Is there one subject you feel you return to in your writing?
Right now, I’m on my break & smoking a cigarette & staring at the dull office building where I work. It also happens to be a lukewarm December day in Western New York, which is uncommon, so I’m standing in a pile of melting snow & wondering what would happen if capitalism ever goes lukewarm, so, like, all the office buildings would slowly start melting & I’m wondering if people would be like, “Hey, a new season finally in our lives!” So, yeah, I guess the subject I keep returning to is the melting of old ideas & how to unbury all the seasons in our hearts.
How do you feel about traditional poems and free verse? Which do you feel fits the present time? Can the coincide within one poem?
Right now I’m walking home from work through Downtown Buffalo, which itself is a weird architectural mashup of tradition & free verse. Abandoned electric towers next to boutique hotels with rooftop bars. Microbreweries next to the skeletons of department stores. A city that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It reminds me of the art of poetry. One of the best qualities of a poem is its confidence in its own confusion. Sure, some poems are perfectly premeditated, but most of the time (for me, anyway) poetry is more like going to a park in autumn & gathering fallen leaves in order to reassemble a tree. It’s pretty difficult & kinda dirty. I like it that way. When you actually have something resembling a tree, you’re always surprised at the final product. A little bit of tradition, empty bullet shells from your past, non sequiturs from the future & the hope that all of it will make sense, that all of it is free.
There were a lot of wonderful images in this poem, where did they come from? Is it a place you visit often?
So one of the biggest thrills for me when it comes to poetry is coming up with fresh images, different ways of looking at the world. I mean, I would like to say the cliche, “They all came from my head,” but since I’m always walking or doing something, I’d like to modify that & say it’s more like the world performing a reverse lobotomy on me, inserting all these images & command that I have to organize & distill, like I’m some kind of Whitmanesque Manchurian Candidate. The images in “Her Skeleton Was Shaped like the Stage” come from that place, but that’s also a very real place. I also had help from Kristin Garth & Tianna G. Hansen. The poem is from a collection we’re co-writing called A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony. Imagine if David Lynch directed the movie Black Swan. The project is Kristin’s brainchild. She basically tells me what part of the story the poem will be about & I run with it.
What do you feel about this style of poetry?
While the poem was definitely pulled down to earth using my gravity, it was also collaboratively inspired. I’m all about collaboration these days. Working with other poets is an invigorating way to turn the writing knife on yourself & dig up corpses that you didn’t even know were there. It’s beautiful.
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
You can read Justin Karcher’s piece “Her Skeleton Was Shaped like the Stage” in Issue Eight!