Welcome back to our blog series on Poetry Fridays, Dodge Poet Spotlight. We are turning the focus over to the individuals who make our programming what it is in the schools, with teachers in Spring & Fountain, and on the ground at the Dodge Poetry Festival — the Dodge Poets.
Each week, a Dodge Poet answers some questions about themselves and provides a selected poem of their own work. We hope that this will be a way for you to get to know the Dodge Poets a little better, and you can get an idea of why we love working with them so much.
What are you reading?
I’m currently reading A Mouth in California by Graham Foust and a wonderful poetry manuscript by Emari DiGiorgio, another Dodge poet. I am also reading an interview with Amanda Nadelberg at Coldfront Magazine about her creative method.
Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved. He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.” What great poem are you proud of having written?
I’d say I am particularly proud of having written Adam Zagajewski’s “To Go To Lvov”. The poem contains a sentiment that preoccupies me a good deal of the time or has in my life, and it was so reassuring to see it rendered as he had. I think it’s a poem that could keep me from despair with all its little intimacies and lines like small paintings. I feel I have set up those small altars everywhere in my life to reassure myself and I like the ones in this poem so much.
With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
I write a poem a week or so and send it out to friends, just as a way of checking in and saying hey I did it. I have learned how to say no to things, to get up early and make very little noise when I do.
Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
My favorite experience reading for an audience was when I read in the Bingham Poetry Room at the University of Louisville, probably back in 2002. I read the prose portions of my now book People are Tiny in Paintings of China. They contain a lot of ironies and juxtapositions of racial or ethnic opinions and narrative quandaries. I am from Louisville, and I have read those prose portions in many cities, but only in Louisville on that occasion did I read it and get uproarious laughter, which was what I had been going for. I also loved reading for some undergrads in Atlanta this year. They were very darling. One had a purple stripe in her hair.
What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
Once, I was on the phone for a long time with the tax man. The greatest thing is to call the IRS with your tax questions. They fully answer the questions for free and they are the most patient people in the world. But I mentioned I was filing as a writer and this taxman started telling me about his novel. He was so thrilled to have someone to tell. I thought it was funny because I was so thrilled he could help me with my stupid taxes. Even trade.
I’m waiting for the eggs to reach room temperature.
I’m not sure if it’s better to read all the Flannery O’Connor stories
in a row or one a summer so I have something to live for.
My father used to receive his chocolate out of the Lindt box
and set it on the arm of the sofa
where it stayed through the entire opening of the Christmas presents.
My father used to open his presents with a knife-edge to the Scotch tape
so that the whole piece of paper fell from the gift, not a tear.
Tomorrow the internet will come on in this place and I regret not waiting longer,
so many hours filled with the intent to be lost.
I watch each man laugh at entirely different things than I would.
I fire them one by one, tell them sorry. Stephanie tries not to read
more than four books at a time, young and wise.
How in this confusion could we accumulate things to love?
Not even paintings escape being thought of
and waited for. Slowly—
the thought of this living room
and everyone I truly love gathering.
The cherished dead, alert on this futon. They
party with the living, those daily-called
and the long-departed from my life. Din of dishes. Accents.
A wind heaves, the power line pops.
Outside, a mob sound rises and all I see are people
pour from their houses with children in cloud-stamped pajamas.
Originally published in Everyday Genius.