1. What is your favorite brand of ginger ale and why?
I really haven”â„¢t had ginger ale since I was about seven. I remember the moment I heard the questionable assertion concerning cancer”â€I was at my aunt”â„¢s mother”â„¢s house (not my grandmother, it was on the other side of the family), & my aunt”â„¢s sister read it aloud from the newspaper. I was afraid of her for some reason. There were so many elements contributing to my displacement that something about that non-fact concerning ginger ale stuck. I like to say that any poem I write is “a fiction,”Â but that particular element is all truth. But if I were to get back on the ginger ale, I”â„¢d probably go with a good dry”â€a Blenheim or a Foxon Park, perhaps a Sprecher”Â¦.
2. What is the unfunniest poet joke you’ve ever heard?
The statement I made for the first poem I brought in for a workshop: “So”Â¦I”â„¢m not well-versed in poetry”Â¦”Â I don”â„¢t really know a lot of poet jokes (funny or no), but I wish I did.
3. What inspired your poems Ginger Ale and Maryland Hacker?
I think the answer for question #1 serves as a pretty good explanation for Ginger Ale. As for Maryland Hacker, I was invited to come to a faculty search dinner, and one of my professors had seen All About Eve the night before and just kept going on and on with his impression of Bette Davis. It was incredibly entertaining. That”â„¢s how it usually works”â€I take an embryo of truth and see how ridiculous it becomes”â€my poems are kind of like Led Zeppelin songs in that way”Â¦
4. In Maryland Hacker, you name check some rather renowned writers. Do you consider yourself well-read? What would say are your five canonical texts?
I”â„¢m glad I re-read that follow-up question, because when I saw “canonical,”Â I was about to be like, “Do I look like Harold Bloom or something?”Â Anyway, I think I”â„¢m well-read in the way that I”â„¢m always looking for something new to read and that I”â„¢m always reading at least three or four books at once. I also feel that someone who doesn”â„¢t strive to read as much as they can should probably reconsider being “a writer.”Â Like I said before, I”â„¢m not sure how I feel about the word “canonical,”Â so I”â„¢ll give a quick run-down of books I think inform my approach:
1. Â Â Â Paterson, William Carlos Williams
2. Â Â Â North & South, Elizabeth Bishop
3. Â Â Â Poeta en Nueva York, Federico GarcÃƒÂa Lorca
4. Â Â Â Actual Air, David Berman
5. Â Â Â The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, Denis Johnson
(That was a really hard question by the way, the caveat being that Whitman & Dickinson are both givens that I did not include.)
5. What we really enjoyed about these poems was the way they expressed a narrative that came full circle. Was this deliberate on your part? Do you strive for that kind of containment in your writing?
Yes & no. At least one or two of my workshop classmates have made the faux complaint against me that a fiction writer has infiltrated the poetry program. I remember at the time that these poems were written I was really utilizing elements of necessary arrival. I see the use of repetition and containment as permission for the poem to be as ridiculous as it can be. I see it working in ways similar to “elliptical”Â poems. Or the way a stand-up comic may have one joke threaded through her entire routine. Of course, the concern is determining whether or not the poem is too contained”â€it always runs the risk of being too tidy.
6. Kryptonite was Superman’s greatest weakness, his Achilles heel. What would you say is your greatest weakness as a writer? How do you work to overcome it? Finally, how awesome was Superman IV?
I go through bouts of crippling self-doubt. I was nearly (and I stress nearly) a theatre kid in high school; I”â„¢ve played in a handful of bands, and have flirted with doing stand-up (as if that”â„¢s any more lucrative than poetry). I more or less turned away from all of these activities for the same lack of confidence. I”â„¢ve found that writing is great when it”â„¢s a public act”â€when you lay your soul bare and all that jazz, but first and foremost, writing is a private act. Reconciling the anxiety that comes in leaping from the private to the public may not always be easy, but I think I”â„¢m able to overcome that anxiety by allowing the work to acknowledge that the anxiety exists (hence the canonical name-dropping”â€Whitman”â„¢s beard looms large over my shoulder most days).
As for Superman IV, it is always awesome: All the world”â„¢s nuclear weapons tossed into the sun creates Nuclear Man”â€Superman”â„¢s doppelganger? That movie, alongside Red Dawn and Rocky IV, is one of the last best/worst movies of the late Red-Scare Era of the 1980s. Here”â„¢s the tagline: “Nuclear Power. In the best hands, it is dangerous. In the hands of Lex Luthor, it is pure evil. This is Superman’s greatest battle. And it is for all of us.”Â I think it speaks for itself.
7. You serve as poetry editor for the Front Porch Journal. Why do you think so many writers also edit or vice versa?
The bulk of the writing process is an act committed in solitude (that makes it sound sexier than it is, doesn”â„¢t it?). Anyway, to have the opportunity to interact with others who do the same work as your self can be frustrating”â€but for the most part it”â„¢s incredibly rewarding. And I don”â„¢t mean to say that being an editor is a platform for rubbing elbows with other writers”â€it may be”â€what I”â„¢m getting at is that being an editor allows me to see, despite what certain former poet laureates may say, how diverse and exciting American poetry is today. Also, I like to lie and tell people we have sexy parties whenever a new issue comes out.