Many of the poems in this issue seem to coalesce around themes of
darkness and light. In what ratio of shade or illumination do your
poems thrive? Does a dark poem need light, and vice versa?
Poor eyesight from childhood has sharpened my sense of the ways in
which darkness defines the light, and so it follows that my poems are
shaped by an acute understanding of the endlessly shifting ratio
between the two. If I have learned anything from my walk in the sun it
is that my peripheral vision is sometimes more reliable than what I see
in front of me; poems emerge from what I glimpse at the edge of things,
like shadows that gradually take solid form, each containing a measure
Each of these poems resembles the beginning of a tale, spinning out
tantalizing backstories for caravan drivers and prison wardens and
acrobats—but then the speaker’s attention moves to another landscape,
another story thread, just as detailed. We begin to feel as if we’re
zooming in on sections of a larger tapestry. Are these poems united by
a single speaker whose mind ranges with equal intensity over miniature
and macro-landscapes? If so, who is (s)he?
At a party after a reading, a well-known writer told a long and
tedious story about his visit to the house of a sixteenth-century
Arctic explorer, the upshot of which was that the current owners had
neither heard of this historical figure nor particularly cared that he
had tried to sail to the North Pole. “He did this in 1576,” the writer
cried. “Imagine. 1576.” Unable to contain myself, I said, “Was that
pre-MTV?” The writer was not amused, though later he said that he liked
my sense of humor, even if he couldn’t figure out where it came from.
“That’s easy,” I said. “I listen to all the voices in my head.” I like
to think the serial poems I write, each section of which derives from
one of the voices in my aural imagination, are of a piece with who I
am. Then again I may be deluded, in which case I hope someone will have
the good sense to crack a joke at my expense.