Accents Editor Christopher McCurry interviews Jeremy Paden about his newest collection, ruina montium (Broadstone Books, 2016), which uses poetry to tell the story of 33 miners in a Chilean mine who survived for 69 days before being rescued.
Christopher McCurry: How do you approach disaster/tragedy in a poem?
Jeremy Paden: I approach disaster carefully. Actually, I avoid it. I avoid it and avoid it and avoid it until I can’t. And, I think the only way to answer this question is in the specific way I responded to this unique tragedy. This singular event.
Tragedies and disasters all share pain, all unfold according to a script of grieving and mourning, of anger and loss, of faith and loss of faith. So in that sense they seem universal—everyone has known loss—and our response to tragedy seems also scripted—whether the gawking, or the schadenfreude, the fear and helplessness, or the money given to charities, even the quick forgetting. But each and every one is singular and unique.
As this disaster unfolded, a colleague and good friend of mine kept telling me I should write about it. At the time, and for several weeks, I felt that the most disrespectful thing to do would be to write about it. I thought it would be a form of ambulance chasing, and I wanted nothing to do with ambulance chasing because that seems so self-involved.
But the days dragged on. And contact was established. And letters and food and videos were sent back and forth. And then on the night of October 13 they were brought up one by one. I didn’t write a poem that night. But, when I saw Byron, the son of the foreman, breakdown crying as his father stepped out of the capsule, I started voraciously reading all I could about the men and about the rescue. And I began to write, compelled. It was that hug. That young boy sobbing in his father’s arms told me, you can write about this, about them, just stay true to that moment. (more…)