The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see--it is, rather, a light by which we may see--and what we see is life.

Robert Penn Warren

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jessy Randall interviews me about her book

Injecting Dreams into Cows, Jessy Randall's latest book of poems, is now available from Red Hen Press. I was fortunate to be able to tell her my feelings about the book, and now I pass those feelings on to you. --DMS


Jessy: Dan, is this the best book you have read by me, or what? 

Dan: It is most certainly the best book of yours I’ve read that doesn’t include a fictionalized version of me. It is eclectic, but not in an ill-advised-potluck way. There is no Jell-O mold with bananas in it. It’s more like a mix tape made by someone who really knows what you’re supposed to be listening to.

Jessy: I would say there is a fictionalized version of you in the poem "The Way We Felt Playing Cards." Because I can't know for sure if we really all felt the same way about it. Do you think it's okay that there are two poems in the book about Ms. Pac-Man, and that they appear right next to each other?

Dan: I don’t object to anything about those poems. If you had portrayed Ms. Pac-Man as the sort who would have badmouthed the Donkey Kong gorilla behind his back, that might’ve rubbed me the wrong way. You did no such thing. I like the second poem especially because it’s not about the real Ms. Pac-Man at all.

Jessy: While we're on the topic, do you read poetry books from beginning to end or do you jump around? If you jump around, please describe how. Do you read like Aimee Bender says she reads, showing her eye pattern with this map?

Dan: It depends on whose book I am reading. If it’s a Thomas Lux book, I scan the titles, rank them, and read from highest- to lowest-ranked titles. If the poet is not a deity when it comes to titles, I might read from beginning to end. When I read your book, I used the same method I use to read Lux’s books.

Jessy: Can you make a map like Aimee Bender's for how you read my book? Would that be too much trouble?

Dan: I think it was David Byrne who said, “I ain’t got time for that now.”

Jessy: Oh, all right. Next question: which poem do you feel is the most "me"?

Dan: That seems like a trick question, like, “Why do these pants make me look fat?” But we will assume all the poems are great, and therefore, the most “you” poem shows your specific greatness the most. I suppose I would vote for “Home” because it represents a version of you I remember well: the one that lived near Elmwood Avenue and couldn’t resist quoting “Broadcast News.”

Jessy: Which poem do you think could have been a collaboration between us?

Dan: "Wedding Food." It is the logical companion for our poem "What Is It They’re Supposed to Throw?" We could (should, really) have bookends made with those poems affixed to them.

Jessy: Wow, you are right. I think I will do that right now. 

Jessy: How do you feel about prose poems? Do you feel that they are not actually poems, the way some of the commenters at io9 do?

Dan: I almost feel compelled to answer seriously. Let’s just say I would be a hypocrite to criticize a form that breaks rules, not to mention a form I use regularly. The main reason I write poetry is to break rules. Poetry has less severe consequences than shoplifting.

Jessy: Do you feel that some of these topics are not appropriate for poems? Muppets, Velcro, Pippi Longstocking, bad phone sex, robots, video games, Whac-A-Mole, etc.

Dan: Each of those topics could be a stand-in for more “appropriate” ones: Muppets (puppetry, e.g., lack of freewill or responsibility), Velcro (inability to let go), etc. Of course, you know this is true.

Jessy: If you say so, though I think you are kidding. I hope you are. What do you think is the worst poem in the book? I think it is "Trouble in Pac-Land," because Ms. Pac-Man makes a lame pun on the word "packing."

Dan: ”Something is Chasing You” might be my least favorite because it rhymes, though I believe you rhymed for fun and not to be a snooty smarty pants. You used “pell-mell,” for gosh sakes. What’s more fun to say than “pell-mell”?

Jessy: Maybe "hideous" or "berserk," which also appear in the book. One last question: do you have any memories you would like deleted in the manner of "The Seductiveness of the Memory Hole"?

Dan: Yes. I once had a female friend with long, blond hair. I had told her a story someone had told me about a drunk guy at some advertising conference, and the guy yelled to a woman, “Hey, Blondie: How ‘bout a smile?” Anyhow, I was fond of saying this to my female friend with long, blond hair. One time, I said it while I was behind her, but for whatever reason, she didn’t respond. So I said it again much more loudly. Again, she didn’t respond. Finally, I shouted, “Hey, Blondie: How ‘bout a smile?” so loudly, that she stopped and turned around. The problem was, it wasn’t my friend. It was some other woman with long, blond hair. The End