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J.G. McClure

J.G. McClure holds an MFA from the University of California - Irvine and a BA from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. His poems and prose appear widely including in Best New Poets, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, and Birmingham Poetry Review, and he teaches a variety of online creative writing courses. He is the author of The Fire Lit & Nearing (Indolent Books 2018) and the translator of a forthcoming collection of Spanish poetry. See more at jgmcclure.com.

Blurbs

J.G. McClure's first book, The Fire Lit & Nearing, is a wild cosmically inclusive, sometimes surreal, sometimes hilarious but always compelling thought experiment about contingency as both a source of freedom and inescapable pain. These poems embody an irrepressible charm, a formal poise and wit that I find welcoming, even life affirming, even in the midst of sorrow. A truly beautiful book.

– Alan Shapiro

Wit and nihilism, deadpan intelligence, and candid examinations of human hungers abound in J.G. McClure's The Fire Lit & Nearing. McClure's smoldering poems take on the grind of time, obsessive love, manliness and its illusions, alternative fates, being and nothingness, and much more. His is a winning voice, dark and self-critical, a bit reminiscent of John Berryman's, a brave and true voice one might dub melancholic/comic/heroic.

– Amy Gerstler

The recurrent mode of J.G. McClure's The Fire Lit & Nearing is a version of lament and complaint (both with long distinguished poetic traditions), but this tone is relieved and complicated and enriched by McClure's distinctive zaniness and invention, which gives the reader great enjoyment in this kind of "gaiety transfiguring all that dread" À la Yeats. This inventiveness also makes use of McClure's intelligence in a fundamentally writerly way and communicates the mind-of-the-writer at work in an exhilarating act of making that extracts beauty even from human pain and despair.

– Michael Ryan

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The Fire Lit & Nearing

In the End, There’s Only Love: A Conversation between Dante Di Stefano and J.G. McClure

08/14/19

Dante Di Stefano: The Fire Lit & Nearing includes several self-portrait poems. I was wondering if you could begin with some thoughts on this type of poem. Why write a self-portrait poem? How are your approaches different in each self-portrait poem? How is the gesture toward self-portraiture different in poetry, art, and life (in the era of the selfie)?

J.G. McClure: I like the “Self Portrait as ____” format for its ability to efficiently establish and contextualize an otherwise absurd conceit. If in the title we get that piece of information to orient us—read this as a self-portrait—we’ll be able to immediately start making sense of what follows. Once you’ve given the reader that firm ground to stand on, you’re free to go where the poem takes you, zany as it may be. So the format allows a lot of freedom to explore different angles on the self: I have a “Self Portrait as B Movie Script” where I get to riff on my affection for campy 80s action movies, I have a “Self Portrait as Ego and Vehicle” where my ego is a tiny man driving me around like a motorcycle, another where I’m the reluctant keeper of an unruly dog named Sadness, and so on. The “Self Portrait” mode lets these otherwise very different metaphors work together in the same collection.

Besides, I suspect that any poem is a self-portrait to some degree. Borges has a lovely little parable tucked away in one of his books’ epilogues:

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.

Whatever you write, no matter how different the subject or style or point of view, the one common factor is always you. Since you can’t escape it, you might as well have fun with it.

Your latest collection, Ill Angels, starts with two back-to-back epigraphs—one from Edgar Allan Poe, the other from the Beastie Boys—and many of your poems are presented as reactions to specific encounters with art or music or literature at specific times: “Reading Dostoevsky at Seventeen,” or “Reading Rilke in Early Autumn,” or “Love Poem Written While Listening to ‘Alligator Crawl’ Repeatedly and Misremembering Lines from Kobayashi Issa.” Could you discuss the ways in which you join allusions to specific times and places? Why situate your poems in this way? How about your blending of cultural references traditionally characterized as “high” (like Rilke or Issa) with the so-called “low” (like the Beastie Boys)?

DD: Don Quixote is as real to me as any friend I’ve had in the past forty years. A Love Supreme is as inhabitable in my memory as the first time I met my wife. The paintings of Marc Chagall appear as warmly in my mind’s eye as the face of my long dead great grandmother. Writing a highly allusive poetry allows me to celebrate all the lives fountaining through my own; those lives include the lives of loved ones and friends, and, also, the lives of the artists, musicians, and writers I love. I don’t like to make distinctions between high and low culture (although, of course, I know what you mean). Who’s to say that The Low End Theory or Paul’s Boutique isn’t as valuable a cultural artifact as Sketches of Spain or Philip Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts? To answer your question more directly, though, I just write about things and people I love, and experiences that compel me (most of which are bound up in some way with art, music, and literature.)

Speaking of compelling experiences, I admire the prose poems scattered throughout The Fire Lit & Nearing, particularly “The Cat,” which like a Russell Edson poem takes an absurd premise to its logical conclusion but does so with a straight face. Whose prose poems do you most admire? Why choose to write a poem in prose rather than in lineation?

JGM: I’m flattered that you thought of Russell Edson; I admire his work a great deal. Another favorite is James Tate’s “Distance from Loved Ones,” from the collection of the same name.

As I think about it, the Tate poem follows a similar trajectory: we start with a plausible premise, and then see Murphy’s Law going further and further as the speaker’s mother recounts the litany of escalating misfortunes that befall Zita. It’s so over-the-top in its tragedy that we can’t help but chuckle uncomfortably. Then we get what could be a mean-spirited joke about the elderly mother’s babbling: “My mother tells me all this on the phone, and I say: Mother, who is Zita?” Again we chuckle—all this, and the speaker doesn’t even know who his mom is going on about.

But then Tate springs his trap: “And my mother says, I am Zita. All my life I have been Zita, bald and crying. And you, my son, who should have known me best, thought I was nothing but your mother.” All that escalating misery, and our increasingly callous response to it, suddenly hits home, and we, like the speaker, have to recognize our failure of empathy.

If the poem ended there, it would be okay: a bit preachy, but fine. Instead, it follows this argument, too, to its logical conclusion: “But, Mother, I say, I am dying. . .” Now we understand that the failure of empathy cuts both ways: the son fails to recognize the mother’s crisis, the mother fails to recognize the son’s, and the distance from loved one to loved one remains uncrossable.

In Tate’s poem, as in Edson’s poems, the focus is on the story that’s being told. I think we tend to see prose as transparent, while poems call attention to themselves as made things. Of course in reality the form of prose mediates our experience of its content too, but we don’t really think about that--we’re used to reading prose all the time for information, without thinking about its form. So I think the prose poem is able to tap into that idea, to keep the reader’s focus on the narrative. For that reason I think it’s well suited to pieces like “The Cat,” or “Parable,” where the narrative is primary.

You’re the co-editor of Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump's America (NYQ Books, 2018), and many of your own poems directly engage with political issues. For instance, “Words for My Twelfth Grade English Class, After Reading Malcolm X’s ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’ on Inauguration Day 2017” ends with this urgent call to action:

Still, the masts of the Niña, the Pinta,
and the Santamaria are burning
down our dreams as we pledge allegiance to
the flag inside a hood at Abu Ghraib.
Scalpel us out of apathy; take sides
with freedom, with fire, with freedom again.

Do you see yourself as a “political poet”? Is there a meaningful distinction between “political” and “non-political” poems, or is all writing political in some way? What is your view of the role of the poet in today’s social/political landscape?

DD: I don’t see myself as a political poet (or as any other type of poet, for that matter). It’s probably true that all writing is political in some way. From the time I first started reading poetry seriously in the late 90s, I’ve been interested in poetry of the political imagination; Carolyn Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting, was an important early introduction to a global poetry of witness. Some of my favorite poets write directly political poems: Amiri Baraka, William Blake, Martín Espada, Miguel Hernández, Federico García Lorca, and Patricia Smith (to name a few). I do like to keep in mind John Ashbery’s caveat about political poetry: “there is not much ‘political’ poetry that I like for the reason that the political sentiments reiterated in it are usually the exact ones I harbor, and I would rather learn something new.” As far as the role of the poet in the social landscape goes, I believe that depends on the poet. There are as many different roles for poets as there are poets themselves. One role that most poets share is (to paraphrase Roethke) to create art that undoes the damage of haste.

One poem you’ve written that undoes the damage of haste is “The Cat.” In that poem you end with a wonderful sentence as the world skitters on the brink of apocalypse: “In the end, there’s only love.” Stanley Kunitz said, “All poems are love poems.” Do you agree with that?

JGM: Maybe? On one hand, it’s hard to read something like Larkin’s “This Be the Verse,”  with its comically extreme misanthropy, as a love poem. But on the other hand, maybe in some ways it is. To complain “the world shouldn’t be this way” is to suggest “there’s another way I want it to be.” So maybe in that sense, even the bitterest poems about this world are love poems to a possible alternative. Even in Larkin, I think we can see that. Take a poem like “High Windows.”  Cynical as the voice may be throughout, it ends in a place of almost unbearable longing for the things it no longer can believe in---a longing that feels, to me, a lot like love.

Resignation is as boring as contentment. Fiction writers know this: you can’t have a story where your characters just stand around talking about how great everything is. Likewise, you can’t have everybody standing around saying “Life sure is unpleasant. Oh well, let’s have lunch.” Whatever that is, it’s not a story. What’s interesting is yearning, the hunger for things to be other than they are. Or, when things are good, the tension that comes from the awareness that nothing lasts forever. Love poems dramatize yearning especially clearly. The lover’s complaint dramatizes the yearning for things to be otherwise (for the distant lover to be near). The “happy” love poem shows the joy of things as they are, but in the background is always the awareness that it can’t last (the near lover will eventually be made distant by changes in, or the end of, life).

But other poems can and do engage with yearning in similar ways, and in this way I can see how “all poems are love poems.” For instance, Alan Shapiro has a wonderful poem, “Old Joke,” which argues that the gods’ perfection, their “easy excellence, with nothing to overcome,” renders them incapable of the kinds of meaningful experience that we in our ridiculous, everyday miseries are able to attain. The poem isn’t about a lover, but in the broader sense, it’s very much a love poem to our human imperfectability.

Returning to Misrepresented People, I wonder if you could say more about the process of co-editing that anthology. Any anthology will necessarily accept some poems and reject others: there’s only so much page space to work with. Beyond that, part of the point of an anthology is that the work in it has been preselected: readers pick up an anthology partly so they don’t have to track down and read the mountains of relevant work themselves, but rather can skip straight to the “best” pieces. But on the flipside, this selection process—especially in an anthology specifically focused on questions of (mis)representation—brings up difficult questions about whose work does and doesn’t get amplified and why. How do you go about making these tough choices? How do you see the role of the editor in today’s world, where technology has made it easier than ever to disseminate one’s own work?

DD: Working on Misrepresented People was a learning process. Hopefully, I will have the chance to edit an anthology again with the knowledge I gained from the editorial process on this book. Misrepresented People began the day after Trump became president. I sent out a mass email to every poet I knew asking for work for an anti-Trump anthology. As the project developed the book became a way to explore the historical arcs of injustice and inequity of which the Trump administration is a mere symptom. I also wanted to create a book that would embody a concrete form of activism (the proceeds from the book are being donated to The National Immigration Law Center).

Halfway through the editorial process, which also involved securing a publisher, María Isabel Álvarez came on board as a co-editor and she did a tremendous job helping me make some of the hard decisions you asked about. We weren’t necessarily looking for “best” poems in this anthology. From its inception, I conceived of this project as timebound. So, we looked for poems that drew out different aspects of the current political moment, but also ones that spoke to systemic and historical forms of misrepresentation. Most of the poems were solicited directly from the poets included. There were a few open calls for submissions, but we ended up passing on a vast majority of the work that came in over the transom. We tried to take work from as diverse a group of poets as possible. Of course, not all our choices were perfect, and we passed on several great poems and poets. Having said that I’m happy with the choices we made, and I am tremendously proud of the anthology. I mean this anthology has sam sax, Fatimah Asghar, Kaveh Akbar, Natalie Diaz, Gregory Pardlo, Alberto Ríos, Alison Rollins, Dana Levin, Patricia Smith, Maggie Smith, Martín Espada…and the list goes on! I should add that I didn’t know most of these poets beforehand, but they were all incredibly supportive of the endeavor.

The role of the editor in the digital era is the same as it has always been: to create opportunities for other writers and to provide a platform where their work can be put into productive dialogue with the work of others. Although the internet and social media have allowed work to be more widely distributed than ever before, the digital ether tends to atomize some of the connections that a traditional print anthology or journal fosters and strengthens. As an editor for DIALOGIST and as an anthologist, I see it as my role to take seriously, and on its own merits, every poem that comes my way. I am particularly interested in publishing work that is far afield of my own, aesthetically and thematically. I don’t want to push a single approach to poetry; I believe in a descriptivist editorial stance.

On a widely different note, one element that binds the poems in your book together is the figure of Ellie, an ex-girlfriend, and the breakup that the speaker in many of these poems is working through. The book ends with “The inked blossom of poppies / and rue on her back.” This is such a beautiful and sad image to end the book on. Is this breakup autobiographical? If so, could you discuss writing through heartbreak? How much fidelity do you think a poet should have toward autobiographical detail? Does it depend on the poet? If so, why? How does the trope of loss and the figure of Ellie nuance other thematic and structural elements of the book?

JGM: Yes and no. I did go through an especially painful, seemingly never-ending breakup that acted as a catalyst for many of the poems, and “Ellie” is primarily based on one person (though there’s a bit of compositing). She really did have that tattoo. But names have been changed to protect the innocent, and facts have been changed or made up or left out as needed to make better poems.

I don’t think you need to have any fidelity to autobiographical detail as long as you’re not claiming to. Nobody has a problem with fiction writers making things up; there’s no reason to expect otherwise from poets. (Now if you’re saying “everything in here is true” and then making things up, that’s a different matter. But that’s an ethical issue, not an aesthetic one.) The job of the poet is to make good poems. That’s all. If the way to do that is through fictionalization, then fictionalize away.

Writing through heartbreak can be therapeutic, certainly. In the act of writing, you transform your pain into an aesthetic problem to be confronted on the controlled environment of the page. You take control of it, make something from it, and there’s a joy in that; Yeats called it “the gaiety transfiguring all that dread.”

But at the end of the day, my breakup is only interesting to me. If anybody else is going to care about the poems I write about it, those poems have to show readers something important in their own lives. Otherwise, I’m just indulging in the kind of solipsistic writing Addonizio and Laux parody so well in The Poet’s Companion: “Here I stand / looking out my window / and I am important.”

In this case, I think the breakup with Ellie is a microcosm for a more fundamental aloneness and a more fundamental absurdity that comes with being human. What made this particular breakup so devastating to me was that we were so close in so many ways, but still hopelessly separated in others. Our fights were about stupid, trivial things, as I suspect most lovers’ fights are. They meant nothing and they were inescapable. And no amount of love or good intentions could bridge that gap in the end. It’s a variation of Tate’s Zita problem: you, who should have known me best, didn’t. Couldn’t.

That fundamental separation is, I think, what the book is concerned with. The Ellie poems are about that, but so are poems like “The Astronaut,” which have no connection to her. In a way, I suppose the very act of writing poems is an attempt to bridge that unbridgeable distance—to connect with the reader even though you know it’s always only a partial connection.

In addition to “Words for My Twelfth Grade…,” Ill Angels includes several other poems about your experiences teaching high school. Your poem “Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)” was recently featured on Poets.org, and you are the winner of the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize. How do you see the relationship between your work as a teacher and your work as a poet?

DD: Being a high school teacher keeps you humble. You’ve got to be tough and a little bit stupid to continue teaching in such a broken system. Teachers aren’t respected in our culture, no matter what anyone tells you, and even in a good public school like the one where I work, you are witness to systemic failures that are crushing. I teach students with learning disabilities, students from extreme poverty and abusive households, and students from great wealth. I teach unmotivated students and wonderful, striving, bright children who want to succeed. I witness deep pain and failure daily. It’s a heartbreaking job with little rewards, but I do my best to help all my students. I’ve always thought of the classroom as a poem I was composing period by period. Frost said: “a poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom.” I don’t believe that to be true for all poems, but I strive for that in each class I teach.

The job has provided me with a decent middle-class life, which has afforded me the leisure to write around my workday. It’s also kept me grounded; no matter how good of a teacher you are, on any given day an angry teenager might tell you to go fuck yourself. Teaching teenagers puts everything else in perspective. You can’t take yourself too seriously if you want to survive in the job. A sense of humor helps.

You use humor and a colloquial phrasing in a manner reminiscent of poets like David Kirby, Billy Collins, and Jeffrey McDaniel. Could you discuss the uses of humor in poetry?

JGM: I think it’s a vital and overlooked tool in the poet’s kit. When I first started writing, I got this idea in my head that in order to be a “serious” poet I had to write “serious” poems, where “serious” meant something like “joylessly clubbing the reader over the head with my very poetic despair.” But somewhere along the line I realized those weren’t the poems I wanted to read or the poems I wanted to write.

Remember the TV show Scrubs? I loved that show for the way that no situation was ever just one thing. The show was very funny, but it took place in a hospital, where sickness and death were constantly present. Characters you cared about died. Characters who deserved happy endings didn’t get them. Characters tried to do the right thing and it all went wrong and the fallout nearly broke them. But the show was very funny at the same time, and that’s what made it so poignant. The show, like real life, was full of humor and full of pain and you couldn’t disentangle them. When it’s done well, humor in poetry can work similarly, letting the comedy and the pain enrich and complicate each other to produce something more than the sum of its parts.

Ill Angels features a kwansaba suite. (The kwansaba, invented by Eugene B. Redmond, is a praise poem that formally represents the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa: seven lines per poem, seven words per line, and no more than seven letters per word). What appeals to you about writing in this form? What challenges does it bring?

DD: I love the fact that the kwansaba is a newer form. There are fewer models for what a kwansaba can be than, say, a sonnet. The only kwansabas I’ve read have been by Eugene Redmond, his daughter, Treasure Shields Redmond, Tara Betts, and Saeed Jones.

I’m drawn to forms because of the limitations they impose upon language, and because of the possibilities those limitations generate. By choosing a form you are also opening up a dialogue with the tradition from which the form springs, and that dialogue necessarily nuances the meaning of the poem you are composing. My kwansaba suite disregards the seven letter per word stricture of the original form. So these are really nonce kwansabas.

You have some interesting approaches to form throughout your book, but I was also struck by the wild ideas behind some of your poems. Two of the poems I enjoyed the most in this collection, “Reverse” and “Chaos Is Seattle in a Spaniel,” propel themselves forward through the momentum of their imaginative premises. In “Reverse” a relationship is imagined as if watching a VHS tape rewinding. In “Chaos…” a misfire from Siri leads the speaker to imagining a life on the molecular level. To write poems like these I imagine you spend a good deal of time daydreaming. What is the role of imagination and leisure in your writing process?

JGM: I’ve never thought of myself as much of a daydreamer, actually. “Chaos” came from a response Siri really did have when I was bored and playing with my phone. If I were better at daydreaming, I probably wouldn’t have needed to play with the phone in the first place. But lucky for me I did, and “she” misunderstood, and the rest came from following that premise where it led me.

“Reverse” came primarily from reading, I think. There’s a haunting image in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five in which his time-traveling narrator notes that when you watch an air raid in reverse, you see planes above a ruined city putting hurt people back together, reconstructing buildings, sucking the bombs up into the sky, and finally carrying them away where they won’t be able to hurt anyone again. Martin Amis has a novel in reverse which explores a similar idea to Vonnegut’s. Matt Rasmussen has a stunning poem in Black Aperture where we see a suicide in reverse. I can’t think of specific examples, but I’m positive I’ve seen the time-rewind device in various sci-fi movies and shows too. So what I did in “Reverse” was take that pre-existing device, apply it to a new situation, and see where it went. I think that’s largely what “imagination” is: not coming up with never-before-thought ideas ex nihilo, but rather combining bits and pieces of old ideas in new ways.

Ill Angels is your second collection. How did the process of writing your second book compare to your first?

DD: Like many first books, Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight collects poems written over the long period of my apprenticeship to poetry. The book spans about fifteen years, and there are many different textures, tones, and formal approaches on display in it. The second book was composed over a much shorter period (about two years). It was also accepted for publication immediately after I finished it and then I had almost two years to work on editing it before it was published. As a result, the second book is tighter, more organic, and more of a piece than the first one. I can’t say enough how impressed I am by the staff of Etruscan Press. It’s been a dream come true to work with them on Ill Angels.

Figures from antiquity and from the world of art recur in The Fire Lit & Nearing: Virgil, Homer, Catullus, Munch, Magritte, and so on. Could you riff on the allusive and ekphrastic gestures in your poems? Why include them? How do they nuance your examination of the contemporary and the quotidian, of sadness and longing?

JGM: However you feel about T.S. Elliot as a critic (and there’s plenty there to criticize), he sure has some zippy one-liners. In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” he writes:

Someone said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know.

I didn’t really understand that I was feeling the particular loneliness I explore through the lens of a Magritte painting in “Nothing Will Be Alright, But Thank You Anyway” until I explored it through the lens of that particular Magritte painting. And I didn’t really understand the painful banality of friends’ genuine attempts to comfort one another until I thought about the poem through the lens of that title, itself an allusion to a pop song.

Or in another poem, “Raleigh-Durham International,” the central drama of the poem comes from the speaker’s awareness that his little miseries aren’t worthy of the epic mode. He’s no Aeneas, and he knows it, but he can’t stop thinking about his experience in those terms, and the uneasiness about his own interpretive framework becomes part of the experience that he can’t stop thinking about.

In other words, I include the allusions because, to me, they’re an essential part of the experience. I include them because there’s no way not to include them.

That said, I think it’s essential to give the reader enough to go on. In “Nothing Will Be Alright,” I give enough description of the painting so that even if you’ve never seen it, you get the gist. Plus I give the name of the artist and of the painting, so that the reader can google it if they want to. In “Raleigh-Durham International,” I give the relevant narrative context from the Aeneid within the first lines of the poem.

I never want to do what Elliot so blithely does in “The Waste Land,” assuming that the reader has a detailed knowledge of Italian, German, and Sanskrit, not to mention literary sources including but not limited to Homer, Sophocles, Petronius, Virgil, Ovid, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Dante, Shakespeare, Spenser, Gérard de Nerval… (Credit to Wikipedia for that list; I certainly couldn’t have pulled it out of thin air).

First off, it’s a silly assumption to make; probably only Elliot is familiar with everything Elliot talks about. Second, it takes an attitude toward the reader that I find rather troubling. The assumption seems to be “anyone who is worthy of my genius must know these things, and if they don’t, then the hell with them.” It’s a stance that assumes the poet is entitled to the reader’s time, which just isn’t true. If I want you to give up your limited time to read my work, I need to make it worth your while, and I need to approach you with a generosity that acknowledges the gift of time and attention you’re giving me.

The final poem in Ill Angels, “Words for My Unborn Daughter Written After Removing a Briar Patch from My Front Yard and Beginning with a Misremembered Line from a David Ignatow Poem,” wrestles with the question of why we write when we know that our poems, like ourselves, will likely one day be forgotten:

We’ll be buried under the births and deaths
to come, in one hundred years from now, flung,
as the thistles I just plucked from my shirt,
onto the ground and forgotten instead
like these lines. Why strive to immortalize
a gesture? Why not spin this transience
into a gift of crushed wildflower stems
pressed between the pages of Genesis?
Little root and seed, these lines might not survive
their own inception, but so what? ...

There’s hope here, a refusal to quit creating despite the real possibility of futility. At the same time, though, the poem enacts exactly that process of forgetting: the Ignatow poem that inspired it is already misremembered before this poem even begins. Could you talk about why you write? Why do you choose to “strive to immortalize / a gesture”? Why through poetry specifically?

DD: I write because I love to read, and writing leads me into a deeper critical engagement with the art, music, and literature I love. It also leads me into a deeper emotional engagement with the quotidian, with the people and places I love, and with the experiences that are always washing over me, and I wish I could keep forever. I write because I love the world and I don’t want it to end. I don’t strive to immortalize a gesture, per se. I just want to be a small part of a conversation that is way bigger than me. Writing also allows me to meet and talk to interesting people like you, Jonathan, and that’s one of the great blessings of our shared vocation.

After my daughter was born, I came to see my poetry as something I could pass on to her, a chronicle of my enthusiasms and griefs. I don’t care if my work endures. The planet is headed for ecological disaster soon, and none of our literature may endure much longer anyway. I would like to leave my daughter something that might show her how much I love her and her mother, a record of who I’ve been at various times in my too swiftly fleeting life.

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