Aaron Kunin: Your poems often propose variant readings.
PG: I am fascinated by that. It’s almost like a somatic representation of how we stumble and come to order, collect ourselves. I’m allowing the accident to occur, the revision to occur within the poem, because half of what I know I know by accident. I want a poem to tumble down the page. I want the thought to swerve, indicate, and I want it to be open, to indicate something else and something else. I often cut things when I revise to leave the thought moving, just glancing. And the idea of the ending – the final note of the poem should recapitulate but also leave it open. Just like a title behaves to push the thought and have it slide in a further way.
AK: Many of your poems seem to be spoken by someone who’s already dead.
PG: That’s the astonishing thing about poetry, the way the living and the dead are blurred. Poets like Dante or Stevens are just as immediate to me as someone who’s writing today. The idea of speaking just next to something, to something that’s just gone, or for something that’s just gone, doesn’t seem that strange to me. Also, I love the way 19th-century American literature accommodates death and mortality; think of Melville, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Emerson, and especially Lincoln. That sense of loss as a wilderness, borderless, everywhere at the periphery. It’s part of being here and knowing that we’re not here forever. That’s why poetry is a lament, and at the same time it doesn’t have to be “boo-hoo.” We have so much information technology, and so many ways of capturing and recording and preserving, and yet, still, it doesn’t really rescue or save anything. We just know – the technology has let us know – how much has been lost.
A simpler answer would be that I feel dead because everything I believe in seems to have no value in the culture at large.
To read the complete interview, here.
- Poetry Foundation Interview with Ben Lerner [Read]
- Bomb Interview with Levi Rubeck [Read]
- Jubilant Interview with Rob Casper [Read]