Member Spotlight for the Month of June 2005 - Indigo Tempesta

Indigo TempestaRead her library, with its provocative titles and passages that seem like free-verse windows on a theatric play several acts in, and it will surely inspire some thought or questions. You might be asking "Who?", though you occasionally find detailed footnotes on her poems pointing to her literary references. Their author, Indigo Tempesta, is asking why.

"It has been on my mind, why we do poetry," she says.

She is given to complex thoughts about poetry. She started writing it nine years ago, and writing in general has long been a way of evaluating her own thoughts. From that beginning, though, "it evolved into a way of experiencing the world."

She's an active reader as well; a fan of the works of both philosophers like John Stewart Mill, and novelists like Vladimir Nabokov. When interviewed, she was recuperating from illness, and she mentioned an interesting preference for Frank Herbert's Dune for sick-time reading.

As a student at Oberlin College, her active involvements in art, singing, and theatre have fueled her writing. With her artistic and academic pursuits, she's given to deep musings about poetry. Her artistic involvements are surprisingly varied. As a public performer, she sings jazz and bluegrass. She is also practiced as a method actor, the approach emphasizing questioning and substituting oneself into another character's place. Her most recent on-stage theatre appearance was a production of Dark of the Moon, a play by Howard Richardson and William Berney. So there, too, she is quite busy getting into her character's heads.

It seems fitting for someone like Indi, with her ongoing inner dialogue about why one would or should write poems!

Complex personas appear in her poetry, in narratives or description, in a poetic version of "show, don't tell". They hit pronounced chords in the readers, as if they know them. Are these people she knows? Is any of this this biography? "Most of the characters that I use in poetry are extremely fictional, if they are characterized and not a narrative voice," she answers. Real characters do slip in, though you might need to be a student of art history to find them.

One might ask if there is a common setting she writes from. For Indigo, most poetry once came from the brink of sleep, in times when she couldn't keep her eyes open. Her more recent pursuits have given her a different perspective: "I want to be sure I have something to say. I want to be sure I can follow through with the writing impulse. I most often find myself writing when I've thought through something."

Most of Indigo's own poems are free verse, yet she is fascinated with many other forms, especially complex forms like the sestina which she loves for its flexibility. "It can be as rigid, as demanding as you want. I tend to get away with that", she comments. Language fascinates her, and she considers its influences in ways that go beyond poetry. Asked for literary influences, Indigo mentions the severe lack of detail in the syntax of Latin poetry, or the complexities of verb placement in Greek poems - not just for her poetry, but for her rhetoric in general. This student of the classical sometimes faces admonishment from more contemporary-minded people, who tell her that her sentences and speech could be "more efficient". To our benefit, Indigo has continued musing in her own way.

What about poetry, and why? When she recently taught a middle school class on literature, Indigo had to give some explanation of what it's for. "The way we talk about reading and writing poetry expresses what we think; it is a really important part of poetry - not to reflect our society, but to affect our society. That is where I am going with my poetry." She follows this by citing Ezra Pound and his understanding of poetry as not just a part of our culture but, as she puts it, "a library of our culture, of library of economics, a library of politics."

Wait a minute - Ezra Pound? The American expatriate who lived in fascist Italy making radio broadcasts with topics like why democracy wasn't working? "He was a ridiculous person, an awful, awful man... but I have such immense respect for him... In the twentieth century a lot of incredible minds were hypnotized by fascism, and I'm curious about what that says about them, and our culture." It is a fascinating display of thinking, sifting, and qualified endorsement of a particular idea from someone so very different from Indigo herself.

Indigo's poetry succeeds in casting a multitude of shadows - a great many people, histories, and ideas - into the imaginations of her readers. They are there in mostly anonymous and yet powerfully intimate emotional details. To just by the responses, her readers mesh the distant thoughts, feelings, and perspectives with their own. They may not have all the footnotes; yet in the reading, they find they can relate.

The following is a list of the highlights of Indigo Tempesta's poetry:


The member spotlighted in this month's "Member Spotlight" is chosen by the pathetic.org Spotlight committee, which is made up of a small group of site patrons and administrators. Each month a member is selected for this privilege based upon contributions to pathetic.org and the quality of work.

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