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Transom:
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?

Merrill:
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 of light.

Transom:
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?

Merrill:
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.