I think about those readers all the time because I was one. I have to remind myself that resistance is one of the most important acts in life.
Poetry Forum: Alex Dimitrov and Morgan Parker
It meant a lot to me that the poem meant that much to him. That was certainly true of my story. I guess I was just responding to how, in some ways, those poets are really interesting to me because they do have that kind of following. I have a huge respect for youth culture. Nothing feels so revolutionary and so illicit and so subversive as that little paperback. It can be life-changing.
It was for me. It has been for millions of people. Sometimes it enrages them, sometimes it fascinates them. I do this thing where we read it all as a class and often times we do it outside. And then by the end of it, something happens. Some of them, many of them are seduced by that thing in poetry that is ineffable, impossible to explain.
That thing where language becomes your home. So abstract, right—but so real, you feel it. I never ask what it means, what do they think this poem means? I also like to teach that poem because I want to encourage students and young people to dissent. To question and not to cooperate.
You know what word is great for that time? You know what I mean? I was the same age as the narrator and I was a freshman and I just remember reading it and feeling seen, you know? We have all had that experience of being seen by a work of art that feels as different and far from us as possible, yet knows something about us.
It tells us something about ourselves. Question relatability.
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Be critical of it. You will be surprised what you may feel seen and known by. You deal with prayer a lot. Sex and God. I love Ada. Me too! And she talks about her poems either being pleases or thank yous. I think my speaker, most of the time, is in trouble. Existential trouble, romantic trouble, spiritual trouble and—the poems are always written from a place of struggle of being in the world. I was raised Christian Orthodox and Catholic both—kind of strange, I know—and I remember as a young kid constantly being dragged to church and also to cemeteries and graves. My grandmother would take me to visit all the dead, all the family, and you know that was just a totally normal thing to do every Sunday afternoon.
Bring the dead some kind of offering or attention. Maybe talk to them a little bit. Those are two places, the church and the cemetery, where I remember first understanding what aura is. Before I even knew the word. That imagery has stuck with me throughout my entire life.
The church was sort of the first institution that brought up these questions, these existential questions of life and death and I gravitated toward those questions the most because they seemed the most difficult, the most unanswerable and the most important.
And of course I was completely unsatisfied with what I was told as a kid. So I had to try and find some answers for myself and figure out what any of it meant. I think that was poetry.
I realized that poetry addresses all of these things without the unnecessary dogma. Without lying. And uncertainty is the highest form of truth, I think. What do we actually know? The most dangerous person is a person who thinks he knows. A poem that knows something and is trying to show us it knows something is usually dead to me no matter how well crafted it is. I think it is dangerous. We have to use them differently, right? The language of Begging for It is not written the way that you see a lot.
Right before you called, I was looking over something I wrote yesterday. Oh yeah? Yeah, Sunday mornings tend to function that way for me. So, not yet. Well, those are the best reasons. Thank you for actually doing your project, which I think is so important for all of the reasons that we sort of circled around in this interview. I wholeheartedly agree.
Thank you for saying that—that means a lot to me. That seems like a good place to end. It has never been on our side. This is another thing teens and young people know. Just take ourselves with a greater seriousness, not necessarily our own work because everyone takes their own work seriously. But just to acknowledge poetry is so much greater than all of us, than any one of our books.
It has been beneficial for me, while writing this new book, to think about what it means to have a life in poetry rather than what it means to tweet or post about poetry online. And because I really believe in it and what all of us who are writing it are doing—forget about the dominant culture, we have to start being more compassionate toward each other and telling each other, as poets, that we matter. Maybe no one else will say that to us. Poetry is what has helped me the most in life. Thank you for doing this and taking an hour from your Sunday.
Interview Posted: June 1, Alex's Personal Website Link. Poetry Foundation Profile Link. American Boys online chapbook Link. How has your day been so far? Drag left. Tiana Clark. Chase Berggrun. Airea Dee Matthews. Layli Long Soldier. Morgan Parker. Adrian Matejka.
Oliver Baez Bendorf. Nick Flynn. Anis Mojgani. Monica Youn. Jos Charles. Donika Kelly.
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