Look! He’s Moving!: An Interview with Alan Shapiro

Alan ShapiroAlan Shapiro is the author of eleven books of poetry including Night of the Republic, a finalist for both the National Book Award and The Griffin Prize, and four books of prose including the novel Broadway Baby (Algonquin Books, 2012). He’s won numerous awards including The Kingsley Tufts Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an award in literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim, and a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Award. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His new book of poems, Reel to Reel, will appear in April 2014 from University of Chicago Press.

Emilia Phillips: At present, you’ve published ten collections of poetry, two memoirs, a collection of essays, and a novel. A fiction writer friend of mine—who also writes poetry—recently said to me that she feels that poets successfully leap into other genres more often than prose writers work in poetry. A couple questions here: Do you think my friend’s statement is true and, if so, why? How has work in multiple genres shaped your poetry?

Alan Shapiro: I think poets are more likely to turn to fiction or other prose genres than prose writers are to turn to poetry because poetry commands less attention than prose, and poets are curious about what it would be like to have readers. I mean, we’re no less and no more vain than writers in other genres. However depressing it may be, we check our Amazon sales ranking (“my god, I’m down to a six figure number! Champagne for everyone!”); we compete for status even if poets fighting over status is like bald men fighting over a comb. That’s the egotistical reality. The more idealistic motive to try one’s hand at other genres goes something like this. If you believe with Coleridge that the job of the artist is to bring the whole soul into activity; and if you believe that every genre, every form, like every style or mode of writing, is like a lens that brings some aspects of life and language into focus while excluding others, then it follows that you’d want to work in as many forms as possible to capture the greatest amount of life.

I think my poetry has been broadened by all the other kinds of writing I’ve tried my hand at—not just memoir and fiction, but also translation too. I think the poetry has made my prose more intensely lyrical, and the prose has made the poetry more inclusive.

EP: Do you think that all writers should read outside their genre, and why?

AS: I think I’ve answered this one already. At the same time, to do this is not to do that. And given the economies of energy and time we all must work within, and how hard it is to learn to write well in any one genre, it is probably better to specialize to some extent. As Chaucer says, the life so short, the craft so long to learn. But this is a question each writer has to work out for him or herself. I love telling stories. I love jokes. I spend a good amount of my social life in company with others trading stories and jokes. Why would I want to exclude that from the page? And if for whatever reason the forms of poetry can’t accommodate the forms of some stories and jokes then why not cultivate forms that can. To go back to the Coleridge remark, I want to make room for as much of my life as I possibly can, and given that my life is profoundly impure and mongrel, made up of bits and pieces of high and low culture, everything from King Lear to King Kong, I’m interested in writing in such a way that can honor all of that—the whole heterogeneous stew of my identity as a lower middle class Jewish-American writer who grew up hearing Yiddish in the home and Shakespeare at school. The messier, the better.

EP: This idea of making room for as many influences as you possibly can fascinates me because your poems, especially those in Night of the Republic and Old War, really focus on one space or one idea for an extended period of time. Your reading habits may be messy, but your poems are so crystalline albeit unpredictable. For our readers, I’ll reproduce the beginning of “Hotel Lobby”:

Light the pursuer, dark the pursued.
Light wants to fill dark with itself
and have it still be dark
so light can still be filling it.
Light pours from the massive shining of the chandelier
over the bronze boy bending beneath it
to the bronze pool where a watery face
is rising to meet his as he bends.
Light the pursuer, dark the pursued,
along the naked back and arms,
the hands, the fingers reaching
for the rippling features, just
beyond, just out of the grasp of
into and out of, and across
the marble floor and pillars,
to the tips of leaves, and up
the lion claws of chair legs and sofas and
over the glass tops of tables in the lounge,
light losing dark by catching it,
dark giving light the slip by being caught

The meditation on light and dark here seems so natural to the progression of noticings by a speaker. The line breaks tend to mimic this. We receive a distinct unit of meaning—“Light wants to fill dark with itself”—and have that statement subverted, complicated, or nuanced by the next statement—“and have it still be dark.” If these quoted lines were all on one line, it wouldn’t seem as natural to the speaker’s meditation; it would seem like a single thought rather than a progression of thoughts. Elsewhere, the line breaks seem to suggest movement, especially because lines often end on verbs (“reaching,” “being caught”), adverbs (“across,” “up”), and prepositions (“of,” “and”).

How does the lineation allow you to modulate the release of information? How can lineation gesture to the literal movement that’s happening within a poem?

AS: As you suggest, lineation can create expressive hesitations of sound and sense. By breaking a syntactical unit or a sentence across two lines you can introduce tonal ambiguities that one wouldn’t hear if the line hadn’t broken into the sentence. I mean, let’s say I’m watching the Red Sox in the second game of the World Series. It’s the (what?) seventh inning and they’ve finally taken a two run lead. Between innings, I pause the game with my DVR. And I go into my study, thoroughly inspired, and after an hour or so I come up with this: “Every moment my happiness grows.” Then I turn the game back on, and the Cardinals score two runs on two stupid errors by the Sox, and then go on to win the game in the bottom of the ninth on an interference call, first game that’s ever happened in a World Series game. I return to my study, I stare at the line I wrote an hour or so ago, though now it feels like a thousand years old. I erase the period at the end of the sentence and extend the sentence into the next line: “Every moment my happiness grows / farther from me than the moment before.” If this statement were written out in a single line or unit, it would simply be a cry of despair. But by breaking it after “grows,” I’ve created a turn from good news to bad news, from something desired that appears to be attained to something desired that’s been denied and is ever more attainable. I like lines that turn from thought to thought, or emotion to emotion, lines that turn, that is, where the sentence turns. Beyond that, I like poems whose lineation vocalizes the emotional dynamics of a poem, that catch the voice in the act of discovery or surprise, as it turns from what it feels or thinks to some greater startling refinement of thought and feeling; a lineation that embodies emotion. But of course you can’t really discuss lineation without also discussing sentences and how their sentences do embody the material they express. The sentence should be dramatically expressive in its form, and that expressiveness is intensified or doubled by the lines it’s draped across. That expressive release of information enabled by tensions between syntax and line can be mimetic, as in W.C. Williams’s poem, “Poem,” about the cat in the jamcloset, where the lineation matches and reinforces our visualization of the cat’s deliberate but wary progress toward the bottom of the flowerpot, or it can be ironic, as in Williams’s poem “Danse Russe,” reinforcing the very self-consciousness that the speaker claims not to feel. The main thing is to write good sentences and good lines and not think that you can shirk one in favor of the other. Young writers sometimes get so preoccupied with line breaks that they forget about the lines. I like that ever-changing interplay between both.

EP: The notion that young writers get so preoccupied with line breaks that they forget the lines makes so much sense to me, especially when it comes to more ironic or chatty poems—poets that want to produce an effect rather than allow themselves to be affected by their poems. It only makes sense that they would look to the end of things, like a line break, instead of examining the whole movement, the way momentum builds in a poem by giving and taking away.

On the other hand, your poems build up so much momentum—syntactically, rhythmically, and imagistically—that they always push beyond the end of the poem. Nothing seems final. Is that something you’ve willfully cultivated? Or does it come natural? I guess what I’m really asking is, how do you know when to end a poem?

AS: I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. Each poem is its own reckoning with life and language so the unfolding of one suggests nothing about the unfolding of another. I work my way through whatever impulses the poem is generated out of. When I’ve exhausted that impulse or those impulses, and the poem isn’t showing me anything new, I move on. When the discovery stops, so does the poem. I’m glad that nothing in my poems seems final to you. I’m not after anything final. I’m just trying to figure out what it is I need to say next, and once that’s said what needs to be said after, and so on. And I guess each poem (ideally) is like a line in the poem of a life, and once it’s written down you look for the poem/line that should come next. But none of it is calculated or thought out in advance. You just intuit your way through the poem, and from poem to poem, and book to book, and hope it all coheres while also leading with some sense of rightness to the next thing you’re supposed to do. I’d like to think of poems opening out to other poems rather than closing down or ending with some funereal sense of “well, that’s that. It was fun while it lasted.” Finality gives me the creeps. That’s why this is what I want said at my funeral: “Look! He’s moving!”

EP: Ha! Have you ever heard this theory that all of our speech, because of its fragmentary nature and prepositional signposting, makes one sentence that we speak throughout our lives? Granted, it may be an urban myth, but it caused me to wonder if, because you hate finality, you see your poems as simply entries in one long poem?

AS: When you listen to recordings of W.C. Williams reading his poems you realize that he regarded each line as kind of syllable in the new word that is the poem. That is, he pauses not at all at the ends of lines, unless they’re end-stopped. The syntax dictates where and when he pauses. So if each poem constitutes a new word, then I suppose you can think of a career embodied in a collected poems as the sentence that career has spoken. Ideally, if each poem is its own unique reckoning with language and with life, then the words that comprise that unique reckoning mean something in the context of that poem that they don’t mean anywhere else, their connotative meanings would be distinctly of that poem. It’s interesting to think of poems written over decades as a single poem, a single writer’s distinct experience of language. But of course all we’re doing when we envision this is entertaining a thought experiment that maybe tells us something about what has to happen to make good poems good. They should generate meanings particular to themselves.

EP: You’ve mentioned Williams a few times now. Talk to me a little bit about your relationship to his work.

AS: I started reading Williams carefully during my years at Stanford. A former teacher of mine, the poet Ken Fields, taught Williams all the time, and what Ken pointed out to me was the interplay in nearly all of Williams’s poems between an unconventional insight or perception deflected off of a conventional surface. The conventions can be experiential or literary—but despite his reputation as a kind of literary maverick who favored individuality over convention the sense one gets of his distinct unconventional personality depends on the very conventions he invokes and then upends or adjusts. That is, what I learned from Williams via Ken was how individuality and convention aren’t mutually exclusive but mutually entailing. So, for instance, in “Portrait of a Lady” Williams plays with our conventional ideas about portraiture—we assume that when you paint a portrait of someone you will focus on his or her physical appearance, the face and torso, but in this poem the speaker tries to paint a portrait of his beloved by throwing together a bunch of Rococo images which the beloved, his implied auditor, refuses to accept at face value and keeps interrupting him with questions about what painting he’s referring to, and what kind of man the painter was. We learn that Williams plays fast and loose with his knowledge of art history, that the painting he thinks is Watteau’s is really Fragonard’s, we learn the implied auditor is a stickler for detail, cares about moral character, and won’t allow the poet to get away with vague poeticism. We get not just a portrait of her character, as opposed to her physical person; we also get a portrait of a testy relationship. The conventional assumptions are more experiential in a poem like “To Waken An Old Lady” where he gives us an implicit definition of old age by means of a description of birds in a winter landscape, and if you just let the landscape itself be the definition you see it’s evenly divided between positive and negative implications, with even some of the words and details carrying both at one and the same time: “on harsh weed stalks” (negative)—“the flock has rested” (positive)—the snow covered with broken seed husks” (could be positive, if the birds have just eaten, or negative if that’s all that’s left to eat), “and the wind tempered” (positive) “by a shrill” (negative), “piping of plenty” (positive). His “point” if he has a point is that old age is a complicated stage of life that has its opportunities and obvious challenges. You can see the same sort of inclusive imagining in a poem like “Complaint”—about going out on a winter night to deliver a baby in a very poor part of town—The birth scene is full of sickness, vomiting, laboring, but it is also full of joy, and this child is a tenth child. He is not kidding when he says, “Here is a great woman / on her side in the bed. / [She is sick,] / perhaps vomiting, / perhaps laboring / to give birth to / a tenth child. Joy! Joy! / Night is a room / darkened for lovers . . . ” What he presents us with is a very realistic complicated definition of joy, a definition that subverts our conventional expectations about birth, joy and love, just as his winter landscape in “To Waken An Old Lady” forces one to reconsider our assumptions about old age. Same thing goes for “By the Road to the Contagious Hospital”—to appreciate this poem you have hold in mind all the conventional associations we bring to poems about spring and rebirth—the pastoral genre: where the return of life takes place in an idyllic landscape, and not in a wintry March world of sickness and cold.

EP: How is that the same poet can be so involved in imagism and then write something like Paterson? How do we, as readers, reconcile an oeuvre such as Williams’s?

The poems are richer and more inclusive than the theories that ostensibly produced them. The poems defy the theories more often than they illustrate them. That’s what makes them poems. But imagism doesn’t mean reducing language to mere images—it has more to do with how those images are arranged, by juxtaposition without explicit discursive connective tissue: it means crossing images, the way HD does in “Oread” so that you can’t tell if it’s a poem about pine trees as sea or sea as pine trees—rather it’s both at once. It’s like a new form of metaphor—it’s metaphor without the distinction between primary object and secondary image: but rather two images crossed to the point where each is the other’s metaphor. And it can also involve the juxtaposition of ideas or voices. The Cantos juxtapose voices, historical details, and images without explanatory transitions. It’s a long imagist poem, or tries to be, and I think the same is true for Paterson. In one of his essays Williams describes the excitement we all feel when we see previews of coming attractions and trailers for movies soon to be released. He says what makes them so enjoyable is the elimination of “the banality of sequence”. Interesting idea so long as you don’t ask yourself if you’d be willing to pay ten dollars to see two hours of previews.

EP: How do you see yourself as having changed as a poet throughout the course of your collections? Looking back, are you satisfied with your earlier work?

AS: I can’t bear to read old work. I sometimes feel as if I’m being stalked by my first few books. Here’s the thing (and I’ve said this elsewhere)—if you’re lucky, you won’t be able to stand the sight of your older work, because that means you’re getting better. But the problem is the better you get at writing poetry, the better you get at imagining getting even better. So the discrepancy between the writer you are and the writer you want to be only widens as you improve. So to flourish you have to cultivate a tolerance for inadequacy and failure. It creeps me out, frankly, when I see a poet recite his or her own poems from memory. You just can’t get attached to what you write if you want to write something better or different. If you want to repeat or imitate yourself, then by all means memorize away. But me, I prefer to memorize the work of other poets. The only poems of my own I’m interested in are the ones I haven’t written yet. Those are the ones I want to learn by heart.

EP: What are you working on right now? What’s the leap like between Night of the Republic and the new work?

AS: I don’t really know. I’m trying not to repeat myself, but honestly I just follow where the impulse leads. I’ve written a new book since I finished Night of the Republic, and it’s coming out in April from University of Chicago Press; it’s called Reel to Reel, a book that’s informed by my reading in the sciences (evolutionary theory, cosmology, physics, quantum mechanics, etc.). The structure of the new book moves outward from domestic spaces to embrace public spaces, literary spaces (that is, poems inspired by or in conversation with other poems), natural spaces and outer spaces, and from poem to poem and sometimes within individual poems it moves among different scales or orders of being, everything from the really small to the really large. There are people in a lot of the poems, but not all, and the forms vary—everything from rhyming quatrains to blank verse to different kinds of free verse. Lately, too, I’ve been writing poems inspired by musical effects, metrical effects. Since finishing Reel to Reel, I’ve been writing poems that don’t yet cohere around any particular style or subject. Some of the poems are just exercises of one kind or another, inspired by nothing more than to utilize a certain kind of music. The first poem I ever really loved was Longfellow’s “[The Song of] Hiawatha,” and so the last thing I did about a month ago was write a sort of homage to that poem using trochaic tetrameter—it was fun trying to write in a creditable contemporary idiom in the meter of “On the shore of Gitchee Gumee, / By the shining Big-Sea-Water . . . ”

EP: How often do you use other poems as framework for your own?

AS: Pretty often, more and more the older I get. Again, I want my work to reflect as much of my life as possible, and since so much of that life is spent reading I want to give shape to that “literary experience, that book life, which is every bit as real as anything that happens outside the books.

EP: A form in which you’ve worked a great deal over the course of the last few books is the elegy. Would you mind discussing how and why you think the elegy has remained so vital a form? Do you think that the elegy still retains its classical structure of the three stages of loss? Why or why not?

AS: Here’s an epigram by Ben Jonson that might suggest an answer to your question: “Those who fear death, or mourn it in the just, / show of the resurrection little trust.” If you believe in the resurrection or the after life, then you can write classical elegies that arrive through loss at some sort of consolation or recompense. But if you aren’t lucky enough to hold such beliefs in some sort of posthumous existence (beyond mere memory, which isn’t much, let’s face it) then it’s hard to see death as the mother of anything beyond decomposition. I feel myself to be emotionally attached to that classical/Christian tradition even while I’m intellectually at odds with it. Hence my own attempts at elegy in, say, Song and Dance, the book about my brother’s death. I invoke the tradition formally by the blank verse line, but I try to demonstrate my estrangement from that tradition by breaking the line as one might in a free verse poem so that it looks more like Williams’s triadic line on steroids. Listen, as long as we continue dying, we’ll have elegies. And unless we have some extraordinary spiritual revival our elegies will fear death and mourn it in the just and unjust without the consolation. Personally, I like elegies that acknowledge the insufficiency of elegy, which regard art as a necessary, unavoidable but woefully inadequate compensation for the death of the beloved.

EP: One of my favorite poems I’ve encountered this year and one that I’ve read again and again is your “Wherever My Dead Go When I’m Not Remembering Them” that creates an afterlife like the subway station, where the dead wait until they are remembered:

          there it is, at last
approaching, and you hurry to the spot
you don’t know how you know is marked
for you, and you alone, as the door slides open
into your being once again my father,
my sister or brother, as if nothing’s changed,
as if to be known were the destination.

Would you mind speaking about how this poem came about?

AS: I’d been reading books about the brain by neuroscientists and became frustrated by their propensity to describe the life of consciousness and memory strictly in terms of electro-chemical activity in different areas of the brain. However accurate that description may be of the material substrates of subjectivity it bears no relationship whatsoever to our lived experience, to what consciousness feels like, and that feeling and experience is every bit as real as the material ground of the experience. So I began to think about where our memories are of people when we’re not remembering them. To say that they’re chemical traces or pathways doesn’t begin to account for what feels like a miraculous reawakening when we suddenly think of someone who’s been dead for years, or when we remember something from our childhood that we hadn’t thought of in forty or fifty years. So I cast about for metaphors for that experience. And since I spent a lot of time in the antiquated subways of Boston waiting for a train I thought of that as the best figure for the feeling, and once I stumbled on it, I just tried to inhabit it, and ride it out, so to speak, to the end of the poem/line.

EP: It seems that a lot of poets, including me, are interested in science. How do you see poetry and science interacting as subject matter or in the ways in which we examine the world?

AS: I think poetry and science have a lot in common. To do either well you have to cultivate habits of wonder. You have to be more interested in asking questions than finding answers. And you have to regard the fact that there’s something rather than nothing inexhaustibly mysterious. I mean, think about it—the sheer unlikeliness of life deriving from subatomic bits of matter born at the big bang, forged over millions of years in the core of some primordial sun that eventually explodes, only to reconfigure light years away by the force of gravity (whatever that is) into this sun, this solar system, this earth circling at just the right distance from a sun that’s just the right size to enable that matter, those same ancestral particles to warm up only enough to combine and recombine until in some primordial soup they come alive as cells, microbes, bacterial mats, which in turn reshape themselves in a cascading daisy chain of generations spanning eon after eon, through ice ages advancing and retreating, over continents drifting together and breaking apart, from sharks, to loan sharks, from hedge hogs to hedge fund managers. What were the odds of everything unfolding out of nothing as it did! Or the just as unlikely possibility, once human beings had evolved, that the genetic crap shoot would fall out so as to make my life turn out as it had. Think of your lineage, such as it is, exponentially reaching back behind you: two parents, four grandparents, sixteen great grandparents, sixty-four great-great grand parents, two-hundred fifty-six great-great-great grand parents. Think of those hundreds of unknown forebears, say, in 1836 on the day the Alamo fell, all scattered across different continents, at different ages, in different walks of life, some this, some that, all somehow somewhere, in order to make you possible, having to meet, date, marry, make love, get raped, miss trains, go off to war, duck, come back from war, get sick, die or divorce, remarry—how fucking unbelievable is that? What were the chances that all that hooking up and unhooking would take place, much less lead to you or me, or that I’d even end up being Jewish? I mean, if you just go by the numbers, it’s a miracle I’m not Chinese!

EP: How do places, in general, inform your poems?

AS: I have lived in a lot of places. I’m like the Wandering Jew of American letters. What captures or compels my imagination is not place but people, the relationships I have in places more than the places themselves. If the places matter it’s because of how they’ve informed or influenced those relationships. Even Night of the Republic while devoted to various places is really concerned with the nature of the person-to-person contact implicit in those public structures. I’ve lived in the South since 1986, longer than anywhere else. Yet no one would mistake me for a Southern poet. Because I edited the Phoenix Poets Series of the University of Chicago Press back in the Nineties, I’m sometimes described as a Chicago poet but I haven’t lived in Chicago since 1986. I grew up in Boston but no one has ever described me as a Boston poet. I do think of myself as more of a city poet than a “nature” poet, but the city of my imagination is more of an amalgam of the various cities in which I’ve lived, and my sense of those places is colored by the relationships I’ve had there. I don’t go outside a lot. I have every allergy in the book. I’m like a human no pest strip. At an outdoor party you could suspend me from a beam or a branch and no one would be bothered by insects; they’d all be feasting on me. My wife calls me “a rugged indoorsman”. I’m even thinking of starting a summer camp for agoraphobics: I’m calling it “Inward Bound”.

EP: How many poets do you think would attend that camp?

AS: Only me. I’m camper and counselor.

EP: You’ve been on faculty at both Bread Loaf and Sewanee, and it seems that there’s been an incredible growth in writers’ conferences and residencies in the last few years. How do you see these gatherings influencing the writing community at large? What’s their role and why are they important?

AS: Their influence is entirely positive. They foster community and fellowship. Most people go there not to find a publisher, but they find their readers, the few cherished others who share their enthusiasm and passion and whose judgment they trust. In my experience, the conferences are stimulating, enriching, and fun. What’s not to like.

EP: You seem like you’d be up for a little game of associations. I’ll say a word or phrase and you tell me what poem by you or others it first reminds you of. (No right or wrong answers here. Except you will be graded . . . like an ice skater.)


AS: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

EP: Death.

AS: “Aubade” by Phillip Larkin

EP: Bob Dylan.

AS: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan

EP: Past tense.

AS: “Poem” by Elizabeth Bishop

EP: Television.

AS: “To Television” by Robert Pinsky

EP: Uncles.

AS: “Isaac and Archibald” by E.A. Robinson

EP: Extinct animals.

AS: Rapture by Susan Mitchell, only because when it first came out I kept calling it “Raptor” by mistake. Either way, a great book.

EP: Contradiction.

AS: “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens

EP: Al dente.

AS: Sounds like a minor character from The Sopranos.

EP: Poach.

AS: “Those Eggs,” a song by Martin Mull (“Oh my heart is achin’ for that thing next to bacon, those eggs”)

EP: Twins.

AS: “Gentleman from Shalott” by Elizabeth Bishop

EP: Eros.

AS: “Eros” by Robert Bridges

Lisa Russ Spaar*: In Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson writes, “As Sokrates tells it, your story begins the moment Eros enters you. That intersection is the biggest risk of your life. How you handle it is an index of the quality, wisdom, and decorum of the things inside you.” Do you agree with this statement? Does it bear any relation to your work?

AS: I’m not sure what I think about this. Some poets believe their stories originate in adolescence, with the onset of puberty; others trace the story of their character back to infancy. I guess how I feel about this depends on how I interpret Eros. If Eros is thought of as desire in the widest sense, not just for sex but for human connection, then it reaches back to early childhood, embraces childhood relationships, and it seems odd to say that how you handle the mother/infant experience becomes an index of what’s inside you, since the infant has no choice in the matter—what becomes an index of what’s inside the child reflects in some fundamental way what’s inside the mother since her capacity to nurture and love will be governed by her own history, her own experiential index that no doubt reaches back through her entire life to her own mother. Our stories begin at birth, in those early months of dependency and how the mother responds to both our need for her and our need for self-assertion. We’re born into stories and are always simultaneously authoring and being authored every step along the way. So, no, that statement doesn’t resonate with my sense of how I got to be where I am. But maybe I’m just not following what Carson’s saying. Seems like a rather magisterial pronouncement—so grand it can’t be refuted or confirmed. It’s hard for me at any rate to connect it with my own experience as a writer. The I in a lyric poem presupposes a you. And that I/thou relationship in language (Eros widely conceived) begins in infancy, and is terribly exposed to any and all vicissitudes and thus is more an index of good or bad luck, the accidents of fortune, than the quality, wisdom and decorum of the things inside one.

EP: Now, Alan, provide me with a question to give to our next interviewee.

AS: What’d you think of my last book? Just kidding.

What book of poems or what poem turned you into a poet, how old were you, where were you when you read it first?

Emilia Phillips is the author of Signaletics (University of Akron Press, 2013), the prose editor of 32 Poems, and the 2013–2014 Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College.