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Transom:
This poem is part of a manuscript of 13-sentence poems, which suggests that the sentence is the unit of composition. But many of these sentences aren’t sentences at all, in a strict grammatical sense, and what drives the lines seems to us to often be the diction and imagery. Do you see a tension between the sentence and the image here, or in general?

McDonald:
My first ideas with my 13 sentence project were about taking sentences from different sources: my journals, art criticism magazines, and opera periodicals. The sentences I “stole” from sources other than my own head were altered – nouns changed, clauses added, until they were no longer in any way quotes of the original material. Cousins, perhaps. After I had hundreds of these sentences, I started grouping them and trying to get them to converse with one another. I started with seven sentence batches, but that didn’t seem to be enough room. Nonetheless I knew I wanted some kind of limits put on the construction of the poems, and 13 lines seemed to be a nice anti-sonnet number. Despite my wish to be more abstract, I am at heart a narrative writer, and stories formed despite my best wishes. As soon as Persephone entered she took over. I wonder if the work would be read differently if it was called “A Wedding Between the Orchard and the Moon.” I don’t see a tension between the image and the sentence – to me a sentence is nearly always only as interesting as the image it carries. I think I hoped that the sentences, and the images they contained, would rub up against each other with more discomfort and odd gaps than they actually do.

Transom:
“Persephone” could be seen as a retelling of the classical abduction story, complete with a trajectory from abduction, through death and love, to a kind of contingent liberation. Are you invested in that kind of progression, or do you conceive of this poem as more modular?

McDonald:
I wanted it to be more modular, but as I said, as soon as the myth was evoked, it had a way of barging in and taking over. Obviously I didn’t mind SO much, or I would have striven to make the myth take a back seat. I think I was secretly pleased when the various sentences from sources across time and location ended up getting along so well.

Transom:
Several of the sentences in this poem have an aphoristic quality. What role do you think wisdom, or the pursuit of wisdom, has in this project?

McDonald:
I did challenge myself to alter some of my source material sentences into either bold statements, or questions. The bold statements, the ones that say here is how the world works, were unusual for me, I tend to like the words maybe and perhaps. The aphoristic quality of some of these sentences gives at least the illusion of wisdom. The wisdom I sought was in the space between sentences, in how sentences from all over the dang place could link up, and create meaning in the jump between.