Scott Cairns, the author of numerous volumes of poetry, a convert to Orthodox Christianity, and a longtime contributor to Image, has often advocated what he calls a “sacramental poetics”—the idea that a poem should not so much describe something as do something. Mary Kenagy Mitchell interviewed Scott Cairns for Image.
Image: Your poems use an exacting, prophetic voice, but they’re also very funny. Where does that voice come from? Is it with you all the time when you’re going through your day, driving around doing errands? Has it always been with you? Or is it something you consciously invented, that you have to work to generate?
Scott Cairns: I think it’s been with me for a while—thirty years or more—but is surely something of a hybrid of a host of literary voices that appealed to me early on, as I was becoming serious about reading and writing. I’m sure there are traces of C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, William Stafford, Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Constantine Cavafy, and G.K. Chesterton in that hybrid. Also, I grew up in a house where the pun reigned supreme—that may be, in part, where the humor comes from.
Image: One of your poems in the new issue of Image  is called “a psalm of Isaak.” What’s the significance of that? I think you’ve used that name more than once in your poems, right? What do the Isaak poems have in common? [Read more…]