Dan Beachy-Quick is the author of Mulberry.
1. What poet should be in Obama’s cabinet, and in what role?
Pindar. Press Secretary.
2. If you could send Obama one poem or book of poems (not your own), what would it be and why?
I think I might send along Dickinson’s “My life had stood—a loaded gun.” I don’t know why exactly. Inexactly, I think I have a guess as to why. The odd/awful power of that poem is that the speaker has no power of her own, but in order to gain meaning, must be put to use. She cannot put herself to use. It strikes me that being President might be a similar sort of situation. To take that oath is to load the chamber and wait in the corner (save the oval office has no corners?) At any rate, we’ve had leadership for 8 years that is a gun that pulls its own trigger. Perhaps a poem, too, can inaugurate a new model.
3. What other poetry-related blog or website should I check out?
I think highly of Joshua Corey’s blog, Cahiers de Corey, who seems to be engaged in the actual and open work of thinking about poetry. I almost invariably learn something when I read it. Also, I think Zach Barocas’s Cultural Society is wonderful, and never fails to put together a group of intriguing and thoughtful writers.
5. What’s the funniest poem you’ve read lately? What was the last poem that made you cry?
The last poem to make me cry was “One Art” by Bishop. What was funny was that I was in class teaching the poem.
6. William or Dorothy? Robert or Elizabeth Barrett? Moore or Bishop? Dunbar or Cullen? “Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully” or “No ideas but in things”? Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Tender Buttons?
I like best where Dorothy and William seem to be one, Dorothy’s vision becoming William’s poem. Robert, yes. Moore or Bishop is a Solomon’s decision, and I’m not that wise. Moore, if I must—who reminds me in “The Paper Nautilus” that poetry is the deep care of loving the world more than it is the care of the poem loving itself. Resist, resist! And yes, Tender Buttons.
7. Robert Lowell wrote a poem called “Falling Asleep Over the Aeneid.” What supposedly immortal poem puts you to sleep?
What makes the works immortal is that they do put us to sleep, and in our sleep, they do their utmost work—unlocking assumptions, lulling judgment out of its capacity to judge. In sleep, the great works do their secret work of returning us to ourselves, but a different, deeper self, something wider than a name, something more amorphous than what I says “I,” where we ourselves become the poem held unnoticed in our hands.
8. Even for poetry books, the contract has a provision for movie rights. What poetry book should they make into a movie? Who should direct it, and why? Who should star in it?
Well, it seems Paradise Lost is ripe for the plucking. Director: Peter Jackson, or Guillermo Del Toro. They seem to have both a sense of the fantastic, and where the fantastic and pathos genuinely combine. And it has the pitch ready-made: “Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit . . .” And it has the added benefit of plenty of nudity in the beginning, which will draw in the crowds before, you know, all the depressing stuff. (I can’t believe it’s not been done—or has it?)
9. What lines from a poem you first read years ago still haunt you now?
As I feared it—it came
But came with less of Fear—
For fearing it so long
Had almost made it Fair—
(forgive me if I’m misquoting)
10. What poem do you love, love, love, but don’t understand?
Every poem I love I don’t understand. Poetry is that awful reminder to me that love does not equal understanding.
12. If you were making a scandal rag for poetry in the grocery store checkout stands, what fictitious poetry love triangle would you make up to outsell that tired Hollywood story of Angelina and Brad and Jen?
In poetry, I think one poet will suffice for all three points of the triangle. I’d write about the love triangle as enacted within ___________, and the trauma of self-impregnation, of self-betrayal, and of the awful fate of being so deeply attracted to your self. Ah, cruel celebrity! Cruel genius!
13. This is the Best American Poetry blog. What’s the best non-American poetry you’ve read lately?
Not poetry exactly, but the best non-American book I’ve read recently is Sleep’s Powers by Jacqueline Risset.
14. We read poems in journals and books, we hear them in readings and on audio files. Sometimes we get them in unusual ways: on buses or in subway cars. How would you like to encounter your next poem?
A page floating in the air.
16. Do you have a (clean) joke involving poetry you’d like to share?
I didn’t know there were dirty poetry jokes. I’d like to hear some of those.
18. Can you name every teacher you had in elementary school? Did any of them make you memorize a poem? What poem(s)?
I think I can—I’ll try it quietly in my head. I see I’ve forgotten my kindergarten teacher’s name. Oh, wait: Mrs. Young. Yes, I can. And no, they never made me memorize a poem. That didn’t happen until high school, at which point I memorized Shakespeare’s “To the marriage of true minds,” Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” and Corinthians 1:13.