Woodland Pattern Book Center

Wisconsin Poetry Activists | Karl Gartung

Interviewed by Lisa Vihos, November 21, 2015

Poetry uses language the way artists use shapes and colors. To break the barriers. Poets participate in all these things. I don’t much respect poetry that tells me what I already know. I don’t want poetry to be the newspaper. I don’t discount activist poetry, or constantly rubbing up against the idea that what you’re doing is useful. Words matter more in poetry than anywhere else. Sincere politics is indicated through words. I despise poetry that speaks down to people OR, over their heads. As a poet, Truth is elusive. Truth is dubious.

I don’t believe that poetry changes things, it changes people. Poetry is an individual endeavor.

Karl Gartung, with Anne Kingsbury, founded Woodland Pattern Book Center as a non-profit organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Riverwest neighborhood in 1979. The center houses a bookstore with over 25,000 small press titles and an art gallery for exhibitions, artist talks, readings, experimental films, concerts, and workshops.

“Wisconsin Poetry Activists” is a flash interview series by Lisa Vihos, which grew out of research that she conducted for an article in Wisconsin People & Ideas, Turning on the Lights, Spring 2016.

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