Candidate #10, Molly Tenenbaum, 49.
Nominated by Jack Straw; participated in the 2007 Jack Straw Writer's Program, curated by writer Matt Briggs.

Jack Straw Molly Photo.jpg


Can you


Molly Tenenbaum for Poet Populist

Our "Meet the Candidates" series just won't stop.

Candidate #10, Molly Tenenbaum, 49.
Nominated by Jack Straw; participated in the 2007 Jack Straw Writer's Program, curated by writer Matt Briggs.

Jack Straw Molly Photo.jpg


Can you share an anecdote about poetry touching your life?
Well, once someone threw a book at me. And once, in an earthquake, a whole bookshelf fell on my head.

Who is your favorite poet?
Today I have two: Lucia Perillo and Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose biography I am currently reading. Oh wait, I have a million: Anne Carson, W.S. Merwin, Emily Dickinson, Susan Stewart... but in general, my favorite poet is whichever one I'm reading at the moment, as long as I'm sparking and gasping and laughing and crying as I read.
What’s your favorite poem right now?
Oh there are so many! But one that keeps sticking with me these last few weeks is by Eric McHenry, called "The Wheelhouse," from his beautiful book, POTSCRUBBER LULLABIES.
What would your campaign slogan be for running for Seattle Poet Populist?
Your campaign’s theme song?

"Ignorance with confidence"(applied to poetry, not to politics, by the way).
Anyway, Ignorance with Confidence is pretty much our only choice, even if it doesn't work. Oh, here's another one: from section 52 of Whitman's "Song of Myself": "You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,/ But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,/ And filter and fibre your blood." That's what
poetry and poets do.

Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
A variety of old-time fiddlers of the past. Fiddlers: Luther Strong, Marion Reece, Samantha Bumgarner (she was also a banjo player), Edden Hammons.... Well, they're celebrities to me, anyway. For living celebrity crushes, I guess I'd say Paul Brown and Mike Seeger.   
What movie character do you most identify with?
You're assuming that I know something about movies. I don't know much. But I'd say all the people in Les Blank's GARLIC IS AS GOOD AS TEN MOTHERS. They love garlic and so do I.
What is your biggest notable oddball talent?
What do you mean by "big"? What do you mean by "notable"? What do you mean by "oddball"? What do you mean by "talent"? Perhaps I have a skill, or at least an annoying habit, of asking nit-picky questions. And I would love to claim the Bubble Dance as my oddball talent, but I have never tried it.

If you couldn’t write any more, how would you spend that excess time?
Besides that there is no such thing as "excess time," time being like water and filling every cranny, I would say that I have often imagined doing a sort of "Walden of the brain," and somehow getting myself into a quiet place of not writing or playing music, maybe for about six months or so, just do see what my mind would do. How would it entertain itself, what creative methods would it invent, what would it find to be "essential"? But given that life has so much music and poetry in it, and that I enjoy them, such a
retreat probably will not happen.

How long have you been writing?
About 43 years.
What poem has made you feel most uncomfortable? Has made you cry?
This question is making me uncomfortable. I think either that it's too personal for me to answer, or it deserves a more researched answer than I can give it right now. I'd have to read over a lot of books and remember which one. But I will say, to actually answer, that the last sectio of Whitman's "Song of Myself" always makes me cry--and come to think of it, perhaps the third stanza of it below should be the poet populist theme song.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Have you ever used poetry to win someone over or get them in the sack?

No. Music, however...
What's the most irritating aspect of the poetry scene?
The illusion that poets are in competition with each other.
What was the last good book you read and fell in love with?
How about Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly? Sorry, I'm being arch, but truly, I hate to set one book over another, I love so many. I will say that MOBY-DICK is a forever favorite, and also GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I hope to find a minute to re-read all of Dickens soon. Have you read Stacey Levine's
novel, FRANCES JOHNSON? It's pretty great.
What are a few lines from a poem you’ve written that you’d consider one of your best? (And the title of the poem.)
Well, I have no perspective, of course, but I always like the new poems, so here's a couple lines from "What Is Your Poetry Like?":

It’s got a drawerful of doodads.
It’s got a jar of leftover screws.
Unfortunately it has no allen wrench.
One bolt can never be undone.
Why should you win?
I actually think that all of us should win, and that in fact, by being poets, we have already won.

If elected Poet Populist, what would be your first order of business?
Write some poems, of course. That's always the first order of business, no matter what day it is.


To vote for Molly, go here.

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