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Transom:
In your poem, “Shipworm,” you give voice to a creature that eats rotting wood. Thus, though they’re destructive, they do, as you say, “consume / damage.” How does this selective violence connect to your act of writing, which is usually discussed as a constructive process (i.e. “building” a poem)?

Mitchell:
The violence reflects how this poem breaks down its source. “Shipworm” used to be an erasure, though I did later bind the pieces together with an animal persona and whatever fit inside its ocean-gothic world. For the first draft, I erased two abstracts, “Aiding shipworms’ appetite for destruction” by Caroline Ash and “Gray seals: the North Sea's great whites?” by Jake Yeston (both in Science 5 December 2014: Vol. 346 no. 6214 pp. 1196). I picked out “cannot eat...unaided” (Ash) and “porpoises with missing bellies” (Yeston) as well as a half-dozen single words. I left the notes alone for weeks. When I came back to them, it was easy to re-inhabit the language. Like a shipworm, I repurposed the object/text to the extent that what’s left of it here doesn’t hold the same meaning. Holes, traces, and all, the ruin is brought to the surface.