The Eden of Perhaps: An Interview Between Poet Agnes Vojta and Chase Dimock

 

 

 

The Eden of Perhaps: An Interview

Between Agnes Vojta and Chase Dimock

 

 

The genius of Agnes Vojta’s poetry is in its simplicity. In just a few neatly composed short stanzas, she can contain entire ecosystems of thought. Never overstated or garish, her work bears the influence of her background as a physicist.The poems have their own neatly defined gravity; poems in motion stay in motion. She can sketch a mountainscape in the Ozarks with the same topographical precision as the folds and crevasses in the human mind.

I want to call her poetry objective, but the depth and rush of human feeling in her lines makes that word misleading. It’s more that her work is authentic, like you’re reading a 1 to 1 ratio of her perspective translated into stanzas. After a few pages, you feel like you really know Agnes Vojta, not because she is easy to interpret, but because you can feel each word is her exact truth.

 

***

 

Chase Dimock: Your title, The Eden of Perhaps, recalls the Garden of Eden, a mythological moment in mankind’s history of existing peacefully in an unspoiled natural world. There is an abundance of nature poems throughout your collection, and I know from your facebook you’re an avid hiker and student of nature. What do you hope to express about your relationship with nature in your poems? Do you go on hikes looking to find subjects for your poetry and/or the peace of mind to reflect poetically on nature?

Agnes Vojta: I have been hiking for decades and need it for my physical and mental health. Even in times of greatest stress, one day of the weekend is sacred and I must spend it in the woods. Hiking is also a spiritual practice for me, my way of meditating. On an easy trail, you can let the thoughts wander and percolate; difficult terrain requires intense concentration that forces you to be completely in the moment in a way few other experiences do. Getting away from the chatter of civilization and connecting with nature grounds me and puts everything into perspective. The forest, the rivers, and the mountains speak a deep truth that surpasses what we try to grasp intellectually, and when I can hear those voices, I feel balanced, connected, and at peace.

When I write about nature, sometimes I simply want to share these feelings and my sense of wonder; I wish everybody could experience what I do. But I don’t write to get people to go out into the woods – for that purpose, I run a hiking website and facebook page. Nature often gives me the metaphor that expresses what I cannot otherwise put into words, teaches me lessons that extend into other areas of life, and mirrors my interior landscape. In my first collection Porous Land, a seasonal arc of nature poems reflects an internal journey from loss to acceptance. Nature has to be experienced directly, not through abstract linear thinking. So one might say, trying to put these experiences into words is paradoxical, but the words are not there to explain and analyze – they try to recapture an impression, a feeling that then creates understanding that goes beyond words.

I do not set out on my hikes with the intention to write or look for poetic subjects, but I often get ideas for phrases and poems, and I carry a little notebook. It is always a surprise what I will find, and in which way nature weaves into my thoughts and feelings. The key is to remain open and receptive. Conversely, writing has affected the way I see. After my emigration from Germany, I was unable to write poetry for ten years, and when I resumed writing, I found myself observing more closely and being more attentive – being a poet has enriched my hiking experience.

 

 

Chase Dimock: The “Eden” in your title also recalls mythology. Some of your poems contain allusions to classical mythology, including the muses, Sisyphus, and Persephone whose pomegranate spreads its seeds across your book cover. You also invoke fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. What is it about these enduring tales and archetypes that draws you in as a poet? What do you hope to add to these stories and characters with your poems?

Agnes Vojta: I grew up an avid reader in a house filled with books; Grimm’s fairy tales and Greek and Norse mythology were the stories of my childhood. Invoking those tales taps into the powerful symbolism of the mythological figures: Sisyphus epitomizes human struggle; Ariadne’s thread evokes the navigation of a labyrinth with a monster lurking at the center.

Grimm’s fairy tales abound with archaic gender stereotypes. I enjoyed subverting the story of helpless Sleeping Beauty and, instead of letting her wake from the prince’s kiss, giving her agency: she awakes on her own and chooses to defy expected gender roles. I let Rapunzel cut off her hair, the symbol of her femininity and her most defining characteristic; she is no longer willing to play her old role. Awakening, rebellion, and the questioning of dichotomies and gendered expectations are recurring themes in my collection.

On an underlying layer, both poems that reference Sisyphus allude to Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus which deals with humans’ search for meaning in the face of an absurd world, a topic deeply connected to the themes I was wrestling with.

Continue reading “The Eden of Perhaps: An Interview Between Poet Agnes Vojta and Chase Dimock”

Agnes Vojta: “Everybody Likes the Person who Brings Muffins”

 

 

Everybody Likes the Person who Brings Muffins

She is baking to keep
the darkness at bay.
A loaf of bread
will render her worthy,
a pie loved.

She bakes herself
a place in the world.
Bakes acceptance,
a purpose for being
measured in brownies.

As long as she’s baking,
she’s got something to offer,
to trade for your time.
Most people prefer
cookies to poems anyway.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and started writing poetry as a child. She spent a few years in California, Oregon, and England, and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems  have appeared in a variety of magazines.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

Legend

Sisyphus Calls It Quits

Flotsam

 

Image Credit: “International baking powder. Manufactured by Queen City Chemical Co., Buffalo, N.Y.” G.H. Dunston, Lith., c1885. The Library of Congress (Public Domain)

Agnes Vojta: “Legend”

 

 

Legend

Before the battle,
every warrior
put a rock on a pile.

Returning,
the survivors
each picked up one stone,

then built what remained
into a cairn
to honor the fallen.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and started writing poetry as a child. She spent a few years in California, Oregon, and England, and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems  have appeared in a variety of magazines.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

Sisyphus Calls It Quits

Flotsam

Vineyard in Dresden

 

Image Credit: G.W. Rice “English cairn on P.E. Cary Island, July, 1881” (1881) The Library of Congress

Revisiting 2019: Our 50 Most Popular Posts of the Year

 

Dear As It Ought To Be Magazine Readers,

As we enter the next decade, I want to thank all of the writers and readers who have made our tenth year so successful. I take enormous pride in working with so many talented and inspiring writers. Without your brilliance and generosity of spirit and intellect, none of this would be possible. It has been a great privilege to publish your work on our site, and I hope to continue featuring diverse perspectives, challenging ideas, and unique voices for years to come. As a way to look back on what we accomplished in 2019, I have complied the 50 most popular posts of the year based on internet traffic and clicks.

Thank you again to everyone who wrote for, read, and promoted AIOTB Magazine in 2019. Let the 20s roar again!

Chase Dimock
Managing Editor

 

Poetry

Jason Baldinger:

Ishrat Bashir:

Jai Hamid Bashir:

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal:

Jeffrey Betcher:

Ace Boggess:

Daniel Crocker:

John Dorsey:

Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

Tony Gloeggler:

Nathan Graziano:

Cord Moreski:

Jeanette Powers:

Stephen Roger Powers:

Jonathan K. Rice:

Kevin Ridgeway:

Damian Rucci:

Anna Saunders:

Larry Smith:

Nick Soluri:

William Taylor Jr.:

Alice Teeter:

Tiffany Troy:

Bunkong Tuon:

Agnes Vojta:

Kory Wells:

Brian Chander Wiora:

Dameion Wagner:

 

Nonfiction

Daniel Crocker:

Nathan Graziano:

John Guzlowski:

Cody Sexton:

Carrie Thompson:

 

Reviews 

Chase Dimock:

Mike James:

 

Photo Credit: Fire Works At New Year’s Eve via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Agnes Vojta: “Sisyphus Calls it Quits”

 

Sisyphus Calls it Quits *

To walk away
from what was your purpose
for all this time,
to simply let the boulder lie
and say: I am
punished enough,
to turn your back, and not stay
any longer with the impossible

is the impossible.
We have imagined
you happy
with the struggle
towards the height,
or rather tried
to imagine how
it could have filled your heart –

now depart
from the mountain
without backward glance
and dance
on the bones of the gods
who never deserved
your obedience
in the first place.

*The title of the poem is inspired by a painting by Greg Edmondson

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019). Her poems recently appeared in Red River Review, Minute Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, The Blue Nib, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Former People, Thimble Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

And on the Seventh Day

Flotsam

Vineyard in Dresden

 

Image Credit: Titian “Sisyphus” (1548) Public Domain

Agnes Vojta: “Vineyard in Dresden”

 

 

Vineyard in Dresden

The path between the ivied walls
is paved in standstone. Grass
grows from the cracks. I follow
the trails of childhood. 

The cobwebbed door
has not been opened in a long time,
but someone cleared the steps
leading to it. I climb 

the stairs into the vineyards, 
breathe history, mine and the land’s. 
Lush and green, the grapes 
promise a rich harvest. 

Below, the river sings a love song 
to the city that is no longer mine.
Eighteen years change
a person and a place.

Not even the trees
are the same; the drought
felled the old oak in the clearing
we called the witches’ dance hall.

But the hills and the river
are still there, and dearer
to me than the castles
and cathedrals that lure the tourists.

And the summer light 
through the maples remains 
unchanged, as all else 
grows old and distant.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019). Her poems recently appeared in Red River Review, Minute Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, The Blue Nib, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Former People, Thimble Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

And on the Seventh Day

Flotsam

 

Image Credit: Eugène Atget “The Old Château, Sceaux” (1923) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

“And on the Seventh Day” By Agnes Vojta

 

 

And on the Seventh Day

God had finished his work and thought
a rest day would be a nice change.
But he didn’t have anybody to play golf with,
because Satan was busy.
After the thrill of creating,
He wondered
what to do to amuse Himself.

So He figured,
let’s give those humans free will
and see what they do with it. Perhaps
watching them will be
a fun pastime.

And He settled down to watch
civilizations rise and fall
and humans slaughter each other,
and when the same stories played out
over and over again,
He became bored and
wandered off to
create another universe.

This time, He thought,
I’ll make one
without people.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019). Her poems recently appeared in Gasconade Review, Thimble Literary MagazineTrailer Park QuarterlyPoetry Quarterly, and elsewhere.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

Flotsam

 

Image Credit: William Blake “Ancient of Days” (1794)

“Flotsam” By Agnes Vojta

 

Flotsam

I shipped my past to this continent
in a box I open rarely. In it,

my mother’s amber necklace
and my grandmother’s silver cross,

a dried flower from my prom bouquet,
ribboned letters from old lovers,

notebooks with poems written
thirty years ago in another tongue,

a brass key that opens no lock I know,
a photograph of the house on the hill

that stands now empty, where my voice
still echoes, unheard,
five thousand miles away.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019). Her poems recently appeared in Gasconade Review, Thimble Literary Magazine, Trailer Park Quarterly, Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere.

 

Image Credit: Marion Post Wolcott “Child bringing home suitcase on sled, Franconia, New Hampshire” (1939) The Library of Congress