Poets are like the decathletes of literature.
Poems are not read: they are reread. Reread the poem, then read between the lines, then look at it, then watch it, then peek at it: handle it like an object. Contemplate its shadows, angles and dimensions.
The thing that I’ve decided is, I don’t want to be invisible, but I’d like to be transparent. I want people to see what I’m thinking and see through me.
When I was in high school, I remember writing a research paper, and the teacher said I should write about Langston Hughes. I felt as if I was the only black dude who didn’t like Langston Hughes. He didn’t seem as dark and layered as someone like Flannery O’Connor.
Poems are a form of music, and language just happens to be our instrument – language and breath.
The summer I got to Pittsburgh for graduate school, I house-sat for a Ph.D. student who had a lot of books. One of the books that I found was ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov. That was eye opening. I’ve probably read it every other year since my 20s.
When people ask me for secrets to writing, I say, ‘Read to write.’
So the best way to understand poetry, which is made by men, is to imitate, and that goes back to making work as a kind of doorway into new work, as opposed to making work as a mirror of the old work.
Anyone reading contemporary poetry – especially contemporary African-American poetry – will quickly see that race is an enduring subject. What some don’t realize is just how diverse the handling of that subject is. It’s as diverse as blackness.
Language is always burdened by thought.