Poet Rita Dove, the former U.S. poet laureate, whose new collection is ''Playlist for the Apocalypse,'' loves the Icelandic saga ''Grettir the Strong'' : ''Revisiting that litany of betrayals and cruelties never fails to stir my spirits.''

.- What is your favorite novelist of all time?

Does Shakespeare count? His plays are like novels, especially the tragedies! Otherwise, it's a tossup between the TMs : Thomas Mann and Toni Morrison.

.- Whom do you consider the best writers - novelists, essayists, critics, memoirists, poets - working today?

I plead the Fifth.

.- Was there a book of poems or a poet in particular that inspired you to write?

Not a specific poet or a book, but the sheer variety of possibilities for singing with language fired my synapses - from Shakespeare to Mad magazine, listening to Bassie Smith or Corelli flute sonata, collecting the fortunes on Salada tea bags.

Before high school, reading poetry was my very private habit. I would sample poems from the Untermeyer anthology like dipping into a box of chocolates - let the book fall open, try on my tongue what offered itself.

My first encounter with the divine William Blake, however, I owe to Mad magazine, where the lyrics satirizing a baseball team [''Tigers, Tigers, burning bright, in the ballparks of the night, / your pitching's good, your field adroit, / so why no pennants for Detroit?''] pricked my curiosity enough to send me looking for the poem it was based on.

''The Tyger'' proved a bit too fearsome for my juvenile sensibilities, but I commiserated with ''The Sick Rose'' and felt deliciously wicked reading ''A Poison Tree'' - so much gleeful unrepentance !

[In my late 20s I first heard the recording of Allen Ginsburg singing ''Tyger,'' and the connection was so visceral - two great poets whose lavish, afflicted souls shared a vision - that it reignited the thrill I felt as a 10 year old curled into the corner of the sofa, whispering those same words.]

When adolescence reared its head, it sent poetry scurrying for a short while. Thank heaven for Eugene O'Neill and Eugene Ionesco, whose plays transported me into high school, where poetry was waiting and ''Dover Beach'' became my go-to receptacle for all teenage dreams and despair.

When my intrepid 11th-grade English teacher, Miss Oechsner, took a small group of kindred spirits to a afternoon book signing by a Real Live Writer, I bought and read John Clardi's translation of Dante's  ''Inferno'' - which, incidentally, I reread during our current pandemic.

My college years were incandescent with more contemporary poets, revelation after revelation in exhilarating succession - Sylvia Plath, Mark Strand, James Wright, Robert Hayden; as a graduate student I'd make a beeline to the library stacks, Section 811 : American poetry in English - and check out 20 books every two weeks.

Nowadays my own shelves are exploding, with upward of 100 new titles pouring in each year; that's just the poetry.

It's my wildest dreams on steroids! There's a wealth of young poets writing today whose work continues to astonish and delight me.

.- What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

''High Fashion Sewing Secrets.'' ''Return of the Bunny Suicides.'' ''Star Wars Origami.''

The Publishing continues to Part-2. The World Students Society thanks interview author, Rita Dove.


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