From Alameda

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

When I was twelve years old, I decided that medicine required too much school, becoming a private detective was too dangerous, and that being a priest didn’t pay enough, so I settled on poetry.

How/where do you find inspiration today? Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. books, films, art, websites, etc.)?

I find inspiration everywhere, especially in my students’ work. In terms of specific resources for young poets, there’s a small genre of work on the subject after Rilke’s Letters; I’m a big fan of Brian Kiteley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany, a book of creative prose exercises. But I’m a big believer in finding the poetry in what you love, hate, and (especially) what doesn’t interest me, at least not initially, and then imitating it or articulating until it becomes a part of the repertoire.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

If you require publication to feel legitimized as a writer, you’re in for a world of hurt. Enjoy what you do, and try and learn from it. There’s only two reasons to write poetry: because you meet cool people, and because you have to. There’s no other reason.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem? ii. What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

This poem is an excerpt is from a very long poem, where the only rules were (1) I wasn’t allowed to use prosodic principles of any kind, including form and metre, more than once and (2) I wasn’t allowed recourse to expressive language. The idea is that by denying myself those avenues I’d write something more expressive and personal than I could intentionally.

How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it? What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?

It was a scroll project: I ran a one-hundred-foot-long roll of paper through a typewriter and worked on it every night until I got to the end of the roll. It took about five hundred hours. Not being able to revise it was frustrating and liberating at the same time—it was exhausting, really hard, to never “say” anything, but I also had the privilege of swimming through a language that felt new to me, and that was very exciting. Though it was really hard, I think I learned something from the process, and that’s all I can ever ask from any poem, whether mine or someone else’s.

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