Claire Schwartz’ poetry collection Civil Service looks at the ways ordinary, everyday actions uphold and sustain state violence, the ways civility can and does serve extraordinary atrocities. The world of this collection, populated by civil positions—The Accountant, The Archivist, The Curator, The Intern—also has within it a fugitive voice, a disruptive voice, the voice of Amira. Her voice, if not beyond language, nevertheless reaches to its edges, reaches beyond the dominant meaning-making of the system that precludes her, reaches toward and imagines an elsewhere and an otherwise. Our conversation ranges widely, weaving Claire’s thoughts on her own work with the writings of Paul Celan, June Jordan, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edmond Jabès, Dionne Brand, and many others. All in service of asking what it means to write poetry towards love and revolution.
Claire also contributes a reading of Edmond Jabès to the bonus audio archive. Joining an ever-growing wealth of supplemental material, from Alice Oswald reading from the Book of Job to Jen Bervin reading from the letters and prose of Paul Celan and then one of her poems under his influence. The bonus audio is only one of many potential rewards of becoming a listener-supporter and joining the Between the Covers community. You can check out everything at the show’s Patreon page.
Lastly, here is the Bookshop for today’s conversation