I know that my tendency is to be linear, and I’m trying to find ways to subvert that. And so in ‘Bellocq’s Ophelia’ my device for subverting it was to tell the story and then to tell it again; it always circles back to this one moment, and it’s not linear, but it’s round in that way, and much of ‘Native Guard’ is like that.
Revision is the heart of writing. Every page I do is done over seven or eight times.
I was always very aware of the nature of the place where I was growing up in Gulfport, Mississippi, how that place was shaping my experience of the world. I had to go to the Northeast for graduate school because I felt like I had to get far away from my South, be outside it, to understand it.
Nowadays it is the fashion to emphasize the horrors of the last war. I didn’t find it so horrible. There are just as horrible things happening all round us today, if only we had eyes to see them.
I’ve been telling my students, ‘Imitate, imitate.’ And they say, ‘Well, what if I plagiarize, or what if I’m not original? I want to be myself.’ And I always tell them, ‘Your self will shine through’… If you allow yourself to feel deeply and honestly, what you say won’t be like anyone else.
Poetry’s a thing that belongs to everyone.
Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. So if it is correct to say that humor was stamped out in Nazi Germany, that does not mean that people were not in good spirits, or anything of that sort, but something much deeper and more important.
Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.
It is a tremendous honor to be named poet laureate, but one that I find humbling as well, because it’s the kind of thing that makes me feel like – even as it’s been bestowed upon me – I must continue to live up to what it means… Being the younger laureate in the age of social media is a new challenge.
All of my books are based in some way on my personal experiences, or the experiences of members of my family, or the stories kids would tell me in school.