Many years ago, I was looking at the first poem I ever published just after it was published. I walked to my kitchen, opened the trashcan, and pushed the journal through the trash all the way in the bottom; there, I thought. Now there’s one less chance anybody ever sees that. Then it ended up in Best American Poetry ’05.
Now that you’re drunk, read the poem as if you were lecturing the president. Add an arpeggiator. What the fuck does that sound like? Read it as if you don’t know half the words. Deeply, then falsetto. Try to fit the poem into Gucci Mane’s flow. Stop listening to hip-hop if you start thinking too much about earnestness and self-parody, minstrel shows.
I would be most inclined to compare my poetry to some really self-consciously horny gay indie rock. I don’t intend it to come across that way, but it seems like I talk about my genitals a lot more than most poets.
I think now and then I manage to take a piece and rock the mic like a vandal, but one of my favorite forms of collaboration is to write a poem and hand it as a script to a filmmaker.
What I’m drawn to is not only the beauty of rhythmic language, but the pacing itself. In my own work, I’m always stealing from the work of other writers, from their diaries, from newspapers, and from bits of conversation that I overhear. Most of what I’m stealing relates to sound: rhythm, rhyme, tone and word choice.
My other friend, Andrew, says that the dictionary does not define words, our sensibilities as poets do. Which is sort of why I think it’s important to mispronounce quay and forte because if you don’t, well, confusion will ensue. But what’s wrong with that. Do with meaning what you do with sound. Alter it slightly.
I haven’t really had to rail against traditional/popular styles, but as a listener, I certainly rail against it. Your poem will, yes, speak for itself on the page. It should. But if I’m watching you read, you better be speaking for your poems. It’s your job to bring me inside of them. It’s your job to make me care.
I suppose there is a certain music in my poetry in that it functions as a story, with high points and low, choruses and verses both predictable and organic—and not. I think my ‘style’ allows me to tell a whole tale, and build a world based not only on linguistics but definitive story, like a lot of music does.
I didn’t want to censor myself or be polite, etc. I wanted to resist the WASP-y Midwestern culture I grew up in. This made a louder more long-winded style. I want desperately to communicate with the people who are listening to me read, so I perform, I put feeling into it, I acknowledge the rhythm and meter and music and diction by modulating my voice.
Some poets communicate that we have to filter the emotions we feel in extremity through what often feels to me like a guise of cynicism, or apathy, or self-deprecation, or glitter and lipstick (which is actually super operatic!), or the general messy hysteria of the 20-something’s world. We often can’t be operatic in the ways traditional opera is, though our feelings are often that way. When did poetry move away from the operatic, or has it? In what new ways are we operatic?