Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I had planned on writing a long essay about how we read so many poems but seldom know much about poets, but the heck with that:

Soon you will be able to read my interviews with poets, editors, and other literary people here. (A couple of brilliant writers have already agreed to let me go all Mike Wallace on them.) Stay tuned for further details...


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thoughts on David Bowie Turning 65 Today

I've read interviews with writers who say they don't like the word "inspiration" because it implies people or events just come along and put thoughts in our heads. (See Brian Brodeur's blog, in which he asks poets if they believe in inspiration.) To many, writing must incorporate the painstaking task of revision; we don't just stumble upon great ideas and use them to create fully formed masterpieces on the first try.

For as long as I can remember, David Bowie has inspired me, and not just in my writing. Through his various personae, shifts in musical genres, and countless other unexplained phenomena, he has taught me more than a lot of poets or novelists have. As a kid, I remember thinking I knew how men were supposed to look and behave, but then I saw Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase (above) and realized people didn't have to look and sound the same. Working with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, he added depth to their feral beast and nihilist junkie caricatures. In his Let's Dance era (left), he might've seemed more accessible both musically and visually--with heavier beats and suits and ties--but he seemed to be winking at us through this period. He remained delightfully strange.

I have written three poems inspired, in part, by my feelings about Bowie. One called "Bowie Medley," co-written with Jessy Randall, pays tribute to him by juxtaposing lyrics that span his career. Another, "Poem Sparked by Scraps of Iggy Pop/Lou Reed Lyrics," is a sort of sister (or perhaps androgynous brother) poem to Bowie Medley. An unpublished poem, "Directions to the David Bowie Birthplace and Museum, Brixton," imagines if there were such a place and what it would contain.

But perhaps more significant than Bowie himself is a theme that runs through almost all of my recent writing, a theme especially apparent on Bowie's 65th birthday: aging. As an oldish father of young children, I think about aging regularly. As someone who wants to matter to other people more so than I had before, I think about it. As a music fan who sees childhood heroes soaring past retirement age, I think about it. I also remember one of the last things my grandfather told me: "I know I look old, but I feel young inside." I imagine Bowie must feel that way, as well, though he might never look old the way we humans do.