The poems look like chaos on the page, like unpunctuated blobs, but when you read them you never for a moment lose track of where one sentence (or even one clause) begins and the next ends.
The punctuation is organic —there are certain words that, when placed next to other words, always denote the beginning of a new thought.
Brian S: Genius Manager does sound like someone who Oscar Wilde would hire.
And there are certain constructions that gunk that up.
If you end an unpunctuated sentence on a modifier, it can almost always be read to modify the language that preceded it or the language that follows, and this is rarely a productive confusion.
Nkosi N.: In terms of editing, especially for your poems that have no punctuation, what is your process on editing the visual shape of a poem so that the rhythm is maintained when people speak your poems out loud.
I never get caught up when reading your poems without punctuation, even on the first read.
Many of your poems in seem dreamlike, placeless, while others are more grounded in reality, or at least in a reality. For me, it really is just a process of courting that magic, priming myself for it, making myself permeable to it (this through reading, note-taking, riffing on what I’m reading and on my notes), and then trusting my instincts/unconscious/lizard brain to take over. That happened, too, of course, but it was never the main thing for me. My workshops made me a better reader, and then I took those new skills at reading into my writing, which made me a better writer. Brian S: Can you talk some more about mining the language of the supernatural?
It’s kind of an intangible thing, the “writing process”—but just wonder if you have any thoughts on it. It really gets to a Here Be Dragons zone where I have no idea how to talk about it usefully or honestly. What draws you to it and the effect it has on you when you look back on drafts later?How do you select the words that guides the reader? Regarding my unpunctuated poems, the not-so-secret is that of course they’re punctuated, just not using the traditional visual demarcators of punctuation.And do you use this same selective process even with poems that have punctuation? Middle- and late-Merwin is the original genius of this, and Ellen Bryant Voigt‘s is the master class.It’s inevitable that some of that comes out explicitly in the poems.The working title for my next book, which I don’t want to say yet because I don’t want it to calcify in your mind or mine, deals with this directly. Aside from the obvious (a poet is someone who writes poetry), what would you say does distinguish poets from other writers?