When I was younger, under 7 years of age, I didn’t understand what the big deal was about death. When you died, you wouldn’t know you were dead, so you wouldn’t be feeling bad about it. I then began to think, however, that this feeling would be transferred to others—my mother, my sister. The pain of death is that it’s not one’s own.
I was thinking this while reading the poem “Misunderstood,” although this thought was probably generated by an earlier poem and didn’t catch up to me until the line “whatever death is / I am not nervous about it”
Reading any book, I mindlessly clean underneath my fingernails with the top corners of the pages. Sweeping as many pages will fit under the nail. I read some more lines then check to see if I dirtied the edges of this nice white book with unknown crud that I’d try to wipe off or would it leave a small stain. When things are unknown and accumulating we just call it ‘dirt.’
I was on “The Room” and felt suddenly like it was time for a close-up. I was inside the can of coke as it was fizzing. I become sensitive to sensations other than my own. Or someone turned my senses on loud, and I was staggering across the room drunk from noise to find the knob that would return me to what I before had believed was silence. (Ignoring the single bird outside, the factory-grade AC that sounds like a deep fryer, a woman with a shopping cart in the alley…)
Dottie and I grew up roughly in the same part of St. Louis. She lived in the neighboring suburb. Our dads ate lunch separately but at the same restaurant across from the county courthouse, where her dad—a judge—and my dad—a lawyer—both worked. Dottie, what is your relationship to laws? (I’m still on “The Room.”)
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m interested in what your poems are doing, but I’m completely controlled by what your poems are making me think about. Do you think there is such a thing as a controlled mind when reading poems? Should I be thinking structure, formal elements, etc., or should I be living my life?
The desk I sit at is a drafting table. The name plate reads: Wolsey Co. Elmonte, Ca. USA. Does this mean anything to you?
I often hear poets at readings say they need to read poems from the book that just recently came out for which they’re on tour for. In order to promote that book. But I think they could read other poems from another book, or ones not in a book, and that those could better promote the book they just published. What’s the best thing you can do for your books?
Everything I took for granted in my late teens (the family dog, having grandparents) I want to gather up in death bouquets.
The question is not What to ask but What to give time thinking about…Similarly, the question is not What to write.
Do you have daddy poems? Once a poet friend told me she saw a father theme in my work and asked me to submit something else. You specifically refer to your father’s death. What is the poem for then?
Enemies, monsters, wild creatures.
“Death of a polish Empire” –
You once gave me advice: from one seasoned female poet to another who was just beginning to publish. Do you still believe women should do this?
In your poems, why is death such a living state?
What is the poem in this book that was written the earliest? (What’s the earliest poem in this book?)
Do you write daddy poems? You have a Sylvia Plath epigraph…
Someone once told me you’d rather feed revision to the pigs. Is this true?
You read poems to my middle-schoolers in Taiwan and were a pro. Is part of your audience small children? Where are the children in relation to your poems? (I’m re-reading “The Room”)
DEATH. Does everyone? “Why Is It A Black Life”: Is this poem more death-y than usual for you? Is death an obsession or endless topic? Are death, dreams, and poems the Bermuda Triangle?
I feel you’re building the poem in the present: taking one word, sometimes a repetition that leads to a third “claim”, like teasing out the poem. (“Plane Crash”) Do you feel you have to coax the poem? Does writing poems feel like snake-taming? The great rhythms of seeing. (“Two Assholes”)