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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?

Abramowitz:
I would love to think that the poems in this issue had, whether consciously or subconsciously, artistic knowledge of the eclipse that occurred on August 21st. When else, especially if we live in cities, do we pay particular attention to what’s happening with and between our galactic spheres? Nearly everyone—from day traders to hair stylists to students to traffic cops to ... um ... the President—took time on that Monday to witness (safely or unsafely) a cosmic pas de deux. Without darkness it would have been a day like any other, and the light was, of course, crucial to the experience of temporary darkness during an otherwise ordinary day. All of this is to say that poems, like eclipses (partial, total, lunar, solar, other), must play out this fundamental physical and, ultimately, psychical, composition of space and time, shade and illumination. Otherwise we wouldn’t see the poem at all.

Transom:
Your first poem feels like an exuberant Paul Celan to us, taut and twisting, but confident in the face of death. The second feels more playful, almost seductive, but still morbid. Do you conceive of these two approaches to the concept of death as distinct, or is there a unified attitude at play here?

Abramowitz:
I have been writing a lot about death lately. While it is true that a couple of deaths have occurred around me in the past year—one expected, the other not—my work is less about specific deaths than about the particular kind of ending death is. Death is often used as a metaphor for other kinds of endings, such as relationships or phases in one’s life (or even batteries and cars), but I think actual death, of living things that thought and felt and had an innate drive toward life, is set apart in its finality. For humans, the end of a “self-assembled” self—“assembled” in the sense, as Neil deGrasse Tyson has described, of one’s body as an collection of the energy it has consumed and exuded, as well as the idea of an identity accumulated over a lifetime—invites an inquiry into the mystery of its abrupt end of the assembly and the birth of disassembly. It is so difficult to describe death that metaphor has to enter in order to do some of the existential heavy lifting, which is, of course, where poetry comes in. Poets raging from Sappho to Keats, from Whitman to Max Ritvo, have recognized that human death is deserving of poetic treatment—in fact, it is difficult to name a poet who has not engaged with the theme of death. In terms of form, I find that my poems have become more plainspoken rather than lyrical, even though I cannot quite let go of some traditional forms that make plainspeaking difficult (a villanelle, for instance). Formally, I am working toward mirroring the proportion between what is known about death—the actual biological processes that accompany it—and what is still and will forever remain unknown.