he plays
the piano
like it’s an animal
he’s figuring
to touch
its haunch, its tail something
it still chases
not straight, no chart, plays
like he’s got a hunch
there’s something
he will do
it likes.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Monk”?

“Monk” was inspired by deep listening to Monk’s music, and by watching a video that had photographs—sort of old “home movie” footage—of Thelonius Monk playing the piano, talking, laughing. It’s one of those rare poems that arrived pretty much in finished form. I’d spent the evening immersed in Monk. Before going to bed, I went to my desk and wrote the poem.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Monk”?

As I said, this poem just arrived; I did not consciously employ poetic techniques. That said, there is art and craft behind such a lucky accident. And a lot of practice. It’s akin to jazz improvisation.

It would be another question to look at the poem from the perspective of a critic, discover its structure, analyze its techniques. I’m sure these exist. But I wasn’t thinking about them; I was following the poem—trying to get that clear—as I wrote.

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