, to have to organize ancient wisdom and myth appropriately. But the pay off is tremendous! There is no feeling better than poem-making and reading ~
What about being a poet do you find challenging?
Everything about poetry is challenging. It is a vastly misunderstood art, and we wrongly are imprinted by the education system that one must be a super erudite to read them, and that then we must unlock the “deep” meaning from the poem as if it is a code. Movements like the avant-garde, Dadaism, elliptical, and L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry teach us – wisely- that it is important to feel a poem, that we read and re-read, and if we are confused or challenged, we sit with that uncertainty, with any indeterminability at had. We live in the disease of Capitalism and Cannibalism of the Mother, an era that insists on ever-increasing push for comfort and certainty.
What do you find rewarding?
I find the fact that it makes me feel wild inside…that I have a direct line to sacred utterances and the oral tradition…that is uber-rewarding. Also, I relish that I am able to put anything to live together in a line — all the while making tiny artifacts, evidence of the mind - of consciousness – at the time.
What is your favorite genre of music? Why do you think it is?
Oh goodness, I like nearly all of it, (especially jazz funk and soul) and it all informs or sometimes hijacks my work. I LONG to know more about the music of Ancient Greece, that might be my favorite.
Like any other field do you see yourself “retiring”? If so when? What would you do after? If not, why?
No one retires from poetry; it feeds the soul and goes on and on as long as the sounds do. The word is the oldest form of materialization, and as much as I love them, it would be neat to return to a state of ESP or color communication. This is something some of my poems attempt to penetrate – parallel communicative tools, worlds, points of views.
While creating do you work alone?
I do. It is a lonely legislation, for sure. But, most of the percolating - the collecting of constellating ideas, the eavesdropping/extracting found language, the imagination that grows at protests or events I attend, the wonder I carry with me, the exchange of drafts, that all takes place in the company of others/nature/the Mother.
Do you have your own studio? If not where do you work? If so how long have you had the studio?
No. I work wherever possible – within institutions, on drink costers, borrowed computers.