I think I often feel like a stranger to the world and its various interfaces, when by the linear dependence of the sentence I know exactly where I am, and where I stand. I myself read more than myself, if that makes sense. I’m the kind of person who arrives early for lunch with two or three “just in case” books. For a long time, while living in New York City, I would read even while walking. What I considered then as an answer to the finite (reading while walking was less excessively exciting, and therefore less panicky) I can say, in retrospect, was a kind of “life hack”.
When did you start reading poetry? What books made you fall in love with poetry?
When I was in community college, a couple of my friends were in punk rock bands and they introduced me to Arthur Rimbaud, who of course was and still is very influential musicians, including Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, etc. While they were rehearsing, I picked up a copy of his poems in the back pocket and read my poems “Drunken Boat” and “Phrases” and was in awe. I thought, if a 17-year-old peasant boy in the nineteenth century could make something like that, there was a chance, I, too, that I might make something impulsive, so enlightening and brave.
The next day I rushed to the small college library to find all his work. Of course, it was organized via the Dewey decimal system, which meant I was immediately in the French literature aisle. From there I found Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine, Camus, Barthes, Césaire, Glisson, and from there other parts of Europe to Lorca, Vallejo, Rilke, Benjamin, Arendt, Calvino. It was all a coincidence by this arbitrary organizing principle, but because of this I began my education as a writer with European writers. I will not seriously read the American poet until a year or two later, when I find Joseph Komunyaka in the chimneys.
Are there poets for whom you have gained a greater appreciation over time?
It took me a while to allow myself to immerse myself deeply in Dickinson’s work. I say “allow” because I have this naive and somonic view that since it was taught so often and extensively in primary schools, work has already been talked about, exhausted. This was proven to be a seriously wrong view as soon as I read it. In fact, part of its immense power lies in its ability to use the universal potential of the natural world—and even abstract objects like a loaded gun, a funeral cart—to create powerful metaphorical facades through which syntax engineers complicate philosophical and moral arguments, an enduring style in religious revivals in their setting. in the nineteenth century. Re-reading Dickinson with this in mind helped me see that the potential work was not exhausted when presented through more precise historiographical processes. It eventually helped me become a better teacher too, leading me to delve deeper into literary theory and hermeneutics.
You write fiction as well as poetry. Are there other writers of various genres that you particularly like?
Anne Carson, Quan Barry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Matsuo Basho, James Agee, Annie Dillard, Alejandro Zambra, James Baldwin, Fanny Howe, Raymond Carver, Dennis Johnson, D.H. Lawrence, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Walker and Herman Melville – who, by the end of This life, he wrote more lines of poetry than Whitman and Dickinson combined.