listen: This Noisy Egg
Because when I go outdoors, light splits
up my head and super siren dogs
try to eat my balls.
1. Your book seems to me to be full of movement. Feather-minded bullets and clutch-curls and tilting sways and breezes and tickling groins. Discuss.
Poems should move. Sometimes, when I think of poems, they seem so blocky and static on the page. I think that’s one reason people resist them. In these poems, I tried to get some flight into them—partially from that high-minded notion that poems should move but also probably from some less honorable fear that the poems will get stuck somewhere and I won’t be able to move it out from there. Like swinging on the monkey bars, if you lose momentum, you fall down. I resist resolution in the poems for the same reason—that tied-up-in-a-knot feeling that makes poems feel so smart but also so done. If I fully resolved something in a poem, I don’t know how I’d write the next one.
2. Could you tell us something about your working methods?
My working methods stem from that nervousness about coming to a full stop. They begin usually with something enmaddening, like a headline in the newspaper or a comment on a blog that just strikes me as so impossible that someone would hold that opinion. In my kneejerk response way, I would write back, if I used the form of letter to the editor or blog comments, something one-dimensional and unkind. But in the poem, constricted by assonance and the line and by some historic sense of decency, I can move beyond kneejerk. I don’t usually change my mind about say, how dogs shouldn’t be allowed to tree cougars for the hunters to shoot them down but my response is thicker. It moves from being an angry, political thing to a thing about how the cougars and the dogs, the trees and the hunters are part of a reciprocating system.
3. What is the best literary magazine in the whole fucking world?
Um. Diagram. What magazine do I want to be published in the most? Maybe Southern Review. Maybe The Believer. I miss Spork. My new favorite magazine? Sugar House Review.
4. What I really appreciate in This Noisy Egg are the constant juxtapositions between the colloquial or everyday with the mythic, the lyrical, the poetic. Can you discuss this technique?
What a great land of myths we have now.
Bring the fried chicken.
Poems, and mine in particular, can veer toward the melodramatic. Just right now I’m writing a poem about the apocalypse. The colloquial voice keeps me in check, reminds me not to take myself so seriously. Green tomatoes in September are not the end of the world.
Sometimes, when the lyric is playful and resonant and sonically rambunctious, I really can’t help but let the poem fly then and I just let it be, melodramatic or not—it caught me up in it. So the colloquial is control, the lyric is the letting go.
5. Do you like disc golf?
I like disc golf in the way some people like meat. It’s delicious and all but really, does it have to take so much time?
6. Some of these poems were meditative to me. I wanted to read them silently. Some were raucous—I wanted to shout them aloud! Should poems be read aloud or silently?
I like to sing them which is totally embarrassing.
7. Will you talk about the use of lists?
Now we count the kinks
like links on an abacus
1. Poetry requires an organized mind.
2. Some kinds of list suggest syllogism.
3. I prefer to think lists suggest narrative.
4. Lists, like narrative, are architectural.
5. Sometimes, I have a hard time remembering where I was going and, like a good, architectural staircase, reminds me where I’m going.
6. Which helps to keep me organized.
8. If Darwin came to dinner what would you serve?
I can only think of snarky answers like fried dodo and giant tortoise soup, served in a giant tortoise shell. But, when I try to be less of an ass, I think that I might serve him four courses of forest mushrooms. Darwin seemed to like the little distinctions so how fun would it be to serve shitakes and cream on crostini, followed by Prince Agaric mushroom soup, followed by chanterelle and potato gratin, followed by grilled porcini?
She shook her head for a decade.
9. “The fence wore its black rain as my father wore his coat.” Is this a philosophy of This Noisy Egg? Everything general in the world as actually specific? Does it all relate? And is every myth our own? What a clunky question! You may answer it or shoot me dead.
Somebody once said I lived symbolically. I took it as a compliment but I don’t think it was meant as one. It’s one thing to live metaphorically, to see associations and patterns. It’s another to think one tiny thing signifies the whole. Living metonymically makes everything seem so “meaningful.” It kind of takes the fun out of the plain world. I try, and fail, to appreciate the plain world. Fences are plain. Black rain so meaningful. Then I bring in the father. Can I thicken that line any further. But I do think returning to coat returns the poem to some kind of accessible plainness. I will fight for fence and coat all my days even though my nature wants to write all black rain and father all the time.
10. How does writing nonfiction and writing poetry play off one another?
I’m sensing a theme in this interview—made by my answers more than the questions. I vacillate, obviously. A clasping onto and then a running away. The poetry starts to hang too heavy, I can go write more plainly in prose. If the poem starts to get too political and doesn’t do what I want, like search out the layers and other dimensions of a polemic, then I can go be long-winded in talking myself into a broader viewpoint. The restrictions of poetry, the line and the lyric, keep me in check. Sometimes, I need to get out of check.
11. Not many people write long poems anymore. You do, and well. Can you discuss the long poem in today’s world of poetry?
Is the long poem the segue between the short lyric poem and the lyric essay? Maybe. But more likely, since I don’t like poems to end—that the summing up or clever, unifying couplet so often rings false to me—that in going on I can riff on. It’s impossible of course to publish long poems although my friends David Hawkins and Kate Coles have had some success with At Length magazine and Sugar House Review took my latest long one. More magazines should make room for the long poem. People resist short poems because often the intellectual investment does not equal the emotional payoff. In a long poem, there’s more a chance of the transaction between reader and poet working out.
12. What is food, to you?
Delicious. Also the internet.
13. What are the biggest problems for the poet today?
flew up like mouths.
There are no problems for the poet. The poets are the solution. If everyone wrote poetry, even though there may be more tremendously douchey poems, there would be fewer douche bags.
14.Quite a few historical/mythological characters here. Will you discuss the role of research in your poetry?
As usual, I read the question backwards so I had all kinds of answers about googling Darwin and coming up with Dolly the sheep. I like to go out and find stuff I don’t know. I like poems to go outside the regular world of poetry. That said, the regular world of poetry is full of mythological/historical characters. They follow me everywhere. I can’t shake them.