“As much as I try to stay open to wherever the poem is going, I know my concerns come with me to the page. Environmental concerns, political concerns, as well as literary concerns. I hope my poems can find an audience, even one outside of the usual readership of poetry — although that doesn’t really shape the composition of poems.”
“Humor helps the heart to open. And heartfelt laughter leads us towards greater connection with those around us. If you can find a way to share humor with others, then there’s an openness towards greater listening and compassion. With the serious topics I write about […] there’s a way such stories can calcify the heart if one isn’t careful. I noticed this in my teaching—if I’m just giving my students the disturbing facts about humanity without humor, it can lead to depression, discouragement, and a deeper political/social apathy. So, humor seems to restore our humanity to us—it allows us to deal with suffering with a more open heart.”
“I’m not sure that Burn Lyrics is, strictly speaking, ‘in conversation with’ either Carson or Sappho. The model I have in mind is more like concomitant dimensions. I hope that a reader might experience a frisson of recognition, an emotional yet perhaps unplaceable feeling, when those dimensions overlap or communicate with one another.”
“Above my desk is this line from Wallace Stevens: ‘In the world of words / Imagination is one of / The forces of nature.’ I think of the city that way—it’s a force of nature. It can enrapture you with its pulsing marquees or literally blow broken glass in your face. Where I live especially, the wind blows, and it’s either the smell of chocolate (from a nearby factory) or sewage. A stranger starts talking to you and you don’t know how to feel—you are guarded, but then you are friendly. You love this and you hate this. You are tired because it’s hard, and you feel strong because it is. And anxiety pulses beneath all of this, it (here we go with Heidegger) wakes you up to yourself, and in the very best situation, it makes you remember that you are the city.”
Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Openness, presence—that’s the secret. It’s understandable, then, why so many writers crave a set time and space to write with no distractions, no peripheral commitments, and sometimes no human interaction whatsoever to engage most fully in the solitary act of writing.